Date: 3 September 2010
Hon. Douglas Devananda
C.R. de Silva: Hon. Devananda, before you commence I must thank you for coming here and helping us, and I must also tell you the normal procedure that we adopt before this Commission. You are entitled to make your representations either in public or in camera. The choice is yours, and at the end of your representations the Commissioners can ask you questions to clarify any matter that arises in the course of your representations or that is relevant to the terms of the Warrant. Nobody else can ask you questions and you are entitled to respond either in public or in camera. The choice is yours. That is the general procedure.
Devananda: Can I have a translation?
C.R. de Silva: Yes, certainly. Are you giving evidence in Tamil?
Devananda: Yes, in public. I also brought a Sinhala Translator.
C.R. de Silva: Your evidence will be translated into English.
Devananda: Sinhala translation will be better. Anyway it is up to the Commission.
C.R. de Silva: Hon. Minister, normally we have our translators and that is the normal practice. If there is a discrepancy I think you can bring it to our attention.
Devananda: I will be reading it out in Tamil.
C.R. de Silva: But we have a qualified Interpreter.
Devananda: Okay. I need about one hour to finish my submissions.
Greetings to all of you. Experiences that we have gone through will create a new history I suppose. In the history of human kind wonderful changes have been experienced. There is nothing that is without change. It is a changing world. We accept those changes and with confidence and trust in those changes that we like to be the voice of the people. The history of the Tamil community in the past has been acrimonious, long and sorrowful. Our people had carried the burdens, the scars of the war which had resulted in the country being burnt and the destruction of the nation. Our souls are still burning, and we have associated with the people, we have accommodated the sufferings of those people. The sorrows that our people experienced in the past, the tears that they shed and the losses that they have incurred, and the sufferings that they have gone through are still burning in the hearts of our people. Nevertheless, our country has experienced a change in the present. To the country that has gone through the winds of suffering peace has been brought in now. We don’t see the drums of war. The sounds of guns have now been silenced. The fears in the minds of the people as to what will happen at any time have now been totally removed from the minds of our people. We may have experienced losses, sufferings and turmoil, but let this be the final and the end of losses. We trust and feel confident that in future all those sufferings will not be repeated, and with that expectation in mind we thank His Excellency the President and the Defence Secretary, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa for creating a conducive and harmonious situation for the people in this country, and we are strongly obliged to them, and we also express our gratitude and thanks to the Security Forces as well. We are associated with the people in sharing the changes.
Though these changes have taken place we are not contented with those changes and we cannot stop half way in achieving our aims. We cannot stop our travel towards the achievement of a change in the political set up and changes in the structures of the people and their livelihood, their lands, their political rights, their independence. We want all this to be achieved within a united Sri Lanka and with the participation of all the people of this country, and with equality and respect we want to live in this country. To bring about such a change we have to pose certain questions and search for the answers. What are the reasons for our being unable to achieve our political rights and why could we not find the solutions to the political problems of our country in the past? What could be the reason for our people to experience destructions and sufferings in the past? We have to search for the answers for this. We must go through the past experiences. It is from the experiences that we get new changes and new ways. It is from the experiences of the faults, of the past errors; and we take those experiences as a lesson and search for the future. Then only we can achieve the principles that we are dreaming of. We, the Eelam People’s Democratic Party, has been stressing this for the last 20 years. What we have predicted in the past has happened now. What we forecast would happen is now taking place. What we dreamt could be achieved is going to take place in the new system.
I had been one of the leaders who at one stage had carried the weapon for the independent struggle. Due to unavoidable situations in the past we were forced to carry weapons. I do not like to in any way offend the past history to justify the present. But the armed struggle should have been stopped – analyzed and stopped at the point where it should stop. We have to consider the changing situations, the views of our people, feel the pulse of our people, our strength, our weakness, all this has to be assessed and with our present strength we must change the struggle to win the rights of our people. We were not individual terrorists neither did we have the luxury of weapons, we were not violence-seekers, and we did not get to the armed field with this as a motive. We love the Sinhala people and the Muslim brothers just as we have shared the love with the Tamil people. This is the reason why we did not aim our guns at the Muslim brothers or at the innocent Sinhala brothers, and we never expected to point our guns at them and we have never pointed our guns at them. When the innocent Sinhala people were killed by the tigers we have repeatedly insisted that they are not our enemies and we have told the governments at the time of the correct path that should be followed, and we have always condemned this kind of atrocious murders. The Muslim brothers were killed in their mosque; from historical times they had been part of our flesh and blood and we have been living together as brothers in the North, and during the time the leadership of the LTTE expelled them from their traditional areas, this unjustifiable actions have been condemned, criticized by a section of the Tamil community, and this injustice towards one section of the minority community had been always condemned, because their lands have been forcibly taken over by them. We have been always critical and condemned this act of injustice whether it be against a race or religion. We have always extended the hand of friendship to the Sinhala people of the South and also to the others for the rights of the Tamils the Muslims and the plantation sector community when they were pressed economically.
I would like to remind first that before the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord the governments that came into power consecutively had refused or denied the grant of the rights of the Tamil speaking people. Sri Lanka belongs to various religious and other ethnic communities. There are communities that speak Sinhala and Tamil in this country. But the language rights and the other rights have been denied to the Tamil people in this country. In 1956 the Sinhala Only Act which was brought in the Sri Lanka Parliament and the deprivation of citizenship rights of our people, and the alienation of our people and the changes in the demographic pattern of this country, and the discrimination of our people by the governments and the step-motherly treatment of our people by the governments, and discrimination in the government sector and other administrative sections against the Tamil people, the discrimination in the higher education and other sectors and other activities of the Tamil people and alienation of the Tamil community frequently, and also various communal riots against the Tamil people, and various agreements that have been dishonoured by the past governments, and the Sinhala political leaderships have always obstructed Peace Accords and for various such reasons the governments of the past treated the Tamil community as secondary citizens and that has caused this present situation. The late Dr Colvin R de Silva who was a celebrated Leftist leader at the time, though he was a Sinhala brother belonging to the Sinhala community voted against the Sinhala Only Act. I would like to remind here what he said. He said that the two- language policy will keep this nation as one, whereas a one-language policy will divide this country into two nations, and he voiced against the Sinhala Only Act. The then Member for Point Pedro and one of Leftist leaders, Mr. Pon Kandiah, said that a Tamil citizen of this country to speak to his wife or to speak to his child he was not instructing as to what language he should communicate in, but as citizens of this country with the government of this country, the Tamil people should decide in what language they should communicate, and for all the Tamils to study Sinhala and the Sinhala community to study Tamil legislation should be introduced which would be welcomed or supported by him. If these proposals or suggestions had been accepted by the governments of the time the language problems could have been solved then.
What is happening today? Our younger generations have now migrated to countries of the world and they are learning various languages and they are forced to speak those languages. There is anguish in the parents as to whether they will forget their mother tongue, the Tamil language. This situation that has arisen today has got to be accepted by the Tamil leadership. The two-language policy that has been proposed by Pon Kandiah had been rejected by them and if so the responsibility lies on the shoulders of the Tamil leadership at that time also. I would like to stress the point that though Tamil is also accepted as an official language, though it is in the legislation, in practice there are administrative difficulties and impediments in the implementation of the language policy. The World Tamil Conference of 1974 and the burning of the Jaffna Library in 1981, which were caused by the rulers at that time had created strong bitterness in the minds of the Tamil youth.
I would like to remind on this occasion that His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa during his visit to Jaffna during the election time reminded the burning of the Jaffna Library and his regrets for it. All this he reminded in the Tamil language. He spoke in the Tamil Language. I would like to remind you here that during the visit by Minister Champika Ranawaka to Jaffna recently he regretted the burning of the Jaffna Library. From time to time the rulers who came to power in Sri Lanka who were scared or frightened that the people will rise against their political activities diverted their interests against the Tamil community. This has been the reason why in 1956, 1958, 1977, 1981 and 1983 communal riots have been instigated in this country. During these riots a vast number of Tamil people had been killed. They had lost all their belongings and they had to go as refugees towards the North and East of this country. I would like to remind you of a few lines of a poem that was authored by a poet of our nation: “Podi Menike took the rod and Kulatunga took the gun. We raced on the roof and jumped. And at the front of Appuhamy’s garden our maidens who had the ‘kungumam’ on their forehead removed it out of fear of death. Our ladies who were at the front garden of Appuhamy due to the fear of being killed wiped the ‘kungumam’ on the forehead. The Sinhala woman with full of smiles kissed their foreheads and embraced them.” This has been authored by the poet when the rulers of the time instigated against our Tamil people, and when Tamil people were attacked mercilessly it was the Sinhala brothers in this country who protected them and sent them to the North and East for safety. There is nothing in the history that after the Indo -Sri Lanka Accord there had been any communal violence in this country. The present rulers of this country do not want to instigate such types of violence in this country. I would like to remind at this juncture that subsequent to the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord the governments that came into power in this country had wanted a healthy change. We did not take up to arms or we did not start an armed struggle out of hatred towards the Sinhala community, We wanted to embrace or take the Sinhala people also into our wing to fight for the rights of our people which had been denied by the rulers at the time. Though there had been clear thinking among the Sinhala community towards the Tamil community and their rights, no one came forward to embrace, to support the armed struggle to win the support of the Sinhala community also towards achieving the rights of the Tamil people. I welcome the views that have been put forward by the government. I express with full conscience and feeling.
I am not satisfied with the translation as given in the written statement. I am not sure about the language, I am sorry to say, he is my friend in Parliament. But that is different. Here I want my feelings to come out. The wording in Tamil he may have understood. But the poem was not correctly translated.
This has been the very reason why we had close relationship with the Sinhala progressives. We were forced to take up to armed struggle. Nevertheless when the LTTE leadership killed its own kith and kin on the streets, killed its other militant groups and hundreds and thousands were killed on the streets, our struggle deviated from its path and went in a wrong direction. The rulers at the time introduced the Prevention of Terrorism Act to prevent any fight or struggle against the government. The LTTE also similarly banned or obstructed the other groups that fought the government at the time. I would like to stress here that this ban that was employed by the tigers at the time had been more critical and more strong than what the government at the time did. The government forces did not kill any Tamil leaders at the time. The government forces did not kill any of our Tamil leaders so far. In contrast it has been the political tiger leadership that killed the Tamil leaders and leaders of other movements. The struggle for rights in a democratic manner had been recognized by the Sri Lankan government in this background. The Tamil leadership who took up to struggle in a democratic manner have been destroyed or wiped out by the LTTE leadership. So we directed our thoughts at the time towards the direction in which our struggle is leading to. Is it the government of Sri Lanka who had been the real enemies of the struggle of the Tamil people? So it forces us to think that it is the LTTE leadership. The LTTE banned the other liberation movements. They killed them on the streets. They took up to dictatorial leadership. Nobody had the democratic right to question the LTTE and to point out their defects. There was nobody in the field to challenge the LTTE, to ask them, from among our own community. When the innocent Sinhala and Muslim communities were killed by the LTTE leadership there was nobody to ask them, to question them, or challenge them. There wasn’t anybody strong enough at the time to challenge the LTTE, to question the LTTE, and stop this destructive war and to find a political solution. The LTTE leadership had been destroying, annihilating and a challenge to the human race against those who pointed their wrongs and their misdirections. When our struggles went in the wrong direction and even when the rights we gained, we enjoyed, were lost and when I experienced the dangers of those losses I had forethought and had predicted what is going to happen.
With foresight I had explained or told all sections of the people, that the freedom struggle had turned into a destructive war and all the initiatives that have been taken has been taken in the wrong direction and is going to be totally directed towards a destructive path. To realize our dreams of equal rights and harmonious living and a political solution within a united Sri Lanka and in an environment where the Tamil people experienced total destruction the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord was signed, then the liberation struggle, the rights that we have so far enjoyed got lost and was taken towards a destructive path. The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was a golden opportunity and a rare opportunity. We did not take into consideration the LTTE leadership that had denied the democratic rights of our people and extended its had of death towards us. But whoever struggles we must achieve our rights and the LTTE leadership without accepting the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord to win the rights of our people discarded and ignored the opportunities and brought about destruction which has caused untold suffering in our minds. I do not want to raise any objections -the denial of our participation in the Indo -Sri Lanka Accord for the EPDP. But it saddens us that they have denied our rights, failed to utilize the agreement to implement it and they have abused that situation. Though there is a broad view, criticism that the Indo -Sri Lanka Accord had not been complete towards a political arrangement, we did not consider it very serious at that time. We are in anguish that whatever rights that have been granted to us we should have accepted them and gone forward towards achieving our rights further.
The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord has been hastily framed in contrast to the aspirations of the people, which we are not concerned. Still we have a strong view that the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord has been the only way to salvage the Tamil community that has been submerged in sorrows and had been directed towards political destruction. The Indo-Sri Lanka Accord was not something which we got through pleading; just asking a peacock to give its feathers – it is not similar to that. It has been a great boon to the people – through a justifiable struggle and all the liberation movements at the time got it after great struggle and suffering. I would like to express here that in the justifiable struggle of our people prior to the Indo -Sri Lanka Accord, the other movements also had a justifiable share along with the LTTE in achieving the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord. Without any contradiction I accept that Veluppillai Probhakaran, the LTTE leader, also had a contributory share in the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord. But Veluppillai Prabhakaran dug his own grave by refusing to accept the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord and led the Tamil community towards destruction through a war path, led the Tamil community towards destruction and annihilation, destroyed his own members and led a destructive war, and failed to obtain any benefits through the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord for the Tamil people, and in contrast he destroyed all what was existing and finally resulted in the total destruction and suffering of the Tamil community.
The thorns that prick your sole were not something that was sown by others. Each thorn had been sown by you in the past one day. This is what I could say at this moment. The LTTE leadership that failed or missed to accept the Indo -Sri Lanka Accord subsequently missed all the opportunities that became fruitful to them. The negotiations with the Premadasa government, negotiations with the Chandrika Kumaratunga government, negotiations with the Ranil Wickremesinghe government, and the negotiations with the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa government – if the LTTE had accepted the feasible, possible path towards a political solution with the participation of international mediations and when they introduced meaningless conditions and if they avoided meaningless conditions the destructions that the Tamil Community faced today would not have occurred. When the Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Agreement and the Dudley Senanayake – Chelvanayagam Agreement were created it was torn and it was prevented from being implemented by the political leadership of the majority community in Sri Lanka, which is not to be denied. But from the inception of the Indo- Sri Lanka Accord and all the initiatives that had been missed subsequently and the causes of the failure have to be accepted by the Tamil leadership. All the leaderships of the past must accept responsibilities for the failure to accept whatever the rights that have been granted and for having discarded the rights that had been given, created problems for which all the leaderships must be responsible. Therefore the Tamil leaderships up to the present must accept the share of the faults and for the sufferings of the Tamil community, without passing the blame and burden on Veluppillai Prabhakaran. More of the responsibility lies on all the Tamil leaderships. As I am also one of those who had participated in the armed struggles in the past of the Tamil people, I also accept the moral responsibility for the sufferings of the Tamil community publicly. We made open public request to Veluppillai Prabhakaran on various occasions to stop this destructive war which had created untold suffering for our people without any positive results. We have appealed to the international community on various occasions to force the LTTE leadership to agree to a political settlement. Similarly we had requested the other Tamil political leadership that had cordial relationships with the LTTE and who supported the LTTE, to bring the LTTE to a negotiating table. If Veluppillai Prabhakaran would agree to a political settlement within a united Sri Lanka with equal respect and a peaceful, cordial living, I had said that I will renounce political activities and I will observe from outside. This is what I have been saying repeatedly on many occasions. But my request had not been accepted by Prabhakaran. I would like to pinpoint here that the international community also failed to bring the LTTE under the correct leadership. I would like to express in a friendly atmosphere that the Tamil political parties who had supported the LTTE also did not accept my view. And President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he came into power had made a public appeal to the LTTE leader, Prabhakaran, and wanted to have direct negotiation with him to find a solution to the political problems. I welcome the open-mindedness of Mahinda Rajapaksa and I explained to all the concerned parties to utilize this opportunity, to negotiate with the LTTE that had been involved in the war to bring about a ceasefire, and I also wanted the government to negotiate with all the political parties for a political settlement, and this had been the stand of the EPDP throughout. When Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa assured to implement and made a public appeal to the LTTE not only the Tamil community, all the people who live in this country welcomed it graciously, but the LTTE leadership refused to accept the peaceful invitation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, and was interested in war and nobody could deny that. Even the other democratic parties or groups, the supporters, educationists, intellectuals, and psychologists, media people, religious dignitaries and all the others who confronted or contradicted the views of the LTTE from the public, the LTTE leadership had always threatened or forced on them and caused immense pain on them and chased them from their country and killed them also totally inconsiderate of them being their own race and community. During the peace time the checking points, the army checking centres had been burnt and destroyed by them. The army men who were at the check points-during the Peace Accord- with hands folded guarding those check points, they continued to attack and burn and cause immense pain to those army men who were standing in the check points and guard points.
Finally the Mavilaru anicut was closed by the LTTE leadership and they permanently closed the door for peace, and they forcibly pushed our historical residences into war and the destructive war had caused immense pain and suffering to our people. We have been stressing this on various occasions. The LTTE leadership that continued this destructive war created self-destruction and also caused destruction of our people, and we had been warning that through this destructive war we cannot find solutions to any of our problems. We have been warning from the inception of the Indo -Sri Lanka Accord that this destructive war would bring about immense suffering, burning of people leaving only the remnants, the remains of the dead people. What has finally happened? We have destroyed our people in the battle fields, destroyed our properties and belonging and the natural beauty of the country had been burnt and have created a destructive situation, and the LTTE leadership had finally entered self-destruction and destroyed our people also. We made a humanitarian appeal to allow the people to come to the safe areas. We asked them not to use our people as a human shield, and we made so many humanitarian appeals to the LTTE. But the LTTE leadership did not take this appeal into consideration. Now the war is over and there is peace prevailing everywhere. Now we have forwarded a request to President Mahinda Rajapaksa on behalf of our people. We have been stressing through the President from the very start that the problems of the Tamil people are different and the problems of the LTTE leadership are different. The Tamil community wants a justifiable, reasonable political solution through which they want to live peacefully in a united Sri Lanka with equal respect in a land free of war.
We have informed, said on many occasions in the past, that the LTTE leadership does not want a political solution, that they do not desire a political solution. In contrast they wanted to continue this war and he has accepted this stand and the President has won the war against the LTTE leadership that wanted the war. He has now used the thorn to pick out a thorn. Now he has ended the LTTE leadership’s terrorism and I congratulate him for that. I firmly feel that the President understands that the problem of the Tamil people is not the problem of terrorism. When the President won the war on 18th May 2009 this was not a victory against the Tamils, this was a victory against terrorism. This was a victory won by the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala communities against terrorism. We welcomed it and we welcome it now. And we believe that the President pays due respect as the ruler of this country to the Tamil community just as Dutugemunu paid his respect after defeating Ellalan – paid his respect to that defeated king. What I am trying to say is that when King Dutugemunu defeated King Ellalan he has given due respect, history says, to King Ellalan. Likewise the President is the President of the whole country, of the entire people. So he will give due respect to the Tamil community because there is a saying that the LTTE defeat is a Tamil defeat. That type of story is there – So I strongly believe that HE the President is doing the correct thing.
Paranagama: President will follow King Dutugemunu?
Devananda: We are confident and we feel that like King Asoka who won the Kalinga war renounced war and followed Buddha Dhamma, the President will also follow the steps of Buddhist Dhamma. In the Kalinga War Asoka Chakrawarthi later renounced crime and followed the path of Buddha Dhamma.
Paranagama: He followed non-violence.
Devananda: We are confident that our President though he belongs to a different religious faith, speaks a different language – as all people are considered the same in our day to day life – will follow the path of peace as Sri Lankans despite our religious and linguistic differences, living in amity, win our rights and continue to protect morals and humanitarian rights. The Tamil people in Sri Lanka are facing two different problems. One is the political problem. Though it has not been completely solved, the initiatives are being awaited with confidence. The other is due to the war which changed into a destructive war – we are being compelled to win this destructive war- the results and the repercussions and the results that followed due to this war has caused immense suffering and spread to our people. Because of the destructive war our people have been compelled to lose their lands, houses, relations and their belongings. Having lost all this they are going through untold suffering and trauma, and subject to this, living in untold misery. We are witnessing a situation where those who had been forcibly taken by the LTTE have been brainwashed whether with liking or disliking have been forced into the LTTE membership after the guns are silenced are now living in rehabilitation camps, and this is the situation we are witnessing today. So the immediate necessity is to find a solution to the suffering caused by the war and to rehabilitate and give a new life to those people.
I would like to mention here at this juncture the initiatives taken by the government towards this and the contribution and the share that I am also involved in. Also I make a humanitarian appeal on behalf of the Tamil people to expedite the activities that remains to be done towards this. The international community must also come forward to further strengthen and make a meaningful approach to achieve these objectives. I do not deny that the international community has right to intervene in the Sri Lankan affairs. But our regrets are that the international community could not force the LTTE to agree to a political settlement and they failed to bring the LTTE towards that objective. If that was possible the destructions during the end of the war could have been prevented and the international community could have contributed towards that. We make a humanitarian appeal to the international community for the living rights of the Tamil community and the initiatives that are taken by the government and also humanitarian support towards that and to extend a helping hand to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka which could be the most timely action directed by the international community. I would like to make an appeal to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at this juncture. I would like to remind here that during the Second World War the dictator, Hitler, forced a destructive war on Germany forced by his desire to be the dictator of the whole world. Also I would like to remind here that the dictator, Hitler, dug his own grave during the Second World War and finally ended the war, fell into the same grave and put the people of Germany also into destruction. Similarly the Tamil people also understand the errors of the LTTE that pushed the Tamil people into the pit. It is a democratic right to request for our political rights, and we will be always struggling to find a solution to the political problems of our people in a most practical manner. But we accept the erroneous actions of the LTTE which refused to come to a negotiating table in a feasible manner, denied and refused to accept the political solutions through a peaceful manner and finally ended up in a destructive war. We also accept the Tamil political leadership which for their selfish ends accepted the LTTE’s destructive war, pushed the LTTE into a destructive war and finally ended up in destruction motivated by their selfish motives. We believe that the Tamil people will not be deprived for the erroneous actions, the irresponsible actions of the Tamil political leadership. We strongly believe that the government will continue to rehabilitate our historical residences and hand them over to our people and that the living rights of the people will be restored and bring about a new life to our people. We want our people to breathe fresh air. They have been all this period inhaling poisonous air. Our thinking has been more realistic towards the political rights of the Tamil people. We are not asking for the impossible requirements, neither are we asking to bring the sun and the moon to the earth. We want the Indo -Sri Lanka Accord to be implemented and based on the Indo -Sri Lanka Accord for the 13th Amendment to be fully implemented, all the rights, all the powers under that Act to be granted and based on that bring about peaceful and cordial co-existence in a united Sri Lank. Grant equal rights to our people. This has been our dream and to achieve this dream we want feasible action towards the achievement of these dreams.
We, the Eelam People’s Democratic Party, could have just issued statements which would have gone into the drain, but in contrast to that we want to go along the path of peaceful co-existence and also work towards that. We avoided confrontational politics. We wanted peaceful co-existence and we opened the door for peaceful co-existence avoiding political strong winds, strong ties, strong ties. We faced those political strong winds and ties, going for the rights of our people and extended our hands of friendship for cordial political relationship. Whoever may have issued statements against the government, whoever may have conducted numerous military attacks whoever may have issued anti-government statements, we have always had the foresight and resolved that the political problems of our people have to be negotiated with the government. If you want to solve the problems you have to talk to the government and solve the problems. It is through practical means that we could find solutions to the political problems of our people. Our dreams have to be won from where it should be started, from a feasible point. We came forward with courage to find a solution to our problems within a united Sri Lanka and we came forward with that dream to achieve it, and for this courageous political stand that we took all those who were with me all those who were like my wings, who were like my legs were killed for their political selfish ends. They branded us as traitors, they threatened us and they destroyed us. Those who accepted our practical, feasible policies were chased away from this land. The human bombs – they planned human bombs against me, threw lot of obstructions against me and tried to kill me. But I have walked and marched forward every time I raised my head, wiped my blood and with more strength and more strong thinking marched forward. I could have run away from this country in fear of human bombs and the obstructions that were leveled against me. But because the love for my people and my ambition, my desire to win the political rights of our people have compelled me to live in the midst of our people and this has been the principle which has always guided me in advancing my policies. The enemies of my people who threw abuses at me who betrayed me, branded me as a traitor today history has decided that what I said earlier has been branded as a betrayal and the path they selected has been branded as a wrong path and feelings and reasons that they threw or branded to kill our people has been the real thought and the correct path that I have selected in the past has been now established by history as the correct path for our people
I submit this celebrated statement to the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala people as a guiding principle. We will forget the past history that had been a scar on our people caused by the rulers at the beginning and by certain selfish Tamil political groups for their narrow gains and the religious, racial contradictions, confrontations and plots that have been carved out by them which have forced the Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala communities to get into this political trap. The solution to the political problems of the Tamil people in this country is not confined to the Sinhala brothers or the Muslim brothers and is not against them which is the truth that has to be understood by everyone and I strongly believe in it. We publicly apologize with sincere feelings for the killings caused by the LTTE in the past against the innocent Sinhala brothers and Muslim brothers. Do not look at the Tamil community through the LTTE leadership that killed the innocent people in the past. Please look at the Tamil people through the faces of people like us who love all. Finding a solution to the political problems of this country – extend your hands of friendship through that in this beautiful Island of Sri Lanka all the people must live with economic prosperity and their living rights have to be developed and in that aspect we extend our hands to the Sinhala brothers and the Muslim brothers to co-operate with us, to share with us towards achieving these aims. This statement may surprise you. The reasons for this surprise is an unusual voice. If you look at the history of this country for the past 50 years the real truth reflects that the reasonable request of the ordinary Tamil people had not been properly conveyed to the ordinary Sinhala people. Similarly the friendliness, acceptance and the cordiality of the Sinhala brothers had not been conveyed to the Tamil people. When we are able to erase this silent gap only we could bring about an undivided, united Sri Lanka. I make this statement with that feeling of mine. Let us first identify ourselves as Sri Lankans and then identify our ethnicity. The Tamil community wants to live as Sri Lankans and as Tamils. That is their principle. To live as Sri Lankans we are not ready to renounce Tamil and to live as Tamilians we are not ready to renounce Sri Lankan identity. This is our principle. Sri Lankans will not agree to renounce their Tamil identity to live as Sri Lankans and to live as Tamilians they are not ready to renounce their identity as Sri Lankans. This is firm. There is a verse in Tamil, united we live and if we are not united we are going towards destruction. This is a common stand for all, and we invite all to live as Sri Lankans, and with that I conclude.
Q & A
Rohan Perera: Hon. Devananda, thank you very much for your very comprehensive representation. You may be assured that the Commission is fully seized of the thrust of all your submissions. You spoke of a failure of political leadership. I believe this may be true of both sides of the divide, North and the South. My question to you is that there is a view being expressed that looking at the rights of the Tamil people perhaps there was a preoccupation with securing political rights, language rights important as they are, which are emotive and where there is greater political mileage. Now the view is also expressed that this was at the cost of ignoring or neglecting the economic rights of the Tamil people such as greater industrialization of those areas. When we look at the future measures of reconciliation, as an experienced leader of a political party, how would you approach this issue of balancing both the political rights and the securing of greater economic rights?
Devananda: I am not ready to speak about the past. Past is past. Before the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement I felt that the South leaders made mistakes – may be 80 per cent from the South leaders and 20 per cent from the Tamil leaders. In the past before the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement may be in the early ‘50s I was a small boy. So almost close to the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement only we were fully involved in political matters. After the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement through my experience I felt the Tamil leaders made mistakes. So there I won’t accuse the Sinhala leaders, because after the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement there was change of perceptions. So economically also there was an issue. If we developed economically simultaneously in the Tamil areas this problem would not have arisen. Through our experience I felt that also. But in the past even the language, even though it is in our Constitution we could not implement correctly.
Rohan Perera: How do you see the way ahead – on the economic side- with a view to greater integration, creating confidence and reconciliation on the economic side?
Devananda: I think the Tamil speaking people they feel that the past leadership let them down. Now that feeling is there. That is why I mentioned that in my speech also. So we have to bring more investment by the government or by the donor community and the diaspora is also prepared to come and invest there. So we have to encourage that. That is why I strongly believe, I think that hereafter the Tamil people may not tolerate violence or LTTE type of politics in future. Until I am alive I won’t allow that to happen because unfortunately during the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement I was in India. Until 1986 May I was in Jaffna. So I am the only organization – balance of force the LTTE. But after I left and returned in May 1996 to Sri Lanka – I went in May 1986 and returned in 1996 May – So in between I had nothing to do whether in good things or bad things I was in India. Now I strongly feel that the Tamil community will not allow; the Government of Sri Lanka – the South – look at that view. I said in my speech; don’t look through Prabhakaran’s face look through Douglas Devananda’s face. That is why I said we should encourage the investments. The government has to do that. Even I am part of the government. We are doing our level best. I hope we can do that. It is not because I am in the government I am trying to justify the government. No. I strongly believe that this is the way we can go forward and we can achieve them. I am very close, cordial with HE the President. I know his character. I think we can solve the problem. That is why we formed the Tamil Forum. We tried to bring the TNA also, because there are two types of politics – one is amicable and the other is opponent politics. The Tamil community from the very beginning itself they follow the opponent politics. That caused these damages. I think now the people have realized that.
Ramanathan: Hon. Devananda, You said that on behalf of the Tamil community you have forwarded a request to the President. What are the requests that you have made?
Devananda: I meet the President frequently. One is practical problems and then the problems of political rights. Practical problems are the problems faced by the people day to day. But today when you look at the practical problems, many changes are taking place in those. At one stage A9 road was closed. Today the A9 road is open 24 hours. Opening of the A9 road was a heavenly opening – the gates of heaven. So most of the day to day problems are reducing. Earlier under the name of security and so many things, there were obstacles. Now the civil administration is getting strengthened day to day. So now many of the problems have been solved. They don’t face problems which they faced earlier. When you look at the political problems, a political settlement is very essential and urgent. I have put forward only a practical solution. I am not asking for the sun and the moon. What is in our Constitution? Implement the Constitution fully. From the very beginning itself I am advocating for the 13th Amendment. It is in our Constitution. We are having the blessings of the Indians. The people in the South are enjoying that. Both the Opposition and the ruling party are also in the South. So start with the 13th Amendment and plus, plus, plus. Later we can go for plus, plus. Immediately start with the 13th Amendment. The real situation is, rice and curry, everything is on the table, but you have to take it to the plate and eat it. That is the first thing. It need not be cooked, everything is there. Then the implementation of the language policy is very poor. In 1977 I was able to write and speak in Sinhala. But after the 1977 riots I just threw it and I thought I should forget that also. Now I feel I made mistake. If I am able to speak and write in Sinhala It may be easy access for me – to good things. I am sorry about that. I think I made a wrong decision those days.
Palihakkara: Hon. Minister, you nearly got killed by the LTTE because you opposed their terrible practices.
Devananda: Because of my stand, my strong political stand they not only tried to kill me they tarnished my name – that I am a traitor and this and that.
Palihakkara: Thereafter you strongly opposed all their practices. Now the LTTE is no more. When we visited the North one of the persistent complaints that the IDPs and the Tamil people told us was that the LTTE’s practices continue, like abductions and also asking for kappam, extortion. So what are the measures that you would suggest that can be taken to prevent this? Because it is a serious problem, because all the Commissioners were told by so many people that these terrible practices continue, and they don’t know who is doing that.
Devananda: Now the rain has ceased, but the spray is still there. The wetness is still there. But that situation has now gone down. Rain has ceased, but the spray and the wetness of the rain still remains. There are the remnants of the LTTE that are still there. But it has now diminished a lot. Now look at the newspapers of the South. In one corner of the paper you will find about abduction, killing or rape or something. That situation is not there in those areas. What I am trying to say is, the situation is in the South. If you go through the Sinhala newspapers you will find that anti-social activities are there. So likewise that may be there. But as you said, at the start it was there – the balance. Now more than 90 per cent of it is not there. But all are rumors. Once I gave an interview to one Canadian Tamil radio and someone asked me, “Now you are taking people under the Palmyrah jungle and you are removing kidneys and eyes and putting into the flask and sending it to Colombo?” I said if this question comes from a remote village I can understand, because if you want to remove kidneys or eyes it cannot be under the Palmyrah jungle. So if that question came from a remote village I can understand the question. But they are asking with some intention, because the LTTE propaganda is still there abroad. Some people say that Prabhakaran is still alive. That is to get money and that is why they are saying Prabhakaran is still alive. People who say Prabhakaran is killed – that is the LTTE people -say that because they want to safeguard what they have already earned. So this is rumor; at the start it was there. I told the Police to take stern action. Even some cases were identified and they were behind bars. So as a responsible government we cannot tolerate these things. So you can take my word. I am not speaking politically. It is the truth, it is from the people; I will not tolerate this type of thing. If these things happen most of the time, I may be in the Northern Province unfortunately, but if there is anything please bring it to my notice.
Paranagama: But when we visited one or two people said that some of the Tamil parties who are with the government, supporters of those party people, abuse power and take this kappam from the farmers when they come to sell the paddy.
Devananda: Yes. You are right. But now it is almost under control. I don’t want to say openly even some issues, but that was there. Now it is under control. In any society you have the good and the bad characters, especially in war torn areas. If we have fence problems between two houses they will take the knife. Now they will come with an AK47 or grenade or mine. It is that type of culture. That type of culture because of the unfortunate thing it is brought among the Tamil community. I think under reconciliation you will have to look into that also.
C.R. de Silva: I must thank you on behalf of the Commission for having come here and spent nearly three and a half hours with us, and certainly we are possessed of the arguments and the observations and the views that you expressed in the course of your representations, and we will certainly take these into consideration in formulating our recommendations. Thank you.