Tamil resolution accuses Sri Lanka govts of 'genocide'

Urges UN to push for international prosecution of perpetrators
Tamil resolution accuses Sri Lanka govts of 'genocide'

Relatives of people who have been 'disappeared' seek justice and the whereabouts of their loved ones at a protest in Colombo (Credit: Quintus Colombage and Niranjani Roland.)

The Northern Provincial Council (NPC) has passed a resolution accusing Sinhalese-led governments over the last 60 years of committing genocide against minority Tamils in Sri Lanka.

The council appealed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to probe its claims and recommend prosecution at the International Criminal Court.

Chief Minister CV Wigneswaran on Tuesday issued the resolution, which details numerous stories of violence and oppression against Tamils. The minister sought to give an overview of the evidence demonstrating acts by successive governments that would constitute genocide.

NPC member MK Shivajilingam of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), who had earlier proposed the resolution in 2014, told ucanews.com there was ample evidence of bodily and mental harm aimed at Tamils over the decades.

“For the Tamils the genocide began during the island’s independence [in 1948] with the cancelation of citizenship for upcountry Tamils,” he said. 

“After 1956, Tamils faced many killings. It happened on a massive scale therefore we urge the international community to give justice for these unlawful killings. We also pressure them not to hold a local inquiry but to have an international probe.”

The resolution was passed in order to mobilize international support ahead of a UN Human Rights Council meeting next month in Geneva, where the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights is due to publish the findings of an investigation into war crimes allegedly committed during Sri Lanka’s civil war.

The government, led by recently elected President Maithripala Sirisena, has condemned the resolution and shot down the NPC’s genocide claims, pointing out that the new administration has vowed to work with the UN and open a domestic inquiry.

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was defeated by Sirisena in a January election, had refused to cooperate with the UN-mandated investigation into allegations that government forces killed up to 40,000 Tamil civilians while defeating the separatists in 2009.

Many Tamils now fear that the UN report’s findings will be delayed or withheld in order to make way for an internal inquiry.

“The UN has passed many resolutions against war crimes and they might think the new government could hold a local inquiry but none of the local mechanisms have taken place genuinely therefore we have no faith in this,” said Shivajilingam.

TNA lawmaker MA Sumanthiran pointed out that Tamils still face militarization and land rights issues in the north, but noted there have been improvements under the new government.

Still, he said, higher-level war crimes investigations were needed.

“Tamils have faith in an international investigation mechanism with the UN but not the local investigation,” he said.

Jathika Pawura, a patriotic national movement, condemned the NPC’s resolution and said it was aimed at dividing the country for political advantage in the next election.

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“Though the TNA says it doesn’t want a separate state for Tamils they have called for an international inquiry, therefore they are not for genuine reconciliation,” said Sunil Aluthge, a convener for Jathika Pawura.

“They have hidden agendas to divide the country.”

But Shanthi Sachithanandam, chief executive officer of Viluthu, an organization that supports and strengthens people’s networks in the conflict-affected north and east, urged the government to take the Tamils’ concerns to heart.

“This new government should listen to the voices of the Tamil people, and the Northern Provincial Council is representing the Tamils, and they have spoken on the burning issues,” she said.

“Reconciliation means genuine effort for truth and justice for all war victims,” she said.

On Wednesday, Sri Lanka urged the UN to delay its report to allow the new government to complete its own probe.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera made the appeal in Washington on the eve of talks with top US diplomat John Kerry at the State Department.

He pleaded that "we are in the process of trying to set up this internal domestic mechanism" denying the call for a postponement of the report was merely an attempt to buy time.

"We are hoping they could hold on to it until our mechanism is in place," he told a US think tank, saying the domestic probe would be up and running in about two months.

"Once the report is finalized, we are hoping they can refer it to our domestic mechanism for action," he said.

"Unlike the previous government we are not in a state of denial, saying that such violations have not happened. We believe such violations have happened," he insisted at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

Additional reporting by AFP

 

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