ගරු එම්.ඒ. සුමන්තිරන් මහතා

(மாண்புமிகு எம்.ஏ. சுமந்திரன்)

(The Hon. M.A. Sumanthiran) 

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker for the opportunity to say a few words on the Order made under the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. 

Before I deal with the issue at hand, with your permission and as I said earlier, I wish to make a clarification using my own time with regard to certain matters raised by  the Hon. Wimal Weerawansa a little while ago, and also by the Hon. Douglas Devananda two days ago, about the release of certain persons in the Maradankerni area on the night of 03rd January. 

This issue was published in a gossip column in “the Sunday Times” newspaper of last Sunday, the 06th of January and repeated in the “Daily Mirror”  newspaper of the 07th of January. Both did not identify me. Nevertheless, very clearly by innuendo, I was identified as the person concerned.  I immediately issued a statement.  Some media institutions have carried it, but most others have not. Therefore, I think it is important that I make it here.

On the 03rd of January night, around 8.00 p.m., there was a vehicle in the Chembianpattu area suspiciously going up and down and that was noticed by the youth of the area. I will have to say that it was around  this area that a couple of years ago, there were attempts made on my life, which is a matter of High Court case, where the Attorney-General has indicted five people in H.C. 242 of 2018. The matter is now pending in the High Court of Colombo.  It came up last on the 07th of January and the next date of trial is 26th of April, 2019 and anyone can check the court record with regard to the two assassination attempts on my life.  That happened in this area. I was to go for an event in a  Chembianpattu  school the next morning at 8.30 and because of this, the area youth were a little vigilant and when an unidentified vehicle with men in civil clothes were moving about, the youth of the area stopped the vehicle and checked to see who they were. They claimed to be from the police. They were in civil attire.  They were asked to show their identity cards. They refused to show the identity cards but they pulled out their pistols and got into the vehicle and fled. The youth gave chase behind them on their motorcycles and it was a youth who informed the Army checkpoint ahead that a suspicious vehicle was coming that way and to stop that vehicle. It was the Army who actually stopped that vehicle. So, contrary to what is being spread, the youth were not arrested or apprehended. It was the other way round. It was the Army who stopped this vehicle of men and of course, when they were stopped, it was found that they were actually from the police. They were from the Vice Squad under the directions of the DIG of the area and then, when it was found that they were from the police, the local police was called and they were handed over to the local police. But, at that point they made allegations that these youth had assaulted them and therefore four youth were also taken into custody. That is what has happened. There was no Ganja that was taken into custody. There was no raid on that. It was a case of mistaken identity because of the extra vigilance that was exercised by the area youth and it was they who gave chase and with the assistance of the Army, apprehended these police personnel who were in civil clothes. But, these youth were taken into custody. Therefore, I spoke to the DIG. Naturally, these people had acted with vigilance for the sake of my own security, in an area where there were supposedly two assignation attempts. I do not want say to anything beyond that because there is a case pending and those persons are free to prove their innocence. But, there is a case pending. In that area, they had exercised extra vigilance and they caught these people. There was no ganja involved. So, I spoke to the DIG and explained to him what happened. I did not ask DIG Gunarathne to release them. I told him, “This is what that has been reported to me.” He said, “I will make inquiries and take appropriate action” and I heard that he had released those four youth the next morning.  

Now, this is being portrayed as me interfering in some kind of law and order situation and me interfering to have ganja smugglers released, far from the truth. It is a matter of regret that two newspapers of repute have also published this in their gossip columns and I request those newspapers to please, carry this clarification. If you were bold enough to publish that, you should have named me. There is no necessity for you to hide my name and make a publication of this sort. 

That said, Sir, let me get on to the Order that we are discussing today. I was listening to the speeches being made from the Government side. The Hon. Ajith Mannapperuma spoke just before me. He mentioned various cases. He mentioned the case of Lasantha Wickrematunge; he mentioned the case of Prageeth Eknaligoda; he mentioned the case of Wasim Thajudeen. I want to ask the Government why nothing has been done with regard to even those three cases that you are mentioning. You only talk. You do not do anything. Minister of Justice and Prison Reforms is here. Four years you had this Government. You only come in, mouth these words and go. You have not taken any action. The killers have not been apprehended. They have not been brought to justice yet. -[Interruption.] No, please! Hon. Minister, you can reply me later. Do not take my time. You have not done a thing; your Government has not done a thing. Year after year, Session after Session, you say all these names. You are complicit with the previous regime in covering up these crimes. Only words, nothing else! 

I went for Lasantha’s tenth year remembrance just two days ago. I remember carrying his casket on my shoulder at his funeral. True, four years ago, on that very day, the regime changed. But what has happened? Why has there been no progress? Two days ago, several Members of the Government and indeed, several Members from the Opposition spoke about the independence of the judiciary. I want to say something. One swallow does not make a summer. I too bow to the judiciary for the manner in which they acted with independence in the attempted coup that started on the 26th of October. But, that is just one instance.  We are talking about the murders of journalists. We are mentioning names. But, can Members in the Government benches even mention the names of Tamil journalists who were killed during this period of time? Do you even know one name? At a recent event, I said 14 Tamil journalists were killed during the period of 20 years. Someone had done a fact-check and said “Maybe, not 14. In the period between 1999 and 2009, in a 10 year-period, nine Tamil journalists were killed.” All right! So, let us say that nine Tamil journalists were killed. Has anything been done? Not even an investigation has commenced. But, what about other things? Yes, On Ekneligoda, there are some investigations that are going on. On Wickrematunga, there are some investigations that are going on. But, if you have a Tamil name, you do not even start an investigation, and you have the gall to come here and say that you have independent institutions. You are bold enough to assert that there is no necessity for international involvement. 

But, I am glad that two days ago, in several speeches made in this House, at least all of those Speakers conceded that there must be a judicial mechanism for the allegations of war crimes. In fact, my good Friend, the Hon. Arundika Fernando even went to the extent of saying that no war in any part of the world is ever fought without war crimes being committed. I am thankful to him for that. He conceded that war crimes are committed in every war. Every other Member, even from the JVP, Hon. Bimal Rathnayake said, the war crimes inquiry must be a local inquiry. At least after nine years, or almost ten years, you come to the realization that there must be a judicial inquiry with regard to war crimes. 

Now the question of independence. I gave some examples. If you have a Tamil name, there will not be even an investigation commenced. Is that not a good reason why you need neutral umpires? In cricket, we do not protest, when you have to have some foreigner come and stand here and umpire international matches. Why? Why, do we allow it? We allow it because justice must not only be done but also seen to be done. This is a different issue. If it is between the UNP and the SLFP and you go to the court here, there is some chance, that the court acts with independence. Time and again we have seen that, and sometimes we have not even seen that. But, when we are talking about a war that was fought by the Government of Sri Lanka against another armed group, the Government of Sri Lanka cannot be the arbiter. The Government of Sri Lanka cannot be, whichever organ of Government it is, the person who inquires into it. Anyone will agree that any judicial mechanism must be independent. It must not be partial. What is independence? A party involved in the dispute cannot inquire into the dispute. That is independence. If the Government of Sri Lanka was involved in the dispute, the Government of Sri Lanka cannot inquire into it. You need an independent arbiter to look into that. 

The Hon. Vasudeva Nanayakkara asked questions from the Minister of Justice and said that there are crimes that are not even declared as crimes in this country, and the Central Authority can send the person off. I want to give you one example. When Sepala Ekanayake hijacked the Alitalia aircraft, we did not have a law in this country for air piracy. After the event, we passed a law in this Parliament – Offences Against Aircraft Act. How was it possible to bring such  a retroactive legislation? It was because our Constitution recognizes that even if no local legislation has been passed, if it is a crime that is recognized by the civilized community of nations, you can make law with retrospective effect. If it is a crime that is recognized by the civilized community of nations, you can bring in law that recognizes it as an offence subsequent to the event. 

On this issue of war crimes or international crimes, as they are properly called, we do not have laws in this country yet; we still have no laws in this country. We must  make those laws with retrospective effect because those are international crimes. Those are crimes that have been recognized by the civilized community of nations. Therefore, that must be done. 

Now, we are cooperating in criminal matters like this. Why are we doing that? Physically, we are an island, but we cannot be an island separate from all other countries in the world. We belong to a community of nations; we have relationships between other countries in the world and we are, as much as possible, complying with international standards. That is expected of us. There is nothing wrong with that. That does not affect our sovereignty; that is a false notion to say that our sovereignty is affected. People do not know what sovereignty means, if they speak like that. If we are part of a community of nations, a civilized community of nations, then we must adopt all of those standards that are to be applied.

People say, “Yes, war crimes have been committed”. We are not saying that one side committed those. All international reports very clearly say that both sides committed war crimes. Now, when I say this, I know I come under fire from my community  for admitting that the LTTE committed war crimes. But, I am ready to say that. I agree with the Hon. Arundika Fernando that no war is fought without the commission of war crimes. All parties committed it. So, why are you shy to say that? At least now, you have agreed that there must be an inquiry, but it must be local. Why should it be local? If you have no fear, you can face any tribunal. In that respect, I commend the Hon. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, who has repeatedly said that he is ready to go before any international tribunal; he has repeatedly said that. He was the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army at that point in time. He has no hesitation in saying that. Why are you scared? If the Army Commander at that time repeatedly says it publicly, why is everybody else scared about this? If it is to be independent, it must necessarily be international. In local disputes between political parties, our  Judiciary might be independent. But, when it comes to the Government as opposed to forces that vowed to separate the country, one does not know, one does not take chances with doubts over independence of the Judiciary. Therefore, I want to make it very clear. When I say this, it does not mean that I am against the sovereignty of the country, far from that. Countries that have progressed, countries that value human rights, countries that value fundamental freedoms are always ready to accept others to participate in these processes. We participate in these processes with regard to other countries. When on the Gaza Strip, there was bombing by Israel on a flotilla of ships, the UN appointed a Committee of Inquiry and our own Palitha Kohona was a member of that inquiry. So, we participate with regard to allegations of crimes committed by other governments. But, with regard to our own matters, we scream, saying sovereignty is being breached. Double standards! It is those double standards that I talked about earlier also the reason why just on the issue of journalists alone, not even one investigation has commenced. Not that other investigations that are happening here have gone anywhere. It is just eyewash, wasting everybody’s time having matters taken up in the Magistrate’s Court month after month or three months at a time and nobody is ever apprehended. 

You say so much about what the previous Government did. But, you have not done a thing; you have not been able to do it. Not that you have not been able to do it, but you are unwilling to bring the perpetrators to book. Enough time has been given. Four years is a very long time to bring perpetrators to book. Even with regard to corruption, nothing has been done. With regard to all those serious corrupt deals that you talk about, nothing has been done. So, the only conclusion one can come to is that this is how it goes on in this country. When you are on this side, you make allegations against that side. Then, you change chairs, the other side makes allegations against you. But, you have a good understanding between the two of you – we will just make noise, but we will never find anybody guilty. So, you take turns to be corrupt, to be violent, to breach the law and the other side shouts. Then, the turn changes, the other side is corrupt, violent, breaches all the laws and this side will shout. Only shouting and nobody is ever being tried or convicted. That is an understanding between the two main parties in this country. So, that is another reason why we say serious issues like international crimes cannot be left to mechanisms like that. There has to be an independent mechanism and there will be, I say with confidence. These are matters that cannot be brought under the false notions of sovereignty. Some of these commitments are crimes against humanity. That is how, after the Second World War, certain persons were found guilty in the Nuremberg trials. They obeyed higher orders, but that was not accepted because it said higher than municipal laws, higher than a country’s laws, there is a thing called natural laws. Crimes against humanity is a matter for the world, not for just one country. 

Matters that touch upon international law, jus cogens, and customary international law are all laws in this country also. You do not have to pass domestic legislation for that like the Offences Against Aircraft Act. So, do not fool yourselves into thinking that you can continue to fool the people of this country. Tell them the truth, tell them that if something has gone wrong, it must be dealt with. You must face it. There is no shame in facing the truth, absolutely no shame in facing the truth. There is shame in covering up the truth. So, at least now, on a day when you move to have this mutual assistance, cooperate with other countries with regard to crimes. I agree with the Minister that these are not matters that one needs to be worried about. These are not matters under which somebody who is accused of war crimes can be taken away. No, this has nothing to do with that and that is our disappointment.  Our disappointment is, this has nothing to do with that. We want you to bring proper Legislation to make international crimes, crimes in this country. Why are you not doing that with retrospective effect? You must do that. That is a commitment that this country has made to the international community, to the world. If we want to move forward, if we want to really be known as a country that values the rule of law, that values fundamental freedoms, that values human rights, those must be done. The people of this country must be educated, must be told that it must be done and that there is no shame in that and that is not a matter through which you betray the country. 

Thank you.    

Video link: https://www.facebook.com/1332591004/posts/10218889072841161/