Western Peopleís Front (WPF) Leader and
Convenor, Civil Monitoring Commission (CMC)
Mano Ganesan calls for the commencement of
peace talks and halting the war and insists
that what applies to Darfur or to Iraq be
applicable to Sri Lanka as well.
wide-ranging interview with
The Sunday Leader,
he said that the countryís abductions and
extortions continue unabated, as there was a
direct link to the government defence
establishment and noted that the government
was not serious about framing charges
against Nishantha Gajanayake who was
arrested in 2007 for allegedly masterminding
an abduction for an extortion racket.
added that the end to ethnic strife is
possible only through power devolution and
noted that the northeast should be merged on
linguistic lines. Excerpts:
Q: The latest police
records confirm that out of 1229 reported
abductions and kidnappings, some 1195
incidents have been found to be true. What
is the CMCís take on this?
A: The CMC covers
Colombo and suburbs mostly. All our
statistics are based on complaints made to
our office in Colombo. The credibility we
hold is that family members of victims make
There were some 350
complaints recorded since the latter part of
2005. But this is only the tip of the
iceberg. Many incidents occur in the
northeast. There are many incidents in the
Northwestern Province, especially in
In the north, the east
and in the Puttalam District, there are
incidents of abductions and extra judicial
killings reported almost on a daily basis.
The government statistics you now quoted is
an admission of the situation.
Q: Police also claim to
have filed 227 cases while in 218 instances,
the accused were unknown. How many
complaints lodged by the CMC have been
A: The police have
not made any serious effort to investigate
any of the CMC initiated complaints. When we
recorded complaints, we did it
systematically with credibility intact.
We also handed over
copies of the recorded complaints to the law
enforcement authorities hoping for prompt
action. I have handed over another list to
the Prime Minister and the Controller of
Immigration and Emigration as the government
is of the view that some of the listed names
belonged to those who have migrated. The
verification about their immigrant status
has not come from the government
I am yet to receive any
response to the CMCís list of complaints.
Q: To digress, are some
of these listed people actually away from
A: People are leaving
the country all the time. There is a brain
drain. But those listed have not fled the
country but were victimised here.
The government later said
90% of the people have come back home. Then
they said the remaining 10% had gone
overseas. This is ridiculous by any
standards and should not be the response of
a government that wishes to be taken
There are social
disappearances. Children migrate leaving
their original homes. People run away from
homes. These are social disappearances.
My concern is about the
systematic and enforced disappearances and
abductions. The government is deliberately
mixing these two up to create confusion and
to downplay the enormity of the issue. This
is also an attempt to show the international
community that there is no grave concern
here in this regard.
We have given names,
photographs, addresses, and authentic
details of the incident, description of the
location, police complaint numbers as well
as Human Rights Commission references. There
is no denying these incidents.
We challenge the
government to provide us with a list of
names and addresses of those who have gone
overseas (and dispute our records). Such a
response is not forthcoming.
Q: Compared with early
2006 when the CMC commenced work, how do you
view the present situation? Is there a
decline in incidents?
A: Not that the
perpetrators have become saints. Many
abducted who went missing are still missing.
The government should
honestly come up with an account of the
disappeared. Secondly, it is happening with
new vigour and there should be some
At times it is high and
at times, low. This saga of enforced
abductions and extra judicial killings
continue. The majority of the victims are
members of the Tamil community.
Q: One aspect in the
entire scheme was the abductions for
extortion purposes. Is there a decline in
A: This interview you
are conducting with me was interrupted by a
telephone call. Thatís demonstrative of the
prevailing situation. That call came from a
businessman in Old Moor Street, Colomboís
hardware hub. He told me that he just
received a telephone call from a person who
identified himself as a "Kalidas,
representing Karuna Amman and was calling
from the Ganemulla camp."
The caller has provided a
mobile telephone number for the businessman
to call back. I will give you that phone
number at the end of this interview. It is
nothing but an extortion attempt done
openly. I do not know whether the said
caller truly represents Karuna Amman or
someone else. But the fact of the matter is
that such calls are made openly with no
respect for law and order. They donít fear
arrests or prosecution. Who gave these
extortionists the upper hand?
Q: Just last week alone,
three persons were abducted and elsewhere
seven were mysteriously killed. What is the
information available to the CMC in this
A: It had been a
violent week. We have listed those
incidents. This country has so many children
with their fathers missing, wives with their
husbands missing. There are unidentified
bodies that are being recovered. Our society
has become very violent.
I think people have
adopted a violent attitude to deal with
regular issues ranging from family disputes
to land problems to political issues.
Q: With war intensifying,
is there a ripple effect in Colombo with
increased violence or do you treat it as a
A: This is a
situation that has continued for a long
time. The violent incidents such as
abductions, extra judicial killings,
assaults and the renewed talk of sending
people in busloads back to Jaffna is a
reflection of the prevailing violence. They
cannot be treated separately for they are
two sides of the same coin.
Q: Some Tamil political
parties such as the EPDP is against UN
intervention to solve the humanitarian
crisis. They feel this is a domestic issue
and this is not Darfur?
A: In todayís
context, nothing is local or exclusively
We live in a global
village. No country can conduct business
which in turn paves the way for the killings
and abductions of one section of the same
nation and call it local or domestic and
demand the international community stay
What is applicable to
Darfur is applicable to Sri Lanka. What is
applicable to Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Iraq
applies to Sri Lanka. Nothing is local and
domestic anymore as we are a part of a
Q: How many of the CMC
lodged complaints have the police
investigated in 2007?
A: They have not
drawn satisfactory results. We need to
understand that there is a hidden hand. As
far as I can see, it is not hidden but a
visible hand at work. It is the hand of the
governmentís defence establishment. Many are
the people gone missing in my district of
Colombo and they have been taken away in
white vans. They have strangely enough,
often ended up in TID or CID cells.
How can the defence
establishment deny any link or
responsibility? The police are using white
vans for criminal acts. We have so many
recorded incidents where the modus
operandi was the same. One man went
missing in Matale but ended up in the TID.
The police and the security forces have
every right to arrest suspects and question
them. I call upon the police to arrest
suspects in an acceptable manner. Not treat
them like cattle.
Q: Nishantha Gajanayake,
a name strongly associated with the
abduction for extortion saga was arrested in
June 2007 and released in February 2008 due
to lack of material evidence to prosecute
him. Donít you feel that you and the CMC
A: I do. I am sad and
disappointed that we could not make any
headway in this particular case but even
when Gajanayake was kept in CID custody, I
learned that he was a very happy man there.
He had been afforded facilities and comforts
denied to other suspects. I strongly believe
that the government was never serious in
framing charges against Gajanayake. While he
was in custody, the government waxed
eloquent about the abductions decreasing
purely for international consumption.
The government was under
serious pressure to bring the situation
under control. Whenever the heat increased
in New York, Geneva, UNHRC or the UNGC,
Gajanayakeís arrest was used as an example
of state intervention. It was however, a
knee jerk response to international
criticism. When the heat reduced, the
suspect was freed.
The very fact that people
have gone missing, extorted or killed
mysteriously proves a culture of impunity.
The government canít deny their occurrence
which is why they are included in the
recently released police report.
Thatís why the CMC calls
upon the government to behave like a
government and not like an extension of a
Q: You were recently
questioned by the TID for allegedly
communicating with the LTTE on behalf of
President Kumaratunga while she was in
power. What made you the chosen emissary?
A: I was never a
messenger or an agent of anybody and please
donít imply such. As the leader of the
Western Peopleís Front (WPF) as a registered
and respected political party, I was
contacted. I have my political beliefs, an
agenda and a publicly acknowledged stance on
the national question.
I firmly believe that all
political leaders should play their specific
role to end ethnic strife. It has destroyed
the unity of Sri Lankans. We can solve this
only through power devolution.
As I represent that call
for power sharing, I did what was asked of
me because I felt that was the right thing
to do. President Kumaratunga requested me to
convey a message to LTTE Leader Pirapaharan
and I did not hesitate a moment.
But I did it not as a
Chandrika or Pirapaharan agent but as a
Colombo politician elected by the people
with a sense of responsibility.
At that time, Karuna
Amman had broken away form the LTTE ranks.
There was much talk that Karuna was to seek
asylum from the GOSL. Therefore, President
Kumaratunga wanted me to convey to the LTTE
leadership the message that if Karuna were
to request for asylum, she might consider it
positively and not to treat her possible
That also demonstrated
that President Kumaratunga, though she
disrupted the UNP administration, on the
basis that the UNP negotiated peace with the
LTTE, she herself wished to negotiate peace
with the Tigers. She herself wished to
continue with a dialogue process in a
Thatís what she wanted
conveyed and I brought back a response. Now
my intervention is given various
interpretations and all I can say is I did
it in good faith. President Kumaratunga when
she returns next month will speak more on
Q: Why would President
entrust the task to you? Are you close to
the LTTE leadership?
A: Why donít you
think that I was close to President
Why she trusted me above
other Tamil politicians, you will have to
ask her. She had to select somebody. She
herself cannot travel. She would not have
wanted to send a Sinhala politician. She
perhaps considered it better to send a Tamil
politician with a neutral background. I
donít hail from the northeast so I have no
I am given the works for
this little job of mine. I have a lot of
steel within me. I have taken many risks and
I do what I think is right. Right now the
TID is behind me. But I consider it yet
another episode in my life. I have fought
for many a cause and despite criticism,
there is no way to stop me.
Q: The government has
militarily cleared the east and is intent on
clearing the north with a view to
establishing a Northern Provincial Council.
Is this feasible and is it the answer to the
A: No. It is not the
answer to both the north and the east. The
PC system sprang from the 13th Amendment
that is an offshoot of the Indo-Lanka Peace
Accord. Leaders of the present government
including President Mahinda Rajapakse
opposed it. Lots of demonstrations followed
and this country was politically divided
President Rajapakse now
treats the 13th Amendment as a God given
opportunity. It appears that the President
has changed his stance from opposing the
13th Amendment to embracing it
It was the first
devolution effort. While he is doing it, a
good part of his alliance, the JHU,
staunchly opposes land and police powers
being devolved. The Jathika Nidahas Peramuna
headed by Wimal Weerawansa also opposes the
same. The JVP, though a part of the
opposition opposes it too.
the east. He himself is clamouring for the
same powers but the government is slow to
This government cannot
implement what is already law. Then, how can
its agenda be acceptable to the northeast or
to me, a Tamil representing the Western
Q: Do you accept the 13th
Amendment as a suitable basis for a future
solution? Can its full implementation change
the ground situation favorably?
A: The 13th Amendment
or the provincial councils are not the
answer to the aspirations of the Tamils of
the northeast. It was vehemently rejected in
The government has taken
20 years to consider what was already
rejected way back in 1989. The political
process here is dead now. But the military
aspect is going ahead with immense speed.
While the military solution is being pushed,
the political process is dead.
We call upon the
government to stop the war, commence talks
and place the proposals on the table. The
hardliners in the government are holding the
President a prisoner of war!
Q: Do you stand for a
A: I believe in a
linguistic state in the areas we identify as
the northeast at present.
When you take the
northeast together, the Tamil speaking
people are in the majority. We need to have
a Tamil linguistic state in the northeastern
region, very similar to the Indian states
that are also demarcated on linguistic
Tamil Nadu is Tamil
speaking, Kerala is Malayalam speaking and
Andhra is for Telungu speaking people. But
it does not mean that only the dominant
linguistic group lives in a particular
state. In Tamil Nadu, you only find
Tamilians. Thatís why India is a shining
example of unity and political prudence.
I call for a merged Tamil
linguistic state in which the Sinhalese and
Muslims can also live. The regional council
too should reflect this ethnic mosaic. That
will preclude a pan Tamil only regional
council. That will also effectively keep any
Tamil nationalist or extremist forces at bay
and make it inclusive.
When we fail to create
that linguistic state within which other
communities also find a voice only do we
face a problem. Thatís the danger still to
emerge. Thatís why I call for a province
based on linguistic requirements. Look at
me. I am a Tamil politician living in a
Sinhala majority province.
I propounded the same
theory at a recent talk show. JVP
Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake
said the devolution of power as per the 13th
Amendment made Sri Lanka subservient to
India and that it would make us puppets in
Dissanayake referred to
Varatharajah Perumal as an Indian puppet.
Perumal is a political joke and a comedian
who makes us not laugh but weep. His tragic
intervention has made a bad case worse and
aggravated the situation.
He had the guts to hoist
the Eelam flag but then ran away. He should
have stuck to it. Instead, he has now become
a naturalised Indian. He is not even living
in Tamil Nadu but in Madhya Pradesh. His
children have married Indians.
No right thinking Tamil
will welcome him here. He has betrayed the
Tamil political aspirations, played cruel
jokes with it and run away. My political
cause is not that of the northeastern
Tamils. But I donít play jokes with it.
It is sad that the JVP
takes Perumal seriously and keeps looking
for such pathetic examples to justify their
reluctance to devolve power.
Q: You spoke of a
linguistic state. Do you consider its
absence to be among the key flaws in the
Indo-Lanka Peace Accord?
A: It is a flaw but
there are many flaws in the Accord.
It was indeed unwise to
look at territory when the need is steeped
in the linguistic identity.
Further, the agreement
ignored the Muslim factor. The Accord should
have paid due attention to this vital
aspect. It denied and deprived another
community their political rights and
identity in the northeast.
We should not forget that
they are also great stakeholders and have a
role to play in northeastern politics. That
should be so. I call upon all political
leaders to recognise this fact. What is
more, this blatant disregard for Muslim
political aspirations will create further
To end the conflict, the Tamil leadership
should give Muslims in the northeast the
same consideration they expect from the
southern Sinhala community. There is no way
out but this way.