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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Minister & EPDP leader Douglas to take LLRC to court

The EPDP Leader and the government strongman in Jaffna, Minister Douglas Devananda says that he would go to courts against the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission over allegations raised against the EPDP in the LLRC Report that it was responsible for operating illegal armed groups and abducting people.
In an interview with   Ranga Jayasuriya, he alleged that the Commission had misquoted him and that the selected content of the LLRC Report, which had adverse reference to the EPDP — had been leaked to the media even before it was submitted to Parliament.

“Though the Commission is appointed by our party, I feel there are ulterior motives behind this,” he said.
  The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in its final report states that illegal armed groups, including those belonging to your party, are a serious concern. The Commission refers to a complaint made by a mother whose son was abducted by a white van, which was being followed by two EPDP cadres. The Commission Report quotes the lady as saying that she visited the EPDP office and she was repeatedly told to be ‘patient.’ In another incident, another lady has told the Commission that her husband and two brothers were abducted by the EPDP men operating with the army and their whereabouts were still not known. What do you have to say about those allegations?

People ask me about their missing relatives. The day before yesterday, I participated in a radio interview and several people asked me about their missing relatives. Whenever they ask for my help to find those missing people, I inquire from the authorities. When there is no information about the missing, sometimes, I would say, ‘Wait, we will try to find him.’ That doesn’t mean we have abducted them, no?

Until he died, my father believed that my brother, who was abducted by the LTTE was alive. And before May 19, 2009, my other brother who was living abroad had been pressing me to search for my abducted brother. I knew he was dead, but I didn’t tell my father or my brother because it was too much for them to bear. That is the problem. Can I tell anyone who visits me to complain about their missing ones that they may be dead? I will tell them: ‘Wait, I will ask the authorities.’ If I say, ‘no,’ what would they think? A lady in Germany has been calling me for around four to five years to ask about the fate of her son who had been taken by the army in Jaffna. What can I do? I say, I have not got any information as of now. It is the reason that my office may have told them, ‘wait, wait,’ because we also don’t know who has abducted them. The other issue is that, if anything happens, the TNA accuses us because the EPDP is the only party in Jaffna. Other parties come into action only during the elections.

Also I must say, though the Commission is appointed by our government I think there are some ulterior motives. It was only after that the Report was handed over to Parliament so that it could be made public. But some newspapers quoted from it even before it was submitted to Parliament. One newspaper reported that Minister Douglas Devanada had been criticized. So I sent them a letter of demand.

 It seems that you didn’t cooperate with the Commission. The Commission states that it was ‘constrained to observe the attitude manifested by the leadership of the TMVP and EPDP in their explanations to provide little or no consolation to the agrieved parties, and tend to mitigate against any meaningful reconciliation process.”

There was a translation error. They didn’t ask me any specific questions. They said there were several allegations and what would I have to say about those allegations?

 I told them, we had nothing to do with those incidents and that some people were misusing our name. There is a saying in Tamil, ‘After the rain stops, the drizzle has not stopped.’ They misquoted it when I said it and gave it a misinterpretation. I told the Commission that the rain was over and that the drizzling has to be stopped as well. That means the war is over but some incidents are continuing and we have to stop these incidents as well.

 Basically, what the Commission is saying is that it is not the EPDP itself that’s abducting, but its cadres. They and the army are working together in carrying out abductions…
That’s not our problem. I will answer what is said about the EPDP. As for the army, there is the army commander, Gotabaya the secretary of defence, and the Commander in Chief to respond to you.

 But the Commission says that it is the EPDP, and the army.

No. We are not involved in those incidents. In the past, everyone was armed. Arms were given to defend ourselves from LTTE terrorists in the north. And in the south, southern political parties were given arms to defend themselves from Sinhala terrorists, the JVP. When I returned from India in 1990 I visited Wickremebahu at his office and I was shocked. It was like an arms dump. Likewise, every political party was given weapons. After the Ranil Wickremesinghe-LTTE agreement, we handed them over.

But your people are still carrying arms.

No, we handed them over after the peace accord. After we handed over weapons in accordance with the agreement, hundreds of our members were killed by the LTTE.

Many commentators say the LLRC, in its recommendations, has echoed what others had been saying for years.

Yes, that is why I stated in our memorandum which had been submitted to the government that we endorse recommendations, mainly those related to the ethnic problem. But I can’t agree with its remarks on the EPDP. Like I said, I think there are ulterior motives (behind those remarks made against the EPDP).

 Did the president ask you about those allegations raised in the LLRC Report?

A. No. He knows me very well. He knows that I am an Ahinsaka Kolla. I am not a coward, I am not afraid of the LTTE, but when it comes to such incidents, I don’t do those things.

 However, whenever there is an abduction in Jaffna, the EPDP is blamed, including in the recent abduction of two political activists in Jaffna.

That is what I told you. There were several incidents blamed on us. Take the famous case of Taraki (Sivaram, the former Tamilnet Editor). Who killed him? PLOTE? One Peter is still in prison. But what did D.B.S .Jeyaraj write? He wrote that Karuna took him (Taraki), questioned him and shot him. Karuna has nothing to do with it. My name also transpired in that document. From my childhood, I don’t drink tea or coffee. In one of his articles (D.B.S) Jeyaraj said that,I was eating string-hopper kottu and drinking a hot coffee while witnessing one of those incidents. Those are the people described as informed sources, reliable sources and insiders, etc. More than 95 per cent of allegations levelled against us are baseless. I am innocent, I am an Ahinsaka Kolla. Ahinsaka Kolla means not that I am a coward, I don’t do this kind of things.

 The Commission recommends that illegal arms groups be disarmed. What is your view?
Who said don’t? We have no problem with that.

 But if you don’t have weapons as you claimed just now…

Our weapons are legal weapons, issued legally to us to defend ourselves. Whatever government that came to power gave us weapons. Why did they give us weapons? Not to kill this one or the other. These weapons were given for our self defence. After 2004, we handed over all those weapons.

 What do you plan to do about allegations levelled in the LLRC Report? Are you planning to meet the Comm- issioners to clarify your position?

No, I am going to Court.

 Over the LLRC Report?

Yes. About what the Report said about the EPDP… I am going to  Court. It is affecting my name. My position is that there was an ulterior motive — that is why before it was submitted to Parliament, it was leaked to some media. While I endorse the other recommendations, I will go to court over allegations levelled against the EPDP.

 You said there were a lot of good recommendations, especially as far as political issues are concerned. But many feel suspicious whether the government would ever implement them?

If it is a good thing I believe President Mahinda Rajapaksa will implement. I strongly believe that. If he thinks I am involved in those crimes, he would order an investigation and look into it.


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