The ‘Declaration of Peace’ by the Government of Sri Lanka at the 67th Independence Day Celebrations held on 4th February 2015 is a notable shift in its recognition of the past and the need for healing and unity. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) made a similar recommendation, as did the United Nations Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (PoE). Recognizing the past is the first in a process needed to address past violations, provide answers regarding missing persons, initiate independent mechanisms to hold alleged perpetrators to account and end the culture of impunity.
Sripavan becomes the first Tamil to occupy the top judicial position in 24 years as Sri Lanka’s new leaders seek to mend ties with the country’s largest ethnic minority after a bloody 37-year war.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the former defense secretary, oversaw the Sri Lankan armed forces’ worst atrocities during the final stages of the civil war and, as it happens, he is a naturalized American citizen. (Indeed, he used to live in Los Angeles, where he worked as a computer systems operator at Loyola Law School.)
As a citizen, Mr. Rajapaksa can be held liable under the War Crimes Act of 1996, which puts war crimes anywhere in the world under the jurisdiction of United States courts if the perpetrator, or the victim, is a United States citizen. Put another way, the United States has a perfect justification to go after Mr. Rajapaksa individually.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis arrived in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Tuesday morning, beginning the first leg of a week-long visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Below, please find the full text and audio of the Holy Father’s remarks at the arrival ceremony at the international airport of the Sri Lankan capital.
“The most diabolical and fiendishly clever policy position that the common opposition has taken is that they will not allow our war heroes to be tried by any international war crimes tribunal, but that any allegations of war crimes will be looked into by a domestic tribunal. The common opposition candidate himself has come before the people and pledged publicly that no international war crimes tribunal will be allowed to try any war hero. However he has given a statement which was carried in The Hindu and the Indian Express to the effect that a domestic mechanism would be set up to look into allegations of war crimes. This was later confirmed by Champika Ranawaka. The people of this country have got used to the idea that what is bad is an international inquiry into war crimes. By the mere addition of the word ‘domestic’ most people would be lulled into a sense of false security on the assumption that since such an inquiry will be conducted by ‘our people’ the war heroes will not face any problems.”
“On 4th August, I was at the Centre for Society & Religion (CSR), along with some other human rights defenders, lawyers, clergy and diplomats. CSR is located in the premises of a Catholic church in the heart of Colombo. We had gathered for a “listening and sharing” meeting with some families of Tamil disappeared persons. It was a small, invitation only, private gathering. Just when some families had started to share their pains and struggles, a mob including some Buddhist Monks broke into CSR and tried to enter the meeting room where we were having the meeting. Some of us from Colombo tried to stop the mob from getting inside the meeting room and pleaded with them to leave. I saw the families of disappeared – children – men – women, had left the chairs and were sitting on the ground, cowering in fear, with some crying and some clinging on to diplomats and Catholic sisters who were present. The Police rejected our appeals to provide protection to the meeting and families of disappeared persons and disperse the invaders.”
The International Centre for Ethnic Studies is pleased to announce the launch of Working Paper No: 13 on the theme of Post War Reconciliation titled,Competing for Victimhood Status: Northern Muslims and the Ironies of Post-War Reconciliation, Justice and evelopment by Farzana Haniffa.
The northern Muslims together with all protracted IDPs displaced prior to 2008 became a low priority case load for return and resettlement assistance in the aftermath of the ‘end’ of the war in Sri Lanka in 2009. Framed in terms of an ethics of ‘greatest need’ connected only to funding availability, all Old IDPs lost out in the resettlement process. This paper attempts to decentre this idea of economic limits and humanitarian need by discussing the manner in which such ideas of ‘greatest need’ actually emerge from discourses about victimhood that are part of an ethical humanitarian project to which local politics are irrelevant. This paper will show, however that these initiatives consistently intersect with local power hierarchies and local ideas of legitimacy and belonging. Therefore this paper will look at the manner in which the war related victim discourse of International Humanitarianism, helped to exacerbate northern Muslims own marginality and continued exclusion from the north. Looking also at the manner in which victimhood narratives are mobilizsed in Sri Lanka by electoral politics, and displaced IDP activists themselves, this paper will speculate about the efficacy of the victim identity for political and social transformation during this time of transition in Sri Lanka.
This paper can be downloaded via this link
Scribd PDF (Facebook required for download)
Statements by families were emotional with several breaking down before the COI. During their submissions, they were reliving, yet again, the trauma of losing a loved one and the few minutes provided to them hardly do justice to what they have endeavoured. In addition, the questions posed to the families so far lack empathy in the context of deep trauma. Furthermore, statements made by some of the commissioners to the families insinuate the disappeared and/or the families themselves were at fault. This raises the question whether the COI and the Government’s version of truth telling is more damaging than helpful to the families with little evidence to show there is genuine concern to hear grievances of affected communities. And it raises the larger question whether the official narrative has already taken shape with no space for any other.
“Here I highlight the various laws that might assist the Justice Department and other agencies in prosecuting US citizen, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In another post back in May, I described some of the evidence in the public record about his alleged involvement in mass war crimes—for which the US government is interested in seeking accountability.”
The head of Sri Lanka’s bar association said on Wednesday he feared he might be killed after he described President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government as becoming more autocratic.
One year ago to date, we said “Lest we forget, the Sri Lankan police, who act under the orders and protection of the Ministry of Defence, are far from doyens of impartiality” when they violently broke up a peaceful vigil in Colombo. (http://groundviews.org/2013/04/13/police-in-sri-lanka-show-their-true-saffron-colours/)
Does anyone really believe in the Rule of Law and the impartiality of the Police in Sri Lanka anymore?
CPA’s Executive Director Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu on the draft resolution on Sri Lanka tabled at the UN HRC’s 25th session, and its implications for the country.
“This resolution as attested to by the draft also does point to continuing violations for example with regards to religious freedom, the impeachment of the chief justice, the continuing culture of impunity, land grabs, the lack of witness and victim protection, continuing disappearances, self-censorship in themedia, lack of right to information, legislation and host of other continuing violations. Perhaps the most controversial and the key part of the resolution with regard to the issue as to whether there should be a call for independent international commission of inquiry into allegations of war crimes…”
Listen to the short audio interview here –https://soundcloud.com/cpasrilanka/dr-paikiasothy-saravanamuttu-2
“Language in the draft resolution now before the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for an investigation into past and ongoing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka lacks teeth say critics. A resolution that establishes a weak investigating body will only render ineffectual what the international community says it is working for – strengthening human rights to promote reconciliation in a country recovering from war.”
6 March 2014, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has closely monitored previous Commissions of Inquiry (CoI) appointed by the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and recommended policy alternatives in the search for truth, justice and accountability. While CPA acknowledges the need to have credible domestic processes, the present framework does not provide for an independent inquiry. As such, CPA at the outset calls for legislative reform to amend the present Commission of Inquiry Act to ensure that future CoIs are independent and free from the interference of the Government and its agents. CPA also calls for the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and for domestic legislation to be brought in line with international standards.
The present document consists of two sections. Section “A” briefly examines the shortcomings of the CoI mechanism in general in the context of the existing legal and constitutional framework. This section draws on the substantial body of work previously done by CPA in relation to CoIs in the past.
In this document CPA has broadly highlighted the underlying shortcomings of the CoI mechanism in Sri Lanka, calling into question its legitimacy and independence, as control over appointments, formulation of mandates and functions are all powers deeply embedded within the Executive. CPA believes that there needs to be societal and victims’ consultation throughout the CoI process in order for it to be an inclusive one that assures confidence in the system. Furthermore, all CoI reports should be made available to the public, thereby complementing the process with transparency.
Section “B” examines the latest commission appointed on disappearances. Several concerns are raised and recommendations are made to address these concerns. The concerns and recommendations highlighted are made in the spirit of constructive engagement. CPA urges the Commission to consider these recommendations when designing its future work plan and their specific inclusion in the interim report to be handed over to the President.
CPA’s specific examination of the ongoing work of this CoI, leads us to the conclusion that on the basis of its formulation and current operation, the Commission is incapable of carrying out a comprehensive, independent and transparent inquiry.
The issue of missing persons and the connected social and psychological challenges confronting families of missing persons pose serious challenges to reconciliation in a post war setting. It is hoped that the Commission will continue its functions mindful of these challenges. Similar initiatives in the past have failed to ensure victims’ right to truth and justice. The present Commission, beset by structural flaws and the specific concerns regarding its functioning, does not inspire confidence that it will prove to be any different. CPA urges therefore that the Commission takes onboard the proposed recommendations to provide victims and affected communities with much needed redress and to make the call for much needed reform in the search for truth, justice and accountability in Sri Lanka.
source: Centre for Policy Alternatives
As Western notions of international norms on issues such as human rights continue to be challenged, the Sri Lanka example is a case in point. The real test for the country will be when a groundswell of domestic opinion grows to demand justice and accountability, not only for what happened to Tamils in 2009 but for the treatment of ordinary citizens in the slow and painful tarnishing of Sri Lanka’s democracy.