International mechanism will try LTTE cadres again – Thulasi
BY Mirudhula Thambiah
Former LTTE cadres led Crusaders For Democracy (CFD) Media Coordinator Ganeshalingam Chandralingam alias Thulasi commenting on the alleged war crimes investigations said, even if a Hybrid Court system is adopted, former cadres will have to face disadvantages of being tried again in Courts for war crimes, which they have already faced under the local judiciary as a result of which they have undergone rehabilitation, hence the former cadres will have to undergo judicial proceedings twice.
"If war crimes are tried through a domestic set up the former cadres cannot be tried again on the same accusation. In such a circumstance, as the cadres have faced legal proceedings, only the other party will have to be tried for war crimes under a domestic mechanism. However, the situation will be different if it is an international mechanism," he said.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
?: Majority of the Tamil representatives and the diaspora community are of the view that the two-year extension provided at the UNHRC will not support the aspirations of Tamil people. Are you on a similar stand?
A: This two-year extension period given at the UNHRC will result in positive stances to the Tamil people. This extension will make the Sri Lankan Government to act more accountable for the recommendations made the UNHRC and they have clearly insisted on the implementation.
If this extension was not provided, the veto countries may have used their power to do away with the resolution imposed on Sri Lanka. This two-year period can even bring a change in government. Those actually accountable for war crimes are currently not in power. Therefore, this two-year period can bring any kind of political change in Sri Lanka. In such a situation, if those who are accountable obtain power, it will gain positive results for the Tamil people.
?: The UNHRC and the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms recommended a Hybrid Court to investigate into war crimes. However, the government had rejected this recommendation and clearly stated that no foreign judges will be brought to Sri Lanka. What are your observations in this regard, representing the former LTTE cadres?
A: It is quite an unfortunate situation that those who committed the crimes itself will set up mechanisms to investigate into it. It is a situation where those facing the resolution at the UNHRC will itself fix up a mechanism to investigate into it. Even if a Hybrid Court system is adopted, former cadres will have to face the disadvantage of being tried again in Courts for war crimes, which we already faced under the local judiciary and as result underwent rehabilitation. Therefore, the former cadres will have to undergo judicial proceedings twice.
Already more than 12,000 former LTTE cadres have faced legal action by the local judiciary and have been punished for war crimes by being sent for rehabilitation and then later being released. Therefore, if war crimes are tried through a domestic set up, former cadres cannot be tried for the same accusation. In such a circumstance since the cadres have faced legal proceedings, the other party will only have to be tried for war crimes under the domestic mechanism. However, the situation will be different if it is an international mechanism.
?: Last year the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) formed a medical expert team within the purview of the provincial administration to investigate on sudden mysterious deaths of rehabilitated former LTTE cadres; as there were various allegations that they were injected with toxic chemicals. However, so far, these medical experts have not made any reports publicly in this regard. How do you assess this situation?
A: There were various rumours spreading in connection to the sudden mysterious deaths of former cadres and the NPC had played a crucial role in covering up the actual issues and threats faced by former LTTE cadres. The Sri Lankan medical field does not have the expertise for examining into such complicated issues; especially on injected toxic chemicals. Even the Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne had to obtain medication for a stomach ache from a hospital in Singapore. Let it be ministers to parliamentarians or officials even the Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan had to obtain medical assistance from Indian Hospitals for cholesterol or any other similar disease.
Therefore, when a minister and the Opposition Leader rely on foreign medical assistance, it is quite unfair to insist the former cadres to undergo medical examination at local hospitals. This issue had turned into a comedy. We were dissatisfied of the moves taken by the NPC and the central government on this issue. Therefore, our cadres were not willing to trust the Sri Lankan medical set up in this context and refrained from obtaining treatment.
However, it is yet to be medically proven that the sudden deaths of former cadres occurred due to toxic chemicals. Yet it is necessary to understand that most former cadres are quite shocked by these sudden deaths. Even recently a former cadre died suddenly and the reason for his death is mysteriously, unknown.
We must also point out that some media groups and other unknown groups exaggerated this issue to create a negative reputation of the former cadres. These exaggerations have affected marriage and job opportunities of former cadres. It created a situation where parties began to inquire if the bride or the groom was a former LTTE cadre and if he or she underwent rehabilitation similar to how their castes and religions were questioned during marriage. These setbacks have had a tremendous impact on the former cadres.
?: In your election manifesto, your party firmly stressed, on a North-East merger and the right to self determination for Tamil people as a political solution for the ethnic crisis. However, in the current context majority from the Muslim community of the East are against this stand. At the same time, even India clearly stated that they will not pressurize on a merger, in such a context how far is it practical to merge both provinces?
A: In 1987, through the Indo-Lanka Accord the Northern and Eastern Provinces were merged and the 13th Amendment was adopted. We feel that the Tamil representatives have failed to make use of this positive opportunity. The Tamil people were always on the stance that a political solution can only be reached through a merged North-East.
However, in the current context the Muslim Community is against the merger. Therefore, both parties should initiate a dialogue to step on to a meaningful solution.
We would like to point out that once the issues of the Tamil community are solved, the Tamils and Muslims should discuss the common issues faced among them in order to maintain a good relationship among the Tamil speaking community.
However, in the current context the Tamils are powerless. Although they managed to obtain the mandate to Parliament they are only seated in the Opposition. We feel the Tamil community does not have the political value in the current situation to demand for a merged North-East.
There are many other issues that should be addressed among the Tamil community. These should be given initial priority rather than discussing the merger.
If you question the problems faced by the Sinhala or Muslim community they would mainly talk about financial issues. But the Tamil community will point out, comparatively more, on issues like their family members are missing and their lands are being grabbed. Therefore, issues of Tamil people should be addressed from the grass root level from local authorities to Provincial Councils.
All political parties should concentrate on the basic problems and rights of Tamil people apart from federal or unitary solution or North-East merger.
?: Grievances of missing persons have turned to a never ending story. There seems to be many protests demanding to find the whereabouts of the missing. Apart from which, from time to time, rumours and assumptions like their loved ones are dead or they have fled the country during the war have caused hurt and confusion among the relatives. How do you view the situation?
A: Grievances of the families of missing persons are one of the emotional problems faced by the Tamil community. Sri Lanka has a mechanism to adhere to if a person is dead. The government has the responsibility to address the confusion relating to missing persons and enforced disappearances. These demands should not be raised by the people on the street; rather it should be by their representatives, who obtained their votes must talk on behalf of the affected. Missing persons are from the North and East and there is no gain in establishing the office of missing persons in Colombo.
The government must understand that the issue of missing persons is emotional, and has affected the minds of schoolchildren to the elderly. If the government fails to address this problem it will emotionally create a negative stance in the minds of the affected.
?: How do you view the political future of Tamil people in the current context?
A: The Tamil National Alliance was unanimously elected by the Tamil people to represent them. Tamil people continuously voted for TNA as it was politically groomed by the LTTE and they were identified as the representatives of the LTTE.
People voted for TNA as a party and not for individuals like Sampanthan, Sumanthiran, Sritharan or Viyalendran. In the post war period the TNA had failed to fulfil the aspirations of the Tamil people even after getting a unanimous mandate. They made use of the responsibilities for their own pleasure.
The Tamil political arena is empty in the current situation. Tamil people are confused in choosing an alternative to the TNA. They are not in a situation to hand over the mandate to EPDP, PLOTE, EPRLF or TELO alone. In such a situation we the former LTTE cadres formed our political entity. Our administrative set up is developed to give a suitable service to our people, as an alternative.
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