By C.V. Wigneswaran –
His Excellency Maithripala Sirisena
May it please Your Excellency!
Problems of the Tamil Speakin People
This may be the last epistle that I may be directing to Your Excellency while you are still in office. It appears Your Excellency would not seek a second term of office. Your Excellency came to power with the votes of the minorities, especially the Tamils. It might be relevant o mull over the past a little just to assess what political benefits you have brought to the Tamils.
When I first met Your Excellency in Colombo you were very frank and cordial. I sought your help to release the Tamil political prisoners. Your Excellency said you are well aware of the experiences of being incarcerated since you spent many months in Jail during the JVP rising in 1971. Your Excellency was then a Member of the Chinese Wing of the Communist Party headed by Mr.Shanmugathasan. Your Excellency told me that you would gladly grant Amnesty to all Tamil political prisoners but the Sinhala papers have already started writing that you are releasing the Tigers and incarcerating the Sinhalese. For political reasons you said you needed time to consider how soon the prisoners could be released. Thereafter many reminders in person as well as in writing only got the response that Your Excellency would look into the matter but nothing materialized. The problem of the Tamil political prisoners still has not been solved.
Many matters need urgent attention as far as our Community is concerned. So too the Tamil speaking Muslims. They too need your intervention in many matters. But their leaders will no doubt bring their problems separately to Your Excellency’s notice.
Meanwhile let me briefly appraise Your Excellency of the unfortunate predicament our people are in –
1. Tamil political prisoners were taken into custody under a dubious statute called the Prevention of Terrorism Act, (which does not conform to International Standards of Justice and Fair Play), kept in very long periods of detention, remand, incarceration or finally convicted to serve jail sentences. The statute clearly is contrary to accepted legal norms in that by a mere confession a person could be convicted and sentenced to long periods of jail. When I was Supreme Court Judge, in Nagamany’s Case, I suggested corroborative evidence to be sought with regard to the contents of a confession since for any one or more of many plausible reasons, the confession may contain deliberate falsehoods. Unless a Court is certain that the offence mentioned in the confession had indeed in fact taken place through an independent witness, I had said such convictions on a mere confession would be very dangerous and could more often amount to travesty of Justice. Many Sinhala Judges would not follow this judgment since they were prejudiced right from the beginning against any Tamil person brought before them on a PTA charge. It was a Sinhala lawyer from the Polonnaruwa Bar who brought this to my notice.
They convicted many on mere confessions. I believe most of the Tamil political prisoners if not all were taken into custody under the draconian PTA and therefore releasing all of them, including those convicted, on a General Amnesty would be quite in order, since you are releasing persons not remanded nor convicted under the normal laws of the Country. After all not one of them in Remand or Convicted could have committed any more serious crime under the Law, than what Karuna had committed. He is held in high esteem and given Royal treatment by Powers that be. But those who carried out orders of such persons like Karuna are languishing in Jail for long periods of time. Hence releasing all Tamil political prisoners on a General Amnesty by Your Excellency could not amount to an indiscretion on Your Excellency’s part.
2. Those demonstrating on streets and elsewhere regarding their disappeared dear ones have done so by now for nearly 1000 days continuously. They only seek to know what happened to their dear ones taken into custody by the State officials on a specific date, time and venue.
You could have given some assurance to those seeking their dear ones long ago.
For the past four and a half years Your Excellency has not cared to inquire into those who had disappeared after being taken into custody by the Forces in the presence of reliable witnesses. Obviously Your Excellency knew what took place and therefore reluctant to probe into the activities of the Military and others lest they be exposed! Already some who demonstrated on the streets have passed away cursing Your Excellency because probing into the disappearances was within your authority and yet Your Excellency did not move an inch.
3. Still private lands are occupied by the Forces. Your Excellency has not been able to remove them all from private lands.
4. There are over 55000 to 60000 acres of State land in the Northern Province still occupied by the Forces. Ten years after the war Your Excellency has still not asked the reasons that prompted the Forces to keep these lands continuously for such a long period up to now. These lands traditionally belong to the people of the Northern Province. Security cannot be the reason since security investigations in modern days with appropriate equipment and accessories could be carried out from inside a small room. From such a room the entirety of the Northern Province could be overlooked with the help of satellites.
The Forces therefore do not need acres and acres of our land to look after our security.
It appears the continuance of the Military in our areas has certain other connotations. Buddhist places of worship are put up in areas where there are no Buddhists with the help of the Forces. Forcible colonization of our areas with persons from outside our district are taking place through the Mahaweli Development Authority with the assistance given by the Military. We need to be allowed to choose whether the Mahaweli Development Authority should be allowed to have jurisdiction over the Northern and Eastern Provinces which two Provinces have been accepted by Sri Lanka in the Indo Sri Lankan Accord of 1987 as follows –
“4.1. Also recognizing that the Northern and Eastern Provinces have been areas of historical habitation of Sri Lankan Tamil speaking peoples, who have at all times hitherto lived together in this territory ——–”
Construction of Buddhist places of worship without due permission being obtained from the relevant authorities and Pan Sinhala colonization of the Northern and Eastern Provinces by the Mahaweli Development Authority must be stopped by Your Excellency. After the 13th Amendment was passed provisions of Statutes such as the Mahaweli Development Authority Act have not been re considered in the light of the provisions of the 13th Amendment giving devolution of power to the periphery. No more can the national ratio be applied to Provinces. Colonisation should be according to the Provincial population ratio.
5. The assurances given by the Government in Geneva to the U.N. regarding War Crimes Inquiry to be conducted impartially with foreign collaboration have not been kept. Your Excellency has not questioned the Government the reasons for their delay and their indifference in this matter. May be Your Excellency is hand in glove with the present Government with regard to such matters concerning the Tamils, despite your political differences with them.
Many matters need Your Excellency’s intervention if not as the President of the Country at least as an obligation Your Excellency owes to the Tamils who brought you into office.
It is not too late to act prudently. At least the release of the Tamil political prisoners could be done by Your Excellency before you relinquish office since you would not be seeking office again and therefore political reasons need not constrain Your Excellency.
Let us hope Your Excellency would consider this request favourably as a token of your appreciation for what the Tamils did in January 2015 to bring you into power. I for one had done my part successfully.
Justice C.V. Wigneswaran
Former Chief Minister
Thamizh Makkal Kootanii