M. A. Sumanthira interviewd by Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
TNA parliamentarian, Attorney-at-Law M. A. Sumanthiran says the international community has realized that the request for time and space is not a genuine one but only for the government to implement its own agenda. He observed that if the government acts responsibly at least at this stage and engages constructively with the international community following the adoption of the 2013 resolution at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the country could deal with all outstanding issues.
“The people of this country will have to ask themselves the question as to why the very countries that banned the LTTE and helped the government win the war, are now applying pressure to settle the six-decade long ethnic issue by peaceful means,” Sumanthiran said.
Following is the interview:
Q: What impact do you think the adoption of the latest US backed resolution on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC would have on the country?
A: That will be determined by how the Government reacts to this. If it acts responsibly at least at this stage and engages constructively with the international community, we can do ourselves a favour and deal with all outstanding issues that hinder genuine reconciliation with the help and assistance of the international community.
Q: Do you believe the government statement that progress has been made in implementing the LLLRC recommendations and the post war reconciliation process?
A: An emphatic ‘No’! The National Action Plan doesn’t even deal with half the constructive recommendations of the LLRC. The more important ones have been studiously left out. Even the ones dealt with by the National Action Plan have not been implemented except the one on teaching Sinhala and Tamil in schools, which has commenced in some schools.
Q: How do you view India’s vote in favor of the resolution?
A: India voted in favour of the resolution last year too. The present resolution is a follow up on that. Any country that voted for last year’s resolution could not have voted against this.
Q: In your view, what is the progress required from the government in addressing concerns of human rights, accountability and reconciliation?
A: His Excellency the President acknowledged that there were serious allegations of violations of human rights that needed to be inquired into as early as 26th May 2009, when he undertook to do that in the joint communiqué he issued along with the Secretary General of the UN. At the same time several undertakings were given in Geneva at the UNHRC by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. It is precisely those undertakings and promises that need to be fulfilled.
Q: How much time and space does the government need to address the concerns raised by the international community?
A: The government has had ample time and space to address all these concerns which they undertook to address four years ago. The international community has at least now realised that the request for time and space is not a genuine one but only for the government to implement its own agenda of grabbing the lands belonging to our People, changing the demography of the North and East and to militarily subjugating the Tamil People.
Q: Would pressure mounted on the Sri Lankan government by the international community help bring about a lasting solution to the ethnic issue?
A: Yes it will. The people of this country will have to ask themselves the question as to why the very countries that banned the LTTE and helped the government win the war, are now applying pressure to settle the six-decade long ethnic issue by peaceful means. The legitimate political aspirations of the Tamil People must be accommodated within the governing structures of the country. It is a pity that even the 13th amendment to the Constitution that reversed the Sinhala Only policy, was conceded to only after the Tamil youth took to arms. There was a thirty-year long peaceful agitation by the Tamil People prior to that. But all that happened during that period was the unilateral abrogation of even the two pacts signed by the governments of the day. Now there is another opportunity to resolve this. The TNA is not asking for anything more than what successive governments offered between 1993 and 2006.
Q: India has once again called for the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and to go beyond. Do you feel that the 13A and beyond would be the only solution for Sri Lanka?
A: Well the 13th Amendment is a part of the Constitution of the country. The Tamil People did not accept that as the final solution because it did not lay out a meaningful scheme of devolution of power. That is why, after the enactment of the 13th Amendment, there were several processes in which the successive governments came up with several proposals to address these defects. I do not say that a solution must necessarily be based on the 13th Amendment, but it is obvious that no solution can be less than what is contained in that. Prof. Peiris is on record describing the 13th Amendment as being ‘fundamentally flawed’, when he campaigned for a federal constitution. Either, these fundamental flaws must be rectified in order to achieve meaningful devolution, or we must draft a new Constitution that goes well beyond that and establishes a system of proper power-sharing between the different Peoples of this country.
Q: How would the growing dissention against Sri Lanka in Tamil Nadu affect the country’s progress?
A: That is only a symptom of the disease that afflicts our own country. We must put our house in order and that symptom will disappear.
Q: How strained do you think Indo-Sri Lanka relations are at present?
A: To the extent Sri Lanka violates the commitments it has made to India and the international community at large. The answer to that is in the hands of the Sri Lankan government.
Q: Do you believe that the Rajapaksa government could deliver a lasting solution to the ethnic issue after winning the war?
A: Yes. There is nothing that stops them from doing that, except their own sense of misplaced pride and plans for dynastic succession.
Q: Are you satisfied with the role played by the TNA in raising the issues faced by the Tamil community in the country?
A: Yes I am, to the extent that our human and other resources have permitted us. But we need to do much more in convincing the Sinhala People that our struggle for justice and equality will not take anything away from the position they enjoy in the country as the numerical majority.
Impact Of Resolution Would Be Determined By Govt’s Reactions – Sumanthiran in SL