23 September, 2018

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No Secret Detention Camps Now: FM Mangala Samaraweera

The former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, is the one who invited the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka, says the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera.

Mangala Samaraweera -Minister of External Affairs

Mangala Samaraweera -Minister of External Affairs

Responding to a question raised by Member of Parliament Douglas Devananda in parliament on the 3rd of December, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera said “as you are aware, this Government carried out a decision taken by the former Government in January 2013 to invite the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka. In a letter dated 21 January 2013, the former Secretary of Defence, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has conveyed to the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (External Affairs at the time) that the Ministry of Defence has no objection to an invitation being extended to the Working Group to visit Sri Lanka, and that the timing of the extension of the invitation should be decided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.

Refuting the claim of allegations Minister Samaraweera went on to say the present government carried out the invitation of the former Secretary of Defense and that there are no secret detention camps operating under the new government. “Despite the misinformation that some of the Members of this House may try to propagate, the visit to the Navy Base by the Members of the Working Group proved to those both within the country and outside the country who allege that there are still secret detention centres in operation in this site, that there are no such detention centres in existence anymore in the Navy Base in Trincomalee” he said.

CID investigations will continue Foreign Minister Samaraweera said.

We publish below the speech in full.

Hon. Speaker,

I rise to respond to the questions raised by the Hon. Douglas Devananda.

First I would like to thank the Hon. Member of Parliament for the questions that he has raised, which relate to issues of importance for the realization of the vision for reconciliation and durable peace that the National Unity Government, led by President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, are committed to achieve.

The questions relate mainly to issues of land release, detainees under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, alleged secret detention centres, the tragic suicide of a student from Kopai last week and implications of these issues to achieving reconciliation.

Hon. Speaker,

The journey that the Government undertook on the 8th of January with President Sirisena’s election was a challenging one. Almost 30 years of conflict, long years of terrorism, 10 years of descent towards autocracy and stifling of dissent, triumphalism and fear-mongering following the end of the conflict in May 2009, and an antagonistic, self-isolationist foreign policy had taken a heavy toll on democratic institutions, public officials, and society at large in our country. Difficult legacies to overcome.

When we formed the Government following the January 8th Presidential election, we were fully aware of the challenges that we would face.

I know that many complain that the promised change is not quick enough. Some both overseas and in Sri Lanka who do not wish the Government and the people of this country to succeed; do not wish to see a united Sri Lanka progress and develop in peace and resume its rightful place among the community of nations, claim that nothing has changed since the 8th of January.

Hon. Speaker,

I am not in any way attempting to provide excuses for any delays. But one must acknowledge that we have achieved much, though not enough, since the 8th of January. With Parliamentary elections held in August, and the National Unity Government formed thereafter, our journey has only just begun. Nevertheless, for the people who have suffered the agony of conflict and waited for long for justice; or for those who await information regarding the fate of their loved ones; and for those who have been languishing in detention; every day, every hour, every minute matters. We are conscious and seized of this fact. The Government, under the leadership of President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, is determined to surmount all challenges and all obstacles to ensure that justice is done, and to ensure reconciliation, non-recurrence and a durable peace.

Hon. Speaker,

The Government is committed to finding a solution to the issue of those detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Thirty-nine detainees out of 48 were released on bail in November. According to the information that I have, 48 detainees have been convicted and they are serving their sentences. 118 persons are in remand custody with their cases proceeding in court. Cases are being filed against 3 persons and 1 is to be rehabilitated.

The Hon. Member of Parliament has pointed out that in 1971 and in 1989 following the insurrections in the South, and in 1987 following the India-Sri Lanka Agreement, prisoners held under the PTA and other emergency laws, and combatants and those persons accused, charged and/or convicted under these laws were granted a general amnesty. This is indeed something that is worthy of consideration and will receive due attention.

The loss of yet another young life in connection with the issue of detainees is indeed tragic. I agree with the Hon. Member of Parliament that this is the time that all political parties and all citizens, irrespective of race, religion and language should unite to find solutions to problems no matter how frustrating such processes might be. There is a well-known saying that “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” It is time that we all unite, despite our ideological differences, to act with responsibility towards our citizens and work together to find solutions to the problems that have kept this nation divided for far too long since Independence.

Hon. Speaker,

The Hon. Member of Parliament has inquired about secret detention centres. As we have mentioned before, there are no secret detention centres in operation in this country under this Government.

However, if anyone in Sri Lanka or overseas has any information regarding any such facility that may be in operation, the Government will take upon itself the task of ensuring that such facilities are examined and action is taken under the due process of the law. The Government will not tolerate anyone holding another in detention under any circumstances, outside the purview of the law of this land.

Hon. Speaker,

As you are aware, this Government carried out a decision taken by the former Government in January 2013 to invite the UN Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances to visit Sri Lanka. In a letter dated 21 January 2013, the former Secretary of Defence, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has conveyed to the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (External Affairs at the time) that the Ministry of Defence has no objection to an invitation being extended to the Working Group to visit Sri Lanka, and that the timing of the extension of the invitation should be decided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Working Group visited Sri Lanka after 16 long years, from 9-18 November this year. They also met with Parliamentarians in this very House and they were allowed to visit the Navy Base in Trincomalee.

Hon. Speaker,

This House is aware of the allegations against our armed forces personnel. This House is aware of the allegations about secret detention camps being maintained. Even if we scream at the top of our voices, saying that there are no secret detention centres in existence, such allegations will not go away until we prove that there are no such places in existence.

We all know the sacrifices made by our security forces personnel throughout the long years of conflict. Do they deserve to be hounded by allegations of this nature for the rest of their days? Is that what they deserve as a reward for the many sacrifices they have made to enable us today to build the future of our nation on the foundation of peace they have created for us?

Hon. Speaker,

It is the duty of our Government to take steps to ensure that the cloud that hangs over their heads is lifted once and for all. We owe it to them to clear their name. The way this can be done is not by standing in a street corner and shouting defensive slogans, as some of the Honourable Members of Parliament claim. It is not by sitting in protest in front of the Office of the UN or Embassies of Foreign Countries and antagonizing our partners, but by adopting sensible, meaningful, constructive approaches to these problems so that we lay these allegations to rest. It is by investigating into allegations through the due process of the law that we can do so. This is what legal systems and investigative and judicial processes exist for. So that they may be used for the innocent to be proven innocent and anyone guilty of any excesses to be brought to justice. This is the way responsible democratic nations that abide by the rule of law deal with issues.

Despite the misinformation that some of the Members of this House may try to propagate, the visit to the Navy Base by the Members of the Working Group proved to those both within the country and outside the country who allege that there are still secret detention centres in operation in this site, that there are no such detention centres in existence anymore in the Navy Base in Trincomalee.

The Working Group expressed gratitude to the Commander of the Navy and the Director of the CID for providing access to the Navy Base and the cells. This kind of cooperation is what will re-create trust in the eyes of the public and in the eyes of the families of victims as well as the international community that the Sri Lanka security forces are responsible and professional.

The Government takes the preliminary observations of the Working Group very seriously. The site referred to by the Working Group members who were accompanied on their visit to the site by CID officers was in fact sealed by the CID in April this year on the basis of a court order, on an ongoing inquiry. These investigations by the CID will proceed.

The Government upholds that all official places of detention must be ONLY those that are gazetted, and the official procedures for detention must be followed at all times. If there had been deviations from what is authorized and approved, such incidents will be investigated.

The Working Group has also brought to our attention instances of alleged harassment, perceived as carried out by Police officers including some instances of sexual harassment and violence against mothers or wives of disappeared persons. At times this is alleged to have been in exchange of promised information on their relatives’ cases. I take this opportunity to emphasise that the Government does not condone such harassment and will not tolerate any form of harassment against anyone including the families of missing persons under any circumstances. We are determined to take action against anyone who is found to have engaged in such harassment. The Government is in the process of formulating guidelines to be observed by the Police and security forces personnel in their interactions with the families of missing persons.

Hon. Speaker,

As this House is aware, since 2009, 47,300 acres of land have been released in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This includes 19,143 acres in Jaffna; 19,704 acres in Kilinochchi; 2,888 acres in Mullaitivu; 2804 acres in Ampara; and 1,649 acres in Mannar. In March this year, 1000 acres were released in Valikkamam North. In Sampur 818 acres have been released and 237 acres in Trincomalee.

A Cabinet Paper is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Resettlement for the release of 6,000 acres of land in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

I know that to a lot of people, even the release of land is not happening fast enough. This is not due to a lack of intent or a lack of will. The Government is determined to hand over land back to the people and to resettle the internally displaced. We are determined to ensure that only the land that is absolutely essential for clear and specific military requirements and for national installations remain under the charge of the security forces, and the large swathes of land that are not required for such purposes, are released.

Hon. Speaker,

As I said earlier there are many challenges that the Government has to overcome in bringing about the change that is envisaged. I explained the causes for such delays which include having to deal with bureaucratic bottlenecks, attitudes and perceptions.

The other week, a respected Tamil author poet, Jayapalan, was refused a visa to travel to Sri Lanka to participate in a literary event to be held in Jaffna on the basis that he was deported in 2013 when he came to visit his mother’s grave.

Even in our missions, Mr. Speaker, there are still some officials with the old set who seem to have forgotten there is a now a government, with a new vision and direction.

We acknowledge the suffering of the people; we recognize the mistakes of the past; we realise the need for this nation to introspect; we are aware of the weaknesses of our institutions. We will face these challenges. We will not seek to take cover by distorting concepts and principles such as sovereignty for narrow political gain. Instead, we will always strive to work towards the welfare of all our citizens. We remain open to honest and frank exchange of views and to dialogue with all concerned both within and outside the country. We have the confidence to face challenges and also seek help where we require assistance from the international community, for the benefit of our people.

Those who are sceptical about Sri Lanka’s ability to transform as a nation, and address problems, are many. They claim that there can never be justice in Sri Lanka; that there can never be recognition of all communities as equals. I say to such sceptics: don’t judge us by the broken promises, experiences and u-turns of the past. Let us design, define and create our future by our hopes and aspirations, and not be held back by the fears and prejudices of the past. Let us not be afraid to dream. Let us not be afraid to engage in meaningful dialogue aimed at finding solutions to problems as opposed to pointing fingers, heaping blame and scoring political points at the expense of future generations.

We are committed, and we require the patient understanding of all the right-minded citizens of Sri Lanka in this endeavour. The political parties and the politicians alone cannot achieve this. We need all the citizens of this country to work towards reconciliation. We need all to join hands with understanding to walk hand in hand in this journey to transform our country into a united, progressive, peaceful and prosperous nation.

The Government of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has the political will and the courage of their convictions to ensure that we take the country forward, breaking the barriers of ignorance, fear, prejudice and hate, and create a new Sri Lanka.

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Latest comments

  • 0
    3

    No Tamils in cursed Sri Lanka …

    Cheers

    • 1
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      Mangala Samaraweera -Minister of External Affairs

      No Secret Camps?

      No secret Gang of Murderers?
      [Edited out]

    • 1
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      well then it cannot be cursed right

      • 1
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        Oh well well, the lowlife racist Sach has returned. Welcome back clown.

    • 0
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      We can dream :D

  • 2
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    NO WAR NOW – Mangala Samaraweera ! This too could be the head-line. After all it is
    he along with Wijedasa who went to the UN and agreed to rescind the PTA regulations of
    their own – so how can they keep those chargeable under the this Act in prisons? One for
    the I/C and another for the locals – as usual.

  • 5
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    The UN visited the Torture camp in Trincomalee and the photos are published in the media.

    Journalist Ehaliyagoda was abducted and tortured at this Trincomalee navy camp and dumped into the sea and the same happened to hundred’s of Tamil youths.

    • 0
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      He is saying only it was the UPFA, the Old Royals government allowed the UN WGEID into the navy camp, because they are ones invited in 2013. In other words if the Old Royals did not invite, New Royals would not have let them in. Isn’t he saying by that they never meant to fulfill any word they gave out on the floor of UNHRC and this was the error of Old Royals and not theirs. Then does he accept Old Royals were more open than his New Royals?

      • 0
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        Boru Kiyanda Eppa Mangala Aiye! There are 10 Torture camps in the Island.

        The UN visited one Torture camp in Trincomalee.

  • 4
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    Mangala Samaraweera

    “As this House is aware, since 2009, 47,300 acres of land have been released in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. This includes 19,143 acres in Jaffna; 19,704 acres in Kilinochchi; 2,888 acres in Mullaitivu; 2804 acres in Ampara; and 1,649 acres in Mannar. In March this year, 1000 acres were released in Valikkamam North. In Sampur 818 acres have been released and 237 acres in Trincomalee.”

    The Tamils will be grateful to the state.

    However could you now tell the house how many acres of private land are now being occupied by the armed forces.

    Could you also provide the house with a list of names and other details of persons who were detained by the armed forces during and after the war had ended.

    Isn’t it logical that the state should have counted them in and counted them out?

    I am told that there are army camps deep inside jungles in Trincomalee district and Vettrilaikerni area.

    • 0
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      According to reliable sources there are over 10 Torture camps maintained by the previous MR Govt. Gotha was in direct charge for these camps and so far only one was shown to the UN panel.

    • 2
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      NV,

      You have posed very pertinent questions. Thanks. I wish the TNA MPs had asked the same questions!

      Dr,Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0
    1

    “Responding to a question raised by Member of Parliament Douglas Devananda in parliament “

    ha haha LOL

    • 0
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      [Edited out]

  • 0
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    As always Mangala is good at making speeches.

    And as always there are some glaring discrepancies. You say, “that there are no such detention centres in existence anymore in the Navy Base in Trincomalee”. The word ‘anymore’ accepts that there were torture centres before. So what date and time does ‘anymore’ refer to? Secondly your statement is specific to the Navy Base in Trinco. Do you imply there are others elsewhere?

    You said “I say to such sceptics: don’t judge us by the broken promises, experiences and u-turns of the past. Let us design, define and create our future by our hopes and aspirations, and not be held back by the fears and prejudices of the past.” In actual fact Mangala, we are not at all that concerned with the past but are judging you and your cronies by what you are doing with the peoples mandate at present.Despite what you say we will remain sceptical. We have reasons enough. Nepotism and corruption is rampant once more. All the rogues, misfits and inept are back in key jobs. How can we be other than being sceptical?

  • 0
    1

    The Sinhala Intellectuals are smartest in the world to write and read.
    The man who was part of the Ratwatte-Chandrika’s team who carried out war for peace has come out with another dupe explanation and saying. There is a well-known saying that “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.” The blood thirsty race is keeps telling one and doing one. He was the one sent Sripathy to hand over money to have his candidate elected in the 2005 election. Will he tell he did a disservice to Chandrika by bringing the old King to power? Will he tell Chandrika she wrong on spilling Tamil blood in Navali, Chemani… and other places in the name of peace and instead she should have sweat for peace?
    The dupe mater is troubled as EU is asking the list of achievements to re-allow the GSP+. That is burning in his bottom stomach. That is why he is blaming the Locals and the international as people not wishing to allow this government to succeed. He wants the Locals to shut up the mouth and take the pain. At the same time, he wants the EU to relax the hold on the GSP+. Why there is rush in his part before he can have at least single one of a promise they made full filled? Because, the time to Sec. Kerry leaving is appearing like is stretching forever; China is waiting for the Port city opened so that it can be birthing its fleets in the future on its own land in Indian ocean. He has explanation after explanation to why he cannot achieve the words he gave out is a short time. But he is in hurry to have the GSP+ restored. That is the real smartness of the Sinhala Intellectualism.

    Suresh Premachandran has been blaming about the hidden torture chambers. He specifically mentioned the Trinco too. New Royal Appe Andu could have taken him and let he inspect the places. He was a MP. He had responsibility to answer his peoples. New Royals branded him as another LTTE reviver, the same way now he is blaming the local and the foreigners who talked about these are enemies of the New Royals government who does not like its success, because he was questioning about the Torture Chambers. But the New Royals could not resist further when the UNHRC resolution passed and the GSP+ is not coming forth. Now they allowed Working Group. If he is sincere in his words, I challenge him to take the opposition party Leader and couple of Government ministers Like Swaminathan, Vijayakala, Mano Ganesan to each and every army camps and open up the doors they want to see.

    He is asking the Tamils to provide the secret torture Camps. Is this a trick his playing to locate the prisoners who let those camps alive? Why is he asking the Tamils to provide the information? Tamils are the one running the army in the North and east What did he do when SuresH Premachandran said there was one in Varani? Everybody knows he is guessing well perfectly that the UN working Group on Enforced and Involuntarily Disappeared is not going to visit back for another 16 years. While he talking this in the Parliament for foreign diplomats’ consumption and call back their home countries to have the GSP+ released, Lankawe’s murderous army murdered Usanthi and harassing her parents the same way Vidiya and Saraniya parents are harassed. The New Royal form Colombo is ordering to stop the investigation. If he says he cannot control the army, is he wants the Tamils to put up with it?

    He can dupe the Working group, but not the questioner, Dougee. Sritharan and Vijayakala have pointed out Dougee had done Sajibava magic to more than 3000 people and forced them to disappear into the thin air. He is sure, to achieve these, which and which camps he had sent them for. His question can be dodged now. But, in the future he can be a dangerous witness like Pillaiyan.

    Our Friend Minister is talking of stopping the blaming of his government. He says the only way is to prove the blamers are wrong. He is indicating the method he used too; that is allowing the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to check the Navy Camp. I wonder what he proved by that. Did he proved the blamers were right that the Barbaric, Lanakan Bestial Animals have been operating torture Chambers while New Royals denying that and had removed the evidences just before the WG visit there or the opposite that the blamers were just political talkers only? Could he explain what was proved on the visit of the UN WGEID? These Utter rogues are masters of reading writing. Could you tell me in which torture Chamber Kuttimani and other 27 prisoners’ eyes were plugged and tortured to death? Could you tell me if anybody investigated this? Is that your Rapist army’s professionalism that you have repeatedly claimed?

    I ask him, is it proving that Lankave does not involve in human rights violation when it rigidly refusing to sign to the Rome Statute? Whom he is fooling; Is it only to Sec.Kerry or everybody else. I tell my honorable Minister something; once there were an American politician said ” “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – Abraham Lincoln quotes from… Stop your non sense talk of proving while refusing to allow foreign Judges to come in to investigate your war crime and genocide murders. It seems to be you too accepting that you cannot fool all the people all the time, so you don’t like the commonwealth and Foreign Judges(, after all it is the way you wanted to have America worded the resolution for you to cheat the UNHRC) come to the investigation.

    None of the convicted is criminals. They were coerced to confess under PTA. You must let all to get without hoping to fool all, all the times. Dougee knows the answer for the question. But he wanted to test you how you want to respect him. He wanted to tell you that he is not Pillaiyan for tell him as he too is reviving the LTTE putting him into prison to have your GSP+ approved.

    Your New Royalty is just starting to blame, that as usual, the white tigers do not want your government succeed that is why they are blaming that you have not achieved anything so far. But don’t worry. Keep your fingers crossed. Sec. Kerry cannot last more than one year. And further some or how your smartness will fool the EU and get the GSP+ without you doing anything. Congratulation, you have allowed China to make arrangement to bring its war ships and submarines to Port City.

  • 0
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    Wonder what Mangala Samaraweera and Ranil think of the
    Human Rights Watch (HRW) report which sets forth a compelling legal case for the criminal prosecution of senior US officials for their roles as conspirators and accomplices in the illegal Central Intelligence Agency torture program (2001-2009).

    http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/12/05/tort-d05.html

    The report names names: “US officials who created, authorized, and implemented the CIA program should be among those investigated for conspiracy to torture as well as other crimes. They include: Acting CIA General Counsel John Rizzo, Assistant Attorney General for Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) Jay Bybee, OLC Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, an individual identified as ‘CTC Legal’ in the Senate Summary, CIA Director George Tenet, National Security Legal Advisor John Bellinger, Attorney General John Ashcroft, White House Counsel Legal Advisor Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the Vice President David Addington, Deputy White House Counsel Timothy Flanigan, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes II, Vice President Dick Cheney, and President George W. Bush. In addition, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, CIA psychologist contractors who devised the program, proposed it to the CIA, and helped carry it out, should also be investigated for their role in the initial conspiracy.”

    • 0
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      @sbarrkum

      I guess a compelling question is “what does the US Government think of it ?”

      The answer of course is “Nothing”.

  • 0
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    Truth is that there was detention camps in Sri Lanka and prisoners have been subjected to torture. Srilanka govt should take responsibilty and accountability.

  • 0
    0

    What happened to the killings of 5 University student in Trincomalee by the Sri Lankan Navy personals?

    Mangala!Reveal to the public about this Navy Torture Camp in Trincomalee.

  • 0
    0

    Seeking the Truth and Reconciliation

    Empirical evidence has shown that seeking truth behind unpleasant things of the past have caused negative and more unpleasant situations. It has only helped some UN and NGO people to thrive and not the affected parties. People may always quote the South African experience. But Sri Lankan situation is completely different from that of South Africa. In South Africa the conflict was between the Black majority and the White minority domination. In Sri Lanka unlike South African situation, the Sinhalese and Tamils have lived for centuries.
    In my view ant attempt to seek the so called truth is likely to cause more division than the much hyped reconciliation. Let us forget the ugly past and think of the present and the future without getting into the trap of seeking the truth. Genuine devolution of power to empower Tamil population will justify the irrelevance of seeking the truth.

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