The Tamil Civil Society Forum vehemently condemns President Gotabaya Rajapaksa‘s pardoning of Sunil Ratnayake, Staff Sergeant attached to the Gajaba Regiment of the Sri Lanka Army, convicted for the murder of eight Tamil civilians including a five-year old child on 19 December 2000 in Mirusivil, Jaffna.
Sunil Ratnayake was convicted by a Trial-at-Bar comprising of three High Court Judges in 2015. His appeal to the Supreme Court was dismissed by a five-member bench of the Supreme Court in 2019.
The conviction of Sunil Ratnayake was an exception in Sri Lankan judicial history. It is probably to date the only case where an army soldier was convicted for murder of Tamil civilians during war other than the Krishanthy Kumaraswamy case. In most instances, cases against the Sri Lankan Army never end up in prosecution and conviction owing to poor and/or deliberately negligent investigations on the part of the police and more importantly the lack of political will on the part of the Government and its prosecutorial arm, the Attorney General’s Department. The Kumarapuram massacre case in which the court acquitted all accused in 2016 is a good example. The conviction of Sunil Ratnayake was hence an exception to the rule that the Sri Lankan state and its organs are unwilling to prosecute the Sri Lankan Army in relation to crimes committed against Tamils.
That President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has decided to nullify this thin exception is a reminder of the depth of the political conviction running through the ruling Sinhala Buddhist class that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces are above the law in their treatment of the Tamil populous. That President Rajapaksa has chosen to do it during a pandemic, in which the propaganda machine of the highly militarised state apparatus seeks to portray the military as the only credible public institution, is extremely manipulative.
The act of the President has deeply anguished and hurt the Tamil community during a time when the whole humankind is feeling unsafe and anxious over the spread of COVID19 and the devastation it has brought about. The act of pardon in these extraordinary times is a reminder that President Rajapaksa will not care for the sentiments of the Tamil people.
We trust that all concerned will hence forth stop asking the Tamil people to be patient and trust in Sri Lanka’s judicial system to deliver on accountability and justice. The only option for justice is through international institutions for criminal justice. (TCF)