1 March, 2024


Geneva Resolution & The TNA

By M.A. Sumanthiran

M.A. Sumanthiran

M.A. Sumanthiran

As I begin, I must put on record and correct certain misapprehensions that some Members seem to be harbouring with regard to our Party’s position in respect of this Resolution. I will read out the statement that we issued on the day the Resolution was adopted. It states, I quote:

“The Tamil National Alliance welcomes the passage of today’s resolution on Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council.”

We have welcomed it.

“We welcome, in particular, Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the resolution indicating their willingness to implement it in full.

The TNA has already welcomed the tabling of the draft last week after consensus was reached, and reiterate those sentiments. We hope that the spirit of cooperation that enabled consensus will animate the government’s work in implementing this historic resolution.

Thursday’s resolution reflects a difficult consensus, and involved the weakening of some paragraphs in the original draft resolution and the strengthening of others. We are deeply mindful that any perceived compromise causes hurt to those most traumatized by the horrific crimes that have been committed in Sri Lanka.

Nevertheless, the resolution – if implemented – provides a genuine opportunity for real progress on accountability and reconciliation. We are grateful to the co-sponsors of the resolution for engaging with the TNA throughout the process, and accommodating our concerns and views.”

This remains our position to date. So, I urge the Hon. Members – who perhaps misunderstood our position – as much as you say that you worked on reducing the hard impact of this Resolution, we have in our statement said that weakening of some of those paragraphs have hurt the sentiments of people who are most traumatized. But, we have gone on to say, nevertheless that this gives an opportunity to move forward together and it is in that spirit that we have welcomed it.

We are happy today that Members of the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the two biggest Parties in this country, are agreed that this Resolution must be implemented. What you are saying is that you really did not even need this prodding from international community and you yourselves want to do it. That was reflected when you co-sponsored it. When you co-sponsor a resolution, it is more than agreeing to that resolution. It is taking ownership for the resolution. This Resolution is not that of the UN Human Rights Council anymore. This is your Resolution. Nobody who stands up and proposes a Resolution or seconds it – in this case co-sponsors it – can then say; “We will decide now what parts of this Resolution that we like, that we can implement and so on.” This is your Resolution. You fully own it and we congratulated you on the 1st of October 2015 for taking that bold step. We also congratulate you today for taking the bold step of abiding by this Resolution and for the speeches made on both Sides of the House affirming that this Resolution is supportive of the processes that you yourselves wish to initiate for accountability and for reconciliation in Sri Lanka. We are fully supportive of that.

The Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he made the speech on the 14th of September at the UN Human Rights Council very clearly said, “We are no longer in the land of denial.” He was very bold. He even went to the extent of saying, “We have failed in the past – several Commissions were appointed; nothing saw the light of day; reports were not even made public”. Then, he appealed and said, “But, have trust in us. We are different now. We will deliver”. And I must say, your actions today in this House have demonstrated that. When he made that statement, we said, “Well, it is all good for him to say that in words. But he himself says that successive governments have not delivered, have failed and having said that merely asking people, ‘Now, have confidence in us’ will not work.” People must see action. People must see it being implemented. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating “; they say. They must actually see it happening. So, I want to repeat what we said on the 14th of September again in this House, not from a sense of superiority or anything like that, but as fellow citizens we appeal to you and say, let the people actually see it; feel it and experience it.

Your words today are most welcome. But, please remember they remain only words up to now. This Resolution must be implemented in full. I say, “in full,” because I was rather disturbed when the Hon. Mahinda Samarasinghe sought to make a distinction between “implementing the Thirteenth Amendment” and “implementing the Thirteenth Amendment in full”. I asked him, “What is the difference?”. If it makes any difference, after this, in every sentence you mean to say, “I will do this” you have to say, “I will do this in full”. If you give a commitment to do something, you do it. You do not come and say, “I never said I will do it in full”. So, because of that speech made in the morning, I am saying now that “this Resolution must be implemented in full”. Otherwise, I would have stopped with the words, “It must be implemented”. But, it must be implemented in full for the reason that I have already stated that this is your Resolution, nobody else’s, not ours, you co- sponsored it.

This promise that the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs made very rightly and very boldly must be kept. Because it is in keeping that, that we can together stand up in the international community and show the others that we keep our word; that we deal with these difficult issues. These are difficult issues, no doubt. But the measure of our country in the international community will be known only when we keep to our word and we implement. We actually have to show it in action.

Sir, I want to say a word about sovereignty since that word is often misused. Sovereignty is the right of a people – perhaps of a republic – to rule themselves, to retain for themselves the right to make decisions and to implement them and not to concede it to one person or two or anybody else. It is a right of the people and that is why our Constitution also says that “sovereignty resides in the people”. But that cannot mean that sovereignty can be exercised only by some people to the exclusion of others and that has been the problem in this country, because there are several peoples who inhabit this Island. They are in different proportions. Some are 70 per cent, some are 20 per cent, some are 10 per cent and some may be 5 per cent or even less. But that does not mean that a particular group that is superior in numbers can solely exercise sovereignty and exclude others from exercising any measure of sovereignty. That has been the issue that has plagued this country and if we are now truly turning around, if we are now seeing a new path, that must be a path in which every single person, every citizen must have equal citizenship rights, irrespective of which peoples group he or she belongs to. That right of sovereignty must be real. It is not with regard to citizens and non-citizens or colonial rulers. It is also within this country. That sum, merely because of numerical superiority, does not hoard that sovereignty to themselves and exclude others from having any share in that sovereignty. That would be a mistake. I am saying this because several statements were made with regard to sovereignty. It is because we were specifically excluded when the Republican Constitution was made in 1972 that this issue heightened. Firstly, it was equality. It was discrimination. But the First and the Second Republican Constitutions excluded us from the exercise of sovereignty, from the exercise of State power and that is why we said, “Well, if you exclude us, then let us have our own way. Leave us alone”.

My Party President, the Hon. Mavai S. Senathirajah, read out to you a newspaper article of a meeting that was held recently where several Members of this House – I am sad to say – have said, “We will now create a Sinhala State in this country”. If that is the case, then necessarily you will have to allow us to be by ourselves, because we do not belong to the Sinhala State. I am a Sri Lankan, but I am not a Sinhalese. The Sinhalese are a great race with a long tradition. They can be proud of their heritage. But I do not belong to that race. I am a Tamil,and I am equally proud of my race. Being a Tamil, I have my own heritage; equally long, if not longer. Therefore, if you talk in terms of sovereignty and imply that sovereignty means that only the Sinhala people of this country can exercise it, then you yourself are telling us to divide. We are not asking for it. The persons who say that this is a Sinhala country are the very persons who are telling us to divide, to be separate. You are the separatists, not us. I said that I was very saddened that several Members of this House were saying that. But I am glad that they can be counted on one’s fingers, only a few, and that is why I said at the beginning of my speech that I am glad that the two major parties have agreed today that this Resolution must be adopted. This Government is also a hybrid Government – this is a season for hybrids. First, we had the cars; now, we have a Government. This is a hybrid Government. Let us have a court. That also reflects a new trend. That will give confidence to the people most traumatized by violence. Whatever mechanism that you institute will be useless if it does not have the confidence of the victims. It must be something that the victims appreciate; it must be something that the victims accept as a just mechanism. Grandeur illusions of sovereignty cannot instill in the victims a sense of belonging, a sense of satisfaction, a sense of justice. The credibility of that mechanism is the most important aspect, not what we think as our sovereignty.

If you are truly concerned about reconciliation, if you are true to your word about being responsible with regard to accountability, then you must strictly adhere to what you yourself have proposed in the Resolution. In the Resolution they have very specifically stated the importance of certain persons who will not be citizens of this country participating in that special court. It says the importance of that participation. You have identified that as an important element, not the UN Human Rights Council, but you yourself. You have underlined it and said that judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators are important. You have categorized them into four categories and you have said that it is important that Commonwealth and foreign personnel participate. Surely, it must be participation by them in those very capacities; not otherwise, as somebody said, “technical assistance and so on”. No, if it is technical assistance of international community, you say “technical assistance of international community”. You do not separately identify the different categories of persons participating. A judge participates a qua judge; a prosecutor participates a qua prosecutor; a lawyer participates a qua lawyer; an investigator participates in his capacity as an investigator and not to sit and give advice as to how this is to be done. So, we urge more than you, that this Resolution must be implemented.

Is it not strange that the Government sponsors a Resolution and we are saying, we are more keen that you implement it in full more than you, because we represent the victim community. I am not saying only the Tamil people are victims in this country. Many people are made victims through this war. But, if you take it as a whole, we perhaps represent those most traumatized by the violence, because that end period was most traumatic and most allegations about violations, about war crimes, about crimes against humanity arise from that period and as true political representatives of those people, of that community, it is our bounden duty to raise these concerns to underline what you yourself have underlined in the Resolution. We wish you underline and highlight it today – the importance of such a mechanism; the importance of such proper participation without which your mechanism for justice will fall flat on its face.

We congratulate you for adopting the principles of transitional justice. The Hon. Minister spoke about the four pillars of transitional justice – of truth, of justice, of reparation and the guarantee of non-recurrence. The second pillar of justice must not only be done but also be seemed to be done. That is what Sir Desmond de Silva has said as quoted in the Paranagama Commission. That is what Sir Desmond de Silva, QC is reported to have said when he was a prosecutor in Gambia. What has he said? He has said; for people to have any confidence, all of these people – prosecutors and judges – not just a hybrid, he says, “all of them” – must come from outside. Your Sir Desmond – I say, “your Sir Desmond” because Desmond de Silva gave an opinion to the Government of Sri Lanka on the 23rd of February, 2014, five months before he was appointed to the Panel of Experts by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Five months prior to being identified and paraded to the world as an “independent expert”, he gave an opinion, for which fees were paid by the Government of Sri Lanka on the very questions that were gazetted – for him to assist the Commission to find answers on distinction, on proportionality and on collateral damage. On all of these three principles, he gave a written opinion dated the 23rd of February, 2014 and five months later, he was brought in as an independent expert.

On the last occasion I spoke on this matter, I said this is a clear conflict of interests. Any final-year law student who studies ethics will know that and I urge the Government of Sri Lanka to make a complaint against him to the UK Bar Standards Board. I am thankful that somebody has made a complaint and Sir Desmond de Silva is now facing a disciplinary inquiry before the UK Bar Standards Board. But, the point I am making is that even Sir Desmond de Silva’s opinion, when he was performing another role, when he was not paid by the Sri Lankan Government – when he was paid, he gave another opinion – but when he was prosecuting in Gambia in the first internationalized court, the first hybrid court, as a prosecutor, his opinion then, was that every prosecutor and judge must come from outside. So, the point I am making is, even the person you bought for money, when he was not bought by you for money, gave that opinion, an independent opinion.

Look at the Paranagama Commission Report. Quite contrary to what the Hon. Lakshman Senewiratne said, we are not picking what we like from this report and that report and putting together and saying others are bad. That is not what we are doing. He must follow the argument properly. What we are saying is that we wanted the Paranagama Commission’s mandate terminated forthwith. We never had any confidence in the Paranagama Commission’s sittings. In fact, the OISL Report, in its recommendations, states, “Terminate that Commission; terminate that mandate. That has no credibility”. Even today, that is our position with regard to the Paranagama Commission. The point that we are making, though, is very different. What we are saying is, even such a bad Commission, even that Commission, could not escape from saying that Channel 4 video does not seem to be faked; it seems genuine. All of those photographs of extra judicial executions do not seem to be faked; they seem to be genuine. Therefore, conduct an independent judicial inquiry. Sir, I will, at this point, say that because the Paranagama Commission Report on those three vital questions – on distinction, proportionality and collateral damage – for which they got international so-called “expert” help, went with Sir Desmond’s prior opinion on the Sri Lankan Government. They did not exercise their mind to the matter; they went with the paid opinion and reproduced it in this Report. They had to strike some balance; they had to show something that seems to be reasonable. And these are the issues they have highlighted – surrendering under a white flag; several other surrenders and of disappearances. So, there must be answers found to this. There must be persons held responsible for this.

It is not only the army’s atrocities that are highlighted in the OISL Report. The OISL Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights identifies several acts of the LTTE and terms them “war crimes”. We have very specifically, in our statements, welcomed the entire Report and have gone further and said, “This also gives us – the Tamil people – an opportunity to introspect”. As the Tamil National Alliance, we have said, “ We are prepared to lead our people through that painful process of introspection, of looking inward, looking to see what went wrong with us”. Now, we are prepared to do that. It is not a politically expedient thing; it is not a populist thing. It will bring us under a severe, sharp focus, but we are willing to do that because if we are to move forward, if the words “reconciliation” and “accountability” are to have any meaning in this country at all for the future, we must be prepared to do that. That is why I am happy that today in this House the two major Parties have taken that seriously, taken accountability seriously.

Stop being a Government of denial. Accept that these horrific things did happen. We all are ashamed that this happened. But, let us see how we can deal with that justly, honestly and transparently to the satisfaction of the victims, more than anybody else – not to boost our image, not to contemplate what the other countries will think of us, of our national image, as it were. Let me say most humbly that we will only elevate our national image if we truly deal with these issues and rightly deliver justice without sweeping these matters under the carpet.

Let me conclude, Sir, by saying that, as for the Tamil National Alliance, we are willing to give the Government our fullest support for the full implementation of this Resolution. The Resolution that you sponsored, we accept with its limitations – still, we accept it – but we want to see it fully implemented. It is not an easy task, we understand. It is not easy for you; it is not easy for us. But, we have made a start and we are willing to go with you in that journey. Our appeal to you is that you stand firm in your resolve to go through that difficult path and do not give in to extremist voices, because extremist voices on both sides can be marginalized fully if we come together and deal with these questions honestly and sincerely.

Thank you very much.

*M A Sumanthiran’s Speech on UNHCR Resolution at the SL Parliament

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Latest comments

  • 6

    Very Well Said, Mr. Sumanthiran.

    But the problem is, many people inside parliament and outside it cannot read or understand simple English. Even many of those who do, are incapable of grasping simple facts!

  • 3

    A very impressive speech, as usual. To put it succinctly, you have caught the proverbial
    tiger by its tail ! (or a lion?). It need not be stressed that the majority be fully
    educated as to playing continual politics with our national problem must be overcome, as the next step, atleast in the name of a war-victory?

  • 6

    The TNA has compromised too much. Sumanthiran, as its spokesman, has denied the possibility of genocide. He has made inconsistent statements on the basis of his lack of understanding of the issues involved in genocide. Equally, in this speech, he supports a hybrid court, knowing that it is unworkable in the Sri Lankan context. It is best that the TNA adopts a definite course on these issues without resorting to its traditional policy of appeasement in the hope of eventually getting some positions and perks for its members as they did in the past.

    • 3

      Ponkoh Sivakumaran
      Thanga (October 5, 2015 at 4:14 am) made the following comment in this article.

      If anyone cares to read Sumanthiran’s parliamentary speeches he has claimed that there is genocide and the genocide continues even now. The land grab by the army and the uprooting of several thousands depriving of their livelihoods is genocide. The systematic colonization of the east and north is genocide. The colonization was intended to alter the demography of the Thamil people to the status of a minority in the east. The Sinhalese who constituted just 8.40% in 1946 census jumped to 23.15% in 2012 census. The following table shows the changes in demography among the 3 major communities.

      Year Tamil Muslim Sinhalese No % No % No %
      1946 136,059 48.75% 109,024 39.06% 23,456 8.40%
      1953 167,898 47.37% 135,322 38.18% 46,470 13.11%
      1981 410,156 42.06% 315,436 32.34% 243,701 24.99%
      2012 617,295 39.79% 569,738 36.72% 359,136 23.15%

      But what Sumanthiran also says is claiming genocide is one thing, proving same in an international court of law is a different kettle of fish.

      A U.N. commission said the government of Sudan and militias have acted together in committing widespread atrocities in Darfur that should be prosecuted by an international war crimes tribunal, but the violent acts do not amount to genocide. The commission, charged with investigating the violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced more than 1.8 million people, found that “most attacks were deliberately and indiscriminately directed against civilians.”

      “In particular, the commission found that government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur,” the commission said in its 176-page report.

      “These acts were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis, and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity.” However, the commission said it does not believe the atrocities committed amount to a policy of genocide, as the United States has alleged.

      The case of Srebrenica was different. The ICTY and the International Court of Justice have called the events genocide. The Srebrenica massacre came amid the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia into independent states in the 1990s.

      Serbia backed Bosnian Serb forces fighting the Muslim-led Bosnian government during the conflict.

      In July 1995, in what was supposed to have been a UN safe haven, Bosnian Serb forces took control of Srebrenica. They rounded up and killed about 8,000 men and boys and buried them in mass graves.

      There is some chance that the hybrid judicial criminal court soon to be appointed to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity may pronounce the killing of Thamils during the closing phase of the war amount to genocide. The shelling of hospitals, schools, using heavy weapons, dropping phosphorous bombs, expulsion of UN staff, the deliberate starving of the people by understating the number of civilians holed up at Nandikal at 70,000 when the actual figure was close to 300,000 may constitute genocide. So let us wait for the outcome of the inquiry.

      • 2

        “But what Sumanthiran also says is claiming genocide is one thing, proving same in an international court of law is a different kettle of fish.”

        If that is all that he is saying, then Sumanthiran is not saying much. Everyone knows that accusing a person of murder is one thing, proving it is another.

        The issue is whether he thinks that genocide was committed. He has been ambivalent on this point, at least, as far as different newspaper reports of his statements go, It will be good if he makes a categorical statement saying that he thinks that the killings of the Tamils, particularly at Nandikadal amounted to genocide and that persons responsible should be prosecuted.

        • 1

          I agree with you Ponkoh Sivakumaran.

          This is mR Sampanthan’s speech in parliament on 23rd October 2015

          To Promote Reconciliation and Accountability, We Need to Take All Our People on this Journey – R. Sampanthan

          By R. Sampanthan, (MP,TNA).

          Mr. Deputy Chairman of Committees, we are discussing through this Adjournment Motion the Resolution adopted at the 30th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Promoting Reconciliation. This is the fourth Resolution relating to Sri Lanka adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in consecutive years; the others being in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively.

          It could be said that we brought this situation upon ourselves. As a sovereign country and as a long-standing Member of the United Nations, which commanded the friendship and respect of fellow member States, we had every opportunity to steer more favourably the course of events on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, if that was in deed what we truly desired, while, at the same time, also recognizing our responsibility as a Member of the United Nations and our commitment as such Member to that august body. Sri Lanka is a party to and has subscribed to several covenants adopted by the United Nations, pertaining to human rights, which Sri Lanka is bound to accept and comply with.

          Rajapaksa and Ban ki-Moon agreed ..
          Rajapaksa and Ban ki-Moon agreed ..

          When the Secretary-General of the United Nations visited Sri Lanka in May, 2009, almost immediately after the war came to an end, there was a Joint Communiqué issued by the President of Sri Lanka and the Secretary-General, where Sri Lanka agreed to address the question of accountability relating to the manner in which the war was prosecuted during, particularly, its final stages. This was a commitment which the Sri Lankan Government failed to honour.

          It was in these circumstances that the Secretary-General of the UN appointed a Committee of three experts, headed by Mr. Darusman of Indonesia, to advise him on the question of accountability in Sri Lanka. It was that Report of the Darusman Committee which initially brought into the public domain the violations of international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws by both sides to the conflict. The violations by both sides were clearly and specifically recorded in that Report.

          The Sri Lankan Government rejected that Report and referred to that in the most derogatory terms. Even when the United Nations Human Rights Council Resolutions were adopted in 2012 and 2013, there was ample opportunity for the Sri Lankan Government to address the issue of accountability through a domestic process, which Sri Lanka arrogantly and recklessly refused to do. Sri Lanka unreservedly rejected those Resolutions that were adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012 and 2013, though those Resolutions were carried convincingly at the Human Rights Council Sessions in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

          The Sri Lankan Government, which was drunk with power at the domestic level, where authoritarianism was on public display; where the rule of law had deteriorated to such a degree that impunity was rampant and where all institutions, whose independence was crucial and essential for good governance, were treated with utter contempt and became subordinate to the rulers, seemed also to have mistakenly believed that even internationally its conduct could be as arrogant and reckless.

          This uniform conduct at both the domestic and the international levels was driven by shallow thinking to serve a very narrow and self-serving political agenda, which was to retain political power in the country at any cost, even by crudely inciting feelings of chauvinistic nationalism and pseudo-patriotism on the continued imaginary footing of a threat to the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

          The United Nations and every member of the international community, big or small, and even political forces within this country, ever since the concept of sharing powers of governance meaningfully began to be addressed more than 25 years ago, have unequivocally subscribed to the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka and all democratic verdicts in the country in the same period have once again clearly established that reality. The verdicts of all the people in the country at the Presidential Elections in January – 2015, despite the constitutional and electoral manipulations and despite the full deployment of the resources of the State to the advantage of the incumbent – and at the Parliamentary Elections in August, 2015 have clearly demonstrated that the people of this country are not prepared to continue to be victims of such selfish, self-centred maneuvering and scheming and that in their view, Sri Lanka must march unitedly to a prosperous and better future based upon the universal principles of justice and equality, truth, democracy and good governance.

          We need to be conscious of the fact that there are forces in this country, who, in order to pursue their narrow political agenda of capturing political power, will continue to resort to this agenda of spreading ill will and discord amongst our people based on such imaginary fears and suspicions and this should not be allowed if we are to develop into a modern State, exploiting our full potential and enjoying a quality of life comparable with many other prosperous States the world over. This is something which everyone, who has the best interests of Sri Lanka at heart, should remember.

          If I may revert to the UN Human Rights Council Resolution, Sir, it was the Resolution adopted in 2014 that mandated an investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights with the assistance of three much-respected international experts. Even in 2014, there was every opportunity available to the Sri Lankan Government to commence a transparent, independent and a credible domestic process to address the question of accountability in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was adamant that it would not do the right thing.

          A Resolution in 2014, mandating an investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights became inevitable. The Sri Lankan Government rejected the Resolution adopted in 2014 and publicly declared that it would not assist the investigation. It went on to prevent the investigators from arriving in Sri Lanka to proceed with the investigation and thereby even impeded and obstructed the investigation. The people of this country need to ask themselves the question whether the Sri Lankan Government was not being palpably unreasonable and foolish in doing so and whether it was not the most short-sighted conduct on the part of the then Sri Lankan Government that has brought upon this country the present situation. The investigation was conducted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its Report was available to be tabled at the Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in March, 2015.

          Zeid al-Hussein High Commissioner for Human Rights agreed to postpone the OISL report to give new govt time
          Zeid al-Hussein High Commissioner for Human Rights agreed to postpone the OISL report to give new govt time

          There was a change in the office of the President in January, 2015 in Sri Lanka, followed by the assumption of office by the new Prime Minister and consequent to a more cooperative and rational approach adopted by the new Sri Lankan Government, the tabling of the Investigation Report was postponed to September, 2015.

          The General Elections in August, 2015 have confirmed the continuance in office of the same Prime Minister and also enabled the formation of a National Government incorporating the two main political parties in the country. The Investigation Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been presented at the 30th Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council, and a Resolution has been adopted on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. This has been done on the basis of consensus and Sri Lanka has been a co-sponsor of the Resolution. All members of the UN Human Rights Council have agreed to and supported the Resolution. This is indeed a significant achievement which has the support of the entire international community. Sri Lanka was defeated in 2012, in 2013 and in 2014, when Resolutions were adopted at the UN Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka has been able to win back the trust of the international community and redeem the country from the path of confrontation and conflict that was rather unwisely pursued by the former regime. This course of action, in my submission, is in the best interest of Sri Lanka and all its peoples.

          Sri Lanka and its peoples should not be isolated from the international community. Our relationship should be built on mutual trust and confidence. Such trust and confidence also depend upon the country’s performance and the international community’s assessment of the country’s performance domestically. Very much more needs to be done in Sri Lanka. In many an area we have not even started or merely started on what needs to be done. We have a long way to go before we can achieve real progress on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. We need to however recognize and acknowledge the difference in attitude and approach between that of the former regime and the present regime. This has been the main reason for the High Commissioner for Human Rights agreeing to the tabling of the Investigation Report being deferred until the 30th Session in September, 2015 and the Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council not being as strident or stringent as it could have been otherwise. This only enhances the need for the current Sri Lankan Government to discharge its duties and responsibilities with commitment expeditiously and effectively so as to provide the necessary relief to the long-suffering civilian population in the North and East. Very much needs to be done and I am sure, the Government is aware of that, and the Government must address this issue as expeditiously as it can.

          The way to start could be by honestly and fully implementing the Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council. Having co-sponsored the Resolution and the Resolution having been adopted on the basis of consensus amongst all members of the UN Human Rights Council, it would be in Sri Lanka’s interest to ensure that the Resolution is fully, honestly and effectively implemented. The Resolution has the preambular paragraphs and the operative paragraphs. We have all read the Resolution. It may not be necessary for me to analyze the various paragraphs in the Resolution. The Resolution is clear and, in my submission, well-balanced.

          If I may comment briefly on the judicial mechanism, I would only state that if it was exclusively international, a section of the people in this country could be apprehensive, that it would be prejudicial to their interests or the interests of their kith and kin or people close to them and could therefore be opposed by that section of the people. If it was exclusively domestic, yet another section of the people could be apprehensive that it would be prejudicial to their interests and could therefore be opposed to it. In support of such apprehension on their part could be their past experiences. In both instances, it would be the perception of the people that would matter and not what the real position is.

          In the circumstances, a via media would be the best course of action; would be the least controversial and perhaps inevitable. If we are to genuinely promote reconciliation and accountability, we would need to take along with us all our people on this journey. The Resolution addresses this question adequately. We need to ensure that the Resolution is strictly observed and implemented. What is important is that we do not promote hostility amongst our people. The effort must be aimed at bridging the existing gulf.

          The whole purpose of this exercise is to address the issues that pertain to the civilian population. The civilian population, at all times, have certain definite rights that need to be safeguarded. No one is advocating any rights on behalf of the LTTE. In fact, very serious charges of grave violations are being levelled against the LTTE in the Investigation Report of the UN Human Rights Council. The law has to be maintained. The country knows what happened to tens of thousands of youth in the South during the JVP insurrections in the early 70’s and the late 80’s. Non-combatant civilians have a right to be protected; have a right not to be subjected to avoidable harm. If the war has been conducted not merely with the purpose of militarily defeating the LTTE, but also with the objective of subjugating a section of the population and thereby sustaining oneself in complete power, if need be militarily and if in that process there have been grave violations of international human rights laws and international humanitarian laws, that surely needs to be examined and addressed. No one is above the law. But all the evidence available would seem to suggest that some people concluded that they were above the law.

          Why, Why and Why?

          Why was the number of civilians in the conflict area estimated at only 70,000, when all reports indicated that the number of civilians in that area was well over 330,000? Eventually, almost 300,000 civilians came out of that area establishing that the figure of 70,000 was palpably false.

          Food, medicine and drinking water was sent only for 70,000 people.

          Why were the non-overnmental organizations sent out of the conflict zone in September, 2008, particularly after such a gross underestimate of the total number of people in that area?

          Why was access made difficult for the UN agencies and for the ICRC? Why was the media restricted? Why was the media only permitted guided-tours in that area? Why was everyone, including Members of Parliament, prevented from having access to the people in that area?

          In fact, Sir, I sent the then President a letter signed by all the TNA Members of Parliament, everyone of us, and requested that we be permitted to go as a team to that area and see for ourselves what was happening during the final stage of the conflict? There was no response to that letter.

          Why was there such secrecy? What was sought to be hidden? There seems to have been a thinking that what was desired could be done however unlawful or illegal and that no answers needed be given for what was done. Such a situation is surely unacceptable and cannot be allowed in a country which respects the rule of law.

          I do not wish to go into matters that could be the subject of investigation and trial through the judicial processes. All I would say is that this issue cannot become a political football to be kicked around as you please. If we make this issue a political football and kick it around as you please, I think, I would have to state that you will end up kicking the ball into your own goal. We need to seriously and calmly address the issue of what needs to be done. Truth, justice, reparation, and non-recurrence are the crucial words. The Resolution is comprehensive. I have not the slightest doubt that most Hon. Members of this House want the Resolution to be implemented and the right thing to be done. I would like unanimity on this issue. What we need to do is what would be in the best interest of the country. The victims must not be looked upon as enemies. They are a part of the population of this country. They are entitled to justice on the basis of truth; they are entitled to reparation; they are entitled to guarantees of non-recurrence; they are entitled to a future that ensures their self-respect, their dignity and their equality. The achievement of such a goal is well within our reach and let me, Sir, request all my Colleagues in this House to work towards the achievement of this end.


          This, in my view, Sir, is a legitimate demand, which we have not conceded all this time. I think the Debate that has been taking place in this House, both yesterday and today, has reflected that a vast majority of the Members of this House have now themselves come to realize that this cannot be a story that will never end, that this matter has got to be brought to a close. We are confident and happy with the meeting that took place in the Presidential Secretariat yesterday where the President has summoned all the political parties to discuss this Resolution and we could see sobriety and a desire on the part of many who attended the meeting to achieve that goal of ensuring that the truth is established, the justice is restored, that there is reparation provided to the people and that there will be no recurrence of whatever happened in the past which should necessarily entail that there is an honourable political solution that can bring this conflict to an end.

          I thank you.

          ( Speech made at the Parliament on 23rd October 2015 by R, Sampanthan, Leader of the Opposition.)

    • 1


      For well over 3 decades SL Tamils have been worshiping barbaric LTTE as their Sole representatives and a man with an empty skull as their National Leader. Only now the Tamils slowly getting matured enough to elect at least educated people like Sumanthiran as their representative. Things are going in the right way and I think you should grow out of your attitude of “finding fault with everything what the TNA says!!”

  • 7

    Knowing, not many MPs can read and understand English language, this eminent constitutional lawyer & TNA MP ,Mr. M.A. Sumanthiran, should have spoken in Sinhala language, in which he is proficient enough, specially on an important matters like this one, in the house of parliament. When spoken directly in a language they understand, there will be more listeners than when translation is provided, where many MPs sleep it off, even when important matters like this one are taken up for discussion. If TNA wants burning issues of the Tamils settled, they need the support of the majority of the MPs and the MPs should be aware of the subjects and connected problems, under discussions.

    The speech he made is fit for a congregation of MPs of British Parliament as language spoken was English and would have got the applause for the way he presented the case but fell on deaf years in our parliament as most did not have their head phones. Even ordinary MPs, understanding the subject, will either support or reject arguments if TNA strives hard to put matters directly to the majority of MPs. India has not given up English as a medium of instruction in many schools and most MPs understand English, unlike SL and thanks to SWRD, majority Sri Lankans does not have another language to use outside their own country.

    TNA, being the sole reps of the Tamils in SL, should have a few Sinhala
    speaking MPs so that ,not only they could explain matters in the parliament, they could also communicate with Sinhala speaking heads
    of various govt. institutions and make things work easier and faster.
    Its no shame.

    • 8

      Here is a worthy suggestion to someone who cares – please have the speech dubbed in Sinhala and have it uploaded in Youtube, ASAP, with due approval and permission.

      Has the TNA a media-unit that can do this?

      • 3

        To my knowledge TNA has not got a media unit. TNA need to fix this ASAP.

  • 2

    Sumanthiran. M.P’s credential are the one landed him into TNA. No question about that. But the problems here subtle and not obvious.

    His speech, the silver lighting line sparking from beginning to end suggest that he still have a hope to think New Royals are sincere of implementing the resolution. In this speech he had called “it is your resolution”.

    Well, it is UNHRC resolution. No point on putting it on New Royals head. They had and having telling the Sinhala Minisu that “we are the one watered down the resolution to this effect”. There was a resolution draft. Lanka did went against that. This one Lanka signed.

    Lankawe has signed on the UN and UNHRC’s many accords. They denounce the Human Right and Humanitarian laws of it being violated. Lankawe violates and simply denies it. Hires defense layers. Hide under rowdy countries. Raise the sovereignty issue. But, that has never accepted the crime. Signing a deed is not Lankawe’s intention to implement. So Sumanthiran, knowingly standing on a broken branch and begging the tree to reattach branch to it so he can hang on there. Implementing any thing is not Lankawe’s Sinhalese Language Dictionary. Period! Ranil, New King, Old King, me all of us waiting to Sec.Kerry leave. If Sumanthiran wants, he can join the club or go ahead and make the Tamils too Madayar(Modayas). This is not my word simply. Norwegian envoy Soleheim has said “If call ‘Peacock Peackcock Give me a feather’ the peacock will not be in a position to deliver one”. Sumanthiran defying the Nature.

    He has to start to tell the truth to Tamils the UNP & SLFP which are not ready to release the false arrest, not ready to remove the army, not ready to release grabbed lands, not ready remove PTA, but arresting more Tamils under that and claiming that it is the one fooled the IC and made the resolution to be like this, is not going to implement. Please Mr.M.P stop giving false hope to Tamils that even Solehiem could not believe.

  • 3

    Each MP in parliament has a pair of headphones on the table in front of him/her, and has to wear them and switch to simultaneous ongoing translation in either Sinhala or Tamil (by official translators) of the words of any speaker on his feet at any time.

    Many MPs do not do so as then they would become known as not being “English literate”.

    Those who have sat in the speaker’s box by invitation or as state officials pertaining to the subject being discussed/debated, know this.

    This facility has been available from the time of the old parliament near Galle Face.

  • 3

    I would like to ask this question :

    What does reconciliation mean ?

    In the dictionary it says “to cause to agree or make friendly , to be no longer opposed ?…..

    So obviously this refers to the Tamil claim for a Tamil region in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka (present)….

    So Is reconcilation of the fact that :

    No Tamils can not have INDEPENDENT STATE
    No Non-Tamil speakers can not have a unitary state….

    So This is the reconcilation..>>>> SO HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH HUMAN RIGHTS….

    There were MORE people KILLED and made to DISAPPEAR in the period in Sri Lanka from 1988-1990 than during the final stages of operations against separatist rebel militia LTTE. BUT obviously , NO HUMAN RIGHTS ACCOUNTABILITIES for that…….FROM SO CALLED SRI LANKAN POLITICANS….


    I would like to also comment on…Tamils in general:

    What you are after is NOT individual rights: Because we ALREADY HAVE IT RIGHT NOW IN SRI LANKA.

    What you are after is GROUP RIGHTS FOR TAMIL & TAMIL SPEAKERS.


    There is NO WAY that North and Eastern Province of Sri Lanka can remain majority Tamil unless and until you have apartheid system.




    THIS IS END. Unfortunately many people had to died to realise this outcome.

  • 1

    Well Mr, Sumanthiran.

    You have said: “Well, it is all good for him (the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs) to say that in words. But he himself says that successive governments have not delivered, have failed and having said that merely asking people, ‘Now, have confidence in us’ will not work.” People must see action. People must see it being implemented.

    Mr. Sumanthiran. Even the LLRC appointed by Rajapaksa in Para-8.150 of its report of 2011 said that ““The Commission takes the view that the root cause of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka lies in the failure of successive Governments to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people.

    The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance.”

    Mr. Sumanthiran! I have mot heard any of M.Ps of the present “National” Government or the Ministers or the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs telling the Sinhalese people or the International community what is the Root Cause of the problems of Lanka!

    Unless it is identified correctly and accepted publicly, the Parliament will not be able to make a decision to eradicate it!

    Under these conditions what can you say about praising the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs?

    Well Mr. Sumanthiran.

    The second sentence of the Para – 8.150 says that “The country may not have been confronted with a violent separatist agenda, if the political consensus at the time of independence had been sustained and if policies had been implemented to build up and strengthen the confidence of the minorities around the system which had gained a reasonable measure of acceptance.”

    Will you and the ‘National” Government, it’s Ministers. M.Ps and the Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs tell openly this to the public and seek genuine steps in whatever the matters to be examined?

  • 1

    Sumanthiran has demonstrated what he is good at. Sumanthiran’s intellect is beyond doubt. It is uncharacteristic of the modern Sri Lankan Parliament not to jeer at a Tamil speaker and listen to a speech of serious note. Either it has gone above their head or they are in complete denial. This a speech would have made some impact if it was in the 1950s.
    After loosing 300,000 lives, Tamils are apprehensive of the co-sponsoring of the UNHRC resolution by Sri Lanka and are very critical of Sumanthiran and Sampanthan for colluding with the Sri Lankan government who are responsible for the Genocide against Ceylon Tamils. TNA won the elections in Tamil areas promising for an international investigation and have walked away from their promise in a few months after the election.
    I would have admired this speech if it was from a senior Sinhala politician. Ranil has closed his chapter as a national leader and we wait for Mythri for how he wants his national leadership to be judged.

  • 4


    I wish I can be as confident as you are but regrettabily I am not.Yours is what I would call a Conditioned reflex and for you it is Comply or Die.

    I want to draw your attention to the following and you have failed to pick up the danger signals.

    1) That was reflected when you co-sponsored it. When you co-sponsor a resolution, it is more than agreeing to that resolution. It is taking ownership for the resolution. This Resolution is not that of the UN Human Rights Council anymore. This is your Resolution.

    This is the danger I am talking about. All Sri Lanka wanted to do was to take ownership and therein lies the danger. Once you become the Owner you are free to do what you want and as a Lawyer you have failed to spot the danger. There are already mutterings from within that GOSL can ignore what is required of them and I am afraid you have faied in your duty to keep them on Check although I appreciate you powers are limited.

    2) Nobody who stands up and proposes a Resolution or seconds it – in this case co-sponsors it – can then say; “We will decide now what parts of this Resolution that we like, that we can implement and so on.” This is your Resolution. You fully own it and we congratulated you on the 1st of October 2015 for taking that bold step.

    *** No you are totally wrong and let me ask you what will you do if Sri Lnaka ignores it as I am sure that is their intention which is obvious from the statements made by

    Justice Minister

    We have to wait until 2017.

    Justice Delayed id Justice Denied.

    • 2

      Hi Koli,
      What is your problem?

      • 2

        Mango Chutney

        Not as bad as yours.

    • 1

      “No you are totally wrong and let me ask you what will you do if Sri Lanka ignores”

      Oh, no we have got some talented and well educated diaspora who still lives in “feel good” euphoria will come and save us, if not anything at least with their rhetoric. Just because they jumped from sinking ship leaving every thing to a 8th grader and able to take refuge in Western countries uttering all sorts of lies, they believe they knew every thing but not a lawyer who stayed put in SL through thick and thin. This so called lecturer didn’t dared to help with his 2 cents to the 8th grader but sees the need to do so for a lawyer who made name for himself- what an irony. Provide all your advice to the virtual PM who happened to be a lawyer.

      We survived through No Fire Zone and we knew the truth. When you say 140000 killed you are no better than Kotta, who were saying only about 160000 living in the war zone then. If not for surrender by our leaders, that number you quote would have materialized.

      Mahinda and his family did for innocents in the name of terrorists is known to the world. We have no problem if he gets a punishment that fits to his crime, but don’t implicate those Tamils who live here. For people like this Kali what matters is Mahinda being hauled in front of IC, he doesn’t care as a consequence of this, if some hundred lost their lives in SL or if the racial relationship deteriorate further. Does he has anything to loose? Just because a dog bite you, do you bite it or even try to bite it- just leave Mahinda, don’t give him a helping hand and make him become a hero, we here don’t do that, you fools are barking all these years couldn’t even touch MR or his acolytes, we sent him to the canvass punching more than our weight when we were given a chance, which was denied in 2005.

      If you fled the country for the fear of your lives, that is understandable, you live is paramount to your family, your risk aversive approach is not questionable, which is yours. However it should end there, hence make sure your words and deeds do not make others who still call this island their home live in fear. You are reminding of the dog that I saw only a few days ago that ran away from a group of fighting dogs and turns back doing some occasional barking when it felt it was safe to do so. Doing so might be making it feels good.

      We are all Sri Lankans, that is what Sumo is about, and he didn’t hide, but we are Tamils, a sub-set. You cant fight neither your children, then who do you want to fight for to split the sub-set, accept the reality and learn to live in peace, and let other to live in peace too. If that kind of reckoning hasn’t come into being, even after this much loses, Tamils as a race fail to see what they are up against nor do they realize how the IC looks at them. We sent TNA to represent us with the full knowledge what they supposed to deliver in return for us, we didn’t sent Kajendrams, nor did we even send Prem although he was folder into TNA. We knew, it all good to articulate, this was what we heard in 1977 election platforms, but no one come for aid when we trapped in the NFZ.

      • 2


        Stop writing in Sinkalam. Can you write in Tamil and not in a Language you are not Good at.

  • 3

    M.A. Sumanthiran:

    I wish to add a few more words to the Question of ” Ownership”.

    In Conveyancing what was given to Sri Lanka was a Freehold Ownership outright without any Mortgage or Conditions like a Caution.

    Sri Lanka sholu have been given a laeshold with UN as the Superior Landlord ( Freehold Owner). It is too late.

    It is all about saving your Good Friend Mahintha for whom you have a soft spot and I remember going back to the days when you took your chidren and Mahintha posed the Question to your Children ” Have you ever been to Jaffna.
    The Tamils are going to be let down again as we are vunerable to the offer of a Few Goodies.
    Hope you will stand firm. There is a piece of news item that Mahintha after killing 140,000 was prepared to devolve power to the Skeletons and we have heard this from CBK when she went to Delhi.

    • 0

      Why do you wish to add a few more words to the question of ”Ownership?”

  • 0

    Mr. Sumanthiran,

    I’d like to applaud you on your speech given to the parliament this past month. It was well worded and well thought out. I praise you in your choice of words and the fact that you dropped many hints on what the parliament should do. Some of these hints were subtle, some of them not so subtle. You clarified TNA’s political stance on the UNCHR resolution eloquently and the voice you chose was deeply authoritarian. It was fitting for party representative.

    However, I must point out that this speech and the points you made were not as strong as they should be. Mister Sumanthiran this speech I fear falls upon the wrong ears. This speech that you gave should have been driven forward before the international community in Geneva at the UNCHR summit. The reasons for this are that you drove your points to the oppressors; the Sinhala dominated Sri Lankan National government. The oppressors are fully aware of your thesis, the Sinhalese politicians who went ahead and cosponsored the resolutions knew that should they have claim ownership of it, and then they are free to do whatever they like with it.

    The former leaders including Chandrika, Ranil, Mahinda, even the current president have been guilty with war crimes in the eyes of the Tamil People. These oppressors know about the human rights violations they commit as they do them, they are fully aware of it.

    I say that while your speech in the parliament may have been historic to some, it was not the necessary step needed to make everyone fully aware of your thesis. What you should have done was appear at the UN resolution summit and speak to those present. In doing so, you would have not stood before a nation scarred by civil war but a world ready to nurture those scars. What is the reason that you did not speak on the world stage rather than the national stage? Did you not see the advantages in doing so?

    By appearing before the world there could have been a many more possibilities you could have voiced, increase the ferocity of the cause of the Tamil people a thousand-fold by appealing to the worldwide community. All of the major players in diplomatic solutions were there. Rather than going to the government and interpreting the ownership of the resolution as such, you could have made your voice heard by the international community and assign them the continued responsibility of handling the resolution. In using that tactic you make the world accountable for the oppressors and in turn garner more support for our cause.

    A grave misstep was made when TNA chose not to speak at the UNCHR resolution; a grave mistake was made in keeping your vocalizations silent until now.

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