I was provoked to write this after seeing the JVP’s ardent reaction on Matale Mass Grave. They, by holding a media conference (on 10th April 2013) where several relatives of the alleged disappeared in 88-89 era also participated, announced two things. One was that the justice should be done for those who were extra judicially killed in that gruesome period. The other was that they are focusing on taking legal actions on this even though the existing legal framework is not up to the expected level of standard in its independence to deal with this sort of a politically sensitive issue.
This development points us to think further.
In the period from 2002 to 2005 where a ceasefire agreement was in force between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government there was a very active opposition against separatism within the Southern part of the island which was propelled by the nationalistic forces including JVP also. JVP even though they name themselves a Maxist party very oddly shares nationalistic elements within its innovative ideology. So they could without any shame or hesitation form coalitions with renowned nationalistic and even racist view sharers in order to preserve the so called unitary structure of the Sri Lankan state for which course it took the risk of bargaining 60000 lives in 88 and 89.
The continuous violation of ceasefire by LTTE and the seeming unwillingness on their part for a political solution drove home the majority of the South that the course of these nationalist campaigners is correct. This culminated in the very pathetic and dangerous fate of creating the following EQUATION within the minds of the society from which our nominally literate but virtually illiterate common man is still suffering.
HUMAN RIGHTS= NGOs= LTTE= SEPERATISM= INTERNATIONAL CONSPIRACY
These patriotic forces treated human rights as a taboo because according to their reading it is a NGO coup which is funded by subversive international element to facilitate the course of LTTE. This paved the way to wage a war against terrorism in which the slogan was to ‘answer the LTTE in the language they knows’. I don’t exactly know the meaning of this response. LTTE was a terrorist organization with strategies inherent to such an organization. Sri Lankan government is a democratically elected government which is vested with the unavoidable responsibility of protecting the lives and rights of its citizens and even of the terrorists who go against the state. To me, therefore ‘answering LTTE in the language it understands’ stands as curious question. There was no check on the way war was going on. All the so called artists lobbied with the popular course of war and humane and pathetic aspect of a militarily elimination was never taken to the limelight. This is why the very HUMANE Buddhists of this country are overlooking the question whether you can approve a war if there finds credible evidence that rape and other forms of inhumane treatments have been perpetrated.
Under such a backdrop, JVP who is responsible for interpreting human rights as a taboo and an instrument of the international conspirators is now very ardent on the human rights of the tortured and disappeared youth of the South in 88 and 89. JVP is protesting that there should be an independent inquiry on the Matale Mass Grave. Are they honest to request the same in candid way in case of Tamil youth of North also?
A media spokesperson speaking on behalf of the ministry of defence since the name of the all-powerful Secretary to the Ministry of Defence is also linked with the incident in clarification mentioned a few names of military officers who also served in Matale at that time and later who became national heroes due to their role in defeating the LTTE. This again highlights a very important aspect of this issue. If state goes wild race, castle or religion is a not a factor. It is the State which is action!
In defeating JVP and LTTE it was the same military which served the STATE. It was the same commanders who waged war. IF there was brutality and inhumane treatments in their approach to eliminate terrorism in both the instances it was the same military. According to my analysis, the reason behind the Chandrika Bandaranaike government not taking further actions based on the recommendations of the Commission reports on 88 and 89 was that the government forces who were waging war with LTTE under her government was accused by those reports. Therefore the government didn’t want to demoralize the military.
JVP which is very ardent and sentimental in its voice in speaking of the rights of the disappeared in 88 and 89 are silent on the rights of suspected LTTE cadres. Boossa was the detention centre of JVPers at that time. Now it is occupied by alleged LTTE suspects. Thousands of Tamils who are lingering in these detention centres are still not brought to justice. No charges; no prosecution. If JVP is really for human rights they should take up these issues also. When I once told a senior lawyer who is from Jaffna that most of our people don’t know that Boossa is still a detention centre he replied me that Tamil people are well aware of it since their relations are lingering there. This is the internal disunion and distance we have created within our people in a liberated country.
It is very interesting that UNP who were in power in 88 and 89 is also requesting an independent inquiry on Matale Mass Grave. It was the policy of the then government which was implemented by the insensitive and robotic tool of the state. This position of the UNP on this issue directs us to interpret it in two ways. One is that UNP has become very human rights friendly and democratic. The other is that they are playing politics since the name of an all important person is linked with the issue. But the problem is how UNP can without any sort of guilty feeling or shame can raise its voice on human rights violations in 88 and 89. On the other hand the present president was a so called human rights activist as they refer him and who tried to use Geneva as a stage to save the lives of the innocent youth from the atrocities of a State gone wild. After 20 years later he was holding the powerful position who could have acted a savior but who didn’t. This shows nothing other than the duplicity of our politicians and non serious nature of politics in this context in dealing with very sensitive issues.
Sri Lanka is a rogue state where human rights can be violated with impunity. There are ample examples. The regime is not a question. The victim of these atrocities is not limited to a particular region and race. What country requires is bona fide human rights campaign from the people to rehabilitate their state before it taps on their door also to drag them out and be summarily executed. What we need is to bridle the State.
*Chamara Nanayakkarawasam- firstname.lastname@example.org