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Friday, February 23, 2024

‘American hand in persecution of Lanka’

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha is a Sri Lankan member of parliament, and former secretary-general of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) in that country. He has served as secretary to the Lankan ministry of disaster management and human rights and has been appointed as adviser on reconciliation to the President of Sri Lanka. I
n an interview to SIMRAN SODHI, Prof Wijesinha spoke about Colombo’s fears of Western pressure coming to bear on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution on Sri Lanka that is expected in this session of the UN rights body. 

The UNHRC has begun its session in Geneva and a resolution on Sri Lanka is expected soon. How do you feel about it?
I think we have reason for worry because we can’t understand this ongoing persecution. The last time a resolution on Sri Lanka was introduced, it was defeated by 29 to 12 and the Europeans were quite isolated. Later, we found out from ***Wikileaks*** what we had suspected all along ~ that the British were the moving spirit behind it. That is because of the presence of a massive Tamil diaspora in Britain.

What do you think will be India’s position on UNHRC?
I don’t know but I would be very surprised if India gave in to Western pressure.

There is a feeling in the Indian government today that things in Sri Lanka are moving slowly…
I have heard that as well and my talks with the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo have given me the impression that India feels that things are slow but I don’t think that New Delhi thinks that it is deliberate.

Why was the former Lankan army chief General Sarath Fonseka treated so badly by your government?
The President wanted to go ahead with the commitments on reconciliation right after the war with the LTTE ended. He sidelined General Fonseka because the former army chief wanted the army to draft in an additional 100,000 personnel. What really worried us about the General was that he later emerged as this hardliner being managed by Americans. The President promoted him from army chief to Chief of Staff; he went to the USA soon after and resigned upon his return to Lanka.

Are you suggesting that there was an American hand behind all this?
We are absolutely sure of it and we have evidence that one or two other Generals had approached by the Americans. I also don’t think it was the US defence department, which was very supportive of us, but the US state department that is playing a double game. The reason could be that it feels that China has a big influence here and it prefers a regime that will be amenable to it ~ something President Rajapakse is not.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)’s blames the LTTE for civilian causalities but when it comes to the Lankan army, it describes civilian causalities caused by it as “accidental”…
A: That is true. I personally travelled to war-torn areas and think the LLRC findings are very true.

Q: What is your estimate of civilian causalities during the conflict?
I have said consistently that the number of civilian causalities was about 5,000.

Why is Sri Lanka afraid of an independent inquiry?
Isn’t it very arrogant of you to ask Sri Lanka to have an independent inquiry? Has India ever allowed a foreign inquiry? India is in a position to not allow anyone to tell it how to run the country but Sri Lanka is a small country. There is much interference in our country and we have to make it crystal clear that we do not want this.

So, you are rejecting an inquiry by the UN as well?
Yes, because the UN is not independent.

What about devolution of power to Tamils? Does federalism work for Sri Lanka?
On the political front, there has been a request made by the Tamil National Alliance to expand on the 13th Amendment. There is one massive flaw in this amendment in that it united the north and the east by what was called a sleight of hand. Federalism works in a multifarious society where you don’t have dichotomy, like in India or the USA. The problem in Sri Lanka is similar to what they have in Canada where one sees a dichotomy between the French speakers and the English speakers. And even though I think TNA is sincere when they say we don’t want a separate state, there are some people in TNA who think federalism is a stepping stone to a separate state.

Are you afraid of the LTTE making a comeback?
No, not in Sri Lanka. The resurgence you refer to is happening abroad. Foreign nations are the ones who fund it. TNA itself is torn between extremists and moderates but we also need security.


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