Sri Lanka’s democracy completely changed and is now ruled by a dictatorial Sinhala Buddhist President elected by the majority Sinhala Buddhist voters. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution has placed him with absolute powers over judiciary, police, election and other independent Commissions which functioned independently without political interference to some extent.
The recent incidents and oppressions against the Tamils and Muslims very clearly indicate that Sri Lanka is now a deeply polarized nation; an embedded infrastructure of racism is the main cause for all the problems in the country. The Buddhist nationalist ideology is widely accepted and got wide support from politicians and political parties toeing a pro-Sinhala Buddhist line since independence in 1948. The institutionalization of the Sinhalese Buddhist ideology means that a political solution to Sri Lanka is unlikely as a meaningful devolution to the Tamils in the North and East is opposed by these extremist groups.
The Security forces, Police and Special Task Forces are composed of almost 95% Buddhist Sinhalese, with the deeply polarized administration and judiciary there is no room for justice to the oppressed Tamils in Sri Lanka.
President Gotabaya Rajapakshe who was the Defence Secretary from 2006-2009 who conducted the brutal war stated on December 20th 2019 that “We cannot entertain UNHRC Resolutions on war crimes in its current form.”
The Gotabaya Rajapakshe’s regime is still operating the cruel, unjust draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act [PTA] system, which has overwhelmingly impacted the Tamil community, human rights activists and Tamil journalists.
Although United Nations Special Rapporteurs make frequent visits a few years back and submitted their findings and recommendations to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sri Lanka is reluctant to implement any of their recommendations.
In her statement to the 45th session of the Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet came with the following remarks on “Sri Lanka” on Monday:
“In Sri Lanka, I am troubled that the new Government is swiftly reneging on its commitments to the Human Rights Council since it withdrew its support for resolution 30/1. Among other developments, the proposed 20th amendment to the Constitution may negatively impact on the independence of key institutions, including the National Human Rights Commission. The pardon given in March to a former Army sergeant convicted of participating in unlawful killings; appointments to key civilian roles of senior military officials allegedly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity; and moves within the police and judiciary to thwart the investigation of such crimes, set a very negative trend. The surveillance and intimidation of victims, their families, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers should cease immediately. I encourage the Council to give renewed attention to Sri Lanka, in view of the need to prevent threats to peace, reconciliation and sustainable development.”
The withdrawal of co-sponsorship by Sri Lanka must be not allowed to go scot free from its commitments to the UNHRC and the said Resolutions were also co-sponsored by other countries which will remain binding. The obvious reasons for withdrawal by Sri Lanka are that the present President and Prime Minister will not be able to evade liability for the war crimes etc. committed under the principle of Command Responsibility. It is obvious that they will never initiate any local investigation leading to their prosecution. Sri Lanka could take up the position that they are no more committed to implement the Recommendations of those Resolutions even when Sri Lanka is legally bound to implement them after withdrawals, the chances of implementing them by any Sri Lankan Government is very remote and almost nil viewing its dismal conduct and record of Sri Lanka for the last six years [2015 – 2021] in relation to their implementations and the delaying tactics, hollow promises and deceptive undertakings.
The Report of the Secretary General’s Internal Review Panel on UN Action on Sri Lanka released on November 14, 2012 undertaken by Charles Petrie, reveals UN involvement in Sri Lanka to be a “grave failure” in preventing the mass atrocities that occurred at the end of the civil war in 2009.
In view of the prevailing political climate enveloping the helpless and traumatized
Tamils, the United Nations, UN Human Rights Council and the International Community cannot ignore and remain complacent any more but are duty bound to take urgent and appropriate steps to right the wrongs and stop the gradual extinction of Tamils through assimilation. Some of the possible steps which could be taken by the UNHRC and United Nations as follows:
1. Set up an independent international investigation into war crimes, crimes against humanity etc.
2. Initiate a United Nation’s supervised referendum in the North and East including the Diaspora Tamil migrated all over the world.
3. Consider referring Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court.
4. Enforce mandatory sanctions like economic, political and diplomatic to Sri Lanka
5. Travel Ban to war criminals and refuse visa.
6. Urge the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to initiate an ad-hoc investigation into the war crimes, crimes against humanity amounting to genocide committed by Sri Lankan Security Forces.
In addition to this the Sri Lankan Government is pursuing an anti-Tamil and hostile attitude vowing not to accept or grant the devolution of powers specified in the 13th Amendment passed due to the Indo/Sri Lanka Accord of 1987 which is an international Accord between India and Sri Lanka.
It is appropriate to note the calls and Resolutions of the UN and other human rights organizations on the question of genocide: The former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights HE Said Al- Read, in his report on Sri Lanka in September 2015, confirmed the commission of crimes amounting to genocide by stating “The investigation has laid bare and horrific level of violations and abuses that occurred in Sri Lanka, revealing violations that are among the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.” The Commissioner also alluded to “the fact of commission of genocide could well be proved after all the evidences is collected at the conclusion of the criminal investigation.”
The United Nations utterly failed to protect the civilians during the peak of the war or its own local staff. Francis Harrison in her book Still Counting the Dead – The war the United Nations Lost. [Page 29] wrote “Even the UN’s local staffs were detained in the refugee camp, which was heavily guarded. It was a deeply disturbing sight: huddled four or five rows were rugged, emaciated women and children peering through barbed wire – images reminiscent of the detention camps for Bosnian Muslims more than a decade earlier. Armed soldiers from the conquering army roamed at will through interminable rows of white UNHCR tents and tin sheds. Two UN drivers were arrested and tortured by the Sri Lankan authorities. Reports of rape and disappearances started to tickle out of the camps from few local charities allowed access. Protection workers from the UN had to struggle to get in. ‘The Government didn’t want people in there asking questions about what happened in the war and what was going on in the camps’, explained one worker. ‘It was extremely frustrating; we couldn’t do anything,’ said another UN employee, who watched the suspected combatants being separated at the checkpoint and taken away from their families”.
The failure of the United Nations to protect Tamil civilians was symptomatic of the indifference of the world as a whole.
It was worse than doing nothing as on May 25, 2009, less than a week after the end of the genocidal slaughter of Tamils, the UN Human Rights Council had a two day ‘special session’. Sri Lanka proposed a Resolution describing the conflict as a ‘domestic matter that did not warrant outside intervention’. China, India. Egypt and Cuba were among 29 developing countries that backed the Resolution and that was passed.
It is also to be noted that the judicial system, the military, and the police force are politicized in Sri Lanka, where the culture of impunity is entrenched for these heinous crimes, especially when the victims are Tamils.
It is a very sad state of affairs to note that the United Nations, UNHRC, UN Security Council and the International Criminal Court are ineffective in punishing these states that ignore the norms of the UN Conventions and UN Charter.