25 September, 2020

Blog

The Killing Of Children And Sri Lanka’s Bloody Legacies

By Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena –

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena

The mass grave in Matale uncovered late last year and the ongoing demands for independent and credible investigations into the fate of disappeared persons during the last days of the fighting between government forces and the LTTE in 2009 have at their core, the common element of impunity and a common cry for justice.

Pitiful legacies of future generations

So when pictures circulate of the late LTTE leader’s twelve year old son looking apprehensively at his captors, being given a snack inside what appears to be an army bunker with the concluding photograph being of his being shot, (whether the pictures are doctored or not), the sheer inhumanity of what Sri Lanka has been reduced to, should surely grip us all?

These pictures should be ranked alongside the grisly photographs of child monks butchered at Arawantalawa by the LTTE in 1987 and the thousands of children killed by state and non state actors during the Southern insurrection and the Northern war. These are the pitiful legacies of our future generations.

Killings are permitted in times of emergency

Certainly Sri Lanka’s legal framework has permitted and indeed, actively encouraged crimes such as extra judicial executions and enforced disappearances. In view of state complicity in acts of terror, it was not surprising that when national and international pressure intensified in the 1990’s in regard to taking action in law against perpetrators of abuses during the second JVP insurrection, good investigations and prosecutions were rare and, if at all only against junior officers.

The rationale was that even if grave crimes were committed, these were in situations of extraordinary stress for the average soldier/police officer and therefore should not be measured against a high standard of accountability. Correspondingly, the lack of political will in pursuing such cases to a logical conclusion was clearly seen, whether they concerned enforced disappearances in the South or in the North and East.

Even in instances where political will was manifested at the highest levels, the obduracy of the military establishment prevented it being translated into concrete action. A good example of this was in January 1996 when then President Kumaratunge directed the Army Commander to place 200 service personnel on compulsory leave, following their repeated involvement in gross human rights abuses as evidenced in the Disappearances Commissions Reports. However, the order was not implemented.

Total failure of the legal system

Generally state apathy predominates from investigations to prosecutions of enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings. Under the Rajapaksa Government, this apathy has been transformed into deliberate state policy. Where a non summary is required, the police generally prosecute with state counsel appearing only in rare cases judged to be of special significance. The non-summary inquiry proceeds at a lackadaisical pace, taking up to several months if not more and the vital task of gathering evidence and conducting good investigations is left entirely in the hands of the police with no stringent supervision either by the magistrate or by the officers of the Attorney General.

Interminable delays in filing indictments, delays in the non-summary inquiry and further delays in the substantive trial proceedings are common factors. It is common for example for the lapse of several years to pass before the first step of filing indictment is taken and for delays to be present thereafter in the trial process. This pattern is also commonly seen in the cases of torture of ordinary persons in the South; in cases filed under the Convention Against Torture and other Inhuman and Degrading Punishment Act No 22 of 1994 (hereafter Anti-Torture Act of 1994, indictments have been pending for almost two years in the relevant High Court without being served on the accused. The defence advanced is that the delay is due to the backlog of cases in the Court. Lawyers appearing for the victims complain of a lack of interest on the part of the state in conducting prosecutions and point to non-appearances in court on the days that the trial is due to be conducted and frequent applications for postponements as manifesting this lack of interest

Continuation of mass graves from the nineteen eighties

The Matale mass grave consisted of skeletal remains of more than 150 people discovered by chance by workers building a facility for a hospital. Initial forensic tests suggested that this was the scene of a crime due to the injuries found on the remains. Commonsense led many to the inevitable conclusion that this was a burial site for persons extrajudicially executed and disappeared by the Government of the United National Party during the second JVP insurrection (1987-1991).

It is striking that even after two decades following the insurrection, the question of mass graves in regard to that period continue to be uncovered.  Requests have been made for proper forensic examination and documentation of these remains but these calls will of course, not be heeded to. In the case of disappearances of Tamil civilians during 2009, the very fact of this is denied at point blank range by the current Government.

Common cry for justice

It does not matter that the victims of the Matale mass grave were Sinhalese or that those who disappeared in 2009 were Tamil. They both share a common fate. Their cries are intertwined with the cries of thousands of others who have shared this same fate throughout past decades, at the hands of all governments. It is this commonality that needs to be centered within the accountability debate concerning Sri Lanka, both within these shores and beyond.  The brutalities committed by each Government in Sri Lanka has merely been an extension of the brutalities committed by previous Governments but with even less humanity.

And indeed, these barbarities are also a reflection of what non-state actors, particularly the JVP and the LTTE did themselves, to those who offended them or were considered as traitors. No single party, state actor or non-state actor, President or Opposition Leader has a monopoly on responsibility for innocent blood spilled in Sri Lanka.

It is only when we free ourselves from these bloody political legacies that the killing of children in Sri Lanka will stop.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    will the Tamil diaspora ever acknowedge that they are not the only victims in Sri Lanka? Will the Sinhalese ever recognise how much they have been traumatised and realise also that they are as much victims as te Tamils?

    • 0
      0

      Chandra

      You have posed a question.

      The people suffered and continue to suffer.

      Could I ask you simple question. Who elect the Government, form the government, man the state institutions and the armed forces?

      If you care to remember, it has always been the Sinhala/Buddhists who elected their stupid members of parliament and stupid presidents our of their sheer stupidity.

      • 0
        0

        native vedda, may I say that I have always appreciated the sharpness of your comments and have been curious to know who you are?

        it is true that the Sinhalese elect their leaders and the Tamils theirs but is it not also true that if there was a strong and effective opposition now, they would have marshalled their forces against these murderers from medamulana? Can we blame the people solely?I see them as being helpless and like stricken sheep.

        • 0
          0

          Chandra,
          Unfortunately, it has been the Sinhala-Buddhist who have also elected the weak and ineffective opposition.
          Coming back to your comment, now the question we have to ponder is “Should these sheep-like Sinhala Buddhist even be given the franchise?”.

        • 0
          0

          Chandra

          “if there was a strong and effective opposition”

          Who do you have in mind?

          • 0
            0

            But I have no one in mind! This is my dilemma.Yet for this, could we blame the entirety of the people? I am not sure.

  • 0
    0

    Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena writes:

    “It does not matter that the victims of the Matale mass grave were Sinhalese or that those who disappeared in 2009 were Tamil. They both share a common fate.”

    Therefore we should demand an Independent Investigation covering the period from 5th April 1971 to date.

    As Kishali wrote it is not about Tamils or Sinhalese but about the nature of the state.

    The armed forces and bureaucrats are permanent part of the state irrespective of which party is in power. Hence you can expect them to put a fight against any move to establish an Independent Investigation.

    Isn’t a classic catch 20 situation?

    • 0
      0

      Sorry it should read

      Isn’t it a classic catch 22 situation?

      • 0
        0

        but many in the armed forces do not like the killing of children. many of them suffer from PTSD. Are we to assume that all of them are brutes?

        If not, should not the political brutes and the army brutes be punished appropriately? Where is the resistance to that?

        • 0
          0

          Chandra

          “should not the political brutes and the army brutes be punished appropriately?”

          I don’t believe in punishing the brutes however you could consider a much better system. There is is model already tried and tested in South Africa.

          We should be able to persuade stupid Tamils and stupid Sinhalese to give up their respective undesirable entrenched positions, namely a section of the Tamils are focused on revenge and a large percentage of Sinhala/Buddhist are in long term denial.

          A commission based on Truth and Reconciliation model might work. Let the perpetrators confess to their crimes and their victims (or their relatives) forgiving the “sinners”. Also let them sit in a room and confront their own demons.

          Confessions should be traded for amnesty.

          If smart ar.ed perpetrators refuse to confess then the long arm of the law can reach them wherever they are and bring them back to the courts to face the music.

          This is the only way out for the Sinhala/Buddhist state.

          • 0
            0

            I agree that the system of restorative justice that you suggest is the best instead of punishment. But for that, one needs a leader with vision and compassion and a people open to such a restorative healing. Are we mature enough for that?

            • 0
              0

              What many people fail to understand when they bring up the South African model, is that the truth and reconciliation process was a part of the final deal to hand over power from White minority to Black majority. The ANC had not won an outright military victory the way SL has. The ANC victory was a negotiated one, and the reconciliation commission was a way for the White regime to avoid having its agents prosecuted for crimes. Without those tribunals, the White regime would not have handed over power, but perhaps fought on militarily to protect itself; and the ANC was incapable of defeating the SADF in battle.

              In SL, one side has beaten the other militarily and put the vanquished cause beyond realistic fruition. So far there is insufficient evidence to bring anyone significant to trial. SL sees no reason to negotiate with the defeated. So why would SL agree to such a reconciliation process that could potentially damage it?

          • 0
            0

            Native Veddah,

            You have suggested the right medicine and have also correctly pronounced that the patients are beyond treatment. A dilemma isn’t it ?

            The South Africans were far ahead of us. I think the difference in South Africa was they had leaders of the calibre of Nelson Mandela and de Clerk, where as we have cheap politicians on both sides of the divide.

            Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

            • 0
              0

              David Blacker

              “the ANC was incapable of defeating the SADF in battle”

              ANC was not solely depended on its military prowess.

              You are no different to VP, both could only see struggle with exclusive military mindset. That was the sole reason as to why VP had his a..e explored and forehead chopped.

              Probably the armed forces were looking for his brain in both parts of his body.

              For ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) was an incidental part of their struggle.

  • 0
    0

    Even in a conflict situation all parties must abide by the humanitarian law with regard to detainees or those arrested. Fair trial and conviction if guilty must be followed by the state even though the terrorist do not abide by such rules. If we follow such rules this type of controversies post conflict can be avoided. Humanity and justice must be paramount in all our activities.

    • 0
      0

      Is there any chance of a ‘fair trial’ for any person in Sri Lanka under this murderous regime, when even their own Chief Justice could not get one?

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy
    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

    • 0
      0

      dicky Bird

      Whats the matter with you tricky dicky?

  • 0
    0

    Let us not fool ourselves . SRI LANKA IS NOW UNDER THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE RAJAPAKSE BROTHERS . My prediction is that in the foreseeable future the there will be turmoil within the government and a revolution within the country for a new government . The USA, CANDA, FRANCE, AUSTRALIA, SWEDEN, NORWAY ARE ALL TIGHTENING THE SCREWS ON THE RAJAPAKSE DICTATORSHIP .

  • 0
    0

    Let us not fool ourselves . SRI LANKA IS NOW UNDER THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE RAJAPAKSE BROTHERS . My prediction is that in the foreseeable future there will be turmoil within the government and a revolution within the country for a new government . The USA, CANDA, FRANCE, AUSTRALIA, SWEDEN, NORWAY ARE ALL TIGHTENING THE SCREWS ON THE RAJAPAKSE DICTATORSHIP .

  • 0
    0

    Let us not fool ourselves . SRI LANKA IS NOW UNDER THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE RAJAPAKSE BROTHERS . My prediction is that in the foreseeable future there will be turmoil within the government and a revolution within the country for a new government . The USA, CANDA, FRANCE, AUSTRALIA, SWEDEN, NORWAY ARE ALL TIGHTENING THE SCREWS ON THE RAJAPAKSE DICTATORSHIP FOR A CHANGE TO A DEMOCRACY WITH EQUALITY, JUSTICE, FREEDOM AND LIBERTY TO ALL CITIZENS OF SRI LANKA .

  • 0
    0

    The Matale mass grave consisted of skeletal remains of more than 150 people discovered by chance by workers are those died of small pox decease.

    • 0
      0

      U are joking, of course!
      When did we have such a smallpox epidemic!

      • 0
        0

        manel fonseka

        “When did we have such a smallpox epidemic!”

        Whenever the state wants it to happen. If the state desires it could even go back 2,500 years.

  • 0
    0

    OK!!!!!

    Let’s say Prabakaran,s son was shot by the SL Army It’s very unholy thing to do!!!!!!!!!!!!! and they should be held accountable.

    BUT THE KID’S OF THE PALASTINENS AND THE IRAQ’S ARE THEY NOT HUMAN BEINGS OR THEY DO NOT HAVE ANY RIGHTS

    • 0
      0

      Shem,
      Are you suggesting that Sri Lankans should be trying to solve all the problems of the world, when we cannot even solve our own problems?
      So please try to direct your energy and vitality to solving the local problem.
      The unjustness, lawlessness and murders happening in Sri Lanka should be stopped NOT because US, EU or India wants it, but because ‘citizens of Sri Lanka’ DEMANDS it.

      So let us all as civilized, decent, Sri Lankan citizens, “free ourselves from these bloody political legacies” and bring an end to this brutality.

      • 0
        0

        Rationalist and Native Vedda, you are voices of sanity in a wilderness of madness!But those who rule now are the mad ones!That is our tragedy.

    • 0
      0

      Shem

      “BUT THE KID’S OF THE PALASTINENS AND THE IRAQ’S ARE THEY NOT HUMAN BEINGS OR THEY DO NOT HAVE ANY RIGHTS”

      Of course they are human beings and they do have rights.

      However we will fight for the rights of the people of this island and you are free to fight for the Palestinian and Iraqi children.

      Suddenly some stupid Sri Lankies want Veddah’s support and some are beginning to care about children outside the island.

      Why now?

  • 0
    0

    Native Veddah… No problen ..dicky was having just a wee … wee…

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.