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Statement by Father Elil Rajendram

Thursday, May 28, 2015

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Since  the  end  of  war  in  2009  the  government  of  Sri  Lanka  has  celebrated  May  18th  as  the ‘victory day’ to remember the Sri Lankan soldiers who died in the war. This year the victory parade was moved from the capital to a southern town, but the parade was still organised as a War Heroes Remembrance Day, which excludes the civilians killed in the course of the conflict. The civilians are mostly Tamils, who faced a grotesque massacre towards the end of the war at Mullivaikal in May 2009, where they were trapped and killed by the thousands. At least two commemorations that I know of in the North planned for Mullivaikal were banned and people were threatened not to attend the event I organised.   

The recent appointment of Major General Jagath Dias to the post of Chief of Staff of the Sri Lankan Army is a blow to justice. There is considerable evidence pointing to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the war in 2008-­2009, in which Major General Dias is accused of playing a major role.  His promotion comes as a blow just as the new government  is talking of establishing  a domestic  accountability mechanism to investigate the crimes committed during the war.  

The  Government’s   partiality   towards  the  armed  forces  was  made  further   clearer  by President Srisena’s order granting the title of Field Marshal to General Sarath Fonseka. In bestowing  this  title,  the  President  asserted  recognition  for “outstanding  gallantry, meritorious performance and distinguished service to the nation during the humanitarian operation and the defeat of terrorism in Sri Lanka in May 2009.” The characterization of the last  phase  of  war  as  a humanitarian  operation  does  not  bode  well  with  the  President’s promise of a credible inquiry.  

When the GoSL was granted  a deferral  of the report of the OHCHR  investigation  into Sri Lanka, it promised  to set up a credible  domestic  mechanism  to investigate  the truth and carry out justice. But so far there has been no proposal to discuss in the public domain. The UN has asked the government  to consult the victims  in designing  the mechanism,  but to date that has not happened.  

President  Sirisena  in  his  speech  on  ‘War  Heroes  Remembrance  Day  promised  that  the country  will take forward  development  and reconciliation  together  with investigating  the truth. But militarisation of Tamil areas remains unchanged after the change of regime.  

In addition there is no political will regarding a political solution for Tamils. Mr. Srisena in his May 18th speech called on everyone to defend the unitary status of Sri Lanka, which is constructed  around  the  notion  of  a  Sinhala-­‐Buddhist  Nation  state.  Unless  the  unitary character   is  abandoned,   Tamils   will   not  feel  secure   in  the  island.   This   requires   an internationally mediated process towards finding a sustainable and just political solution.   



Father  Elil Rajendram,  Co-­Spokesperson  of the Tamil  Civil Society  Forum,  is the country  director  of Jesuit Refugee Service for Sri Lanka. He can reached at <[email protected]>; +94771446663.