In the backdrop of The Tamil National Party (TNA) Spokesperson Suresh Premachandran stating that he had no knowledge of a meeting between TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran, GTF's Suren Surendiran, former Peace Envoy Erik Solheim and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in London on 6 May, Ceylon Today questioned TNA MP Sumanthiran on the London meeting.
By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
? Can you elaborate what was this 'informal' meeting in London with FM Mangala, Erik with the Norwegian Tamils, GTF (Global Tamil Forum), TNA and probably the SA delegation which we do not know
A: We (Suren and I) issued a statement from London. Now the Foreign Minister has made a lengthy statement in Parliament today. These clearly state what the meeting was about.
? Did the TNA inform the other Tamil parties/politicians in Sri Lanka about this meeting that was held in UK
A: No, we did not.
? Why wasn't all the Tamil Diaspora organizations were called for the discussion which could have brought better results even it was an informal meeting?
A: There were many back-door meetings held with other diaspora organizations in the past. Other TNA leaders also participated in these without making them public. After four rounds, two other diaspora groups insisted on expressing certain reservations and we had to abandon that project. The GTF on the other hand has consistently backed the TNA's position publicly on the basis that we are the elected reps of the Tamils. They were the only group who asked the Tamils to go out and vote at the Presidential Elections early this year, following TNA's call. Others called for a boycott!
? Are the Tamil Diaspora (everyone) and the Maithri Government for the South African model (A home grown of course) for the reconciliation process
A: We have not considered the SA model for reconciliation as suitable for SL. And if I remember correctly, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera has also recently said that amnesty for disclosure will not work in SL, and that perpetrators will be prosecuted, since confession and forgiveness is not part of the SL culture.
? SA model is more for a reconciliation process rather than accountability. The South African TRC made the Blacks to forgive the Whites and move on. How possible is this new SA model can make things go right for Sri Lanka in the process of RECONCILIATION including ACCOUNTABILITY also. The Tamils mainly want the accountability factor to be dealt with which they think leads to true reconciliation. What do you say
A: I agree wholeheartedly on your prescription for the SL situation. But I do not agree that the SA model was simply: Blacks forgive Whites! It was much more than that.
? On what basis the GTF is getting involved with the Government of Sri Lanka, while GTF is actually a banned organization by the former government and the ban is not lifted as yet
A: That you have to ask the GTF and the SL Government. I cannot comment on it.
? We see there are splits in ideologies among various Tamil Diaspora groups and have their own statements, own process plans for the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Has the GTF, TNA or the Govt. of Sri Lanka received a mandate from the Tamils on the Tamil issue on a SA based model
A: No. And as I said before, we have not considered the SA model for SL. Repeatedly questioning on a wrong premise like this only exposes the uninformed paranoia.
? Several quarters including members of ITAK and TNA Suresh Premachandran think the meeting is an attempt to 'dilute' and deviate from the Tamils' stance at the Geneva session in September. What do you have to say
A: That is not and cannot be true. Suresh knows the lengths to which I went in order to get the international inquiry resolution last year. He and some others initially condemned that resolution (again perhaps due to uninformed paranoia). I kept urging them in public not to do that and that there was international inquiry in that resolution.
? What is Erik Solheim's role in the meeting and possible Lanka reconciliation process
A: At the meeting, he participated very briefly so that we could tap into his experience with the processes earlier during his time as the special envoy.
? The GTF/TNA joint media release said that need for constructive engagement by the Sri Lankan Diaspora was discussed. Who are the other participants
A: The participants' list was revealed by the Foreign Minister in Parliament.
? We hear that already some of the Tamil Diaspora is funding housing schemes in the North. Is GTF involved? Ceylon Today was personally told that MP Sumanthiran is allocating diaspora funds to reconstruct houses in Varuththalaivilan, Jaffna
A: The GTF is not involved. I was approached by some people who want to build houses and I have introduced them to the people of Palai Veemankamam and Varuththalaivilan.
? The release of prisoners held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in the light of the review by the Ministry of Justice was also discussed. Did the government promise it would take measures to remove PTA after close evaluation
A: The repeal of the PTA was not discussed in London. But we have consistently called for its repeal. Please see my last speech in Parliament also where I have called for it.
? Tamils (the victims) have lost faith in the local investigation and called for an international investigations and prosecutions. This demand comes from the Tamils of the North and East, from the TNA (NPC CM/NPC, various MPs). Do you believe the new government with whom you are holding discussions with, is genuine about credible, domestic investigation and will this actually lead to meaningful accountability
A: People forget that an international investigation was conducted and the Report is now due in September! But when that Report comes, you do need a domestic mechanism to implement the recommendations. Otherwise that Report will sit on a shelf in Geneva.