(மாண்புமிகு ராஜவரோதயம் சம்பந்தன் – எதிர்க்கட்சி முதல்வர்)

(The Hon. Rajavarothiam Sampanthan – Leader of the Opposition)

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Member. I would like to express a few views, Sir, on
this Office for Reparations Bill which has come up somewhat belatedly. But we
are all happy that it has come up. In fact, the Office on Missing Persons
(Establishment, Administration and Discharge of Functions) Bill also was
delayed considerably and passed but eventually not implemented for a long
time even after being passed. But, subsequently, after the Office on Missing
Persons was appointed, the persons handling that responsibility, I think, are
doing their very best to be as effective as they can and we are grateful for that.
I would like to make a few comments in regard to this matter because the
ascertainment of truth, the delivery of justice, the issue of accountability,
reparations and non-recurrence are all fundamental components of the
transitional justice process; process to bring about reconciliation on the basis of
truth, justice and accountability in the country which has gone through several
decades of armed conflict. This Bill is a very welcome feature, Sir, but it must
not be used to sideline truth and justice. Truth and justice must always prevail.
Even the issue of missing persons or the issue of reparations must be dealt with
on the basis of truth and justice. The Office on Reparations should be able to
formulate policies based upon truth and to ensure justice to all victims. That is
fundamental.

I find certain provisions in the Bill which will enable the Government to play a
role in regard to the implementation of whatever policies are formulated by the
Office for Reparations. This must not be a matter that comes under the control
of the Government, Sir. The Office for Reparations must have the freedom to act
independently in this matter to formulate the required policies and be able to

find avenues to offer reparation to persons who have been victimized. Youth
have been victimized in a very large manner. What are the reparations that can
be given? They must be empowered to acquire skills that will enable them to
carry on their life in the future independently and as best as they can. There will
be reparation that must be given to youth. People need to be economically
empowered. People have been impoverished as a result of the war. There needs
to be economic empowerment to the people to enable them to lead their life
without deprivation or denial.

Land is a fundamental issue. Yet, land is being held by the military, by the
armed forces. I know that after the present Government came into being
substantial action has been taken and lands have been released in many places,
but land still continues to be in the occupation of the military. People have lost
their lands. People have been evicted from their lands. Displaced people, when
they came back to their villages, have found that their lands are being occupied
by other people or, they are unable to occupy the lands. Those lands must be
released to those people. Reparation in regard to land is one of the fundamental
issues that the Office for Reparations has got to handle. People affected by the
war as a result of the war taking place in some parts of the country, the North
and the East, have not been able to receive state lands. There have been no land
Kachcheries; there has been no action taken to give lands to landless people.
That must be done. The Office for Reparations must formulate policies to ensure
that all problems in regard to land that victims of the war have faced, whether it
be army occupation, whether it be the issue of land being denied to them,
whether they are unable to occupy land to which they want to return because
somebody else is occupying it, all these matters must be addressed on the basis
of policies that are drawn out and implemented to achieve these matters.
I also want to mention one other matter, Sir. The detainees, persons in custody,
some have been convicted; some have not been charged; some have been
charged and charges are pending. This matter has gone on for a long time. A
number of persons are carrying out demonstrations and fasts in various prisons

and various parts of the North and the East demanding the release of these
people. Something needs to be done. A large number of people have been
convicted purely on the basis of their confessions. In the case of a large number
of people, the only evidence available against them is the confession they have
made. There is no other evidence available against them. I have not been able to
study the Counter Terrorism law that was tabled in Parliament, yesterday.

But I am told that under the Counter Terrorism law, confessions can no longer
be admissible at the trial of a person charged with any offence. If confessions
are being completely ruled out, and even the new Counter Terrorism law
accepts that position, then the Government is obviously accepting the position
that there can be no conviction, not even a charge based upon the confession. If
that be so, the persons in custody, even persons who have been convicted, must
be dealt with on the basis that they have been convicted on the confession
which was the only available evidence, there being no other evidence against
them, which the Government accepts now as a matter of policy is inadmissible,
is invalid, is something that which Government policy would not permit to
accept and is not in keeping with international norms. If that be the position Sir,
I would appeal to the Government to take steps for the release of all these
persons who are in custody based purely on their confession. Whether they
have been convicted or charged and not convicted does not matter, but if the
only evidence against them is a confession, then I would submit that they must
be released and the Office for Reparations can play a role, in my view, should
play a role, in ascertaining the truth in regard to this matter and taking steps
with the Government to have these persons released.

Sir, we know after the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord in 1987 and during the JVP
insurrection in 1971, 1988/1989, a large number of persons were released;
some may not have been released, but a large number of persons were released.
So, the same rule should apply in this instance Sir. These persons are in custody
for long periods of time. Sometimes they have been in custody for periods of

time longer than they would have been in custody if they were tried, convicted
and sentenced. I do not think Sir, that should continue and that is also a matter
which I think would come within the purview of the Office for Reparations.
The Office for Reparations must comprise of capable people who are able to
formulate policies based upon the hardships, the denials, the deprivations that
people affected by the war, victims of the war, have gone through and be in a
position to address their needs and requirements, their necessities in all these
areas in a comprehensive manner.