Govt . Has Let Us Down And We Are Losing Faith In Them – M.K. Shivajilingam
By Camelia Nathaniel
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
Q: What was the outcome of the meeting between the TNA and the provincial council members that was held last Thursday?
A: The meeting was regarding the constitutional assembly and what recommendations or suggestions need to be submitted by the party. This was the first meeting that was held with the participation of the TNA and the Northern Provincial council members and the Eastern province provincial council members. 13 members from the NPC participated while 11 from the Eastern Provincial council and 16 MPs engaged in discussions from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm on Thursday.
Q: There was speculation that the TNA would take a decision regarding the Chief Minister of the Northern Province. Was this issue taken up at the meeting?
A: Well it was resolved and the TNA leadership agreed to work with the Tamil People’s Council (TPC), and agreed to take up issues of the North that is forwarded to them by the TPC.
Q: Sri Lanka’s constitution is being rushed through with a limited time frame. Do you agree that a new constitution is the most pressing need of the country?
A: Well we have decided to discuss the issue over a period of around one and a half months and thereafter we will come to a final conclusion as to our decision regarding the constitution.
Q: The TNA is very much a part of formulating the new constitution as they claim to be the representatives of the Tamil people. However considering the greater number of Tamils living outside the North and East, do you think that these Tamil’s interests will be fairly addressed?
A: We intend to talk to all Tamil people living throughout the country and the Muslims too, and obtain their views too. We will then decide as to how best to represent all these minority communities and what clauses should be included in the constitution to ensure fair treatment and opportunities for all the minority people, be it the Tamils in the North, the Muslims in the East or the upcountry Tamils or Tamils or Muslims living elsewhere in the country.
Q: Rather than creating further divisions, don’t you agree that Sri Lanka should actively move towards the creation of a national identity through central power sharing using a bilateral legislature (Parliament and a Senate) strong and independent commissions, a constitutional Council and an executive with defined powers?
A: If that is the case, will all the members of the SAARC countries be willing to come to Sri Lanka? I don’t think so. The Majority Sinhalese in the country want the power to dominate their country, similarly we the Tamils too want the right to rule the North according to our desires and requirements.
If not, if the majority Sinhalese and the Muslims and all in the country are agreeable to decide on one common language like English and put aside their race requirements etc, then we too can consider that option. However the Sinhalese did not want that as it was in the past and they want to establish their language and their identity, hence we too want the same and that is why we are seeking the right to administer and control our area in the North according to the requirements of the Tamils safeguarding our own identity.
Q: With the seeking of the 13th amendment for the north, the other provinces too will have the power to establish their own laws. Will this political devolution create varying laws that will differ from province to province and create a further divide?
A: I don’t think that this will happen. We are the ones who asked for the 13th amendment and the power for autonomy. It was after that the others too wanted the powers for the other provinces as well.
Even in other countries it is the minorities who face issues that have been given greater powers to prevent discrimination. Just as we ask for the power to rule the North and East the other provinces too can have their own requirements met, but this does not necessarily mean that there will be issues because of differing regulations. With proper understanding and respect I think that this situation can be prevented.
Q: President Maithripala Sirisena has said foreign judges and prosecutors should not be involved in an investigation into allegations of war crimes, although they had agreed to include foreign judges and set up a hybrid court. Under these circumstances, are you agreeable with the decision of the president?
A: No certainly not. The president promised us a fair investigation that would include international observers at the least. By his changing statements, we are losing our faith in him and the government.
Therefore we have decided to lodge a complaint with the UN human rights council regarding this matter. The recommendations were not brought in by us, but the Sri Lankan government and the US jointly agreed on the decision to include the foreign judges or observers in order to conduct a fair trial in the investigations. This was because we had said that we did not believe justice would be served for the Tamil people in a domestic probe.
In October 2015, Sri Lanka co-sponsored a UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for a special judicial mechanism to prosecute war crimes to be established – with support from Commonwealth and foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators. Now when they are going back on their word how can we place our trust on them and believe they are genuine in creating reconciliation.
Hence we are very saddened by the statement made by the president as we are the ones who helped him come to power. Therefore we will inform all the countries in the Geneva human rights council of this latest development. We will also submit a complaint at the next UNHRC meeting in March regarding the Sri Lankan government’s betrayal. The Sri Lankan government will have to face many issues due to their decision to change their stance and go back on their pledge.
Q: It’s been a year since the new good governance administration has come into power, and are you satisfied with the progress of the investigations into alleged war crimes so far?
A: I don’t think any progress has been made regarding the investigations so far. The government promised to take proper action to expedite the investigations last September too, but nothing has been done and these are mere empty promises.
Q: The Local Government elections were scheduled to be held in March but have now been postponed. However are you agreeable to having the elections under the new electoral system?
A: I won’t answer that right now as all these will be discussed with the party at length and we will forward a comprehensive package of proposals. Right now it is too early to comment.
Q: There are allegations that although the central government has allocated funds for activities of the Northern Province. The NPC had only utilised 10% of these funds last year. Why?
A: That is not true and we have spent over 90% of the allocations made to the NPC. I challenge anyone who is making this allegation, if I prove that we have spent that money they should resign from their posts.