CTF report and the Raviraj case judgement

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By Harsha Gunasena, Daily FT

The Report of the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms was handed over to former President Chandrika Kumaratunga by Task Force Chairperson Manouri Muttetuwegama on 3 January.

The Consultation Task Force (CTF) had Zonal Task Forces operating in all the districts, gathered views from the people and prepared a detailed report elaborating on the Office of Reparations; Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-Recurrence Commission; Office of Missing Persons; Judicial Mechanism; Transitional Justice beyond the four Mechanisms; and Support for affected individuals and communities-Physiological considerations and security. 

It was an elaboration of suffering of the victims in all communities, Sinhala Tamil and Muslim. Not only that, it elaborated the suffering of the soldiers and the ex-militants of the LTTE as well. We need to consider the psychological support needed by all, victims, ex-militants and the soldiers. The previous Government discontinued the psychological support given to the soldiers who were involved in the operations.

In the report it was stated that the security forces and police warned that this process of reconciliation would be counterproductive, compromise national security, deepen wounds and open new ones as well as exacerbate inter-ethnic and religious division. All security forces personnel categorically rejected international involvement in the accountability mechanism in particular. (Executive Summary B3)

The CTF also received submissions, largely from the Sinhala community, rejecting any international involvement in what they viewed as a purely domestic process. (Executive summary C23)

Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan addressing the gathering on 3 January said that there was no possibility of levelling charges against the forces who fought the war against the LTTE on the orders of the democratically-elected Government of Sri Lanka. However, if any officer or soldier has killed those who were arrested or raped women, then it was a war crime. The law should be implemented against such persons and it is not going against the forces who fought the war. (Samabima Supplement, Ravaya 8 January)

This is the truth and we should appreciate that it comes from the Leader of the Tamil National Alliance. This statement should be given wide publicity but the Government failed to do so.

According to the report, the Army representatives stated their support for a truth-seeking process and if there is any evidence of criminal activity, for the prosecution of the guilty. Given that as far as they were concerned no criminal activity had been undertaken, they saw no need for amnesty either. (Executive Summary B4)

Therefore the thinking of the Opposition Leader and the Army seems to be somewhat in line. This examination is needed because there were wild accusations levelled against the Government forces. Due credit was not given to the forces internationally for defeating the LTTE which was considered undefeatable.

CTF recommends a hybrid court with a majority of national judges as well as a sufficient number of international judges. (Executive Summary C24)

The Daily Mirror reported on 6 January as follows:

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Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe today said he had no confidence in the Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTF) appointed by the Prime Minister. He said the CTF, which recommended the inclusion of at least one international judge on every bench set up to hear allegations of war crimes and the violation of human rights that had taken place during the final stages of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka. The Minister said some of the members of the CTF Committee were representatives of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO). “No one is complaining about the independence of the Judiciary anymore. We have reconciliation and peace processes in place. This report, at this juncture, is totally unwarranted. Therefore, we don’t have to follow these recommendations by the CTF,” he told the Daily Mirror.

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As former President Kumaratunga stated, he was there at the Cabinet meeting where the forming of CTF was discussed. He also tried to bring down the NGO phobia of the Rajapaksa regime. He has thrown away the entire report just because of the recommendation of the international judges. Independence of the Judiciary can be restored by refraining from giving calls to the Judiciary from President’s House or from Temple Trees but the restoration of the impartiality of the Judiciary is not that easy. No one complains about the independence of the Judiciary but there are questions of impartiality of the same.

On 25 December 2016 the Daily Mirror reported as follows:

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Jaffna District TNA Parliamentarian M.A. Sumathiran said yesterday that his political party was not satisfied with the verdict in the former Parliamentarian Nadaraja Raviraj’s assassination case and would file an appeal against the verdict.

“The judgment is indicative of the people’s distrust in the country’s Judiciary. It is in this scenario that we demand an international panel of judges to probe the alleged war crimes. As the lawyer who watched the interests of the aggrieved party, I will file an appeal,” he said.

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On 26 December 2016, The Hindu reported as follows:

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“So it was obvious that a few junior-level naval officers had not done this on their own. They are as responsible for carrying out someone’s orders, but it is only one small part of the puzzle. This happened 10 years ago and we are still waiting to find out who gave the orders,” Sumanthiran told The Hindu on Sunday.

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On 12 January the Daily Mirror reported:

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The Attorney General has appealed to the Colombo High Court against its judgement in the former TNA Jaffna District Parliamentarian Raviraj murder case and for a re-opening of the case for a retrial. The AG by the revision application filed in High Court had stated that on the day the decision of the Judge was pronounced in the case, the court has functioned further than the usual functioning time till midnight. The AG also had stated in the revision application that the presiding judge had not made any explanations on certain vital issues revealed in the trial.

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The jury comprised all Sinhalese people. Here the three Navy Intelligence officers also were accused. Not only in this case but also the cases of Prageeth Eknaligoda and Lasantha Wickrematunge where intelligence officers were accused, there were long delays of the judicial process. Once the President has openly accused the prosecution officers.

Therefore we do not have any moral ground to defend the position that there should not be any foreign judges in the investigation of so-called war crimes. Justice should not only to be done but also be seen to be done.

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