FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION SRI LANKA

For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya

LLRC – reported evidence

  • V. Anandasangaree: What I said at the LLRC?
  • Submissions of His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith
  • Rights groups flay LLRC, say whitewashes War Crimes
  • I am not playing politics’ – Government Agent Jaffnas
  • LTTE senior official’s wife witnesses on SLA war crime
  • Tamil editor blames Colombo of deceiving uprooted civilians in Jaffna
  • Elmore Perera tells LLRC Fonseka’s jailing is ultra vires
  • Mistrust, discontent and anger at LLRC North sessions

V. Anandasangaree: What I said at the LLRC?

If we can take a risk with a criminal like KP, a man who should be held responsible next to Prabakaran who should be held responsible for the deaths of thousands – more than 200,000 lives have been lost; how many people have lost their eye sight; how many girls are without both their legs crawling. For all that the only man who can, who should be held responsible is KP. If you can trust KP then allow the children or produce them before courts and allow them on bail on security given by their parents. There are children who had gone to the university still there.

Tape 1 (3) – 13-08-2010 – Mr. Anandasangaree

Chairman – opening statement

(November 01, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Before we commence I must thank you for having come here notwithstanding your busy schedule with a view of assisting this Commission and I must at this stage outline the procedures that are operative in respect of the persons making representations before this Commission. You are entitled to make representations in public or in camera. That is a matter at your choice. You have to choose as to whether you are going to make a public representation or you propose to make your representations in camera. At the end of your representations the Commissioners are entitled to ask you questions and nobody else can ask you any questions. No member of the public or no member of this audience can ask you any questions. Even whilst you are responding to a question you are entitled to make a request that you will respond to these questions in camera. That is a matter that is left to you.

Representation of Mr. V.Anandasangaree

I have given so much of importance to this Commission that I flew from Madras last night to be present here. Some of the records that I would have preferred to go through I couldn’t have access because of the time factor. In any case, these are things that we are facing for so many years and I don’t think we need to refresh our memory in any matter, unless we go into very minor details on certain things. This is a very wide subject sir.

First of all I must thank you all, the Commission, for the opportunity given to me to make my recommendations or observations whatever it may be. I represent the country not specifically the Tamil community or any other community. I have been always taking this stand and I assure you that I will not mislead you and whatever I say will help you to arrive at certain conclusions beneficial to all in this country. Of course the Tamil community is very badly affected now. So whatever things I say may sometimes cause embarrassment; some may appear to be irrelevant and some may be very relevant. So I may be pardoned in advance for any of my omissions which I don’t do – which I don’t propose to do intentionally.

Now sir coming to the subject, we will start with the ceasefire agreement. I was one who was never violently opposed to the LTTE at any time. We thought like many others, even other people, from other communities, had thought that LTTE is fighting for a good cause and some remained silent; some backed them. Some backed them unreasonably and unnecessarily. I am one who had been very careful in dealing with the LTTE but had been always misunderstood. It is because of the openness with which I talk.

Initially I would like to say a few words about the LTTE. I hope you will pardon me sir. There was a resolution passed at the Tamil Nadu Assembly demanding the arrest of Prabakaran to be extradited to India and tried there. I was a Member of Parliament at that time. In the course of my speech I said “A day will come for Prabakaran also to go round the world like Yasif Arafat”. This is not the time for the Indian government to take charge of Prabakaran and try him. We thought, everyone thought, that LTTE was very serious about coming to a solution for the ethnic problem. That was one of the reasons why I defended him to the hilt in Parliament. Again – there are a number of occasions on which I have defended Prabakaran and a number of occasions on which I have caused him embarrassment also. Some of the questions I put to him through the letters that I wrote would have caused him a lot of embarrassment. Unfortunately, if the Tamil media had been cooperative, things would have been entirely different today. I did not expect the Tamil media to back the LTTE blindfolded. Every time they did something he was glorified. Every time I issued a statement condemning such acts of Prabakaran I was criticized and condemned as a traitor.

Sir, I am not here to defend myself. I am just trying to make the position clear as to what role I played during the last 5 years, although now I realize I could have kept quiet. I was really foolish. I could have kept quiet like many others and I am now paying for it. I am now sandwiched between the LTTE supporters and the Government. The LTTE thought I was a stooge of the Government; Government thought that I was backing them in all their matters. That is not true. I always took an independent view of these matters. I criticized the Government whenever necessary and I criticized the LTTE also whenever necessary. That is the role I had been playing. If anyone had misunderstood me as a supporter of the Government or a stooge of the Government, I am sorry I am not so.

Now, about the CFA sir, when the CFA was signed and when the contents of the CFA was released I was of the opinion that the Government had made a mistake at that time by not giving it to the public to debate it out. We could have been then asked to make comments and if that opportunity had been given the CFA would have had much better provisions than what it had. It was an agreement that had been drafted in a hurry and implemented in a hurry. The main flaw in the CFA was in the draft, failure of the authorities to bring it to the notice of the public before it was signed.

Secondly, there was no time factor given. It went on and it dragged on for years. They should have limited the time within which the agreement should have been put into affect. This was another flaw in the CFA.

Then the third one I would say giving undue importance to the LTTE against the claims of the Government. For example, what I am now referring to in particular is, LTTE was given the privilege of coming into Government held areas – may be initially limited to north and east – subsequently they could go to any part of the country. That provision was not there for the Government or for the other political parties to get into the LTTE areas. That is the biggest flaw. The LTTE did everything without the knowledge of the others, but others couldn’t do anything without the knowledge of the LTTE. That, I hope everyone will agree that it was the biggest mistake. There should have been reciprocal arrangement for both parties to visit each other’s area. The only opportunity given to the Government side was for the soldiers to go through the LTTE held areas in civil, but not a single soldier travelled during that period either in civil or in uniform through Wanni.

These are the things that ultimately caused the failure of the CFA.

Then, another matter I would like to say is violations of the CFA. There had been thousands of violations – not one or two – thousands by the LTTE against the Government’s few. This is not to please the Government I am saying. Actually the Government’s violations were restricted because Government had to be careful in honouring the agreement. So we can understand the stand taken by the Government. But the LTTE’s violations were many. On one occasion they arrested some members of the Monitoring Team from the Scandinavian team, carried them bodily and brought them to Wanni. That alone would have been sufficient enough to abrogate the agreement. Everybody tolerated them. The facilitators did not take serious action to control these people. I had a photograph which I was carrying with me. In Vavuniya they had built a new building and there was an opening ceremony. A woman cadre was hoisting the flag – it was the Tiger flag but not the national flag or Eelam flag. A poor lady from the team went and whispered into the ears “Child this is not the way to do. You are violating the CFA.” The reply she got was hooting from the school children who were brought there by force.

So these are the things that led to the failure of the CFA, otherwise the CFA could have been or would have brought some good results. One may ask as to why this was not pointed out at that stage for which, I too accept the blame. The enthusiasm generated at that time was so great that people were so happy after so many years of violent activities of the LTTE such as abductions, kidnappings, killings and torture, ceased. When the LTTE had agreed to come to the negotiating table it was really thrilling news and everybody was happy. In the rush everyone forgot the fact that we had a moral obligation to go through the various process of the agreement which no one did. So I am not blaming anybody – neither the Government at that time nor the politicians at that time – because I too being in politics I also share that blame for which I now regret. It should have been pointed out at the very early stages.

Then sir you will remember the proposal of the LTTE’s ISGA (that is Interim Self Governing Authority). I objected to that. Some Tamil friends were very angry. “Why should you object?” they asked. They don’t know what the contents were. Without knowing the contents, without knowing why I was objecting to it, they wrote a nasty editorial in the Tamil media, and the English papers wrote a nice editorial pointing out the good things they saw in my protest. The ISGA I objected to, earned me the name of a traitor of the Tamil cause. I found that the majority of the membership of the ISGA passed to the LTTE, and I felt at that time that there was absolutely no need for the LTTE to have the majority to work with the Government, under the new set up the ISGA. I even met the ambassadors and pointed out to them as to why the ISGA should not be conceded to. I pointed out that out of the 25 districts, 8 districts are from the north and the east. I had given the details as to how many of these 8 districts were under the LTTE control fully and how many were under partial control of the LTTE. This is a very convincing letter (showing the letter). There are some statistics in it. This gives the details of each district. The name of the districts that is fully under the control of the LTTE; and the name of the district that was partially under the LTTE. We had so many officers, 8 GAs; 8 Additional GAs; 8 AGAs; so many predesasabas over 75 of them I think. When this set up was there readily available to build up or to bring back what the tsunami carried away, there was no need for LTTE or any ISGA to take charge of the development and reconstruction work. So I had been off and on blamed for being open in my criticism, be it the Government or the LTTE.

Now coming to the sole representation theory, I am the only one – I hope no one else will claim credit or discredit for it, who challenged the LTTE’s claim that they were the sole representatives of the Tamils. That is how from the top I was brought down to the bottom. I who won an election with 36,000 votes and came first of the 9 members, at the next elections brought down to the very bottom. Even in an area where I worked as a teacher for several years, I polled, 100 odd votes. Why I am saying this is, the claim of the LTTE that they are the sole representatives of the Tamil people cannot be justified in any way. They never contested any election; they never came out and participated in the civil activities of the people; they decided and did everything. They had their own courts – they had at that time; and judges were appointed by them; the convicted prisoners were released on the recommendation of somebody; like that everything was in a mess. So how can we say that LTTE is the sole representative of the Tamil community? – It is wrong. Now the very same people; the very same journals, the media, make the same mistake. I appealed to the media hundreds of times; over and over again, “Please all of you get together and condemn at least one act of the LTTE so that they may re-think and act better in the future”. No one dared to do that. But they dared to call me a traitor for which they did not have any fear and they need not have a licence or permission from anybody. The same mistake is now being made sir. Again another group is being glorified to the extent of making them real successors of the LTTE – not the people who had been really fighting for their cause. Anyway I am not going to touch on politics here. There are people who have an easy way of going to the country, going to the Tamil people and say this is this. So the foolish Tamil people also forget all the past misery they underwent, prefer to forget them and receive them with open arms. Today we have won the war. I am happy that we won the war although I may be accused as a traitor for feeling happy that the war is won. But the war is won not to be replaced by this type of administration. “The war was won but at what price”, I wrote to the President. “I am happy that you are enjoying the victory. I can’t participate in this because I am mourning the loss of several thousand people in the war”. So that is where I crossed swords with the President. I said no. How can I? If you go through the papers today every day some lady is going round saying, “I want to see my Husband, did any one of you see my husband, and my child was killed in my presence”. The IDPs were not properly looked after. Now they are talking about the combatants. I will try to be brief because I know I have to leave room for questions also. Now there are 10,500 or 11,000 detainees detained as combatants. It is a crime to call them combatants. It is a crime, I repeat. They are our children which no-one can deny.

On a similar occasion, about 20-30 years back, when the JVP detainees were brought to Kilinochchi for rehabilitation, the Minister at that time in charge of the rehabilitation was the Hon. the late Mr. K.B.Ratnayaka my good friend. One day he called me and said “Ananda I want to send these detainees there for a short period, please don’t protest.” I said why the hell should I protest. They are our children being brought there not for anything just to get themselves rehabilitated. He was very happy. So they came. After about 6 months left, one of my colleagues in Parliament made a big issue out of it. He got up and said “ours is a peaceful section of the country”; Jaffna is peaceful it seems – “ours is a peaceful area”. “Please don’t bring the terrorists there.” If you go through the records you will see which MP said that. I was branded then also as a traitor encouraging Sinhala colonization in Akkarayan. That was not the truth. There was a camp set up – a rehabilitation camp. Some boys were there. Within about 6 months – I don’t know when they left even. But the name traitor that I got, spread over a period of time. Even at the last election there was a leaflet published. There were a lot of things in this connection but I don’t think they are relevant here. Why I am saying this is – with the same tone I say – these are our children, innocent children I would say. They were misled by the LTTE leadership. And when they were being recruited everyone just looked on, Everyone in the sense everyone supportive of the LTTE. The so-called Diaspora is now volunteering to develop this country too. All these people are very well settled in foreign countries; their children following prestigious courses like engineering and medicine. They give enough money for the LTTE to ill-treat or torture or hinder the progress of our children. Diaspora – not only Diaspora there were our representatives also in Parliament. If you take the past 6 years, the LTTE had sole representation in Parliament. After the G.C.E.(O/L) examination – LTTE knew that 8,000 students sat for the exam. All of them were taken by force for training. Not a hum from these so called representatives of the Tamil people. Lot of abductions took place; lot of murder, torture, the type of torture unheard of in a civilized society. There were some photographs published – in a triangular shaped barb wired cage, in which a person of 5 ft. can’t stand erect. Having seen all that my heart bled. I took up the stand and said, “You are no representatives of the Tamil people; you are cruel; you are doing all sorts of unwanted things; you are misleading the children; you are depriving the children of their progress; of their education; while you yourselves” – I told Prabakaran, “you are having your son educated as a doctor or engineer but here the poor children are going to the battle front”. There was an attack on the airport at Anuradhapura. The following morning a paper carried 2 photographs – there were many photographs; 2 attracted my attention. One, 22 people along with Prabakaran had taken a photograph – that appeared on one side. On the other side all the dead bodies of the 22 people who took part in the operation. I told Prabakaran promptly, “if you had been one of the 22 I would have been happy and praised you as a hero, but you are a coward. You have sacrificed the lives of 22 children who have taken a photograph with you the previous day or two days earlier”. So I had to be honest by my people without any fear or favour. Without expecting anything, I took up the case.

Even now I am taking up the case of the 10 thousand or 11 thousand children who have been taken by force, unwilling, boys and girls. I suggest to the Government, even through this Commission, as done during the JVP time, appoint a few committees with a judge – with a retired judge, a retired police officer – and another civilian, a recognized civilian. Have a few committees and let these boys go before the Committee. Then let the committees inquire by putting questions and find out from the boys and the parents as to what happened, how they joined the cadre, whether they were taken by force or they volunteered to join. That is the way of dealing with this problem.

Now the worst criminal in this country, is the one, who claimed that he is the leader or successor of Prabakaran, I am ashamed to say that the whole world is looking at it. He is now running an NGO when several thousand NGOs that were in the field doing a lot of work, feeding our people, giving employment, the country’s doors are shut for them. But this criminal is coming to help the country to develop along with 9 Diaspora. You know there are as many Tamils in foreign countries as you find here in Sri Lanka. Several lakhs of Tamils are living all over the world. They are in Canada, Germany, UK etc – they are also classified as Diaspora. But only 9 Diaspora people came volunteering to develop this country.

I don’t know sirs, one fine day you will know although the LTTE had been defeated; the entire cadre had not surrendered mentally but only physically. 5 chaps are enough to destroy this country. Why can’t that happen is the question I am asking. Why can’t this happen with this so called criminal the successor of Prabakaran, coming into the field, getting into the Army camps and going round the country? What is the protection I have from this man or from this type of people.

So these are questions sirs I am asking for consideration. These children are innocent. If there are some who are really involved, you can separate them. There are about 700 of them. Try them. The man who should be tried is KP. Prabakaran was once sentenced to 200 years jail. On that basis this man, who is coming here as his successor, should serve 1000 years in jail. But he is free; the children are in the detention camps learning.

The Sri Lankan ethnic issue is more than 50 years old. I have been living throughout this period. I remember as a school boy carrying a flag and watching the marathon race that was bringing a message from Hartley College to Colombo on the Independence Day – first Independence Day. From 1956, it is now more than 50 years old, we know what the problem is; we know what the solution as well. The country is ready for a solution. The President himself had said that at least he must concede to what Anandasangaree and Douglas Devananda asked, in his first Independence Day address. Why I am saying this, is that he is aware of the problem. He had said “it is our duty to safeguard the Tamils and other minority’s and their children’s future”.

So the country is now ready. There is no question of the re-occurring of this incident. This is impossible! If anyone thinks that this can re-occur – again somebody can or another Velupillai Prabakaran can come and organize and build up a big army and fight, – it is absurd to think so. But this is a lame excuse to have Army camps in all our areas. You don’t need Army camps permanently built all over Jaffna. Then what is the liberation that has taken place? What is it that we are proud of? It is like back from the frying pan into the fire. Kilinochchi was the worst affected. I was the MP for Kilinochchi for quite a long time, now rejected by the same people. Anyway I don’t know for what reason. There are a number of ladies and their relations have told me that, the mere sight of a gun they shout in terror; they run away like hysterical people. So people don’t want to see a gun, they don’t want to see even a toy gun. Now we are going to establish Army camps all over, for the protection of the people. Whose protection I am asking? Leave the people alone. After Prabakaran died not a single shot had been fired. This is a challenge. Can anyone prove that there was one shot fired after Prabakaran was killed? No. That means terrorism is finished in this country. If at all, they tried to raise their head again – ugly head again – little arrangement here and there would be enough. There were camps in those days too. When I was a teacher in Pooneryn there was a small camp in Pooneryn also. With just 5 people. They were too a task force or something.

So this is the reason why the lessons that we learnt are not properly understood and implemented. So this is the type of development that is taking place. The people who had been responsible for some silly decisions during the LTTE rule and are now at the helm. The GA Kilinochchi who was responsible for the 95% polling for the LTTE in Kilinochchi and who drove away the polling agents of Douglas Devananda in 2004, is the man advising the Government today`. He knows where the LTTE had their operations and where they were strong, what and what they did. I am sure he should have known even the places where certain things are concealed by LTTE for future use. Can we risk our lives with a man like that? The country is not lacking intelligent people. We have people all over. So these are the lessons that we have learnt and not properly understood and took action.

Then Reconciliation will never take place – I can guarantee that. I am now 78 years old. I don’t know how long I will live, but this is a bet – reconciliation will never be possible as long as the people, who are scared of the Army, entertain the fear that they can cause trouble in the future. We know of the present Army, I have nothing against them; they are very nice; humanitarian-wise they are the best – even from foreign countries, our friends and relations had said so. They say the Army was treating the IDPs so nicely. It was a pleasure to see police girls playing with the small children – refugee children. All that is right.

So these are some lessons learned I can go on like this for a fairly long time, but unfortunately the time is limited. I like to be heard through questions and answers. I hope I have said enough and any clarification can be done through questions. Thank you.

END OF REPRESENTATION

QUESTION TIME

Dr. Rohan Perera

Thank you very much Mr. Anandasangaree for coming before this Commission today and as you mentioned you have come all the way from Chennai which we very much appreciated. I have 2 questions – one on what you said with regard to the failure of the CFA. With regard to the failure of the CFA and the peace process, now one of the views that is expressed is that there was a lack of inclusivity of making the agreement public for the reason that given the unique or unprecedented

political environment …

Mr. Anandasangaree

Interrupted (not clear)

Dr. Rohan Perera

May I repeat what I said. On the question of lack of inclusivity of the ceasefire agreement or the failure to make it public which is highlighted as one of the main reasons for the failure agreement and the peace process, there is one view that had that path been followed given the fact that we had a unique or unprecedented political environment at that time namely an Executive President who was also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces from one political party who had lost the majority in Parliament and a Prime Minister from another. And given the confrontational politics which traditionally prevailed that would have risked jeopardizing the entire process. That is one line of thinking or one line of argument. So therefore it had to be done in the way in which it was done and there was certainly lack of inclusivity across party lines.

The other view was that this political environment was unique, which is a positive factor and this could have helped in building up a cross party or a bipartisan consensus on a vital national issue between the two major political parties in the south on an issue which affects the very survival of the state, and that historic opportunity was missed when we had a President and a Prime Minister from two different political parties.

So these are two views on this question of lack of inclusivity which has been expressed, and as an experienced politician I would like to hear your views.

My second question is on the question of reconciliation. You did refer to the presence of the large Tamil expatriate community. We would like to hear your views as to any specific aspects which you would like to address as to how the expatriate Tamil community could be drawn into the process of the post conflict peace building.

So these are two matters I thought we should have the benefit of your thinking. Thank you.

Mr. Anandasangaree

At the time the CFA was signed I was in Parliament as a Member. The problem was there – President from one party and party in power another. That was perhaps the main reason for the failure of the CFA. There was no understanding between the two heads – the head of the Parliament and the head of the State. So we knew that we were heading towards a disaster. In Parliament they started criticizing the monitors. All these things contributed for the failure of the CFA, not mainly, partly. But mainly due to the arrogant stand of the LTTE. One day, you will probably laugh, I told Mr. Sambandan who was my colleague, “Mr. Sambandan the principal is calling me to come to his office” and I am going and saying yes sir for everything. When the class teacher calls me to his office and ask me to do something, I do it. Now the monitor wants me to go to his office, and wants me to do something, “can I do that”, hearing this Mr. Sambandan roared with laughter for a few minutes. What I mean is, when Prabakaran wanted to see us we went – that is okay. Then subsequently S.P.Thamil Chelvam wanted to see us – I was reluctant but I went only once. Now the ordinary chaps here and there who had been responsible for meddling with the peoples rights arresting children and recruiting students for the LTTE cadre ect., started inviting us. I refused to go. One person who was in charge of Jaffna is now a big man in the intelligence group of the Army. I can understand if it relates to get expert advice in constitutional matters. We had this problem in parliament and if the senate had a majority of one political party and Parliament had a majority of another political party, they couldn’t have pulled on. That is one of the reasons why senate was abolished in Sri Lanka. It was a nuisance. So like that here also the Head of the State and the Head of the Parliament should belong to the same political party. Then things would have been much better and the CFA agreement also would have been successfully implemented.

Then about the Diaspora – the expatriates. We have thousands and thousands of them and they are prepared to help us. But why do you want to go behind this man KP? KP has 9 men. Take an ordinary LTTE supporter he can find 100 men in Paris or in Canada. KP has only 9 and KP has not given an undertaking that he will bring others or get round others or bring them here to do development work, or to run a NGO. But at the same time there is another group having elections in various countries to run a Government in exile. I can understand if that man is also brought here and told “you sit here and do some work, don’t do political work, you just sit. Come back and settle down peacefully in your country”. That is the type of people we want, not people who had been responsible for all the atrocities this country faced during the last 30 years. And this is money earned by sinful means, whatever they bring by sinful means such as drugs, abduction, torture and things like that. So we don’t want their money. Let the people be free; allow them to be free and give them some tools and some implements and allow them to work. They will bring what we want – what the country needs – in 6 months. Give them compensation as promised. The President had said once that he will see that all what they lost will be regained for them, except that the President can’t give back the lives lost. But compensation can be given for the lives lost, and for other losses. You know Sirs people had been living in mansions, and many had owned first class cars, Lorries, businesses etc. There are people in Kilinochchi who have been cultivating more than 100 acres; they were multi millionaires. All of them had to stand in the queue to beg for their meal. Not only during the IDP period in Wanni even now. What can they do? One day sir I burst into tears. I am a fellow who will never get tears in my eyes. My father was very angry about it. Nothing can move me. I am a tough fellow. One day I visited areas from Paranthan to Tharmapuram about 2– 3 weeks back to see people living and sleeping under trees. No house had a roof, doors and other facilities also. Actually their life there was worse then what they were in the IDP camps. So 2 days later there was a big shower. All of a sudden at 12 o’clock hell broke loose and came down – there was a downpour. I got up and wept. I wondered what these people will be doing now. We don’t realize these things. Some are in air conditioned rooms; some are quite well settled. I could not sleep for a day without the mosquito coil. They have been living for so many days or even years without mosquito coils. Some generous donors had given some mosquito nets; to what extent did that help.

Of the Diaspora there are people who are prepared to invest; make it easy for them. Don’t depend on KP or his supporters. An advertisement that such and such facilities will be made available to anyone – any Diaspora person or any expatriate who wanted to invest. Why do we want KP? Should KP be free? I am a man committed to non-violence; I cannot say what type of punishment should be given to KP but certainly he cannot be punished in a 5 star hotel or Isumpaya or something – the Commercial Company’s guest house which he is now occupying. I am not suggesting any punishment. Allow them to live with the people and let the people deal with him. If the people had been allowed a free hand they would have dealt with the people who were bothering them and who are a real nuisance to them. They are all out and free now.

Mrs. Manohari Ramanathan

Mr. Anandasangaree. The war has been won but the majority of the Tamil people’s hearts have not been won still. Could you suggest ways of reaching out to these people?

Mr. Anandasangaree

Allow them freely … Madam the situation today if you go to Jaffna; and ask a person “how is the Government, or do you like the UNP?” You will never get an answer even from their own child. Why? There was a time when Madam Sirimavo went to Jaffna – I don’t know whether you remember that – to open the university, We organized a hartal and a satyagraha. At Veeramakalli Amman temple we organized the satyagraha. We told the people don’t come out any of you; all of you stay indoors. Madam came we also had the satyagraha. Can you do that now? There are 750 families in Kilinochchi today who were promised to be taken to their land now for some reason they are kept in a school. Please go and see them. It is a real horrible sight to see; but the land they developed is so close to the camp. I had gained a lot of experience when I was the Member of Parliament from Kilinochchi. When land is given to them first they cut the tree and burn it. Then do the first cultivation with the stumps here and there. Then it takes a long time for them to remove the stumps and level them out. Quite a number of them who are now affected are of Indian origin. They had come as refugees having suffered at various times from various places. They came as refugees and they were given land. 750 families of which 250 had been brought to Kilinochchi and they are now in camps and the balance are still in Vavuniya. They are crying,”shoot us, kill us, and don’t take us anywhere. “They are prevented from going to their land because the Government wants that land for some purpose. What is the purpose for which the Government wants? I can’t understand sirs why the Government wants to grab land from anybody. I had gone round the country a number of times – hundred times. There is enough land everywhere, excepting in the peninsula which is a small area, you find enough land all over the country. Why do we want to take another man’s land? Why do we want to go into another village and grab others land? Leave it now. When the time comes, when need comes, do it.

So the best thing for the Government to do is to withdraw the Army and re-establish the civil administration. We have some nice GAs. There was a GA in Kilinochchi. He was arrested under some pretext. I brought the matter to the notice of the Government. I said he is a nice GA please allow him to be at Kilinochchi. If there is any mistake made, it must have been by the former GA. The G.A. was not allowed to work in Kilinochchi and was kept in detention for some time and now sent to Mullaitivu, where he is a stranger. If he had been sent back to Kilinochchi he knows every nook and corner of kilinochchi. If you ask me, I can tell you from here even after 25 years the location of various schools in Kilinochchi. I can start with the first school in Kilali, Kilali Roman Catholic School, then Muhamali Roman Catholic School, then Vembodukerny CCTMS and Palai Maha Vidyalaya. Like that I can mention names of all the 78 schools at that time when I was MP. There is a GA who knows the area. I told at the very beginning to allow the GA to come in. GA can select a certain area; and engage all Grama Sevakas of the division and some volunteers. They would have helped and saved the roofs of their houses, their furniture etc. Would you believe Sirs that I could not have a stool to sit on in Kilinochchi, God only knows where all these furniture vanished?

And not development. I know our children studied in oil lamps for years. Quite a large area in Kilinochchi was covered with electricity. But LTTE was so good that they removed all the wirings, the cables and everything and even the posts were destroyed and used for construction of bunkers. Children studied in Margosa oil lamps. They did not have any other oil. Either coconut oil or margosa oil. Children went to the university by studying under that lamp. Now what is the use in saying we will give electricity, we will give this and that. We don’t want any of those. We want our house that is what the people say. Shoot us if you want; don’t ask us to move away from this place because this is our land. I remember my father taught me a poem and I quote a line from it “breathes there the man with soul so dead who never to himself hath said this is my own my natives land.” This is from the poem” The lay of the last minstrel “. That is why I am patriotic. I love this country. This was in my blood from my childhood. This is my own, my native land. This is not my Eelam or Colombo. I want to live here. So that is the situation there madam. Don’t be taken away by the appearance and especially Jaffna – Jaffna people lost compared to Wanni, nothing except a few houses. So they are dancing and playing. They are having dramatic festivals and all that; coming to Colombo and showing their talents in dancing, music and drama. Go to Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu. These are the areas that were really affected; areas that really need development but they don’t want development. Leave them. Leave them to cultivate their land. In 6 months they can get on their feet. In 3 months their onions will give the yield.

Mr. H.M.G.S.Palihakkara

Thank you Mr. Anandasangaree. Especially for you someone who spoke very strongly at the time when it was not so fashionable to speak against the LTTE now you did speak strongly risking your life sometimes. So it is understandable your sentiments when you say that Prabakaran’s No.2 from Diaspora is a free person and 10,500 are called combatants. It is understandable. But now that the common threat of LTTE to politicians like you and other elected politicians that is no longer there what can we together do in regard to these 10,500 people whom you say detainees. What in your view should be done? Obviously they have been detained because of their active involvement in the LTTE activities – perhaps forcibly. What in your view should be done? The Government obviously seems to be trying to give them some vocational training and obviously they are not being prosecuted because … they are not being prosecuted. So what is it that can be done in your view – one.

Another question is that now that the conflict – at least the military part of it is over – what do you think the Tamil Parliamentarians should do together; how can they speak in one voice trying to do the development work in the north and east and try to help the Government and the Tamil people together. How can that be achieved? Thank you. Those are the 2 questions.

Mr. Anandasangaree

The main handicap is that, in those days the main political parties were the Tamil Congress and Federal Party and the representatives were selected on the merit of each candidate. Today it is not so. We believe that the man who had been carrying the capsule – the cyanide capsule – is in Parliament today. There are so many things – I don’t want to comment on these things for, I may be causing embarrassment to you and to some others. There is a move for the Tamil groups to get together. Again there is division – one group is very adamant that they won’t join. I am prepared to forget all that had been done to me by various groups. I am prepared to forget and join them as a group. They talk high principles but slept over the whole thing for 6 years and now come back to nurse the Tamil community, refusing to come out. I don’t know what their future is going to be. But I agree with you that a united effort – a common program – if a solution is acceptable to those who are in the forefront – should be acceptable or the people can be made to accept it. So that is a solution … one solution lies in that. Well I don’t know sir if the country’s destiny is to suffer, we will have to suffer. But one thing I can tell. I have lived with Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims; I have studied with Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims; I have taught Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese; I know the thinking and temperament of these various communities. The Sinhalese are very accommodating; their fault is with the leadership. The Tamils too are very accommodating; the fault is with the leadership. And perhaps that is the same with the Muslims also. The country is good. There is a story my friend used to say – a dog wanted to see the world; went round and round; chased at every point by the local dogs; came back again to its native place and when asked “how is the world?” “World is okay but it is our people who have been giving me trouble.” It is that. It is our people who are an obstruction for any solution to be arrived at and apart from that I am sure the Tamils and the Sinhalese and the Muslims can live together. They lived together for generations without any difference of things. My best friends are among the Sinhalese. I have some very good friends among the Muslims. So the trouble is with the leadership of the communities and not with the people. Let the leaders pardon me but I hope they too will agree with my view.

Question

What can we do about the detainees?

Mr. Anandasangaree

About the detainees… I suggest … It is on record that The President had said, “You will be released”, when they went and surrendered. The announcement made in the IDP camps was, all those who had anything to do with LTTE, even if you had gone for training for a day or two, please report. You will be sent back soon. They were not released. All of them were not released. There are people who could have very well concealed themselves without telling them. Some regret that they had confessed that they had a little training. Actually they are innocent people, and what harm can they cause. Hand them over to their parents. There are parents who will say “he is a mischievous chap keep him for some time sir and release him after 6 months.” But there are people who will say sir he is the only bread winner of the family please release him, I will look after him. I will kill that fellow if he dares to take up arms again. Take a risk. If we can take a risk with a criminal like KP, a man who should be held responsible next to Prabakaran who should be held responsible for the deaths of thousands – more than 200,000 lives have been lost; how many people have lost their eye sight; how many girls are without both their legs crawling. For all that the only man who can, who should be held responsible is KP. If you can trust KP then allow the children or produce them before courts and allow them on bail on security given by their parents. There are children who had gone to the university still there. I have a friend of mine. He is now not talking to me because his son had been following a course in an open university. They think that I am so powerful to get things done. I can’t get even a pin to move. So I suggested committees. You remember Sirs at that time when the JVP detainees were released, there was one Police Officer – IGP or DIG or somebody– he was the head of the team. They were calling their parents’ and the boys and after inquiring, if they were satisfied that the boy was innocent he was sent with the parents with the condition that they should go and sign at the Police Station every week or to some other authority or GA or somebody. There are people who are in detention for just giving tea and food parcels for the LTTE. The man who ate the food parcel is free; the man who gave the food parcel is in.

Chairman

So what you are suggesting is that you have committees to examine the involvement of these detainees and find out whether they were forced by the LTTE … find out their involvement …

Mr. Anandasangaree

Yes

Chairman

… and then take appropriate action depending on what their involvement is and how they got involved in the movement. If they were forced into the movement or their involvement is on a very superficial level what you are saying is take steps to discharge them and get them to integrate back into society. Is that what you are saying?

Mr. Anandasangaree

Yes. Or have a few committees and have quick inquiries.

Chairman

Yes committees. We have committees …

Mr. M.P.Paranagama

What have you got to say about this language problem?

Mr. Anandasangaree

Language … the biggest mistake was in the leadership here. I hope you know that – I am asking Mr. Chanmugam he being an elder person – up to 1956 Sinhalese was taught as a subject – compulsory subject – for students in all schools that had classes up to SSC. My younger brother has Sinhala as a subject. I studied at Soma Skanda where my father was the principal. A Buddhist Priest – a graduate – was teaching Sinhala. At Hartley College where the late Hon. K.B.Ratnayake studied there was one Mr.Somaratne – a layman – teaching Sinhala. Every school had a teacher in Sinhala. You go through the school anthem of the Hindu College and you will see among many things mentioned. Sinhalamum, Tamilamum – Sinhala was also taught there. The fault is with the leadership at that time. So when the Sinhala Only Bill was introduced – most of those schools were private schools – they stopped teaching Sinhala as an experimental period during which the Sinhala teachers were given some other work – the arts or physical drill and things like that. Then they waited for one year with no settlement coming. All teachers were discontinued. They left their schools with tears in their eyes; I can still remember that. The fault is that everyone must have learned Sinhala. If that had been allowed – if not for that Bill – today I will be making this representation in Sinhala just for fancy’s sake and little in Tamil. But unfortunately I am deprived of that chance. I have now picked up a few Sinhala words here and there.

Chairman

So you recommend that Sinhala and Tamil must be brought into the school curriculum?

Mr. Anandasangaree

It should be … I can give you one hint also favourable to your suggestion. There was a time Sinhalese were not very happy about learning Tamil and Tamil learning Sinhala and Sinhala learning Tamil. Today’s youth – the Sinhala youth – wants to learn Tamil and the Tamil youth wants to learn Sinhala. Today things will be much easier than what it was in 1956. It can be made compulsory – only thing is it should go simultaneously with a solution. If you try to make Sinhala and Tamil compulsory for the respective communities without solving the language problem, without solving the ethnic problem, it won’t work. It should go hand in hand. Find the solution. I had been telling a number of times – the peace is knocking at the door; whether to allow it in or shut it out is in our hands.

Chairman

Don’t you think that one of the problems that we encounter is that the Sinhala youth don’t understand the Tamils and the Tamils don’t understand the Sinhalese people. That is because there is a language problem. So, including Sinhala and Tamil into the curriculum would to a very great extent solve that problem?

Mr. Anandasangaree

It should. Even without knowing the language they are friendly sir. Do the Sinhalese youth and Tamil youth fight each other. Adults fight; youths are not fighting. Those days they fought each other. They say Ambalangoda, Kosgoda and all that type of thing I still remember.

Chairman

No, but don’t you think, I mean, now in those areas, for example Kosgoda or Balapitiya, the number of Tamils will be, I mean, , minimal. But there are areas – take Colombo right – don’t you think that we should learn each others language, that it is a sine qua non for reconciliation and understanding between the communities?

Mr. Anandasangaree

That is absolutely necessary. I give full recommendation for it and I welcome the suggestion. My suggestion is along with that you know otherwise they will say – there are people among the Tamil leaders; there are people who will go and say – see, see, they are forcing the Sinhala on the Tamils, therefore don’t study. When the problem is also solved, it is not going to take much time for the Government to sit down and draft something to solve the problem. Simultaneously the Government should decide to introduce Sinhala and Tamil compulsory for all.

Chairman

At least practical Tamil; practical Sinhala. You see there probably …

Mr. Anandasangaree

Initially there was that scheme practical Sinhala and practical Tamil. That was considered as a subject pass subject even if a person passed the Practical Sinhala. Initial stages, then after 2-3 years they come to study Singhala and Tamil fully.

Chairman

And don’t you think admission to the universities it must be made compulsory that people must know their Tamil and Sinhala?

Mr. Anandasangaree

It should be made compulsory for admission also. I remember in those days you know Tamil was a compulsory subject for Sinhalese who pass the CAS exam.

Mr. M.P.Paranagama

To what extent can you make use of the cultural link to build up a … ?

Mr. Anandasangaree

It is wrong sir. I saw in the papers 100 girls have been selected – Tigers. They are worried of their future, their parents and things like that. They were given training in some cultural program and after that they have been brought to Colombo for a performance. I told the Governor some time back when there was a similar program organized , they are still in mourning. Most of them have not traced their parents; most of them have not seen their parents; most of the parents and the child have lost contact. When the house is burning or when the next door person is mourning the death of some dear ones, will you play your music? We can’t build from the top; we should build from the bottom. You know, I am a person if there is a cultural program I won’t miss it. I like Sinhala, Tamil or whatever it may be. I won’t miss it. But it all depends on my mood and temperament at the time. When the Jaffna Dramatic Society organized a drama festival for 14 days I said don’t be foolish. When your neighbour is still mourning the death of their dear ones you are having drama festival. Please stop it and they stopped it. But when I was MP. I went to the villages to see drama and I waited till morning. I don’t run away half-way. It is good but this is not the way to do it. It should move simultaneously. When people are living in houses without roofs; without proper food; they have no place to eat or cook their meal, how can you expect one of the children from that area to take part in a cultural program.

Chairman

What do you think about the link language – English language? Don’t you think it is very important?

Mr. Anandasangaree

Yes, very important.

Chairman

Now what is your strategy for the teaching of English, for example, in the north and the east, because north and the east because there are problems regarding teachers? Would you recommend the use of electronic media like television for the teaching of the English language?

Mr. Anandasangaree

We have no other alternative no …

Chairman

Yes, that is why I am asking.

Mr. Anandasangaree

Since we have no other alternative we can. But at the same time we can get down somebody. In those days in Jaffna we studied science subjects under Indian graduates. We used to fool them for their wrong pronunciation. Then what happened Tamils took over. Even Sinhalese when I was teaching at Jaela one Mr.Kochi was the science teacher subsequently replaced by a local student. So, nothing is lost. We can for a start have a few teachers imported from India – their knowledge of English is very good; standard of English is very good; very super, much better than ours I would say. For 5-6 schools we can have one teacher for the start. India too will be happy to train some teachers who are capable teachers to teach English as a subject. I am an educationalist. I taught for 10 years before I became a lawyer. No one can tell me about the schools in Kilinochchi; how it should be re-organized. Unfortunately we are not making use of the talent we have in this country and discard them as you are UNP you are SLFP you are a leftist this and that is the trouble we have.

Mr. H.M.G.S.Palihakkara

Since you are here just a benefit of … Do you have a view on the issue of rehabilitation, reintegrating the Muslims who were forced to leave Jaffna and how best it can be done?

Mr. Anandasangaree:

It’s a pity I had been finding fault with the Government at that time. When the CFA was signed this should have been made a condition. When the CFA was in operation LTTE should have been told don’t meddle with the Muslims, allow them to come back. There was another group in Parliament claiming to represent the LTTE. They should have advised them to take back all the Muslims. They should be paid compensation. Sir they were allowed to go with only Rs.500/- I am told. You know they were the best scholars. I had a friend one Mr. Maqbool, a Muslim graduate. He knew much of Hinduism and there is hardly anything that he did not know. My knowledge of Hinduism is not even one hundredth of his – all the hymns and things like that – and he was shot by the LTTE when he was GA Mannar.

Prof. Karu Hangawatte

Thank you Mr. Anandasangaree for being here. I have one question really. You mentioned the need for building from ground up. What bothers me is why haven’t the leaders of the Tamil community – I am talking about community leaders not political leaders, not at all – why have they not taken the initiative to organize and to support these children as you mentioned – you referred to as children – and others who have been left hapless instead of always looking up to the Government. I am wondering is it because these community leaders and others feel hapless; they are helpless as well that they look up to the Government and the Government is so powerful here that they are the ones who have to do everything or is the Government refusing the leaders like you like from initiating and participating in such activities or do you even see as you mentioned military camps etc., do you see the presence of authority as kind of threatening and that you don’t feel that you can take the initiative and continue such activities still bothers me. I am just wondering why everybody is talking about the Government, Government?

Mr. Anandasangaree

I offered to the Government without any pay to take charge of the development of Kilinochchi because that is a place I am fully thorough with. The same rule applies in this case also . People had their own interests; leaders had their own interests. When the Government was campaigning against me there was a candidate who went round saying that Anandasangary is also a man nominated by the Government. Personal ambitions had brought the Tamil community to this state. They want to be MP all the time. The incentives are there and the attractions too, but nothing could persuade me to accept any. If only I had said that LTTE is the sole representatives of the Tamils I would be in Parliament today as the leader of the 15 MPs. I said no. One of my colleagues – I don’t want to mention the name – he said,” I am also not accepting the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil people, and I don’t say that but why are you saying that. I am here today without a seat in Parliament because I took up the position that the LTTE is not the sole representative of the Tamil people. All the others are in Parliament today because they accepted the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil people – which is not true. I did not want to cheat myself and the people. I have not lost anything. I have told my people so. I am free now. Sir I am one who had walked through from Kilali to Malavi a distance of 70-80 miles and visited every home in the Kilinochci electorate.. The moment I got elected as MP I gave up my practice as a lawyer. I did not do even notarial work. I took Parliamentary career as a real social work and not for anything else.

Prof. Hangawatte

Sorry I was really addressing … I am really impressed by your independence that you have shown or trying unlike as you mentioned. But I am still bothered by … there are no … lack of initiative and participation …

Mr. Anandasangaree

I fully agree with you.

Prof. Hangawatte

… and development of programs.

Mr. Anandasangaree

There are no opportunities. There are a number of NGOs. They can’t work – they can’t do any social work they must get permission. Locally leave aside the foreign NGO. I am prepared to do that.

Prof. Hangawatte

So what is preventing the people from developing mechanisms of self governance? What is preventing them? I am just asking.

Mr. Anandasangaree

Red tapeism. It is not correct to call red tapeism but in one sense red tapeism is the main handicap and main obstruction. Give them a free hand they will do it.

Mr. H.M.G.S.Palihakkara

Just to have the benefit of your views, how important is the compensation in the process of reconciliation – compensation to victims?

Mr. Anandasangaree

First we must win over the people – win over their hearts. You go and tell them we will give you something or we will construct this road, they are not interested. They are first worried of their independence and food. Can you imagine people going behind, even very respectable people are going behind some politician begging for favours? First people must be satisfied that there is a genuine attempt for development. Once that idea is impressed then the people will tolerate development also. If you go from Jaffna to Kilinochchi – I have not seen any Vasantham or Uthuru Vasantham . It is only in name. Proper development is not taking place. People want that first.

Chairman

Now you touched on this question of compensation to persons who have been affected or who are victims. Now can you express your views as to how they should be compensated?

Mr. Anandasangaree

Kilinochchi is an agricultural area and primarily a colonist area. Under various schemes people are given 5 acres, 3 acres ect.. And they were given some assistance. For 6 months they were given some subsistence and other assistance.. Some have become very prosperous and some very rich. Then the small cottage that was given to them expanded. Kilinochchi became a very rich area. During my period I could see the differences. The cottages were expanded into beautiful houses. You can even now go and see that. Now they have lost everything. They lost everything because of this foolish movement –the LTTE. Actually they drove the people like a herd of cattle. They were driven from one place to another. If they were allowed to escape they would have saved their properties. They first left behind some furniture and things like that. The next stage they left behind their furniture and moved further. Like that ultimately when they reached Matalan they were there only with the clothes that they were wearing and some fortunate people with some extra clothes. Many people left behind their jewellery and came, because they were told that they cannot take more than five sovereigns only. What I say is not a rumour. It is a fact. They were also told that they couldn’t take more than 5,000 rupees. There is evidence that a lot of money was found after these people left.

Chairman

So what is the strategy that you would recommend as far as compensation is concerned?

Mr. Anandasangaree

They must pay compensation to some extent. A man who had a tractor and cultivated about 10-15 acres of land, and the tractor is no more there. If you can’t compensate for the tractor by its worth give him compensation for the other things. He had lost everything he had. For example take my house in Kilinochchi, I found one volume of the legislative enactment set was thrown into the garden and the others missing. I got a table made for my use and got it fitted inside the room so that no one could carry it away. It was missing with many other things. Ultimately I did not have even a stool to sit down. I had to buy one. That is the case with everybody. Just imagine Sirs if all the people in Colombo are asked to quit within one day or not even a half a day notice. What can you take from your home? The very minimum what you could carry even electrical gadgets you won’t take. If you are a man in practice you may take your certificates and some other things. I believe I brought only my certificates from home when I left. That is the only thing I took from my house. After enjoying a luxury life, or a reasonably good life, you come back to see nothing is left in your home. Is it not the duty of the Government to compensate you in some form without giving you just Rs.5000 as first instalment, Rs.20, 000 as second instalment and that’s all. Or even 50,000 as third instalment. But there are people who have not got even their 5000. . What can you do sir with 5000? A man with 5 children 5000 is not enough no to give them a good meal … after starving for a long time. So the first meal they take after getting out of the IDP camp 5000 is not sufficient and they are expected to live on that. I saw a lady weeping “Sir I have not seen the colour of rice for months.” In place of rice it seems they are given wheat flour. What is the Government spending? All these are given under World Food Program. The Government is not spending money for food program. And there are huge number of readymade windows and doors for the construction of pre fabricated houses between Muruhandy Temple and Kilinochchi. I think they are building houses and I am told that is for the Army. Can you find reconciliation any day with this type of activity going on? Army occupying pre fabricated houses; the man who had built the house with his own labour is on the street. And these people are kept in the refugee camps – 750 families. They are the owners of the land which the Government intends to house the Army.

We must now decide whether this country is going to be free. Every Tom, Dick and Harry in this country should enjoy equal rights; the same rights or part of the country is going to be under subjugation of another group similar to the LTTE. It was also a military group.

END OF QUESTION TIME

Chairman – closing statement

Mr. Sambandan, I am sorry. Mr. Anandasangaree I must thank you on behalf of the Commission …

Mr. Anandasangaree

Thank you sir for the opportunity.

Chairman

… I hope you did not misunderstand. That was just a genuine slip. Mr. Anandasangaree I must thank you very much for having come here and we really admire the independence that you displayed and the frank discussion that you had with us and we have certainly benefited from the views that you have expressed and certainly we will consider the views that you expressed in formulating our recommendations.

Mr. Anandasangaree

Thank you sir for giving me this opportunity and I further apologize to you if I had caused you any embarrassment in the course of the discussion.

Chairman

Nothing at all.

Mr. Anandasangaree

Thank you

Chairman

I think I caused you embarrassment by …

http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/11/v-anandasangaree-what-i-said-at-llrc.html

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Submissions of His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith Before Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission

His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith addressing the Presidential Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation on 03rd November 2010 at theLakshman Kadiragama Hall, made the following submissions to the Commission.

“First of all, I would like to thank the honourable members of this Commission and the President for according us an opportunity to present submissions before this Commission on the relevant topics that had been suggested to us over the Press and the Media.

Most of these topics were discussed at different meetings of the Sri Lanka Catholic Bishops’ Conference which we represent as a body here. And so each of the item mentioned in the presentations will be taken up by one of those participating here.

The Catholic Church as part and parcel of the Sri Lankan Nation has to be seriously concerned with the peace and welfare of the country. The problems of the nation have to be noted with the intention of offering solutions according to the vision and direction given by faith.

It is therefore natural that the Church express her standpoint on issues which deeply affect the well being of all citizens irrespective of religion and race.

Further, according to the teachings of the faith, Christians have to abide by fundamental precepts such as:

a) Fidelity to the truth which is a hallmark of all religions
b) Be respectful to the human dignity of every person irrespective of man-made divisions
c) The equality of all human beings
d) Well being and development of all segments of society,
d) Maintenance of the Rule of Law and Good Governance

In applying these basic principles accepted by other religions as well, authorities have to be mindful that this is not just a matter of ‘charity’ or ‘maitriya’ but of strict justice.

Though errors have been made in the past by all stakeholders, what is important now is to learn lessons from them, which will imply attitudes of mutual forgiveness that will pave the way for genuine reconciliation.

We believe that the search for a political solution to the ethnic conflict must be intensified. It is only a political solution that will help to eliminate the root causes of violent insurrection, ethnic disharmony and suspicion and mistrust between various communities living in this country. In fact, the roots of the conflict could be traced back to the 1950’s, especially the Sinhala Only policy of 1956 which disregarded the multicultural and pluralistic nature of Sri Lankan society and paved the way for Sinhala dominance and the trend towards mono-culturalism. Since independence, the gradual entrenchment of majoritarian democracy, where the language and religion of the majority community have been given priority, has increased ethnic tensions and undermined the concept of a truly multi-ethnic, multi-religious, plural society. The Official Languages Act, the introduction of the first Republican Constitution of 1972 and as well as the Constitution of 1978 where the Sinhala Language and Buddhism were given an exalted place in the constitution, were a landmark in the slide towards divisive tendencies in this country.

The massive colonization schemes undertaken by successive governments after independence, even if they were well-meant, but which did not necessarily respect the pluralities of the ethnic and religious proportions of the Sri Lankan people served rather as irritants than as catalysts for unity, because they were served as an attempt to a gradual breakdown and erosion of the original cultural make-up of these regions. Furthermore, in the 1970’s, the Republican Constitution of 1972 as well as the Constitution of the 1978 omitted or overlooked the provision in the Soulbury Constitution (Section 29) which had enshrined safeguards for the minorities. Such irritants must be avoided in the future in all development plans.

Sri Lanka should be a secular democracy in which all ethnic and religious groups , irrespective of their numbers, identify themselves as citizens of one country. Race-based and religion based political structures are best avoided in the search for national integration.

We as Christians submit these specific recommendations to this Commission with the fervent hope that they will be considered seriously in order to heal the wounds of a painful conflict which traumatized our homeland for over thirty years, and to lay the foundation for a solid sense of peace and harmony in the future.

Culture of Peace, Acceptance of Differences and Building Harmon;

Promotion of Tolerance among Individuals and Communities -

As Christians, we are expected to be truthful & honest and always be guided by our conscience. Hence we have a duty to point out the causes that led to the ethnic crisis culminating in a bloody war resulting in disastrous consequences to the living conditions of the ordinary people, particularly in the North-East which should be addressed.

It is necessary to think beyond the ‘Black July’ of 1983, even beyond 2002, in order to ‘learn lessons’ from the past and in order to prevent any recurrence of these events in the future. The hearts and minds of the Tamil community were seriously disturbed by certain legislative enactments by the Governments in the post independence era, perhaps to promote their own political agendas, although they might not have been purposely directed against the Tamil community.

The armed struggle of young people and the disastrous consequences it has brought about must serve as a lesson to the youth of this country about the futility of taking up arms. Through a system of value education, through the dissemination of religious precepts found in the four major religions practiced in this country , and through the inculcation of values such as tolerance, respect for other’s rights, compassion, non-violent communication and non-violent conflict resolution, politics which does not harbour communal hate and a comprehensive programme of life-skills training for children and youth, any future resurgence of hate, division and terror should be effectively prevented.

Religious Education in this country

Under this category I would like to say with regard to education, it is dangerous to visualize the deprivation of Religious Education in this country. Because religion is what provides necessary moral strength to our people, whatever their religion be, to help them to overcome short-term temptations towards winning over or dominating other cultures and other societies. In that sense it is necessary to ensure that the Religious Education is given due place in this country. And also certain provisions of law, for an example, the latest note that came to my hand is, this Gaming Special Provision Bill, which is due to taken up soon in the Parliament, is something that does not encourage religious background or religious principles in this country.

It is very interesting to note that the Sinhala word, “ Sudu Vidividana Panatha” (Gaming Special Provision Bill ) – for those interested in starting Gaming Centres, to name the places where they could begin such activities. So this legislation which encourages ‘Gaming’ is against all religious principles that we have come know. So unless we encourage religious formation of our people and strengthen the religious background in the schools, in the education system, ensuring that such legislation does not go against the basic values in the religions which become very important in this country, if it is to move forward towards the new era of peace and harmony.

Promoting Trilingual Education -

Since language skills facilitate better communication and create understanding and acceptance of others and their views, Trilingual Education should be introduced in all schools, even from childhood. A good knowledge of the native languages and the link language English will result in better interaction among the communities, make reconciliation easier to achieve, promote national unity and help establish a common Sri Lankan identity for all.

Every attempt must be made to create a sense of belonging to this country among all its citizens irrespective of race, religion or social status. Since this is an important aspect, I would say, it is necessary that we promote Trilingual Education in this country. Trilingual Education will allow children from very young days to get to know each other, to get to understand each other and achieve reconciliation and peace and harmony among themselves. Any attempt to dominate just through one language will not heal this nation. Therefore, it is important that in the educational field, even from childhood, all the children are encouraged to study all three languages. And that anyone entering University is expected to qualify in all three languages before doing so. Now the use and the implementation of the official language Act, becomes difficult, because many people are unable to get across this barrier of knowing Sinhala and Tamil at the same time. There is a serious scarcity of people available for various jobs and professions in the Northern area who are able to master both Sinhala and Tamil languages.

It is necessary in order to meet this necessity and that educational stream allows all three languages to be promoted as being important to studies of the children. Serious recognition must be given that both Sinhala and Tamil, even though they have been declared as national languages under the Constitution, the implementation policy is still far from being realized. There is evidence that many of the existing governments, administrative units, are unable to communicate in different languages with the public. So that when the public present themselves in the government offices, they are unable to communicate their ideas to the officers concerned. Therefore the proper implementation of language policy ensuring that the future generations would know all three languages, become very important. This will help to bring together the country to a proper united and harmonious existence.

[ Chairman – ( cross question ) – “ Your Eminence say that the study of all three languages are important for peace and reconciliation ? ]

Response – Yes, at least, if that can be done, it will help to create a new generation of administrators who will be able to communicate in all three languages with the public. There is evidence that many of the existing Government administrative units are filled with Sinhala speaking officers who are unable to communicate with the public. At the same time, there is a big shortage of Tamil speaking officers in Government Offices.

Hegemonistic tendencies should be curtailed and controlled especially of those who enter politics on race or religion based policies. Let a new Sri Lanka emerge, united but not uniform, disciplined yet resourceful and morally and spiritually upraised.

Allay fears of new settlements in the North & East and Cultural Invasion -

It is observed by many that there are attempts made in the Northern & Eastern areas with new settlements to change the demographic situation of the people. This could be a dangerous trend if it is not addressed, unless the people are allowed to move in and move out in the proper way, without any colonization as such with or without the government approval. Because what can happen is, that there can be a psychosis or fear of a cultural invasion of villages and areas of the country considered to be predominantly of one group or the other. This can cause frictions and unnecessary clashes.

Questions & responses –

Question – Is there a necessity to extend or lift the Emergency Regulations ? Role of the religious leaders in the national development………

Response by His Eminence Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith –

Security of the Country -

Honourable Sir, I was listening to your responses with Mr. Shamil Perera, in his presentations. We accept that some safeguard and security for the country is necessary. In the matter of confidence building among the people, opening and helping each other to reach out one another to build goodwill and harmony, requires certain amount of freedom whereby one is not threatened with misunderstanding of the motives for which one is working.

All religious and ethnic communities can contribute to the national life of this country -

The Catholic Church for a long time has been trying its best to bring about some kind of a dialogue between two sides. For number of years, various attempts were made to try to convince both sides to negotiate. But they did not succeed, because basically there was a big misunderstanding between the two groups. And there were other political forces that got involved in this and obscured it at certain points. Therefore the Peace Process did not get off the ground. So, unfortunately this division took place in our country. We are in no way in favour of any arm conflict in this country, I say it very clearly.

Therefore, we are not advocating the position of the LTTE on separating of this country. But we strongly for a united Sri Lanka, yet where all religious and ethnic communities feel confident that they can contribute to the national life of this country and bring the best that is available in them and feel that they are wanted in this country and that they have an identity and a place in this country. It is very important to build up this confidence. It is for that reason that the religious leadership has a role to play and the Catholic Church is very keen on advocating a common activity at the level of the religious leaders in this country to create unity and harmony among our people. Therefore, we not unaware of the need, but we are trying to do our best for the country.

All our attempt and everything which has been said here, never justifying terrorism. Never advocating any particular position with regard to the division of this country, but advocating justice based on religious values in this country. That’s why at the very beginning I said that inculcating religious background to the children and in the schools, mutli-lingual approach in the schools become very important in order to unite this country and ensure that the future progress that is visualized, Sri Lanka can build very strong peace environment and economy in this country. It has the capacity.

We appreciate the policies that are being carried out by the government, but we want the government to ensure that the other aspects are kept in mind always, the religious values of our society, the call for justice and fair play, integration of all communities, respect for all communities, and to wider outlook in this effort, specially avoiding politicization of religious and ethnic differences. If parties are allowed on the basis of religion and on the basis of ethnicity, it again becomes an expression of division in this country. Therefore, we should work towards national harmony and unity at this point. We are very much in favour of that and we would like to get along with the other religious leaders and communities in this country, specially the Buddhist Clergy, because they are the majority in this country and get together with all and work towards peace and harmony and for religious principles in this country.

Regional Religious Communities -

And establishing various regional religious communities, is a very good proposal for our country. There are certain tensions that could happen at regional level due to various local factors, and at that point it is necessary that the religious leaders in that region come together and discuss those matters and seek peace settlement based on religious principles, and not allow extremist elements to take it over. Then it becomes conflict and unnecessarily causes divisions and tensions in this country. Because of the 30 year war, Sri Lanka cannot afford once again to go back to such tensions and a situation. Now we should have long years of peace and progress for all people in this country.

http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/11/submissions_of_his_eminence_ca.html

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Rights groups flay LLRC, say whitewashes War Crimes

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 10 November 2010, 04:17 GMT]
International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the three premier human rights watchdogs, today slammed Sri Lanka’s reconciliation commission (LLRC) accusing the commission of failing to “meet basic international standards for independent and impartial inquiries,” and for “proceeding against a backdrop of government failure to address impunity and continuing human rights abuses.” The Rights groups further pointedly attacked the island’s legal system saying, “Sri Lanka’s government and justice system cannot and will not uphold the rule of law and respect basic rights.”

Full text of the article appearing in The Nation follows:

While we would welcome the opportunity to appear before a genuine, credible effort to pursue accountability and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) falls far short of such an effort. It not only fails to meet basic international standards for independent and impartial inquiries, but it is proceeding against a backdrop of government failure to address impunity and continuing human rights abuses. Our three organisations believe that the persistence of these and other destructive trends indicates that currently Sri Lanka’s government and justice system cannot or will not uphold the rule of law and respect basic rights.

We have highlighted our concerns in a number of reports. Of particular relevance are Crisis Group’s May 2010 report “War Crimes in Sri Lanka” and its June 2009 report “Sri Lanka’s Judiciary: Politicised Courts, Compromised Rights”; Human Rights Watch’s February 2010 report “Legal Limbo: The Uncertain Fate of Detained LTTE Suspects in Sri Lanka” and its February 2009 report “War on the Displaced: Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni”; and Amnesty International’s June 2009 report “Twenty Years of Make Believe: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry” and its August 2009 “Unlock the Camps in Sri Lanka: Safety and Dignity for the Displaced Now”. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka has made no progress since the end of the war in addressing our concerns detailed in these reports.

In addition to these broader failings of the government, we believe that the LLRC is deeply flawed in structure and practice. Of particular concern are the following:

Inadequate mandate: Nothing in the LLRC’s mandate requires it to investigate the many credible allegations that both the government security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) committed serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the civil war, especially in the final months, including summary executions, torture, attacks on civilians and civilian objects, and other war crimes. The need to investigate them thoroughly and impartially is especially urgent given the government’s efforts to promote its methods of warfare abroad as being protective of the civilian population, when the facts demonstrate otherwise.

Nor has the LLRC shown any genuine interest in investigating such allegations. Instead, it has allowed government officials to repeat unchallenged what they have been saying without basis for months: that the government strictly followed a “zero civilian casualty policy”. Indeed, during the testimony of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa on 17 August 2010, the primary intervention of the Commission chairman, CR de Silva, was to prompt the secretary to provide the Commission with a February 14 2009 letter from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) thanking the Navy for assisting in a medical evacuation. While highlighting that one letter, the chairman and his colleagues failed to ask the defence secretary about any of the ICRC’s numerous public statements between January and the end of May 2009 raising concerns about excessive civilian casualties, violations of international humanitarian law and insufficient humanitarian access.

The Commission also has not required officials to explain the government’s public misrepresentations during the war. Particularly disturbing are the government’s repeated claims that there were under 100,000 civilians left in the Vanni at the beginning of 2009 when officials later conceded there were some 300,000, and that Sri Lankan forces were not using heavy weapons in civilian areas when the military eventually admitted they were.

Lack of independence: A fundamental requirement for any commission of this type is that its members are independent. The membership of the LLRC is far from that. To start, both chairman de Silva and member HMGS Palihakkara were senior government representatives during the final year of the war. They publicly defended the conduct of the government and military against allegations of war crimes. Indeed during two widely reported incidents the shelling of the first “no-fire zone” declared by the government in late January and the shelling of Puthukkudiyiruppu (PTK) hospital in February Palihakkara, then Sri Lanka’s representative to the UN, told CNN that government forces had confirmed that even though the LTTE was firing out from the “no-fire zone”, the government was not returning fire; and that the military had confirmed they knew the coordinates of PTK hospital and they had not fired on it.

Beyond his public defence of government conduct during the war, there is also evidence that as attorney general, CR de Silva actively undermined the independence of the 2006-2009 Presidential Commission of Inquiry that was tasked with investigating allegations of serious human rights violations by the security forces.

Most other members of the LLRC have some history of working for the Sri Lankan government. None is known for taking independent political positions, and many have publicly declared their allegiance to the president and government.

Absence of witness protection: Equally worrying is the absence of any provisions for the protection of witnesses who may wish to testify before the Commission. Sri Lanka has never had a functioning witness protection system, nor has the Commission established any ad hoc procedures for witness protection.

The lack of witness protection is particularly crippling in the current atmosphere in Sri Lanka in which government officials label as “traitors” persons making allegations that government forces might have committed violations of international law. Only a brave few have testified before the LLRC about war crimes in the north despite that threat. Moreover, even though the war is over, the country is still operating under a state of emergency, with laws that criminalise political speech and where there is no meaningful investigation of attacks on government critics. This clearly undermines the Commission’s ability to conduct credible investigations of alleged violations of international or national law. Until effective protection of witnesses can be guaranteed, no organisation or individual can responsibly disclose confidential information to the Commission.

Past commission failures: Our decision to decline the LLRC’s invitation to testify also stems from Sri Lanka’s long history of failed and politicised commissions of inquiry. Amnesty International’s report, “Twenty Years of Make-Believe: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry”, documents the failure of successive Sri Lankan governments to provide accountability for violations, including enforced disappearances, unlawful killings and torture.

Today Sri Lanka has no credible domestic mechanisms able to respond effectively to serious human rights violations. The Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission lacks independence and has itself acknowledged its lack of capacity to deal with investigations into enforced disappearances. At the international level, Sri Lanka has 5,749 outstanding cases being reviewed by the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, several hundred of which have been reported since the beginning of 2006.

Should a genuine and credible process eventually be established featuring truly independent commission members, effective powers of witness protection, and a mandate to explore the full range of alleged violations of national and international law; and backed up by government action to end impunity and ensure that police and courts launch effective and impartial prosecutions we all would be pleased to appear.

http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=32971

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I am not playing politics’ – Government Agent Jaffna

Posted by Sri Lanka Guardian Breakingnews, feature, Interview, Politics 1:30:00 PM

(November 11, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Tamil media of Sri Lanka was singled out and came under criticism by the Jaffna Government Agent of Jaffna, Mrs Imelda Sugumar in a statement published in the ‘Tamil Mirror’ reproduced in the ‘Thenee.com’ Tamil website did not refer to the very same information published in the English media. The statement published in the ‘Tamil Mirror’ did not even filter in to the Tamil Mirror’s English edition ‘Daily Mirror’.

It was widely reported in the Colombo media that: ‘The Government Agent, Imelda Sukumar who was the Mullaitivu GA during the war, …. vehemently denied claims that those who crossed over from LTTE controlled areas to Government controlled areas carrying white flags were fired at by the army during the height of the war.’

The translation of the Government Agent’s comments states:

‘Distorted statements have been published by some about the evidence I gave before the Lesson Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

‘When I gave evidence before the LLRC, I clearly stated that I will only give evidence about incidences until January 22. I only gave evidence about the suffering of the people until they moved in to the safety zone.

‘I gave evidence in clear English, so that the LLRC will understand what I said to them directly.

‘The media, as they wished, have published incorrect translation of my evidence. I strongly condemn this.

‘The events I evidenced in Mullivaykal has been falsely stated by the media as incidences that had taken place there. Because of non availability of correct translation, they are falsely accusing me.

‘I wish to state, I am not a politician and am a government officer carrying out my administrative responsibilities. I cannot act on the wishes of the politicians.

‘I repeatedly stated during my evidence that I will only tell about the events until 22nd January. My evidence is in the records of the LLRC.

http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/11/i-am-not-playing-politics-government.html

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LTTE senior official’s wife witnesses on SLA war crime
[TamilNet, Thursday, 11 November 2010, 15:07 GMT]

“I have not seen my husband Yogarathinam Jogi who was taken away by Sri Lanka Army (SLA) in Vadduvaakal in Mullaiththeevu on 18th May 2009 after surrendering himself expecting general amnesty as announced by SLA that day over loud speaker,” the wife of Yogaratnam Yogi, a senior member of the LTTE said bearing witness before the Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) Thursday around 3:30 p.m in Ariyaalai Saraswathy Community Centre. In response to a question by Rajapaksa’s LLRC panel Ms. Jeyavathy Jogi, who confirmed that her husband was Mr. Yogi, further said that she saw her husband being taken away along with 50 others including poet Puthuvai Irtathinathurai and Lawrence Thilakar who had surrendered themselves to SLA. “My husband surrendered himself to SLA believing that he will be given amnesty as assured by the SLA announcement,” Ms. Jeyavathy said.

Jeyavathy Jogi was the first person to witness before the LLRC Thursday in Jaffna.

It was earlier announced that LLRC will commence hearings Thursday morning in Kurunakar but as the LLRC panel from Colombo arrived late the venue was shifted to Ariyaalai.

However, more than a hundred persons gathered at Saraswathy Community Centre in Ariyaalai Thursday to witness before LLRC.

On being asked whether she could identify the [SLA] personnel who took her husband away Jeyavathy said that she cannot do so as she did know them.

Jeyavathy further told the Committee that though she had appealed to Sri Lankan Attorney General seeking help to trace her husband in August 2010 she had not heard anything about her husband.

Mr. Yogaratnam Yogi was the political chief of the LTTE, who presided over the handing over of LTTE arms in 1987 after the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord. The senior leader was in charge of LTTE’s research centre on war records.

http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=32990

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Tamil editor blames Colombo of deceiving uprooted civilians in Jaffna
[TamilNet, Thursday, 11 November 2010, 18:14 GMT]
A leading journalist and the news editor of Thinamurasu Tamil daily published in Jaffna, M. Vamadevan accused the Sri Lankan governments in power during the last 20 years of deceiving the uprooted people from Valikaamam North Sri Lanka Army (SLA) High Security Zones (HSZs) saying that resettlement is not possible as they are infested with land mines, witnessing before the Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) Thursday in Jaffna. Promises had been given to the uprooted families that they will be soon permitted to resettle in their own places at various instances by various Sri Lanka ministers and government officials but nothing has been done to resettle them, Vamadevan told LLRC.

The Tamil National Alliance parliamentarians had been assured of resettlement in Valikamam by the Sri Lanka government but eventually they too were deceived, Vamadevan said.

Vamadevan, a person uprooted from Valikaamam North HSZ himself, told LLRC that Sarath Fonseka, during his time of office as the chief of SLA had said the HSZ could not be withdrawn as they were the supply routes to SLA in the on going war at that time and asked what need was there for the SLA to retain the HSZs as the war has now ended.

The Vamadevan also described the plight of the uprooted people from Valikaamam North living as refugees for more than 20 years in camps and in the houses of relatives and friends.

Ms. Imelda Sukumar who had been recently saying that there are no HSZs in Jaffna peninsula but only areas that have to be cleared of landmines was also present during the LLRC session Thursday in Ariyaalai Saraswathy Community Centre.

She intervened to point out to the LLRC that a SLA soldier had been killed and two others injured in l

http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=32992a

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Elmore Perera tells LLRC Fonseka’s jailing is ultra vires
November 13, 2010, 8:27 pm

article_image

Giving evidence last week before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, Mr. Elmore Perera, a former Surveyor General, former Additional Director of the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration and a Past President of the Organization of Professional Associations urged that “it is abundantly clear that the imposition of a sentence of imprisonment in respect of the charges levelled against Sarath Fonseka in the Court Martial is ultra vires and therefore ab initio void.’’

Perera, an attorney at law disbarred by former Chief Justice Sarath Silva, said:

“Mr. Chairman, I have reserved for the last what I consider to be the most urgent matter. Your mandate clearly requires that recommendations be made to prevent internecine (mutually destructive) conflicts in future. “Without any doubt, the most pressing internecine conflict in Sri Lanka today is the continuing incarceration of Sarath Fonseka. Several Superior Court Judges have already declined to hear related cases before them, citing personal reasons.

“Justice meted out to Mahinda Rajapaksa, the M.P., by the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon in 1980 and 1982, in terms of the provisions in the 1978 Constitution, have been cited with approval. “I wish to draw your attention first to Section 2(1) of the Evidence Ordinance which states explicitly that “This Ordinance shall apply to all judicial proceedings in or before any Court other than Courts – Martial; and secondly to the provisions in Parts X111 and X1V of the Army Act re “Punishments by Courts Martial in respect of Civil Offences” and “Scale of Punishments by Courts Martial” respectively.

“Section 131 provides that: (a) “Where a person subject to military law is convicted by a Court Martial of the offence of treason or murder, he shall be liable to suffer death”, and (b) “Where a person subject to military law is convicted by a Court Martial of the offence of culpable homicide not amounting to murder, or rape, he shall be liable to suffer simple or rigorous imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years”.

“Section 132 provides that where a person subject to military law is convicted by a Court Martial of any other civil offence not mentioned in Section 121 he shall be liable, if he is an officer, to be cashiered or to suffer any less severe punishment in the scale set out in section 133 or to suffer the punishment prescribed for such offence by any law of Sri Lanka other than this Act.

“Section 133 provides that subject to the provisions of Section 134, the following shall be the scale of punishments, in descending order of severity, which may be inflicted on officers convicted of offences by Courts Martial.

(a)    death ;

(b)    rigorous imprisonment ;

(c)    simple imprisonment ;

(d)    cashiering ;

(e)    dismissal from the army ;

(f)      forfeiture, in the prescribed manner, of seniority of rank, either in the army or in the corps to which the offender belongs, or in both ; or, in the case of an officer whose promotion depends upon length of service, forfeiture of all or any part of his service for the purposes of promotion ;

(g)    severe reprimand or reprimand ;

(h)    such penal deductions from pay as are authorized by this Act.

“It is abundantly clear that the imposition of a sentence of imprisonment in respect of the charges levelled against Sarath Fonseka in the Court Martial is ultra vires and therefore ab initio void.

“In view of the apparent inability of the State to prevent the recurrence of the breakdown of discipline in the Prison, which occurred a few days ago, and consequently to guarantee Sarath Fonseka’s security, I urge the Commission to recommend to the President, as a matter of the greatest urgency, the immediate invalidation of the Order of Imprisonment.

“Your failure to act decisively when it is now opportune to do so, could result in “slow suffocation of the spirit and amputation of the dreams”, not only of Sarath Fonseka but of all Sri Lankans.’’

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=11216

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Mistrust, discontent and anger at LLRC North sessions

By Rathindra Kuruwita in Jaffna

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) sessions in Jaffna were a stark contrast to those held in Colombo. While the gallantry of the security forces, commendability of the government’s attempts at rehabilitation and resettlement and the importance of tri-lingual education for better understanding policy dominate the Colombo sessions, hostility, hundreds of mothers and widows cornering the commissioners to complain about lost family members and accusations of colonizationthe foremost features of Jaffna sessions.

The mistrust, discontent and anger of the ordinary citizens were shared by Jaffna intellectuals who gave evidence on November 12, accused the government of entrusting Tamil ministers of menial portfolios like law and welfare. When the panel mentioned late Lakshman Kadiragamar a former lecturer of the Jaffna University quipped back ‘he was never popular with the Tamils’.

The LLRC began taking submissions from November 11, and nearly 1000 individuals had come forward to hand over submissions in the first two days. The Commissioners visited Ariyalai and Kopai on the first day while another session was held in Alavetti, Sithankerney, Jaffna Kachcheri and Karainagar on the second day. During both days, the majority of the witnesses asked the LLRC Commissioners to help them find their sons and daughters who have disappeared during the latter part of Ealam War IV.

1000 tales of loss

During the session in Ariyalai, many witnesses were present at the meeting by 7 am and waited till 7pm to give evidence. Most of the stories have a similar story line, sudden abductions by white vans if the incident occurred in an area not directly affected by the Ealam War IV or families splitting up on their way to enter Army controlled areas.

Many accuse the Army and the EPDP of arresting or abducting family members and complain about lukewarm attitude of the authorities in handling of such complaints. The slow reaction of the authorities add to the Tamil peoples suspicion of the security forces and their allies.

Nitiyanandan Sivarubi of Alavetti told the Commission that her husband was abducted on July, 15, 2007 allegedly by army personnel travelling in a white van. She added that two day before the abduction that Army personnel have questioned her husband at the market.

“They have asked him whether he is a LTTE cadre and he has denied saying that he married and is the father of five. That’s why we think he may have been arrested by the army, so please try to help me find him,” she implored the Commissioners who probed deeply into the matter only to discover that a third party pretending to be attached to the Defense Ministry has taken Rs. 200, 000 each from seven such families promising the release of detainees.

“Few months after the abduction the Grama Niladari came and gave me the number of ‘Major Selan’ who could help me arrange the release of my husband. Six other families also contacted Major Selan who demanded Rs 200, 000 to secure the release of our loved once and we gave money to an individual who disappeared from the face of the earth after that,” she said.

Balachandran Annalakshmi was another person who paid Rs 200, 000 to save her brother, Ayyasami Shanmugamalei, who she alleged was abducted by the EPDP. She added that he went to the kovil for the pooja and was abducted by an EPDP cadre named Arivu. Clutching at straws her family also eked out the money that they thought would secure Ayyasami’s freedom.

Commissioners pledged that they would inform the defense secretary and the military establishment about such individuals who operate through/with the supports of state administrators.

Wives of LTTE leaders

Meanwhile, several mothers and widows of former LTTE cadres and leaders also appeared before the commissioners to seek assistance in determining whether they are dead or alive. Wives of Puthuvai Raththinathurai, Head of LTTE’s cultural wing, Yogaratnam Yogi, LTTE military advisor in Vanni and Vijidaran, Deputy of LTTE Political Chief Nadesan appeared before the LLRC to request the commissioners to tell them how their husbands met their ends.

“At Pudumatalan, I was injured by shells fire and I was taken away by the ICRC in May, 2009. After the end of the war, my husband who was Nadesan’s deputy surrendered to the army at Omanthei. I have no news of him ever since and I hear that all the political wing leaders were killed. I don’t know what to believe, can you please tell me whether he is dead or alive,” asked R. Arivoli, Vijidaran’s wife.

In almost all the sessions, the commissioners were not able to listen to all who had lost their family members and had to request the people to hand over their written submissions to the LLRC Secretariat. The extent of the scale of disappearances can be gauged by the fact that over 350 individuals in Sithankerney, which only has 3500 families, were gathered to complain about the loss of family members. Commissioner WMGS Palihakkara had to meet over 300 women who were determined to talk to a commissioner about the disappearance of their family members. Overall in the first two days, over 1000 such requests were submitted in areas of Jaffna which felt relatively little impact of the Ealam War IV.

Another main complaint was resettlement and ownership of land. This has been one of the much discussed topics of the LLRC and an issue of contention between all three main communities. While Muslim and Sinhala communities who were expelled by the LTTE want to return, Tamil community leaders complain that priority should always be given to the Tamils.

A large number of people who had formed societies to press for their issues told the Commissioners that the resettlement process in the High Security Zones (HSZ) were painstakingly slow despite the assurances given by President Rajapaksa and his brother Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Gerald Yesudasan, Chairman of the Maruthankerny Fishermen’s Cooperative told the LLRC that although the government had claimed some areas of the Jaffna HSZ has been relaxed for resettlement the military officers are refusing them entry into the area. He added that there are no mines in the area where he originally comes from.

“We can’t even fish in our traditional fishing grounds and we have to move into other areas and the fisherman of those areas don’t like it, for obvious reasons. On one hand the government said it will relax the HSZ but their ground level administrators refuse to let us near our own homes,” he said.

Access

Muttuthumai Wenayagamurthi, Chairman of the Displaced Association of Vel North requested the LLRC to allow them access to their traditional places of worship. He added that a large number of people are worried that the gods might punish them for not carrying out the prescribed rituals. Although Vel North area is cleared, the ground level military commander has only given them permission to visit the Kovil only once a year.

“We are not allowed to go near the temple but the Army has allowed other vandals to enter our villages and destroy houses and temples. When the owners can’t go in, why is the army allowing others to enter the area?” they quipped.

The much publicized return of 100 Sinhalese families were criticized by many individuals who claim that priority in the resettlement process should be given to the Tamils. The Sinhala families from the South are now camping in a state land in Nawatikudi. Government Agent of Jaffna, Emelda Shukumar told the aggravated citizens that these people have not been resettled yet and the administrators are waiting for the orders of higher ups.

The LLRC extended its tenure by another six months in order to accommodate ever growing numbers of individuals willing to testify before them. An important step considering the response from Jaffna residents which indicate at the troubling undercurrents of discontent and mistrust which flow beneath the fa‡ade of alleged progress made in winning the hearts and minds of the Tamils. COURTESY:LAKBIMA NEWS

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