18 November, 2019

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A Plea To The Pundits: “Seek Truth, Accountability, And Justice”

By Anandaraj L. Ponnambalam

Anandaraj L. Ponnambalam

Awhile ago (February, 7th, 2013), CT published an article I wrote, titled “Vanni 2002 – 2006: What I Owe the People of the Vanni”, a synopsis of my experience of living and working in the Vanni during a period of the Ceasefire and its aftermath.I wish to quote the final two paragraphs of that article as a precursor to my present focus:

“Today, I find myself steeped in the guilt that I was able to return to the safety of the US while my beloved students, colleagues, friends, and most of all, the ordinary folk of the Vanni could not do so and had to face that horrible torture and death, and if not, the current and ongoing humiliation and suffering.  However, I am sure that the 40,000 or 100,000, or maybe the more exact 146,678 innocent souls did not die or go missing in vain and neither are their loved ones, the remaining 300,000 people of the Vanni, suffering in vain.  What could not happen in the many years of impunity that spawned the many riots and pogroms due to the lack of accountability and justice cannot be repeated today.  The perpetrators of this, the most horrendous and meticulously planned crime against humanity committed at the dawn of this new century will most certainly be brought to justice BEFORE there can be any semblance of reconciliation, peace and development in that country.  Today, we can see the climate for such accountability and justice for the people of the Vanni already taking shape.  When that is achieved there will be some solace for the loved ones of those that perished and the remaining people of the Vanni. 

                        More importantly, all people of the island, the Singhalese, the Tamils, the Muslims, the Burghers and all others will for the first time be able to find accountability and justice for all the innocent and precious lives that were snuffed out since 1948 to date, due to the rampant cancer of impunity.  That cancer and culture of impunity will be arrested for the first time in the history of the country since it attained independence in 1948.  Moreover, truth, accountability and justice will be followed by reconciliation and peace that will result due only to the supreme sacrifice of the people of the Vanni.  That is their legacy, and it is actually the vast majority of the Singhalese people, their brothers and sisters, who will most of all be eternally grateful for the end to impunity brought about by the ultimate sacrifice of the people of the Vanni.  Working towards such an end is what I (and may I say all of us) owe the people of the Vanni for the ultimate and supreme sacrifice they made”.

My focus and plea today is to the many pundits, foreign affairs specialists, highly placed Sri Lankan luminaries and diplomats (present and past) who tirelessly write to the Colombo Telegraph about the sad state of affairs of Sri Lankan foreign policy and relentlessly advocate various means by which the tarnished image of Sri Lanka may be restored.  The tarnished image of Sri Lankais the outcome and the symptom of its actions and behavior.   The image will right itself quite naturally if the truth prevails, and accountability and justice follows.  The lack of truth, accountability and justice is the cause of the rogue nation stigma branded on Sri Lanka in the international community of nations and not due to any lack of diplomatic finesse or policy nuances on its part.  If the above mentioned collectives of distinguished persons would address the cause and not the symptoms, I am sure that their voices from their positions of influence will hasten truth, accountability and justice not only for the people of the Vanni, but also as I have said before, for all the victims of crimes committed at the darkest of times against so many of our people since the dawn of independence in 1948.

Today, not only myself, but all of us Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, and all other communities are entrusted with the sacred responsibility of opening up these floodgates of truth behind all of these crimes.  For the first time since independence, conditions in the present international environment are such that it is not only possible to do so but the process is already moving forward with inexorable momentum and cannot be stopped or reversed.  The question is whether we will join this righteous cause, oppose it, or stand by the way side.  Of course the pundits are in the enviable position of not only joining it but actually assisting it in its inevitable conclusion towards the truth, accountability and justice for all our people.  The least they could do in this respect is to be intellectually honest and true to their conscience and acknowledge that the only means by which there is any possibility for the truth to prevail, is for an independent international investigation as called for by global human rights organizations and the international community.

As an aside, I would also aver that our moral guardians of yesteryear such as the late Rt. Rev Dr. Lakshman Wickremasinghe, the former Bishop of Kurunegala the only Singhalese religious dignitary of that time to openly denounce the 1972 constitution by calling it the “death knell” of the Tamils, and the late Mr. Mervyn De Silva, the renowned editor and  journalist of the highest caliber who extolled the virtues of ethics and morality in politics and diplomacy, would rest in peace in their graves if they know that their progeny would follow the same path towards the truth that they cherished so much throughout their lives.

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    Anantharaj,
    Thank you for this excellent piece of writing – candid truth flows through your open heart:

    ”The image will right itself quite naturally if the truth prevails, and accountability and justice follows.”
    ”The image will right itself quite naturally if the truth prevails, and accountability and justice follows.”
    ”The image will right itself quite naturally if the truth prevails, and accountability and justice follows.”
    ”The image will right itself quite naturally if the truth prevails, and accountability and justice follows.” …………….
    …………………………………………….
    ………………………..

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    SriLankan Diplomacy = Advoacy to untarnish the tarnished image of Sri Lanka by tarnishing the messenger of criticism instead of removing the causes of criticism

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    Anandaraj LP

    What about the thousands of Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim lives snuffed out by the LTTE during their 30 year terror campaign? Are these killings also included in your search for truth, accountability and justice? And what about the LTTE’s role in the killings during the closing stages of the war that you talk about? The innocent civilian Tamils who perished in large numbers at Mullivaikkal were held as human shield. The LTTE and their backers are ultimately responsible for this war crime. And the Tamils who died were from the lower castes, the poor people of Wanni, and Tamils of Indian origin. Nothing can be more scurrilous to their legacy than using their supreme sacrifice to refurbish Jaffna-upper-caste-and-middle-class-centered LTTE’s tarnished image. Your complete silence on this even more sinister side of the story makes one wonder whether it was a conspiracy all along by the brutal Tamil fascists to sacrifice these innocent people to finally create a justification for their unjustifiable Tamil Eelam?

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      All those LTTE who did all those atrocities are in the government. Karuna who massacred Buddhist monks worshiping Muslims surrendered policeman. KP who bought all those bombs and weapons. Pillayan who terrorized the east . Go after them and bring them to court. If you dont do that the Sri Lankan government also become complicit in those crimes. LTTE is part of Sri Lankan government now. LTTE is now SLTTE

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    Mr Ponnambalam has possibly forgotten or perhaps did not know that when Lord Avebury of Amnesty International wrote, after the suppression of the 1971 uprising, a piece in the Guardian (London) entitled ‘An Island Behind Bars’, Mervyn dismissed it in print in the South Asian Review (Sussex) as ‘a grotesque caricature’.

    While Mervyn unfailingly carried all reports local and foreign, on human rights violations by Sri Lankan administrations in the pages of the Lanka Guardian, and strongly believed in international solidarity in the cause of human rights, he never welcomed still less supported the resolution on Sri Lanka of the UN Human Rights Commission, Geneva in 1987.

    He was critical in the Lanka Guardian of the failure of Sri Lankan diplomacy that resulted in that ‘roasting’ as he called it, and published an article that questioned the wisdom of Sri Lanka agreeing to that Resolution. Mervyn’s was an internationalist, strongly Non Aligned Third Worldist perspective, which placed high value on national interest, national sovereignty, and the enlightened self interest of the Sri Lankan nation-state.

    He was also a well-known critic of the structural and ideological biases of the Western media, though– and perhaps because– he was himself a respected correspondent for some of best Western newspapers and radio stations.

    Mervyn belonged to a tradition in the Sri Lankan intelligentsia that was as cosmopolitan as it was patriotic in the broadest, most inclusive, non-ethnic sense. Shirley Amerasinghe, Godfrey Gunatilleka, Neville Kanakaratne, CG Weeramantry and Lakshman Kadirgamar belonged to this generation and tradition. There is little to suggest that any of them support or would have supported a call for an INTERNATIONAL (as distinct from independent national) investigation into Sri Lanka. Judge Weeramantry certainly has not.

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      Weeramantry’s submission to LLRC just falls short of words but not the spirit for an international investigation.

      above all, what happens in the country cries for it.

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    In view of a couple of comments to my article I wish to clarify as follows:

    1) When I call for truth, accountability, and justice, from the time of independence in 1948 to date, I mean it to be an all inclusive “floodgate”. To be specific, this means every Singhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, or any other person, irrespective of caste or creed, who has individually or collectively been subject to abduction, extra judicial killings, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and/or crimes against humanity from 1948 to date, are included in my call for truth, accountability, and justice.

    It took F. W. de Klerk, the last President of South Africa a simple expression of regret for the evils of apartheid to create such a climate that dismantled the odious policy of apartheid. Today, the international human rights organizations, the international community of nations, and most significantly, civil society in the North and East have joined in this clarion call. It is now left to the civil society in the South to join this groundswell. Hence my plea to the the pundits in the South to facilitate such a movement.

    2) The “sine qua non” for international independent investigations (as opposed to local) for truth, accountability, and justice, is self evident, due to: (a) one of the principal alleged perpetrators of these crimes is the state/military itself, and (b) not even the locally much touted, though internationally discredited LLRC, was allowed to touch on any one of these crimes.

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      Excellent reply, Anand.

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    Excellent article by Mr. Ponnampalam and also the response to some of the comments made, including Dayan Jayatileke. DJ writes about Mervyn, who is his father I assume.

    That is lie Kohithey Yanne Malle Pol.

    Mervyn was a credible and good journalist, no doubt. But talking about the 1971 Sinhala Terrorist insurgency without a cause is totally irrelevant as the lack of Truth, Accountability and Justice is mainly related to the last few decades.

    The government should be definitely condemned to the massacres of the Sinhala youth who were innocent during the period of 1971-1972, as well as 1988, 1989 and 1990. Most of the Sinhalese remained silent which includes the JVP as well as the leftist which includes Dayan Jayatilee as well. All of them are selfish opportunist.

    As Mr. Ponnampalam correctly points out that there will be Justice FORCED upon Sinhala Sri Lanka since a few Tamils are very dedicated to bring the War Criminals to not only account for the crimes but to Justice as well where ever it may be and whenever possible.

    This endevour and challenge will not be forgotten nor given up under any circumstances. Tamils For Justice was formed for such purpose 5 years ago, and the momentum among the Tamils have finally been picked up in the last couple of years. There is also a new degree of passion generated within the youth of Tamil Nadu, who have made some “game changing action” with their recent protest and demonstrations.

    We are also waiting for the Tamil Nadu Trade Unions to take some action in the Ports and Airports of Tamil Nadu in the near future against Sri Lanka as punitive action. That will have a serious impact on the trade and commerce of Sri Lanka and once it finally begins it would be difficult to stop.

    With this article Mr. Ponnampalam has silenced many of the Sinhalese and the Tamil quislings as they simply have no answer. Well done.

    Donald Gnanakone
    Tamils For Justice.

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