Dying, deceptive good governance & the frustration of Tamils in Sri Lanka
by Thambu Kanagasabai, LLM [Lond.], Former Lecturer in Law, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, June 21, 2018
The Tamils in Sri Lanka are being pushed back to square one yet again by the present government of good governance.
The Tamil National Alliance openly called on the Tamil voters to vote for this government who decided however to vote against the Mahinda family as a token of vengeance for the wholesale massacres and destruction of their lives and properties during the genocidal war. The Tamil National Alliance genuinely believed and trusted the innocent smiling Maithiri and elusive Ranil who are playing the game of chess in politics. India and USA wanted to get rid of Mahinda, who was becoming closer and closer to China.
The war was won with the assistance of twenty two countries and Mahinda conducted the war under the label “war against terrorism” coined after 9-11. Terrorism is a word of convenience used to suit the occasions calculated on the basis of geo-politics and strategic considerations.
In this process, Tamils and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam were good enough to achieve their desired goals. After all “the end justifies the means.”
Now the Tamils, who are the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, etc, as exposed by the UN’s Panel Report of 2014, UN High Commissioner’s and UN Rapporteur’s Reports having lost 146,679 innocents during the war, are still searching for more than 20,000 missing and or disappeared while in the hands of security forces with no hope as the present government has requested their relatives to forget about them as they are dead and gone; and not to ask questions like “when, how, where, or by whom.”
Carrying these bundles of unanswered painful questions, and unsolved issues the Tamils hoped that the present government will genuinely exhibit political will and determination to offer a dignified, just and permanent political settlement and activate the process of reconciliation along with justice. However reconciliation must go hand in hand with accountability. Now with accountability hanging in balance, a decent political settlement is also looking distant.
After more than one year of “good governance” the record of this government is sadly dismaying and does not hold much hope for the Tamils to expect an acceptable political settlement. The present government is also just following the footsteps and precedents of all the previous governments dishing bits and pieces of acts of reconciliation. There is no dearth for promises and there is only dearth of actions on promises. The following actions speak for themselves:-
1. The promise to release the Tamil political prisoners has disappeared and now they have become criminal prisoners, destined to remain in jail under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Act.
2. Another promise given to the International community is the repeal of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979.This act flouts all norms of justice like indiscriminate arrests, search at any time and place, arrest and detention up to 18 months, and prolonging the detention to an indefinite period with involuntary confessions admissible as evidence for conviction. The burden lies on the suspect to disprove the nature and contents of confession, the courts being denied of the right of challenge and review of the arrest and detention. The suspect can be kept in undisclosed detention centers unknown to the relatives. The promise to replace it with another act is yet to be fulfilled, and it appears that the new act could make some cosmic changes of mitigation leaving the core provisions intact, and possibly incorporating harsher provisions.
3. The continuing sluggish judicial process in cases involving security personnel and politicians offers no hope for justice eg. Trincomalee massacre of five students, massacre of seventeen French INGO Action Against Hunger (known internationally as Action Contre la Faim, or ACF) thirty media workers and journalists have been killed since 2005 with no arrests so far, with cases remaining unsolved.
4. The promise of Maithiri to release the civilian owned lands in the north and east and to resettle the replaced within six months still remains a promise. Only about 700 acres have been released with about 4,700 acres still in the hands of the security forces in the north, with some moves to grab more lands stalled due to public protests. In the east, 7000 acres are in the hands of the security forces.
5. The promise to remove the Army in the north is as good as dead. On the contrary, the Army is strengthening their presence to remain as permanent residents, having their hands in civil administration and engaging in surveillance of local population instilling fear and insecurity among the civilian, and they are also engaged in commercial activities like running hotels, guest houses and including farming activities. [The army consists of 99% Sinhalese speaking Buddhists whereas the population in the north is Hindu/Christian Tamils and few Tamil speaking Muslims].
6. Sri Lanka has simply discarded the Recommendations detailed in its co-sponsored resolution passed on October 01, 2015 in the UN Human Rights Council. Sri Lanka knows pretty well as to how to convince the UN as to its failure or delay to implement the same. Dying along with these proposals is the much expected LLRC Recommendations.
7. The hope that the proposed new constitution will include and guarantee proposals to solve the Tamils’ problems has evaporated as one of the preambles’ objectives, namely “to solve the national ethnic question and issues” has been deleted to accommodate Sinhalese extremists who protested it as irrelevant, being a non-issue.
8. The inordinate delay in filing charges against past politicians for corruption, misuse of power and instead some of them are being appointed to positions of power in Party and Offices. Reluctance and dilly-dallying to haul up the alleged past ruling family members who are accused of corruption.
9. So far no specific proposals have been placed to meet the ethnic issues. Only the outright rejection of a Federal System is declared by the President and also by the Maha Sanga and the Buddhist Clergy while a subtle campaign is underway to kill any settlement proposals.
10. Continuing violent acts against the Tamil detainees including rape and torture of women and men as disclosed to Human rights Agencies by the victims who were interviewed by the UN Commissioners who visited Sri Lanka recently and confirmed the torture etc of Tamil prisoners.
11. The irony in Sri Lanka’s politics is that those who agitate for political and human rights and justice are branded as communalists, breeding hatred and communalism in the south, while those who perpetrated the injustice and destroyed the lives of Tamils are patriotic nation builders. The bogey of Tigers is now propped up to stall any settlement proposals and to sustain the communal grip. Federalism has now been given a new definition and meaning by the south politicians equating with ‘secession’ or ‘separation’ discarding the true definition of “a system of government in which power is divided between Government and several regions.”
Sri Lankan Government has also rejected all or any investigation into the alleged war crimes etc. committed by Security Forces, and even no moves have been initiated to set up an Internal Judicial Mechanism as promised.
As usual some politicians in the south put the entire blame on the Tamil politicians for the rise and growth of communalism while playing the ostrich game, hiding the initial anti-Tamil legislations, Buddhsisasition Sinhalization promoted by the past communal politicians like. late K.M.P. Rajaratna, Mettananda, Cyril Mathew and many others who spearheaded and natured the hate campaign which is now followed by groups like Bodu Bala Sena, Ravana Balaya, Patriotic National Movement, Pivithuru Urumaya and Sinhala Ravaya.From 1948 onwards Tamil political leaders offered their co-operation and trusted the Sinhala Governments at various periods, and the net result was betrayals and breaches of trust. Once bitten and twice shy and enough is enough. “As for the Tamils the 13th Amendment will remain, as the solution without any improvements.”The Tamil National Alliance on their part extended their goodwill and gestures of co-operation and the signs are “history is repeating” and it is high time the Tamil National Alliance assess the realities and embark on peaceful agitations while mounting pressure on the International Community and United Nations to come to terms with Sri Lanka on the plight of Tamils and to prevent them from being discarded as curry leaves.
If the western countries place their priority to prop up and protect their friendly Government, abandoning the Tamils, Sri Lanka will continue to remain as a hot bed for militancy and uneasy peace, shaking the stability of the region.
If the present coalition Government which is enjoying the warm friendship and goodwill of western countries, Tamil National Alliance and Tamils, fails to deliver the denied and delayed justice and equal rights along with a dignified permanent political settlement, the prophecy of the Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister Honourable C. Wigneswaran as to the probability of a “REINCARNATION OF PRABAHARAN’ could sooner or later become an unavoidable reality.
The Financial Times – London of May 15, 2009 in its editorial confirmed the same opinion as follows: “The Tamils’ cause will ignite from embers of this war unless the Sinhalese show magnanimity and gives the Tamils control of their own lives.”
In conclusion, it is apt to state that accountability in Sri Lanka is enforced only by promoting Security Officers who commit or committed crimes against Tamils. This appears to be the eligibility to qualify for promotions as confirmed in the recent promotions of Brigadier Gunawardene as Director of Infantry who served in the 58th Division of the Army which is under United Nations investigation for war crimes committed during the final stages of the war in 2009, and the promotion of Major General Kepitiwalanna while he is the prime suspect of the abduction of 24 Tamil youths in Kaithady in 1996. He is also a suspect in the killing of Sunday Leader Editor/Journalist Lasantha Wickrematunga. It is to be noted that both alleged accused have been released on bail.
History will repeat itself if lessons of history are not learnt.
“BETTER LATE THAN NEVER.”