UPFA MP and Mahajana Eksath Peramuna Leader Dinesh Gunawardena says as a responsible Opposition they will fight the long arm of the West trying to punish Sri Lanka’s war heroes with an ‘internationalised’ domestic probe.
Q: The UPFA dissidents have objected to the domestic mechanism mandated under the UNHRC Resolution. You are on record saying there will be serious repercussions if the Government goes ahead with it. On what grounds do you oppose this mechanism ?
A: The UN Human Rights Commissioner’s report, charging Sri Lanka on various grounds as a follow up to the US and Western resolutions moved in the Council earlier, reflected once again that the recommendations therein were based on incorrect ‘facts and grounds’.
Our Government continuously defended Sri Lanka’s position, under the UN Charter, that an independent sovereign state has to defend its territory, fight any rebellion armed insurgency against a democratic Government.
The LTTE was one of the most dangerous terrorist organisations declared by the US and the international community. Taking a u-turn in its position this year, the Government has accepted the High Commissioner’s report and became a co-sponsor of the US Resolution. No country will accept to co-sponsor a Resolution against one’s country.
This Resolution as well as the report violate the sovereignty, the independence and the Constitution of Sri Lanka. The initial wording in the resolution was ‘Hybrid’.
The wording has been changed to foreign judges, experts and prosecutors. The UN Human Rights office functions to pursue the progress. This is a clear violation of our constitution.
A: Our Constitution provides for anyone to seek a judicial inquiry and redress. Our Government has failed to present Justice Paranangama report, the reports by UN and its agencies and Western Ambassadors acknowledging that the Government ensured continued supply of medicine and food to the affected areas during the conflict.
We have not been pursuing our stand as a country. This shift, also as a leader of the Non Aligned Movement, has embarrassed us. Taking this negative position will affect other free and sovereign nations.
Q: But the Government has assured that there will not be foreign judges and the investigation will be within the framework of the Constitution of Sri Lanka ?
A: The Government has been saying many things, from the beginning of the resolution.
If the Constitution is respected, the report against our armed forces and matters mentioned, will have no standing. The Government’s statements have to be credible. But today we see different personages of the state leadership making contradictory statements.
Q: The Foreign Minister has said that this is the only way out for Sri Lanka to restore the good name of the security forces. Do you accept this ?
A: I don’t like to repeat what I mentioned earlier. These statements from the Foreign Ministry are only for publicity.
Q: Some of the hardcore pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora groups, Tamil Nadu politicians and champions of Eelam such as Vaiko, as well as ex-rebel groups within the TNA have rejected this domestic mechanism. In this backdrop, Do you see a storm in the tea cup ?
A: No. Whether it is the Opposition or the Government, it is up to everyone to defend the country.
Those who have been agitating for a separate state and supporting terrorism, are again at work. They don’t represent the people in the North and East who have suffered under the LTTE. Sri Lanka now has an opportunity to move forward as one country. We have laid the foundation.
Different wordings do not mean the Resolution and the report is dead. This is what one must understand. The movers of the Resolution themselves, are openly violating what they stand for before the Human Rights Council. Even the excesses committed during the past few days by the so called champions of Human Rights, for instance bringing an entire hospital down and calling it a mistake, is a glaring example of the way they disregard international obligations.
Q: Shouldn’t the Sri Lankan Government acknowledge that at the conclusion of the war, there were excesses, in a similar tone and redeem itself ?
A: There are two options: total surrender and accept all the false charges that the Commissioner has made, or place all the facts before the Council and defend Sri Lanka’s sovereignty, independence and the Constitution. I think we have failed to do so.
The Sri Lankan state has already failed to defend the country. The other countries which spoke on behalf of Sri Lanka, such as Russia, China, and Pakistan clearly spoke on principle. Why couldn’t Sri Lanka do so?
Q: Do you think Sri Lanka failed the countries who had been its true friends ?
A: Sri Lanka has not only failed her true friends, it has failed its people.
The true friends are those who stand up as sovereign nations, to defend themselves and protect the democratic rights of citizens to enjoy honorable lives.
Our friends are not those who dole out money or make promises. Sri Lanka has had a vibrant, effective and honoured the leadership in the Non Alligned Movement. Are we letting them down?
Q: Will the proposed domestic mechanism need a two thirds majority in Parliament ?
A: Though its titled ‘Domestic’, what is proposed at the moment is international intervention to probe baseless allegations against the Sri Lankan Forces.
Q: Can the Government put together this domestic mechanism, without Parliamentary approval?
A: Very unlikely, that cannot be done, because the Constitution cannot be violated to serve politicians in office. The Constitution and the sovereignty of the country have to be respected. The numbers in Parliament do not matter.
Q: As you say, if the domestic inquiry turns out to be a witch-hunt against the war heroes, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, will you (the dissidents in the UPFA) resist it ? Have you discussed a strategy to face such an eventuality ?
We have not yet discussed anything to that effect. The Government’s intention is to punish innocent people who have defended our nation. Over 20,000 personnel of the Armed Forces, sacrificed their lives to defend the country against terrorism.
Thousands have become disabled. These battles and operations were not only restricted to the last government. Successive governments had fought against terrorism.
President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assasinated by the LTTE. Gamini Dissnayake, Lalith Athulathmudali, Neelan Thiruchelvam, Lakshman Kadirgamar – all these statesmen were assasinated in cold blood by the ruthless LTTE. It did not matter to them if they were Sinhalese or Tamil.
There was an attempt on former President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s life by an LTTE suicide bomber in 1999. Can the international community forget all that?
Q: It has been rumoured that there are 43 names against whom war crimes allegations have been levelled. Will you fight on their behalf?
A: We will have to know what the Government is trying to do. We will act as a responsible Opposition and stick to our principles. We are not working for our own political survival.
Q: Do you think whatever plans by your group to oppose the domestic mechanism will be backed by the SLFP ?
A: Many who are with the SLFP and the UPFA, will definitely understand the gravity of surrendering our sovereignty and independence. Of course a few others who are holding office might think in other ways.
Q: The former President has expressed concerns on the domestic mechanism and Sri Lanka’s stance to be a co-sponsor of the US Resolution. Did he discuss these concerns with you ?
A: No, we have not held any discussions on his statements or the Commissioner’s report. We have acted as independent political parties in the joint opposition. We did oppose on principle the Resolution when it was being discussed in Geneva.
The former President Rajapaksa was the incumbent President during the most difficult years of our country. Hence, President Rajapaksa’s statement carries weight and it must be given serious consideration.
The same goes for former President Kumaratunga, her experience needs to be tapped in times such as these.