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Credible war crimes inquiry with international actors essential - Wigneswaran tells UN chief


The chief minister of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC), C V Wigneswaran told the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon who visited Jaffna on Friday that a credible war crimes was essential and that the Tamil people would not be satisfied regarding its credibility unless international judges and prosecutors were included. 

"I had occasion to talk about the war crimes - that it is essential that a critical mechanism be constituted and that we were not very happy if the prosecutors and judges happen to be the locals because they do not have the credibility that is essential for a matter like this [or] war crimes process like this to be undertaken," Mr Wigneswaran told reporters after the meeting which took place at the Jaffna library. 

He also raised ongoing issues such as resettlement, the release of land from the military, the release of political prisoners, the repeal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) and the reintergration of former LTTE combantants into society. 

Many Tamils gathered outside the library on Friday as Mr Ban visited to raise awareness of their ongoing plight, despite the presence of armed Sri Lankan military officers. 

Mr Wigneswaran, who came out and spoke to the crowds as he left the meeting said he hoped some good would come of the meeting with the UN chief. 

Full transcript of his comments at the press briefing follows: 

"His Excellency Ban Ki Moon made his visit to meet us today. I think he was the highest civil dignatory who visited us and we were very happy that he did. But unfortunately the amount of time available to him was very, very limited. 

In fact when he started off from Colombo itself I hear it had been delayed, therefore we were almost restricted to a very very short length of time. Nevertheless we had expected these time of problems arising and therfore prepared a comprehensive documentation regarding what we wanted to point out or tell him; especially we had prepared a document consisting of the 4000 odd people who have been missing and made a full book out of that and handed it over. 

Similarly there are various other matters with regards to the amount of lands still held by the armed forces, buildings held by armed forces, our farms that are being held by the armed forces, and various ways in which the livelihood of our people is being affected by the continuation of the armed forces or the military - these matters were also brought to his notice. 

I also had occasion to point out to him that when he was here in 2009 there was a commitment on part of the government to promote and protect human rights. 

And even after seven years the PTA [Prevention of Terrorism Act] is still in force. When I point that out he immediately said he had advised the government to withdraw the PTA and also while withdrawing the PTA all those who have been held in custody because of the PTA, should also be allowed to be released. That was a welcome matter stated by his excellency. 

Next I had occasion to talk about the war crimes - that it is essential that a critical mechanism be constituted and that we were not very happy if the prosecutors and judges happen to be the locals because they do not have the credibility that is essential for a matter like this [or] war crimes process like this to be undertaken. 

Then also the question of bringing in the international law pertaining to war crimes needs to be also looked into. I said there is a tremendous amount of delay [and] there must be steps taken in that

He said it is very essential that the process itself must be a credible process; a credible mechanism which is acceptable to everybody, especially those who have been affected, will be or must be consituted; and that they are helping the government in every possible way to enable them to do that. 

Then regarding peace building we pointed out that unless peace building and war crimes process take place simultaneously or parallelly, it will not be of much use as you may spend a lot of money for reconciliation but the people will not be taking it very happily because they have lost so many of their dear ones, so one must take steps in order to bring justice to those affected by the war and then do these things parallelly. 

He agreed that that should be so but they will be taking the necessary steps as they go on. 

Then I pointed to the multi-lateral needs assessment that we have been talking out - where the UN is also involved, with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the European Union - he said those steps also will be taken. 

And finally there were various other matters that I mentioned, where the UN could help - the demining process as there is a paucity of funds with regard to the demining process; the resettlement process which must adhere to international standards like the Pinheiro principles - so there again the UN can be of help. 

Then rehabilitation of tanks and inland water ways was [also] referred to; war affected women and vulnerable groups whose livelihood assistance programme needed to be looked into. We want a tourism master plan to be done [and] a sustainable tourism development to take place; private sector development study to be undertaken; demilitarisation and demobilisation and reintegration with regard to the ex-combatants needed to be looked into as proper rehabilitation seems to have been not given. The necessary steps need to be taken to bring them back to the mainstream of social life. 

Security sector reforms also were suggested - that it is very essential, that the armed personal do be reduced. Also the construction of roads were also suggested. 

So it was a fairly fruitful meeting where our concerns were brought to his notice. He was also appreciative of it and said many of those matters he was already aware and he has taken steps and he has been asking the government to take the necessary steps. 

So let us hope that something good will come out of this meeting."

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