By Amaravathi –
Mr. Wigneswaran is widely acclaimed among all ethnic groups as a person of honour, courage and integrity, and dedication to democratic principles and rule of law.
These were also among the reasons why he was chosen by the TNA as the unity candidate for the post of Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council.
However, there were obvious warning signs – his assertion that he does not “do politics”, and his tendency, therefore, to place himself above lesser “political” mortals, and to offer freewheeling thoughts on what Tamils should or should not do etc – – most often to Indian news papers with known political agendas.
For example, in his early interviews – he sweepingly derided the role of the Tamil Diaspora, and Tamil Nadu politicians — all of which were the opposite of TNA’s declared positions – without having had an interchange with those persons.
More troubling is the fact, based on Google search, that there is no record of his publicly calling for an international investigation of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by both sides – which is surprising given his long and distinguished record of upholding justice and the rule of law, and his fearless condemnation of the progressive loss of judicial independence in Sri Lanka, and his knowledge of alleged war crimes that had occurred.
Whatever his personal views may have been in the past with regard to an independent international investigation, as TNA’s candidate for Chief Minister, he had signed on to the comprehensive manifesto of the TNA.
TNA’s manifesto issued in on September 3, 2013, unequivocally gives central importance to an independent international investigation of alleged violations in “ matters of immediate concern for the Tamil People”.
The relevant part of the manifesto is given below..
““MATTERS OF IMMEDIATE CONCERN FOR THE TAMIL PEOPLE
In addition to continuing to pursue a just and lasting solution, we will actively engage in addressing the immediate and current concerns of our People. We will seek to enforce the recommendations made by the Panel of Experts appointed by the UN Secretary General and the Resolutions adopted at the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012 and March 2013. The specific matters are as follows:
- There must be meaningful de-militarization resulting in the return to the pre-war situation as it existed in 1983 before the commencement of hostilities by the removal of armed forces, military apparatuses and High Security/Restricted Zones from the Northern and Eastern Provinces
- Tamil People who have been displaced in the North and the East due to the conflict must be speedily resettled in their original places; housing provided, their livelihoods restored and their dignity respected
- An Independant International Investigation must be conducted into the allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws made against both the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE during the last stages of the war, the truth ascertained and justice to victims and reparation including compensation must be ensured
- Persons who are detained without charges must be released promptly and a general amnesty should be granted to all other political prisoners
- There must be finality reached with regard to thousands of missing persons and compensation must be paid to the next of kin
- Tamils who fled the country must be permitted to return to their homes and a conducive atmosphere created for their return
- A comprehensive programme for the development of the North and East including the creation of employment opportunities for the youth will be undertaken with the active support of the Sri Lankan State, the Tamil Diaspora and the International Community”
The Google search also shows that Mr. Wigneswaran has not publicly supported an international investigation to date, even after TNA’s manifesto had been announced.
In fact, some of his statements have had the opposite effect, for example when he reportedly told the Hindu on September 12,” where the husband and wife are having a fight, the neighbor must not come and say that you must divorce. That is not your business”. Although his comment was directed at Tamil Nadu politicians, he surely must have known that the same reasoning would be applied to the international community as a whole, which would echo the view of the Rajapaksa regime.
In any event, it is striking that Mr. Wigneswaran’s comprehensive statement at the inaugural meeting of the Northern Provincial Council did not include a call for an independent international investigation.
This along, with his statements to the Indian Press, have caused unwanted and dangerous confusion on such a central issue. It is vitally important that TNA, its Chief Minister and its Members of the Northern Provincial Council immediately make crystal clear that their position on the central issue of an international investigation, remains exactly same as in the Manifesto.
The issue of an international investigation is scheduled to come up for a decision by the UN Human Rights Council in a few months time in March 2014, and could well be also discussed at the imminent CHORG Colombo.
Therefore, an immediate strong affirmation of the commitment of the Chief Minister, Northern Provincial Council and TNA to an international investigation is urgently needed, to be made immediately to Commonwealth Heads of State, as well as to the wider International Community, especially to the US and the UN Secretary General. Any possible participation of the TNA in the CHORG, should be contingent on it being allowed to make that proposal at CHORG.
A failure to do so, would be a betrayal of the trust that the Tamil people have so overwhelmingly placed in the TNA and its manifesto.
It would also be indefensible when the IC is finally taking serious notice of its failure to protect the hundreds of thousands of Tamil victims during and after the war, as evidenced, for example, by the recent admission by the UN Secretary General at the UN General Assembly, that there had been a UN “systemic failure”, and by the candid statements by the UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay, as well as US ambassador Sison, that there has been no progress on accountability, and little progress on human rights and democracy fronts, since the end of the war — and even a deterioration in the situation after the two US sponsored resolutions had been approved by the UN Human Rights Council in March
It would also be a betrayal of all those persons and organizations, including, for example UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, leading international human rights organizations, British Channel Four, Tamil Nadu people, Tamil Diaspora , the British Labour Party etc, who have worked tirelessly for truth, accountability and reconciliation.
Should India , US and others still decide not to support an international investigation, it should be solely their responsibility. TNA as the Tamil people’s democratically elected representatives should not give them an excuse to escape their responsibility.
It seems clear that the Rajapaksa regime, along with some countries like India, US and UK , who have worked against an international investigation for nearly five years, are seeking to exploit perceived differences between Mr. Wigneswaran and rest of TNA and his relative inexperience in diplomatic maneuverings.
Mr Wigneswaran’s recent letter to the Indian Prime Minister inviting him to visit Jaffna, at a time when the question whether the Indian Prime minister should attend the imminent CHOGM in Colombo was a contentious domestic issue in India, was a disastrous venture. His subsequent explanation that the letter was unconnected to the Prime Minister attending or not attending CHOGM, only made him look even worse.
The TNA may want to write to the UN Secretary General expressing gratitude for his recent acknowledgement of UN’s “systemic failure” (1), during the final months of the war, and requesting that, in light of that failure , and the current dismal situation in Sri Lanka on accountability and its other war end commitments made to him by President Rajapaksa , as reported by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights , he establish without delay an independent international mechanism to investigate the credible allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by both sides , which had been recommended to him by the UN Panel of Experts as early March 2011. According to the UN Internal review of UN Actions in Sri Lanka, as early as June 2009, “ the UN Office of Legal Affairs (had ) advised the Secretary General that he had the authority, under Article 99 of the UN Charter, to establish Commissions of Inquiry.”
*Excerpt on Sri Lanka from UN Secretary general’s report to the UN General Assembly on September 24, 2013.
“The inability of Member States and the United Nations to prevent and put a stop to large-scale human rights violations has had disastrous consequences.
An internal review of UN action at the end of the war in Sri Lanka identified a systemic failure: Member States did not provide the UN system with support to meet the tasks they themselves had set; and the system itself did not adapt properly or deliver fully.
In this 20th anniversary year of the Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, we should renew our commitment to the UN’s founding principles. I intend to do more to help Member States reach early consensus to prevent large-scale violations, and I am implementing recommendations to ensure that the UN system upholds its responsibilities under the Charter”.