The Sunday Leader

We Are Hopeful Positive Developments Will Happen At Geneva – D. Sidharthan

By Camelia Nathaniel

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions are now underway in Geneva and the Tamils are hopeful that some positive developments will take place.  However, the Sri Lankan government is facing criticism by the Tamil community that there is very little progress being made on the ground, because the government has either gone back, or done very little, to keep to their pledges.In an interview with The Sunday Leader PLOT leader and TNA MP D. Sidharthan said that unless the UN High commissioner addresses the Sri Lankan government’s failure to keep to the pledges made, victims of human rights violations cannot look forward either to justice or closure.Transitional justice mechanisms were construed and adopted unanimously by the UNHRC last year, which Sri Lanka co-sponsored. Hence he said that they are hopeful that the UN high commissioner’s oral update will address how well transitional justice in Sri Lanka is being implemented.

Following are excerpts of the interview:-

Q: The UN high commissioner’s oral update on Sri Lanka’s progress on last year’s resolution is due this week. What are your expectations?

 A:  On the oral presentation of the UN High commissioner (UNHC), we think that Sri Lanka being co-sponsors, whatever promise made on the resolution, nothing much is being done. Maybe around 5-10% of what was promised has been done. Certain things that the government can do also they are not doing, either due to inability to do them for some reason, or just that the government is not in least interested in doing these. For example the release of land and the release of prisoners are things that the government could have easily done but they have so far not done. So we expect these matters to be highlighted in the High Commissioners oral presentation.


Q: With the war crimes report on Sri Lanka also scheduled to be handed over, can you be satisfied with the efforts of the government so far?

 A.  I don’t think much has been done on that aspect. Especially even the government is very confused about it because in the resolution they took an undertaking that they allow international judges etc. But here even the president and the prime minister have stated on several occasions that they will not allow international judges or international participation in the investigations. I don’t know how this situation is being viewed by the UN High Commissioner as this is a complete U turn from what the government promised the UNHRC on the resolution.


Q:  One of the commitments of the government was to allow foreign judges at the investigations. However the president has specifically said that no foreign judges will be allowed. Are you happy with this development?

A:  We are certainly not happy about this situation because the government as co-sponsors to the UN resolution took an undertaking that they would include international participation in the inquiries. They have now gone back on their commitment. I don’t know how the government is going to handle it or how the High Commissioner is going to see this situation. But we would also like to see the high commissioner bring up this issue too at his presentation and put some pressure on the Sri Lankan government.


Q: How do you think the investigations should be held?

A:  I think the government is not effective in the manner they are dealing with the Tamil issue. Moreover, the government’s actions are not in line with the resolution. Personally I can understand the problems faced by the government because of the greater majority of the people will not accept an international inquiry. But the government has committed on that. Hence I feel that the government is in a soup. I don’t know what they are going to do.


Q: The government set up commissions such as the commission to investigate missing persons etc. How effective has this commission been so far?

A: Especially the commission to investigate disappearances has started their hearings. But we have to give them some time to come up with some positive answers as we cannot expect immediate resolution to these issues.


Q: How do you think the government should deal with those found guilty of war crimes or crimes against the Tamil people?

A: I don’t think the majority of the Tamil people want to see anyone punished. But what they want is retribution and justice must be done to the people who were affected by the war. The sacrifices made by the Tamil people must be compensated. The political solution must reflect the wishes of the Tamil people. Their sacrifices should not go in vain.

The southern polity must realise that and something reasonable must be done politically so that the Tamil people will feel that they have achieved something.


Q: Although the government had pledged to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) as part of its October commitment there have been reports of arrests being made under the PTA instead of the regular criminal code. What is your view?

A: Yes people are still being arrested under the PTA. There are several cases where I know there are a large number of Tamils who come from abroad who are arrested. Not just that but there are many who have applied for their Sri Lankan passports from their respective foreign missions, especially in the western missions. But these passports are not given to them for years. This is very serious situation. There have been instances when the high commission officers have told the foreign applicants to send some relative here in Sri Lanka to the immigration department and try to persuade the officials to issue the passport. Nowhere in the world does this sort of things happen. When the people go to these foreign missions there are brokers there who say give us this sum of money and we will get the passport for you. This should not be happening and the government should at least address these issues. There is no point in inviting the Diaspora here and allowing such incidents to happen. These don’t speak well of the government. The Tamil people need to feel that something has changed here but it’s not evident to them and most are still scared to return.


Q: The return of land, the reduction of the size of the military in the North-East, and the establishment of a judicial mechanism were all pledges made by the good governance regime. Are you satisfied with the progress made?

A: No I don’t think the people are satisfied as the progress is too little and too slow. I don’t see a reason for the delay, except unless the government fears somebody. Perhaps the army I don’t know. People complain even the lands that are released, are unfertile lands. Especially in the Myliddy, Thaiiddy area this is a big problem. But the government is still not releasing the fertile lands in the North. I don’t understand why the government is slow on this issue but the Tamil people are anxiously waiting for the government to respond to their request to get their lives back on track.


Q: In comparison with the reconciliation efforts of the Rajapaksa regime, how would you rate the efforts by the good governance regime?

A:  The Tamil people did not believe that the Rajapaksa regime was genuinely committed to reconciliation. But with the good governance regime the people still believe that the president and the prime minister are genuinely trying. But they are not happy with the pace of progress and have their concerns that this government also might fail. But if this happens the government will have to face a lot of problems.


Q: Under the current situation can the victims of human rights violations look forward either to justice or closure?

A: Under these circumstances the Tamil people are losing confidence. Most of the people who gave up their lives, in whatever way, was for a cause. So will the aspirations of the Tamil people be met by the government? This is a issue that the government has to address. As a community I expect a political solution as well as individually so that the hundreds of victims can start up their lives and move on. Something must be done for them to rebuild and restart their lives.

2 Comments for “We Are Hopeful Positive Developments Will Happen At Geneva – D. Sidharthan”

  1. Ashok Thangavelu

    In my opinion Northen Tamil politicians are self serving group and not really interested in the country and its people .No matter what govt comes out to reconcile there is always so much negativity about what country has not done to Tamil s. It is high time they first have loyalty Sri Lanka and then To Tamils.Tamils are putting there roots big time in the south and rest of the country .What is wrong with welcoming Sinhalese to North in the same manner and promote inter gratin and it separatism.I think Northen province had a good run in getting what they wanted by portraying undocumented invalid claims.If Rajapaksa did not crush the ruthless LTTE today Northen province would be another poverty ridden area.Please let’s all join hands and be proud of Mother Lanka and work towards well being of all its people.

  2. raj

    Mr. Sitharthan, please understand that government is facing pressure from the military because the military know that there will be many punished for war crime among the military. Because that, no government can conduct an impartial inquiry on war crimes against Tamils committed by Singhalese soldiers with or without orders from higher level military and politicians. That’s the reality. Anyone expect the government can conduct war crime inquiry, they are simply dreaming because it won’t never happen.

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