by Shihar Aneez, EconomyNext, June 2, 2023
A new draft on Sri Lanka’s Truth Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has failed to meet minimum expectations in addressing the concerns of ethnic minority Tamils who have lost their loved ones in what they allege as forced disappeared, in the final stage of the war, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) legislator M A Sumanthiran said.
Thousands of people, mostly Tamils in Sri Lanka’s north and east, went missing during the civil war, which Tamils refer as “enforced disappearances”, citing that their relatives surrendered to the state military on the request of the government.
Most of the relatives of the disappeared people have been demanding for justice since the end of the war, but the government has failed to take any action on the disappeared people in the last 14 years since the end of the war. Tamils living in Western nations have pushed the United Nations Human Rights Council through their respective governments to address the enforced disappearance through a resolution.
Though Sri Lanka has opposed external intervention into the probe of alleged war crimes, it has been seriously considering a South African model Truth Reconciliation Commission (TRC) since 2016. Both Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe and Foreign Minister Ali Sabry recently visited South Africa to emulate the model.
“On the ground, nothing is happening,” Sumanthiran, 59-year old legislator from Sri Lanka’s northern Jaffna district told EconomyNext in an interview on Friday.
“They (government) are trying to bring in some laws, but then again they are not trying to consult anybody. They came up with a draft on TRC and asked me to comment. But there was nothing to comment. One doesn’t know why it is there. There is nothing about accountability or amnesty.”
President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government wants to introduce a National Unity and Reconciliation Commission of Sri Lanka Act as part of its initiatives towards ethnic reconciliation.
Sumanthiran said the thousands of relatives have already given evidence and faced questions in at least 15 commissions to seek the truth on what happened to their relatives.
The government of former president Maithripala Sirisena created Office of Missing Person (OMP), Office for Reparations, and Office for National Unity and Reconciliation among many to address the alleged past human rights violations.
“The OMP has been conducting investigations. But also there is no movement forward. That also asking the same questions again and again,” the lawyer-turned-politician said.
“Same people who appeared before Paranagama Commission, are asked to appear again and again,” he said referring to a Commission that investigated complaints of abductions and disappearances; and to investigate and inquire into alleged serious violations of human rights respectively during the armed conflict.
The last UN resolution against Sri Lanka was passed last year giving the economic crisis-hit South Asian nation some more time to address lack of accountability for past violations and many unresolved cases of enforced disappearances among many (Colombo/June 2/2023)