BY Mirudhula Thambiah
Former Minister and Jaffna District Parliamentarian, Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) Leader, Douglas Devananda said he is ready to face any inquiry relating to any assassination or disappearance.
“I cannot be blamed for the disappearance of 3,000 people, this is highly ridiculous. It is a joke!” he said.
Following are excerpts from an interview:
? You are continuously demanding for the release of Tamil political prisoners on a general amnesty. However, why couldn’t you release them when you represented the former government?
A: I was very much interested and involved in the release of Tamil prisoners since 1997, when I represented the former governments. I was able to get the release of many prisoners with the assistance of human rights lawyer Maheswari; I have even helped these prisoners.
When the Kalutara Prison inmates launched a hunger strike none of the Tamil politicians visited the prisons to listen to their grievances. I was the only politician who visited the Kalutara Prison with Attorney-at-Law Maheswari and the current Solicitor General Suhada Gamlath to listen to the grievances of the inmates and requested them to call off the strike.
While talking to them I provided glucose and water and promised that I shall take necessary action to release them within three months duration. I told them the decision taken by the government will be favourable to their demands and that suitable legal action will be taken after studying their case files.
We spoke to inmates in all five prison wards.
When I reached the fifth ward to speak to the inmates there, I was attacked by some of them while I was providing glucose and water. I’m living a rebirth. I was severely attacked. When I fainted I thought I died. Nobody expected that I will survive the attack. They did not attack Maheswari but pushed her away. After the attack I couldn’t discuss further on the release of these prisoners.
Later Maheswari was assassinated in Karaveddy. After all these incidents it was quite difficult for me to discuss further on the release of Tamil prisoners with the former government. Even late Kumar Ponnambalam advised that I shouldn’t have visited the Kalutara inmates to speak to them as the attack was quite predictable.
After the end of the war I have been continuously emphasizing to the government on the release of political prisoners. After 2009, my main target was to resettle the IDPs; yet, I also spoke to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa regarding the release of Tamil political prisoners. I would have solved the issue, if I had continued to represent any government (both Rajapaksa’s and Sirisena’s).
I shall not say that the government has betrayed the Tamil people similar to how all the other Tamil representatives’ claim. I would have definitely solved the grievances of Tamil political prisoners.
?Tamil National Alliance (TNA ) Parliamentarian Sritharan made allegations in the House that you should hold responsibility over the disappearance of some 3,000 people. What is your justification?
A: These are political attritions. These allegations have remained from the time I entered politics, most Tamil political parties have continuously blamed me for various incidents. I was blamed for all assassinations except that of President Premadasa. This is pure attrition on me and politically diverting the minds of people.
You know how former Parliamentarian Maheswaran was assassinated. The accused in the case was found guilty by the judiciary. During the 100-day framework period, I told Vijayakala not to blame us on her husband’s assassination, and that she very well knows the background to the assassination. If she feels that the Rajapaksa Government and the judiciary did not give her a suitable judgment, she could have easily appealed to the Higher Courts. Why didn’t she appeal? Because she very well knew that the same judgment would be 100 per cent proven and she will be identified as a political betrayer. Thus if she is identified as a betrayer, she cannot continue to be in business or in politics.
Now there are various stories that the LTTE is connected to the assassination, thus she is trying to blame me. I face challenges with ideas, not with tools, thus it is easier for her to blame me.
Last week she said in Parliament that the culprit is in the House and immediate action should be taken against him. Yet again, I questioned her as to why she did not approach the Court of Appeal and we are ready to face investigations. Our party policies do not encourage us to commit crimes.
We told the President at the All Parties Conference that war crimes inquiries should be carried out from 1983, the latter part alone is inadequate.
I would like to emphasize to Vijayakala that now it is time for her to appeal to the Higher Courts or appoint a committee to investigate to the assassination. She should investigate through both. I’m ready to face investigations. We were blamed for the assassinations of late TNA Parliamentarian Raviraj, Joseph Pararajasingham, Ekneligoda, former Minister Lalith Athulathmudali, Lieutenant General Kobbekaduwa and Journalist Sivaram. However, later all culprits were identified. This is the main reason why we urge the government to hold an inquiry to crimes going back to 1983 and from then onwards. If problems could be solved through assassinations, we should be able to solve all issues several years back; therefore, my argument is assassinations will not solve any issues. We also entered into democratic politics by accepting the Indo – Lanka Accord.
I cannot be blamed for the disappearance of 3,000 people, this is highly ridiculous. It is a joke!
We are very strong in our own position, and other Tamil politicians are trying to tarnish our image.
?Recently at a press briefing you mentioned about video clips of people giving oral submissions to the Missing Persons Commission. How did you obtain those videos? If you had such videos, how could people trust those commissions and submit evidence?
A: I think you have failed to understand my point. I mentioned to the press that such video clips are telecast in media; these are not my own videos. I watched a lady blaming me for the disappearance of her husband. She mentioned about the LTTE controlled area and the security forces controlled areas, she said she lived in the forces controlled area and suddenly blames my party for her husband’s disappearance. This is ridiculous. How could it be that way?
These are statements against us, I should have clip of such complaints. Also as it is already telecast, I do not have any issues in having such clips.
Similarly I have the interview clippings of Maheswaran too.
?Parliamentarian Sumanthiran retorted to you in the House and stressed that you are not entitled to blame his leader who is also the Leader of the Opposition; why did you blame him?
A: Anybody can vomit in Parliament, but the truth should be revealed. I only said “The TNA blames that former governments have betrayed them but that is not the truth.”
I had enough of evidence to prove my statement. Already Parliamentarian Adaikkalanathan said the government of good governance has failed to fulfil the aspirations of Tamil people. How can I be wrong in this context?
He said I’m making use of my Parliamentary privileges to degrade his leader. They have always told that the TNA is the only reason for all Tamil people to vote in favour of good governance but now says the government has betrayed them. I tried to pose a question to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, if this is true? I wanted to ask him if the TNA was given any promises.
I also wanted to ask about torture chambers in the security forces camps; missing persons and political prisoners. Sumanthiran did not allow me to pose the rest of the questions.
?There are various allegations against you in connection to the Maheswari Foundation and it is said you have unnecessarily collected more money from sand distributors. What have you got to say?
A: These are all false allegations.
?Why did Parliamentarian Sumanthiran go to Court on behalf of the distributors?
A: There are differences between registration fees and deposits. Registration fees cannot be refunded. Where on earth is he living?
?There are allegations that you are operating your party office on private lands of people in Jaffna. Is that true?
A: There is more than one owner for this specific land. If they approach the JHudiciary I’m ready to solve through the Courts.
?But isn’t it a private land? How could it be your land?
A: It is not a State land. It is a private land. There is more than one owner thus it is easier if we can solve it through the Courts.
? Would you like work together with all other Tamil parties for the betterment of Tamil people?
A: It is true that everybody wants to unite. But members of the TNA have different ideas and opinions within the party itself. In such a case how can we all unite? TNA is just a coalition for elections; we don’t want to degrade ourselves in this confusion and complication.