The Sri Lanka Muslim Congress feel that the government of Sri Lanka should address the charges levelled against them by the UNHRC and provide credible answers to these charges instead of trying to take on an arrogant stance.
Speaking to The Sunday Leader SLMC parliamentarian Hassan Ali said that while the government claims to be able to handle its own domestic issues, they have been silent and unable to deal with extremist elements such as the BBS in spite of them creating many issues that have created fear and anxiety among the minority communities. He also stated that if the government does not want the UN to interfere its affairs then they should not be a signatory to the UN charter, but added that while we still are answerable to them we should heed their advice and address the situation in a straightforward manner.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
By Camelia Nathaniel
Q: With the US saying that it has not softened its stance on Sri Lanka how does the Muslim congress see this development?
A: Earlier it was the government that came out with that statement which the US denied. Now this accusations and denials have become a normal occurrence. Both parties are accusing and denying and this goes on, when it comes to war crimes and UNHCR resolutions. Now this will only aggravate the positions of both parties. The best thing is for the government to concentrate on this issue and give them a proper answer; otherwise they will go on like this. When we go and counter an international forum of this nature they will not succumb to us and keep quiet. They have enough materials to use against the government and we should disprove that. The government says that they have not committed any crime, so our duty is to go and prove that and face it, not to try to go at loggerheads with them. Just saying that there were zero casualties alone is insufficient.
Q: If the US had all these evidence against Sri Lanka, then five years down the line, why have they not used it against us?
A: They will come out with more and more in due time. If we go on denying then they will come up with fresh accusations. Therefore the best thing is to deal with the issue straight on and counter their allegations and finish it off.
Q: How do you view Sri Lanka’s stand that it can deal with its own domestic issues and its rejection of international interference?
A: If that is the stance that Sri Lanka wants to take, it is better for them to resign from the UN charter. Since we are a signatory to that organisation, you have to abide by their rules and regulations to a certain extent. But of course if you don’t want that, then we have to be prepared for the repercussions and then they will not come and interfere. Since we are a signatory to the UN charter, however, we are answerable to them.
Q: The government has told the Human Rights Committee that it has to continue with the PTA as the LTTE is still active overseas. What is your view on this?
A: Well the UN accusations are not only against the government but it is also against the LTTE. If we are going to forget about our part then the UN will also conveniently forget about the atrocities committed by the LTTE. It’s a two pronged thing and we have to face the situation. As the government claims if we are innocent and we have the evidence to prove it then why should we go and deny all these things and drag it on. Why cant we just put a stop to the whole fiasco by proving our innocence once and for all? Then that will be the end of it.
Q: The Sri Lankan government has accused the UN of judging Sri Lanka even before any hearing and having their own agenda. How does the SLMC view this, and do you think anyone has the right to judge us?
A: We have not gone into this matter in detail. Generally the SLMC is not too involved in this war crimes charges etc., as we have not been a party to that. The war took place in the Northern Province and we were not a party to that. So generally to go and access these situations one must have a moral right or obligation to coordinate with them at least to a certain extent, so the government just bluntly denying these charges does not help.
Q: You say that the Muslims were not involved in the war. However the Muslims were the ones who were mostly affected by the war in the East especially when the LTTE gave them just 24 hours to leave or face death. Therefore how can you say that the Muslims were not involved in this whole war?
A: Yes but the mandate of this war crimes deals only with what happened during the last two weeks of the war. It does not talk about the 80”s and 90’s but the last phase of the war.
Q: What sort of measures is your party looking at taking in the future in order to address this accountability and war crimes issues?
A: They must put a proper mechanism in place in order to bring about reconciliation, and we must build amicable friendships between all communities of this country. However the emergence of the BBS and other similar forces are creating chaos in this country.
There is no prosperity if you allow these forces to raise their ugly head. We will never see a proper reconciliation in this country if these elements are allowed to act freely.
The minority communities are really worried about this situation. Constitutionally the minorities enjoy certain rights and these organizations are blatantly violating all these rights, but the government and everyone else is keeping quiet.