Time not Ripe for Truth and Reconciliation, Rather for Justice and A Referendum on Eelam.
Five years on after the end of the war, Tamils in the North and East are still “under siege”. This is a clear indication that the prevailing climate is not conducive, either for achieving peace, truth and reconciliation or for obtaining justice and reaching a political settlement. The only redeeming feature in a hopeless situation is the prospect of an international independent inquiry soon to be underway that could lead to ending impunity in Sri Lanka – When the search for justice begins.
Whilst the end goals mentioned here continue to remain elusive, common sense would show that without the latter i.e. remedial justice and a satisfactory political settlement, it would surely not be possible to have the former i.e. peace, truth and reconciliation. It is perfectly clear the Sri Lankan government hasn’t got the political will or the decency to do the right thing by the Tamil people, by allowing them to exercise their right to self determination and have control over their affairs. Whilst the time may not be ripe for peace, truth and reconciliation, a referendum on Eelam could however pave the way for peace, truth and reconciliation.
Accountability, Justice and Political Settlement High Priority
To this end, the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), feels strongly that any ‘truth and reconciliation’ mechanism must come only after justice is served and a political settlement is achieved. TGTE’s Prime Minister, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela at the time of his passing, reflecting on the resolution the TGTE had passed in December 2013 just as it became public knowledge that Sri Lanka was looking to getting South Africa’s help to setup a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”, wrote in an article: Reconciliation Is Not A Matter of Ignoring the Past, that “truth and reconciliation” must come only after “accountability and the birth of an independent and sovereign State of Tamil Eelam”:
“The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) set up by President Nelson Mandela in South Africa under the chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mechanism to achieve a peaceful transition towards a race neutral democracy. However, as US President Obama mentioned in his eulogy, “reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past”, we firmly believe that TRC should not serve as an escape mechanism for accountability. With this in mind, the TGTE passed a resolution in its Parliament on Sunday 8th December, stating that ‘in view of the primacy of accountability under International Law espoused by the International Criminal Court, calling for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Sri Lanka should come after the birth of an independent and sovereign State of Tamil Eelam,”  he wrote.
An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka 2009-2014 – A Documentation of Post-War Atrocities
Anyone reading the authoritative report, documenting human rights abuses in post- war Sri Lanka published in March 2014 titled: An Unfinished War: Torture and Sexual Violence in Sri Lanka 2009-2014, (The Report) made possible by the combined effort of Ms Yasmin Sooka, The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) and The International Truth and Justice Project Sri Lanka, would get a sense of what is truly happening to Tamils in Sri Lanka, five years after the war ended in which a reported 40,000 – 70,000 Tamil civilians were killed by Sri Lankan government forces; authentic census reports at the time revealing the number of people unaccounted for, were in excess of 146,000.
Tamils Still Under Siege
What was not surprising, but yet alarming was the revelation in The Report that post-war conditions in the North and East of Sri Lanka is such, that the, “Tamil community there is under siege”, a concern, voiced repeatedly by the Tamil Diaspora which The Report validates.
“It is probable that the Government of Sri Lanka needs to maintain the idea of a possible threat of an LTTE resurgence in order to justify the continued use of pernicious emergency regulations and terrorism legislation so as to maintain the intense securitisation of the North and East and the High Security Zones which effectively place the Tamil community there under siege,” The Report states.
Yasmin Sooka’s Commitment Laudable
Yasmin Sooka was recently in Toronto at the invitation of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, giving a talk on The Report she helped produce, an expose on Sri Lanka, at UFT’s Hart House. Keeping her audience and me spell bound, she impressed me by her commitment to human rights which is laudable and by her in-depth knowledge and experience in the field, sitting on many esteemed commissions and panels.
Witness Testimonies Made Stomach Churn
Having listened to Ms Sooka made me go back and read The Report in full, word to word and the harrowing testimonies of the victims that made one’s stomach churn. Contained in it are revelations of a detailed and vivid nature of the cruelty inflicted on Tamils, including an account on prevailing conditions that illustrate that five years on, the situation for Tamils in the North and East has got worse not better, in fact the situation is dire: 
The Report A Portrayal of Situation in Post-War Period
The Report is an accurate portrayal of the situation in post-war Sri Lanka and needs to be read in total and retold as we draw closer to May 18th, the commemoration of the national day of mourning for Tamils. As we feel an outrage over the deliberate closure of the University of Jaffna, preventing any national observance of what Tamils consider to be a, “very sad and traumatic day”, it’s somewhat heartening to note that there are indeed people and organisations like the authors of The Report who are interested in the truth being told.
The Report Excellent Point of Reference
In looking back over the five years that have passed, I feel The Report is an excellent point of reference:
“This investigation into the violations committed in the post-war period paints a chilling picture of the continuation of the conflict against the ethnic Tamil Community with the purpose of sowing terror and destabilising community members who remain in the country. The violations documented include abductions, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual violence”.
An Island Where the War is Clearly Not Over – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The particular crimes documented in The Report occurred between 2009, almost all after 2011, half of them in 2013 and one even in February 2014. So much so the title suggests the war is “unfinished”, that prompted Archbishop Desmond Tutu to give this foreword:
And I quote:
“The evidence presented in this report gives the lie to the Sri Lankan government’s propaganda that it is reconciling with its former enemies. It shows how anyone remotely connected with the losing side in the civil war is being hunted down, tortured and raped, five years after the guns fell silent. Shockingly, more than half of the abductions in the report took place as recently as 2013- 2014. The testimony collected here comes from 40 witnesses, almost all of whose families could afford to pay a bribe for their release; one wonders what happened to those whose relatives could not afford to pay and to those without relatives. The sheer viciousness and brutality of the sexual violence is staggering; as is the racist verbal abuse by the torturers and rapists in the Sri Lankan security forces. Thirty-five of these witnesses were forced to sign confessions in Sinhala; a language they do not understand. In some cases people were forced to turn informer as well as to betray innocent bystanders in order to survive and left to bear the subsequent terrible burden of guilt.
I find it horrifying that almost half the witnesses interviewed for this report attempted to kill themselves after reaching safety outside Sri Lanka. This indicates the Sri Lankan government has achieved its aim in destroying these souls, who are unlikely to regain happiness and peace in their lives. My deepest hope is that the cycle of revenge will be broken. In order for this to happen, the international community must intervene. It is imperative to pierce the skein of impunity that surrounds Sri Lanka – an island where the war is clearly not yet over.”
Signed: Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Emerging Pattern of Persecution
From my own understanding of The Report, running over some aspects, one could see an emerging pattern of persecution and violence against Tamils which I have described in my own words and sometimes paraphrased here below. In the following bullet points I have listed some facts and events between 2009 and 2014 extracted from The Report with apologies to the authors for trying to condense their findings from which I conclude:
- That grave, “prohibited acts of abductions, arbitrary detention, torture, rape and sexual violence” against Tamils, connected with the LTTE in some way, perpetrated by the Sri Lankan armed forces, some who were, “high ranking officers openly wearing their medals, constituting in the minimum, “crime against humanity” in international law, still PERSIST with “impunity” committed with the knowledge that “no action will be taken against” the perpetrators, all part of a “systematic plan” approved by “the highest levels of government”.
- That “Impunity and authoritarianism has deepened and the rule of law dangerously undermined”, in Sri Lanka, that the President, a member of the ruling “family dynasty” has wide ranging powers “under the 18th amendment” over the “Attorney General, the Judiciary” and over powers relating to “appointments” including “appointments to the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission” thereby “compromising its independence”.
- That some emergency regulations have been re-imposed contrary to the promise made by the President to the international community that the state of emergency was lifted. This together with the all too familiar draconian laws under the Prevention of Terrorism Act that permit indefinite detention and interrogation without charge, with no access to counsel, applied arbitrarily against Tamils, has made obtaining justice remote for Tamils in an environment where the judicial system is “politicized” and in shambles
- That since the war, “no domestic investigation into multiple allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity” has taken place except for a “military court of inquiry that has not released its deliberations or findings” officially and that according to the “Defence Ministry, the inquiry exonerated the security forces, who had strictly adhered to the President’s ‘zero civilian casualty directive’ and that, “none of the key LLRC recommendations for curbing impunity and restoring the rule of law has been implemented.”
- That no meaningful progress has been made into the cases of the killings of the five Trinco students or of the executions of the seventeen staff members of the French charity, Action Contre La Faim (ACF).
- That the International Crisis Group is concerned that the Sri Lankan government’s surrendee and rehabilitation regime fails to adhere to international law and standards.
Five Years On, No Political Settlement
- That contrary to President Rajapaksa’s undertaking to Ban Ki-moon “to seek a political solution” the newly elected Northern Provincial Council lacks any real powers or resources:
“In a commitment given to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in May 2009, President Rajapaksa vowed to ensure accountability and seek a political solution to the conflict with Tamil Sri Lankans. The UN communiqué at the time said, “President Rajapaksa expressed his firm resolve to proceed with the implementation of the 13th Amendment”, which had established the recognition of the Tamil minority by accepting Sinhala and Tamil as official languages and devolved power to provincial councils. This was reaffirmed in the 2009 UNHRC Resolution drafted by Sri Lanka. Five years later the commitment has not been realised. Indeed the government has made it clear it does not believe in equal status for minorities. Elections were held in 2013 to the Northern Provincial Council, whose powers and resources are already limited. The President and his brothers have made it clear they oppose any council control over policing or land and have to date blocked the chief minister and council members from operating effectively even within their limited mandate.”
Military Effectively A Force of Occupation
- That the North and East is “occupied” and described as such in The Report, echoes that of the Tamil Diaspora’s view of the ground situation:
“Militarisation of the north and east continues at unacceptably high levels, with soldiers and police engaged in the monitoring of the civilian population. The Sinhalese dominated military is effectively acting as a force of occupation in the predominately Tamil areas of the north. Tamil civilians have been forcibly registered with the police. The security forces maintain an extensive network of informers in every village creating an atmosphere of fear. Furthermore the military controls virtually all aspects of life, including a large part of the economy. After her 2013 visit to Sri Lanka, Ms. Pillay noted that, “the prevalence and level of involvement of soldiers in the community seem much greater than is needed for strictly military or reconstruction purposes”. She said the high militarization was, “seen by many as oppressive and intrusive, with the continuing high level of surveillance of former combatants and returnees at times verging on harassment”.
Lest We Forget
Lest we forget, it is important to note that this military “occupation” of the North and East began as far back in 1958 with the appointment of military governors one for the North and another for East by the then Prime Minister of Ceylon, SWRD Bandaranaike as a response to allegations by JR Jayewardene, the mastermind behind the Sinhala opposition’s objection to “the reasonable use of the Tamil language in the North and East” and the instigator of violence against Tamils that led to the 1958 pogrom against Tamils.
Having sent Sinhala troops to the North and East, with a view to silencing his Sinhala critics and opponents, Bandaranaike made this announcement of an utterly divisive nature in parliament:
“Certainly, Federalists [ITAK] and other forces have planned to overthrow the Central Government to set up a separate administration in the North and East. But I have thwarted that. Their attempts have been quelled. My military forces are now in the north and in the east. There is military rule in these two provinces, each with a military governor. Yes, I say they are military governors. With my army, I will see that there is no repeated attempt to set up a different administration in those provinces”.
Surveillance, White Vans, Land Grab, Sinhalisation
- Coming back to the report, it’s also clear that The Report drew attention to the “surveillance” tactics of the government, the “White Vanning” of Tamils, implicating Gotabaya Rajapaksa as running these white van operations, the “land-grabbing by the army for the purpose of building security camps, holiday resorts and farms, that has resulted in more than two thousand legal challenges pending in the Jaffna courts”, the “poverty levels in the former conflict zones”, more “allegations of rape and sexual violence published in the international media” and in other reports, namely the “HRW report”, and “Sri Lankan government’s response” to same, the “curtailment of freedom of expression”, the “sustained assault on press freedom”, the “violence directed at journalists”, the cases of “enforced disappearances”, the need to “protect religious minorities” against “Buddhist extremism”, reported “threats made against those reporting events running up to CHOGM and HRC 25, the plight of asylum seekers, the involvement of the CID, TID and the Police in abductions, the involvement of Immigration officials in bribery and corruptions, of how some people bribed their way out of IDP camps, the separation of LTTE suspects from the civilian population and the involvement of members of the paramilitary such as the Karuna faction, the EPDP and LTTE informants in pointing out LTTE suspects, the supply of intelligence by Karuna faction and embassy officials of members of the Tamil Diaspora involved in protests and of the admission that “rehabilitation was a facade”.
- The Report talks of, ” a Sinhalisation process that’s underway in the north in terms of culture and demography. Sinhalese are moving into the area and the Sri Lanka Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said it is ‘unnatural’ for the North to be predominately Tamil. Sinhalese officials are increasingly becoming the decision makers in the administration. Scores of Buddhist temples have been erected in the former conflict areas as well as war monuments glorifying the army, while street names are being changed from Tamil to Sinhala. This is a deliberate erosion of Tamil culture.”
Torture and Sexual Violence of the Worst Kind
- In most part, the abduction, arbitrary detention, torture, as well as cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment including rape and sexual violence perpetrated on witnesses to this report, who were first abducted, forty of them, half of them men and half women and forced to identify others with LTTE connections or forced to confess their own connection, have been painstakingly documented in The Report. Read pages 22 – 44 to know the details of the nature of their torture and sexual violence at the hands of Sri Lankan security forces to know the extent of their trauma.
- The witnesses who testified in The Report bribed their way out of Sri Lanka to tell their stories. All witnesses said their families, “paid large sums of money to agents to get them out of the country safely.”
- The Government’s response to allegations was outright denial: “In the autumn of 2009, the first eyewitness escaped abroad and described personally seeing sexual abuse in Manik Farm camp. The Sri Lankan Defence Secretary responded by asking why she hadn’t been raped or killed given how attractive she was. “
Members of the Tamil Diaspora Monitored
- The acute “surveillance operations and monitoring” of both Tamils in the island and members of the Tamil Diaspora in their country of residence, involved in protests or activism and those Tamils merely visiting Sri Lanka, are carried out, with the gathering of data collection in a data base maintained by the authorities making Tamils vulnerable to the above crimes being committed against them if they returned to Sri Lanka:
“There is evidence that Tamil protests in the Diaspora have been monitored. In London, Sri Lankan embassy staff were observed photographing protestors. It is not known what happens to the photographs but it is probably reasonable to assume that they are sent to the relevant intelligence section of the State Intelligence Service (SIS). Research on human face detection and research is reportedly underway within the Department of Statistics and Computer Science at the University of Colombo. From a witness protection point of view, there are reasonable grounds to believe that Sri Lanka intelligence is using highly sophisticated facial recognition software to identify protesters from abroad if they return home.”
Surveillance Taken to a New Level, Attack on Tamil Population
The following two passages in The Report further illustrate how “the post 2009 period has seen the Sri Lankan government take, “comprehensive surveillance” of Tamil citizens and the Diaspora, “to a new level” and how acts committed between 2009 and 2014 constitute “an attack on the Tamil population designed.. to weaken it and prevent it from achieving a political settlement..”:
“Since 2009, the Sri Lankan government’s security policy has become increasingly sophisticated and is based on intelligence and the comprehensive surveillance of its Tamil citizens as well as the monitoring of the Tamil Diaspora. While the Sri Lankan government is entitled in the interests of national security to put measures in place to prevent a possible resurgence of the conflict by remnants of the LTTE, the post-2009 period has seen the government take this to new levels; Tamil citizens particularly in the North and East are under scrutiny in a way in which they were never before.”
“Credible allegations in this report point to the Government of Sri Lanka and the security forces committing a number of acts between May 2009 and February 2014 which constitute an attack on the Tamil population in the North and East of Sri Lanka. They are designed to weaken the Tamil community and to prevent it from achieving a political solution based on regional autonomy. The “Sinhalisation” policy on the part of the Government of Sri Lanka, its intelligence network and the military occupation of the Northern Province are also part of the strategy to maintain control of the Tamil community.”
UN Monitored Protection Mechanism
Similar concerns have been raised by the members of the Tamil Diaspora after the end of the war, with TGTE calling for a UN sponsored “protection mechanism” and for the possible opening of UN offices in Tamil areas to prevent the continuing structural genocide of the Tamil Nation in the North and East . In a paper titled: Establishing a UN Monitored Protection Mechanism I made a compelling case for such a mechanism.
Campaign to Free Jeyakumari and All Those in Detention
The findings from The Report reinforces the need to persuade the international community to put pressure to bear to help free activist Jeyakumari and her daughter Vibushika and all others who are locked up without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Hugo Swire UK Foreign Office Minister has lent his strong voice in support of Jeyakumari – actually mentioning her name, he criticised her indefinite detention without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. 
Vulnerability of Tamils in the North and East and the Dangers they Face
It’s frightening to think that the fears raised in The report about the vulnerability of Tamils living in the North and East to “white van” abductions and subject to torture, rape and sexual violence, is real and could be happening as we write this. It is a probability that this government actually shot and killed ex-detainees Gobi and Co to give credibility to its story that the LTTE was re-grouping.
The Bogey of the Reincarnation of the Tiger Demolished
Further as we worry about the stupidity of some to engage in violence or even contemplate it on the Tamil side, it was a relief to find Dr Muttukrishna Sarvananthan demolishing in a two part op-ed, the Sri Lankan government’s and DBS Jeyaraj’s Bogey of the Reincarnation of the Tiger, that hopefully would lay to rest the possible re-launching of the Tiger Bogey by the government to cover-up its own misdeeds:
“The spectacular claims of the reincarnation of the Tiger five years after the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka is not only an overtly politico-military retaliation to the resolution passed against Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva and aimed at warding-off potential witnesses to the impending international inquiry into allegations of war crimes and human rights violations committed by both sides of the civil war, it is also a strategically orchestrated commencement of the campaign to re-elect the incumbent President and the Government at the upcoming elections due within the next twenty-months…It appears the magic wand of Rajapaksa cannot continue to perform without the re-invention of the Tigers,” says Dr Sarvananthan.  
Sri Lankan Government Ban on Diaspora Civil Society Members and Individuals Backfires
Call Made for Targeted Sanctions Against Sri Lanka
It now evident that the Rajapaksa Government’s move without cause to proscribe certain Tamil Diaspora organisations and individuals has backfired: Hugo Swire, UK Foreign Office Minister, Paul Dewar Canadian Foreign Affairs Critic and John Baird Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs have all been speaking in support of the Civil Society and individuals on whom the ban has been imposed. Paul Dewar called , “for targeted sanctions against those responsible for abuses and repression, as was recommended by the foreign affairs committee in 2009.”  John Baird, promising to work together said, “he would build on their strong record – to stand up against war crimes, to call for accountability and to stand up against a growing authoritarian trend across Sri Lanka.”
Wait in Hope
Five years on as Tamils all over the world mark May 18th as a day of remembrance and mourning for those who died for freedom, we wait in hope for the long awaited international independent investigation, remedial justice for our people and a referendum on Eelam, paving the way for peace and reconciliation in the island.
“Mr. Speaker Sri Lankan government launched a smear campaign against international civil society groups, including ones right here in Canada. These groups helped lead the successful push for an international independent investigation into the atrocities committed during the Sri Lankan civil war. What actions is the government taking to protect peaceful Canadian citizens against the Sri Lankan ban? Will the Minister consider targeted sanctions against those responsible for abuses and repression, as was recommended by the foreign affairs committee in 2009?”
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Speaker, no government anywhere in the world and no leader of any government in the world has stood up more strongly and loudly than the Prime Minister of Canada when it comes to the challenges facing the people of Sri Lanka.
I want to tell the member opposite that we are certainly very pleased to continue our strong leadership on Sri Lanka. We are pleased to work with him and his ideas and suggestions on how we can build on the strong record that we have taken to stand up against war crimes, to call for accountability and to stand up against a growing authoritarian trend across Sri Lanka.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAizzieEocs …