Tamil people left out of transitional justice processes

tamil-society-forumThe Tamil Civil Society Forum (TCSF) said that it appears that the Tamil people of the North-East are being left out of transitional justice processes, and not meaningfully consulted, at a press conference in Jaffna on Thursday, adding that this was also the case for the constitutional process.

The group’s spokespersons Father Elil Rajan and Guruparan Kumaravadivel pointed out that Resolution 30/1 adopted in September 2015, was a compromise in which the Tamils were told they would receive a hybrid justice mechanism, as opposed to the full form of international justice they were seeking. They noted the government has reneged even from this compromise, by saying there would be no international involvement. If the Government had already made up its mind as to how these mechanisms would be designed what then is the point of having the consultation process, the TCSF queried.

Referring to the Office of Missing Persons Act, Father Elil noted that the Office of Missing Persons Act was passed before the Government appointed Consultation Task Force’s recommendations on it had a chance to be discussed by parliamentarians. He said that TCSF had engaged with the consultation process at different levels with bona fides but that the manner in which the Task Force’s work was being undermined by the Government forces, led the TCSF to conclude that the entire consultation process was a sham.

Mr Guruparan stated that one of the key demands of the families of the disappeared was for international involvement in the OMP. He also stated that the families of the disappeared have made clear that equally as important to them as truth, is justice for the crimes of enforced disappearance that occurred. The Sri Lankan government has come out saying the OMP won’t have a criminal prosecutorial arm adding that this will come later in the form of a special court. But even this message is being made inconsistently.

To the international community they are saying that criminal prosecutions will come later in the form of a special court, but to the local community they are vowing that “war heroes” will be protected, he said. He stated that overall  this creates the impression that the transitional justice policy of the government is merely part of its foreign policy management strategy.

Regarding the constitutional process, Mr Guruparan called on the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to tell the Tamil people what is going on. He acknowledged that while there should be space for the initial conversations around the constitution to be behind closed-doors, but that time has passed and the TNA should let people know what’s going on. This is particularly in light of the fact that the prime minister and president have stated that the devolution scheme in the new constitution will also be based on the 13th amendment and that the unitary character of the state would be retained.

Responding to a question, he justified the timing of the Ezhuka Tamil rally, arguing that the Tamils are right to raise their voices in the wake of the intransigence of the Government on the constitutional reform process and the absolute silence on the part of the Tamil elected representatives as to what is going on.

In response to a question regarding Nimalka Fernando’s recent comments saying that Chief Minister Wigneswaran should have enlisted one of his sons and then he would understand, Guruparan stated that it was disappointing to see senior and respected civil society activists like Nimalka, adopting the same kind of rhetoric employed by the Bodhu Bala Sena (BBS) in response to Ezhuka Tamil.

He called for an end to personal attacks and for a focus on the message of Ezhuka Tamil. He also noted that the response from politicians focusing on the political machinations behind the rally as opposed to the concerns people raised was expected, but that TCSF was disappointed to see civil society activists from the South choosing to ignore the legitimate demands being made by the over 10,000 people who showed up to the rally. (Tamil Guardian)

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