|“WE ARE REQUESTING THE LIBERATION TIGERS TO LAY DOWN ARMS ONLY TO END VIOLENCE”|
|Friday, 15 August 2008|
(Special Interview given to Kesari by the Secretary-General of the Government’s Peace Secretariat, Professor Rajiva Wijesinha). Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary-General of the Peace Secretariat who is also the Secretary to the Ministry of Human Rights, said he was at a loss to understand why anybody should allege that his Secretariat was a War Secretariat when, in fact, they did not resort to violence or celebrate violence. He made this observation in a Special Interview he gave to Kesari.
Question: What is the position of the government with regard to weapons held by TMVP while demanding the LTTE lay down arms if the talks are to be resumed?
Reply: Our stance is very clear. The request that the LTTE lay down arms, or at least a firm guarantee that they would not use the weapons in their possession, was aimed at putting a stop to violence. We are stressing this having come to understand, through a twenty year experience, that there is no other way. There was an interesting sentence in the views expressed recently by LTTE’s Political Wing leader, Nadesan. That is, he said that if the ceasefire was implemented again, the LTTE would observe it one hundred per cent. He was thus conceding that last time, they did not fully abide by the ceasefire. The position of the TMVP is different. They have to retain their weapons for self defence and agreement had been reached in that regard. I am not referring to the TMVP during clashes that occurred in 2004 and 2005.
Secretary-General of the Government’s Peace Secretariat,
Professor Rajiva Wijesinha
If you care to look at the record pertaining to the last few months, it would be clear that it is only their members who were killed after the TMVP entered the political mainstream and contested democratic elections. Therefore, they cannot be sacrificed in any way. Government had made its position clear as far back as eight months before and the Defence Secretary had stated that TMVP cadres should not carry arms while moving among civilians or use them. The Government is firm that the TMVP will not be allowed to use their weapons. Also, there is no evidence that they had used the weapons. However, there are allegations against the TMVP that they had used the weapons and they should be inquired into.
Even though I said that there was no evidence, certain incidents took place when a TMVP member was killed after the elections. But, the current Chief Minister went there and put a stop to them. This carries the message that such incidents would not be condoned and I think we should appreciate it.
In my view, TMVP as a political party has put a damper on violence and it has joined a government that is not prepared to tolerate violence. To have weapons for self defence is altogether a different subject. I did not think it is possible for us to stop the killings committed by the LTTE. But we will make efforts to ensure that the TMVP does not use their weapons. Our position is very clear until it becomes certain that the threats of the LTTE do not exist.
Question: Allegations of human rights violations are leveled against the Government by various people at a time of intensified clashes. Could you comment on this?
Reply: Actually, human rights are not mostly linked to conflict. You may note that most of the violence was perpetrated in 2006, which was regarded as a period of peace. It concerns the violation of the ceasefire by the LTTE. We can particularly refer to the violence perpetrated on other Tamils. All statistics underline this aspect. In fact, the majority of those killed between 2002 and 2003 were Tamils. Some of them were regarded as informants. Some others belonged to the EPDP. Then again in the 2004 and 2005 period, those belonging to the Karuna faction were affected.
Viewed in this context, there was an increase in the conflict situation in 2006. Other Tamil Parties realized that this situation should not be allowed to recur. But in 2007, there was a decline in the violation of human rights. Human rights violations linked to the conflict could be described as marginal. Some claim that the Sri Lankan military targets civilians. It was unfounded and I have analyzed all the data.
They were minimal and could be described as a few collateral losses suffered during confrontations. They are regrettable but it is common in any conflict situation. For instance, it was clear that allegations of lost civilian lives were made only in respect of six air raids out of a total of 170 raids conducted by the Air Force.
Therefore, in respect of troops engaged in war, they are considered as amongst the best in the world respecting human rights. However, we are facing problems with regard to abductions and extra judicial killings. They did not occur in battle zones. Such incidents are alleged to have happened in Colombo as well. I feel that they should be very carefully investigated. The Police who have a major responsibility should be strengthened not only in numbers but strategically as well.
You may be aware that we encounter problems with regard to the manner in which inquiries and investigations are conducted. I regret that due support was not received for efforts aimed at enhancing the capabilities of the Police through training. For example, four years ago they – meaning foreign groups claiming to be concerned - formed a police support group but what really happened was they entertained themselves without achieving anything tangible.
The exception was the excellent training provided by Sweden on crime investigations but, the Police need further training in undertaking inquiries. I don’t like generalizations. On the contrary, where separate reports are submitted by those concerned with regard to each incident, they should definitely be investigated.
Question: What would you say to claims that Sri Lankan authorities had failed to arrest and bring to justice those guilty of abductions, people going missing and extra judicial killings and requests made in the context for a UN Monitoring Mission to be set up here?
Reply: A UN Monitoring Mission would serve no purpose and also it would be ineffective. Also, we had seen how the lower divisions of the UN had shown lack of confidence and much incompetence. I will cite one example in this regard. A number of UN special representatives visited the country. Some of them produced positive reports, but the UN did not act upon them. If we take up our National Human Rights Commission for an example, the UN report of April 2007 was very favourable in this regard. It made reference to how this Commission headed by Justice Ananda Kumaraswamy took up the allegations that had been shelved by the previous Commission and cleared up the backlog. The UN report said that the procedure adopted by it differed from other Commissions in that it functioned in a judicial fashion.
Radhika Coomaraswamy had earlier served as head of the Commission and her talents were different. You would thus see that two Tamils had been appointed to the post by the Government. On this occasion, it had appointed a former High Court Judge. Justice Ananda Kumaraswamy had sought assistance of UN volunteers to overcome the weaknesses observed by him. However, the UN Advisor at that time prevented the report being made public. The report did not reach the head of the Division in Geneva entrusted with the task of capacity building.
Even though the head of the Commission made a request to make available volunteers from the region, the then UN advisor stated that funds were unavailable. A foreign government had informed me that the said UN official did not use the funds that were made available to him. These UN officials are bent on advancing their own careers. We are not prepared to encourage inefficient foreigners in pursuing their careers.
We are prepared to work with experienced and efficient UN officials like Manfred Novak who was here to submit a report on torture, Walter Kälin who came to study the situation faced by the displaced and Phillip Alston. I think that Phillip Alston in fact produced a very good report. He had strongly censured the LTTE while also pointing to shortcomings on our part. He made four suggestions on how best we could overcome them. We are aware that we have problems.
Unfortunately, he did not reply to my letter, and when asked he attributed it to his workload. We need more efficient action in such situations. As far as inquiries are concerned, may be we are slow.
But, it is common to all countries where there are delays in inquiries. If we look at BBC TV, we would find a lot of information with regard to slow pace of inquiries. Also, there are many allegations of partiality at higher levels. However, some people think that Sri Lanka is unique in this respect. There are problems and we have to show progress in those areas.
Question: What is your opinion with regard to criticism that the Presidential Commission appointed to inquire into serious human rights violations is moving at a slow pace and that its activities are unsatisfactory?
Reply: If you had observed the activities of the past few weeks, it would become clear that the Commission was making efforts to act in the best possible manner. The Commission did not seek to hide anything. Nobody had questioned the credibility or commitment of those in the Commission. It is unfair that the criticism of the Commission had been carried out in a partial and planned manner.
Question: About the allegations that the Peace Secretariat under you is functioning as a War Secretariat?
Reply: I think that such allegations are made by some foolish people who are ignorant of language. The Peace Secretariat has the responsibility to create confidence in the peace efforts as a whole. The unfair and unjust criticism leveled against those engaged in peace efforts should be met definitely through words and not through violence.
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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