Published On:09 November 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Sri Lankan discord on ethnic integration continues

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Sri Lanka fought Tamil separatists for nearly three decades. The civil war was finally brought to a close in 2009, with thousands of people losing their lives during the conflict. During the final stages of the conflict, questions of war crimes committed against the minority Tamils were raised.

In 2010, the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa introduced a reconciliation commission meant to heal the wounds of ethnic hostility that had festered for many years. There was hope that Sri Lanka would finally begin to set itself free from the demons within and forge itself into one united country.

However, the confidence in the road to reconciliation has been shaken lately. Two recent incidents suggest that all is not well in the island country. In the first, a group of vandals barged into a church and destroyed a religious statue. The Catholic church is located near a police station a few miles away from the heart of Trincomalee, a major seaport on the eastern shores of the island nation. According to reports, two hands of the statue at the church were destroyed and electric lights used to decorate the statue were removed. The gang members are suspected of being Sinhalese militants known for their excesses against people of other minorities and faith.

The second incident occurred in a village on the outskirts of the city of Anuradhapura, which was the capital of the country for over 15 centuries before Colombo snatched those honors away. According to available details, a mosque was set on fire at about 2:30 a.m. by an unidentified group before the morning of Eid when a festival was planned right after Eid prayers.

The ensuing blaze totally demolished the mosque structure. Not to be deterred, the senior clergy arranged the scheduled special prayer for the Haji Festival at a house situated near the destroyed mosque.

Some 20-25 mosques have been the target of extremist actions in recent months. Residents charge that the government is shielding the Sinhalese militants as they make up the majority of Sri Lankans.

According to Colombo Municipality UNP member Mr. Mujibur Rahman, “there was ample evidence as to who was responsible, but because of the political protection of the government, such incidents are glossed over”, adding that implications of such transgressions could be serious.

But for how long can the government ignore this growing menace within their midst? The rise against targeted vandalism and violence has already prompted calls for action from inside and outside the country. The Indian branch of Amnesty International is asking their Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, “to influence Sri Lanka to protect the rights of its citizens and ensure that those guilty of human rights abuses are held accountable”.

A six-point document was submitted to the Indian PM calling on Sri Lanka to:

“Investigate and prosecute all allegations of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings; as well as enforced disappearances; torture; and arbitrary or extrajudicial detention, and bring the perpetrators to justice in accordance with international standards, in line with commitments made during the previous review, but not yet implemented;

“Initiate prompt and effective investigation of witness testimony and written submissions to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) that allege violations of human rights or humanitarian law;

“Repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act and abolish the system of administrative detention;

“Release all individuals arrested under emergency or anti-terrorism laws, unless they are charged with internationally recognizable crimes and remanded by an independent, fairly constituted court;

“Release all detainees unless they are charged with internationally recognizable crimes and tried fairly;

“Implement the concrete human rights commitments contained in the National Human Rights Action Plan, and strengthen the National Human Rights Commission.”

The organization charges that, “In 2008, Sri Lanka stressed its commitment to many of the above objectives, but within months, they broke their promises. It is vital that India, as a powerful and influential neighboring country, establish its commitment to ensuring human rights protection for ordinary Sri Lankans.”

In March 2013, the UN is holding the Human Rights Council Session which will focus on independent findings on the death of 40,000 people killed during the final stages of the civil war. Also expected to be presented is video footage which includes the allegations of war crimes and human rights violations committed by Sri Lankan military personnel. This is obviously unsettling some nerves in the corridors of Sri Lankan power.

More nerves will be rattled if the existing situation of ethnic violence continues, leaving the United Nations and the rest of the world to rebuff protests of innocence by the Sri Lankan government against war crimes.

Should the government not take a stand now before it’s too late?

[The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com]

(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on November 09, 2012. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on November 09, 2012. Filed under , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

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