BY Mirudhula Thambiah
Tamil and Muslim political representatives in the Parliamentary Opposition are divided over the nature of the proposed truth-seeking mechanism, specifically on whether it should be solely a domestic mechanism or whether it should have international involvement.
Expressing his party’s stance on the proposed truth-seeking mechanism, Tamil National Alliance Spokesman and Opposition MP M.A. Sumanthiran (PC) said that as long as it is independent and impartial, they would support the ascertainment of the truth, but that it should necessarily have international involvement, as the Government is only one party to the matter, while Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader and Samagi Jana Balawegaya Opposition MP Rauff Hakeem noted that the mechanism should be domestic, and a restorative justice project as opposed to a retributive one.
Sumanthiran, speaking to The Morning, said: “We will support the process of the ascertainment of the truth as long as it is independent. We have said all along that as soon as the war ended, the truth should have been ascertained. There is no question about that, and the ascertainment of the truth must be through an independent, impartial process. Therefore, that process cannot be done by the Government, because the conflict or the clash was between the Government and a rebel group.”
He also noted that one side cannot be allowed to manipulate or control this process and that therefore, it has to be undertaken by an impartial and independent body.
“There was a difference in South Africa. There was a change in governance, and the oppressed people were the majority and took over the Government. But that is not the situation here. The oppressed people are numerically in the minority, and we are not in charge of the Government. Therefore, that kind of domestic mechanism won’t work here,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hakeem noted that ideally, it should be a domestic mechanism, because international involvement would allow the influence of radical elements on the outside.
“They will come and try to spoil the whole process. There are no honest brokers in this whole problem; everybody comes with an agenda. For practical purposes, there can be some people assisting the process, but there cannot be mediators. They can be facilitating parties, but they must strictly limit themselves. They must not come and attempt to pass judgement. The whole idea of a truth-seeking mechanism is mostly voluntary. When it is voluntary, nothing can be imposed on anybody,” he added.
He also noted that there has to be magnanimity from both sides – the party owning up to its mistakes, as well as those affected.
“Truth-seeking mechanisms vary from place to place, but they cannot be transplanted from something that took place in some other country, because the process differs. The local context must be taken into account, especially the context in which the situation arose.”
South African High Commissioner to Sri Lanka S.E. Schalk, appearing before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) for the Appraisal of the Findings of Previous Commissions and Committees and the Way Forward to investigate, inquire into, and report or take necessary actions on the findings of preceding commissions or committees appointed to investigate human rights violations, serious violations of international humanitarian law, and other such offences, on 12 October, agreed that Sri Lanka should proceed with a model similar to that adopted by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, adding however that it should be mutually envisaged on a vision agreed upon by all.
Minister of Foreign Affairs M.U.M. Ali Sabry (PC) stated that the Government seeks to implement a truth-seeking mechanism by March 2023, based on the final report of the aforementioned CoI.