Click for News Update: tweetsTrove

transCurrents Home

Govt must show more sincerity and purpose in t alks - Sumanthiran

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

The issues faced by the Tamil community and finding a political settlement will have to be done through discussions, says TNA Parliamentarian and Attorney at Law, M.A. Sumanthiran.

In an e-mail interview with The Sunday Leader, Sumanthiran observed that the TNA was engaged in discussions honestly and sincerely with a view to resolving all issues. “There is no other way. We wish that the government too would show more sincerity and purpose in this matter,” he said. Speaking of looking for a political settlement beyond the 13th Amendment, Sumanthiran observed there was no need to discuss anything further than the 13th Amendment if it is the solution to the issue.

Excerpts:

Q: What has been the outcome of the four rounds of discussions the TNA has had with the government?

A: Our discussions have been on two fronts. One, on immediate issues faced by our people and the other on a long-term political settlement. The first three rounds were on both matters, with the meetings being divided into two parts. The fourth meeting was only on the immediate issues. The next, on the 29th of April, will be on the political settlement.

We have an agreement not to divulge the details of the discussions regarding the political solution to the public at this stage, except through a joint statement which we issue after each meeting.

On the immediate issues, we placed three matters — long term detainees, resettlement in ‘high security zones’ and illegal armed groups. The government delegation responded with regard to the armed groups issue by undertaking to amend the Criminal Procedure Code and making the possession of illegal arms, a non-bailable offence.

No proper response has emerged with regard to the other two matters. The ‘surrendees’ after the war ended, are said to number around 4,500. Their identities are not known. The result is that many thousands of parents don’t know whether their children are yet living or not! The government delegation assured us in writing that there was a computer data base that was already made accessible for the next of kin to check. However no such facility was made available. People who went there consequent to our publicity were chased away by the police.

At the subsequent meeting the government delegation apologized but to date the situation has not changed. At the last meeting it was agreed that on the 16th of April both parties would go there and check that data base and then announce the date on which this will become operable.

Another example of the government delegation’s information being inaccurate is with regard to resettlement in Thirumurigandy. When we inquired last June, we were told that the roofing sheets were getting delayed and that within a month the people could be resettled there. At the last meeting we were told that demining is not over there!

We have pointed out that we ourselves have walked around in that area and that there were no mines there. Now we find that bull dozers are being employed there to even close all the wells.

Q: How confidant is the TNA of being able to resolve the issues faced by the Tamil communities through discussions with the government?

A: We are engaged in the discussions honestly and sincerely with a view to resolving all issues. There is no other way. We wish that the government too would show more sincerity and purpose in this matter.

Q: Sections of the Tamil community are displeased with the TNA’s decision to discuss with the government. How do you respond?

A: Past experiences and even the fact that presently also there doesn’t seem to be any intent in the government, perhaps makes them think so. But we will have to resolve all the issues through discussions.

Q: The government has nominated External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris and MP Sajin Vass Gunawardena to represent the state. Do you think these officials hold the authority to help resolve issues faced by the Tamil people?

A: That is not a matter for us to comment. The President has nominated the government delegation. So they have his confidence. Similarly the TNA delegation was nominated by our Leader, Mr. Sampanthan.

Q: The TNA was preparing a set of proposals on finding a political solution to the ethnic issue. What is the TNA looking at proposing and when will they be presented to the government?

A: We are only placing points for discussion so that the proposal can emerge from this committee. As I said earlier we are not free to make public those discussions yet.

Q: India has reportedly asked the TNA to request for a political solution that goes beyond the 13th Amendment. Do you think the government would agree to such a request?

A: That news item is not accurate. What was stated was that India says that the solution must go beyond the 13th Amendment. Foreign Minister Krishna said so in his speech in Jaffna. If the 13th Amendment is the answer, there is no need for any further discussion now. That is the law at present. The worst part of the violence also took place after 1987. That is why the President has now appointed a committee to come up with a solution.

Q: What option would the TNA have in the event the government rejects its proposals including the request for a solution beyond the 13th Amendment?

A: Well, I don’t think we should speculate on that now, while we are engaged in a sincere dialogue. But I can say that if the Tamil people’s repeated democratic verdict is ignored a different scenario will definitely emerge.

International Law has also developed over the last 60 years.

Q: How effective has the TNA been in addressing the issues faced by the Tamil people, especially the detainees?

A: Not effective at all. I have already given an example. The government must sincerely engage with us as the elected representatives of the Tamil people.

Q: What is your comment on the move to add three chapters on President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the new volume of the Mahavamsa?

A: I have no comment since the accuracy of the existing chapters are also in serious doubt. ~ courtesy: The Sunday Leader ~

7 Comments

''That is why the President has now appointed a committee to come up with a solution.''

What is this committee? When was it formed? Who are in it? Anyone please. Thank you.

Posted by: eureka | April 16, 2011 12:57 PM

For the resolution of the National Question, which was the basis for beginnings of the Tamil insurgency, the government has also before it the proposals formulated by the All Parties Representatives Committee and its Experts Panel. It was appointed by none other than the President Mahinda Rajapakse and the APRC was headed by a cabinet minister. A small minority dissented from the report; the government’s inability to go ahead with the recommendations of the committee suggests that the government is really a prisoner of the agenda of that small minority. If the government is really interested in resolving the National Question, the government should have the courage and the foresight to formulate and present a set of constitutional proposals based on the reports/draft bill before it; there is no need to have long drawn out talks with the TNA; such endless talks will not only be a time-buying exercise but make the final resolution of the National Question that much more difficult.

Posted by: Tissa | April 16, 2011 11:40 PM

"the honesty and sincerity of purpose" in reaching a settlement must apply to both sides. For the 3rd time,
the Govt delegation is reported to have assured the names of all those held will be made known on 16/4/11 by the TID officials at Vavuniya. In honestly and sincerely trusting the Govt - again - the TNA passed on this assurance to the anxious parents/relatives of the detainees who still do not know if their children/husbands/brothers/fathers are living or dead. The Ven Mahanayake of Asgiriya Udugama Sri Buddharakita Thero commenting on the unfavourable UNSG Report elsewhere says "no Tamil civilians were harmed" which is clearly not consistent with what happened in that week in May 2009. There must be a myriad of other reasons to defend the Govt than this untenable statement.

It is learned Secy of the Conference MP Sajin Vaas Gunawardena now says officials who had gone for the New Year holidays have not returned and, therefore, the Govt cannot meet its re-assured commitment. Surely, Govt officials should have known if April 16 was appropriate or not considering the long week holidays. Alternatively, there will be a belief among the Tamil people the date suggested is to wilfully bluff the TNA delegation and the people concerned. Not for the first time, there is clearly a lack of objectivity on the part of the Govt in this sensitive matter. No wonder many Tamils feel they are being once again "taken down the garden path" in that miserable trail of broken promises of 1957, 1965 and many since then.

Now, with the tension and the drama that is bound to flow from the UNSG Report negotiations between the two sides will very likely lose its momentum - taking us back to Square 1 once more.

ISS

Posted by: Ilaya Seran Senguttuvan | April 17, 2011 06:21 PM

It is not only nothern tamils who live in sri-lanka. There are many other people living in sri-lanka (who form almost 92% per cent of the population taken together and who are NOT demanding further political solutions)and all those people dont want to go beyond the 13th amendment to the constitution as the political solution but however are happy with the 13th amendment as the political solution or are totally not bothered to go beyond the 13th amendment as the political solution.

The solution to this problem was suggested in 1987 as the 13th amendment to the constitution and in 1988 16th amendment to the constitution. Now twenty years have gone by since then. This is the political solution. The vast majority of sri-lankan people are not ready to come up with this or that new 'solution' according the whims and fancies of the TNA or any other entity.

Therefore accept reality and accept the 13th amendment and the 16th amendment and work with it and work with the rest of sri-lanka and live and let live this is what I should tell the TNA live and let live.

Posted by: monkey | April 19, 2011 02:02 AM

With the official response from TNA to the UNSG panel report, the people of Sri Lanka will not be able to take TNA as a honest partner for a durable peace in this country.

It appears to be back to square 1 in the search for a honest partner for dialogue among Tamils.

Posted by: Hela | April 19, 2011 03:23 AM

Tamils doesn't appear to want any kind of reconciliation. They seemed to want to carry on their avowed declaration at Wadukkoddai on the May14, 1976. Only they would change the word 'arms' in that resolution by 'pens' and 'rhetorics'.

They do not want to follow Thonderman's tactics. They'd rather follow ideals of megalomaniac Pirapaharan and his racist predecessors.

People like ISS are dreaming. But we are sure that there is no drama would follow the comic report by the stooges of the neo-colonialists.

To put it all in few words: According to Inner City Press, the Russian government has opposed all discussion on Sri Lanka, on the basis of the UN Panel report, at the Security Council briefing. And the Chinese, the African Union, the Arab League, the Non Align Movement etc will join Russia soon. Needless to say, all the eulogies of 'drama' will end up in the dustbin period
Leela

Posted by: Anonymous | April 19, 2011 08:47 PM

The problem in political settlement is that politics is based on the art of the possible. But, what I think needs to happen in Sri Lanka is not political settlement, but a change of heart in the majority Sinhalese people that Sri Lanka belongs to all people including them and the Tamils in the North and East of Sri Lanka must realise that there are Tamils are Tamils all over the island nation, not just in the north and east of the country. Therefore if Sinhalese come and buy homes fine, but not state sponsored colonisation, including keeping the IDP's in lock up indefinitely. Nevertheless, the LTTE must be totally dismantled in every manner and form, and this question can be answered substantially by Minster Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan and other LTTE prime persons, such as K. P Pathmanathan. Therefore this what the country needs to address, with good development and infrastructure development to enhance all Sri Lankans and the nation economically, socially, educationally and in regard to quality governance, especially district administration and quality civil administration and ensure to stop hideous and treacherous inhuman and criminal acts, such as contact killing and other acts of civil disorder, such as extortion of people from overseas for money. These factors and prompting quality role models is vital or paramount to move the country productively forward,, as one nation, not a divided people.

Posted by: Muralidaran Ramesh Somasunderam | April 24, 2011 05:00 PM

Post a comment

(The comment may need to be approved by transcurrents.com. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting; generally approved/posted if they are not abusive of the topic as well as the author and/or another commenter.)

(Please write the comment in paragraphs if its long and allow space between paragraphs, for easier reading by others)

Recent Posts on TC