Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera est décédé à Singapour des suites d’une intervention chirurgicale. Né en 1942, ce moine bouddhiste influent, supérieur du monastère de Kotte, s’était imposé sur la scène politique de Sri Lanka dans les années 1980-1990 en défendant avec virulence la cause nationaliste cingalaise contre le mouvement séparatiste tamoul. Après la défaite des LTTE en 2009, il avait pris ses distances vis à vis de la politique triomphaliste menée par le Président Mahinda Rajapaksa, puis avait mené campagne contre la corruption du régime, fédérant les mécontentements au point d’envisager de se présenter aux élections présidentielles. Il avait finalement soutenu la candidature de Maithripala Sirisena, contribuant à son succès, et avait infléchi ses positions dans le sens d’une ouverture aux revendications des minorités et d’un dialogue interreligieux constructif. Sa disparition prive le nouveau régime d’un important appui symbolique.
Dans un important discours prononcé à l’occasion de la commémoration du 25ème anniversaire de l’expulsion des Musulmans de la province Nord par les LTTE (Tigres de Libération du Tamil Eelam), le Ministre des Affaires Etrangères de Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraweera, analyse les causes profondes des conflits intercommunautaires qui ont déchiré le pays, et pose les bases d’un processus endogène de réconciliation nationale.
» I would like to thank the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress for organizing this commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Expulsion of Muslims from the North. At this historic juncture, when Sri Lanka is grappling with its past and creating a constitutional framework for true peace, this tragic episode in our history, and the anguish that persists to this day, needs to be remembered and addressed.
I would like to particularly thank Minister Rauff Hakeem for his vision and leadership in organizing this event – it is a privilege to be invited here to speak a few words. The SLMC has a long and chequered history of advocating on behalf their community’s rights. Both the late Mr. Ashraff and Minister Hakeem have boldly voiced the grievances and concerns of the Muslim community in Cabinet, in Parliament, in the press and in their travels abroad. The SLMC’s fact-finding and reporting efforts during the Aluthgama Pogrom and surrounding attacks were particularly bold.
The history and suffering of Sri Lanka’s Northern Muslims is a microcosm of our post-Independence history. In October 1990 the LTTE gave 75,000 Muslims under forty-eight hours to leave their ancestral homes across the North and take nothing more than their clothes and 500 rupees to live in IDP camps – where an estimated 80 percent remain 25 years later.
They had peacefully lived, farmed and traded with their Tamil brethren for centuries. In fact, some Muslims initially helped the LTTE and many more were sympathetic to their cause. The bonds between the communities were close. Therefore, the LTTE’s sudden order came as a surprise to many. It was a crime that shocked the conscience of the entire country.
The LTTE’s justification echoed the age-old line of majorities towards minorities: they, the majority, had been lenient, generous and considerate, while the minorities have been treacherous and ungrateful. In this case, the Tigers alleged that the Muslims’ specific crime was colluding with the state and the Indian Peacekeeping Forces.
But underlying the arguments about Muslims being a fifth column and a security threat to the LTTE was something more pernicious. It was a belief that the power of numerical majority was a justification for violating the rights of individuals and minority groups.
The North of Sri Lanka was as much home for its Muslim population as it was for its Tamil population. Both communities had as much claim as the other to live there and these claims were not contested. The two communities had lived together for centuries in peace.
But the LTTE believed that the Tamil population’s numerical majority gave it the right to expel the entire Muslim population. It was not just the LTTE, few Tamils criticized the LTTE while many justified their actions; even today Muslims returning to their homes face majoritarian resistance from Tamil bureaucrats.
The story is of course many-sided. Numerous Tamils weeped when their Muslim neighbors left, hiding valuables on their behalf and helping them in what little way they could. But as a whole, the majority community, failed to stand in solidarity and protect the rights of the minority community in their midst.
The expulsion occurred because the LTTE was unable to accept a society based on equality and freedom; they were unable to accept that North was multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious. They were unable to celebrate diversity. They were even unable to have the basic decency to give the community they exiled a few extra days or weeks to leave and to take their heirlooms and title deeds with them.
The racism and majoritarianism undergirding the LTTE’s expulsion of Muslims from the North is not something isolated to the Tamil community. It prevails to this day among all communities in our society. Just as the LTTE was unable to accept a multi-ethnic North, extremists in the South are unable to celebrate our country’s diversity – much the less accept that Tamils, Muslims, Burghers and Malays are as much a part of Sri Lanka as the Sinhalese.
Especially since the end of the war, which should have ushered introspection, magnanimity and healing, majoritarianism in the South raised its ugly head. The government indulged in an orgy of triumphalism based on equating Sri Lanka’s identity with the Sinhala-Buddhist community, and relegated the minority communities to the place of unwanted guests.
They ignored the grievances of those in the North and the South and trampled on their rights. The Aluthgama Pogrom and the hundreds of smaller attacks surrounding it were a clear signal to minorities that they were not only second-class citizens but that the state had abdicated from discharging its basic responsibilities towards them, including safeguarding their person and property.
In fact, it is this scourge of majoritarianism that is at the very centre of our post-Independence failure to build a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka that is united and undivided both on the map and in its citizens’ hearts and minds. Each and every ethnic, religious, class and caste group discriminates and oppresses in areas where they form a majority whether it be in the North, South, East or West.
At this critical moment in Sri Lanka’s history the lessons of the expulsion have much to teach us. Since Independence we have failed to establish a society where all citizens feel equal and free and, as a result, instead of peace, conflict has prevailed.
The end of the war presented a historic opportunity for all our communities and leaders to demonstrate true leadership by breaking away from the past and beginning the task of building a truly united Sri Lanka. Just as Muslims and Tamils lived together as brothers and sisters in the North for centuries; prior to Independence in 1948, Sri Lanka had many centuries of ethnic amity and peace.
Of course, there were disturbances, like the 1915 riots, but they were isolated and rare. Even before the colonial era, Sri Lanka enjoyed a highly syncretic culture – there is evidence that Buddhism was widely practiced by the Tamils of Jaffna, Tamil was spoken by the kings of Kandy and there are some indications that the language of court was Tamil; Muslims generally speak both Sinhalese and Tamil and thus it could be argued that they are the most Sri Lankan of all the ethnic groups. They were also functionaries at the Dalada Maligawa and participated in the Kandy Esala Perahera. The religious and cultural practices of Sri Lanka’s many communities indicate a high degree of tolerance and borrowing.
We need to understand why that amity broke down, and why it broke down to the extent that war and violence followed.
The challenge for us today is to learn from our past failures, remedy mistakes and move forward. This is a rare opportunity we cannot miss. Speaking in Parliament last Friday I said, “Sri Lanka has yet another window of opportunity to come to terms with its past and move on. Extremists in the North and in the South have been defeated in the recent elections, two of the most liberal minded leaders since independence are leading the country and the two main parties, for the first time in history, have formed a national unity government. This is a moment we cannot afford to lose.”
But it will not be an easy or a pleasant process: we will have to look critically at our own faults and strive hard to hear the voices of others. It will require courage and commitment. But I am confident it can be done.
The TNA recently announced that it would be leading its own community in a process of introspection. The SLMC, welcoming this statement, indicated that it would do so as well. The National Government comprising of both the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party have committed themselves to guiding the entire country in this difficult process of dealing with the past.
As for the Government of Sri Lanka – as you are aware- we are now beginning to lay the foundations for peace and reconciliation through truth-seeking, accountability, reparations and non-recurrence. Already the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation, the Ministry of Resettlement and other government agencies are taking steps to assist in this process, and just yesterday I met with civil society, including representatives of the Muslim community, to discuss the consultations process necessary to design the mechanisms to implement this process.
Muslims will be an integral part of the truth, justice, reparations and non-recurrence process.
Muslims’ grievances and concerns will be a part of the consultations, design and operationalization of the domestic mechanisms; including the Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence, the Judicial Mechanism, the Office of Missing Persons and the Office of Reparations. Together with the Ministries and government agencies, these mechanisms, will provide much needed relief to the daily struggle of the thousands of Muslims who remain in IDP camps, are struggling to return to their homes or are dealing with the losses of loved ones.
These mechanisms will not only address the suffering and grievances of members of the Muslim community, they will also address the grievances and concerns of members of the Sinhala and Tamil communities and the concerns of other minority groups.
At this historic moment, let us not be afraid to engage in meaningful dialogue aimed at finding solutions to problems as opposed to pointing fingers, heaping blame and scoring political points at the expense of future generations. Let us design, define and create our future by our hopes and aspirations, and not be held back by the fears and prejudices of the past. Let us not be afraid to dream. »
Le Conseil des Droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies réuni en session à Genève en septembre 2015 a adopté une résolution concernant la situation passée et présente de Sri Lanka sur la base du rapport détaillé fourni par le Haut Commissaire des Droits de l’Homme. Nos lecteurs peuvent prendre connaissance de ces deux textes dans leur version anglaise; une analyse détaillée en sera faite ultérieurement
Les résultats de l’élection législative du 17 août 2015 confirment ceux de l’élection présidentielle de janvier 2015. Les candidats de l’United National Party (UNP, élargi sous le nom d’United National Front for Good Governance, UNFGG, à des membres de la société civile, à des dissidents du Sri Lanka Freedom Party et à une fraction du Jathika Hela Urumaya) remportent la majorité des sièges dans 11 districts sur 22, les plus urbanisés, les plus jeunes et les plus mêlés ethniquement, obtenant au total 93 sièges; cette coalition regroupe l’essentiel des forces qui avaient soutenu la candidature à la Présidence de Maithripala Sirisena, et avaient gouverné le pays depuis janvier sous la direction du leader de l’UNP, Ranil Wickremasinghe, sans avoir la majorité au Parlement. L’United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA, dont la grande majorité des candidats appartiennent au Sri Lanka Freedom Party) conserve la majorité dans 8 districts cingalais du sud et du nord-ouest principalement ruraux, mais avec un score très inférieur à celui de 2010, et remporte 83 sièges; l’ancien président Mahinda Rajapaksa, battu en janvier, avait tenté de jouer sur la peur d’une résurgence du militantisme tamoul ; il comptait s’appuyer sur les candidats de ce parti qu’il avait sélectionnés en forçant la main de son successeur Maithripala Sirisena (théoriquement leader de ce même parti), afin de contraindre ce dernier à le nommer Premier Ministre au cas où l’UPFA l’aurait emporté. La Tamil National Alliance (TNA) remporte les élections dans les trois districts à majorité tamoule du nord et de l’est, avec 14 sièges. Le Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) n’obtient que 4 sièges, et les deux derniers sièges reviennent à un parti tamoul aligné sur l’UPFA (l’EPDP) et à un parti musulman, le Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC).
Le système électoral complexe combine l’élection à la proportionnelle dans le cadre de 22 districts électoraux de 196 députés sur des listes établies par chaque parti mais où les électeurs peuvent exprimer un vote préférentiel permettant d’établir un ordre de classement et donc d’éliminer ou de favoriser tel ou tel candidat de la liste. En outre, 29 députés sont désignés sur une liste nationale en proportion des voix obtenues à l’échelle nationale par chacun des partis dans l’ensemble du pays: l’UNFGG gagne 13 sièges nationaux, l’UPFA 12, le JVP et la TNA 2 chacun. Pour constituer un cabinet sûr d’une majorité stable au Parlement, Ranil Wickremasinghe pouvait obtenir l’appui ou la neutralité de la TNA et du SLMC, mais le projet qu’il avait élaboré avec le Président Sirisena de former un gouvernement d’union nationale impliquait d’y associer l’UPFA. Les semaines qui ont suivi les élections législatives ont donc été consacrées à des tractations compliquées entre les deux partis, qui ont abouti à l’isolement de la faction Rajapaksa au sein de l’UPFA, mais qui risquent de donner des gages à des politiciens opportunistes, contrairement à l’esprit du printemps sri lankais.
Ces élections confirment la maturité démocratique du corps électoral sri lankais. Le taux de participation moyen est de l’ordre de 75%, un peu inférieur à celui des présidentielles, mais bien supérieur à celui de beaucoup de démocraties occidentales: les seuls districts ayant un taux inférieur à 70% sont ceux de Jaffna (55%), d’où beaucoup d’électeurs potentiels ont émigré, et de Hambantota (64%), le district d’origine de Mahinda Rajapaksa, qui l’avait déserté pour se présenter à Kurunegala et laisser sa place à son fils, son frère et sa nièce… Ce sont les élections les plus pacifiques et les plus régulières dans ce pays depuis le début des années 1960. Après le cycle de violence amorcé dans les années 1970 avec les révoltes du JVP cingalais et leur répression en 1971 et 1989, après la montée en puissance des Tigres de l’Eelam Tamoul, la guerre de près de trente ans qui en est résulté, et leur écrasement sanglant par l’armée gouvernementale en 2009, et après la dérive démagogique et les atteintes aux droits de l’homme sous les deux présidences successives de Mahinda Rajapaksa (2005-2015), la démocratie est à présent raffermie dans un pays dont la jeunesse a décidé de tourner la page et de dépasser les années d’épreuves et de mauvaise gouvernance qui avaient fait de Sri Lanka l’homme malade de l’Asie du Sud. Le printemps sri lankais a porté ses fruits. Il restera de lourdes tâches au gouvernement, celles de consolider la démocratisation des institutions et des pratiques politiques, et de mettre en place les outils d’une véritable réconciliation nationale entre la majorité cingalaise bouddhiste et les minorités linguistiques et religieuses. A cet égard, le ralliement de membres influents du clergé bouddhiste à des positions ouvertes est un signe encourageant. Il fait écho à l’appel de plusieurs organisations de Tamouls de la diaspora à rentrer au pays et à jouer le jeu démocratique. Jamais depuis un demi siècle les conditions n’ont été aussi favorables à une solution pacifique des problèmes du pays.
Note: On trouvera sur le site adaderana.lk les résultats complets accompagnés d’une infographie de bonne qualité.
« The ACTC/TNPF is strongly backed and heavily influenced by LTTE and Pro-LTTE elements in the Global Tamil Diaspora.These tiger and pro-tiger elements are strongly opposed to the TNA and its current political approach of working towards an acceptable political settlement within a united but not necessarily unitary Sri Lanka. The overall objective of these elements is two – fold. Revive the LTTE in some form and engage in violence in Sri Lanka. Undermine the political process and disrupt all positive political engagement between Tamil representatives and the Governments in power in Colombo. »
“It is very difficult to keep Rajapaksa out, I would think,” said Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, who runs an election monitoring group and a policy research organization in Sri Lanka. On the other hand, he noted, every recent poll shows Mr. Rajapaksa trailing, and there is “no demonstrable evidence of any kind of swing or shift to him.”
‘Minority votes are likely to go in favor of Sirisena’s supporters, while one recent CPA opinion poll showed that although Rajapaksa retained the backing of many Sinhalese Buddhists, with 36% favoring him as the next Prime Minister, a significant section of the majority community also supported his chief rival and Sirisena’s ally, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was backed by nearly 32%.’
« The Ocean seafood restaurant at Colombo’s five-star The Kingsbury was once famous for its magnificent view of the Indian Ocean. Its open-air wooden terrace that runs along the hotel’s western façade used to be so close to the beautiful coastline that waves lapped the rocks, sending sprays of sea foam into the air. Not anymore »
Sivanathan Navindra was once known as Venthan, a former bodyguard of the slain Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the world’s deadliest terrorist organisation at the time, the Tamil Tigers.
When Sri Lanka goes to the polls on Aug 17, Mr Sivanathan will be a candidate, hoping to be elected as a member of parliament.
Sri Lankan security forces have continued to torture Tamil detainees even after the election of reformist president Maithripala Sirisena in January, according to a report.
The report, by the UK-based charity Freedom From Torture (FFT) and published on Thursday, comes just four days before critical parliamentary elections on 17 August. Sirisena, elected on a promise to lift government repression, is seeking to prevent a comeback by his predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa, whose government has been accused of systematic brutality against the country’s Tamils after the military rout of the Tamil Tiger rebels in 2009.
Sri Lanka’s government has been reaching out to the country’s influential Tamil diaspora with the aim of building minority support and boosting its international standing. But the contentious strategy holds risks for the government’s survival ahead of parliamentary elections next week.
Since Sri Lanka’s three-decade civil war ended in 2009, Nagarathnam Ganeshan has faced a major new uncertainty: how much water he will have to grow his crops.
« A half year after Maithripala Sirisena’s stunning defeat of President Mahinda Rajapaksa raised hopes for democratic renaissance, the complexities of partisan politics, and Rajapaksa himself, have returned to centre stage. Sirisena’s initial months with a minority government led by the United National Party (UNP) have opened important political space: robust debate and criticism have replaced the fear under Rajapaksa, and important governance reforms have been made, but much remains undone. By initial steps on reconciliation, the government set a more accommodating tone on the legacy of the civil war and the ethnic conflict that drove it. But divisions within government and Sirisena’s failure to take control of his Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) prevented deeper reform and allowed Rajapaksa and his supporters to mount a comeback. With Sirisena opposing Rajapaksa’s return, the 17 August parliamentary elections will test the continued appeal of the ex-president’s hardline Sinhala nationalism and give a chance for the fresh start that lasting solutions to the country’s social divisions require. »
‘The Cake that was Baked at Home’ attempts to unveil lesser known aspects Kadirgamar’s life. Told through Ajita’s memories, stories and recollections by those who knew him, extracts of published media and tributes composed specifically for the book, she endeavours to shed light on facets of a brilliant and complex man. Kadirgamar spent the last ten years of his life in the harsh and sometimes unforgiving public spotlight, adored by some, declared a traitor by others, all the while knowing he was constantly being targeted by the LTTE.
The 440 page book is also the author’s personal journey of healing and discovery where she poses the question, ‘Do we ever really know a person, even one’s own parent?’ Ajita admits in the concluding chapter, ‘People will certainly ask what kind of a daughter I am, that I can be so critical and judgmental about this much loved and respected man. They will see me as tarnishing a hero’s image. Well, I’m the kind of daughter who tells it like it is, and more so with advancing age. The fact remains that his greatness came at a price. We paid the price. We paid the price for his single minded ambition, drive and brilliance that led him to the highest echelons of public office. We stood in the wings helplessly as, first a woman and then a whole nation hijacked him as their own.’