‘A New Ray of Hope’ A Response
The following is my response to the article titled ‘A New Ray of Hope’ authored by Nimal Vinayagamoorthy of TGTE and published by Colombo Telegraph on November 12, 2020.
Nimal states “with the so-called government of good governance led by Ranil Wickremesinghe……..” this is an unfair and unwarranted insinuation. No lesser person than the PM of TGTE has conceded that the good governance government created space for democracy. That was a significant achievement. The government stripped the army of police powers vested in them by the Rajapaksa government and confined them to the barracks. The army men in uniform were lording over the Tamils in the North demanding invitation to temple festivals, sports meets and other cultural events.
The good governance government released between January 2015 and March 2019 a total of 47,604 acres (62.15%) of land out of 76,595 acres occupied by the armed forces. At Sampur in Trincomalee district during Rajapaksa’s rule, 818 acres of land owned by 367 displaced Tamil families were given on a 99 years lease to Gateway Industries Ltd, a crony company of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s acolytes. The said agreement was annulled and the land given back to the displaced families in August 2015. Another 237 acres belonging to 617 families and occupied by the Sri Lankan Navy was vacated in 2015. Of course, Nimal and TGTE are stark ignorant of these facts.
The OMP was established under Act, No. 14 of 2016 provides for:
“…the establishment of the office on missing persons; to provide for the searching and tracing of missing persons; to provide assistance to relatives of missing persons; for the setting up of a database of missing persons; for setting out the procedures and guidelines applicable to the powers and functions assigned to the said office; and to provide for all matters which are connected with or incidental to, the implementation of the provisions of this act.
Office for Reparations Act was passed in parliament on 9 October 2018 and is fully functional. It is the responsibility of the Office for Reparation to identify the aggrieved victims qualified for reparation and provide appropriate compensation individually or collectively to them. As an interim measure family of missing persons is paid Rs. 6,000 per month. Office for Reparations is the second step of the transitional justice mechanisms for the reconciliation process formulated locally and implemented by the then Government of Sri Lanka.
The government in the 2019 budget allocated Rs. 700 million for the Office for Reparations. Although these Authorities fall short of our expectations, yet they have to be welcomed in pursuit of a “Transitional Justice mechanism.”
Nimal says “All of us must realize that for reconciliation to come through there must be truth-seeking, accountability, justice and reparations. The hardcore Sinhalese are always in denial when it comes to accepting that their loved regime was responsible for a bloody genocide of innocent Tamils, but they still want the Tamils to be part of Sri Lanka! It is here that the Tamils look forward to this new government to usher in changes that would foster democracy on the island.”
This is day-dreaming in technical colours. Does Nimal seriously think that “this new government to usher in changes that would foster democracy in the island?” A government that has somersaulted on key issues of resolution of 30/1 on appointing a hybrid court to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity? It was the government of Rajapaksa that slaughtered thousands of Tamil civilians during the closing stages of the war. It was the same government that summarily executed more than 300 LTTE cadres who surrendered, some with white flags, on May 18, 2009.
I like to share Nimal’s optimism about the UN and former National Security Advisor, Susana Rice come-back. But under President Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo, the US policy towards Sri Lanka did not change.
The US under Joe Biden is likely to reverse some of Trump’s decisions like pulling out of UNHRC and WHO.
It is a tall claim that “The Tamil Diaspora has been the voice of the Eelam Tamils across the world.” On the contrary, the fractured Tamil Diaspora plays only a minor role in the affairs of homeland Tamils. The call for a referendum is also an impracticable proposition.
The “principle of equal rights and self-determination” is enshrined in the UN Charter. Many have interpreted this as an unrestricted right under international law for people to separate. This, however, is a misinterpretation. The unrestricted right to self-determination only applies to colonies.
For non-colonial territories, the right to self-determination only exists where gross and systematic violation of human rights occurs. Even in those cases, the right to separate is allowed only when the state has made all possible efforts to address grievances.
Only a few countries like Eritrea (1993) East Timor (1999), Montenegro (2006) South Sudan (2011) have succeeded in gaining independence after holding UN-sponsored referendums.
“Tamils as well as seek accountability to the 146,679 unaccounted persons since May 18th, 2009” is false. Figure 146,679 was the difference between records maintained by Government Agent offices of Mullaiththeevu and Kilinochchi districts and the number who came out of Mullivaaikkal on May 18, 2009.REPLY
The population of Vanni in early 2008 was 429,059 and the total number of people who went into the army-controlled area after the war was over is 282,380 persons. Hence, 146,679 remained unaccounted. This discrepancy could be partly explained by the fact many left Vanni as the war escalated in 2008. There are also the wounded civilians who were shipped to Trincomalee in Red Cross ships. This figure of 146,679 was given by Catholic Bishop of Mannar, Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph in his submission to the LLRC. Tamil enthusiasts are twisting this figure to their advantage.
Hope springs eternal in the hearts of men even in the face of adversity. Nimal of the TGTE seems to entertain a bright future for the Tamils. Many will readily share his A New Ray of Hope.
Appraising the new ray of hope;
1–Leveraging the fact that alleged war criminals who have evaded trial and buried accountability currently run SL, USA can play this card to its advantage in whichever way as a means of weakening the SL-China love-fest under Rajapaksa rule;
2–US is a huge market; threat of economic sanctions in the name of HR will be very punitive, putting Gota’s popularity at risk.
3–India-US alliance will be watching over SL to prevent it becoming a Chinese colony. Modi or not, India needs U.S. on its side. Any Indian government inherits the expectations of TN for a resolution to the plight of SL Tamils. India can strategize with USA to this end.
4–Biden’s administration will surely rejoin UNHRC; SL’s infractions under Gotabaya’s presidency have been repeatedly flagged by the UN; US is bound to leverage this attention
5–Biden’s administration is a welcome change for all the key states that are traditionally staunch on HR. They will create new synergies on the matter.
6–Heightened lobbying by advocacy groups and diaspora orgs to push pass the threshold in a climate of strengthening HR focus. Gotabaya’s presidency itself been the sole trigger for this heightened activism.