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Friday, July 12, 2024

Prof. V.T Thamilmaran on Swiss Kumar, Accountability & TNA politics

Colombo Law Faculty Dean V.T Thamilmaran said, the Police are responsible to probe and place the truth before people; how one of the rape suspects Swiss Kumar, who was handed over and arrested by the police escaped from their custody and was then found in Colombo.  Unless and until that is cleared the mud slung on him will not be washed off. Speaking to Ceylon Today Thamilmaran explained following are excerpts:

It is understood that you are preparing to enter electoral politics through the TNA. How did you first get into TNA politics?

V.T. Tamilmaran
V.T. Tamilmaran

A: In the initial stages, I worked with some TNA parliamentarians like Joseph Pararajasingham and Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam. Such activities brought me into the picture, also my writings on political and legal analysis on matters like ‘Right to Self Determination’ and ‘Human Rights Conditions of the People in the North and East’, it is through these that I entered the scene and I became well known in Sri Lankan Tamil politics.

I wrote much on Tamil Nationalism, tried to explain on the basis of political theory arguing that nationalism of Tamils must be understood in a different context. It is not narrow portioned politics but should be understood in as participatory democracy. This actually caught the attention of the TNA leadership; also I participated with them in some of the constitutional discussions earlier in developing a suitable political solution to the ethnic crisis in this country. My contribution and proposals put forward to the government would have definitely been considered by the TNA leadership and they would have thought that I would fit into the scene.

Did the TNA voluntarily want you to participate through their party?

A: It was not a formal announcement, and I have yet not made any formal announcement of my willingness to contest, talks were going on about the matter. TNA Kayts branch convened a meeting and unanimously passed a resolution promoting my candidature. It has been sent to the leader of the TNA.

Also during the Northern Provincial Council Elections Leader Sampanthan mentioned to the media that I would be a possible candidate to the Chief Ministerial post. However, I didn’t participate, he would have mentioned to some interested parties and it was in the media.

It is observed that your family, especially your brothers had been involved in Marxist politics. How come you are in Tamil Nationalist Politics.?

A: In the initial stages when I wrote about ‘Tamil Nationalism’ and discussed about right to ‘Self determination’, I explained from the Marxist point of view as well. When I was the Tamil Union President at the university, I organized a debate forum where we invited all political leaders including N. Shamugathasan from the Communist Party. Right from the beginning I was very much involved in Marxist politics as well, hence my approach to nationalism was from the Marxist point of view as well. I don’t support narrow nationalism.

During the course of peace negotiation between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government under President Chandrika’s regime it was told and mostly expected that you would participate in the talks on behalf of the LTTE. If that was true, have you based your politics on the stance of the LTTE.?

A: Certainly not at that time. My name was given to the Norwegian Embassy by the LTTE, and they wanted to have me on the team and that was published in the news. However, I corrected it and mentioned that it was not my idea. I would argue for right to self determination from my particular point of view as I said, not from narrow ethnic nationalism stance. I mostly referred to International Law. I sent a report to the press that I won’t be participating, if I participate that would be coloured as a partitioned party. However, my point of view might have been used by the LTTE.

It is said by the majority community that, that you are an ardent supporter of the LTTE. What is your explanation?

A: Supporting the LTTE is different from supporting the cause of the Tamils. My position throughout has been very consistent. I have been supporting the political rights of the minorities based on political and legal principles.

How do you theoretically differ from the LTTE?

A: I have been continuously advocating in Tamil and English that equal rights should be given to the Tamils and that power should be devolved based on constitutional principles. I have been continuously participating in such discussions in and out of the country.

Being an expert in the field of local and international law how did you assess the cry for an international inquiry on war crimes and the talk of a domestic inquiry?

A: It is a very difficult point to explain to all, especially ordinary people. As a teacher of international law I’m very well aware of the obligation of a State is to have the domestic inquiry first. In such a case, if it is proven that the State is incapable of holding a domestic inquiry or is unwilling to hold such an inquiry then an international inquiry can be considered. Therefore, the primary obligation of the State is to conduct the domestic inquiry. That would be the obligation of a State under international law; the domestic inquiry is a must. However it is totally a different issue to say that we don’t have any trust in the domestic inquiry. In my point of view, it is a must for the state to hold a domestic inquiry to prove it is innocent and it respects international law.

Do you feel a domestic inquiry would solve the war issues of the people of the North and East?

A: This domestic inquiry without the involvement of an international participation will not serve any purpose. Although the State is obliged by such an obligation, international input is a must too. Accordingly, the State can prove that it is genuinely working towards the accountability issue.

As you see there is very high expectation among the people of the North and East on the International Inquiry. How far do you think it will answer the aspirations of those people?

A: The people should be convinced that the domestic inquiry is a total failure. That will actually help to step towards an international inquiry. If the domestic inquiry is held with the participation of international input, I think there is a way of convincing people that accountability or justice should be done to the victims.

How do you view the role of India in the ethnic problem and in implementing the 13th Amendment? Do you think they will fulfil the demands of the Tamil nationalists?

A: Being a regional super power, without India, there cannot be any political solution. There are two reasons, one is the nature of the proposed solution and that it is acceptable to the Tamils, and the second would be the implementation of such solution. For both purposes the support of India is needed. I don’t think any single Tamil person would say it could be without any contribution from India.

Did your presence or entry into electoral politics, get you more enemies in and out of the TNA?

A: It seems like that. It is in rather than out.

Now, you are faced with the controversy of assisting a suspect who is alleged to have been involved in a gang rape of a school girl in your native village. Can you explain briefly on the controversy? What exactly happened?

Campaign for justice for Vidya
Campaign for justice for Vidya

A: This controversy is totally connected to my entering into politics. Even during LTTE times people wrote that I would be coming as a political spokesperson. Although there is no official confirmation people would have gathered information from interested parties that definitely this time I would be a candidate. That would have upset them, particularly in the North, there is a media operated by one section of the TNA and a television station operated by one section out of the TNA. I would say people have been working to halt me from entering politics. My friends in Colombo knew I was going to contest elections; they immediately informed me regarding the gang rape incident. I straightaway spoke to the Jaffna DIG, who happens to be one of my students. I told him early that similar rape and murder incidents have taken place in Punguduthivu. The Police in the area have not been very satisfactory. I requested him to take immediate action to avoid from it turning into a similar incident as before. He promised me that whatever is possible will be done. I contacted the Attorney General’s Department to ensure a death inquest. Ordinary people will not understand such technical procedures; it is a must to have a proper death inquiry. In such a case someone should appear to look after the interests of the victim’s side. Rather than any outside lawyers, it is better if State Counsel appear assisting the Police in lining up evidence. Accordingly I did my very best to find the suspects and get them arrested by the Police. I request the Police to take suitable action to find out how Swiss Kumar , the suspect escaped from Police custody and how he reached Wellawatte. I request the Police to carry out a suitable investigation to find the truth.

Do you suspect someone for carrying out such an action against you ?

A: There are people inside TNA too. I definitely know the person. They believe that I will break their votes. This person has the vote bank in Kilinochchi electorate and Kayts as well.When this problem was going on Parliamentarian Mavai Senathirajah and Provincial Minister Kurukularajah came. They tried to clarify certain things and spoke to the DIG. But I noticed Senathirajah was not satisfied with the answers given by the DIG.

How was the reaction of the TNA leadership to this incident?

A: So far I have not seen any particular statement issued by them on this incident. But they have issued statements on the Court incident. I have not yet spoken to Leader Sampanthan after the incident. I’m waiting for their response.

There are allegations that the suspect Swiss Kumar is related to you. Is that true?

A: It is an utter lie. I have not seen this person before.

There were allegations that you obtained Rs.4 million from this particular suspect for your election campaign. What’s your justification ?

A: This is a rumour created by the people who came for the meeting held between the Police and villagers. I’m pretty sure that these people are outsiders; they are not from my village. They were all drunk, including the women. There were many unknown people from other parts of the peninsula. There were some schoolchildren too there to canvass against me. I hear that the same people were taken on the following day to attack the Courts. It is part of the drama.

Why do you think this rape and murder was later politicized?

A: This gruesome rape and murder was later used for political agendas. I feel it was used as a tool for the forthcoming parliamentary elections?
Political forces saw me as a threat to their agendas as I interfered and pressurized for a proper death inquest.

Don’t you think both, the Tamil political movements as well as the present Government is weak in serious political agenda, such as engaging in political negotiations to find out lasting solutions to fulfil the aspirations of Tamils ?

A: Until the new Parliament is convened, the weaknesses would be there. Initial negotiations are there in and outside the country. Our role is to prepare tangible proposals to put forward to the negotiation table, to explain reasonableness of requests to the Government and outside as well, particularly India and the Western countries. In that case we have worked to some extent. This is one of the reasons why Leader Sampanthan wanted me to get involved.

Eventually there is shift from the demand for a separate country for Tamils. What would be the concrete political demand of the TNA at this juncture ?

A: I would clearly say there is no solution under a unitary structure. This is the primary want; on the other hand where the Government is concerned, they would say there is no solution other than the unitary structure. The Tamils never accepted the unitary character of the State from 1947. We have entered into negotiations and we have signed agreements but we will not accept the unitary structure of the State.

Interviewed by BY Mirudhula Thambiah/Email:[email protected]

– Ceylon Today


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