27 September, 2020

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Justice To Families Of Disappeared, Surrendered & Forcefully Arrested Victims

By Kumarathasan Rasingam 

Kumarathasan Rasingam

For Sri Lanka, after the fallout from the April bombings bred communal violence, endangered minorities and put freedoms in peril. Justice and reparations for the 30 year conflict seem to be increasingly out of reach for the victims, as even the limited but key gains of recent years appeared at risk of rollback given statements by the new government.

“For the victims of Sri Lanka’s decades-long conflict, there was little progress on disappearances and no accountability for other crimes “

The Government of Sri lanka has signed and ratified the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances in August 2016.

Among other matters, this UN Convention commits a State to investigate acts of enforced disappearance and bring those responsible to justice, and ensure that victims of enforced disappearance or those directly affected by it have a right to obtain reparation and compensation. Furthermore the crime of enforced disappeared disappearance is defined as a crime against humanity.

The relatives of missing persons shall have the right to know the whereabouts of their loved ones. They also have the right to know the truth about what happened to such persons, and to bring the matter to closure. .

When one reviews the track record of Sri Lanka regarding the implementation of all the recommendations after a lapse of several months, one can only observe a dismal and depressing performance coupled with defiance of UNHRC and rejection of its own commitments.

The statement by the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe;

He has told Parliament on January 26, 2017 that as per police records, there is no information relating to persons who are allegedly disappeared during the ethnic conflict.  

The statement by the New President Gotabaya Rajapaksa;

The new Sri Lankan President has admitted that the 20,000 missing Tamils during the war are dead.

The present Government has declared its rejection of 30/1 UNHRC Resolution and consequently accountability, justice and reconciliation have been removed from its dictionary. President’s and Prime Minister’s recent statements confirm this position 

Gotabaya Rajapaksa was defense secretary from 2005 to 2015, under the administration of his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was appointed prime minister in November. The UN, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights groups, and the media, found that under Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration, the Sri Lankan army shelled civilians and hospitals, and raped and executed prisoners during the final months of the civil war against the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The UN found repeatedly in its reports that some military abuses during the conflict amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Anti-Tamil rhetoric amongst political parties vying for electoral success complemented the culture of impunity offered by the PTA and anti-Tamil pogroms in 1958, 1965, 1971, 1978, and 1983. The burning of the Jaffna library and with it, the destruction of rich Tamil-cultural relics caused “many Tamils to feel that the Sinhalese Buddhist state was determined to destroy their culture.” Black July (1983) is often cited as the catalyst for the civil war.  By July 25, anti-Tamil crowds in Colombo looted and burned Tamil property as the police watched. The Minister of Development clarified the GSL’s position in the aftermath of the pogrom: 

Tamils in the North and Eastern Provinces demand the following:-

[a] Right to nationhood

[b] A homeland

[c] Self-determination for the Tamil people

As long as the supremacy of Buddhism guaranteeing a foremost place and the racial hegemony prevail, coupled with impunity for the Security Forces, violence among communities always lurks underneath. Adding insult to injury is the bestowing of rewards to alleged war criminals in the form of promotion and keeping those involved in war crimes to continue their services. 

The government and the military are also relentlessly engaged in transforming the cultural, linguistic and religious composition of the North and East and forcibly imposing the dominant culture on those areas. This is evident in the destruction of numerous Hindu places of worship, and the proliferation of new Buddhist shrines. 

The government’s callous disregard for fulfilling its own promises applies equally to the government’s assurances on human rights. In 2006, the Udalagama Commission of Inquiry [CoI] was mandated with the power to investigate a number of grave human rights abuses including the killing of five Tamil students in Trincomalee and the massacre of 17 aid workers in Muttur.

Although public officials, members of the judiciary and elected representatives swear or affirm to uphold the Constitution, the Thirteenth Amendment has not been fully implemented. Even the limited provisions relating to the devolution of land and police powers to the Provincial Councils are deliberately violated. Moreover, commitments made both domestically and internationally with regard to a political solution have not been honored. Similarly, commitments made relating to human rights and accountability have been routinely dishonored.

The Tamils continued to exercise all administrative functions independently until 1833, when the British authorities who seized Ceylon [Sri Lanka] from the Dutch in 1796, centralized the administrative system of whole country in Colombo. 

Furthermore blow was given to the Tamils after the independence in 1948 when the sovereignty of Tamils was transferred and deposited in the hands of majority Sinhalese Governments. Since then a process of Sinhalization and Buddhisisazation of Sri Lanka was set in motion by the successive Sri Lankan Governments.

It is apt to quote Sir Pon Arunachalam who said in 1921 “Tamils are a nation with their own distinctive culture and civilization, language, literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, moral code and customs, ideas, calendar, history, tradition and ambitious, and so have their own distinctive outlook on life. By all means of international law we are a nation.”

In the absence and lack of political will and determination among Sinhala leaders the traumatised Tamils pin their hopes on United Nations and the International Community who it is hoped will not falter and fail in their duties and responsibilities to initiate and execute whatever steps necessary to ensure the existence of Tamils as a separate nation. 

It is high time for the United Nations and the International Community to wake up and deliver justice, protection and freedom to the oppressed Tamils in Sri Lanka. This is the earnest request from the suffering Tamils [Hindu/Christians] in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

[1] Citizenship Acts passed in 1948 and 1949 snatched the voting rights of plantation Tamils, which weakened the political strength of the Tamils.

[2] Sinhala Only Act passed in 1956 made Sinhala as the official language, discriminating the Tamils for state employment, promotions etc. which forcing them to learn Sinhala language. 

[3] Standardization Act of 1972 discriminated Tamil students and restricted their entry to universities. 

[4] Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979 targeted Tamils for arbitrary arrests and indefinite detention in prison.

[5] The Sixth Amendment 1983 curtailed the freedom of speech and expression targeting Tamils worldwide from propagating and agitating for a separate state. This act clearly violates Article One of UN Covenant on civil and political rights which guarantee the rights of all people to self-determination to freely determine their political status. 

[6] 1972 Constitution of Sri Lanka has given “Foremost Place to Buddhism” requesting state “To foster and protect it”, thus guaranteeing statutory protection and approval of Buddhisisation throughout Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka’s malaise of self-interest over national interest appears to be rooted with no cure for ever. The immediate fallout and collateral damage inflicted on the Tamils in the North and East is that they are back to square one under military occupation with attendant fear and insecurity while trapped under sweeping powers given to Military under PTA and Emergency Regulations. Another casualty is the promised constitution and just political settlement to Tamils, all of which will remain frozen until they are made hot by the docile and dormant Tamil leaders. The prospect of accountability and justice for Tamils is further pushed back after the new President Gotabaya Rajapakshe who was the Defence Secretary during the genocidal war from 2006-2009.  Gotabaya is now openly voicing that Sri Lanka will take appropriate action to withdraw the 30/1 UNHRC Resolution.

 As long as the supremacy of Buddhism guaranteeing a foremost place and the racial hegemony prevail, coupled with impunity for the Security Forces, violence among communities always lurks underneath. Adding insult to injury is the bestowing of rewards to alleged war criminals in the form of promotion and keeping those involved in war crimes to continue their services. 

It is to be noted that the affected Tamils did not resort to any retaliatory acts but remained calm and silent. A divide and rule policy of all Sri Lankan Governments coupled with the continuing culture of impunity is a recipe for further religious and racial violence by Buddhist extremists and retaliatory violence by the affected parties, providing the politicians with enough armoury to exploit and advance their race for power.

In this context the call for a separate state has now become an absolute necessity, indispensable and unavoidable due to the omissions and commissions of successive Sri Lankan governments. All the past acts of Governments draw only one conclusion, which is the commission of crime of genocide including structural genocide, genocidal acts with no iota of doubt were targeted at Tamils with intent to destroy the in whole or in part as defined in the UN Genocide Convention 1948 who qualify as a national, ethnical or racial group living in Sri Lanka. 

Sri Lanka is a participant in China’s “Belt and Road” Initiative, although there are concerns about the debt burden this is creating, for instance in relation to southern Hambantota Port, control of which has been granted to China for 99 years.

Viewing the Sri Lanka’s declared defiance and intention to defeat the Recommendations of the UNHRC, a huge burden and responsibility lies on this august Institution to reinforce and assert its credibility, reliance, resolve and strength to the rogue states that trample human rights with no questions asked like Sri Lanka which has buried the core principle of accountability lock, stock and barrel while upholding impunity. Example: – Promotion of alleged war criminal Shavendra de Silva. Sri Lanka’s notable refusals and disregards of UNHRC and European Union can be seen from the breach of promises to repeal the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act [PTA} and initiation of international or even internal judicial mechanism to investigate the alleged war crimes. 

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Latest comments

  • 1
    0

    Sri Lanka must be responding to the grievances from their brotherhood of people who lost their beloved ones and bring them justice. Whoever was involved with atrocities against humanity must be punished without delay. If you’re simply chanting ‘pirith’ and slogans of ‘pansil pa’ nothing can fruitful for your motherland. Souls of who shed their precious blood that asking justice you can’t denied. Now, this tiny nation became as a beggar to go every where urges loans and foreign aid to uplift it citizens. To protect few culprits who have been involved with human rights violations, entire nation would be punishable in future. Let’s stop anger and wrath with each others. Apart from this dirty politics we have to go long away.

  • 0
    0

    KR

    SJV Selvanayakam failed miserably in all his attempts to achieve equal rights, justice and federalism, for Tamils and ended up in saying “ god only can save Tamils now “. To our surprise, two days ago, Sumanthiran has told “ God has given us a great leader Sampanthan “ . So why do you worry now ? Pray and praise God’s avatar Sampanthan !!

    Sometimes God too make mistakes. Instead of saying “ save Tamils “ He has told avatar “ save Sinhalese” , hence avatar saved Ranils govt during the last five years. I don’t know when God will realise His mistake and correct it.

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