By R.M.B Senanayake –
I read the speculations of Dr Dayan Jayatilleka about the purported concealed agenda of the TNA to first dismantle the Sri Lankan State by converting it from an Executive Presidency to a Westminster type Prime Ministerial system. DJ speculates that after that is done the TNA would revive the demand for a separate State.
Strangely DJ has failed to speculate on what would happen if the United Nations Human Rights Council holds an inquiry and reaches the conclusion that there were in fact genocide, war crimes and violations of the Humanitarian Law by the Sinhalese Armed Forces and the Government. If President MR and his family members were still in charge, the TNA and the Tamil Diaspora would have a perfect case for a separate State and the UN as well as the Western Powers if not India too, would feel fully justified in accepting the Tamil demand for a separate State. I don’t know if MR and Gotabaya and the Army Command were ignorant of the Geneva Conventions and the International Law relating to war. Or were they vicious human beings who were barbaric.
Perhaps those Peace activists who said that the LTTE could not be defeated thought in terms of a civilized war being fought at least by the Sri Lankan Government. They perhaps did not bargain for a ‘no holds barred ‘war being fought by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces to defeat LTTE even at the expense of the civilian population, assuming there was such a war. It is this presumption that must be countered for the Government claims to have carried out a humanitarian operation. It must therefore refute such allegations.
Be that as it may, the time has come to reflect on the possible outcome of a UN Inquiry into the last stages of the war or (as now expanded by the TNA the entire Sinhala-Tamil violence since 1956). Ranil and those who understand the laws of war and of civilized conduct thereof, must be mindful of the situation that could arise in the future if the UNHCR inquiry goes against the Sinhalese Government and the Armed Forces. It is perhaps this understanding that would have led Ranil and Mangala Samaraweera to seek a postponement of the UN Resolution and Report. There certainly seems to be a prima facie case for investigation going by the evidence put out by interested parties. But if the findings are against the then Sri Lankan Government of Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Armed Forces then the TNA and the Diaspora would have a perfect case for a separate State.
The World has come to accept that discrimination against a minority- religion or ethnic based or otherwise, have a right to self determination. The Scotland referendum seemed to be based on the acceptance of this right. The Catalans in Spain are making a similar demand. The EU accepted the case for intervention in Kosovo where the Serbs were discriminating against the Muslim Albanians. If MR is in power there would certainly be a strong case for the UN accepting the case for secession if the UN findings are against the then government and the armed forces. India was partitioned in 1947 and the world knows the enormous suffering that the people- both Hindus and Muslims had to endure.
Even if things were not going to be so bad, yet there would be much suffering for once the UN accepts the case for secession they could very well have to send troops to prevent such a disaster.
But there is hope for reconciliation between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. According to the Mahawamsa, Viyaya and his men brought women from South India as their wives. So there is some blood relationship as well. They also share the Hindu-Buddhist civilization and culture with many Hindu Gods and Goddesses being worshipped by the Sinhala Buddhists. Since 1956 there is no doubt that the Tamil people have suffered enormously at the hands of the Sinhalese Governments. Death and destruction has been widespread. Then the LTTE emerged and they resorted to the same type of death and destruction against the Sinhalese. So perhaps both sides have had enough of such mindless violence.
For the first time since 1956 there is today a government committed to reconcile and build a united country where everybody can co-exist as equals irrespective of ethnicity and religion. The problem was less one between the mass of the people- between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. It was more a conflict between the Sinhala dominated state and the Tamil people. The last regime was accused of harassing the Tamil people in the North and acting as an army of occupation.
The International Community refers to the need for “Transitional Justice’. They say It is a matter of coming to terms with the past when serious humanitarian violations were committed by those sides. The Western view is that it is necessary to find the truth before seeking reconciliation. Our Eastern view is that it is best to let by- gones be bygones and bury the past.
Western Lawyers and statesmen believe that international law is central because it imposes an obligation on states to punish individuals guilty of the most serious violations of international law. As such, they say, trials must be among the mechanisms chosen. We as a member of the UN are bound to uphold the UN Declarations that we have signed up to. Even in our own ancient traditions wars were not treated as permitting any barbaric act. I understand that in the War of Rama and Ravana, Lakshmanan prohibited the use of poisoned arrows. King Dutugemunu respected the enemy Elara and after his defeat and death ordered silence by the public when passing his grave side. So there is no excuse for MR or his brother or the troops to behave as barbarians if they really did. A compromise is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa which apparently the Sri Lankan Government also hopes to set up.
The Tamil people could hardly be expected to believe that future governments would respect their rights considering the fact that a majority of the Sinhala people voted for Mahinda Rajapaksa. So some hold the view that trials are the most effective insurance against future repression, bring consolation to victims, and serve as an education for the people, in the rule of law. It will help the ordinary Sinhalese people who voted for Mahinda to know the truth and reach their own conclusions regarding Mahinda. This may be necessary to win the trust and confidence of the Tamil people.
In the event of the UN Inquiry finding the then Government and the Armed Forces guilty of war crimes and humanitarian violations, the Sinhalese will have to realize that they must then backwards to please the Tamil people if they are to win them over to remain as part of the same State, Men like DJ are doing great harm to this process of reconciliation and indirectly hardening the attitudes of the Tamil people.