By Douglas Devananda –
Mr. John F. Kerry
Secretary of State,
U. S. Department of State,
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 – Sri Lanka
I, Douglas Devananda, Member of Parliament and the Cabinet Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development in Sri Lanka wish to bring the following with regard to the contents in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012 under the caption Sri Lanka, which was transmitted by the Department of State to the United States Congress in April this year.
I am also the Secretary General of the Eelam Peoples’ Democratic Party, popularly known as EPDP, which is a recognized political party by the Commissioner of Elections of Sri Lanka. In the 1970s and 1980s I have been in the forefront of the struggle to win over the rights of the Tamils in the country. After the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, which paved the way for the 13th amendment to the constitution and provided for the devolution of powers to the provinces, I fully endorsed it and along with several other Tamil Groups joined the Democratic Mainstream of politics in Sri Lanka.
Since 1994 I have been elected as a Member of Parliament without a break by the Tamils and I have been a Cabinet Minister for the last 13 years under various heads of Government. Today I am in the rank of a longstanding Minister in the Cabinet. In the last general elections held in April 2010, I got the highest preference votes out of all the Tamil Members of Parliament elected to Parliament from the Northern and
Eastern Provinces in Sri Lanka. My party, EPDP, has three elected representation from Jaffna Electoral District out of nine elected representatives.
I am perturbed and saddened by the contents of the said report which inter-alia states as follows:
“Although the number of killings associated with progovernment paramilitary groups declined from previous years, there were persistent reports that the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), led by Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare Douglas Devananda, engaged in intimidation, extortion, corruption, and violence against civilians in Jaffna. For example, on March 4, EPDP member Kanthasuwamy Jagadeswaran sexually abused and killed 13-year-old Jesudasan Lakshini. On March 16, the Kayts Magistrate Court remanded Jagadeswaran to Jaffna Prison.”
“Unknown actors suspected of association with progovernment paramilitary groups committed killings and assaulted civilians. There were persistent reports of close ties between progovernment paramilitary groups such as the Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and government security forces. Whereas these groups served more of a military function during the war, often working in coordination with security forces, they increasingly took on the characteristics of criminal gangs as they sought to solidify their territory and revenue sources in the postwar environment.”
“ Nongovernmental Impact: Progovernment paramilitary groups and gangs affiliated with political parties inhibited freedom of expression, particularly in the north. Members of the EPDP reportedly were involved in harassment and intimidation of journalists in Jaffna.”
You have stated in the preface to the report that when you served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, your colleagues and you depended on these reports for an accurate assessment of human rights conditions around the world and that they are valuable to those in the State Department and other Federal Agencies who carry out U.S. foreign policy as well as to members of Congress, etc.
But such a valuable report for precise study refers to me as the “Minister of Social Services and Social Welfare”. I am the Minister for “Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development” since April 2010. This will give you an indication as to how reliable the information provided by your subordinates to you.
I also wish to draw your attention to an incident that you have used to corroborate your assertion that the party led by me, EPDP, is engaged in intimidation, extortion, corruption, and violence against civilians in Jaffna. You have cited the rape and murder of a 13 year old girl in March 2012 by a person in the name of Kanthasuwamy Jagadeswaran in Delft. You have categorically stated him as an EPDP member. I am hand delivering a copy of this letter to your Ambassador in Sri Lanka along with a certified copy of the 112 pages proceedings of the case in the Magistrate’s Courts in Kayts courts with regard to the rape and murder of Jesudasan Lakshini. This document contains the report of the police, the evidence led by the police and the proceedings in the magistrate’s courts. On perusal of this document you will find that neither Kanthasuwamy Jagadeswaran identified himself as an EPDP member nor the law enforcement authorities nor the evidence relevant to this case affirmed that the said suspect was a member of my party, EPDP. You have not only emphatically referred to him as an EPDP member but also cited this fabricated story as a case in point to substantiate the other unfounded allegations against me and my party.
I trust this fact will give you a clue to assess the reliability of the information furnished by your subordinates for the preparation of this report. Also I take this opportunity to request you to provide me with the evidence you have concerning the alleged allegations you have made against me and the party I lead, EPDP, in the report under reference.
The media has already caused irreparable damage and defamation to my standing and reputation by publishing the contents of this report.
Further, for the last few years your State Department as well as other various US authorities was giving false and unsubstantiated information or allegations totally discrediting the image of the party, EPDP, and me in spite of the fact that I have been continuously democratically elected to Parliament and function as a responsible Minister in Sri Lanka. Based on these false allegations leveled against my party and my activities most of your officers and diplomats have been persuaded to form a biased and adverse opinion regarding the EPDP and my political activities.
I regret to note that most of the diplomats or delegates from the US visiting Sri Lanka never attempted to seek our point of view or sought clarification regarding allegations leveled against our activities; instead they rely on the information furnished by parties who have vested political interest to tarnish our image and public support.
I am bringing these facts to your information with the firm conviction that you would take necessary steps to undo the irreparable damage caused to me by publishing the contents of the report referred to above. I am also forwarding copies of this letter to the Foreign Affairs Committees of the US Congress and to the media.
Douglas Devananda, MP
Secretary General, E.P.D.P.
Minister of Traditional Industries and
Small Enterprise Development.
Copy: 1. U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
2. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs
3. Ambassador for USA in Sri Lanka
Tr/DD/Da – 29.05.2013 – 09.22 a.m.