The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is of the view that the latest UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution is an opening for the US to intervene in the country’s internal affairs and the government should therefore not give them the opportunity to do so by agreeing to their proposals on their terms. During the last parliamentary sessions, the JVP also directed heavy criticism at the judiciary of the country and the Attorney General’s Department for its continued inefficiency and lack of independence even under the new government. In an interview with The Sunday Leader, JVP MP Nalinda Jayatissa stressed on the need to appoint independent commissions without further delay.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
by Waruni Karunarathne
Q: The country is awaiting the debate in parliament on the UNHRC resolution co-sponsored by the Sri Lankan government. Internally, parties are already having discussions on the matter. Would you be able to share your views related to the JVPs internal discussions and the JVPs stance on the resolution?
A: Last week we conducted a public conference, revealing the stance of our party to the nation regarding the UN resolution. The JVP has comprised a set of proposals. As a party we feel that the imperialists and the world super powers have been constantly interfering in the affairs of our country. Their involvement spreads across all the arenas including the country s economy, development, politics, military and culture. Imperialists have used various openings of the country to have their grip on Sri Lanka. During the previous era, they used the concerns related to human rights violations, democratic issues and the lack of independence in the judiciary system as their reasons to get involved in the countryss internal matters. Protecting human rights in the country, establishing democracy and establishing independent judiciary are internal matters of concern. People elect a government through a democratic process to get such matters addressed by the government that they elected. Due to the short sighted vision of the Rajapaksa regime and decisions made based on petty political advantages, paved the way for the international community and the imperialists to poke their fingers into the affairs of our country. This resolution is a result of that. The resolution suggests the country to build a mechanism that consists of all the parties representing parliament to take meaningful actions to build reconciliation in the North and the East. The JVP suggested this mechanism in 2009 soon after the war but the Rajapaksa regime neglected that. We also suggested a mechanism to resettle people who were dislocated due to the war – they ignored that too. We also suggested establishing a Truth commission for people to find some consolation – but they simply neglected that too.
Now after six years, the United States is bringing proposals of similar nature while attempting to interfere into the affairs of our country. Going beyond that, the US is putting pressure on the SL government to implement the 13th Amendment in full. The Rajapaksa government has put the country in a mess and the current government cannot completely get the country rid of these issues. Just because, President Sirisena was given the opportunity to talk 10 minutes at the UN session, that does not mean that the international community will stop interfering into our internal matters. Ever since the independence, the country has experienced an international grip on the countrys economy due to poor economic decisions the country has made. This government will also have to give in for international pressures due to these reasons. In one way or another it is good to establish democracy and independent judiciary in the country and protect human rights of the people and we believe that it has to be an internally proposed mechanism rather than a resolution brought forth by America.
Q: The credibility of the internal mechanisms established during the previous regime was constantly questioned. As you admitted, the activities of the previous regime resulted in the current plight of the country. In that context, don’t you recommend the government to continue with the proposals of the UNHRC resolution?
A: If this government that came to power in January eighth respects the mandate of the people and sticks to their concepts of good governance, they will not require any international intermediation to address these issues meaningfully. They have promised publicly to abolish the executive presidency, give parliament more power, give relief to people in the North and East, establish independent judiciary in the country, bring about legal provisions to strengthen the democracy etc. If the new government sticks to their promises and complete these tasks without delay, then there is no room for another country to interfere.
Former president Rajapaksa had no respect for such reforms – and even though this government came to power giving various promises to people there seems to be a delay in implementing what they promised. That is why various countries are putting pressure on us on various platforms. The US has gone beyond dealing with internal matters of the country to accomplish their ulterior motives through the resolution. That is our concern.
Q: The government has promised to abolish the Prevention of Terrorist Act (PTA). What is the JVP’s view on that matter?
A: We have expressed our objections to the PTA from the very beginning since its inception in 1978. We have also stressed on the need to abolish the PTA after the war as it serves no purpose when establishing a civil administration system after the war. The cases of those who are held under the PTA can also be heard under the prevailing legal system in the country. Besides, the PTA is an outdated legal provision and it has to be replaced by a new provision at a point where we are talking about legal reforms.
Q: The government has hinted that they would re-commence the China Port City project in Colombo that was temporary suspended during the interim period in order to review the project agreement and environmental concerns. How does the JVP see this conduct of the government?
A: Heavy criticisms were directed against the Port city project during the last Presidential Election by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. If they made certain claims to the public of this country, they better have a base for their claims and criticisms. If they are to change their stance on the matter, they better tell the public of this country the validity of the claims that they made previously. As the JVP, we see some environmental concerns related to the project as well as some imbalance in terms of businesses that may take place between the countries. The Rajapaksa regime should have thought about this before starting the project.
The responsibility of such a project is not limited to the period that they were in power – it extends to the future. It is the people of this country who will have to ultimately face the repercussions. They have to now build a broad discussion and study as to what the country will gain and lose due to this project and decide accordingly. They need to consult environmentalists, geologists and diplomats etc before deciding to continue with this project.
Q: The JVP has been highly criticising the lack of independence and inefficiency of the judiciary of the country and the Attorney General’s Department. The government claims that they have taken initiatives to reform these institutions. Do you see such a trend?
A: Rajapaksa was highly criticised for taking the Attorney Generals Department and the Legal Draftmans Department under his purview. We witnessed during that period many cases that were pending in courts for over 12 years related to murder or similar nature were withdrawn last minute without any reason.
Some people who were sentenced to death were released following a presidential pardon. The Attorney Generals Department in our country has such a disreputable history. Even though this government came to power promising to make necessary reforms, they have not yet taken meaningful actions to establish a credible Attorney Generals Department. With reference to the Avant Garde case, the Attorney General has noted that there is no basis to file criminal proceedings under the firearms ordinance and that makes people question the system.
It is also evident that several high profile members of this government are trying to sweep the Avant Garde case under the carpet. One of the Cabinet ministers of the government acted as the mediator to set a meeting between the President and the Avant Garde owner soon after the election. There are also ongoing investigations on the telephone conversations between the Avant Garde owner and a high profile officer in the Attorney General’s Department. A secretary of the Defence Ministry has given a letter in writing requesting the release of the recently captured firearm ship. This government also consists of people who have used the money of the Avant Garde owner for their political campaigns.
Q: A JVP MP recently raised the longstanding fishermen’s issues between India and Sri Lanka in parliament. Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan has suggested joint naval patrols of Sri Lanka and India to protect the maritime boarder. What solutions would the JVP suggest for this issue?
A: The continuation of the fishermen’s issue between India and Sri Lanka shows the inability of this government as well as the inability of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to run their administration in the North. Fishermen in the North are gravely affected due to the illegal poaching of Tamil Nadu fishermen in the northern waters. When our leaders visit India, they release Indian fishermen who are captured by our Navy just to show good will whereas India has not made a proper intervention to solve this issue. The most of the owners of these trawlers are Tamil Nadu politicians and those fishermen who are captured are innocent people from Tamil Nadu. Those Tamil Nadu politicians who are responsible of these illegal activities are unaffected. It is the responsibility of this government and the Central Government of India to find a permanent solution to this issue.
Q: The Constitutional Council recently proposed some names to several commissions. Are you happy with the activities undertaken by the Constitutional Council so far?
A: We are not happy about the delay in taking necessary actions to appoint independent commissions. Nine months of President Sirisena’s term have come to an end. It is also been three months since the new government came to power. Now only they are taking initiatives to establish independent commissions. People cannot tolerate this delay. President Sirisena was more focused on taking the power of the SLFP in to his hand rather than acting according to the people’s mandate. He raced like a rabbit to get the SLFP power into his hand whereas he is slow like a tortoise when it comes to fulfilling the promises given to people.
Q: What is the main content of the 20 proposals that the JVP has compiled?
A: It contains 20 political and economic reforms that the government promised the people before coming to power. Those are several reforms that we need to get done for the betterment of this country and its people. We are expecting to build a broad dialogue about these reforms and get the attention of the government on these reforms. We have also taken initiative to bring these to the notice of parliament. We are also building a movement with intellectuals, artists and other social groups to engage in a dialogue related to these reforms. Our intention is to win various demands for the betterment of people in this country.