MP slams Sri Lanka's judicial system

[TamilNet, Thursday, 07 June 2001, 21:31 GMT]
"In Sri Lanka the Tamil people are denied the exercise of their sovereignty through the judicial system because fundamentally it is made to work against them. The security forces and the laws of the land are meant to protect the people. But in Sri Lanka the law is harnessed only to protect the security forces. .

The law enforcement agencies of the state such as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) appear to be working with the aim of protecting members of the security forces who have perpetrated crimes in the north and east. The Tamil people have little reason to repose their faith in Sri Lanka's judicial system" said 'Selvam' Adiakalanathan MP for Vanni, speaking on the extension of the Emergency in Sri Lanka's Parliament Thursday

Mr. Adaikalanathan is the leader of the Tamil Eelam Liberation Organisation (TELO).

The following are excerpts of his speech:

"In Mannar yesterday (6 June) the fourteen security forces personnel who are accused of raping and torturing two women who were in their custody on 19 March did not appear in court for the hearing because one of them has got an interim order from the Court of Appeal that the case against him should be transferred to Anuradhapura as he would not be safe in Mannar.

Members of the Sri Lanka security forces accused of murder, rape, torture and sexual harassment in the north and east are able to subvert justice by persuading courts to transfer their cases to Colombo or to Sinhala majority areas. Such cases inevitably stagnate in Sri Lanka's judicial system and are eventually shelved. When cases are transferred thus to places outside the north and east, the affected persons face numerous problems when they have to appear in court for each hearing.

pesalai-refugeecamp_selvam.jpg
Mr.Adaikalanathan,MP, speaking to refugees in Pesalai, Mannar Photo: TamilNet
Tamils have to get special permission from the security forces to leave Jaffna and Vavuniya. They cannot easily find accommodation in Colombo and other Sinhala majority places due to draconian Police restrictions. Tamils who have to travel outside the north and east to appear for such cases also face the threat of indiscriminate arrest and detention. A woman from Vavuniya who recently went to see her brother in the Anuradhapura prison was also arbitrarily arrested and detained by the Police.

Cases against Sri Lankan security forces which are transferred to Colombo and other Sinhala areas as a rule drag on indefinitely and inconclusively.

The case in which seven soldiers were accused of raping and murdering the 21 year old girl Ida Kamaleeta in Mannar on 12 July 1999 was transferred to Colombo last year. I understand that no date has been fixed for trial yet.

In February last year, Tamil man called Vairamuttu Jayakili was murdered allegedly by Sri Lanka Navy personnel.

The Navy person accused of the murder has got the case against him transferred to Colombo.

Thirty-five innocent civilians were massacred allegedly by Sri Lanka soldiers in the village of Mayilanthanai in the Batticaloa district in August 1992. Twenty one soldiers were accused in this case which initially heard in the Batticaloa courts. Later it was transferred to the Sinhala majority town of Polannaruwa and then to Colombo. The witnesses in this case have been living in refugee camps in Valaichenai for more than nine years.

They are poor and hence cannot travel to Colombo with ease for every trial date. The case has been dragging on for so long that they have lost hope that justice would be done to members of their families, including children, who were brutally murdered.

Members of the Sri Lankan security forces accused in such cases prevail on the courts to transfer their cases to places outside the north and east on the ground that they are not safe in the places where they committed the crime.

This is utterly unacceptable. Members of the Sri Lankan security are posted to the north and east to fight and hence their lives are in constant danger. It is a quintessential part of their professional duty to live amid constant threat to their life and limb. They are paid special salaries and allowances because of this.

Hundreds of security forces personnel are killed in the course of their normal duty. Can other members of the security forces go to court that their lives are therefore in danger and they cannot work in the north and east? Will the courts accept their argument then? But when members of the security forces who have perpetrated serious crimes tell the courts that they cannot appear for hearings and trials in the in the north and east because they are not safe there it is accepted.

The transferring of cases against members of the Sri Lanka security forces who have committed crimes in the north and east is yet another drama to deny justice to the Tamil people].

You cannot say that the long delays in investigating crimes committed by the Sri Lankan security forces against the Tamil people is due to legal problems because we have seen inquires into crimes in the south being expedited on special Presidential directives and the culprits being quickly brought to book.

The CID's investigation into the murder of a customs officer near Colombo recently was efficient was fast because it was given a Presidential directive to find the culprits.

But CID said last week that it has closed the investigation into the rape and brutal murder of Sarathaambaal in Pungudutheevu on 28 December 1999 because it did not have evidence to continue the case. Preliminary evidence in the investigations pointed in the direction of Sri Lanka Navy personnel who were stationed in the area. All of them were transferred from Pungudutheevu after Sarathaambaal's rape and murder came to light.

The sovereignty of a country is vested in its people. The people exercise that sovereignty, among other things, through the judicial system. But in Sri Lanka the Tamil people are denied the exercise of their sovereignty through the judicial system because fundamentally it is made to work against them.

I can spend the whole day here listing the atrocities committed against the Tamil people, the instances where the judicial system of this country did not provide justice. People were massacred in Kokkaddicholai. Was justice done? No! People who sought shelter in the Eastern University were massacred. Was justice done? No! Tamils were massacred in Saththurukkondaan, in Paandiruppu, in Veeramunai, in Chemmani, in Kumarapuram. Was justice done? No!

The security forces and the laws of the land are meant to protect the people. But in Sri Lanka there are many aspects of the law which help to protect only the security forces. The law enforcement agencies of the state such as the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) appear to be working with the aim of protecting members of the security forces who have perpetrated crimes in the north and east.

You may fool the world and the UN Human Rights Commission from time to time that you (the Sri Lankan government) are introducing judicial mechanisms to curb human rights violations here. But the Tamil people know the truth about these.

Even these mechanisms are such that they provide subtle ways to protect members of the Sri Lankan security forces who murder, torture and rape.

I know how many Tamils sold their properties and were ruined financially by cases filed unjustly by the state against their family members under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Emergency Regulations.

Thousands of Tamils are tortured in custody in Sri Lanka. Several of them have filed fundamental rights violation cases in the Supreme Court with medical reports that prove beyond doubt that they had been severely tortured.

Yet the Chief Justice has deemed it fit not to grant many of these fundamental rights (FR) applications leave to proceed. That there aren't many FR cases involving torture before Sri Lanka's Supreme Court produces the illusion in the international community that rights violations have really come down in this country.

The Tamil people therefore have little reason to repose their faith in Sri Lanka's judicial system.

All those who support the Emergency Regulations in this Parliament will some day have to answer the Tamil people who have been denied justice by this judicial system.

Do not dream that you can always perpetrate injustices upon the Tamil people with your mastery of the law's subtleties.

That will never succeed".


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