Tamil National Alliance (TNA) member of the Northern Provincial Council, MK Shivajilingam has said the people of the North-East have now demonstrated to the international community their demands for a international independent investigation, with the unanimous passing of a Northern Provincial Council (NPC) resolution.
In an interview with Tamil Guardian earlier this week, Shivajilingam stated that any domestic investigation by Sri Lanka should be rejected and only an international investigation can bring progress and justice, a demand stated in a NPC resolution passed earlier this year.
See the full transcript of his interview, which discussed the recent resolutions passed by the Northern Provincial Council, the issue of mass graves being unearthed and other pressing issues in the North-East, below.
Tamil Guardian: Could you tell us more about the resolution demanding for international investigation into war crimes and human rights violations?
Shivajilingam: Yes I proposed this resolution on 27th January 2014 and put forward three main points. The first point that it made was that what has happened and is still happening here is ethnic cleansing against Tamil people by the Sri Lankan government and the planned mass murder, which is equivalent to genocide, must be investigated through an international inquiry.
Secondly, we reject any mechanism by the Sri Lankan government because without the international community’s intervention, there are less chances Tamils will receive justice.
We called on the United Nations to ensure that an independent international investigation into war crimes, crimes against humanities, ethnic cleansing and genocide equivalent, with the UN’s support. Those were the three demands unanimously agreed by the Northern Provincial Council.
Tamil Guardian: What message were you hoping to send to the international community by passing this resolution?
Shivajilingam: Up until now, although the diaspora, as well as the TNA put forward these demands, the international community, specifically the US complained that these weren’t the demands of the people in the North-East, but that has been proven wrong by passing this resolution which was unanimously accepted by all representatives in the Northern Provincial Council.
Tamil Guardian: Comments suggest that the UNHRC’s resolution will work towards accountability, justice and reconciliation. What do you feel the people in the North-East want to see brought forward in this resolution?
Shivajilingam: In our meeting with the British High Commissioner, we outlined, that the Sri Lankan government is not even interested in giving powers to a village office, they have no interest in reconciliation. International pressure is what is needed.
The High Commissioner said he has seen some improvements, because he saw that the number of army camps since David Cameron’s visit, but we have denied that and explained him that while smaller camps are being closed, larger camps are being built. Hundreds of army personnel are involved in training activities on the street during the evenings. This scares people. We outlined many other issues.
Therefore, a resolution may bring pressure on the Sri Lankan government, but it will neither bring reconciliation, nor will it teach them anything. That is why only an international mechanism to enable international investigation can bring progress; otherwise Sri Lanka will only continue to fool around.
Tamil Guardian: The number of bodies found in mass graves in the North-East is rising by the day. How should these findings be dealt with to ensure truth, justice and accountability prevails?
Shivajilingam: Thousands of our people were disappeared, massacred and their remains are hidden. The Mannar mass grave was found when the ground was dug for water supply work and the length of it is growing further; until now 70-75 remains have been found. Those are definitely of those innocent Tamil people killed by the government forces. We are very sure of that. The investigations [into the mass graves] will only be credible if this is investigated by UN. We reject Sri Lankan investigations into it. There should be more excavations with the UN overseeing them.
The bodies are definitely of Tamil people. After IPKF forces left, and left areas under control of Sri Lankan army, there were conflicts between the Tigers and Sri Lankan forces. In one instance, 170 Tamils were arrested by government forces and until now there is no information of them. Similarly hundreds of people disappeared in several other villages. The Trincomalee grave should be of those disappeared. If they get dug further, hundreds of bodily remains will probably be found.
Tamil Guardian: Sri Lankan government ministers recently called for the TNA to be banned, alleging that the party was making false claims regarding mass atrocities. What is your respose to those allegations?
Shivajilingam: If they [Sri Lankan government] are not guilty of any crimes, why are they opposing an international investigation? This is unacceptable of them to say that our claims are fabricated and that they didn’t commit any crimes when it is clear that they have killed thousands of Tamil people. It is proven in the UN report that more than 40,000 people were killed as a result of Sri Lankan government shelling. Let them ban us, then we will show what we can do.
Tamil Guardian: What factors were behind the passing of a resolution by NPC demanding transport links between the North-East and India?
Shivajilingam: If there is this link, it will be helpful for those who visit India for medical treatment, religious purposes and to those who are visiting relatives. KKS harbour which is currently being developed has the feel of a military harbour, but it needs to be commercial spot instead, this will bring job opportunities to thousands.
This resolution demands improvement in transportation links for the people in the North-East to other areas, including flights from Palali and Trincomalee to India. Before 1983 there were flight links between the India and the North-East but now because of all the military hassle, our people have to travel to Colombo first. The new harbour that is being built in the east all most looks like it is going to act as a military harbour. It should really be a commercial harbour and that is our demand, so that it can provide job opportunities to thousands. Moreover, over a 100,000 refugee Tamils live in India, and having a proper commercial harbour will allow them to travel back and settle in the North-East with ease.