Harim Peiris

Political and Reconciliation perspectives from Sri Lanka

  • June 2011
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International squeeze tightens as domestic policy hardens

Posted by harimpeiris on June 23, 2011

1. Legal proceedings in the United States
The problem with a dead body, in the event of a violent death is that it is irrefutable evidence that a crime has been committed. Accordingly the presence of the bodies of five young Tamil school boys on a beach in Trincomalee with bullets in their brains, as well as the bodies of seventeen aid workers shot execution style within the grounds of their own office premises at Muttur is irrefutable evidence that unnatural violent death and hence crimes had occurred. Unfortunately Sri Lanka’s domestic mechanism’s namely, the Presidential Commission on Grave Human Rights Abuses, with IIGEP monitoring, as well as judicial proceedings have neither established the facts nor punished the culprits. Accordingly the next of kin of one of the boys shot dead in Trincomalee as well as of one of the deceased in Muttur have filed action in the US Courts, under universal jurisdiction against President Mahinda Rajapakse. While the President is immune from prosecution within Sri Lanka, such immunity ceases to exist beyond our shores, except as sovereign immunity within limits while holding office. Summons for the case was duly served on the Secretary, Ministry of Justice as the appropriate authority under the relevant international covenants. In the event that Sri Lanka does not contest the case, as ex parte trial may proceed which could result in a prejudicial judgment and also provide legal precedents for other cases.

2. The Indians deliver a tough message
A high powered Indian delegation comprising of National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar were in Colombo late last week to deliver a tough message, Indian concerns expressed in its joint communiqué with Sri Lanka, namely national reconciliation dealing with the effects and causes of the war should be addressed. There had been repeated assurances by Sri Lanka that a solution was forthcoming, but two years after the war was won, none seems in sight. Instead a defunct APRC, was replaced by a dialogue with the TNA, in which the Government has not put forth proposals and was now instead suggesting a parliamentary select committee. Political will, rather than different dialogue forums is what is required for a solution. It also defies understanding why solutions proposed in the Mahinda Chinthanya, such as a Northern Provincial Council (NPC) is not being implemented. Furthermore the Government made very clear to India that it was shutting the door on the 13th Amendment and devolution of power. In September, India will become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and together with its Security Council seat and bi lateral relations will essentially control the international dialogue on Sri Lanka.

3. TNA attacked in the North (Under Emergency law)
Late last week, when five TNA MP’s of the Jaffna District were meeting with their local government candidates and party activists at Alavedi, Jaffna, armed soldiers carrying poles burst in on the meeting and assaulted the TNA local government candidates and attempted to assault the MPs who were protected by their MSD bodyguards, who suffered injuries in carrying out their duties conscientiously. Initial attempts to blame the attack on “unidentified armed group in military type uniform” has been done away with as field military commanders accepted responsibility for the attack and the defense ministry justified the same as a military assault on ‘unauthorized activity”. Firstly there is an election going on. This is why previous governments have always relaxed and removed emergency regulations, at least for the duration of an election campaign and now there is no war. Democracy must function. This was a private gathering behind closed doors, not a public meeting in the open air. There are basic constitutional rights to freedom of assembly. Further, democratic elections are a crucial aspect of normalizing after a conflict and should occur freely. Also Tamil militancy and terrorism arose due to the failure of Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions to deliver solutions to ethnic tensions. To use military force against the democratic politics of the TNA, would be to drive the Tamil political leadership away from Sri Lankan based Tamil leaders into the hands of extreme elements of the Tamil Diaspora. If the Northern Tamils are to be denied a provincial council, then at least let them elect a municipal council in peace. We owe ourselves and our democratic credentials that much.

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