Date: 17 August 2010
Mr. Mangala Moonasinghe
C.R. de Silva: Mr. Moonasinghe I wish to inform you that the procedure adopted by this Commission of Inquiry. Persons making representations can either make representations in public or in camera. The choice is with the person making such a statement. If you … At the end of your representation the Commissioners are entitled to ask you questions to clarify matters which may arise in the course of your representations or matters which are relevant to the Warrant. Apart from the Commissioners nobody can ask you any questions. Even when you are responding to questions you are entitled either to respond in public or you can respond in camera. That is a matter for you. So you will have to first choose whether you are going to give evidence in public or in camera and when it comes to questions also you are entitled to decide whether you are going to respond in public or in camera.
Moonasinghe: Thank you sir.
Before I commence I thought I would give you a copy of the paper I have written. I have already given it to your Secretary Mr. Samarakoon. My CV is also there. Thank you all for giving me an opportunity of participating in this most important Commission because I think personally that this is going to be a very important Commission and that this Commission after the hearings will be able to guide us closer to reconciliation and peace in this country. I have presented this statement here but I will off and on sirs move away from it so that we can – and you can question me at any time either now or later. I have no problem. I am prepared to give evidence in public and even answer my questions in public.
Paper presented to the Commission of Inquiry on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation:
In order to prevent a recurrence of the conflict which led to the 26 year old war it is necessary to refer to the mistakes made in the past to ensure that there is no repetition made again. Having ended the war, in order to establish peace the government and the people must together lay firm and concrete foundations in the political, economic and social areas to facilitate permanent identification of the people with the concepts of a plural society and a desire to build the future together by all the communities.
Now when we go to identify the mistakes we might have to go earlier than the 2001 peace accord. So I will briefly touch on some of the things that began this war. Sir, we got our independence in 1948 February 4th. In 1947 the Dominion Government of Sri Lanka held its election. The UNP was elected as a Government in 1947. They narrowly escaped being defeated because there was a powerful opposition consisting of the Left Parties, some of the upcountry parties, Tamil parties and a few of the Tamil parties from the north and the east. But there were some Tamil parties from the north and the east that participated with the Government. You may recollect that Mr. G.G.Ponnambalam was the Minister in the Government at that time and he was the Minister of Industries. He created a lot of goodwill by establishing industries in the Jaffna and other areas like that. Now the point I am coming to you is that after that election since the UNP just managed to slide in and the left parties of the Sama Samaja Party, the Bolshevik Leninist Party, were almost neck to neck in that case. The Government then decided that it was the upcountry Tamil parties and the Tamil people who voted so strongly for the opposition. They felt at that time this is not a good thing to happen and let it go. So they decided that they are going to disenfranchise a sufficient number of the upcountry Tamil people who voted against the Government and therefore to teach them a lesson they very soon after independence in 1948 disenfranchised a sizeable number of the Tamil people of this country in the upcountry areas. Now this I think was one of the major mistakes that were made and later they realized that they must now negotiate with the Indian Government, Mr. Jawarhalal Nehru was the Prime Minister of India, and they saw this, Indians saw this as a wicked act, as an unnecessary intrusion into peoples rights and Nehru would not have anything to do with talks. For 10 years the Indian Government under Prime Minister Jawarhalal Nehru refused to even discuss the matter – for 10 years. Fortunately 10 years later when Mrs. Bandaranaike came into office she decided that she would talk to the Prime Minister then Mrs. Indira Gandhi with whom they had built up a real permanent relationship and friendship between the two ladies. So she approached her and she was invited to come and make a presentation of her intentions. In fact at that time she even invited the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Dudley Senanayake to join her. That is the right way of doing things. So I can’t remember quite correctly whether he could go but he sent some people and then they negotiated and Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mrs. Bandaranaike for the first time on this issue after 10 years or more decided that India will take a number of these stateless citizens of the upcountry Tamils and Sri Lanka would also register and give them back their citizenship. Then again a few years later the two of them met together sir and in 1970s they agreed to take – India takes more of these stateless citizens and Sri Lanka to register the others and give them back their citizenship rights. But there still remained a number of citizens who were stateless in the upcountry areas. What happened then was after some time even the UNP felt that this could not go on forever and they decided in the late 70s to give the rest of those who were disenfranchised to give their citizenship. Fortunately after so many years today most of them – all of them in fact – have got their citizenship rights they are citizens of Sri Lanka. That is a very heartening thing.
Now I also want to give you a background of the relationship that we built up. When two leaders have established a friendly relationship sir with each other lots of things could be done. Then even on the issue of the Kachchathivu Island which was dragging on and on the relationship established between Mrs. Gandhi and Mrs. Bandaranaike helped to also finish that issue because they decided to draw the parameters – the water rights of ours – and when they drew the international water line in the sea they found that Kachchathivu fell within the national borders of Sri Lanka and Mrs. Gandhi immediately gave in for that.
Then also another issue that we must remember is when China attacked India in the 60s Mrs. Bandaranaike immediately worked with Lord Russell of England and did a shuttle service between Delhi-Colombo-Colombo-China and was able to prevent any further expansion of that war and she brought it to a halt. These are good relationships we have established with the international community and with our neighbours. This I think is a must sir for us if we are going to bring peace in this country.
Now, please tell me if I am expanding too much because I will get back to the point but I thought this background is necessary for all of us to remember. Now in 1956 Mr. Bandaranaike decided – there was a question about what the official language would be. There was a tie. There was a constant quibbling between the UNP and the SLFP and they could not decide what should be – they wanted to change it to Sinhala only. Finally Mr. Bandaranaike in 1956 changed the language into Sinhala only and with that blow – it was a heavy blow to the Tamil people because all these years, for almost 150 years, they were sure of their English language, they worked in the English language and suddenly the Tamils, the Muslims and the Burghers who were expected in a minute to switch on to Sinhala they were incompetent to carry on work. They were in the Public Administration most of them. They found their future, their economy, their livelihoods are all gone over one Act. Then of course they began to protest.
On the first day this Bill was introduced into Parliament the Tamil parties in Parliament decided to have a silent, harmless protest on the Galle Face green. Parliament then was near the Galle Face green. When they were protesting – harmless protest – hordes of Sinhala people – extremists with Buddhist Monks – such extremist views because Buddhist Monks have nothing other than to remember the Buddha Dharma.
Beyond that the Buddha Dharma if you know does not permit any kind of violence. If you take the precepts of the Buddha there is no violence. It says – it is good for all of us to remind ourselves sir that the Karaniya Metta Sutta it says “Dittava Yeva Aditta Yecha Duray Vasanthi Avi Duray Buthava Sabbay Saththa Bhavanthi Sukisaththa”. What does it mean? It says, the Buddha says, a person must cultivate loving kindness to all sentient beings those living, those to be seen, those unseen, those living near, those living far, those born and those to be born. That is the concept of the Buddha Dharma. But unfortunately some of our Buddhist Priests don’t practice that, and if we do practice the correct Buddhism we won’t have most of these problems. So I thought I will also start from there.
Now after Sinhala was imposed – Sinhala only – was imposed as the language of this country – as the official language – then Mr. Bandaranaike himself being a liberal minded person realized that what he had done was wrong. So he decided to invite Mr. Chelvanayagam the leader of the Tamil party to talks and they agreed that not only Sinhala, Tamil also could be a part of the official language particularly in Tamil areas. Therefore when they signed that agreement – now this is the point I am getting to – the opposition, Mr. J.R.Jayawardena the leader of the opposition was against it. He started a march to Kandy but that was not successful. Then what he did was when – he gathered people and Buddhist Monks opposite Mr. Bandaranaike’s residence and protested until Mr. Bandaranaike abrogated the agreement with Mr. Chelvanayagam and that was it. Later the UNP came to power. Mr. Dudley Senanayake was in power and he realized that it was wrong what they had done and he entered into a pact with Mr. Chelvanayagam on the same lines and it was signed. Then the SLFP that was (not?) in power and saw that this should be done they protested this time and they did not allow that to happen and again Mr. Dudley Senanayake had to abrogate the agreement.
Now I am going back to these things because there is a point – we are learning lessons. We must learn lessons that this type of confrontational politics between the Government and the opposition should not hinder national unity and the nation. So, similar thing happened even during Mrs. Chandrika Kumaratunga’s Presidency when she brought an agreement that was acceptable to all. At the last moment the UNP got them to abrogate that.
So these are lessons that we should learn never to repeat. Even today sir this continues. The confrontational politics between the Government and the opposition still continues and we must overcome that. So I thought I will start with that. And now I will get down to the main function of my paper.
The facts and circumstances that led to the failure of the Cease Fire Agreement of 21st February 2002:
The Cease Fire Agreement signed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe and the LTTE facilitated by the Norwegians paved the way for six rounds of talks between the parties to the conflict. This however ended in failure for several reasons. The protagonists to the conflict could not implement even temporary measures agreed during these rounds of talks nor assure the safety of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.
That the CFA was signed by the Prime Minister and his Ministers without reference to the Executive President, who was the head of the Government signaled its failure from the inception. The parties to the agreement failed to establish confidence building measures and indulged in sabotaging and violating the terms of the agreement to their own advantage. LTTE intelligence and hit squads penetrated the government controlled areas and assassinated leading political figures such as the Foreign Minister, Mr. Lakshman Kadirgamar and other leading security forces personnel. The government also used its deep penetration units to successfully eliminate some of the LTTE leaders. During the period of the CFA the LTTE used the territory under its control to build airstrips and assemble single engine aircraft that launched two bombing missions on Colombo. They also reinforced their military, their military fortifications and strengthened and expanded their ammunition dumps. Evening out these violations, the government too managed to draw Karuna, one of the important commanders of the LTTE which gave a body blow to the LTTE and aggravated the hostile atmosphere. None of these actions of the two parties to the conflict helped to build confidence in each other or to take the peace process forward.
The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission was not vested with powers to prevent cease fire violations which was an important omission in the structure of the CFA. Their mandate was limited merely to ‘naming and shaming’ violations of the Agreement with no authority to prevent parties from violating conditions in the CFA. This created ill feeling and distrust towards the SLMM by the government as well as the LTTE and the larger polity in the country. Confidence in the Agreement soon evaporated and the government as well as the LTTE became suspicious of the SLMM and became a neglected factor even before the termination of the CFA.
The LTTE never intended to build on the CFA to enter into serious peace negotiations. The lack of clarity in some of the clauses to the Agreement such as the disarmament of the paramilitary Tamil parties, the application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the movement of LTTE cadres with arms within the government controlled areas and the demand for dismantling the high security zones. None of these were areas on which the government could have conceded without the LTTE demonstrating good faith. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that any agreement that is negotiated where the constituent parties do not abide by the terms of the Agreement is a non starter and will surely fail as did the CFA.
To begin with the widely felt observation was that the experience of the peace negotiators was to deal with conflicts between nations and they were not equipped to understand the dynamics and nature of conflicts within ethnic communities that had different value systems within the social, cultural and economic milieu.
This was a very important thing sir because the Norwegians had also tried to bring peace with the Israelis and the Palestinians. But that too failed. They were used to nation to nation negotiations and they had no concept of a single nation trying to settle its own ethnic problems. So that was one of the other reasons that did contribute to the failure of the CFA.
Misunderstandings between the Norwegians and the government grew wide, particularly with Mr. Erik Solheim, when he was perceived to have developed a close working relationship with the LTTE. His intention was perhaps to better understand the psyche of the LTTE. However when this relationship did not produce any concrete advantages to the progress in the negotiating process it became a serious bone of contention for the government and the general public regarding the neutrality of the negotiators.
Now I come to the next point on reconciliation.
The goal for Sri Lanka Government is clear. The government must bind the nation together while encouraging and helping the ethnic and cultural identities to thrive under the overarching monolith of a single nation bringing out the richness in its diversity.
That is the overarching aim of the Government if you are serious about it. And also sir after the war if you look at the Sinhala community or the Muslim community or the Tamil community, everybody is tired of war. They have suffered for 25 years. The Tamil culture has been wiped out. There is no more traditional Tamil culture. Their girls and the ladies have descended to all sorts of things. There is, I am sorry to say, that some of them – there is prostitution in Canada. This is not the culture of the Tamil people. So as I say it is a difficult task we have undertaken but they are really tired of this – the Tamils, the Sinhalese and the Muslims. They want peace and that is an advantage this Government and we all have that the ordinary people are willing to do anything and have peace in this country. That is an advantage sir for the Government.
The resettlement of the IDPs and the enormity of the problem in logistics have to be appreciated. The government has taken steps to expedite the process by changing the law of prescription which now works in favour of those who have been compelled to leave their homes because of the war.
The law of prescription, as most of you gentlemen know – you are lawyers – that within 10 years if you don’t make any physical claim to the property you have left, then you lose the property after 10 years. Now the law of prescription has been changed that if you can prove you left your property in Jaffna because of the conflict and you were away for more than 10 years you can then legally have a right to that property. And now that sir, I need not tell you, you are a whole group of lawyers here, that was an important change that has taken place now.
Land mine clearance is another factor that has contributed to the delay in resettlements. Infrastructure development initiated by the government and assisted by the international community and the UN agencies is going ahead.
However there remains unease owing to the overt presence of the army particularly in the north contributing to the feeling that the siege still continues in the North. The need to get MoD clearance even for private civil functions like weddings in the north denies the Northerners the freedom enjoyed by other citizens all over the country.
The overrunning of the army over civilian businesses as in the holy site at Muruhandy is an example.
Muruhandy is a religious place on the way from Colombo to Jaffna. Everybody gets down – whether it is Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists – they get down, break coconuts, and they pray there and go and since this an important place everybody stops and little boutiques – Tamil boutiques – had grown up around there to sell coconuts, to feed people and all that. Now the Army unfortunately has been putting their own people for years to run boutiques like this. So that gives some suspicion whether the siege is still going on.
Small shops run by the Tamils (this is again my paper) have been taken over by the army and are now manned by Sinhalese soldiers. This is helplessly looked upon by the Tamils in the area as the first step to colonization. Local government institutions in the north are said to be not functioning well. Local government institutions after 25 years naturally have got neglected and that is the only access a villager in the north can have to get his things attended to but if the institutions are not functioning – local government – then that has to be corrected. If this neglect continues it deprives the poor villagers from getting their work done.
Another matter of serious concern is that the number of NGOs and INGOs working and helping in rehabilitation are being reduced. These non government organizations provided employment to the local Tamil population and pruning down on their numbers affect adversely the employment and assistance in the areas they worked. These are not good signs. They can be adjusted, they may take a little more time but they should be adjusted because it is the duty of the Government to see that these are hindrances and they must be acted upon quickly.
Now Sir I am getting down to some other broader issues.
Spokespersons who speak for the government in their criticisms of the international and UN agencies must speak with maturity and prudence keeping in mind the overall priority of our national interest. I am sad to say sir, yes, all countries sometimes are critical. The West has got critical about us. Then the Americans and the Chinese are critical. That is a natural phenomenon. Even the media recently leaked out some matters that should not have been leaked out – in the American media. But they accepted that and they did not go and destroy the media office or anything like that. Now these also are very important that we – whoever did it – must refrain from this type of thing. That does not help in reconciliation and confidence building. Now on this, before I get to the last point sir, I like to refer to something I saw in the Economist. I had put it as an annexure, to give you the idea that it is not criticism all the time. On the Economist of 30th January 2010 – that is the beginning of this year – the Economist states – I am repeating it, I have given you sir a copy of this. I have put it down as an annexure:
The Economist of 30th January 2010 states, “The economy buffeted by a slump in garment exports and tourism because of the wear, is perking up. This year the country is expected to see some 600,000 foreign tourists compared with 500,000 last year. The New York Times has named Sri Lanka its top tourist destination in 2010. Annual remittances mostly from hard working Sri Lankans in Arab countries, have rebounded from a minor slump to around $3billion. Last year the Sri Lankan Stock market more than doubled in value, making it one of the best performing in the world. Food prices remain punishably high, yet inflation is down. The economy is expected to grow by around 6% this year”.
“In a recent report, America’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee, (a very important Committee), recognizing the damage American hectoring has done in its relations with Sri Lanka, also recommended a softer line. It noted Sri Lanka’s proximity to sensitive shipping lanes, and warned that the United States cannot afford to lose Sri Lanka.”
“Indeed that would be a shame for anyone. With its able people and natural bounties including clement weather, verdant landscapes and fertile soil – Sri Lanka could almost be the paradise its travel agents describe. But that requires much better and kinder government. If Mr. Rajapakse, slayer of the Tigers, could provide that, all Sri Lankans would praise him.”
I just thought I will quote that because we have to look at things in a more responsible manner.
To wind up sir on reconciliation:
Peace building, it must be remembered, is essentially an inclusive process which must involve people from all the sectors. The aim is to build hope in the people after the war, and to do this certain strategies must be put in place – freedom of speech and media, and the freedom to organize civil society groups. Such groups should then be empowered to communicate with each other and build the spirit of cooperation and interactive relationships that will help them to identify their common needs. When such measures are undertaken it will help to foster an interdependent society that will also help to create trust and provide the platform to hold discussions on their legitimate grievances.
To ensure the success of the peace process education becomes very important and there can be no compromise on professionalism. The effectiveness of any peace process depends on not only the sincerity of the government but also on the professionalism in peace building. A lack of it can handicap the whole process.
While group involvement, freedom, education and professionalism are the bricks on which to build the peace process one other important aspect to be taken note is that the sustainability of the process will depend on institution building. The direction of the peace process takes off from the inbuilt character and strengths of institutions available for constructive work to be done. Many of the institutions that existed earlier have become inactive or destroyed during the war and it is vital to build institution at every level of society.
The private sector too with its corporate social responsibility approach has a dynamic role to play in activating the local economy and building bridges with the rest of the country and with the international markets as well.
I just thought – I would also like to say sir that these are important matters and the fact that we still continue with the confrontational politics is not a good sign. Let me tell you I now work, after my part played as an Ambassador to India and London, I have come back and when I was in Parliament – you know I was 17 years in Parliament – I moved Parliament as a Member of the Opposition to set up a Parliamentary Select Committee and that was a Private Members Motion and when I put it up to Parliament it was unanimously accepted by all parties in Parliament. We went on with this Committee, we invited the public to respond within certain periods and they did respond – political parties and all that. And it took us about 1-1/2 years to finish the process and when we finished we made certain recommendations sir. At that time the north and the east were merged without asking the people of the two provinces whether they agreed to it or not. It was unanimously done by the Executive President at the time. Now, when we held public sittings and moved this, the preponderance of evidence by both, particularly from the eastern people who at that time 45% were Tamil population, 33 % were Muslims, 21% were Sinhalese, they got on very well for over hundreds of years and there was no problem. So they protested that we should not merge this and they said we have got on very well so please keep it going.
So we recommended, the Committee recommended that there must be a de-merger. We also recommended, as a compromise to some of the Tamil parties who were in Parliament, well why don’t you think of keeping the two provinces and let the provincial elections take place. Once the elections take place you will have a northern provincial council and an eastern provincial council. Then out of that get the cream of those two provincial councils and set up a unit consisting of both parties – a smaller unit – that will overlook both the requirements of the northern people as well as the eastern people, and that can decide, for example, if the north needs a hospital then the central government provides the funds and they can decide between themselves okay we will give it to the north this time next time we will give it to the east. So we recommended a unit like that also.
Finally, we recommended that we should look at the Indian constitution because there were similarities of it being part federal part non-federal – it is not decided as yet. So we wanted a team to be sent to see what are the values that we can get from the Indian Constitution. That is the next thing we decided.
The last thing was that the concurrent list was being violated by the Central Government – whoever was in the Central Government it is still being violated – that the list in the concurrent list should be given to the provinces. Today if we meet – even the southern provinces – there is a big complaint. They say all what is in the concurrent list is given to us then it is taken back. It is not only in the northern and eastern provinces but this happens even in the southern provinces. So these are some of the matters that I would like to bring to your notice.
Finally sir, the fact that if we go on like this; continuing the process of confrontational politics – I have spoken to both the parties, Prime Minister, the President and everybody else. As you know when I came back from India I was invited to join an institution called the One Tech Initiative. It was started by a group of Members of Parliament when the negotiations were going on to help the track one negotiators in their negotiations. Then of course the war came and there was no point in continuing that. When I came back, because of my experience as the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee I was invited – they found that the attraction of getting MPs was slow and they wanted me to take over as executive director of One Tech Initiative. We are continuing that and on that basis I took over. And since I knew a number of Parliamentarians – they were all my friends – I met the leaders of every party; I met the President, I met the Leader of the Opposition; I met the Leader of the Muslim Congress; I met all the Leaders of the Upcountry Tamils – at that time there was another person who died recently – I met all the Tamil leaders from the north and the east, and we today sir have built in inclusivity and we have built in – our approach is consensual access to peace and every Secretary of party signs with me as the executive leader they sign sir that all the Members of Parliament – each party nominates 3 Members of Parliament – and we have continued with that.
It has gone on very well and every Secretary nominates the 3 Members on the advice of the Leader of the Party from the President. And they agree that none of these members are permitted to leak anything to the media or any other place of the discussions that take place at the top table level. Secondly they also agree that the rules of the – that Chatham House rules applies to every Member of Parliament and from 2004 and from the time I came in 2007, to the credit of every Member of Parliament I must say not a single person has leaked anything. They have maintained the confidentiality. So you will see that even at that level everybody is now geared to bring peace and will help the Government. So I thought I should mention some of these things and that is going on. Now a little more. We have also set up the confidence building forum of all Tamil and Muslim parties. They meet like the top Parliamentarians. They are all minority parties and they engage with us on state building. Now after the war we are concentrating also on state building – rule of law; the judiciary; transparency; meritocracy – that has all gone aboard. Today the public service is also consisting of people who are political appointees. That is not good. It is not good for the nation or anything else. So we also continue, from OTI, we send groups every month sir, to the north and to the east to see the development that is taking place; what is the condition of the schools after all 25 years, schools that were attacked, there were no schools, state of hospitals; all that we do. They go and observe, every month we go, we send a team and we meet with the people the village people. So all that is fed back to the OTI Parliamentarians.
So there is a constant process that is going on and these are some of the matters that we are engaged in along with…This we continue and after the recent general election I went and met all the leaders because we had to do that. When I met the President – he knows I am doing that – and he said why don’t you Mangala, get Namal also; can I nominate Namal to your (Committee) amongst the 3 Members because he said I think the youth must know how negotiations take place and help in state building, state structures and everything. So we are continuing with this. I thought you should know some of this but this is of course confidential and I hope it will remain so. I know it will remain but I would appeal to the public also that this is a very important matter to us. It is that confidentiality and abiding by the rules, the Chatham House rules, that has helped OTI to continue and build peace.
Thank you very much sir.
Q & A:
C.R. de Silva: Mr. Moonasinghe, some of the people who gave evidence or made representations before the Commission expressed the view that the forerunner or the precursor to this problem was not an ethnic problem but a terrorist problem, where the terrorists were trying to wrest control over the power of this country. Now what is your view of this?
Moonasinghe: If you look at the beginning of this conflict, we were all united sir. All the communities we worked together, the Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, we were in Parliament, we worked together and after the war we negotiated with the British and we were able to get our independence. All were there until sir a very important thing – this happens everywhere amongst all political leaders. Just after independence the immaturity of our leaders were more motivated towards greed. That was the only thing they thought of. They wanted to continue using their leadership in Parliament, not to give way to any other opposition party and that continued. Mr. Bandaranaike wanted to bring something very popular – whatever happened to the country. He tried to defeat the UNP by bringing in Sinhala only. Now that’s greed. That happens everywhere in many countries. But we are, as I say, politically immature possibly. Now, both parties have done it. They are still going on. Now if you see the opposition, every time something happens they try to do their best to dismantle it. We have to think of the nation sir, we have to think of the nation and try to build it. One need not do it. Now in India whenever a national issue comes up both the Government and the opposition join together – when it is a national issue. Go back to the last Second World War, what happened? When Hitler declared war on England both the Government and opposition joined together and by that they wiped out Nazism from the world for ever. So my thing is I don’t think that terrorism came later. As I said when the Sinhala Only Act was passed in Parliament the Tamil political parties had a peaceful sit down strike on the Green. Then Sinhala mobs came and attacked them with Buddhist priests. Where were the terrorists? Weren’t they doing acts of terrorism? Then what happened. After some time the Tamil youth started – there were elections, District elections in Jaffna. I am going back to things that really happened sir. District elections in Jaffna. The UNP was in power. There were some UNP contestants also for the district elections. They sent a team of Ministers from here with thugs who did not see that a proper election took place. Ballot boxes were stolen and therefore the youth, the Tamil political youth realized this is useless, we will never get anything out of this you know, and then they became violent groups. They knew that was the only way and then when 83 happened the world stood shocked at what brutality we did because 13 soldiers were killed in a land mine sir, unarmed innocent Tamils who had lived here in Colombo for years, given their best to public administration at all levels, doctors, professionals you know, they unarmed Tamils were attacked by a political group. It is not a Sinhala/Tamil riot. Many Sinhalese houses went I know and saved Tamil people; brought them to their house and so it was a political riot and not a terrorist thing because these people did no harm. Their houses were destroyed; their children were killed; their husbands were killed; so, who started terrorism – it was we – and then gradually naturally the youth, Tamil youth, went into terrorism in the north. And in order to suppress that it was harshly brought down until the 1983 riots took place when it took another form. India helped them. India helped them and trained them. So did some of the Palestinian groups trained some of them, Tamil youths. So terrorism did not come on its own. We created them sir, we created them. We can suppress it. Now I say the people of the country both the Tamils and the Sinhalese – I have watched people from my own former electorate. When they saw the LTTE was using poor Tamils from those areas shields for themselves they had no love for their people. Prabakaran’s one ambition was to rule by himself and how many Tamils had he killed. All the Tamil leadership he had finished them off as much as the Sinhala leadership. So today I have seen even on TV you will see Sinhala people when they saw these Tamils coming out after the war without anything they collected funds they collected goods and from villages they sent it to them. So everybody we as a rule we have never had. We have lived together sir all of us and we have supported and we have thrived on 4 major religions of this world – Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity. You take the basics of these 4 religions, the basics are the same sir, the basics are the same. Buddhism grew out of Hinduism. The Buddha’s parents were Hindus. Only he did was he removed some of the frills that were in Hinduism and made it a more pure religion concentrating on Bhavana and things like that. So we – if you see even Christianity. What was Christ? Christ was born and he walked the length and breadth of the Middle East preaching; so was the Buddha. He was born to a royal family; he shed everything and he went on preaching. He walked the length and breadth of India followed by Emperor Asoka. So it is inbuilt in us – these religion are inbuilt in us and therefore that our reaction like this goes on.
Before I finish may I – I am interested in all religions sir, but I am a Buddhist. My Buddhism is in my room – I meditate I do all that. May I quote – I like the Bhagawat Gita, there is a lovely – Bhagawat Gita translated by P. Lal, the Professor of English in University of Bengal. I will just quote to you one paragraph from that – Bhagawat Gita – how close it is to Buddhism.
Chapter 18; The Path to Salvation. “When the mind is pure and the intellect subdued; when love and hate no longer affects a person; a lonely spot is sought; little is eaten; meditation is practiced; the ego surrendered; I and mine disappear; peace is attained. These are the pre-conditions of achieving Bhavan or Nirvana. When Nirvana is achieved there is no more desire; there is no more … and finally it is there is no more … there is only – I am getting old I think – there is only serenity. Then does the Yogi really know my nature; what and who I am and he becomes me.”
Isn’t that similar to Buddhist practices? – Buddhism, Nirvana, Bhavan, all are the same.
So I thought – I practice by this therefore I don’t take it that we were a violent race. We are not a violent race – we are not violent even today. That riot that took place in 83 was not a race riot; it was a political riot instigated by a group of people. They did nothing for 3-4 days. They allowed Colombo and these people to be burnt. So I don’t take it sir.
Palihakkara: Thank you Mr. Moonasinghe for bringing to the Commission those very deep thoughts of yours and we appreciate it. A speaker here before you, who had may be on some policy issues like language held a completely different view to yours. He nevertheless gave similar views as yours regarding what you call the confrontational political culture and he also cited this as a primary reason for the problems we faced and also…So as a person who did so much to bring bipartism and consensual politics not least by chairing the first, I think the Select Committee, which produced a consensus or near consensus on these issues …
Moonasinghe: Because both parties voted on that …
Moonasinghe: … the UNP and the SLFP. For the first time on the ethnic issue that was the first occasion when the UNP and …
Palihakkara: Yes. I have a question to you because everyone seems to agree that the biggest – one of the biggest or the biggest – problems we have is this adversarial political culture but everyone does not seem to have any solution to that or should one wait until the politicians reform themselves or what are the specific things one should do to address this problem because it seems to be a big obstacle to reconciliation. So as a person who had tried to do this, what are your thoughts on what specific things one can do to address this problem and free national issues from adversarial politics? Thank you.
Moonasinghe: Well I am not saying we need – as a democratic party we believe in democracy. I am not saying that it is so important that we should have a very powerful opposition and I am only saying on national issues identify the national issues and try to get together to overcome that problem but otherwise no democracy can survive if you don’t have a powerful opposition. We need a powerful opposition and because of this I find, I am concerned that the opposition is weakening and I can’t see people at the moment that can have a powerful opposition. I will give you an example Sir.
In the mornings when Parliament meets it is a question time and you can ask questions from the Government and opposition. Now at question time you can ask questions that are useful to the country not merely confrontational politics to bring the Government to shame or something like that. If they are doing wrong things, ask those questions but keep in mind this is not to produce one-upmanship between the Government and the opposition. Your questions must be focused to the Government Ministers and in a way that if they are doing something wrong bring it out the public must know. But don’t merely to get a point across ask questions. I have known sir that during the latter part of my time in Parliament there were questions being asked because people who wanted certain questions asked to demean a Minister or somebody like that and it had come to my hearing and to all of us knew that sometimes questions are asked and they are paid money for asking that question.
Now that is all wrong; that is all bad. These are all observations, I have no proof. I am a lawyer one needs proof. This is the talk at that time. So things are sliding down we have to arrest it. So what I am saying sir is that we need a powerful opposition. I am not saying all the time work together no but whenever the country is threatened when there is an issue that is national we should get together, and even then you can be critical of the way we are getting, that is alright, but we need a powerful opposition, we need the Government.
Rohan Perera: Mr. Moonasinghe let me also thank you for coming before the Commission this morning and also helpful memorandum which you have presented. Now given your wide experience, and varied experience as a lawyer, Member of Parliament, diplomat and politician, there are 3 specific areas on which I would like to focus my questions on.
First, on this question of land – now the Commission has just returned from a visit to the Vavuniya district over the weekend and the sense we got was the land issue is a critical factor when we look at the future towards reconciliation, and you very pertinently in your memorandum referred to the fact that the law of prescription is undergoing change. Apart from that I think it might be useful for the Commission to hear your views. One would see the change in the law as a first step but not the end. Now, given the very complex situation that has arisen in a conflict situation with regard to land ownership, the squatters, the very special circumstances which prevailed, would you think that other mechanisms such as very informal conciliation, mediation or arbitration mechanisms to bring to a speedy conclusion to this whole question of land ownership which if allowed to fester can once again blow up into a huge problem which would certainly retard any measures towards reconciliation? That is my first question – on the question of land.
Second, given your particular experience as a diplomat and particularly your stint in the United Kingdom I think it would be useful for us to hear your views on how the modalities to which the expatriate community could be drawn into the process of peace building towards reconciliation – what is the contribution these expatriate communities could play, the role of diplomatic missions abroad to make them part of this process to draw them in?
Thirdly, the economic development – and I also see that you are now – you also have a role in the private sector. What is the role the private sector could play to help this process of reconciliation. Those are my 3 questions. Thank you.
Moonasinghe: Dealing with the land problem that is under the 13th Amendment – are you referring to that or are you referring to the enormous problem we have after 25 years of war people have left. Now that part is been settled the other is there are lots of problems where others – sometimes people who came and settled somewhere else they find it now lucrative to remain here. It may be somebody elses land and they don’t want to get back to their old place because they find the lucrative business they have picked up. So that is why I say enormous problem you will take time to do that. I am talking only of the IDPs – IDP settlement. Then of course there is the other bigger problem under the 13th amendment. On this I think they must be given time. It has to be looked in carefully. You can’t settle it in a hurry because those who had now come and planted themselves somewhere else – I know. I myself go to the north and east. Even in Trinco there are people who prefer to stay where they are now but there are others who have told me we want to get back to our places in Trinco because now they won’t give us those lands because the coal project is coming up. So my view is it has to be given time and we have to build an atmosphere for that. Second question.
Rohan Perera: On that whether you have any views on possible compensatory measures as a possible solution in addressing that issue? Compensation, indemnification – whether that would also be an aspect which deserves attention?
Moonasinghe: I think that might help. You know, we have high rates of poverty everywhere and particularly after a war lasting 25 years, people are deprived, schools have got neglected. So compensation – today there are Ministers who go there, to Jaffna. One of them told me on rehabilitation and resettlement, when he went to Jaffna (a Sinhalese Minister), the crowd there was all women. He says tears come to your eyes, because they have lost their husbands, they have lost their children, they have lost their brothers. They have nobody; they have no money, nothing. So it is a big task but we have to attend to it. Those are rights that – humanity that we must help to build. So compensation would be a useful way of doing it because, 25 years – lots of them are poor.
Rohan Perera: My second question was whether the expatriate community could be drawn into the process of peace building towards reconciliation?
Moonasinghe: Yes. Sir, I was in London just for 2 years because I was a political appointee and you know unlike you all when the Government in power loses the election we get thrown out. So, when I wrote to the Foreign Ministry that as soon as the Government was – Chandrika’s Government was defeated – I wrote and said I am coming back on such and such a day. Then the Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe had told the Foreign Ministry ‘please ask him whether he would like to serve back in India’. So I said yes. I have always thought that I think more liberally that I am willing to serve either for the UNP or the SLFP that has been my – because this country will be a better world if we look at it with deep thought and try to help each Government. So I said and I came back .
Now the question you asked was about the Diaspora. My view is – as I went to London the people in the office and everybody told me you know we have been trying to get these people who support – the Tamil Diaspora – and it is very difficult. We have spent money we have sent them to Sri Lanka but they won’t change. They are continuing the Diaspora. So I said, what are the names? They said now one of the hardest critics is Barry Gardner, Member of Parliament, Oxford trained, very suave polite person. So I said I will meet him. As soon as I went I met Barry Gardner, Member of Parliament, very nice polite person and I talked to him for about an hour. But I felt in his polite way he was not going to change. He was not going to change one iota and help us. So I came back and I reported to our people in the Mission as well as some Sinhala extremists.
I said I have been a Member of Parliament for 17 years. In my electorate there is a community that is of a different caste. That community has been the biggest supporter for me. If I alienate them I would lose my electorate. So I am not going to do anything to alienate that community. As long as they supported me I have always won. I said that is the same with Barry Gardner. He will never change. There are about 12 MPs I said. Instead of concentrating on them there are 500 other MPs in Parliament who don’t depend on the Diaspora for their election. So I said you have to concentrate on them. I then wrote, I decided – I must say I had befriended people like Lord Averbury, Lord Naseby who was the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentarians supporting Sri Lanka. So I spoke to Lord Naseby and then I decided I will write – because they were going to ban the LTTE. When I was there that the LTTE was banned. So they were going to ban the LTTE and it was necessary that they should get a correct perspective and therefore I wrote to every Member of Parliament and gave them a list of all the atrocities committed by the LTTE against the Tamils. Against Amirthalingam; every one of them – it is a long list of Members of Parliament itself. I sent that to them and the other Tamils who were killed the leaders of political parties who were Sinhalese and Muslims and everything. I sent that to them and I asked to meet them for a date and I met them and as a result many of them said because they were not interested in the Tamil Diaspora – only a few of them. There were 21 parties to be banned – there were Muslim terrorist groups sought to be banned on that day. So after I met these people, lots of British MPs from all parts of England said, ‘we did not know anything about this. I am glad we had a talk with you, you know’. Therefore, when the vote came about 17 people voted not to ban the LTTE and all the other terrorist parties – the Muslim terrorist parties. 396 MPs voted that these parties should be banned. That was the repercussion; that was the effect it had.
Then you were saying, what do I do with the Tamil Diaspora? Every year on National Day I spoke to them. I spoke – gave these views. I condemned the 1983 riots openly because I was against it. We suffered for years because of that irresponsible riot by a political group and I remember when JR thought when India intervened and started the air drop and also started training our people JR thought America, China, Russia, would help us. Nobody touched us. So that it why I say it is important not to antagonize the international community also because that is the normal thing that they will do but you must be courageous enough to engage them, explain to them. There are people here who have been doing that and we have bound each other together, so I think. Then I found – I was told that some of the priests in the Hindu Kovils were also pro LTTE. So what I did was I told – there are pro Government Diaspora in London. At the moment there are some of them here. I keep in touch with them. The EPRLF I can proudly say, the EPRLF, I told them if this – if you say that the priest in a temple are pro LTTE let me know that temple. So they arranged – because they also had some link to that temple, the pro Government Diaspora – they are powerful at the moment. They arranged for me to go to the temple and then I and my wife we went on that day and we parked our car far away and we walked to the temple and we sat down like any other Hindu person in this temple. And we did all the pooja and everything with them. And as we were doing this – then the Poosari the head of the temple, said we are very glad to hear that the High Commissioner, new High Commissioner is here, and then everybody was so happy, you know, and they all came and wanted me to stay for lunch and everything. So I said no we both have to get back and we established that link. Then a few – half an hour after we left, 2 LTTE cadres had come and threatened them. They said you should never have allowed a High Commissioner to come here. You should never have done that and they were threatening them. Of course then by that attitude of theirs the rest of the Tamil crowd that was there they had protested. And they have said this is a temple. This is available to everybody, you know, and then there was a battle between them on the internet, between this group of Tamils and the LTTE, and as a result they lost that temple – the LTTE lost that temple.
Secondly I want to say my attitude towards the 83 riots the way I spoke about it when the Tamils would come it spread my attitude and till I left no LTTE cadres came but on the day I was leaving number of cadres for the first time came. So that is the way you build the relationships. You can’t be a bull in a china shop. If you follow some of the Sinhala extremists there it is better to avoid them and try to build consensus with the Tamils and every other – after all that is what we want to do.
Sorry there is one question. (Private sector involvement).
Yes. The private sector. As soon as I came Carsons approached me and wanted me to join. Of course I told them I am not a private sector man but I will come if you insist. But they have the social responsibility. They do – Carsons there is a lot of spending. They bring children from all schools in the country – Tamils, Sinhalese, Muslims – and they spend for a weekend. They mix together, they play and do everything. Therefore the private sector is fully engaged in building this type of thing through their social responsibility – I know that. In a big way they spend a lot of money.
Ramanathan: Mr. Moonasinghe in your presentation; page 3, paragraph 3, you state “Local government institutions in the north are said to be not functioning well. If this neglect continues it deprives the poor villagers from getting their work done.” Would you please be specific as to where in the north these are not functioning well? Is this in the entire north or in certain parts of the north?
Moonasinghe: Now I must tell you that I had been – I am also the Chairman of the Marga Institute. We have also processed – we go to the east. I have been once with my – and people loosely talk, I must tell you as a lawyer, all what we hear at the moment is hearsay, is hearsay. I meet the Members of Parliament and those elected to the Municipal Council in the north and also the other local bodies. I hear from the MPs but as a lawyer I am cautious and I don’t accept hearsay. So these groups today that go there I have told them find out from them where these things happened.
You are right, it is a very pertinent question. We have just started this process so I thought of informing you this type of thing happens, but until I am sure I just thought I will place these things but I want to make sure and I have told the people who go from OTI when they – now recently they went – we have lots of Tamil educated people going, the young girls and all, and I said no don’t give me what they – don’t give me hearsay, find out yourself whether this is – now rumour is that (you know) industries are coming and they are bringing Sinhalese. I re-checked this – it is loose talk. I have told people at OTI you find out for yourself, I want you to check out every school, every hospital, the name, where this happens, because I have felt that there is a lot of hearsay – very loose talk so I can’t be sure.
But there is one thing I did check. When Mr. Sambandan when Rohan Gunaratne came and gave a lecture that everybody must unite and in the north and east we must try to build these things up, then Sambandan himself raised – Sambandan is a good friend of mine we used to fight cases in Trinco – but Sambandan said you are saying that there are lots of industries that are coming where you are bringing Sinhalese people and planting them there. So I rang up the Secretary of the Ministry of Industries. They are putting up – I have seen this – they are putting up an industrial sector near Trincomalee. It is going on now. So I rang him up and I said are you all doing this. He said that is not correct because our rules are that people in those areas, when these industries come up, it is compulsory that people from the area must be recruited and nobody else. Except if any industries employing others then they would be because if it is a garment industry there may not be Tamils who are now well versed with the garment industry. Give them time. But the rule is those people, those Tamil people must be trained and once they are trained those others can go on. So I am myself looking into this because there is a lot of loose talk either way. So give us more time. We will, (re-check), check these things and build this thing.
C.R. de Silva: Mr. Moonasinghe, on behalf of the Commission I thank you very much for having come over here and spent nearly 2 hours with us. And you are still, although you say that you are now retired, you are still a very busy individual and you are engaged in various activities and I must thank you for having come over here and spent time with us because your valuable contribution is going to help us in our deliberations.
I am sorry I thought – Prof. Hangawatte, there is one more question?
Hangawatte: I just want to – one simple question, one question just to make sure whether the accuracy. The other one is I want to really draw upon your wisdom and experience. So let me ask the first one, the easy one. You know in the same paragraph that one of the Members referred to you, mention that at this site, Muruhandy, that small shops run by the Tamils have been taken over by the Army and now manned by Sinhalese soldiers. Is this based on a first hand observation, hearsay or just an allegation? The reason I am asking is, this is not a conclusion or anything, I have observed during this process there are certain politically interested groups that seem to be wanting to perpetuate conflict to maintain their political base or their power so they spread various rumours. So is this a rumour or is this a first hand observation by you?
Moonasinghe: Sir, I certainly agree. I have known upper class Tamil groups who don’t think like the people who have suffered in the north and the east. They thrive on continuing this. These are top class Tamils. Few people who do this, who spread rumours, who spread lies. I know a group that had gone and met the Indian High Commissioner and all the palpable lies they have said, you know. So there is – I quite agree – but thank God they are only a few, it won’t help. Now, what I heard on this matter is – I speak with the Members of Parliament and also the local bodies …
Hangawatte: So this is hearsay?
Moonasinghe: …and well they told me – and also they are the ones who said, you can check this up – that they – you can’t have a civil function (a wedding) of a Jaffna Tamil or anybody without getting the permission of the Army, the MoD. They are normally given permission, there is no problem about it but it doesn’t savour well if you feel that you are still under siege. So that happens. Then I checked up also with the Army, and the Army I must say also said, ‘yes, this is happening but we will soon – we are aware that this is a disturbance to the population, we can’t build a society if we take this attitude. We are thinking of it; we are moving out’. And even some of the Tamil Party MPs said we understand the caution that is being applied because if some group thinks of landing a big bomb in Colombo – it can happen. So that finishes everything. Therefore we also understand – these are Tamil political parties saying – we understand that this will not go on forever, that it will ease off and even the Army has told me that they are easing it off. So, on this matter I checked from both sides.
Hangawatte: The other question I have is, (just to draw up on your wisdom really and experience), you said at one point we created terrorism. I wonder what you mean by “we” – is it a particular ethnic group, social group, community group, particular religious group; I don’t know whatever, or did you – maybe I did not hear it correctly – but did you mean to say that the social disorganization that resulted due to certain historical incidents and social movements, population movements etc., some political decisions led to terrorism? Is that what you meant or did you mean to say somebody or some particular group or something?
Moonasinghe: No as I said we were united. We are together – all of us who won the independence for this country; all of us. Then the leadership of the two major parties got greedy – greed has overcome. So they concentrated on continuing – they wanted to dominate against each other and continue the leadership of this country right. That greed made them in their political immaturity to do some of these things, as I said – the election they had in the north. So that the youth got tired of it and they then took up to violence and then came Prabakaran who wiped all of them – the political parties as well as the Parliamentarians as well as the other terrorist youth groups. So that is what I meant.
We – if the first elections for the District Councils was held in a democratic way then the youth would not have done that. Now we are finding day by day that there is no answer. We will never get anything. Now that has changed. Now that has changed because our leadership has also realized that is why all the Indian Tamils have been given citizenship That is why the language now is – both Sinhala and English are the National languages and the official languages.
I also want to tell you that in the Agalawatte electorate next to my own electorate, my cousin’s electorate Anil, they have set up Mr. D.E.W.Gunasekera, the Minister in charge of Constitutional Affairs, has set up an institution in Agalawatte whereby they train both Sinhala and Tamil public servants and also the new recruits both Sinhalese and Tamil to the public service. Now this institution they have to stay there for a number of months and learn. The Tamil public servants learn Sinhalese and the Sinhalese public servant learns Tamil, and they also learn English as a link language. Now that is going on and as an incentive before this happened the incentive was some Rs.5000, if they are competent in each others languages now it has been increased to Rs.25,000. Now they are setting up institutions like this not only in the south in Agalawatte, they are setting them up in the north, as well as in the east. And it is not only that they have set up Police Training Institute in the east which is training both Sinhala and Tamil Policemen. They have already taken – passed about 90 Tamil Police Women with both languages and about hundred and odd Tamil Police officers competent in both languages. Because it is essential you can declare Sinhala and Tamil official languages if you don’t really get down to the thing – we also do an audit. We send people to different areas. You find – now Ratnapura hospital has one Tamil Officer, one Tamil Clerk, that is all. All the others are Sinhalese. Now Ratnapura or like Bulathsinhala has big estate belts Tamil people so you need to increase that. So we are doing an audit to see how many institutions have Tamils, because I mean still Tamil people get their circulars in Sinhala.
Hangawatte: But is that due to purposeful action by the Government or simply because Tamil professionals have left and there aren’t any available?
Moonasinghe: Quite frankly I believe that it is not the work of the Government and the Government is not purposefully doing it. I am very clear on that.
Hangawatte: Thank you very much.
C.R. de Silva: I wish to thank you for having come and helped us in our deliberations and I am sure that the presentation that you made will be very helpful to the Commission in formulating our recommendations.
Moonasinghe: Thank you very much sir, it was a pleasure. I wanted and I am glad that you all wrote to me because I had so much; I feel this; I feel it in my heart. As much as I know some of you all, you all feel the same thing so we have to all to get together and bring this diversity … As I said overarching we are one nation. We must bring all the diversities into it and we will be a far richer nation if we achieve. I have no doubt you sir and led by you and all of you all will achieve this. It will take time; don’t expect it to finish in no time. You will have to finish your work but your reports will be so valuable when it goes to the President and everybody else. Thank you very much.