UNHRC Resolution Should Be Fully Implemented – M.A. Sumanthiran

TNA - M.A. Sumanthiran

The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has reassured their support for the government to implement the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution in full with honesty and credibility. Speaking to The Sunday Leader, TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran said the TNA is ready to play their part in implementing the UNHRC resolution in full. As they see it as a way forward for reconciliation in the country. He added that at a point where the discussions are made related to formulating a new Constitution, it is also critical to look at meaningful power sharing arrangement to put an end to the conflict that has prevailed in the country since independence.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

by Waruni Karunarathne

Q: Would you be able to share the highlights of the discussion with the TNA parliamentarians last week? Has there been any concern raised internally in relation to the UNHRC resolution?

A: Every time when there are parliamentary sessions, our parliamentary group meets. We discussed about the UN resolution among many other things. The TNA’s position is that the resolution should be fully implemented. It is a resolution not just of the UN Human Rights Council but also that of the government of Sri Lanka. The government of Sri Lanka cosponsored it. There is no question of government deciding what to do and what not to do. The resolution is owned by the government of Sri Lanka and it must be fully implemented.

Q: Certain groups in the opposition have been rallying against the UNHRC resolution and its proposed foreign assistance in the judiciary process. Do you have any concerns about this?

A: I do not know of any united opposition. Some elements of the UPFA cannot be called a united opposition. We do not have to be concerned about their objections. They can oppose anything. But if we need to go forward, the UN resolution must be implemented. The UN Human Rights Council got involved because the Sri Lankan government failed to do what they were obliged to do. Due to that failure, the UN Human Rights Council stepped in. During the first two years, the UN only urged the government to implement its own LLRC recommendations. When the government did not do that it mandated an international investigation – and the report has now come out. When the report was placed, the government of Sri Lanka this time cosponsored that resolution which was a result of the recommendations of the international investigation report. That is an obligation taken up by the Sri Lankan government. The government must implement that. There may be a few opposition elements and certain parts of certain parties that may oppose the UN resolution which should not be a concern.

Q: At this point of time, what is the role of the TNA?

A: The TNA welcomes the UN resolution. We very clearly said that we will also do our part in implementing this resolution in full – because we see a way towards reconciliation in the country with accountability and other issues properly being addressed. And therefore we will work towards that. In that process, one of the issues is about truth seeking and we have said in our response that we would use this opportunity for introspect within the Tamil community. And we are ready to lead our people in that painful exercise. Also we would remain committed in doing that. We will invite other communities in the country also to engage in an honest and a transparent process.

Q: The Udalagama Commission report and the Paranagama Commission report have been released. What does the TNA think of the content of these reports?

A: The Udalagama Commission report was submitted to the president a long time back but it was never made public. It was also a recommendation of the resolution to make these reports public. The government has now done that. Arising from that, further actions need to be taken. In the number of cases they have examined and reported on, there are clear evidences against certain persons – actions must be taken against them.

With regard to the Paranagama Commission of course, they were given a task and subsequently the mandate has been expanded. Certain foreigners were also appointed to assistant the commission on certain matters related to international laws mainly focusing distinction, proportionality and collateral damage. One of those experts Desmond De Silva had previously advised the government of Sri Lanka for a fee on these three questions.

He has given an opinion and then he took on this role as an independent expert which he could not have done. We have also highlighted it and taken it up in parliament. Now there is a complaint that is made to the UK Bar standards committee which looks into unethical conducts of the practicing lawyers and he is now under investigation there. The Paranagama s report on those three questions is identical to the paid opinion Desmond gave to the government of Sri Lanka before he became an adviser here.

So it is hardly surprising but nevertheless it cannot be accepted as an independent opinion. Even a report that was tarnished by such unethical conducts of Desmond has suggestions for further investigation and prosecution of a few emblematic cases. Most importantly it has recommendations to have a hybrid court. Desmond when he was a prosecutor, he has said that if people are to have at least appearance of justice, there must be an outsider in the bench involved in the prosecutions – and they suggested a hybrid court. The point I am making is even a commission appointed by Mahinda Rajapaksa with serious credibility issues, and a commission that is tainted by the advices of Sir Desmond De Silva has recommended a hybrid court. So those elements from the opposition that come under the wings of Mahinda Rajapaksa now can’t be complaining about the UN recommendation and the resolution that is adopted. Because even a partial commission that was tainted and biased towards the government at that time has come out with the same recommendation.

Q: The government is also looking at formulating a new Constitution. As the TNA what are the areas of reform that you are looking forward to?

A: Primarily we are looking at power sharing arrangements that is meaningful and durable and brings an end to the conflict in the country that has prevailed in the country since independence. We will see this as an opportunity to resolve this 67 year old issue now. It is not only about devolution, there are other features in the constitution that we would like to reform. With regard to independent institutions, equality provisions, secular state, and supremacy of the constitution – we would like such progressive provisions to be part of the new constitution. The new constitution is an opportunity to put away the previous constitutions which did not unify the country and use the new exercise to actually affirm the different people who live in this country. Through that affirmation find a sense of unity.

Q: The full implementation of the 13 Amendment to the Constitution was a long standing demand of the Tamil community which deals with power sharing but it has not materialised. In that context, how do you expect the new government to respond to power sharing now?

A: Prof. G.L Peiris in an article once described 13A as ‘being fundamentally flawed’. These are not my words but the words of Prof. Peiris. It has no meaningful scheme of devolution. For instance, the governor exercises executive powers and the governor is an appointee of the President. So there is no devolution of power to the elective representatives of the province. So it is fundamentally flawed. So we are not looking at 13A. At a point we are looking at a new constitution we do not have to look at a flawed scheme but proper meaningful sharing of power between different people who inhabit this country. That is what we are looking forward to in the new constitution.

Q: At his point of time, does the TNA think that the government is going in the right direction?

A: Well, so far the direction has not been wrong. Although they have been a little bit slow. Some meetings and some things that have to be done have not been done. But they have not gone in the wrong direction in that sense of the word.

(Source: The Sunday Leader)