By C.V. Wigneswaran –
Having been a long standing member of the Judiciary of this Country and as a representative of the Tamils in this august Assembly I am indeed happy to participate in this Budget Debate* discussing the votes of the Ministry of Justice.
Mr. Speaker, Justice is the one clear expectation of all denizens of this Country today. It is Justice which is intrinsically interwoven with the day to day lives of the Tamils and their future. They are expecting Justice for the innocents who were haphazardly and brutally killed at the tail end of the War. They are expecting Justice regarding those who were enforcedly made to disappear from their midst. Tamil political prisoners have been for long seeking Justice for themselves. Our Muslim brethren are seeking Justice to bury their dead even if one from their community is the Minister of Justice. Our Catholic brethren are seeking Justice for those who were killed in the bomb blast of April 21st 2019.
Justice and Peace Sir! are complimentary. If we are to ensure Peace the first step would be to obtain Justice for all those affected in body, mind, intellect and also temporally. Pope Paul said in 1972 as follows (I quote)- “A Peace that is not the result of true respect for Man is not true Peace. A sincere feeling for Man is called Justice.” He further said “If you want Peace work for Justice!”
Is the present Government interested in working for Peace and therefore Justice? I doubt it. If you had the slightest feeling for your co-citizens you would not expropriate the lands of indigent Tamils as done even today. You would not destroy the archaeological sites and heritage symbols of the Tamils. You would not be gathering and accumulating such large numbers of the Sinhala Military amidst the Tamil speaking denizens of the North and East. If this Government has feelings for the affected and the downtrodden they would not try to grab from them but give them instead help and solace. If this Government has feelings for their fellow human brethren they would treat them with love and respect. But you are interested in grabbing from us our land, our traditional way of life and our freedom. You continue to treat our people as the vanquished not as co-humans in this Isle. None of us have been vanquished. We still carry the torch of freedom in our hearts!
Speaking of Justice I like to point out that in this Country we appear to be on the side of the wrongdoers rather than the innocents. Have we punished one single person who was involved in the torture, murder, arson and rape committed during the 1956, 1958,1961,1977,1981 and 1983 pogroms? Have we punished one single person involved in the burning of the Jaffna Public Library which housed 97000 rare books and manuscripts? It was the best Library in South East Asia at that time. Have we punished one single person involved in the crimes against the Muslims in recent times? At least has there been an attempt at accountability in these regard? Have we enforced the recommendations of several Reports of Commissioners submitted to the successive Governments? They have all been conveniently shelved!
Despite a Muslim Minister and a Tamil Minister in authority let us not forget that power is in the hands of the majority community. It is they who decide what is best for us all even in areas where we are in the majority. Since Independence that has been the case. We have no inclusive Justice in Sri Lanka. We have only selective Justice. Now a days it is a Justice selected for the wellbeing of Sinhala Buddhists only.
We have a peculiar political culture growing up here now. Rewards and high Governmental positions are today lavishly distributed only on the basis of how much suffering such individuals have brought to the minorities in this Country. This culture is prevalent in this House too. That is why learned Parliamentarians are today vying with each other to provoke their minority colleagues to shut them up from speaking and bringing out facts about themselves and the Government.
There is a systemic Racism now being promoted in the Country against the Muslims and the Tamils. Racism has become an ideology. It is now being sowed freely in the far corners of this blessed Isle. Government Departments have been made the instruments to promote such ideology. Parliamentarians behaving indecently in this august Assembly are carriers of this ideology. Even the Press is being made into an instrument to sow the seeds of Racism. Such Racism is not going to take us anywhere. On the contrary this Country is soon going to suffer by such propagation of negative and vituperative ideas and ideology.
I found a phrase in the website of the Justice Ministry. It said “Law reform to respond to the societal needs in keeping with global advancements and the aspirations of the people” was their Vision. Are we really following this Vision? Everything happening in this Island of ours, points to the opposite direction. While the World tries to travel on the path of enhancement of Human Rights, Group Rights of communities, reconciliation, peace and coexistence and laws are accordingly enacted in their Parliaments, what are we doing? The Government is trying to find out ways and means to take away the rights and assets of its citizens belonging to particular groups. It is trying to deprive the lands of these particular group citizens and trying to erase evidences of their culture, heritage and way of life. What else is the reason for the Presidential Commissions empowered to deal with the North and the East? Ad hoc Commissions are hurriedly appointed to take over the lands of our community under the pretext of protecting Sinhala Buddhist archaeological remains. Buddhist remains are no doubt there. But the ancient remains are from the time of the Tamil Buddhists – Demala Baudhayos. The Tamils jettisoned Buddhism long before the Sinhala language was born. If you are trying to preserve the remains from the time of the Demala Baudhayos you must have majority Tamil Commissioners in these Commissions. Are you trying to take over lands of the Tamils and give it to the Sinhalese? Is that the purpose of these Commissions? Any steps being taken in the North and East must be with consent and concurrence of the Tamil speaking majority community in the North and East who have continuously occupied those areas for over 3000 years.
Let us not forget the Tamil youth took up arms not against the Sinhalese and their sovereignty. They took up arms because there was danger to their Sovereignty in their areas in the same Country. They wanted to protect their identity. But they were called Terrorists and brutally dealt with getting help from no less than twenty other Countries.
Let us remember it is the sovereignty of the people which is paramount not of the State. That is the International take on this at present. Let us not deceive ourselves that we could take shelter under State sovereignty and destroy the people’s sovereignty. The concept of State sovereignty which prevailed in the 18th century is no more accepted by the International Community. When human rights of people in a Country are violated it is possible to disregard the State sovereignty of that country. This is the modern concept.
I like to point out the contradiction in the arguments of many a Sinhalese politician. Many of you say that the LTTE used ordinary civilians as human shields and it was the Government Forces which saved the people. Hence you say no war crimes were perpetrated but you did humanitarian service! If so it is the people who should say so, now that the LTTE is no more. On the contrary our people say you had brutally killed their kith and kin. If you had actually saved our people our grateful people should have voted for you in all the elections after 2009. But how come the people whom you identify as those who were used as human shield and whom you saved have been voting for the TNA whom you call even today as an LTTE proxy? How come in the very first Northern Provincial Council Election in 2013 our people gave me over 133000 votes, a record amount for the Northern Province? And I was absolutely new to politics!
If the Government is telling the truth about LTTE using our people as human shield and it was the State Forces which saved them why is the State so scared of an International Inquiry? Surely if what you say is true that should be brought out at an International Inquiry and you should be cleared of all criticism. You would then be able to walk with your chin up among the world fora if your statement is proved right internationally.
But the truth is otherwise. That is why you are scared to face any International Inquiry. Your reluctance to face the International Community and desire to run behind China shows that war crimes were committed, crimes against humanity were committed and genocide was committed by your Forces.
We are going to face the UN again in March next year. Please remember there is a limit to the tolerance of the International Community. Mark my words the Ides of March are round the corner. There would be little chance of escape.
But there is a way out. The Government wants to bring in a new Constitution. Prepare and pass a Federal or quasi Federal or Confederal Constitution in order that all communities in this blessed Island of ours would live in equality, unity, freedom and cooperation. Only your Government could do it. Let the Rajapaksa family ensure true devolution for the North Eastern Tamils and Muslims and also enable the Up Country Tamils too to live in equality and amity among the majority community.
If you fail you would be dragged into International Capital Cities the world over for discussions as it happened during the war. I beg of this Government not to polarize the ethnic differences sharply and open the way for International Power Blocs to gain a foothold in Sri Lanka if they have not already done so now. I thank you.
*Budget Debate – Justice Ministry votes – on 9th December, 2020- speech made by Justice C.V. Wigneswaran