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War crime evidence places ‘command responsibility’ on Rajapaksa brothers

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Brian Senewiratne

01-December-2011

Vol 2 | Issue 48

Sri Lankan rulers want to destroy the concept of Tamil homeland and make Tamils permanent refugees, says the Sinhalese doctor in Australia, Brian Senewiratne, in this third part of a series. (Also Read: First Part, Second Part)

UK Channel 4 News video

I need hardly dwell on this ground-breaking video that has established the war crimes committed by both sides, especially the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, in the closing stages of the war.

Houses burnt. Women raped. Thousands killed. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has a lot to account for  (Photos courtesy: http://www.warwithoutwitness.com)

This video was so important that it was shown at the UN Human Rights Council meeting in June 2011. Despite feeble claims by the GoSL that the evidence presented was fabricated, there are few, if any, who would doubt the authenticity of what was shown since the original recordings have been checked by international experts. This is evidence which will not go away, as the GoSL hopes it will.

The evidence of war crimes implicates not only those in the Armed Forces that committed them, but on the basis of the internationally accepted ‘Command Responsibility’, those all the way to the top, be they military leaders or civilians, such as President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and his brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence.

The fact that some of these military men (and others with a case to answer) have been sent as diplomats to several countries, might not immunise them from prosecution.

There is one ‘problem’ with this outstanding video. The hundreds of thousands of people across the world who have seen this video and have been shocked by what they have seen have no understanding of the context in which these dreadful acts have taken place.

This ‘background information’ and a more extensive, though less dramatic, account has been recorded by me in a DVD, “Sri Lanka: Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, Violation of International Law”, which I am more than willing to send anyone who wants this information.

This is one of nearly a dozen DVDs I have recorded on the highly complex ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and what a succession of Sinhalese-dominated governments have done to the Tamils since Independence in 1948.

A deluge of Reports

The Sri Lankan government and the military are clearly rattled by the recent deluge of Reports.

The international and local groups have done what they could, and have done so with commendable thoroughness in very difficult circumstances since the GoSL has done whatever it could to block their work.

It is now up to us to use these Reports and the invaluable evidence they contain to take the matter further and bring to an end the suffering of the Tamil and Muslim people in the North and East. It is now our responsibility and obligation.

Serious Constitutional changes

There have been some serious Constitutional changes that were initially anti-Tamil, but are now both anti-Tamil and anti-democratic. As such, they will affect the Sinhalese and the Tamils, more so the latter.

Amendments to the current constitution seriously limit what the Tamils can do legally, to address the problems they face.

I refer to the 6th Amendment enacted soon after the 1983 massacre of some 3,000 innocent Tamils in the Sinhalese South, organised and conducted by government-sponsored hoodlums.

The 6th Amendment states: “No person shall directly or indirectly, in or outside Sri Lanka, support, espouse, promote, finance, encourage or advocate the establishment of a separate State within the territory of Sri Lanka”.

This was precisely the mandate given to the Tamil MPs by their voters in the North and East by an overwhelming majority. They had to either violate their mandate or be ready to face prosecution if they advocated a separate Tamil State.

After a lull of nearly a decade of this ‘Constitutional circus’, came the 18th Amendment (8 September 2010), which removed any façade of democracy, entrenched the Rajapaksa regime, and increased Presidential control of some important Commissions, making them valueless.

This is a serious assault on the political system which will adversely affect all its citizens, not only the Tamils.

Rajapakasa can appoint members to critically important Commissions pertaining to Election, Public Service, National Police, Human Rights, Bribery and Corruption, Finance, and Delimitation.

Where the Tamil people are concerned, it is first important to appreciate that they will not have any justice as long as the Rajapaksa junta is in power.

The anti-Tamil stance of the Government will continue; the Armed Forces and the Police will continue to harass, rob, threaten, rape and kill the Tamil civilians. The cult of absolute fear will continue, the extensive violation of their human rights will continue, and even increase.

There will be no action by the so-called Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission which has been politicised and made completely irrelevant.

The 18th Amendment will ensure that this continues for a very long time, if not for ever.

I will now set out the Agenda of the Sri Lankan government as I see it.

Mounting war crime evidence against the Rajapaksa brothers may force the international community to crack the whip against Colombo 

1. To make Sri Lanka into a Sinhala-Buddhist nation: If this is the intention of the GoSL (an intention that is well documented), then the question that arises is: “What is the fate of the Tamils (18% of the country)?”

These are the possibilities,

• Drive them out of the country: More than a million have already left the country and others are fleeing as asylum seekers/refugees for good reason

• Make them ‘disappear’: Sri Lanka had the 2nd highest rate of involuntary ‘disappearances, only second to Iraq. Most of them are Tamil males.

• Kill them: The dreadful mass killing from December 2005 - May 2009, has now been replaced by a ‘slow death’ from starvation and the lack of medical care.


2. ‘Sinhalise’ the Tamil areas by the mass relocation of Sinhalese from the South. This is well under way as numerous observers have reported.

3. Destroy the concept of a Tamil ‘homeland.

4. Take over all commercially viable areas and economic activity in the Tamil areas, sell them to China, India and others, get the Armed Forces to run all economic venture.

5. Make the Tamil people in the North and East as permanent refugees.

6. Keep the Tamils under permanent military control so that they can be used and abused at will by the Armed Forces and the paramilitary hoodlums. Today, the Jaffna Peninsula is a Police State, and the North and East is a vast military ‘camp’.

7. Make the Tamil areas ‘out of bounds’ to all human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group and the Media. There are clearly things that ‘must not be seen’, and stories that should ‘never be heard.’

8. Put the development of Colombo (and elsewhere), not under the appropriate Development authority but under the Ministry of Defence – which has recently been renamed, ‘The Ministry of Defence and Urban Development’. When did development become a defence matter?

President Rajapaksa’s brother, Gotabaya, who in addition to being Secretary of Defence (and now of Urban Development too) is the unelected de facto President of Sri Lanka with veto-powers over all Government decisions.

9. Run a Totalitarian State under the Rajapaksa family (4 brothers and upward of 50 family members) for the foreseeable future, manipulating the Constitution as necessary.

10. Continue to increase strength of Armed Forces : From 175,000 during the ‘war’, the strength has now increased to 230,000. There are now plans to further increase this number to 300,000. If the Tamil Tigers have been crushed (which they have been), who is the enemy?

11. Internationally, continue to play China against India and vice versa.

With no signs of reconciliation in sight, Tamils are left with the only option of forming their own Nation

National reconciliation

For national reconciliation to occur there must be some essential requirements:

1. There must be a genuine intention to do so.

2. There must be genuine regret for all mistakes of the past.

3. The fundamental problems that caused the rift must be addressed.

4. There must be a determined effort to wipe out those who obstruct this. In Sri Lanka this is the virulently anti-Tamil sections of the Buddhist clergy, and the political opportunists in the Sinhala polity.

Since none of these are present or likely to occur, national reconciliation is not possible. It is as simple as that.

The pretence of national reconciliation is nothing but a myth propagated by the GoSL with the sole intention of obtaining international support to keep a totalitarian regime in power. (to be contd)


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