In 2015 nearly all Tamils had hoped for a new era.
The government co-sponsoring UNHRC Resolution 30/1 increased our hope that we Tamils would be included in Sri Lanka and that those who murdered us and raped our women (including our murdered women) would be punished.
Soon however our hopes were dashed. “No foreign judges” we were told in reversal. We were reminded of the torture trial where the local judge gave a 7-year prison sentence and immediately suspended the sentence; and of the Supreme Court upon appeal by the Attorney General saying that such suspension in a part of judicial discretion. It all seemed a parody of justice.
After the myth about soldiers liberating us with the gun in one hand and the human rights charter in the other put out by then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, we are treated to some characteristically propagandist good news every time the UNHRC is to meet. This is such a time.
After foot dragging on the Truth Commission, there is some move towards establishing it. Or so they say! Chandrika Kumaratunaga on the eve of the current sessions of UNHRC openly admitted to war crimes by our troops. As we were lulled into the hope for justice, Rajapaksa as if to challenge Chandrika’s efforts at reconciliation, repeated that there were no war crimes by troops. As if in tandem, Champika Ranawaka introduced a cabinet paper offering amnesty to all who committed war crimes.
Why amnesty if no crime was committed? Welcome to Sri Lanka’s UNHRC season theatrics where all kinds of false promises of peace and justice are trotted out. The drama will soon subside once a reprieve for non-implementation of Resolution 30/1 is won again. We will then go back to doing nothing about the resolution and Tamil-bashing until the next UNHRC sessions.
For my part I no longer believe in any promise to us Tamils by the government – every law, every promise, is good but it all seems a farce in reality. Every promise to Tamils seems just one more lie to avoid action by world bodies on trials for murderers and rapists and our necrophilia-afflicted troops.
In proof of the government’s forked tongue on reconciliation, I raise a particular racist government circular. In that circular dated late February pictured here, the Ministry of Internal and Home Affairs (an important ministry) has an innocuous title about data gathering. Then it ominously asks its officials in the text of its body to report every village with even one Buddhist family or one Buddhist temple for the purpose of declaring it a Buddhist village. By this definition, every village in Sri Lanka is Buddhist.
Can any reconciliation come through a government that stoops so low? If the UNHRC thinks so, I must sadly conclude that it also is an organization focused on form rather than substance. It is time to take concrete action against a brazenly untruthful government that sponsors a resolution and now wants to withdraw from it. At stake are not only the twin goals of justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, but also the firm faith of people worldwide in the UNHRC as an organization that dispenses human rights.
As I write (Friday night) Jaffna is abuzz with the rumour that Northern Province Governor Suren Rāghavan has been recalled for discussions. He is travelling to Colombo. Many Tamils wondered skeptically upon receiving news of his appointment why the government was appointing a Tamil for the first time. It seemed so uncharacteristic. In the event Dr. Rāghavan proved himself at ease with the people. He launched into returning lands taken over by the army, helping University of Jaffna recover its academic standards and war widows put their lives back together, and tackling the massive problem of sexual harassment of schoolgirls and every blight that afflicts us.
Recall that Dr. Devanesan Nesiah was put on the Disappearances Commission by Mahinda Rajapaksa, and when the mild-mannered Nesiah was seen to be taking his job seriously, his house in Colpetty was turned inside out fishing for anything incriminating, and finally even after finding nothing (naturally!), he was asked to quit. Did Dr. Raghavan also make the same mistake of taking his job very seriously, doing good things for the people rather than for the SLFP? Are Tamils welcome in the service of government only if they are willing to stooge? I hope the President will tread carefully with wisdom rather than communal partisanship when Dr. Rāghavan reaches Colombo.
If Sri Lanka is to progress and her people are to have a future, Tamils must receive justice and fair play, and be welcome for who we are rather than only after we are forced to re-label ourselves and our villages as Sinhalese.