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.