Theweekendleader

TNA MPs conspicuous by their absence in Geneva

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Dr. Brian Senewiratne

17-March-2012

Vol 3 | Issue 11


The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is a political party in Sri Lanka that represents the Tamil people, particularly in the North and East, where the most serious violations of human rights have occurred (and continue to occur). They are Members of Parliament in the Sri Lankan Parliament who are there to look after the interests of those who elected them.

With the 19th Session of UNHRC focused on Sri Lanka and the need to set up an independent international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Tamil North and East, one would have expected the TNA to be there ‘leading the charge’ in Geneva. Amazingly, they were nowhere to be seen – ‘missing in action’.

Did President Mahinda Rajapasa warn of a bloodbath against Tamils in Colombo to prevent the TNA MPs from visiting Geneva? (TV Grab Courtesy: Channel 4)

They thought it sufficient to submit a single page document on 25 February, 2012 . It had a strange title, “TNA won’t accentuate tensions by attending the UNHCR 19th Sessions.”

I am not a member of the TNA, indeed I am not even a Tamil. I found this title and the contents puzzling, to say the least.

Referring to the two Reports, the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts Report, and the GoSL’s ‘Lessons Learnt Reconciliation Commission’ Report, the leader of the TNA had this to say:

“The Sri Lankan State has a notorious reputation for failure to fulfil commitments it makes, and for not making public reports of processes which could hold it accountable.

The Tamil National Alliance genuinely fears that if the present unstable situation continues, violence could recur and the civilian population could again be the victims.

The Tamil National Alliance considers it imperative that in the present situation calm should be maintained, and that nothing should be done which could exacerbate tensions.

In these circumstances The Tamil National Alliance has decided not to be present in Geneva.”

With mounting criticism, nationally and internationally, the TNA changed its position.

On 27th February, 2012 (the day the Meeting commenced!), the TNA leader wrote a letter to all the 47 member countries of the UNHRC.

This was even more confusing. He now asked for an International Investigation! If this is what he wanted, then why were he and his fellow MPs not in Geneva to put the case forward?

I have no doubt that time would have been given for this, if only to hear the other side of the story to what the GoSL had given. In the unlikely event of being given no time, they could most certainly have booked a ‘side-show’ room.

I am not going to repeat here what was in this letter; it is on the net. All I can say is that I do not think that the TNA is being entirely truthful, or to put it differently, is not telling the UNHRC (and the international community) all the reasons – the facts.

When the facts are not known, fiction takes over. Of the many floating around, one is that the TNA were told in no uncertain terms by President Rajapaksa that if they went to Geneva for the UNHCR meeting, there would be a blood-bath in Colombo a la the 1983 massacre of Tamils in Colombo and the South.

The Rajapaksas are more than capable of doing this, just as the previous President, J.R.Jayawardene and his rabidly anti-Tamil Minister, Cyril Mathew, did in 1983, which resulted in the murder of some 3,000 Tamil men, women and children in Colombo and the South, and extensive destruction of their homes, businesses and property.

President Rajapaksa and his (very) violent brother, Gotabaya, the Defence Secretary (in effect the de facto President) is more than capable of organizing and conducting a mass slaughter of Tamils in Colombo and the South on a grander scale.

However, this is not 1983. The world is watching Sri Lanka closely, especially after the dreadful (UK) Channel 4 News video ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’. The Rajapaksas will be very foolish to try this again in Colombo and the South (or for that matter, anywhere else).

As for the GoSL’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), the TNA leader’s letter says:

“We submitted that the LLRC failed the victims of the war, and that its composition, mandate, process and findings fell dramatically short of international standards….. The government of Sri Lanka continues to demonstrate a lack of commitment to implement even the LLRC’s recommendations within a specific time-frame.

“We believe that it is our duty – as representatives of the Tamil people – to communicate their profound desire for truth and justice. We ourselves have been struck by the intensity of this desire, and the determination with which it is expressed to us.

“We have maintained that accountability remains an urgent and important need to help victim communities overcome trauma and rebuild their lives; to bring clout at sure to our collective and personal grief; to ensure genuine reconciliation; to break the cycle of impunity in Sri Lanka and most importantly, to insure against a return to violence.

“For these reasons we have urged the international community to take steps to institute an international investigation into the credible allegations of war crimes committed by both sides during the last stages of the war.”

It did not end there. After the Meeting started and the Head of the Sri Lankan delegation Mahinda Samarasinghe gave his long-winded speech, the TNA issued yet another document on 14 March 2012 titled, ‘BROKEN PROMISES: TNA response to the position of the Government of Sri Lanka at the 19th session of the UN Human Rights Council .’

It stated: “The Government of Sri Lanka has serious issues with regard to telling the truth and keeping its promises. In response to Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe’s statement to the 18th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council [UNHRC] on 12 September 2011, the Tamil National Alliance [TNA] issued a statement the very next day correcting the record and urging the Sri Lankan government ‘to be more forthright and honest in its representation of the situation in Sri Lanka to the international community.’

“Unfortunately, the government continues to mislead the international community at the ongoing 19th Session of the UNHRC sessions as well.”

It is astonishing that veteran Tamil politicians have only just discovered that the Government of Sri Lanka has “serious issues with telling the truth and keeping its promises”. This has been going on from 1956, if not earlier.

The TNA urges the international community to institute an international investigation, but is unwilling to go to Geneva and lobby the delegates! To repeat myself again, I find this astounding. To use a military term, the TNA was “missing in action”.

Although it may appear to be so, there does not seem to be any truth in the story that the TNA is now part of Rajapaksa’s Government. God only knows, stranger things have happened in Sri Lankan politics.

If, for whatever reason, the TNA politicians decided not to go to Geneva, the very least they could have done was to circulate their crucial “Situation Report. North and East,” which was tabled in the Sri Lankan Parliament on 21 October 2011. It was a factually correct Report of the dreadful plight of the Tamil people in the North and East.

I guess that would have really put Sri Lanka on the mat, which was clearly not the intention of the TNA.

I thought twice about making these highly critical comments about a political party that is there to look after the interests of the Tamil people, in particular the Tamil people in the North and East.

However, what has to be said has to be said. Having been involved in the struggle of the Tamil people for six decades (the Plantation Tamils since 1948, the Ethnic Tamils since 1956), I am not prepared to duck out now when the defenceless and now, voiceless, people in the Tamil North and East are being subjected to a ‘slow genocide’.

If I have trodden on some toes, they are toes that need to be trod on. Lord Reith, the founder of the BBC, famously said, “There are some whom it is out duty to offend”.

Dr. Brian Senewiratne (MBBS Hons (Lond) MD (Lond), FRCP (Lond), FRACP) is a Sinhalese doctor currently based in Australia
 
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