Truth, Accountability, and Justice: The Need of the Hour to End Impunity
In this article, the fourth[i] on this subject, I wish to assert that if the right thinking people of the Sinhala Nation join in the world-wide effort currently underway for an international independent investigation of the Mullivaikkal massacre, it will not only be achieved sooner rather than later, it will also end the culture of impunity that is prevalent to this day. A culture of impunity that is only too evident in the recent assaults on the Muslim people and the Weliweriya killings.
We should ask ourselves why it is that only the May 2009 massacre rather than the many pogroms and massacres that occurred since independence in 1948 that there is this groundswell of agitation for an international independent investigation. The reason is actually quite simple. It is not entirely due to the immensity and monstrosity of the crime (40,000 civilian deaths by international estimates to over 140,000 by ground estimates). It is also due to the only period in time (present) compared to all those other periods, when the world order has embraced the concept of collective Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Coupled to R2P is the fact that it is possible now than ever before for the technologies of instant communication (Internet), surveillance (GPS, Cell Phone cameras, WikiLeaks, etc.), and forensics (DNA evidence) to record and preserve evidence of atrocities and their perpetration, despite all efforts at muzzling and destroying that information.
The “Truth” that that is sought are answers to the following and related questions, namely, during days leading to the end of the war and its immediate aftermath, were the “People of the Vanni”,
- used as human shields and shot at, to prevent them from escaping into safe areas?
- concentrated in so-called “no fire zones” and targeted by heavy artillery fire on those very zones?
- bombed in the hospitals they were being treated?
- deprived of essential medicines and food?
- tortured, raped, abducted, and disappeared while interned in the camps after the war ended?
If any one or more of the above are true, the details of such truths must lead to accountability and justice for the victims and their loved ones.
Clearly, the world-wide efforts that seek the above include, the Tamil Diaspora, Sinhala journalists driven to exile, the plethora of human rights organizations that include Amnesty International (AI), Human Right Watch (HRW), International Crisis Group (ICG), United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and the activism of UK Channel 4’s “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”, “No Fire Zone” documentaries, UK’s Sri Lanka Campaign, to name just a few on the tip of the iceberg.
The only critical entity that is missing in this world-wide effort is the concerted public opinion of the vast majority of the right thinking Sinhala Nation. There is no lack of evidence, and the world has the evidence. Not even the most biased person in the country today would say that any investigation conducted internally on this issue will amount to anything but a cover up. It is therefore imperative that the investigation be internationally undertaken to ensure credibility and authenticity.
Maybe a Gandhi, a King, or a Mandela will emerge from our many right thinking Sinhala brothers and sisters to rise up and stir the Sinhala Nation to such a clarion call for “Truth, Accountability, and Justice” on behalf of their voiceless brothers and sisters, the “People of the Vanni”, who perished and their equally voiceless loved ones continuing to survive under total subjugation. I think of all my former school friends of Royal College, my fellow “pilgrims through life” in the Student Christian Movement (SCM) of Ceylon, my former colleagues and pupils (as many as 12 batches of final year students of the Electronic Engineering faculty of the University of Moratuwa), and my former colleagues in the Ceylon Electricity Board. Maybe there is someone or many of us here who would plant the seeds for a thousand flowers to bloom.
I am firmly convinced that once “Truth, Accountability, and Justice” happens for the “People of the Vanni”, the “floodgates” will be opened just as it was opened in South Africa and Rwanda. When I say “floodgates”, I mean Truth, Accountability, and Justice” from the time of independence in 1948 to Weliweriya and Grandpass today. As I have explained before in a comment to my Article 2: By “floodgates” I further specify and mean that 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”. This will include the massacres of the Sinhala youth during the two JVP uprisings, the atrocities perpetrated by all sides during the war, the ethnic cleansing of the Muslims from the North and East, the abductions and killings of the countless number of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, and other leaders, journalists, and ordinary citizens.
It is only then that we will have Sri Lanka’s own “South African moment” or “Rwandan moment” for any semblance of reconciliation and peace in the country, and most importantly, peace in our own individual minds and souls.
[i] The other three articles are:
- “Vanni 2002 – 2006: What I Owe the People of the Vanni” (Feb 7, 2013)
- “Plea to the Pundits: Seek Truth, Accountability, and Justice” (April 26, 2013)
- “Friends, Singhalese, Countrymen”, Lend Me Your Ears” (July 24, 2013)