TNA to visit South Africa shortly, but US visit remains undecided
The Tamil National Alliance is expected to visit South Africa shortly, but their previously announced visit to United States of America remains in a limbo.
The TNA Leader Rajavarothayam Sampanthan was away from the country after walking out along with other three opposition members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the 7th of January and was in India to undergo medical treatment.
After his return to the country Asian Tribune contacted him and he said, “I have to undergo cataract operation which has been long delayed, and I have to get that done as Doctors were advising me against postponing. Both my eyes had this cataract problem and I have to get that done and that is why I went to India.”
In an exclusive interview Mr. Sampanthan M.P., spoke on various subjects and confirmed that TNA delegation’s visit to South Africa, but when asked about their previously announced visit to USA, he said that the party has not given thought about the visit and still undecided.
Given below the excerpts of the interview Asian Tribun had with Mr. R. Sampanthan MP, the leader of the Tamil National Alliance:
Asian Tribune:Are you all going to South Africa?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: Yes we are. That has been on the card for sometime, but the date has not been finalized for various reasons and we should be going sometime fairly soon. The Government delegation has gone and has comeback and they are expecting us also to go. May be in the course of next week or so it might happen.
Asian Tribune: OK, then who and who will be in your delegation?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: Our members who use to go will be going. I haven’t yet met our group and had any discussion. I might meet them at the Parliament when all of them will be present as the parliament session is on. Leaders of the TNA’s constituent parties would be leaving in the delegation.
Asian Tribune: Is there any special subject or agenda for discussion in South Africa?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: South Africa has told that they are prepared to share with us their experience in conflict resolution and reconciliation. The Government delegation has already visited South Africa. They have invited us also to come over there. The Government delegation comprising of Mr. Nimal Sripala De Silva and couple of others has already visited and returned back. We will also go to South Africa soon.
Asian Tribune: There was a strong rumor to say that the TNA dele
gation will be also going shortly to Washington DC?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: So far we have not made any final decision on that subject.
Asian Tribune: I don’t know whether you might be finalizing about the visit to Washington on or before the commencement of the 22nd session of the Human Rights Commission, suppose to commence from 25 February to 22 March 2013.
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: I don’t know and there is no finality in regard to that matter. Well that is not something which I can comment now. But in fact our South African departure is certain and that will soon take place.
Asian Tribune: You was one of the 11 members of the Parliamentary Select Committee that went through the impeachment process of the former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and subsequently you left for India for your medical treatment and in the meantime your colleague Mr. M.A. Sumanthiran MP represented you in the court cases?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: It was I who represented my party in the Parliamentary Select Committee deliberations and we walked out of the Committee. I think we walked out on 7th of January, as we were unhappy with the way in which the Parliamentary Select Committee was conducting itself when the Chief Justice appeared before the Committee and we sensed that there was no due process and the rules were not being observed.
Asian Tribune: I learnt that as far as the Parliamentary Select Committee was concerned, there were no process for them to follow?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: Understand that Parliamentary Select Committee is not a body that can go into an investigation into charges against - particularly a person like the Chief Justice. As a matter of fact there is no authority under the Constitution to conduct investigation against anybody, except against those persons who have breached the parliamentary privileges. The main objection is that the Parliamentary Select Committee is not a body to conduct investigation against a judge of a superior court.
Asian Tribune: There are two things I wish to stress – one contention was that the Chief Justice did not open her month during those days she was present at the PSC and it was only her lawyers pleaded on her behalf.
Other point of contention was even when you left – that is when the 4 members of the select committee walked out, you all did not make any statement in the Committee before walking out.
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: No we made a statement.
Asian Tribune: It was reported that you all only made a statement outside the Parliamentary Select Committee?
Mr. R. Sampantha M.P. : We made a statement in the parliamentary select committee itself. We tabled our statement with regard to various matters and it was done by Mr. John Amaratunga of the UNP, on behalf of all of us and we all four of us - including me have signed that statement.
Asian Tribune: But now it is all over.
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: Not over at all, it has only just started.
Asian Tribune: We have already got a Chief Justice in place now.
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: No, I don’t think that is the correct position. There is a Chief justice who has been appointed by the President. This appointment has been made when there is no provision of a vacancy for the position of a Chief Justice.
Asian Tribune: The reality is that the earlier Chief Justice has been removed by the President of Sri Lanka?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: How can that be? The Supreme Court is the authority under the Constitution of Sri Lanka which could interpret the Constitution of Sri Lanka?
Asian Tribune: You are right, but the question is who referred the matter to the Supreme Court for an interpretation?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: See there were petitions filed with Supreme Court by interested parties …
Asian Tribune: But it has to be … according to my knowledge of law .. I may be even wrong, but I think the request for an interpretation about the Parliamentary Select Committee should have been initiated by the Parliamentary Select Committee itself and nobody else has the authority to refer to the Supreme Court for an interpretation on the subject of Parliamentary Select Committee?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: If the Parliamentary Select Committee doesn’t do it, then somebody else has to do it. Citizens of the country who felt that their fundamental rights have been violated have gone to courts and both the Supreme Court and the Appeal Court have ruled that this Parliamentary Select Committee has no legal jurisdiction to conduct this investigation. And the Court of Appeal has issued a writ against the proceedings of the Select Committee.
Asian Tribune: But at the end of the day, it was the Parliament of Sri Lanka that decided on the impeachment of the Chief Justice?
Mr. R. Sampanthan M.P.: The Parliament has no authority regarding this matter, except on the basis of an inquiry that has been judicially conducted. Parliament has the right to present an address to the President, but for the Parliament’s right to address to the President, it must only act upon a judicial findings by a body of judges as happens in India or Australia or in any other Commonwealth countries, but Parliamentary Select Committee cannot come to a finding and Parliament cannot act on the basis of the findings of a Parliamentary Select Committee.
Asian Tribune: That was our comment on the subject. I also wish to ask about the TNA MP S. Sritharan. I learnt that one Ponnambalam Luxmkanthan, a senior aide to TNA Jaffna District MP S. Sritharan, was arrested at the Bandaranaike International Airport, as he was about to board a flight to India. What is all this about?
Mr. R. Sampanthan MN.P.: I don’t know. I haven’t met Mr. Sritaharan. I think he will come to Parliament – today and I will discuss with him.
The general perception is that it was a framed up charge. It seems that they have planted something in his place, when he was not there and I think the Government was not happy with the statements he had made.
He made statement about the recruitment of females to the Armed Forces and they seems to have been little unhappy about that. I think that seems to have been the cause of all these things. But I will be meeting Sritharan in Parliament and I will ask more about the incident.
- Asian Tribune