Amidst the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council session, the leader of the Tamil Makkal Thesiya Kootan (TMTK), CV Wigneswaran, spoke with Tamil Guardian on issues of devolution, the 13th amendment, the weaknesses of the UNHRC resolution, and the need for Sri Lanka to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
The government has done its work to dilute the resolution
Speaking to our journalists, Wigneswaran slammed the resolution as “insufficient” noting that the latest draft had been diluted in favour of Sri Lanka.
As evidence, he highlights the removal of paragraph 19 and how paragraph 5 has been amended to draw less emphasis on the continued militarisation of the Sri Lanka state. The latest version of the resolution instead notes the “importance of preserving civilian government functions from militarisation”.
The “government seems to have done its homework rather belatedly to dilute the draft Resolution” he notes.
Wigneswaran also highlighted his disappointment with the resolution’s failure to call for Sri Lanka to be referred to the ICC. Despite this, he remains optimistic stating:
“Each year the resolution is getting closer to bringing justice to our people. Those who committed severe War Crimes, Crimes against humanity, and genocide are not going to avoid the Sword of the Damocles falling on them”.
Sri Lanka must be referred to the ICC
During the interview, Wigneswaran stressed the need for Sri Lanka to be referred to the ICC however noted the difficulties behind achieving this:
“Under the Rome Statute, the ICC can only investigate and prosecute the four core international crimes in situations where states are ‘unable’ or ‘unwilling’ to do so themselves; the jurisdiction of the court is complementary to jurisdictions of domestic courts. The court has jurisdiction over crimes only if they are committed in the territory of a state party or if they are committed by a national of a state party; an exception to this rule is that the ICC may also have jurisdiction over crimes if its jurisdiction is authorized by the United Nations Security Council”.
“Ranil was responsible for our not ratifying the Rome Statute,” Wigneswaran told our journalists, referring to Sri Lanka’s President Ranil Wickremesinghe. He notes however that Wickremesinghe will take steps to ratify the Rome Statute if international aid was made contingent on this.
“The settlement of the ethnic question is sine quo non for this country to prosper”
Speaking on the issue of devolution, Wigneswaran noted that whilst Wickremesinghe would not meet Tamil demands, they discussed possible models for devolution including “examining the Pondicherry and Goa models in India”.
“I believe Pondicherry and Goa would not be close to the internal self-determination that we were expecting. But the fact Ranil was interested in looking for solutions to our problem was a positive aspect of my meeting him” Wigneswaran told our journalists.
Wigneswaran also showed a degree of sympathy with the president noting:
“Earlier when he came into Parliament as sole representative of the UNP, Ranil was almost ostracised. He would be seated along the corridor all alone. I had had occasion to speak to him when he was so seated. I felt he had visions for Sri Lanka. He was talking of all of us getting together to pull the Country out of the impasse that it had got into, both economically and politically. Maybe Ranil knew his stars were going to be good and he was getting ready!”
Wigneswaran also claimed that following the appointment of Maitripala Sirisena to the presidency in January 2015, he held discussions with Wickremesinghe alongside representatives from the Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan and M.A. Sumanthiran. Wickremesinghe would vehemently deny these meetings when asked by journalists.
“Ranil totally denied it and said he never met us. In fact, he said I had lied. Sam and Sumanthiran did not come to my aid. They kept silent. But the fact was Ranil did meet us”.
“He was scared of what the Sinhalese would think if he accepted that he met the Tamil representatives. This is a weakness among Sinhalese Politicians. They feel that any attempts by them to solve Tamil problems would show them in bad light among the Sinhalese” he added.
Wigneswaran’s more positive stance towards Wickremesinghe stands in sharp contrast to members of the TNA. Ahead of a parliamentary vote to elect Sri Lanka’s president, following the resignation of then exiled President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the TNA put out a statement claiming that their MPs had unified behind the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) candidate Dullas Alahapperuma.
Speaking with Tamil Guardian, Sumanthiran struck a more defiant tone describing Wickremesinghe as a “Rajapaksa agent” simply “holding the seat for the Rajapaksa family”.
Wigneswaran however maintains that he has some faith in the Sri Lankan president given he is “western-orientated, an anglophile, and is conscious of human rights due to his legal background”.
Wigneswaran noted that whilst the president cannot explicitly emphasise with Tamils, “due to the racist conditionings he got from the time JR was President, he knows that the settlement of the ethnic question is a sine qua non (an essential condition) for this Country to prosper and progress".
‘A bird in the hand is worth two in a bush’
Commenting on India’s push for Sri Lanka to fully implement the 13th amendment, Wigneswaran notes India’s desire for continuity.
“They probably feel that one in hand is better than two in the bush,” he tells our journalists.
Whilst recognising that the 13th amendment is “insufficient and ineffective”, he also notes that had the provincial councils been functioning they may have acted as a check against continued military landgrabs.
“Since the Elections under the Thirteenth Amendment has been continuously postponed until now, the government, its departments, and its racially partial Sinhala officers have been able to expropriate large areas of land within the North and East (The Tamil Homelands)” he emphasised.
He further highlights the international conference on landgrabs he helped organise last year which exposed “what the Government was doing to demographically change the population spread in the North and East”.
He concludes by noting that whilst he supports a co-federal solution in the Tamil North-East, with a unit for the Muslims, “as an immediate measure we welcome the full implementation of the Thirteenth Amendment”.
“Provincial Council Elections must at least be held in the North and East soon”.
Read the full transcript here.