There is a tendency to isolate issues and incidents, and to treat them as separate projects, which does harm to the need to hold the State, the various regimes and all parties to be held accountable for all crimes and violations connected with extra-legal killings, abductions and enforced disappearances. It is only then that we can work towards achieving a united Sri Lanka governed by a democratic State. The blood and tears of the past have to be swept clean, if we are to plant the seeds of a new future. I shall take the recent “protest” meeting that was conducted by the “Freedom Platform” inside the auditorium of the J.R. Jayawardene Center focused on the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga.
The daylight assassination of Lasantha within a high security zone and the brazen cover up by the regime is certainly to be held up as a concentration of the whole issue of accountability. This is reinforced by the fact that any and all witnesses and evidence proving culpability have been silenced and buried, and none indicted- even after three years. While it is important to keep the issue of Lasantha’s assassination and the abject and willful lack of accountability on the burner, it is important to place this issue in the context of the whole range of such abuses and violations. Lasantha himself would have wanted it this way. After all, he was killed because of his exemplary courage and determination in exposing such gross abuses and violations by whomever, without regard to party affiliation or official position, or whichever side of the barricade.
It is also pitiful that Ranil Wickremesinghe should be given the platform to speak against the assassination of Lasantha and the cover up. This gives the UNP the opportunity to wash its hands off such grotesque violations as occurred on “Black July”, which included the government-sponsored massacre of 53 Tamil political prisoners kept in maximum custody, and the acts of wholesale murder, looting and arson committed against innocent Tamil civilians. Has the UNP ever accounted for these crimes, and asked for forgiveness as a way of bringing reconciliation? Mahinda Rajapakse would be very happy and comfortable if Ranil is to take up the case of Lasantha or any other, since Ranil could be trusted to deflect and bury the whole issue- partners in crime as they are!
At the same time, isolating the issue takes the focus away from the murder of Joseph Pararajasingham, Nadarajah RaviRaj, Sivaram, 17 humanitarian aid workers, five Tamil students and others, and the abduction of Prageeth Eknaligoda, Lalith Weeraraj, Kugan and many others. The “protest’ meeting could have been held under the theme- “ In the name of all those killed, abducted and disappeared and to hold all accountable in the eyes of the world” . But, then Ranil would not have been able to mount the platform.
The whole war crimes issue also falls into the same game by limiting the issue to crimes committed by both sides during the final stage of the war. What about the horrendous crimes committed by both sides during the war? What about the killing of Bhikkus at Arantalawa” , the massacre at the Sri Maha Bodiya, the killing of 600 policemen who had been ordered to surrender? These are violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Whatever the cause of liberation, they are crimes against humanity. What about the repeated, government-sponsored anti-Tamil pogroms beginning in 1958, including Black July, the rigging of the Jaffna DDC election and the subsequent burning of the Jaffna library, which may constitute a form of cultural genocide? What about the carpet bombing of Tamil areas, as in Sampur and Iranamadu? What about the razing of burial grounds? What about the inhuman torture carried out in detention camps, the targeting of kovils and schools? The war crimes issue has its own merit. But it should not cover up the train of horrendous crimes committed during the war, and the whole process of violent subjugation and suppression of the Tamil nation that led to the war. Has the Mahinda Rajapakse regime accounted for any of these crimes against humanity, and asked for forgiveness? It is only when there is a fundamental and comprehensive process of accountability that there can be a democratic transformation of the State leading to genuine reconciliation, and we can greet the new dawn of freedom and democracy.