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‘Let us put the war behind us’ says former envoy Faisz Musthapha  

It is unfortunate that British Ministers and MPs  who addressed the recent Global Tamil Forum in London do not seem to realise that the LTTE and its proxies no longer have the support of peace-loving Sri Lankans of all communities, says Faiz Musthapha, PC, former Sri Lanka ’s High Commissioner for Britain.

"These politicians should visit Sri Lanka. Then, they will be able to appreciate the overwhelming sense of relief amongst the people. Talking to Sri Lankans in the UK , this seems to be the case amongst an overwhelming section of the Sri Lankan community except for a very vocal minority.  The politicians seem to have been overly influenced by this vocal minority", he said in an interview with The Sunday Island during a visit to London recently.

 "The support extended to this LTTE front by some British politicians is understandable as part of domestic politics with an election around the corner in the UK . There is a sizeable  vote to be won", he pointed out.

The following are excerpts of the interview:

 

Q: How do you see the response of the Tamil Diaspora now that the LTTE is crushed?

  A: The Diaspora has a lot to offer.  They have expertise and resources.  They have an opportunity to contribute to the rebuilding of Sri Lanka .  There are grievances which the Government has to address but which unfortunately got clouded by the conflict.  They can make a valuable contribution to the resolution of these issues.

 

Q: Will the Government ensure that no other para-military groups emerge in the future?

  A: The government remains vigilant. Most Sri Lankans are hopeful that we have come out of this nightmare and that there will be no recurrence.

 

Q: There are still a large number of LTTE members living in other parts of the world?

  A: Eternal vigilance is the answer without being paranoid.  However, they can a take leaf from former combatants such as Karuna and Pilleyan and take part in mainstream politics by shedding violence.  They should be encouraged to visit us and see for themselves what is happening in Sri Lanka – particularly in the North and East.   Unfortunately, most of them have not visited Sri Lanka since 1983 and have not got over the memories of the unfortunate events of July 1983.

 

Q: What are your views on the Human Rights allegations against Sri Lanka?

  A: In the aftermath of any war, there are bound to be such allegations.  You will remember that when the British Government took on the IRA there were allegations of torture. Of course, if true such incidents cannot be condoned. The  Government has always maintained that any such allegations would be examined within our own system both judicial and administrative.  There is no warrant whatsoever for any external organization or foreign authority to embark upon such investigations as we have our own judicial systems and investigative processes. Such investigations by alien bodies can only be justified if the domestic judicial and investigative mechanisms have broken down. This is certainly not the case back home.

 

Q: How do you view the General Fonseka saga?

  A: The fact that he was a candidate at the Presidential elections does not give immunity from the law.   We are not privy to what material the army has against him.  Normal legal processes are working in Sri Lanka .  The retired General has resorted to legal remedies. So the matter is now left to the courts to decide. In Sri Lanka , even military tribunals are subject to review by the civil courts.  So, ultimately it will be left to our judiciary.  Let us not prejudge the issues.

 

Q: Former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva and the Democratic National Alliance say that the retired General cannot be court martialled?

  A: The opinion of the former Chief Justice is no longer binding.  There are other lawyers who take a different view.  There are so many legal issues.  There is a fundamental rights case pending.  It is for the courts to rule on this issue. 

 

  Q: Can Fonseka be kept behind bars in this manner without being charged?

  A: Well, the legality of his arrest has been put in issue in the Fundamental Rights application filed by the retired General. The case is due to be heard. So, the legality of his arrest will be tested by the courts.  The indications are that he will be brought before a military tribunal shortly.  So the question of his being kept behind bars without being charged does not arise.

 

Q: What’s your reading on the present political situation in Sri Lanka ?

  A: As you can see from results of the Presidential Election, the President has had a resounding mandate. I am sure in the same way the President will win the support of majority of the people in the country and put these things behind us and move forward the process of Nation Building .

 

A: Do you think the Government will be able to get a 2/3 majority?

  A: It is quite likely going by the results of the Presidential elections. Of course, whether the President  gets a 2/3 majority or not, I hope he will get an overall majority.  Minority governments have been the bane of our country. They  open the door to unhealthy bargaining and the distribution of State patronage.   We also cannot seem to  manage co-habitation as evidenced by the interlude of the Ranil Wickremesinghe Government during the tenure of President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

 

 Q: Any chance of you taking up a diplomatic post in the future?

  A: I had one innings and that’s more than adequate.  There is no substitute for the freedom that one enjoys at the Bar.   Holding paid office under any Government involves compromising  one’s independence. 

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