Transcript- Nihal Rodrigo

Posted on August 17, 2010


17 August 2010

Mr. Nihal Rodrigo

Chairman: Mr.Rodrigo although you were here when Mr. Munasinghe gave evidence and you are aware of the procedure adapted by the Commission, for the purposes of the record I have to announce the procedure that we follow in this, before this commission. You are entitled to give evidence either in public or on camera. The choice is yours and after you finish your representation the Commissioners are entitled to ask you questions, to clarify any matter which arises on your representation or which is relevant to the terms of the Warrant. You can respond either in public or in private, so the choice is yours. And nobody else can ask you questions. 

Rodrigo:  Thank you very much, I certainly would be happy to answer any questions in public although public may not want to hear what I say. 

Chairman: we are eagerly waiting to hear what you say. 

Rodrigo: Any way It gives me a great deal of pleasure to be here this morning, and what I thought was, from that I heard from the preceeding speaker, some of the areas that I was going to touch on, was also been discussed and I will go on the basis some of the points I made in the advanced paper that single sheet and concentrate perhaps a little more on the external aspects, purely because of the experience and also I am a pita gangaraya as it were, and to that extent might be able to indicate some thing in my practical experiences in dealing with the local situation from the perspective of the world outside. Just on the current scene  two very quick points I would like to make which are specially relevant to the immediate context at the obvious level I think any recrudescence of terrorism or any acts of vengeance and so on must be guarded against very strongly, and I think there the responsibility is very much with the defence forces and although there are so many military items and usable materials that are being discovered, I think a major terrorist attacks in the city, hopefully , are things of the past.

 Secondly, to look at a different aspect of the same point, a replay of the events of 1983 must certainly be avoided and I think Mr. Mangala Munasinghe also mentioned this, because there are still some extremist views against peace reconciliation who oppose any reasonable inclusive accommodation of all the ethnic groups.

  Build a own campaign particularly overseas, and 83 gave them enormous material to prove or to show that they had something to fight for, but what has really favoured Sri Lanka is that since then despite all the horrible things that the LTTE has done including killing innocent people who worship at temples, mosques and churches and so on, no such massive attack on the Tamil community, any thing remotely like July 83 has happened. So I think that is a very important aspect.

Then with regards to the Commissions Mandate, which applies of course to the period 21 Feb 2002 to 19 May 2009, perhaps the consequences of earlier developments also need to be addressed where they have a effect on the current situation and also move well into the future, so therefore on that basis, the commission I feel, needs to also have a very frank survey and assessment of the past. In effect what we need to do in the present is to project into the future benefitting from the lessons of the past, and I think particularly because many non governmental organizations and others including powerful states are hyper critical of Sri Lanka have tendered now to concentrate  exclusively on those two weeks in May of last year and it is important for the whole process to understand the background and to go deeper into history and assess the causes as well as the efforts by different governments to explore all options for peace in the face of constant LTTE hypocrisy prevarication and eventual calculated resort to violence, and in this context I think the joint statement issued on the 23 of May last year, Mr Paliyahkkara was also there in Kandy at that time, by the Sri Lanka government and the UN Secretary General was particularly significant, particularly in respect of his concluding paragraph, and if I can read it out very quickly it says, three sentences, “Sri Lanka reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights standards and Sri Lanka’s international obligations.”  The second sentence says “The Secretary General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian human rights laws” and the third sentence very important says “The government will take measures to address these grievances.” So I think this Commission is the third sentence, the concluding paragraph, and therefore I think, perhaps, we need to look at the other the aspects of this which have to be taken into account. Having said that, I think what we could look at really is the whole question of the fact, very important fact, that the Commission has held sessions in Vavuniya and had a interaction directly in situation as it were with those who are most deeply affected by the conflict, I think that it is extremely good thing which the Commission has done, and I think that a number of individuals who have merely sought information about family members and others from whom they have not heard of, have disappeared and so on, and while I know that it is very difficult to trace these situations some very strong provisions and mechanisms to investigate those cases and try to identify what has happened, and where these people are, so that they will know what exactly what has happened to their loved ones. I think that’s a rather important aspect. Then let me move out, I think, to other aspects in this whole basis, that is, we are looking at the post conflict programs of rehabilitation of resettlement and economic resuscitation, which are now proceeding through out the country they require a very sensitive handling because there a many very, shall we say, human aspects that are involved.

 Firstly, there is a question of ensuring livelihood security and gainful employment for the displaced. Now while the economic connectivity with the areas affected is being established, we are reaching out to the North, it is important that this is neither excessively intrusive culturally nor causes any sort of economic displacement. I understand for example, a good aspect is that MAS intimates will be establishing a production centre on Ommanthaai, and I think the Honourable people on the committee were asked about these aspects. Now this is suppose to provide employment to 1500 persons in the area, which is a good thing. But there are, of course, situations where are hotels for example that are opening up in the North, should as far as possible employ locals rather than persons from outside the area, because for example for a waiter he can pick up enough English in two weeks to be able to attend a table, so it is better that for the people in the area be utilized there rather than taking people readymade from the rest of the country. 

The land issue was mentioned by Mr.Mangala Munasinghe and so on, and here too I think there are major legal issues arising, and here too I think the human aspect is the most difficult and this is something that to be looked at very carefully.

 Secondly, there is the complex issue of the reformed LTTE cadres and they are being factored into peacetime activities. Confidence building at the social and psychological levels among the reformed carders and their re integration into their communities is vital.  I have seen very happy occasions like for example mass weddings or people who have established some sort of family linkages which will help them to re settle rather than to keep on the path they have been taken in the past,  and therefore it is necessary to ensure that shall be no recrudescence of any sense of alienation or feeling of rejection that might be festering among some of them, and I understand also from the discussion with Dr.Heranthi Wijemane who appeared before the Commission, that she had stressed this point also particularly in relation to the younger cadres of the LTTE whose minds are very much open to any sort of information and any sort of development that can make them really true citizens of a united Sri Lanka.

 Then with regard to the enduring political settlement of the ethnic issues and some sort of effective frame work for power devolution, equitably through the constitutions, to the provinces within the constitution is, of course not easy task an I believe many others would have spoken of this, I wouldn’t go into details, but the discussions and the consensual decisions that are emerging from within and also between political parties and groups need to be factored into a comprehensive constitutional settlement which will be acceptable eventually to all communities and provinces. I think Mr.Mangala Munasinghe also said that he had some informal groups which could help in this process, and I think his wide experience should help us in that. So there is a need also to have a constant review of interprovincial interactions so as to discourage any communalistic, separatist tendencies on either side of the so called ethnic divide and a second Chamber and this is purely a personal view based on equitable representation of all provinces and communities with specifically defined powers, clearly defined areas of responsibilities and authority need to be considered. And here I think the second Chamber could combine provincial representatives irrespective of ethnicity and some degree of ethnic representation as well. This way it could be a sort of a thing that might be able to serve as a over sight of what ever emerges from the Parliament so that it will not be in any way harmful either to the majority communities or minority communities and so on.

Then let me move on to the international plain. I think the recent action of the Canadian Public Safety Minister a man by the name of Vic Toews; I am not sure whether I am pronouncing that properly, Toews. He gave an indication of the complex external dimensions, which are really impacting on the Sri Lanka Peace process, which needs extremely careful handling. Now, surviving elements of the LTTE, those sympathetic to the cause as well many others, I won’t say that the LTTE is the majority in this group probably others are there as well, are seeking overseas to modify and rebrand the LTTE in accordance with their different personal interest, not all of them are separatist, not all of them are based on LTTE racist violence and so on. And the interest, the agendas, the action of the Sri Lanka Diaspora, in several countries and in particularly Canada, UK, Australia, Norway, Italy are all getting entangled in this and as the decisive event of May last year was evolving, Sri Lanka Diaspora elements overseas as we recall were involved in massive demonstrations against which surprisingly or may be not surprisingly, western governments were very hesitant to take decisive action despite the considerable dislocation and chaos which was caused in the cities concerned. For example in London I was told the overtime payments to the metropolitan police were some thing like in the rate of about 10 or 15 million pounds. But here I think we need to sort of look at the aspects relating to some of the Diaspora, and here the thing is the reality we have to accept is that in some specific areas overseas for example in Wembley in the United Kingdom, Scarborough in Canada, the Sri Lankan migrants live clustered together in large numbers within very small localities, now such Diaspora groups constitutes solid voting blocks in constituencies where the native votes, the locals, are politically apathetic and may not even go to vote if on election day it’s raining outside. Here there are Tamil Diaspora, what I would call campaign managers who guarantee prospective local candidates, Diaspora votes in bulk in return for political tolerance, may be support and even promotion for LTTE causes, of course it is getting much less now but this factor was a very important aspect that we need to look at and there is a prospect of some of these lingering which could also in certain circumstances develop more. For example the Diaspora activities in Norway, they have proclaimed last year I think that 98.8% of all the Sri Lankans in Norway supported Elam and the Vadukodai Resolution. Now whether this is true or not, what observers there were for the election I don’t know, then again there is a set what is called Tamil Country Councils in Norway, Sweden, France, Italy and Canada, and these countries last month, I think –yes – end of last month signed what is called a collaborative agreement with a US based group called Tamils Against Genocide. Now this has almost been something like a huge global government in exile type of a thing, although the motivations of all those who signed are not separatism, but they are tied up also with other aspects which also I can discuss sometime later.

Motivations of this collective action against Sri Lanka by Diaspora elements were submitted in a short informal report I made to HE The President where I analyzed six or seven broad areas of motivations, which were pushing the Diaspora elements to almost support what would appear to be the LTTE’s objectives. But, my own view, that is not the case, there are other private views that these people hold unrelated to the LTTE cause, which are still making them get into these groups and set up some sort of large lobbing groups. Then at the bigger level people smuggling, visas, passports, credit cards frauds, arms and narcotic trafficking conducted by the LTTE cadres in collusion with transnational communal cartels still continue although with much less impunity, they can not do it so boldly, and also with more caution and therefore with greater difficulties in identifying and stamping them out. For example among the passengers of the Thai ship the ‘Sun Sea’ which has now docked in Victoria, Canada, there are LTTE members as well as large numbers of other Sri Lankans who are merely seeking residence status, asylum or employment overseas for largely personal, economic reasons and not for political, separatist, racist reasons.   So some of them are actually victims of promises which have been made criminal cartels and by LTTE carders paying high fees and wealth, and I think here too the Canadian minister of security Mr.Toews has clearly stated, I think in a news item which I saw last evening but the evidence clearly suggest that this is the work of the Tamil Tigers. So, Therefore it is very important for Sri Lanka and for this Commission also to explore possibilities for closer consultations not only with the Canadian Government but also with other governments particularly Australia which faced a similar situation but now given so many other aspects including very wide international security aspects, including people smuggling, piracy, gun running have come to realize that many of the so called refugees leaving Sri Lanka, they may be Tamils in ethnic terms could be quite content to stay in Sri Lanka, if they had lively hood security and they were secure rather than moving on to a new country altogether. So this is of course a very difficult thing to judge, because no one has done a survey, but certainly I think this is one of the aspects which is very important for our visions to work closely and try to analysis what of these things are possible. Because I know for certain even in terms of banning of the LTTE in the United States, it was really a group of Sri Lankan nationals including some of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese who helped to lobby with various congressmen in the United States which made it very easy when Lakshman Kadirgamar who started moving on that thing to get that type of support for the ban of the LTTE. Then, of course, as I said before the Diaspora can not be all tarred with the same terrorist brush. Because from personal experience as I said there are large numbers of Diaspora who are anxious to come back to Sri Lanka, if not to settle down, at least to help their old home country. Lot of these people moved out for economic reasons some of course particularly after 83, obviously for reasons of security as well, because they felt their lives were in danger, and here I think when I repeat that our embassies and high commissions have a major job, not only to provide receptions with rice and curry and few song and baila dancing at the end of it, but to have some sort of link between the Sri Lanka Diaspora groups and most of the countries have groups and again breaking up as Mangala said under political identity some times, cultural identity, two, three, four groups of Diaspora, for example in London and New York and so on, not quite rivals but again establishing or maintaining their separate identity so these have to be brought together as far as possible through our missions if they are able to work on that  basis. Then let me get on to the old question of the coordinated positions, the actions being taken by Sri Lanka to further the peace process, of course is a highly complex operation in which many ministries, state agencies and others including the corporate sector  are involved. Now, criticism of this process in the international arena at the UN, by multilateral agencies, regional groups and individual states as well as very serious allegations of human rights violations need to be handled rationally and in a highly coordinated manner. I think a single state agency should be entrusted to present the principle basic positions of the government after having received briefing from all concerned agencies, government departments that are involved in different issues, because several spokes persons often expressing personal issues could cause confusion, as they have, and this will only encourage adverse responses to the official statements that are made., and political street theatre dramas by government representatives, particularly, should be avoided. Criticism on Sri Lanka could be rationally dismissed, and I think diplomacy is not merely polite and nice and speaking good English and offering drinks, it should also be able to meet negative views through persuasive arguments based on national interest and not on sectarian advancement. Now the primary assessment of the conflict in Sri Lanka and the progress of the peace process as well as the measures for national reconciliation ss now come in a sense to rest with this commission. Because it does play a major roll in bringing all these diverse forces together and most important in being able to also to listen to people. Any one who is willing to come here and volunteer their views, and I think that is a good thing. So it is really the domestic assessment that is relevant and not any external assessment from afar. The UN Security Council has been informed, I believe and Mr.Paliyakara was there in June some time in 2009, that there is this aspect and the experiences encountered are to be studied to learn lessons on what to avoid and to avert any future internecine conflicts here in Sri Lanka and here too the international community would thus have a report from within the country itself from the Commission to which contribution have been made government and as well as people themselves and I hope also from opposition parties and not from purely outsiders looking from far away through their own twisted binoculars with distorted visions and various notions of what they think is good for Sri Lanka. So the national view from Sri Lanka, by Sri Lankans can be commented on by those interested or concerned in the future of the country. The UN SG’s panel of experts can present their own views which may or may not be relevant, appropriate or practical. I think there is no need for us to get too excited about it, certainly it is even considered insulting and now there are various ideas that are coming out, even reviews of the Secretary Generals own performance and his problems with the similar panel that he has established for sties. So these are there I don’t think we need to punch him on that but we can be at least rest contented that what is important is what the domestic equation in Sri Lanka is, what we feel about it and then take it on, of course, in that respect I think we have to be very much alive to the international aspect which is the last point I want to make and that is that in terms of Sri Lanka’s location, although there is a lot of criticism as to why we are pushing Hambantota, there are other ideas also which are not related to the ethnic conflict or to peace reconciliation but which also impact on it. The whole question of the Chinese involvement in Hambantota.

I mentioned this purely because I spent almost four years in China, while this whole project was being discussed. Now, what is not known is that from the Indian point of view something like 60% of all the goods going into India and coming out of India pass through Colombo at present. Now, this is not my assessment it is by Shamsharan who was also an advisor to the Indian Prime Minister. So, Hambantota which is just ten miles from the busiest ocean traffic lanes in the world is extremely useful not only for India and south Asia but as a very important point of connection between the whole of East Asia, not Chinense only, but the Koreans, Japanese, all the AESIAN countries and through Sri Lanka, right in the middle, with the Eastern parts that is the Eastern coast of Africa going on to Europe and the Middle East for oil and so on. Certainly the Chinese are benefiting because they get lot of their oil supplies and so on from the Middle East, but this aspect also may need to be explained, because of the think tanks which are not particularly sympathetic to Sri Lanka tend to use this aspect also and to say, for example that prisoners from China are being brought to work in Hambantota and this is also this is also human rights violation which Sri Lanka government is tolerating. So there are a whole lot of implications that come this way but the good news is that the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December of last year came out with a report which had a very interesting title, it was “Re-charting the Relationship with Sri Lanka”. It was not readjusting or restructuring but re-charting which is a naval phrase. So, I think they have realized the need for that and there is a very good paragraph in that which says that the United States should look at the interest of Sri Lanka and the Government of Sri Lanka when it restructures or re charts it’s relationship with Sri Lanka, and I think we need to benefit from those rather than go punching at external countries because much more can be done by rationally explaining what we are and what we hope to do and I think is the best means of settling this and I am very grateful for this opportunity I have had to speak to the Commission and all of you, Sir, and I look forward to any further help That I could extend. Thank you very much in deed.

Q & A:

Chairman: Thank you Mr. Rodrigo for that presentation, I just have one  point which you might perhaps wish to clarify further, I think you very correctly underlined the need for Sri Lanka to speak with one voice wiz a viz with the view to the international community in respect of human rights, allegations and so on and whatever that lead agency or the ministry obviously as you mentioned consult the relevant line ministries and department, but wouldn’t that roll extend further to take on board the views of the civil society also and if that is done, wouldn’t that strengthen or make the voice of the government stronger that this is a unified message that is coming from within the country.

Rodrigo:  Yes, I would fully agree with you because this question of one voice it should not be seen as purely government or state and I think right now even the corporate sector is involved in this and there are many encounters I see where, for example MAS had something with the British High Commission recently or their trainees going and taking about it, they are encouraging this sort of thing and I think it’s important that for example Mangala Munasinghe’s groups which are also doing a lot of work, Arvodaya, Sarvodaya and Ariyaratna’s activities all these things are certainly part of the process, and I believe many of those many of representatives will also be coming here not only retired recycled government servants like myself, but others who have a wider experience deeply at people to people level. So I think that is very important and I am hopeful that more of that type of opinion will also be factored in to the report of the Commission eventually. 

 Q: The  process, can you explain that.

Rodrigo: Yes, That process is very important and there again in the last few months I have been invited to make speeches some times of SARC but also on the Sri Lanka peace process in Pakistan and India and also with the Indian Council of World Affairs, it was very interesting, because there again it was looking at the roll of China and I mentioned this China again because that seem to have a negative impact on some countries as to what is happening here and those who perhaps feel uncomfortable about that may use that as an excuse also to say that we are colluding and depending on countries which are exporting their prisoners as labour and so on and therefore we are part of that whole process, so one has to be very careful about that and these have to be explained as rationally and as calmly as possible.

Paliahakkara: Thank you Mr.Rodrigo, for bringing, where your knowledge and experience to our benefit. I have a question on the very important observation you made on Diaspora, a recurrent theme here was how one can, I don’t think the word unite is a good one, how one can bring harmony into both the Tamil political establishment here and it is even more difficult, I believe, in the Diaspora where as it is fragmented on some groups trying to, let see for the lack of a better word, try to resurrect the  LTTE kind of approach on the other hand some other groups are trying to bring in a more harmonious approach and is it feasible and if it is to bring in harmony and what are the specific things that the government and civil society the other expatriates should do to bring in that, because it’s reconciliation here at home and abroad in the Diaspora group. What are the specifics that from your experience that from your point of view that one can do to bring that about?

Rodrigo: Well, That’s a very difficult question because also given the numbers involved and the fact that in each country the Diaspora is somewhat different and as you will recall almost in every country there are two three Sri Lankan groups which set up their clubs and have their ‘bajavoos’ evening receptions so on, on their own. Sometimes they merge sometimes they don’t. Independence Day is usually the day when the embassies are able to get everyone together and I have known even of some diplomats being transferred from postings purely on the grounds that one of these groups has gone and protested and said that this guy is not helping us and so on. So it is a very complex issue and on this very issue sometime at the middle of last year, I did a very general assessment of the types of motivations the different Diaspora in different countries in respect of keeping some sort of LTTE based ethnic, shall we say flag waving to say that Sri Lanka is no longer safe. To give you a horrible example even in China, in Hong Kong for example there was a non Tamil who would quietly change his name to make it sound like a Tamil and said that when his visa ran out that he can’t go back home because he is a Tamil and he will be in trouble and it is very interesting, that a another Diaspora group a very mixed group who came to me and said ‘Look his fellow has done this’ and this was explained to the Hong Kong government and they said ‘Yes this is totally unacceptable and therefore we will not accept anyone  who comes to us and says I will be killed if I go back to Sri Lanka so please give me job. If the man is a good Mechanic, a driver, a engineer whatever and can speak some English or better still some Chinese we will take him on but we will not take him on the grounds of the human rights’. So that was one, easy one that was settled. Because that was a small grouping and it was easy to work out. But from the very general assessment, I made and passed on some of these to the Presidential Secretariat also, I saw six basic aspects of the Diaspora which can be identified. One I think is a genuine personal concern about what is happening in Sri Lanka. This is of course largely based on individual perceptions and experiences including the 1983 experience. That’s a genuine concern.

 The second one is peer pressure and force. Peer pressure meaning that you got a friend who is very concerned about it, he has got some relation of his in Borella or something who suffered during 83 and therefore he has managed to persuade this other friends that ‘look these guys are very dangerous we have to stay here , I don’t want to go back’.

Thirdly, of course, the bigger one which I explained, this whole criminal aspect that has developed. The whole question of fund raising. Now, within the Diaspora the money is being collected basically as ‘Kappang’ for relations of theirs who are living in Sri Lanka. So they say your Grandmother is living in Chavakachery, we will protect her if you give us so much money, and these are experiences I have had from my time in New York, where they have actually come and said this as a ”tribute” to the LTTE  they did do some things as repair roofs, compound of certain houses in Chavakachery and so the doctor who was in New York very happily paid the ‘Kappang’ until of course he got too much to pay and then he protested and that’s another long story. Then the other thing was the whole question desire to live abroad. Now, that is nothing to do with Sri Lanka that is the same type of thing of bettering the opportunities and going abroad and sometimes if you claim you are part of the Tamil community, you might be able to make some claims which might help you in getting your visa and so on extended and of course the point which I mentioned earlier on the whole question of the support that they provide to  various political groups, local political groups in places like Canada where they become useful, This is the type of cover that they wield and many of them are finding that with the struggle in Sri Lanka ending that they might loose that very important aspect why human rights are violated and they might have the need to go back. This does not apply to the Diaspora that is involve as doctors, as technical people and so on at a high level but this applies very much to a person shall we say who is a doorman in some US city. Now , he gets a visa for one year and at about the tenth month he has to he as to get his visa renewed and when he goes back he will find that now given globalization, East Europeans who are also having economic difficulty are coming into The United States and some of these guys prefer to have white skinned guy at the door to usher the guest coming in rather than a dark skinned guy who probably speak good English but still a white man looks better as a guardian at the door, so then this chap will loose his visa, then he a to come to other things and say ‘look I got this problem and so on’ so all those thing are in print and the question is for us to be able to tap those who are actually settled down quite happy and who has some nostalgia some love some affection for the country who are willing to provide funding. A few may come back bring their talents whether they are doctors, engineers and so on but that may not be so large. The others will stay on as long as it suits their own personal wellbeing which also something you cannot blame. The problem really is that it is getting involved, now with the LTTE dropping down with some of the criminal cadres, who will still continue because in New York, as Mr. Priyacader will know , even the garbage guys who collect all the garbage form hotels are paid a small Kappang some sort of money, and at one point some Sri Lankans were the collectors who went to these hotels and collected the money for members of the Italian Mafia who were running the protection for the drivers, so this is a very mixed up situation but I think it’s something that is definitely deserves to be looked at carefully, and here again a very sensitive matter, I don’t mind being mentioned, the whole question of also a person like KP. Now what is his role and what is the type of funding that is he is still can control with his signature. Now many of the accounts that are in the Western countries where they have identified as being LTTE, including TRO accounts have been closed or held back. Now a legal process is going on as to who owns the money? Is it genuine? And there are some Western countries that say ‘Look Sri Lanka can’t have this money back because this money was collected in our country and the money should remain here’. Then the question arises for what purpose? So it’s a very complicated issue, I am not aware of the legal aspects but all these issues are there and I think each of these has to be analyzed very carefully and I think, my own feeling is, that the majority of the Diaspora living outside would be happy to assist the Sri Lanka peace process, even it is only to come back at Christmas time or during summer to go to Arugum bay or something. They still have that affection. It’s only a small percentage that is involved in keeping this whole LTTE thing going in some form in some sort of censored, rebranded nature, so that they will also survive.

Hangawatte: Ambassador Rodrigo, expanding upon the same question of Diaspora, I wish to draw upon your vast experience in international relations. Now I understand that there are apparently at least two views that are advocated here in Sri Lanka in regard to how to handle the Diaspora. One view seem to be that these should be handled centrally from Colombo and another view is no Colombo can coordinate but we should localize in each country or even in each place how to handle them so that we can be sensitive to domestic political issues basically. What is your view on this?

Rodrigo: Yeah, that I think is perhaps on the overall policy as to identify what exactly the Diaspora can do. That I think is probably better done from the Center, where the Center has more detailed information about the different countries. Because each country has a particular type of Diaspora.  The Diaspora in Italy for example is different to the very small Diaspora working in Hong Kong. So each of these have to be worked out. In terms of the handling of the other aspect I am not quite sure but I would think also depending on where the Diaspora person has his heritage or his ancestry or where he came from. If he is a man from Matara who has gone to do some work, well, then he will prefer Colombo but there will be so many and I think in numerical terms, may be ,more would be from the North and The East. That is really even from the time of 1983 and perhaps before that in Australia the Burgher community, all those aspects which are purely tied up with the historical circumstances  of Sinhala only, moving lot of the Burgher public servants to Australia, things of that nature. So perhaps in handling the Diaspora then we may need to decentralize it depending on who are the linkage points, because we may need to identity somebody, shall we say, in Mutur who has somebody living in a foreign country, who also knows what is going on and who might be helpful in trying to get that persons participation in Sri Lanka, even if it is only once a year when he comes for holidays. But even that is important because I find that lots of Diaspora people coming in now are very happy with Sri Lanka and this morning someone mentioned that New York Times has put Sri Lanka has one of the prime tourist destinations. And I know that because my daughter who is in New York is here and found it impossible to get hotels in places like Trinco because most of the people coming in there still seem to be locals, that is Sri Lankans from abroad or Sri Lankans here. So that may have to be decentralized again depending on what exactly the government is intending to get. First on the aspect of presenting the correct picture of what is going on in Sri Lanka, that is very important, and secondly the whole question of even getting technical help of people coming back, identifying various aid groups and so on which might be helpful to Sri Lanka and then thirdly on this whole question the LTTE itself. So all those aspects will have to be identified and perhaps fitted in accordingly. Centralized from Colombo with perhaps some sort of branches in the areas which are also affected by this.

Ramanathan: Mr.Rodrigo, you said that the Diaspora would be happy to help in the peace and reconciliation process. Yes, if they are to live here, yes they could. But if they are only visiting, how could they help in the peace  and reconciliation process? How can they feel an experience, what’s happening here?

Rodrigo: I know that is a very good question. Two aspects, now, anybody coming here, say a Tamil coming from New York, now he goes through the streets obviously he is going to be checked at some check point. Then he pulls out his ID card and gets through. What at least he knows that he as a Tamil can walk in the streets and that’s nothing is going to happen to him. To that extent he goes back contented. And he has had some experience of Sri Lanka 2010 as against Sri Lanka 1983. So that’s one aspect but again as you say that may not be powerful enough. If you have roots here still, like my Tamil doctor friend who had his grandmother living in Chavakacheri. Now, there he felt the need to come back, he wouldn’t have settled here, because it was not worth his while here as he was earning good money there, but still that affection for the country was there for his particular home area and he was sorry even to, sometimes some people are happy when they see the head lines in the New York times or the Guardian, the Daily Mail or whatever it is but others are very unhappy about it. And I know in New York also these news items some Tamil friends were upset about it, others would say there you are I told you, I told you, there is sort of these different visions are there. So it’s not very easy but I think embassies can identify those who might be interested in helping out particularly even their technical knowledge. Now I have known people who have come, some Australian friends of mine who came back, who have being helping particularly in dealing with the women who have been affected in the North. Some with children who are two or three years of age, but who were almost compelled into produce children as part of the LTTE war machine. These are the horrible things that were going on but she does not even know who the father is. Now this lady, a friend of mine, she has being helping them providing with some assistance not only financial but other things. So it’s very difficult to identify in terms of generality, but I think there will be so many others who will have those memories, if the whole situation turns for the better and certainly there is no 1983 taking place, then I think it will be possible for them to go on. I think I can give a simple example it’s an interesting one of a Tamil athlete, who is one of the few Sri Lankans who got a medal at the Olympic Mr. Subu Navaratna, he was my neighbour in Borella in a tine little lane called Castle Terrace. Now in 83 I still remember people coming down that lane and asking me , let me do a translation and give it a sub title,  ‘may alapu gethera demelike innawa nathe’ – isn’t there a Tamil guy next door? And I told him in Sinhalese ‘No don’t be silly’. Then he pulls out a list and he says there is a man called Naveratnam next door, I said ‘No’ ‘go and take a look’ and fortunately Suma had left the house during those days. And his wife was a Burgher lady, and he peeped in and saw it was a white skinned lady and he was sort of scratching his head and he went off. Now this was a type of thing that took place, now that has not happened since then whether it’s political or ethnic or thuggery  or even economic because certainly in Borella some of the  Saree shops which owned by Tamils were attacked on the basis that this fellow will run away and then I can set up my Saree shop, so it was a huge pickle of different motivations, who exploited the situation, but Mangala I agree that the spark was political. That’s a fact and others joined in to the process where they could get some benefit out of it.

Chairman: Mr. Rodrigo, you mentioned about forced pregnancies, do you have any material regarding this aspect of the matter?

Rodrigo: Not in a manner I will be able to write a report on it. But these are again part hearsay part what I have heard from certain people who may not want to be mentioned where this had apparently been taking place 2007, 2008 when more cadres were needed and also I know some particular cases through some domestic that some people were given in marriage early earlier than expected, just to say that my daughter is married and therefore she can not join the cadres. I don’t have any clear evidence which can be statistically analyzed. But fact is, this is just to show the nature of the LTTE. But certainly one or two cases I know of and the help that is being given to those families to recover.

Chairman: Now, Mr. Rodrigo, on behalf of the Commission I must thank you for having come over here and shared your thoughts with us and I have no doubt that these thoughts are going to be very helpful in formulating our recommendation, Thank you.

Rodrigo: Thank you very much again for this experience and certainly if there is any further information or help that you do require, I will be only too glad to assist you in the process. Thank you.

Chairman: Thank you.

 

 

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