Colombo Telegraph notes with surprise and disappointment, the silence of the Sri Lankan and International human rights community with regard to the burial of the Sri Lanka HRC commissioned Suntheralingam report, on the Trinco-5 killing and other events. The report explicitly concluded that security forces personnel were involved in several high profile human rights violations including the killing of five students in Trincomalee in January 2006.
The report of an inquiry authorized by Sri Lanka’s National Human Rights Commission Commissioner (SL NHRCC) Radhika Coomaraswamy, had been buried for seven and half years, and was obtained from a whistle blower, by Colombo Telegraph on the 6th Jan, 2014. On commenting a few days ago on the non publication of the report, Coomaraswamy told Colombo Telegraph, “ I commissioned the report because it was clearly a situation that required an inquiry and we tried to be proactive.” However an Island editorial on the 5th of Jan., states that “President Mahinda Rajapaksa has… ordered a probe into the incident”; CT has not yet established if the SL HRC Special Rapporteur Suntherlingam’s mandate was a consequence of a presidential directive, that SL NHRCC Coomaraswamy was carrying out, and the later suppression was due to external pressure. Coomarasway has repeatedly denied she was subject to any pressure what so ever to suppress the report.
Regardless of the question of suppression, Coomaraswamy first told Colombo Telegraph that the neither she nor fellow commissioner Dr. Deepika Udagama “can remember the contents [of the report]” because it had not been “finalized”, when her term of office ended. A few days later Coomaraswamy recanted upon reflection, and admitted that the report had indeed been “handed” to her by Suntheralingam and his team in person, in the SL HRC Office, in its final form, which had been CT’s contention previously. Coomaraswamy recalled that she had “ordered… its publication,” without taking the time to read it, “given its importance.” It is not clear to CT if Coomaraswamy or Udagama have still read the report – dated 31st March, 2006, and signed by Mr. Suntheralingam, which they had access to from that date onwards.
Indeed, the international human rights community knew of the report, and at least its summery contents by June, 2006. In a press release on the Trinco-5 killing, dated 29th June, 2006, Human Rights Watch notes that, “An unofficial report by the special investigator for Sri Lanka’s National Human Rights Commission alleges that the security forces were responsible for the killings.”
Yet no one who had access to the report, enabled its release. “One expects military commanders and state administrators to be parties to a cover up,” said one human rights defender, working in Sri Lanka, who spoke to CT on the condition of anonymity. “But we expect higher standards of responsibility to truth from prominent members of civil society, whether Sri Lankan or International.”
International attention has remained on the killing of the Trinco-5, due to the continuing efforts of Dr. Kasippillai Manoharan, the father of one of the victims. Twelve Special Task Force (STF) personnel of the Police were arrested by the Sri Lanka CID, on the 4th June, 2013, in a reopening of the case, which is frequently referred to when subject of impunity is taken up, in relation to Sri Lankan Human Rights issues.