|Speech in Parliament – The Debate on the Extension of the State of Emergency, 9 August 2011|
Hon. Deputy Chairman of Committees, in supporting the extension of the State of Emergency for another month, I would like, if possible, to introduce some conceptual issues. I have not spoken on the state of Emergency for some time, and I was deeply sorry just now to hear that the speech of the Hon. Member from the Opposition simply repeated the mixture as before. It is very easy in an Emergency Debate to play snap and come out with atrocities and to come out with deficiencies that are perceived in the Government. Then, we can answer and point out that this Government has indeed succeeded in getting rid of terrorism within Sri Lanka to a great extent.
But I do not think we should continue to play snap about such important issues. I think we should consider instead the ways in which we can move forward, the ways in which we can finally get rid of an Emergency situation, the way in which we can get rid of the resentments and the suspicions that have dogged this country for well over 50 years.
In that respect, Mr. Deputy Chairman of Committees, I think the most important word that we need to stress and to develop is “confidence“. I think we need to have confidence in each other. It is not going to be an easy process. There have been betrayals of confidence on many sides over the last 50 years and therefore we have to be particularly careful as we move forward towards trusting each other completely.
In this respect, may I say that personally I feel that a couple of the statements made by the leadership of the TNA in the last few weeks have been extremely positive and suggest a willingness to move forward in a context in which we all understand that there are deep suspicions. I think the Hon. Member who spoke just before me completely misunderstood the statement issued by the TNA when he said that it was a withdrawal from the talks. It put forward some concerns and I think those are legitimate concerns that need to be looked at. But, instead of looking at glasses as though they were half empty, we should look at them as if they were half full, and take in conjunction with that statement another statement attributed to the Hon. Member from the National List while he was in England, as well as the interview given by the Leader of the TNA last week in the newspapers.
I think in looking at those positively, we have to acknowledge that there are many more things in common than there are differences. We are well aware that moving towards solutions and agreement is not easy. But I think we are moving in the right direction and I hope very much that, when some sort of agreement is reached, the main Opposition party will not play the games that historically the main opposition parties, not only theirs, have played in the past.
In this regard, Mr. Deputy Chairman of Committees, we must remember that, on two occasions, discussions between a Prime Minister and the Leader of the Tamil party at that time, the late Hon. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, came to nought, and in both instances I think we have to accept the fact that the Government of the day gave in to pressure both from extremists on its own side and from an utterly irresponsible Opposition. In that respect, I think we can understand why confidence is difficult to achieve for the TULF. I think we must also recognize that later, when there was an effort at what seemed consensus in 2000, the betrayal of that consensus came on all sides. You can understand then why the Government of the day felt deeply let down when it thought it had achieved an understanding and that understanding proved to be imaginary.
But I think we should also remember that the deeds that led to a lack of confidence in all these instances were not as corrosive and worrying as the betrayal of confidence on the part of the LTTE on several occasions when it totally betrayed the talks for peace that were taking place. I think the way they reneged on their agreements in 1990 and 1994, and right through the 2002 – 2005 period, were not only betrayals but they were also murderous betrayals and they led to an enormous loss of lives for the Tamil people, the Sinhala people and the Muslim people of this country.
That is why the Government has to be doubly careful in dealing with a situation in which we feel we are on the verge of success in achieving consensus, but we cannot allow spoilers to destroy this. For that reason, I think it is particularly important that we continue with the state of Emergency for a short time more. The Emergency regulations should be used with maximum sympathy and positively; they should not be permitted to lead to abuses; but we cannot do away with them entirely in a context in which we have to work extremely hard to build up confidence.
One of the reasons I was particularly disappointed with the last speech was that it shows that the United National Party is still playing the same card of trying to destabilize this country by its allegiance, as well as its attribution of strange motives, to what it calls the International Community. Perhaps some elements in the International Community – I hope not all of them – will play along with the United National Party. In this respect, Mr. Deputy Chairman, I think we need to pay a tribute to a country like India. Last week, when there was a Sri Lankan Parliamentary Delegation to India, there was a slightly unsavoury episode but the Hon. Speaker of the Indian Parliament and the vast majority of MPs were categorical in their rejection of what was seen as bad behaviour. It is a pity that that same refusal to allow bad behaviour, which can lead to violence, is not also happening in the West.
In this regard, I think we have to recognize that one of the reasons for worry is what seems implicit support for possible future terrorism on the part of media outlets and even on the part of some politicians in some nations. And I go back therefore to what I told a Western diplomat two years ago. I said, “If you tell us that we should be looking after the Tamil people, that is totally acceptable because that is the policy of this Government and it should be the policy of all Governments in Sri Lanka. But, if you tell us to compromise with terrorism, we cannot do so”. That is why the approach of the Indian Government in the period of 2009 was so important. It never swerved from the feeling that the end result of our defeat of terrorism should benefit all the people in this country.
Now, in this regard, Mr. Deputy Chairman, I would just like to refer to one aspect of the episodes we have seen. The Hon. Member from the UNP referred to the Darusman Report and Channel 4 in the same breath, and I think, from his point of view, perhaps they are the same, but there is in fact a difference. One is a report of what was supposed to be an advisory body to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on accountability issues in the period between September 2008 and May 2009. So, why he thought it was supposed to be an indictment of the entire period of the present President’s incumbency is beyond me except for the crudity with which the United National Party uses anything to carry out its particular vendetta against this Government. I would advocate therefore that he reads documents more carefully before he pronounces.
The Channel 4 video is much worse. I think the Darusman Report is full of inaccuracies, full of exaggerations. We have pointed these out. We have pointed out how its footnoting is appalling and not worthy of people who claim to be academics. But, the Channel 4 is actually directly supportive it seems to us of terrorist approaches.
I was very pleased that reports have been issued in the last couple of months that tell our story – I am sorry that they have come so late – I think that Sri Lanka has an excellent story and it should have been told two years ago, but at least this has now been done. The stories are not supposed to be refutations. These are documents that lay very clear, the achievements of this country in defeating terrorism and in restoring normality in the North.
But there was a film that was also prepared as a direct answer to Channel 4 and it is an admirable film. I believe one of the most important aspects of it is how it shows the use by Channel 4 of a terrorist, Miss Damilvany, an unashamed use of terrorism. I think that is a key on which to understand the efforts that are designed to promote further terrorism in the future. We believe that, in Sri Lanka, the Tamil people are no longer interested in terrorism and my discussions with all of them in the last couple of weeks, when I was travelling in various parts of the North, indicate that that is so. But, abroad, there are still hankerings and it is because of such hankerings, it is because of the support for possible terrorism by media outfits, that we have to be particularly careful that efforts of that sort will not be successful. For that reason, I must ask this House in its entirety to kindly support the extension of the State of Emergency now.