The Sunday Leader

We Must Resolve Ethnic Issue Without Foreign Interference – Wasantha Samarasinghe

By Camelia Nathaniel

JVP, Politburo Member, Wasantha Samarasinghe says that Sri Lanka should take measures to resolve the ethnic issue within the country without any foreign mediation. He said that there are military camps situated around the country, but the issue in the North and East is that the military is still occupying some of the lands of the people and these lands have not been returned to the rightful owners. In an interview with The Sunday Leader he said that this is a result of the government taking decisions singlehandedly without the consultation of any other party. For instance, he said the previous government gave lands in Sampur to India and this resulted in the people of the area losing their lands. He pointed out that what the government should have done was return the lands of the people and allow them to get back to their cultivations without having an impact on national security. Similarly the people’s houses too should have been returned to them without compromising on national security. No one in this country wants a war ever again, he stressed.

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. Do you think Sri Lanka has met their commitments?

A: If we go on without looking at this problem as a country, what will happen is that instead of resolving this ethnic issue we will only be complicating it further. Therefore now that the government has changed and a new president, prime minister and foreign minister has been appointed, these parties should commence a broad dialog with all parties and institutions concerned and map out the future actions that need to be taken in order to resolve this issue. But unfortunately we don’t think that the rulers of this country have any clue as to the upcoming HR report or what should be done in this situation.

As a country the rulers need to gather the administrative bodies who have vast experience in dealing with such issues and collectively try to find a lasting solution. The people’s views should also be taken into consideration. There is no point in our politicians attending the UNHRC meeting and giving some promises and patching up the issue temporarily.

It is quite clear that the UN high commissioner’s report will not be one that is favourable to Sri Lanka. They too bring on these reports with some political agenda. Hence that agenda will not necessarily be one that is good for us. Powerful countries get together and come up with this sort of reports in order to have some hold on the developing countries. So we have to be very careful and maintain close ties with countries that are loyal and friendly with us and somehow try to win over the opposing countries as well.

 

Q: Sri Lanka has been facing allegations by the UNHRC since the end of the war and we keep patching up each time it is brought up and postponing what needs to be done to deal with the situation. What do you think?

A:  although we keep postponing the issue it keeps coming up at every UNHRC session. So we keep thinking ok we have obtained more time and do nothing till the next time it is brought up again. But we are not gaining anything by it and the allegations are still the same and we have done nothing to address these allegations either. So if we are to gain some advantage in postponing the charges then the government should take into account the opinions of the political parties, officials and civil organisations and prepare to face the situation at the next meeting. Just buying time alone will not do.

 

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 included. Do you think the government committed themselves without proper consideration?

A: Yes definitely. They went in a hurry and just made promises without considering the consequences. We don’t need foreigners to find answers to the issues within our country. There are Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher and Malays living in this country. The war affected all these communities living in our country. Similarly this issue has arisen because of certain incidents that had taken place during the war. But as a country we have a responsibility to discuss the issue with all parties within the country concerned and move forward as a country resolving all these problems. But now it’s been seven years since the war ended and the governments have tried to address these allegations by force and that is where we have gone wrong. Therefore what need to be done instead is to just face these issues and discuss the problem and then try to find solutions together. So we all have a responsibility as a country to act in coordination. But what is happening here is that the president says one thing, prime minister says another and the foreign minister says something else. This problem has now become personal issues to some. Now if anything goes wrong one will blame the other. However in the end the effect of their folly affects the whole country.

The main issue here is not whether to punish or not to punish the soldiers, senior officers or anyone else. But on the other hand doing nothing is also not the solution. We have to find a way to resolve these issues amicably within the country and for this we certainly do not need foreign interference. This is an infringement on our sovereignty. We believe that this UN report certainly will not be one that is beneficial for the country but we have no way of escaping it either. So we just have to face it and resolve it ourselves.

 

Q:  How do you think the government should deal with those found guilty, and do you think the Tamil people expect punishment or just a closure to their suffering?

A:  Blaming someone for what happened during the war will not be beneficial to anyone, be it the Sinhalese or the Tamils. No one who has been affected has ever come forward and said that this is the answer and these parties must be punished.

For most of the Tamil victims of the war they have lost their loved ones and their lands and livelihoods. So what needs to be done is not to try to find someone to blame for these losses, but the government should take measures to rectify their grievances at least the ones that are possible such as releasing their lands and assisting them in getting back on their feet. Instead there will not be any point in claiming to have imprisoned soldiers for their plight. This will certainly not help those people, and this is not what they are asking for, this will only serve to aggravate the divisions. Every community lost their loved ones and suffered to some degree. Hence blaming someone is not the solution but to address the grievances of those affected and helping them rebuild their lives is the only way for reconciliation.

This issue within this country should be resolved permanently and not keep it festering.

 

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:  A country needs to have the laws in place in order to safeguard its interests. But this does not mean that these laws should be used to harass any community or group of citizens. There is no issue in using the PTA to safeguard the security of this country but if it is being used to target any community or person then yes it should be removed immediately. This is our stand. The laws of this country should only serve to take the country forward and not to target any of its citizens.

3 Comments for “We Must Resolve Ethnic Issue Without Foreign Interference – Wasantha Samarasinghe”

  1. raj

    Please correct your statement as one of the following:
    ” we must resolve our ethnic problems before other interfering”
    “We should have resolved our ethnic problems before others interfering”

    It wrong you to say, that “we must resolve our problems without foreign interference” because there is a need for interference due to the war crimes and human rights violations and the practice of racial discriminations in Sri Lanka with state sponsored immunity

    • Keerthi

      Indeed raj , those war criminals responsible for deliberately killing innocent civilians in busses , planes, trains , cars , on roads , in their beds outside the war zones . Also the blood thirsty population who backed the butchers and only have their money but their offspring too.

  2. Pat

    How and when will come a real solution ? never it will happen even if you spend another 79 years !!!!!!

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