Leader of the Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), one of the constituents of the four party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), and former Jaffna district parliamentarian Suresh Premachandran told the Sunday Observer in a brief interview that the Maxwell Paranagama Commission report that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tabled in Parliament Tuesday was self-contradictory and held the Sri Lankan army, a responsible state institution, on a par with the LTTE, a militant movement.
The next follow up action of the government on the report would be establishing a judicial mechanism to conduct investigations.One has to wait to see whether the judicial mechanism will be credible, what role members of the international judiciary will play, whether punishment would be meted out to the offenders or whether they will be given a general amnesty, Premachandran said.
Q: What are your views on the Maxwell Paranagama Commission report that the Prime Minister tabled in Parliament Tuesday?
A: The report that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tabled in Parliament recently touches on various matters relating to the reported war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations during the last 12 hours of the final battle. On the one hand, the report blames the LTTE for holding civilians as human shields which, consequently, led to their deaths in the cross-fire.
The report has also accused the LTTE of indiscriminate firing into the ‘no-man’s zone’ where there was a huge concentration of civilians, resulting in a large number of deaths. The report says that the Sri Lankan Army could not differentiate between combatants and non-combatant civilians, mingled together, because they were all clad in civilian clothes.
The army did not have any intentions of killing civilians or attacking civilian hospitals, the report says. But the Army is a responsible government institution and its main function is protecting the citizens of the country, irrespective of ethnicity or race and that is why the Army is known as the security forces. How can Justice Maxwell Paranagama who is a legal luminary having held the highest judicial positions justify the Army killing hundreds of civilians merely because a handful of LTTE cadres had mingled amidst them?
It should have been their prime duty to identify and isolate combatants. The Army is functioning under a government and a President elected by the people. The President, the government and the Army that is functioning under them have a responsibility by the people and it is their primary duty to protect their lives. I do not know what actually happened during the last hours of the final battle but the bounden duty of the government security forces should have been protecting the lives of non-combatant civilians. How can the Commission equate the Army with the LTTE ?
Q: The report has recommended a judicial mechanism, with the participation of the Commonwealth and international judiciary, to go into details of the Channel 4 documentary and killings of top rung LTTE cadres who surrendered with white flags. Your comments?
A: The report also talks about issues that merit investigations under an international mechanism, including the the Channel 4 documentary, killings of those who surrendered with white flags, including Pulithevan, Nadesan and his wife and the killing of Prabhakaran’ son Balachandran, their media coordinator Isaipriya and others.
As far as I am aware the senior cadres who surrendered had contacts with internationally prominent persons and journalists until the last movement. A BBC correspondent was conveying their decision to surrender to the UN and other concerned international authorities.
The then advisor to the UN Secretary General, Vijay K. Nambiar was in Colombo on that day and the message having been conveyed to him was reportedly conveyed to the government hierarchy by him. But, in spite of it, fire was opened at those who surrendered with white flags. Some reports say that they were arrested and killed later. Worse still, some 200 senior and important cadres who surrendered on that occasion were consequently boarded into a bus and there has been no information about them since then. If these are not war crimes or crimes against humanity what else are ?
Q: You are not happy with the Paranagama Commission report ?
A: Not only me, even the people who attended the Commission sittings to give evidence said that they were not happy with the proceedings and the recording of their statements. The international Community, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) also criticised the commission inquiries. It is apparent that the reports are efforts to project an altogether different picture to the local and international communities on reported war crimes, crimes against humanity and violation of human rights. But I must point out that there are differences of views within the constituents of the TNA on the matter.
The Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchy (ITAK), the main constituent of the TNA , supports the government on establishing a judicial mechanism and holding credible investigations. But I am of the view that a local mechanism, even with the participation of the Commonwealth and international judiciary, will not do justice to the victims and the affected families because we have the bitter experience of all such past exercises. The Tamils have been deceived over and again. We do not know what role the members of the international judiciary will play and what type of mechanism will be established.
Q: There have been many inquiries at local and international level and the reports have been submitted, especially the LLRC report, incorporating recommendations on reconciliation and remedial measures. What kind of justice or compensation do you seek in respect of affected families ?
A: The Tamils are victims of war crimes and the need for justice to them should be recognised and sought for, by all stakeholders. The Sri Lankan legal framework does not have the capacity to mete out justice which the UNHRC too has clearly pointed out. Even the Paranagama Commission report has recommended inquiries on a par with international standards and with the prominent participation of international lawyers and judges. Secondly, demilitarisation should form part of such justice which even the LLRC and the UNHRC have recommended.
The Minister in charge of rehabilitation and resettlement says that the Army is not cooperating with him on the matter of land release. In such a situation how can we anticipate justice and fairplay for the Tamils ? Before we talk about what kind of remedy or compensation should be offered to the affected people, we must make certain that justice is meted out to them.
by P. Krishnaswamy / Sunday Observer