“Both sides discussed the need to move towards a peacefully negotiated political settlement in the island including the North. Both sides agreed that terrorism should be countered with resolve. The Indian side called for implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment and greater devolution of powers to the provinces. Mr. Basil Rajapaksa emphasized that the President of Sri Lanka and his Government were firmly committed to a political process that would lead to a sustainable solution”.
That is what the all-powerful Basil Rajapaksa said when he went to India in 2008, before the war came to an end.
Prof. G.L. Peiris, the then Minister of External Affairs, went to India, Sir, between 15th and 17th of May, 2011. Having had discussions with leaders there, there was a statement made. It states, I quote:
“Both sides agreed that the end of armed conflict in Sri Lanka created a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation. In this context, the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government’s commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties.
A devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.”
This is what Prof. G.L. Peiris, the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka said when he went to India in 2011, after the war had come to an end.
The Foreign Minister of India was in Sri Lanka from 16th to 19th of January, 2012. He had discussions with the Government, with the President and with the Prime Minister. This is what he said, Sir, when he concluded those discussions with the President and the Prime Minister. He made this statement in the presence of Prof. G.L. Peiris, the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka. What the Foreign Minister of India said was, I quote:
“The Government of Sri Lanka has on many occasions conveyed to us its commitment to move towards a political settlement based upon the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution and building on it so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers. We look forward to an expeditious and constructive approach to the dialogue process. We believe that continuation of the dialogue between the Government and the TNA would pave the way for a political settlement including under the rubric of the Parliamentary Select Committee.”
So, this was the situation that prevailed at that point of time.
When President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in power, when President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued a Joint Statement with the Secretary-General of the UN, when Mahinda Rajapaksa’s External Affairs Minister went to India and when the Foreign Minister of India came to Sri Lanka, there were statements made in the presence of one another. Maximum devolution, meaningful devolution of power, is what they wanted to concede. What is being done now by the present Government through the process of the Constitutional Assembly and the Steering Committee and Subcommittees is to do the same within the framework of a united, undivided country.
Mahinda Rajapaksa who is now present in this House, Sir, as President also appointed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission comprising of many distinguished people in this country, from all communities mostly from the Sinhalese community. What did they have to say? I am quoting, Sir, from Paragraph 8.222 of the LLRC Report. They said, I quote:
“All parties should recognize that the real issue of sharing power and participating in Government is the empowerment of the people and making the political leaders accountable to the people. This applies to Sri Lanka as a whole and includes the needs of citizens of all communities, Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and others. The effective functioning of the democratic system which fulfils these needs, together with a consensual framework of devolution will, by virtue of attributes and institutions intrinsic to it, also provide the answer to the grievances of minorities.”
I also want to quote, Sir, Paragraph 8.225 of the LLRC Report which said, I quote:
“The Commission wishes to underline the critical importance of making visible progress on the devolution issue, in order to ensure the success of any process of lasting and sustainable reconciliation. The Commission therefore recommends that the present opportunity be utilized to launch in good faith an effort to develop a consensus on devolution, building on what exists – both, for maximum possible devolution to the periphery especially at the grass roots level, as well as power sharing at the centre. This consensus should be one that will enable peoples’ participation in governance decisions affecting them and avoid costly and unnecessary duplication of political, bureaucratic and other institutional structures that hamper efficient, cost effective and transparent governance.”
These were the recommendations of the LLRC. Why did you not implement them? You were the President. You appointed the LLRC comprising of very distinguished people of this country and why did you not implement the recommendations of the LLRC? In fact, if you had recommended the implementation of the LLRC, all that happened in Geneva and the UN Human Rights Council, would not have taken place. It was your failure to implement the recommendations of the LLRC that resulted in the Geneva process being started.
LLRC went on to make some other relevant observations, Sir, which I think, I should refer to and place on record. I refer to Paragraph 8.303 of the LLRC Report and this is what it said. I quote:
“The process of reconciliation requires a full acknowledgement of the tragedy of the conflict and a collective act of contrition by the political leaders and civil society, of both Sinhala and Tamil communities. The conflict could have been avoided had the southern political leaders of the two main political parties acted in the national interest and forged a consensus between them to offer an acceptable solution to the Tamil people.”
The LLRC pointed out that the reasons for the continuance of the conflict was the inability of the Southern leaders to come to a consensus in regard to a political settlement relating to the Tamil people. LLRC went on to blame the Tamil political leadership too. I will not refer to that. It is not relevant in this context. But they also attacked and blamed Tamil political leadership for not having quite cooperated in the matter of evolving a political solution. But the fact of the matter was that they pointed out that the main reason for the non-evolution of a political settlement was the lack of capacity on the part of the two main political parties to arrive at a reasonable consensus.
Eventually, Sir, I refer to paragraph 8.306 where the Commission wanted its recommendations implemented. I quote:
“The Commission strongly feels that if these recommendations are not expeditiously implemented, the all-important effort towards reconciliation and lasting peace may not be achieved and the country will continue to face an uncertain future.”
That is what the Commission said that if you do not implement the recommendations, the country will face an uncertain future. Why were the Commission’s recommendations not implemented? Why did President Mahinda Rajapaksa fail to implement the recommendations of the LLRC?
I want to refer to President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election manifesto when he contested the election in 2015. I quote what he said in the manifesto,
“We have been battered for 36 years by the 1978 Constitution which was thrust upon our people and country, without an appropriate debate or discussion. We must also collectively acknowledge that our Constitution is now further distorted due to the various amendments over the years, some of which are not consistent with others. Therefore, instead of amending the Constitution further with piece-meal changes, I will take action to formulate a new Constitution that reflects the people’s ideas, aspirations and wishes within a period of one year.”
This is what President Mahinda Rajapaksa said in the election manifesto that he will frame a new Constitution. He further said, Sir, I quote, “I will first submit the Draft Constitution which will consist of the proposals of these groups,
– He wanted certain groups appointed, experts and so on.
-for the Parliament’s approval in accordance with the Constitution. Thereafter, I will present the Draft Constitution to a referendum seeking the approval of the people.”
Nobody is now endevouring to do anything else. We are trying to frame a Constitution with a Steering Committee, Subcommittees, experts, public representations received. The whole matter is being considered at the Constitutional Assembly where things have been debated and it must be approved by Parliament by two-thirds majority and also approved by the people at a referendum. We do not want anything done behind the back of the people. So, why is President Mahinda Rajapaksa opposing what he himself proposed. When he contested the Presidential Election in 2015, he stated certain things. Why is he opposing what he himself said at that point of time?
Then, Sir, there was a Resolution in Parliament on the 09th of March, 2016. There was a Resolution to convert Parliament into a Constitutional Assembly. The Constitutional Assembly was to become a committee of the whole Parliament and we were to commence work on the framing of a new Constitution. That Resolution had been circulated amongst the Members of Parliament and it was adopted in Parliament on the 09th of March, 2016. I want to ask President Mahinda Rajapaksa, if you were opposed to framing of a new Constitution, why did you not come to that Session of Parliament and oppose that Resolution? Why did you not come and say the country does not need this? Why are you trying to stir communal feelings now? Why did you not oppose it at that point of time?
Now, the Local Authorities Elections are going to be held and you want to win the elections; you want to defeat the Government.
To be continued tomorrow