by Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan – Leader of the Opposition.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We are starting this Adjournment Debate half-an-hour behind time. Might I suggest that in case Hon. Members want to speak, you might have to sit a little beyond 7.00 p.m. to be able to accommodate the Hon. Members because we are already 35 minutes or 40 minutes behind schedule? I leave that to you, Sir.
I will now read my Adjournment Motion which is as follows:
“All people who lived in Sri Lanka, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, or any other difference, whether Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher made their fullest contribution to the achievement of independence.
It is almost 70 years since Sri Lanka attained Independence from Colonial Rule.
Ethnic strife had plagued the country from shortly after it attained Independence.
Pacts entered into between Prime Ministers and the Tamil Political Leadership to help resolve such ethnic strife and enable all citizens to live together in peace and amity, with equality and justice were not fulfilled by the ruling elite.
As a result of such ethnic strife and ethnic violence against the Tamil people in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and thereafter, up to 50 per cent of the Sri Lankan Tamil population were compelled to leave their own country largely on grounds of insecurity and take up residence in different countries the world over. Tens of thousands of Tamil families have consequently been divided. It is relevant to point out that ethnic violence was unleashed against the Tamil people when they made political demands that would enable them to live as equal citizens in the country.
Recurrence of violence would result in more Tamils feeling the country.
Ethnic violence against Tamils is an imminent danger unless and until there is a political resolution of the conflict.
An armed conflict emerged. Tamil youth waged a war against the Sri Lankan State for more than 25 years. It is more than seven years since the armed conflict came to an end. During this armed conflict much suffering was endured by all people in all parts of the country. Such armed conflict by Tamil youth emerged only after several decades of ethnic violence against the Tamil people.
The conflict was also internationalized and the issue has been in the international domain. Several Resolutions were adopted at the United Nations Human Rights Council and the Resolution adopted in October 2015 comes up for review in February/March 2017.
Our neighbour and parent country India offered its good offices to resolve the issue which Sri Lanka accepted in 1983. An Indo-Sri Lanka agreement was signed on 29th July 1987 between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and President J. R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka which laid down vital contours for a political resolution.
There were also several domestic efforts to finally resolve the conflict. These efforts were made after the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution as the same was found to be inadequate and unworkable.
During the President R. Premadasa’s term the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee Proposals, during President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s term the proposals she made in 1995, 1997 and the proposals tabled as a Bill in Parliament in August 2000, the Oslo Communique and the Tokyo Communique during the Hon. Ranil Wickramasinghe’s term as Prime Minister and the speech delivered by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Inaugural Meeting of the All Party Representatives Committee (APRC) and the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee (MEEC) appointed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and the reports of the said All Party Representative Committee and the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee, all these processes took the proposals for sharing power much beyond the scope of the Thirteenth Amendment.”
“With the assumption of the office of the new Government, Parliament has constituted itself as a Constitutional Assembly, a Steering Committee comprising of representatives of all political parties in Parliament has been appointed under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Prime Minister, various Subcommittees representing different political parties have been appointed and work is in progress for the evolution of a Constitution to resolve the conflict within a united, undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka with the maximum possible consensus.
The Resolution for the appointment of Constitutional Assembly adopted by Parliament inter-alia states:
“Whereas there is broad agreement among the people of Sri Lanka that it is necessary to enact a Constitution for Sri Lanka.”
It further states :
(1) This Parliament resolves that :
There shall be a Committee which shall have the powers of the Committee of the whole Parliament consisting of Members of Parliament for the purpose of deliberating and seeking the advice and views of the people on a Constitution for Sri Lanka and
(2) Preparing a draft of a Constitutional Bill for the consideration of Parliament in the exercise of its powers under Article 75 of the Constitution.
It further states
(3) For the avoidance of doubt, it is hereby further declared that a Constitution Bill shall only be enacted into Law if it is passed in Parliament by a special majority of two thirds of the whole number of the Members of Parliament including those not present and subsequently approved by the people at a Referendum as required by Article 83 of the Constitution.
The current 1978 Constitution did not have such consensus, nor did the 1972 first Republican Constitution, have such consensus. The failure to evolve a Constitution based on such consensus has been the reason for the failure of such Constitutions.
Issues relating to transitional justice in respect of which resolutions have been adopted at the Human Right Council also need to be addressed. These too are issues of urgent public importance in respect of which the country needs to be kept informed. It is estimated that over one hundred and fifty thousand Tamils were killed as a result of the conflict and that recurrence of violence could result in more Tamil people being killed and more Tamil people fleeing the country.
While we on our part will extend the maximum co-operation to the satisfactory conclusion of these processes and to the non-recurrence of violence, it is absolutely essential that these processes be taken forward in a genuine and purposeful manner, so as to ensure permanent peace with justice and equality to all citizens. It is fundamental that all extend their co-operation to enable the successful conclusion of these processes.
I would submit with respect that this is a matter of urgent public importance, and that is the reason for raising this matter today in the House at Adjournment, to enable the whole country to be kept informed of the truth in regard to the processes and everything relating thereto. ”
That Sir, is the Motion that I have placed before the House. You will permit me to say a few words in regard to the purpose of this Motion.
Ever since the enactment of the 1978 Constitution there has been a clamour for the enactment of a new Constitution. That is because there was no consensus in the making of the 1978 Constitution. It was the same with the 1972 First Republican Constitution. There was no consensus in regard to that either. Parties in power which were able to muster the required two-thirds majority framed the Constitution as the party wished. They were not interested in evolving a consensus. The country has become wiser; I hope that political parties have become wiser – I am inclined to think they have. Over a period of time, particularly, after the ethnic holocaust of 1983, there have been efforts at making a new Constitution. Now that this august Assembly has been converted into a Constitutional Assembly and we are engaged in the Constitution-making process, I think it would be relevant and also important to refer to and also place on record some of the features relating to the earlier efforts at Constitution-making.
There have been entirely domestic efforts under different Heads of Government. There have been efforts with international involvement. We accepted the role of international players, our neighbour India, the Co-Chairs, the United Nations, and these features would be extremely important and useful to us in our current Constitution-making process. I think in the interest of the country all these features should be made public. I will not make any reference whatever to any matter relating to the current process. That is a matter that is within the realm of the Steering Committee and the
Constitutional Assembly and I will not trespass into that field, because those matters will, in due course, be dealt with in the appropriate place.
Sir, I would first refer to the features in the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayakam Pact signed in 1957 between Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and the Tamil Leader, Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. It stated under “Joint Statement by the Prime Minister and Representatives of the Federal Party on Regional Councils”, I quote:
“ ‘(A) Regional areas to be defined in the Bill itself by embodying them in a schedule thereto.
‘(B) That the Northern Province is to form one Regional area whilst the Eastern Province is to be divided into two or more regional areas.
‘(C) Provision is to be made in the Bill to enable two or more regions to amalgamate even beyond provincial limits; and for one region to divide itself subject to ratification by Parliament. Further provision is to be made in the Bill for two or more regions to collaborate for specific purposes of common interests.”
The next point of importance in the Pact, under “Colonisation Schemes”, states, I quote:
” ‘(F) It was agreed that in the matter of colonization schemes the powers of the Regional Councils shall include the power to select allottees to whom lands within their area of authority shall be alienated and also power to select personnel to be employed for work on such schemes. The position regarding the area at present administered by the Gal Oya Board in this matter requires consideration.”
That is the area, Sir, that is now comprised of the Ampara Electorate in the Ampara District.
The next document I want to refer to, Sir, is the Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Pact signed between Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake and the Tamil Leader, Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam. Under that, in the case of colonization, the District Councils would see that landless people in the district get priority over others. The second preference would be Tamil-speaking people of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. Finally, even in considering deserving cases from outside of the North-East, Tamils would get priority over others. Those were the three provisions that would guide the alienation of State land in the Northern and the Eastern Provinces. This was the recognition of the territorial identity of the Tamil-speaking people of the Island.
The next document of importance, Sir, is the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 29th July, 1987 signed between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi of India and President J.R. Jayewardene of Sri Lanka. The important features of the Agreement are as follows, I quote:
“1.1 desiring to preserve the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka;
1.2 acknowledging that Sri Lanka is a ‘multi-ethnic and a multi-lingual plural society’ consisting, inter alia,of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims (Moors) and Burghers;
1.3 recognizing that each ethnic group has a distinct cultural and linguistic identity which has to be carefully nurtured;
1.4 also recognizing that the Northern and the Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil-speaking peoples, who have at all times hitherto lived together in this territory with other ethnic groups;
1.5 conscious of the necessity of strengthening the forces contributing to the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, and preserving its character as a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious plural society in which all citizens can live in equality, safety and harmony, and prosper and fulfil their aspirations; ”
Sir, it further went on to state, I quote:
“2.2 During the period, which shall be considered an interim period (i.e. from the date of the elections to the Provincial Council, as specified in para 2.8 to the date of the referendum as specified in para 2.3), the Northern and Eastern Provinces as now constituted, will form one administrative unit, having one elected Provincial Council. Such a unit will have one Governor, one Chief Minister and one Board of Ministers.”
So, under the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement, Sir, there was provision made for the Northern and the Eastern Provinces to be amalgamated as one unit of devolution with one Governor, one Chief Minister and one Board of Ministers. That was done and that merger was maintained for 18 years. Budgetary provision was made in every Budget for the merged North-Eastern Unit until a recent Judgment of the Supreme Court, which claimed that there was a procedural flaw in regard to the matter of merger, and the merger was consequently suspended.
Sir, the next document of importance that I would like to place before you is the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee Proposals during the time of His Excellency R. Premadasa as President. The Hon. Mangala Moonesinghe was a leading Hon. Member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, but President Premadasa made him Chairman of that Select Committee. His Select Committee recommended, I quote:
“1. That there be two units, one for the North and one for the East.
- That devolution of power be on the lines of the Indian Constitution.
- That the Concurrent List in the current Constitution (introduced by the Thirteenth Amendment) be reduced substantially or done away with completely. The majority agreed with the idea that more powers should be devolved to the provinces. “
It also stated, I quote:
“The majority, consisting of representatives from the SLFP, the UNP, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL), the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and two independent Tamil and Muslim Members of Parliament….”
So, Sir, that was the view of the majority of the Members who were in the Parliamentary Select Committee and there was consensus around those proposals. They went on to further recommend, Sir, that there should be an Apex Council and proposed as follows:
“1. There will be two separate Provincial Councils for the North and East.
- Each Provincial Council will have an Executive Minister who will also head the Board of Ministers.
- There will be a Regional Council for the entire North-East region and the Regional Council shall be constituted by the two elected Provincial Councils.
- When the two Provincial Councils meet together on matters pertaining to the entire region they shall constitute themselves as the Regional Council.
- The Regional Council will be headed by a Chief Minister for the entire region and the two Executive Ministers will each year function alternatively as Chief Minister.
- When the two Provincial Boards of Ministers meet on matters pertaining to the entire region they shall be known as the Regional Board of Ministers.
- There will be a Regional List and a Provincial List and legislative functions may be exercised by the Regional Council for the region with respect to those functions in the Regional List.
- The Provincial List will contain matters such as land, finance, law and order and the Regional List will apply to matters such as planning and economic development.
- There will be a single Governor for the region and the rights of minorities will be guaranteed by the constitution.
- Where legislation is passed by the Regional Council it shall not have a bearing on the Provinces till it is approved by the relevantProvincial Council.
So, you will see Sir, that what the Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee recommended was an Apex Council comprising of the Northern and Eastern Provinces to be in a position to deal with certain matters that were of great concern to both the North and the East.
The next important step was the proposals of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in 1995, 1997 and the draft Constitution Bill that was presented to Parliament in August 2000. The Bill was presented to Parliament by the former Minister of Justice, Constitutional Affairs, Ethnic Affairs and National Integration and Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning. I have got a copy of the Bill in my hand and this learned gentleman who presented the Bill to Parliament was no other than Prof. G. L. Peiris. He presented, as the Minister of Constitutional Affairs in the Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga Government, this set of proposals to Parliament as being the proposals of his Government. He had them approved in Cabinet. Both our present President, President Maithripala Sirisena and our former President, President Mahinda Rajapaksa approved the Bill in Cabinet. The Bill was brought to Parliament with the approval of both of them. They both were Ministers in the Cabinet of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. No one said anything to the contrary when the Bill was brought to Parliament. It is well known that the 2000 proposals were a very progressive step in the Constitution-making exercise and I think anyone engaged in the current process should be educated in regard to what this contained. The proposals were drafted primarily by Prof. G. L. Peiris who was the Minister for Constitutional Affairs and by the late Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam, also a constitutional expert in his own right who had assisted in drafting many constitutions the world over in many countries that recently became independent.
I, Sir, as a Member of Parliament used to be in constant touch with him at that point of time. So, they were the two persons who mainly drafted the Bill. Very unfortunately, a consensus that had emerged between the two main parties in regard to that Bill was finally lost as a result of some bickering. Whatever Prof. G.L. Peiris may be saying now, he must accept that it was a Bill presented by him to Parliament on behalf of the Government of which he was the Minister of Constitutional Affairs and that this Bill indicates that this country had been willing to take this process forward in a meaningful way.
The next document Sir, I want to refer to is the Oslo Communique issued at the third session of Peace Talks held from 2nd to 5th December 2002 where again Prof. G.L. Peiris was the chief delegate on behalf of his Government. I would like to quote what the Oslo Communiqué contains:
“Responding to a proposal by the leadership of the LTTE, the parties agreed to explore a solution founded on the principle of internal self-determination in areas of historical habitation of the Tamil-speaking people, based on a federal structure within a united Sri Lanka. The parties acknowledged that the solution had to be acceptable to all communities…. Guided by this objective, the parties agreed to initiate discussions on substantive political issues such as, but not limited to: Power-sharing between the centre and the region, as well as within the centre; Geographical region; Human Rights Protection; Political and administrative mechanisms; Public finance; Law and order.”
So, there was an agreement in terms of which the parties, based upon the principle of internal self-determination, agreed to explore a federal solution in the areas of historical habitation of the Tamils-peaking people within the framework of a united, undivided Sri Lanka.
Now Sir, Prof. G.L. Peiris addressed a press conference. I am quoting Sir, from the transcript of the press conference held at the conclusion of the third session of the first round of Peace Talks held in Oslo which Prof. Peiris addressed. What did he say? I quote from this press conference because I want this country to know what Prof. Peiris said in Oslo compared to what he is saying now. He said Sir, and I quote from the transcript of the press conference.
“The LTTE is no longer insisting on a separate State but … is looking at a different concept in earnest and that is internal self-determination.”
And he went on to explain what he meant. This was power sharing, extensive power sharing within the framework of one country. No question of cessation, no question of separation but power sharing within the framework of one country.”
“That was the point of departure. They are now talking of power sharing within one country.”
So, Prof. Peiris was completely supportive of the Oslo Communiqué. In the press conference he addressed, he stated that the LTTE had changed their position from separation to power sharing within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka. That is what we want. That is what we are asking now. What we are asking now is for extensive power sharing within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka to ensure that Sri Lanka is undivided and indivisible – indivisible in perpetuity. You can have whatever you want in the Constitution. So, that was Prof. Peiris, Sir, at his press conference in Oslo after being a party to the Oslo Communiqué. What credence can be attached, Sir, to what Prof. Peiris now says, in the context of he being the author of the 2000 August Proposals which he himself tabled in Parliament on behalf of his government and in the context of his position at Oslo and what he stated in the press conference. What credence can be attached to what Prof. Peiris has to say now and he is saying a lot of things; he is saying many things.
Now, Sir, from Prof. Peiris, I will move on to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. President Mahinda Rajapaksa also has said very interesting things when he was President and I think the country needs to know about it. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sir, addressed the inaugural Meeting of the All Party Representative Committee and the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee he appointed after he became President on the 11th of July 2006. He made a very important speech to these two bodies; the APRC and the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee which comprised of twelve Sinhalese, four Tamils and one Muslim. There were 17 Members on the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee comprising of twelve Sinhalese, four Tamils and one Muslim. He addressed that Committee and this is what he said:
I am quoting, Sir, from what President Mahinda Rajapaksa said to that body comprising of All Party Representative Committee and the Mutli Ethnic Experts Committee. Addressing the gathering, under the caption “Unity, Territorial Integrity and Sovereignty”, this is what President Rajapaksa said:
“The unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country must be preserved. This cannot be open to bargain. Our approach has been widely endorsed by the international community, notably India and the Co-chairs have clearly stated and have clearly ruled out any form of division of this country. Our objective must be to develop a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka…”
What he laid emphasis on was, a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka and he said:
“Our objective must be to develop a just settlement within an undivided Sri Lanka.
Each party represented here has its own solutions to the national question. We will discuss and synthesize these different approaches and develop our own Sri Lankan model. We must explore past attempts from the Bandaranaike – Chelvanayakam Pact onwards. We must draw appropriate lessons from the experience of other countries.”
Look at the constitutions of the other countries. He further stated, I quote:
“I will not impose a solution on the country. But, you will through your developments, through your deliberations provide a solution to the national question.”
His speech next dealt with the point relating to “Devolution for the People by the People” and this is what he said:
“People in their own localities must take charge of their destiny and control their politico-economic environment. Central decision-making that allocates disproportionate resources has been an issue for a considerable time. In addition, it is axiomatic that devolution also needs to address issues relating to identity as well as security and socio-economic advancement without over-reliance on the Centre. In this regard, it is also important to address the question of regional minorities.”
So, this is what he said. The people must take charge of their destiny in the areas in which they live. They must be able to address the issues relating to their identity, in regard to their security, in regard to the socio-economic advancement. What more would you want?
Sir, then, I quote from the third point he addressed under the heading, “Some Concluding Thoughts”:
“Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution…..”
These are President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own words. I further quote:
“Any solution must be seen as one that stretches to the maximum possible devolution without sacrificing the sovereignty of the country. Given the ground situation, given the background to the conflict, it therefore behooves on particularly the majority community to be proactive in striving for peace and there must be a demonstration of a well-stretched hand of accommodation.”
He wanted the majority community to stretch out their hands and accommodate the minorities. That is what he said. I further quote:
“Any solution must therefore address these expectations as well. The role of the All Party Representative Committee, as well as the Panel of Experts is to fashion creative options and satisfy the minimum expectations that I had enumerated earlier as well as provide a comprehensive approach to the resolution of the national question”.
He wanted the APRC and the Multi Ethnic Experts Committee to provide for maximum possible devolution. This is President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s own speech. I would have very much wished his being here, but unfortunately he is not here and none of the Joint Opposition Members are here; they, probably, do not want to listen to these things being said and they must have known that these things will be said. So, Sir, that was the President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s position. Can anything be clearer, Sir? Can anything be more lucid than what the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said in regard to what a new Constitution should have? A solution based on what he has said would be the end of the matter.
The former President Mahinda Rajapaksa also came to an agreement with the Secretary-General of the UN, when the Secretary-General of the UN came to Sri Lanka on the 23rd of May, 2009, just after the war came to an end. A few days thereafter, they had a discussion. After that discussion, they issued a joint statement.
I am now reading from the Joint Statement. I quote:
“President Rajapaksa and the Secretary-General agreed that addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution was fundamental to ensuring long-term socio-economic development.
President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment, as well as to begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in the new circumstances, to further enhance this process and to bring about lasting peace and development in Sri Lanka.”
That was his position Sir, in the Joint Statement he made with the Secretary-General on the 23rd of May, 2009.
The international community has also been involved, Sir, and they have also been making several statements which I would like to place before the House because it is important that the House is aware of the role played by the international community.
India has played a crucial role, Sir. India has been in touch with the Government, particularly with the Rajapaksa Government. I am now going to quote from statements made by the international community, particularly India and the Co-Chairs during the President Rajapaksa’s regime in regard to what should be the basis of a political solution. I will deal, Sir, particularly with the period when President Mahinda Rajapaksa was the President.
In November, 2006 Sir, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon arrived in Sri Lanka and met with President Rajapaksa. He told President Mahinda Rajapaksa, “India looks forward to an early ‘comprehensive political settlement’ of the ethnic issue. It must take into account these aspirations of all sections, including the Tamils.” At that meeting, President Rajapaksa gave details of the work being done by the All Party Conference and the Multi-Ethnic Committee of Experts to provide a framework for the resolution of the ethnic problem. President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave Mr. Menon a Report in regard to the work of the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Committee of Experts. I have already referred to the APRC and the Multi-Ethnic Committee of Experts, Sir. Their Reports are in the public domain; their Reports are available and their Reports are very much in tune with what the ex-President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga said in her Constitutional Proposals in August, 2000. So, that was President Rajapaksa’s position to Mr. Shivshankar Menon.
Mr. Basil Rajapaksa went to India in October, 2008. After the talks with the Indian Government, there was a statement issued.
He said, I quote:
“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 should lead to a sustainable solution”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sir, in November 2008, having met the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told the Rajya Sabha that he had a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the bulk of the meeting was focused on the plight of Sri Lankan Tamil people. I am quoting what the Dr. Manmohan Singh said:
“We are deeply concerned. I explained to him (Rajapaksa) that we have legitimate concern about the welfare of Sri Lankan Tamils. It has a bearing on Sri Lanka’s relations with India”.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also informed President Rajapaksa that Colombo has to create conditions for meeting “legitimate political aspirations” of the Tamils under the devolution package. That was a statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after he had a discussion with President Rajapaksa.
Then again, Sir, Prof. G.L. Peiris, in his capacity as the Minister of External Affairs, went to India in May, 2011. He was in India from 15th to 17th of May, 2011 and there was a statement made. 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.”
That was the statement of Prof. G.L. Peiris when he went to India.
Then, Sir, in June 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh again referred to this matter. There was a question and answer session and he was asked a question in regard to India’s neighbours and this is what he said. I quote:
“You have a situation in Sri Lanka. The decimation of the LTTE was something which is good. But the Tamil problem does not disappear, with the defeat of the LTTE. The Tamil population has legitimate grievances. They feel they are reduced to second-class citizens. And our emphasis has been to persuade the Sri Lankan Government that we must move towards a new system of institutional reforms, where the Tamil people will have a feeling that they are equal citizens of Sri Lanka, and they can lead a life of dignity and self-respect. It is not easy. Within Sri Lanka’s population, there are hotheads. The Sinhala-chauvinism is a reality. But we have to find a difficult balance because what happens in Sri Lanka has a domestic dimension …..”
That was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement in June 2011.
Sir, Foreign Minister of India, S.M. Krishna said in the Lok Sabha in a Suo Motu Statement on 4th August 2011, I quote :
“The Government has also articulated its position that the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka created a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues relating to minority communities in Sri Lanka including Tamils. The Joint Press Release of May 17, 2011 states that all such outstanding issues had to be settled in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation. 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 and that a devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation.
The Prime Minister observed recently that the Tamil population in Sri Lanka had legitimate grievances and our emphasis had been to persuade the Sri Lankan Government that we must move towards a new system of institutional reforms where the Tamil people will have a feeling that they are equal citizens of Sri Lanka and they can lead a life of dignity and self-respect. That is our outlook towards this issue.”
I want to place some of these things on record, Sir because some of these things are not known. I want this matter be on record.
Then, Sir, there was a statement made by a spokesman on behalf of India after the Report of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission was released and that statement was made on 25th December, 2011. This is what he said, I quote:
“ In this context, we have been assured by the Government of Sri Lanka on several occasions in the past, of its commitment towards pursuit of a political process, through a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil National Alliance leading to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution, and to go beyond so as to achieve meaningful devolution of powers and genuine national reconciliation. We hope that the Government of Sri Lanka recognizing the critical importance of this issue acts decisively and with vision in this regard. We will remain engaged with them through this process and offer our support in the spirit of partnership.”
Thereafter, Sir, the Foreign Minister of India was in Sri Lanka. There was a statement made by him in the presence of the Minister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka. The Foreign Minister was here from the 16th to 19th January 2012 and what he said was this. 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.”
Then again, Sir, “The Hindu” of the 20th March of 2012 reported what the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh said in the Lok Sabha, I quote:
“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on Monday that India was “inclined to vote in favour” of a resolution on promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka at the ongoing 19th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.”
He further went on to say:
“That, we hope, will advance our objective, namely the achievement of the future for the Tamil community in Sri Lanka that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self-respect.”
So, the hope of the Indian Prime Minister was that India’s support for the Resolution would result in the achievement of its objective that India had towards achieving an equal status for the Tamil people in Sri Lanka while persuading the Sri Lankan Government to do the right thing.
Sir, an article that appeared in “The New Sunday Express” of 24th June, 2012 has stated, I quote:
“ ‘The Prime Minister once again underlined the great importance we attach in India to the ability of the Tamil people to lead a life of dignity and as equal citizens of that country, ‘Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters at Rio de Janeiro….”
So, this is the position. Sir, in regard to the Indian initiative, I would now deal with what National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon said in his final visit to Sri Lanka. This article appeared in “The Hindu” on 30th June, 2012. I quote:
“The hopes of Tamils could only be accommodated through a political process. This was an ‘internal political process. We have to also look at that. It is a process that has ramifications for all of us. And it is not something that started yesterday or today or a few years ago.”
It started 60 years ago, and India knows about it. The article further states, I quote:
“I have told you what we would like: a united Sri Lanka, within which all communities feel they are in control of their own destiny, and they are satisfied.”
I desire, Sir, to place these matters on record because, I think, the country should know that we have gone through a long process even with our neighbhour India playing a vital role over several years to resolve this issue and that we have not yet reached our goal, which has been “finding an acceptable political solution within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka”. India has firmly reiterated her commitment to the unity territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, but with the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment building on it so as to achieve meaningful devolution of power to enable the people of the North and the East, the Tamil speaking people to live with dignity and self-respect and be in a position to control their own destiny in regard to matters of vital concern to them in the area in which they live.
I move on to, Sir, what the Co-chairs had to say. Co-chairs also played an important role in Sri Lanka. The Co-chairs comprised of the European Union, Norway, Japan and the United States. This is what the Co-chairs had said on the 30th of May 2006. Sir, I quote from what the Co-chairs had said about the political settlement and about Sri Lanka:
“‘It must show that it is ready to make the dramatic political changes to bring about a new system of governance which will enhance the rights of all Sri Lankans, including the Muslims. The international community will support such steps: failure to take such steps will diminish international support.’ ”
The Co-chairs went on to say, I quote:
“The Tamil and Muslim peoples of Sri Lanka have justified and substantial grievances that have not yet been adequately addressed.”
That is what they said. Now, I quote from what the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Mr. Richard A. Boucher, said on the 01st of June, 2006 during one of his visits to Sri Lanka:
“We also think the government should provide a positive vision to Tamils and Muslims of a future Sri Lanka where their
legitimate grievances are addressed and their security assured. President Rajapaksa has spoken of “maximum devolution.”
Previous negotiations have agreed on “internal selfdetermination” within a federal framework. However the idea is expressed, it could offer hope to many in the North and East that they will have control over their own lives and destinies within a single nation of Sri Lanka.”
The Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Boucher, went on to say, I quote:
“Although we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues that are raised by the Tamil community and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, to be able to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies and to govern themselves in their homeland, in the areas they’ve traditionally inhabited.”
That is what the Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Boucher said. So, you have India on the one hand and the the Co-chairs on the other hand – European Union, Norway, Japan, US. US itself coming up with these things. Sir, this is why I say that these are matters not manufactured by someone’s imagination; these are grievances which the Tamil people have gone through and entertained for a long time.
Before I finish up this point, I would like to read what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said when he addressed this House on 13th of March 2015. I quote the Hansard of 13th March 2015. It states, I quote:
“Sri Lanka’s progress and prosperity are also a source of strength for India. So, Sri Lanka’s success is of great significance to India and as a friend, our good wishes, our support and solidarity have always been with Sri Lanka and it will always be there for you. For all of us in our region, our success depends on how we define ourselves as a nation. All of us in this region, indeed every nation of diversity, have dealt with the issues of identities and inclusion, rights and claims, dignity and opportunity for different sections of our societies. We all have seen its diverse expressions. We have faced tragic violence; we have encountered brutal terrorism and we have also seen successful examples of peaceful settlements. Each of us has sought to address these complex issues in our own way. However, we choose to reconcile them. To me, something is obvious: diversity can be a source of strength for nations.
When we accommodate the aspirations of all sections of our society, the nation gets the strength of every individual. And, when we empower states, districts and villages, we make our country stronger and stronger. You can call this, my bias. I have been a Chief Minister for 13 years; a Prime Minister, for less than a year!
Today, my top priority is to make the States in India stronger. I am a firm believer in cooperative federalism. So, we are devolving more power and more resources to the States and we are making them formal partners in national decision- making processes.
Sri Lanka has lived through decades of tragic violence and conflict. You have successfully defeated terrorism and brought the conflict to an end. You now stand at a moment of historic opportunity to win the hearts and heal the wounds across all sections of society. Recent elections in Sri Lanka have reflected the collective voice of the nation: the hope for change, reconciliation and unity. The steps that you have taken in recent times are bold and admirable. They represent a new beginning.
I am confident of a future for Sri Lanka defined by unity and integrity, peace and harmony and opportunity and dignity for everyone. I believe in Sri Lanka’s ability to achieve it. It is rooted in our common civilizational heritage. The path ahead is a choice that Sri Lanka has to make and it is a collective responsibility of all sections of the society and of all political streams in the country. But, I can assure you of this: for India, the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka are paramount. It is rooted in our interest. It stems from our own fundamental beliefs in this principle. ”
What more do you want? The Prime Minister of India comes to Sri Lanka and he addresses our Parliament and this is what he says on this question of a political solution. So, before I conclude I would like to read from the Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council recently. It welcomes the commitments of the Government of Sri Lanka to the devolution of political authority and paragraph 16 of the Resolution adopted in October, 2015 states, I quote:
“16. Welcomes the commitment of the Government of Sri Lanka to a political settlement by taking the necessary constitutional measures, encourages the Government’s efforts to fulfil its commitments on the devolution of political authority, which is integral to reconciliation and the full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population;….”
It welcomes your commitment to take the necessary Constitutional measures to a political settlement by taking steps for the devolution of political authority which is integral to reconciliation and full enjoyment of human rights by all members of its population.
They go on to encourage you to ensure that for the present, in the immediate context, all the provincial councils are able to operate effectively in accordance with the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka. So, you have made a commitment to the UN Human Rights Council that you will take the necessary constitutional measures to meaningfully devolve political authority to regions and to other people.
Sir, I quoted from; what had been said by India in regard to Sri Lanka’s political problems, the reaction of the Sri Lankan Government to what India has stated, what the Co-Chairs have stated, what the US has stated and what has been stated at the UN. I put on record all these matters for the reason that we are currently engaged in a Constitutional process and I want everyone to know that this is not something which started yesterday or day before, but that this is something which started 70 years ago, shortly after the country attained independence. These statements indicate the concerns of the international community.
The new Government has taken some initial steps. There are different expectations after this Government came into power. Those steps need to be continued in a genuine and purposeful manner. We need to have the cooperation of everyone to make this effort successful.
I do not think Sir, the national question can remain unresolved any longer. I do not think it will be good for this country. In the context of the matter having been internationalized and different statements having been made by different people, I do not think we can go into a situation where there can be recurrence of violence, more Tamils being killed and more Tamils fleeing the country. It is not going to be acceptable to anyone. We are prepared to resolve the matter within the framework of a united, undivided, indivisible Sri Lanka on the basis of our self-respect and dignity being restored, on the basis of our being able to determine our destiny in the territory in which we have lived. We, therefore, call upon the Government to bear this fact in mind. Ever since the country attained independence, consequent to the violence unleashed against the Tamil people 1,500,000 Tamils have fled this country and at least, 150,000 Tamils have been killed. Of course, soldiers have died, our combatants have died and other civilians have died. We accept all that. That is because there was violence. That is because there was an armed conflict and there was an armed conflict for the reason that the matter was not politically resolved. If the matter had been politically resolved, there would have been no armed conflict.
Therefore Sir, in the context of all these matters, I think we should resolve to put an end to this matter.
I was going to speak at length in regard to the implementation of the Resolution of the Human Rights Council, but I do not think I will do that because I do not have enough time and I have already taken a fair amount of time.
But, I will say a few things on the question of lands, on the question of missing persons, on the question of prisoners, on the question of truth and reconciliation, on the question of reparation, on the question of the Office of Missing Persons and on the question of non-recurrence.
These are fundamental elements in the transitional justice process which needs to be addressed, which have to be addressed. Our people are disappointed. Let me be frank. Our people had the expectation that they would be treated differently by this Government and not be ill-treated in the same way that the former Government ill-treated them. But the people have begun to raise the question as to whether this Government is dealing with them any differently from the previous Government.
It is true that you have released some lands both in the North and the East but much more needs to be done. The Armed Forces do not seem to be prepared to release lands. That is a fact that we have to face.
I got a fax in the morning today. People are protesting at Keppapilavu and Pilakudiyiruppu. Even today they are fasting with their wives and children because they want to get back their land, land that they owned. We want some commitment from you. This must be resolved.
The Army thinks, well these lands were held by the LTTE and the Tamil people did not protest against it at that point of time and why are they protesting now. You cannot say that. You are not the LTTE. The LTTE were young armed rebels. They came and occupied our land. We had no choice but to hand it over to them. But you are a civilized Government. You are a democratic Government. You are a Government with an international status. You have got to safeguard your international status. You cannot behave in the same way in which the LTTE behaved. They probably think, why should we return lands to Tamil civilians because Tamil civilians want to convict us of war crimes.
Let me say this very frankly. We do not think that every soldier is a war criminal. There may have been certain methods adopted in the prosecution of the war which may have been in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Persons responsible for such conduct would be at a different level, would be at a command level and not at the level of the ordinary soldier. There may have been soldiers who had committed individual crimes like murder, like rape. If they can be identified and if they can be prosecuted, they must be identified and prosecuted. After all when the JVP insurrection took place in the early 1970s that girl, Beatrice Manamperi was raped by some soldiers. Am I right Bimal? They were identified and convicted. That was the right thing to do. So if there are soldiers who have committed such wrongs, they may have to face the consequences. But a soldier who fought the war on behalf of the Government, on behalf of the State was carrying out the instructions of his Government. He was doing nothing more. I do not see how he can be prosecuted.
This bad blood between the soldiers and the Tamil population must come to an end. There was a time when Tamils could not be recruited to the Sri Lankan armed forces. There was a time when they could not expect the Government to do that but now things are changing. Your armed forces must acquire a different complexion. They cannot be entirely and exclusively or even preponderantly with Sinhala only. They must have Tamils. They must have Muslims. Sir Kandiah Vaithyanathan was the first Permanent Secretary of Defence and Foreign Affairs when Hon. D. S. Senanayake was Prime Minister. He was an excellent civil servant. Anton Muttukumaru was the Commander of the Army. Rajan Kadirgamar was a Commander of the Navy.
They were excellent officials who did an excellent job of work. So, this bad blood between the Tamil people and the Sri Lankan soldiers, Sri Lankan Armed Forces must come to an end. We are now moving into a different era. We must have more Muslims in the Armed Forces, we must have more Tamils in the Armed Forces and we must be able to look upon our Armed Forces with pride.
Now look. On the question of missing persons, there were a large number of missing soldiers. But, we do not see their families protesting that their husbands or sons are missing. You have probably resolved that. You have talked to them. There has been some reparation, some solace, some conciliation and they have accepted their destiny and there is calm. That is not available to our people. Our people must feel that the Government has in some way responded to this question, that there is an inquiry, a decision has been taken, the truth has been ascertained, and there has been some reparation, some reconciliation, some solace. There must be such processes which give the people a feeling of some satisfaction, may not be complete satisfaction, some satisfaction, but that is not there.
The Governemnt is very insensitive on the question of land. Lands must be returned to the people. You are cultivating my land with fruits, vegetables, and crops and selling them in the market at competitive prices. How can this go on?
I feel very strongly for the people who were demonstrating. We have only refrained from participating in some demonstrations for the reason-
I am not participating in these demonstrations because I feel that we must not play into the hands of others who want to disturb the whole process. We want the country to be stable; we want the country to be calm. But, our people are complaining; our people are suffering. My Friend Mr. Sumanthiran has been accused of being traitorous by some Tamil Leaders who have been resoundingly rejected at the last Parliamentary Elections, some persons whose party polled around 15,000 votes. Mr. Sumanthiran got four times that number of votes in Jaffna. I have got the particulars with me. That whole party did not poll 15,000 votes. Mr. Sumanthiran polled four times that vote by himself – preference votes. Today, he is being called a “traitor” because he is working with the Government. We look upon Mr. Sumanthiran as a very useful Member of Parliament performing valuable service on behalf of the people, and we want that to be recognized. But, he is being attacked. He is being attacked because these persons who were resoundingly rejected by the people in 2015 are using your failure to do what you must do by the people as the ground for attacking people like Mr. Sumanthiran and me and others too, even Mr. Senathirajah.
This cannot continue. This must come to an end. Your Government must realize it; your President must realize it; your Prime Minister must realize it. We are getting bitter ourselves. Let me tell you very frankly, I am extremely unhappy about the way the Government is treating our people on the question of land. Our land must be returned to them. That is our right; that is our birth right. You cannot hold back from doing that. That must be done.
Mr. Deputy Chairman of Committee, I do not want to be reminded again that I have finished my time. We want the allegations that have been levelled in regard to Mr. Sumanthiran, that there has been an attempt on his life, to be properly investigated. We want everyone who is guilty to be brought before the court.
There has been a report filed by the police in the Kilinochchi Magistrate’s Court where they have definitely stated that there was an attempt at assassination of Mr. Sumanthiran. That is a matter of record, nobody can deny that. Some people are calling him “Drohi”. It is a very unbecoming word. It is a word that is inciting violence. Why are you calling him “Drohi”. Is it because he is working on our Constitutional Proposals along with me and others? Tamil people are not protesting in support of you? Tamil people are protesting on account of wrongs being done to them by the Sri Lankan Government. They want that to stop. These jokers who could not even win one seat, could not come even close to one seat. They came long after us, we polled 200,000 votes, they polled 15,000 votes. They came after the EPDP; they came after the UNP and they came after the UPFA. They were totally rejected by the Tamil people. Today, they say, they have become saviours. Why? Because they are standing in front with the Tamil people, when the Tamil people are protesting against wrongs being committed by the Sri Lankan Government. So, you are promoting extremism in our ranks. You are promoting fellows who have been rejected by the people. Kindly, do not do this. On the question of missing persons, on the question of land, on the question of detainees, on the question of reparation and reconciliation, you must move, you must act and what needs to be done must be done.
Thank you, Sir.