Release of Mirusuvil Massacre Convict is Just the Beginning! More will Follow under Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Dispensation!
The news that murder convict Staff Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake has been given presidential pardon is really sickening, disgusting and revolting to those who value human lives. It is a supreme insult to the country’s justice system, the courts and judges. This is bound to open new wounds among the victims of war. Only last May 2019 the Supreme Court confirmed the death conviction.
On November 27, 2002, the Attorney General indicted five accused on 19 charges in the murder of Gnanapalan Raviveeran, Sellamuttu Theivakulasingham, Vilvarajah Pratheepan, Sinniah Vilvarajah, Nadesu Jeyachandran, Kathiran Gnanachandran, Gnanachandran Santhan and Vilvarajah Prasath in Mirusuvil of the Jaffna peninsula before a High Court at Trial-at-Bar in Colombo.
Ponnuthurai Maheswaran, who managed to survive and escape from the army, testified in court and identified at least five of the soldiers responsible. After a lengthy court process only Rathnayake, a member of the military’s elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), was sentenced to death. The other men were cleared of all charges.
The Trial-at-Bar bench found Sunil Rathnayake guilty on multiple counts including murder. Four other accused Second Lieutenant R.W.Senaka Munasinghe, T.M. Jayaratne, S.A. Pushpa Saman Kumara and Gamini Munasinghe were not found guilty for the charges and thereby they were acquitted and released from the case.
Rathnayake was sentenced to death on 25 June 2015 for the murder of the 8 Tamils, including 2 children, in the town of Mirusuvil. They were arrested by the security forces when they went to see their houses on 19th December 2000.
On the following day, their bodies were found dumped inside latrine pits with their throats slashed, according to the District Medical Officer’s post-mortem report. All but two of the bodies had been stripped naked. The youngest to have been murdered was a 5-year-old child.
Delivering the judgment Justice Buvaneka Aluvihare made the following observation regarding the incident-
Considering the above the irresistible inference that could be drawn is that it was the accused-appellant and the group of men who had inflicted the fatal injuries to the deceased and from the nature of the injuries it can be concluded that the injuries were inflicted with the intention of causing their deaths. Thus, I conclude that the prosecution has established the counts of murder (11 to 18) and the count of causing hurt to Maheshwaran, count no. 19 of the indictment.
In May 2019, the Supreme Court five-judge-bench comprising Justice Buvaneka Aluvihare, former Chief Justice Nalin Perera, Justice Sisira de Abrew, Justice Priyantha Jayawardena and Justice Murdu Fernando was of the view that the Trial-at-Bar was justified in treating witness Maheswaran as a credible witness and acting on his testimony, the Supreme Court concluded that the judges of the Trial-at-Bar were correct in coming to the conclusion that the accused-Appellant was guilty on counts 11 to 19 on the Indictment.
Mirusuvil, a northern Sri Lankan village in the Jaffna peninsula had faced the ferocity of the civil war that had engulfed the country, at the dawn of the millennium. The mass killings have since been dubbed the Mirusuvil massacre.
At the time of the 2015 conviction, Together Against Genocide (TAG) released a statement welcoming the sentencing, but added “much more” needed to be done to end impunity in the island. “Even though the war has ended, the racial hatred is far from resolved,” TAG said
The case of Ratnayake, one of the few convictions of Sri Lankan soldiers for rights abuses of Tamils, drew particularly widespread support amongst the Sinhalese in the south.
The convict was portrayed as a ‘War Hero’ and a sustained campaign was mounted in social media like Facebook and tele-series calling for his release. National Freedom Front Leader Weerawansa was at the forefront of the campaign.
There was a clear reluctance among the majority ethnic Sinhala population to hold the SLA forces responsible for their war crimes.
During the presidential election campaign, the incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa made repeated pledges to release soldiers who have been convicted of rights abuses. His regime has also vowed not to abide by a UN Human Rights Council resolution 30/1 that mandates a hybrid accountability mechanism to prosecute those responsible for human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The racial hatred and prejudice against the Tamil people clearly prevent justice for the Tamil victims. There are dozens of massacres carried out by the armed forces and hardly anyone was charged or punished for killing and maiming innocent Tamil civilians. Here is a list of some of the horrendous massacres that took place during the war. The list is by no means complete.
List of massacres carried out by the armed forces
The LTTE is also guilty of targetting civilians during the war, but they were not on the scale as those committed by the armed forces. LTTE killings include the following:
List of massacres carried out by the LTTE
UNHRC Resolution 30/1 calls for the setting up of a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable; and affirms that a credible justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality; and further affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators and judges from the Commonwealth.
The previous government after co-sponsoring the resolution baulked at implementing the same for over 4 long years. The only exception was former Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. In a comprehensive statement issued on October 18, 2019, he predicted that Gotabaya policy will isolate Sri Lanka internationally again. He went on to say “Ten years after the end of the conflict in the North and the East, and almost thirty years after the end of the second insurrection in the South, we seem to continue fratricidal conflicts in our hearts, with the anger of the fighter, instead of the compassion of the peacemaker and peace-builder.
In 2015, Sri Lanka ceased to be the pariah nation we were in the period immediately before that where we were fighting everyone and cornering ourselves. We took control of the accountability and reconciliation agenda, and we put the world as our witness. We regained our place as a responsible sovereign nation alongside the rest of the world, because we had regained our heart, and our identity as a compassionate, proud, diverse nation, full of hope and inspiration to march forward, holding our heads up high, to be the best that we could be.
That, and not the lies and exaggerations, is what will win in the end: our love for our Mother Lanka, our freedom, our wonderful diversity, our faith, our capacity to reconcile, and our capacity to live and work together with unity of purpose – to make our country the developed country it deserves to be with no space for recurrence of conflict, working together in friendship with the international community including the United Nations.”
The present government have publically declared that they are opposed to the implementation of key clauses of Resolution 30/1.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has said that he cannot entertain the 2015 UN Human Rights Council resolution co-sponsored by the previous Sirisena government on alleged war crimes during the country’s three-decade-long civil war with the LTTE in its current form. Commenting on the Tamil demand for political autonomy, Rajapaksa stressed that no devolution of power would be possible without the consent of the majority. “It is not possible to implement any form of power-sharing political solution,” he said.
The UNHRC resolutions since 2013 had censured Sri Lanka on its alleged human rights abuses. They called for probing of rights abuses by both LTTE and the government troops by setting up an international investigation. (https://www.news18.com/news/india/cannot-entertain-2015-unhrc-resolution-on-war-crime-in-its-current-form-lankan-prez-gotabaya-rajapaksa-2429991.html)
After coming to power, President Gotabaya is implementing the election promises he made during the election campaign. At a press conference held on December 22, 2019, he spoke bluntly and without mincing words. He threw diplomacy to the winds.
On devolution of power to the North and East, he said: “I will not promise to give federalism or power devolution like any of my predecessors to appease those in the North and the East.” On reconciliation, he said he could only promise security and economic development to the people of those areas. On missing persons, including children, Gotabaya said there could only be unrecovered bodies following the battle and those are categorised as “Missing” persons.
UNP MP Ajith Perera hailed the release of murder convict Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake claiming “Now we have got information that the government has taken measures to release 34 members of the intelligence and Sunil Ratnayake, as mentioned during the Gotabaya Rajapaksa election campaign. That is how a leader who does what they say works,” continued Perera. Therefore I would like to extend my gratitude to President Gotabaya Rajapakse and Minister of Justice Nimal Siripala De Silva for taking this decision.”
The release of Sunil Ratnayake is entirely in keeping with the Mahavamsa mindset. The author of Mahavamsa, Mahanama Thero had made out the killing of Tamils (Damilas) as a virtue in defence of Buddhism. He has given a graphic account of how Dutagemunu who was engulfed with remorse over the slaughter of millions on both sides of the war.
When the king, after winning the victory, had slain all the Damilas he went up on the terrace of the palace, and when, in the royal chamber there in the midst of the dancers and minister…………. Sitting then on the terrace of the royal palace, adorned, lighted with fragrant lamps and filled with many a perfume, magnificent with nymphs in the guise of dancing-girls, while he rested on his soft and fair couch, covered with costly draperies, he, looking back upon his glorious victory, great though it was, knew no joy, remembering that thereby was wrought the destruction of millions (of beings).
When the arahants in Piyangudipa knew his thought they sent eight arahants to comfort the king. And they, coming in the middle watch of the night, alighted at the palace-gate. Making known that they have come thither through the air they mounted to the terrace of the palace.
The great king greeted them, and when he had invited them to be seated and had done them reverence in many ways he asked the reason of their coming. `We are sent by the brotherhood at Piyangudipa to comfort thee, O lord of men.’
And thereon the king said again to them: `How shall there be any comfort for me, O venerable sirs since by me was caused the slaughter of a great host numbering millions?’
`From this deed arises no hindrance in thy way to heaven. O lord of men. The one had come unto the (three) refuges and the other had taken on himself the five precepts, unbelievers and men of evil life were the rest, not more to be esteemed than beasts. But as for thee, thou wilt bring glory to the doctrine of the Buddha in manifold ways; therefore cast away care from thy heart, O ruler of men!’ (Mahavamsa translation by Wilhelm Geiger – Chapter XXV – pages 177-178)
The myth that the war between Ellara and Dutagemunu was a war between Sinhalese and Tamils has been invented as a powerful instrument of Sinhala – Buddhist chauvinism in modern times. But the truth is Dutagemunu was a Naga prince both on his maternal and paternal sides. His father Kavan Theesan was a great-grandson of King Devanampiya Theesan’s youngest brother Mahanagan who founded the kingdom of Mahagama. Dutagemunu waged war against Ellara to recapture the Anuradhapura Kingdom ruled by his ancestors! But the author of Mahavamsa glorifies him as a conqueror of Tamils and saviour of Buddhism! Not for Kingdom but for Buddhism was his battle cry says Mahavamsa.
The mindset of Buddhist monks during the rule of Dutthagamani has not changed. Sinhalese Buddhist chauvinists think that control over the entire island is vital for safeguarding Buddhism. A majority of Buddhist monks see a federal setup or an equivalent as the first step of dividing the country and the death of Buddhism.
When Dutthagamani marched his army to capture Anuradhapura, 500 monks joined the march. Likewise, during the war against the LTTE, Buddhist monks went around villages to recruit youths to the army. In fact, a few voluntarily joined the army to ’sacrifice their lives to save the unitary character of the country.” Many monks were themselves in the frontline in the battle with the LTTE.
Sinhala Buddhism believes Tamil Hindus are false believers and not humans – they can be killed in the name of Buddhism with total impunity. That is why no one was charged for killing Tamils during 1956, 1958, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1983 pogroms. That is also the reason why Mahinda Rajapaksa claimed zero casualties during the war against the LTTE despite several thousands of Tamil men, women and children since they are “Unbelievers and men of evil life were the rest, not more to be esteemed than beasts.”
That explains why the Sinhalese leaders of both the governing party and the opposition have rejected calls for an international investigation into crimes committed during the war by both sides.
According to the latest news, four army men in civil have gone to the Mirusuvil village in a white van and threatened the relatives of those killed in 2000.
Release of Mirusuvil massacre convict Ratnayake is just the beginning! More will follow under Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s dispensation!