‘Internationals are not mentioned in the said Resolution in the capacity of consultants or as those providing technical assistance. If the latter was the case, the Resolution would state such. The roles are instead specified. Any intelligent person can read and understand it. Sri Lanka co-sponsored the said Resolution not once, but twice’, says TNA spokesperson M. A. Sumanthiran while speaking on the issue of participation on international judges in Sri Lanka’s proposed justice mechanism .
By M.A. Sumanthiran.
I am a member of the TNA. The TNA has chartered a particular course towards seeking a lasting, permanent solution to the national issue and obtaining relief for our people. I am in the Constitutional Assembly’s Steering Committee along with Leader of the TNA and Leader of the Opposition, R. Sampanthan. This requires quite a lot of attention. I also co-chair the management committee of the said Steering Committee. This work requires attention in terms of coordinating experts and research teams. Aside to this, there is work involving the constituencies and day-to- day affairs which require immediate attention. These are my responsibilities within the Party.
We issued two statements with regard to the UNHRC sessions. One was the Parliamentary Group’s unanimous view. The second statement involved MPs and the members of the Provincial Councils. We had a full day’s meeting after which we arrived at a consensus and adjusted he wording to appease all present.
With regard to addressing the burning day-to-day issues and basic needs faced by the families of the missing persons, ex-cadres and female headed households we have quite a bit of involvement. On the issue of the disappeared, it was upon our insistence that the Office on Missing Persons (OMP) law was enacted. We objected to the first draft of the said law. It was then changed. We are disappointed that the Office is not in operation yet. We are working on their livelihood issues and the ex-cadres. We are not part of the Government. We however encourage the Diaspora to help vulnerable groups. We have suggested that the Government implement a special scheme providing opportunities for them. Regarding the ex-cadres, we met with President Maithripala Sirisena to put in place a special programme for their livelihoods as they don’t integrate into society that easily. With regard to women, a project to provide assistance to them should be implemented instead of sending them out to work. The Government should pay something like a social security payment as women engage in care-related work with regard to their disabled husbands, aging parents, and their children. They also have to work to earn a living. The Government must take steps in this regard. We are constantly engaging in order to find relief for them.
TNA deals with both of the President and the Prime Minster . In general, we deal with Wickremesinghe on specific problems.
Like in the case of the OMP, TNA has made significant contributions. In the case of the first draft of the proposed Counter Terrorism Act, we said that it was worse than the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Since then, a new draft is being made. All our efforts will be to fully participate to ensure effective mechanisms for the people’s lives of today. Certain statutes are not in place and the people haven’t tasted the benefits of the statutes that are in place. That is the reason for making that statement. We will fully cooperate and work with the Government. The programme involves not merely bringing in laws but also seeing to their implementation.
On the question of foreign judges, the wording in the UNHRC Resolution 30/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka adopted on 2015 October 1, is very clear. It has separate categories including judges, prosecutors, lawyers including defence counsels and investigators.
Internationals are not mentioned in the said Resolution in the capacity of consultants or as those providing technical assistance. If the latter was the case, the Resolution would state such. The roles are instead specified. Any intelligent person can read and understand it. Sri Lanka co-sponsored the said Resolution not once, but twice. The second time involves the UNHRC Resolution 34/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. Both contain the same words. Whatever that is said by anyone to the contrary, outside the process, elsewhere, the two Resolutions, commitments are given to the world. We insist and we will continue to insist that it will be kept to the letter. This will however not happen tomorrow or day after. The accountability and judicial mechanism will come at the tail end of the processes. There are many processes to come before it such as the OMP, the truth seeking commission and the office of reparations. In addition, laws must be passed to criminalize some of these crimes. Only a Bill for the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances has been brought. These crimes must be declared and made official by way of laws. This aspect of the process will take up quite a bit of time.
Thus, there is no point in arguing or debating at this juncture as to what form the judicial mechanism with a special counsel, will take. We will ensure that the Government keeps to its promises.
Sexually abusing females in the North is a very serious issue. It is often not very publicly articulated. But anybody who works with these people at the ground level and grassroots level knows that it is a reality. It is not just military personnel, or public officials among whom are also Tamils, but shop owners who also engage in such. Everybody takes advantage of these women and females. The military environment contributes to and is conducive to such. Demilitarization is the answer. The military must remain in the North and the East to meet the just security demands, however anything beyond what is required is unnecessary. The military presence at present is highly excessive.
This debate on the question of whether or not to go for a referendum with regard to constitutional reforms is not necessary. All one has to do is to read the motion for the appointment of a Constitutional Assembly, the resolution for which was adopted unanimously on 2016 March 9, including with the participation of the Joint Opposition (JO). The Constitutional Assembly was set up to draft a constitution, the process for approving which involves obtaining a two thirds majority in/of Parliament and a referendum before the people. These steps are clearly mentioned. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party or the JO, none of them can talk differently. They cannot responsibly say so. This was negotiated for two full months. No responsible political party or Parliamentarian can change their position. How can they do so?
Edited version of an interview published in the OnlineNation