Tamils In The North Are The Ones Who Are Still Suffering – Champika Ranawaka

Minister of Megapolis and Western Province Development Patali Champika Ranawaka is of the view that we do not need an international mechanism to deal with crimes alleged to have taken place in the country during the war. He says our Constitution does not allow for an international mechanism. Hence, to resolve these issues, he says “we need to go for a local mechanism in accordance with our Constitution and look at the issue as the LTTE being the aggressor and the armed forces the defenders.”

Following are excerpts of the interview:


Interviews By Camelia Nathaniel

Q. Are you in favour of a local or international investigation?

A. We should first understand what actually happened in our country. We should also have a good understanding of what the international law is and how it works. Especially after World War 2, it has evolved several times. It was during the Tokyo Nuremberg trials that most of the basic principles of the international law were developed. The concept of crimes against humanity and peace were all defined after these trials. Similarly, even the concept of war crimes was also defined as a result of the Tokyo Nuremberg trials.

One of the most important principles that came about as a result was that the most amount of blame was put on the aggressor. As an example, the Natsis were considered the aggressors, but in the case of the British, American, and Russian forces, although they too had committed atrocities, theirs were defined as secondary level crimes or wrong doings. On the other hand, crimes that are committed not as a result of war, like discrimination, even in America against the coloured, are not judged as war crimes or crimes against humanity. Such principles began to develop.

The second stage came in as a result of the conflicts in former Yugoslavia and then in Rwanda. These theories came in by the Security Council, and later the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established. When the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (the Rome Statute or the Statute) entered into force on July 1, 2002, it has three principles of which the Statute shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions. Article 1 of the Rome Statue provides “An International Criminal Court is hereby established. It shall be a permanent institution and shall have the power to exercise its jurisdiction over persons for the most serious crimes of international concern, as referred to in this Statute, and shall be complementary to national criminal jurisdictions. There is no provision for international criminal court to supersede the local jurisdictions.

The second principle was Complicity. In accordance with this Statute, a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court. For example, although the perpetrators of the 9/11 world trade Centre bombing died in the attack, those who aided were still around. So, cases were filed against them, and just because those directly involved were killed, they did not drop the charges.


Q. How does this apply in the case of atrocities committed by the LTTE?

A. Some are of the view that the LTTE leaders are all now dead, and there is none to be charged. This is a total lie. There are people who helped the LTTE in numerous ways. Under the theory of complicity, they can be charged for these atrocities. There are economic criminals, political criminals etc., and in accordance with the theory, the charges can be filed against the LTTE political advisors. Similarly, anyone who assisted the LTTE in anyway, by providing them land, houses, or financial assistance, can be charged under the theory of complicity.

There is another theory, and it’s the complexity theory where those involved indirectly can also be charged. For example, if we buy a table that we know has been made of wood stolen from the forest, then we too become partners to that crime. The third generation theory is the hybrid court. In this instance, we need to first figure out who the aggressor is. In the case of the conflict in Sri Lanka, the aggressor is not the Sri Lankan State but the LTTE. If the aggressor is the Sri Lankan State, then even today, the Tamil people should be targeted. However, what the Sri Lankan armed forces did in this instant is, to safeguard the country, they reacted to the actions of the LLTE, which is a secondary thing. So, no one can equate the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces as the former is an unlawful entity and the armed forces are a lawful entity. Further, it’s the LTTE who are the aggressors and the government forces were only reacting. That is how we need to look at this situation. In the event that any atrocity was committed by the government forces, then they surely need to be addressed. But one cannot bring everything together under a blanket and file charges.


Q. Certain parties are trying to bring in an indemnity act; they claim it will save the war heroes from prosecution. What is your stand on this?

A. During Premadasa’s tenure too there was an attempt to bring in an indemnity act and grant total pardon to all JVP cadres involved in crimes. Even today, there are attempts by many to bring in this indemnity act. But I assure you their intention is not to protect the war heroes. Their intention is to cover up crimes such as the murder of Thajudeen. Therefore, we need to be careful not to mix up deliberate crimes with actions of armed forces that they committed to liberate the country. The armed forces fought the terrorists to free over 20 million of the people held hostage by the LTTE. Secondly, certain politicians and powerful persons used these soldiers to carry out certain killings and other atrocities on a personal level. This can be categorised as following orders. Thirdly, certain personnel carried out crimes using their power as members of the armed forces. Hence, considering all these categories, we need to take action with regard to the second and third categories of crimes irrespective of who committed those crimes. The army personnel cannot be exempted from punishment for these crimes. A blanket approval cannot be given for these crimes.


Q. Many, locally and internationally, have called for the Sri Lankan security forces to be held responsible for human rights violations. What about the crimes committed by the LTTE?

A. Yes, there are over 12,000 former LTTE cadres who have been rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. They too had committed atrocities against people in villages and elsewhere in the country. They were all given a general amnesty. However, if we are to address crimes committed since 1982, then the general amnesty should be revoked and all of them too should be arrested and charged. Further, even the IPKF should be charged for crimes committed by them and also all other foreign parties and intelligence services who assisted the LTTE. Even the LTTE had killed about 60,000 during the insurrection; then they need to be charged as well. So, if we are to keep finding fault, I feel, about 1/3rd of the country will have to be charged for crimes committed at some point. This is not a practical solution, and it will do nothing for reconciliation. It will only create more problems. If we are to resolve the issues of this country, we cannot only look at it from the angle that Tamils were victimised.

Even the Sinhalese were victimised during the past. What about the lands that were forcibly taken away from the Sinhalese and Muslim people by the LTTE. None of these lands were given back. Although the Tamils are today making a huge hue and cry about the military occupying the Tamil people’s lands, the LTTE have taken away many more that belonged to the Sinhalese and the Muslims. But ironically no one bothers about that issue, and no one is even trying to give back those lands. So, we need to address these issues in a very balanced manner. Our suggestion is to create a society that treats all its citizens fairly and not give priority to one race or caste only.


Q. What is your perception of a hybrid court and how different will it be from the Paranagama Commission?

A. A hybrid court has not been properly defined. They have not defined whether the purpose of this is to charge our war heroes in an international court, or it is a combination of the International and local jurisdiction. If it’s going to be under international jurisdiction, then we vehemently reject such a mechanism. Further, if International prosecutors and judges are willing to work within the Sri Lankan jurisdiction, then our question is what do these international persons know about the local laws? Every country’s laws are different. Hence that too would not work. However, we could obtain the advice of international advisors. Even Mahinda Rajapaksa established such a system headed by Maxwell Paranagama. In that instance, Sir Desmond Lorenz de Silva, Geoffrey Nice, and Prof. David Crane were appointed as advisors. This too could be classified as a hybrid court. Hence, we stress that these trials should be carried out within the country and in compliance with our laws.


Q. There are still certain politicians who are against a local mechanism. They say they cannot have faith in it. How do you see their concerns?

A. The TNA and these parties who are trying to destabilise the country should first make up their mind to live in this country. The Tamil people were cheated with a dream of a separate State; today what have the Tamil people gained? Are they any better off economically, socially? No, the people living in the North are still struggling and are perhaps worse off than in the past.

The Muslims were united, the estate people were united and they have progressed. Yet the Tamils in the North are the ones who are still suffering. Those who took them for a ride are happily living in other countries and their children are well off. But those who were left here are struggling to survive.

That is the legacy of these innocent people. Hence, these extremist elements should now stop trying to create divisions and learn to live as people of one country. If you compare the status of the Tamil people in the 1980’s to today’s people, any fool can see what has happened to the former. So, it is time they just stop leading these people astray with all these false promises and allow them to live in peace with the rest of the country. It was the Tamils who internationalised this issue. Now when it affects them, they are trying to blame the US for trying to curry favour with the new government.

5 Comments for “Tamils In The North Are The Ones Who Are Still Suffering – Champika Ranawaka”

  1. raj

    Most Singhalese leaders are very interested in not delivering the justice to the victims of 40,000 civilians who died as a result of Sri Lankan bombing and shelling directed at civilian targets which a war crimes. Only TNA and Sumanthiran can argue that local inquiry can deliver justice for their own convenient

    The government and most Singhalese polical leaders and Singhalese intellectuals are arguing for moving forward by digging in the old wound for their convenients. At the same time, there are many Tamils are still being held in Sri Lankan prison without facing judges under PTA which is used solely against Tamils for decades.

  2. CW

    OMG Man, Is this what to told when you addressed the Sydney audience in he late 2014? What a liar. How can you change the story like this?

    • MHA

      CW- Its not possible to tell whether you are addressing the comments of Raj or the interviewee here, but Raj is obviously one of those Diaspora or otherwise pro-LTTE propagandists. CW should see both sides of the issue if he is whining about the article. Rawanawaka’s comments are balancing the lopsidedness of this issue. He points to many issues that not only many well intentioned Shinhalese and Muslims are aware of, but also many of us international observers who are quite familiar with the country and these issues think. The LTTE were the aggressors in the issues being dealt with by the UN today. It is the media and the active pro-LTTE base that are bringing up such one sided issues.

  3. soosai

    Interview exposes how Champika pretends to sleep on the war crime charges. Let a Tamil do the interview, only then he will wake up from pretentious sleep. There is a saying in Tamil: Cat closes the eyes and thinks the world is dark. Champika is that cat. Unless sinhalese come clean on war crimes, sri lanka will have no peace.

  4. murgesh

    Tamils in the North and East Still Suffering because of the racist Sinhalese domination in this country and committed crime against the tamils there own people it is very shameful to the sinhalese people, they should get punishment for that. crime committed by the sri lanka force. more over sinhalese are not original belongs to sri lanka they belongs to west bengal they come to sri lanka for living now they are killing the tamils where tamil give life to these sinhalese.

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