The general opinion in the Western world today is that the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime has failed to comply with two successive United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) resolutions. The failure to address accountability issues on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the final phase of the armed conflict is highlighted by the lack of power devolution among the other problems that have draw n the attention of all stakeholders.
This popular international thrust emphasises the need for decisive HRC action to balance the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime’s inability to implement the conditions laid down in the resolutions. On the other hand steps should be taken to neutralise the risk of a return to deadly conflicts in Sri Lanka. Some sections believe that the HRC should adopt a strong resolution on Sri Lanka, to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate the serious allegations of international human rights and humanitarian law violations committed by both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government forces. However there is strong opposition to this proposal as it considers the oppressor and the oppressed to be on the same footing or level. Tamil terror was a reaction to continued repression by the Sri Lankan regime which was a UN member country. On the other hand the LTTE is not a living entity and as such there is none to answer accusations levelled against it. But even LTTE sympathisers may agree to a proper investigation to establish the facts and circumstances that amounted to such violations by the LTTE, and identify those responsible.
The March 2013 UNHRC resolution compelled the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime to implement “the constructive recommendations” of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). As such, it was accepted by the Rajapaksa regime to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law violations.
However the government claimed that it had proceeded to implement what it referred to as the National Action Plan. In effect however, the regime ignored the LLRC’s core recommendations: Re-establishing the rule of law; launching independent investigations into human rights violations; restoring civil administration by withdrawing the army from the North and East; to empower the Tamil-speaking people and pursue a lasting political solution to the national question.
The repeated announcements of bogus commissions and investigating units cannot cover the Government’s failure to implement the key recommendations in the LLRC report. We had to protest continuously on this issue. Several times the police backed by the security forces attempted to stop protests against repressions. Police admitted that they were unable to investigate or to prevent military terror and advised us to avoid confrontational protests.
The Government admits that it has not conducted any independent investigations into the alleged crimes committed by the security forces, including where photographic and video evidence of alleged crimes exists. However the report of the army court of inquiry appointed in 2012 – which the Government claims exonerated the military of any responsibility for civilian deaths – has still not been released. On the other hand the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime points to the establishment of the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) as a step towards recognising the autonomy of the Tamil people and states that it completes the regime’s commitment to the devolution of power called for by the LLRC and the UNHRC. But NPC Chief Minister C. V. Wigneswaran has rejected this claim and condemned the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime for cheating the Tamil people.
In effect however, the regime ignored the LLRC’s core recommendations: Re-establishing the rule of law; launching independent investigations into human rights violations; restoring civil administration by withdrawing the army from the North and East; to empower the Tamil-speaking people and pursue a lasting political solution to the national question
Since the September 2013 elections, the Government has refused to allow C. V. Wigneswaran and the NPC to establish an effective administration. The Northern Province Governor has allegedly blocked NPC attempts to appoint key officials and constitute needed administrative departments within its constitutional powers. Land has become the most serious and the volatile issue between the Governor and the NPC. While the military has returned some land to civilian owners in Jaffna and other parts of the North, larger land areas are still occupied by the military and other government bodies.
Under such conditions it is an illusion to think that an international commission of inquiry will solve all of Sri Lanka’s problems. If Sri Lanka is to repair its democratic institutions, protect the rights of all Sri Lankans belonging to all communities, devolve power to the North and East and build a new and sustainable multi-racial and multi-religious future for Sri Lanka, then a mass uprising may be an option to establish a democratic regime.