No Domestic Investigation Credible In Sri Lanka At All Gajan Ponnambalam – Tamil National People’s Front
By Waruni Karunarathnel
Tamil political parties express mixed feelings about the US sponsored resolution that was passed at the UNHRC recently. However, the Tamil National People’s Front thinks that giving a mandate for the High Commissioner of the Human Rights is the weakest form of investigation. They think that the issues need to be considered under the International Humanitarian Law, not under the Human Right Law. Speaking to The Sunday Leader President of the Tamil National People’s Front Gajan Ponnambalam expressed his views on the resolution.
Experts of the interview
Q. What are your views on the UN resolution on Sri Lanka?
A. From the Tamils’ point of view, the resolution consists of nothing about the suffering of Tamil people in Sri Lanka now. Firstly, the Tamils are not being mentioned in the resolution. Secondly, the dynamics of the conflict have been changed from an ethnic conflict in which Tamil people are being penalized or oppressed to one of state created problems and to a problem of religious minorities.
That was not the conflict. Thirdly, there is a problem with the mandate that has been given to the Human Rights High Commissioner’s office.
The paragraph 8 of the mandate talks about human rights violations and related crimes. All of us believe that the most heinous crimes took place during the war and the crimes that we suspect to have happened were war crimes; crime against humanity and genocide. All these crimes come under the International Humanitarian Law and not under the Human Right Law. The Human Right Law is different from the International Humanitarian Law. The paragraph 8 does not mention the International Humanitarian Law and it is a great omission. My understanding is that this omission is not a mistake but deliberately left out because there are certain countries who believe that Human Right Council should talk about human right issues. They say that Human Right Council should not be asked to look at International Humanitarian Law issues. Those three are with regard to accountability. The fourth one is with regard to a political solution. For reconciliation, the resolution talks about the LLRC and the 13th Amendment which we reject completely.
Q. How do you interpret India abstaining from voting?
A: As far as this resolution is concerned, it is irrelevant whether India support or not. It is certainly an embracement to the government. Idealistically, India ought to have intervened as a country closest to this Island and directly involved in Tamil affairs in the country. They should have intervened to ensure necessary amendments and strengthen the resolution to address the issues that concern the Tamil people. India did not do that but instead kept quiet which is an utter disappointment.
Q. How would the resolution affect the reconciliation?
A: As far as we are concerned, for reconciliation, there has to be accountability. The crimes we are concerned here are the worst crimes known to man. These are not minor human right violations or minor crimes. To sweep such crimes under the carpet is unacceptable and by doing that there will never be reconciliation. Without addressing the real issues, there will be no reconciliation.
Q. The resolution calls for an international investigation through the High Commission of the Human Rights. Will such a resolution be acceptable?
A: The High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner are being asked to investigate and gather evidence. The High Commissioner does not have the power to set up a tribunal and an inquiry. The best thing that the High Commissioner can do is to appoint an investigator who can gather evidence and record them. In that sense, giving the High Commissioner such a mandate is not a bad thing. But what is the mandate? We have a problem about what is given to be investigated. Without addressing the International Humanitarian Law, giving a mandate would not make a difference. Giving the responsibility to the High Commission to investigate is actually the weakest form of investigation that can take place under the UN system. There need to be a Commissioner of Inquiry with a mandate given by the Council.
5. Can a domestic process be credible amidst the current allegations against the Sri Lankan government?
No domestic process can be credible in Sri Lanka at all. This is not just with regard to this particular government. This government is the number one accused of certain crimes that are being committed. Therefore asking the government to investigate is ludicrous. This is the biggest mockery. Even if there is a different government is involved, the domestic mechanism will not work because what asked to be investigated are military actions. The military is an accused party which is beyond political parties. Even if a new government comes to power, the military will have their loyalties to the new government. If we are looking for the investigations to be neutral and independent, it necessarily has to be international.