- MP Sumanthiran highlights journalist deaths and calls on Govt. to accept international assistance to investigate war-time human rights abuses
Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran yesterday criticised the Government for not initiating investigations on 14 Tamil journalists killed during the last twenty years, and refraining from accepting international assistance to investigate alleged human rights abuses committed by the Army and the LTTE.
Addressing the issues of media freedom and the independent inquires started on the murders of journalists and other key people during the administration of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP Sumanthiran charged the Government with not apprehending the culprits.
MP M.A Sumanthiran
“Why has the Government failed to do anything about the pending cases of Prageeth Ekneligoda, Lasantha Wickrematunge, and Wasim Thajudeen? Government has only talked and done nothing for the last four years. You have failed to take any action for the last four years. Killers are not apprehended. Year after year you say all these names, and you’re complicit with the previous regime in covering up these crimes. Only words, nothing else. True, four years ago the regime changed, but what has happened after that? There has been no progress. Few members spoke about the independent Judiciary, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer,” he said.
According to MP Sumanthiran, Tamil journalists were also killed, but no investigation was started. He challenged the Government to give reasons for not doing so. “We are talking about the murder of journalists. Can the Members in the Government benches name the Tamil journalists killed during that period? Do you know at least one name? During the period of 20 years, 14 Tamil journalists were killed. Has anything being done? Not even an investigation has commenced. Some investigations are going on with regards to Ekneligoda and Wickrematunge. You don’t even start an investigation if there is a Tamil name. You have the gall to come here and say that you have independent investigations in Sri Lanka, and to reject involvement of international investigations,” he added.
However, commending the Opposition lawmaker Arundhika Fernando for his honest opinion in Parliament recently, MP Sumanthiran wanted the country to move out from its hypocrisy with regards to international investigation on alleged war crimes committed by both sides during the war.
“You don’t protest international umpires taking part in cricket matches played here. When it comes to a war between the Government of Sri Lanka against another armed group, the Government of Sri Lanka cannot be the arbiter. Judicial mechanism should be independent where a party involved in the dispute cannot inquire into it. So that is why you need an independent party. We don’t have laws in this country to investigate these international crimes. We need to make these laws. We are part of a civilised community of nations and should adopt those standards. Both parties committed war crimes. If the former Commander of the Army Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka is not hesitant to go before any tribunal, why are you scared?” said MP Sumanthiran, assuring the country that he will not infringe on the sovereignty of Sri Lanka.
“The countries that value human rights and fundamental freedom are always ready to accept others to participate in these processes. We participate in these processes with regard to other countries. When bombing took place in the Gaza strip by Israel, the UN appointed a Committee of Inquiry, where Palitha Kohona was a member of that Committee. But with regards to our own matters we have double standards,” added MP Sumanthiran.
MP Sumanthiran also sought to clarify a media report on alleged marijuana smugglers, and insisted that he had no involvement in having the suspects released, as was suggested in the new articles.
According to MP Sumanthiran, the release of certain persons in Mardhankurny area from police custody was misreported. However, both articles did not identify MP Sumanthiran by name. Explaining the incident, MP Sumanthiran said: “On the night of 3 January around 8pm, there was a vehicle in the Chambianpattu area suspiciously going up and down noticed by the youth of the area. I want to say that a couple of years ago, in this area, attempts were made on my life. It is a matter of a High Court Case - the Attorney General has indicted five persons in HC242-2018. The matter is pending in the High Court of Colombo. Next date of trial is on 26 April.”
“I was to go for an event in a school on the following morning in Chambianpattu. Because of this, the youth were vigilant and have seen this vehicle, which was stopped by youth. They have claimed to be police in civil attire. They had refused to show identity cards but pulled out their pistols and fled. The youth gave chase on their motorcycles, and it was a youth who informed the Army checkpoint about a suspicious vehicle coming that way, and to stop it. It was the Army who actually stopped that vehicle, contrary to what is being spread,” he added.
MP Sumanthiran also stated that the Army managed to stop the vehicle to find that it was Police acting as per the directions of the DIG of the area. “Then the local Police were called and had handed them over. But at that point, they made the allegations that these youth had assaulted them. As a result, four youth were also taken into custody. This is what happened, and no ganja was taken into custody. It was a case of mistaken identity due to the extra vigilance that was exercised by the youth of that area.”
“Therefore, I spoke to the DIG for those who had vigilantly taken care for my safety in an area where supposedly two assassination attempts were made. There is a case pending and those people are free to prove their innocence. I did not ask DIG Gunarathne to release them, but explained what was brought to my attention. The DIG said that he will take necessary action. I hear that the youth were released on the following morning. This is being portrayed as me in interfering in some law and order situation and getting ganja smugglers released. Far from the truth,” he held, challenging the two newspapers to carry his name. (AH)