People have lost confidence in the Courts – Wigneswaran

wigneswarenNorthern Province Chief Minister (CM) C.V. Wigneswaran interviewed with Ceylon Today said the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) filed over 2,000 cases in respect of the Valikamam North land ‘grab,’ but with no result to date. “We shall continue to challenge illegal acts through Court action and through democratic means, but it would be naïve to expect succour from a Court in which the people have lost confidence,” he said.
Excerpts of the interview:
 
 
Q:
Bharatiya Janata Party’s Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, in an interview with Ceylon Today on 1 June 2014 said, “If lands have been grabbed from the Tamils by the government and heavy military presence in the North is disturbing the normal lives of the civilians, then no civilized government will keep it and not return it to the masses. The Jaffna Chief Minister is a former judge of the Supreme Court. He should have this challenged in Court if it is so. Why has that not been done yet?” What is your reply to Dr. Swamy?
 

A: In a report just before the passing of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the International Crisis Group published a penetrating criticism of Sri Lanka’s judiciary titled ‘Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicized Courts- Compromised Rights,’ pointing out that rather than constraining militarization and protecting minority rights, a politicized Bench blocked compromises to the Tamil minority. That was before the 18th Amendment and the witch-hunt of the Chief Justice, which rendered the judiciary largely irrelevant in the context of matters of importance.
 

I would commend to Dr. Swamy’s attention the recent book by
Dr. Almeida Gunaratne and Kishali Pinto Jayawardane called The Judicial Mind in Sri Lanka – Responding to the Protection of Minority Rights, which traces the abysmal failings and abject surrender of the Supreme Court (SC) of its role as the ultimate arbiter of rights, in the context of the rights of the Tamils.
 

For example, when 300,000 people remained incarcerated in open prisons, euphemistically termed ‘welfare villages,’ the SC dithered over pronouncing on the legality of such detention. Several months later about two thirds of them were released as an election gimmick, no thanks to the SC. Similarly, Swamy should be aware that we have filed over 2,000 cases in respect of the Valikamam North lands grabbed. Has there been any result? We shall continue to challenge illegal acts through Court action and through democratic means, but it would be naïve to expect succour from a Court that has lost the confidence of the people.
 
Q:
You and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) always say, ‘We the Tamil speaking people’ are ready for peace and to solve the national problem. When you use the term ‘Tamil speaking people,’ do you also refer to the Muslims living in this country?
A: First we say “Tamil speaking peoples.” We most certainly accept that the Muslims have their uniqueness. We are also aware that the Muslims are bound to the Tamils by language and a long history of coexistence and shared culture. Most Muslims are Tamil speaking, and some of them, especially in the East, speak better Tamil than many Tamils. There have been eloquent Tamil pundits among the Muslims both in the North and the East. Unfortunately, selfish considerations and possibly threats and intimidation have prompted Muslim leaders so far to align with centres of power rather than think deeply about their future. Aluthgama has disturbed their erstwhile slumber and political opportunism.
 
Q:
But Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Rauff Hakeem, when asked by a Tamil journalist as to why the Muslims and Tamils can’t join hands, had said between the Tamils and the Muslims there are ‘differences that need to be first ‘sorted’ out. So, do you think the Muslims are with the Tamils to find a solution for the problems of this country?
A: There are problems to be sorted out, but the fact that both our communities being essentially Tamil speaking is not a contested fact. Muslim leaders believed that they would not be considered as minorities if they studied Sinhala and acted very much like the Sinhalese. We must realize what prompts people to act parochially. So long as a community is not a threat, the majority would not interfere. When they find a community becoming richer and more prosperous, reaction sets in. When a government actively propagates the notion that one ethno-religious identity represents the country, the reaction gathers momentum. With regard to the Tamils, it was the pervasive presence of the Tamils in the then prestigious government service and their excellence in the area of education that annoyed the majority community. The Muslims have taken a little time to realize the actual state of affairs. Now that they have understood a wise leadership will charter a different course. That means they would now place their community before their personal benefits. If they don’t, they run the risk of being rejected by their constituents.
 
 
Q:
Your comments on Aluthgama incident?
A:It reminds me of the 1983 pogrom, though obviously in a smaller and more limited scale. Though it was said then that 1983 was a spontaneous reaction of the majority community, none believed that. All preparations had been made to attack the Tamils then. They had obtained voters’ lists, arranged for the hoodlums to be ready at short notice, given instructions as to who and who should deal with which area and so on. When the thirteen soldiers’ killings in Jaffna came to light, the hoodlums took over as planned. I see similar readiness on the part of certain groups here too. As soon as an incident cropped up the ‘planners’ took over. Reports indicate inaction and at times the complicity of the police.
But there is also another pattern that is emerging. When the panel of experts appointed by the UN Secretary General found credible reports of war crimes being committed, we had the spectacle of ‘grease-devils’ at that time. When the next resolution came we had the Awa group attacks. Awa I believe was the nickname of the leader of this group in Jaffna. This year around the time of Geneva we had a rendition of “Tiger Tiger Burning Bright” and now with the UN Panel of Experts we have Aluthgama. Quite apart from the pattern, what is more disturbing is the increase in violence and intensity of these events.
 
Q:
Do you think the Muslim leadership is not strong enough to deliver their best to the Muslims of this country?
A: The Muslims are a tightly knit community. They also have many Muslim countries that could easily help them. Those countries are especially influential because a very significant proportion of remittances that flow into Sri Lanka are from those countries and a large number of Sri Lankans of different ethnicities are resident in those countries. Muslim leaders have been very close to the power centre and they have had all the benefits. But as it happens their leaders did not care to be in touch with their electorates. They were looking for personal benefits and not community benefits, …able to put some henchmen in employment and getting them some contracts and so on does not help the rank and file in any significant manner. The Muslim leadership refused to ensure a coalition administration in the Eastern Provincial Council with the TNA and the SLMC, despite the TNA’s sincere proposal to that effect. My assessment is that the rank and file wanted such an administration. If they had ensured such an administration, the government would not have underestimated the Muslims. Muslims are a powerful community. Their present leaders have to do some serious soul searching.
 
 
Q:
The government has through its Parliament majority declared it will not let the UN panel of experts to come here. What does this express?
A: Obviously fear! But Uva elections and Presidential Elections are also on the cards. Unless you flex your muscles you cannot get Sinhala Buddhist votes! Even Buddhist priests these days are flexing their muscles. By passing this resolution our government has already tarnished its name among the Comity of Nations, if it has one! The strategy is clear – knowing that participation would reveal the systemic violations, the government wishes to have an excuse to label the process one sided and therefore biased.
 
Q:
What do you anticipate will happen next with regard to the UN’s decision to probe alleged human rights violations?
A: There are means of ascertaining the truth even if one is not given permission to visit the area of concern. The UN will explore those possibilities. Already there is ample testimony to what has happened at the concluding stages of the war.