Thank you presiding member for the opportunity to say a few words at this debate on the disaster that befell this country two years ago, when MV Xpress Pearl caught fire and sank off the coast of Sri Lanka.
The environmental damage to the country will take decades, if not another century; the plastic pellets that were released to the sea it’ll take 500 to 1000 years for it to dissolve.
This is perhaps the greatest man made environmental disaster that has happened to the country and all we are doing is throwing a little mud at this one then the compliment is returned and that’s what is happening. With regard to the issue itself I want to say a few things that is this legal action issue will not be affected by this debate and so I am thankful to the Hon. Speaker to the decision made and the Party Leaders for taking that decision.
I must also put on record as a legal practitioner when there is a choice of forum, when you have more than one forum to which you can go for relief. There are various factors that come into consideration. And all of that cannot be revealed and I agree with the Hon. Minister for Justice, there are certain issues that can’t be made public.
It had been decided for good reason or bad, that you go to the court in Singapore. I am glad about that, because the court in Singapore is bound to be far more impartial and more professional. But the question that arises is in a matter like this Hon. Rasamanickam raised this yesterday and I will raise it again today.
In a matter such as this, a commercial damages issue you have no problem going to a foreign court. But it is a very serious matter where the victims of injustice after 14 years are still waiting for justice and have no confidence in the local process, have been asking for international involvement, you steadfastly refused. For what reason?
You want to present a bill to establish a TRC – a truth and reconciliation commission. Any TRC process must be victim centered. It cannot succeed, you cannot even start without the victims being satisfied with the process. And here the victims are saying alright there were two sides to a conflict one side can’t decide one side can’t control the proceedings; that is not independent. For it to be independent it has to be impartial and if it was to be impartial, it must necessarily be International. So I am raising this question again.
(Excerpts from speech made in Parliament by Hon. M.A.Sumanthiran M.P. on 11 th May 2023)