Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s call for ‘forgive and forget’ on incidents related to the war drew a jibe from the Tamil politicians.In his remarks made in Jaffna last week, the Prime Minister meant to say that those who committed crimes from both sides- the military and the LTTE- should be forgiven instead of harping on the issue continually with no solution in sight. However, the Prime Minister’s call elicited angry responses from the politicians of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and some other hard-line parties in the north.
During the war, there were allegations made against both sides. The Tamil parties, backed by some western powers, have urged action against military personnel allegedly involved in the war time atrocities. Yet, there is hardly any demand from them to institute action against crimes committed by the LTTE. Whenever there is any mention of bloodletting by the LTTE, it comes in the form of a lukewarm reference.
The call for forgiving and forgetting is an idea generating from the Government as a means of dispensing with the issue once and for all. However, the hard-line Tamil politicians scorn at such an approach. The Prime Minister’s suggestion sparked a furore in the Tamil polity. The suggestion was not welcomed at all.
Instead, the Tamil political leaders including the MPs from the TNA demanded that allegations against the military should be probed and the truth ascertained before any discussion on forgiving and forgetting.
It is no doubt that the LTTE committed worst ever crimes such as blowing off busloads of people and the assassination of the VIPs including a President. In the realisation of the ‘forgive and forget concept’, those facing charges from both sides would be exonerated. For it to become reality, both the Government and the Tamil parties should strike some form of compromise.
Yet, there is hardly any demand from them to institute action against crimes committed by the LTTE. Whenever there is any mention of bloodletting by the LTTE, it comes in the form of a lukewarm reference
Tamil political prisoners
The LTTE suspects, held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, are referred to as Tamil political prisoners by the Tamil politicians.
Former Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Vigneswaran responded to the Prime Minister calling it an unreasonable request. He tried to justify his position by saying that these Tamil prisoners had been behind bars for years on end, but no inquiry had been conducted into crimes committed by the military.
He said any discussion on forgiving and forgetting could be initiated only after the ascertainment of truth as far as the crimes alleged to have been committed by the military were concerned.
Tamil politicians such as Suresh Premachandran and Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam also responded to the Prime Minister’s call with a similar tone.
TNA MP for the Jaffna district M.A. Sumanthiran responded with a different tone. Instead, he said the Prime Minister indirectly admitted that the military committed crimes as he called for forgiving and forgetting.
Amidst intense international pressure for an inquiry with the participation of international judicial personnel and prosecutors, the Government leaders seem to have given mind to the ‘forget and forget’ approach as a way out of this problem.
Sri Lanka has remained under watch by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) ever since the end of the war in 2009. It has been burdensome for the successive Governments. It is politically sensitive for the parties to deal with this issue. Any soft-pedalling on the LTTE activities will cost dearly to the party in power in the southern electorates.
However, a probe into wartime atrocities is the vehement demand by the TNA and the like-minded Tamil parties operating in the north and the east. Without acceding to the demands by these parties, it is difficult for the Government to rope them in for any electoral alliance and understanding.
The gravity of political sensitivity involving this whole subject is reflected in what President Maithripala Sirisena once narrated to then northern province Chief Minister C.V. Vigneswaran. According to Vigneswaran, the President had told him four years back that he would be accused of victimizing war heroes while freeing the LTTE suspects in case he granted amnesty to the Tamil prisoners.
This is ample proof of political element attached to any approach to address this matter.
All in all, according to the tone and tenor of responses made by the Tamil politicians to the Prime minister’s suggestion, it is evident that the TNA is not ready for the ‘forgive and forget approach’. Therein, the question will remain unsolved.
For the ‘forgive and forget concept’ to succeed, there has to be compromise by both sides. Let alone, the Tamil parties are not receptive to the idea.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is likely to remain under the UNHRC radar for a further period. The core group of countries working on Sri Lanka has announced that a fresh resolution would be moved at the UNHRC next month requesting the extension of the timeline given to Sri Lanka to implement the provisions agreed upon in the previous resolution 30/1. The TNA welcomed this move viewing it as further extension of international oversight on Sri Lanka.
The Government’s response is not yet clear in this respect. However, the Government will face internal pressure to rid the country of such continual oversight by the international community on its human rights record and accountability issues during the war time. That is contrary to the TNA’s expectations.
Vigneswaran responded to the Prime Minister calling it an unreasonable request. He tried to justify his position by saying that Tamil prisoners had been behind bars for years on end, but no inquiry had been conducted
It is learned that Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka would present a Cabinet paper next week to this effect. He says that it is high time that the Government engages the international community to dispense with this resolution- that is to get the country away from the UNHRC spotlight.
He will ask for the Government to issue certificates of absence in respect of missing persons in an expeditious manner, reparation for non-combatants, prioritization of compensations in respect of houses damaged due to the war etc.
His proposal to the Cabinet will run counter to the memorandum submitted by the Prime Minister asking for the establishment of a truth seeking mechanism, though. President endorses MEP resolutions Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), a longstanding ally of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) or the left leaning political force of this country, held its convention last Sunday. President Maithripala Sirisena was an invitee.
At the function, MEP Leader MP Dinesh Gunawardane handed over a copy of the resolutions to President Sirisena for perusal before being put to the convention for adoption.
Having gone through the set of resolutions, the President said that he would second all of them. The resolutions call for a programme of work for the country.
The President, in his speech, called for the formation of a broad political front against the United National Party (UNP). Instead of talking about Presidential candidates, he said all should talk about a common plan of work to be implemented under a future Government.
President Sirisena is not pleased with Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) now. That is because the SLPP was not ready to accept him as the next candidate.
SLPP frontliner Basil Rajapaksa said that the SLPP would only nominate one of its members as a candidate. It caused consternation to the President. It is learned that the President may resort to some adventurous moves to secure nomination.
Besides, the SLPP is planning to inform the President formally of its intention in view of the presidential elections.