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Tuesday April 23rd, 2024

Sri Lanka’s Grisly Recent History Goes Unpunished

ECONOMYNEXT – They lie buried in numerous mass graves, all evidence of Sri Lanka’s murderous recent past which has been punctuated by multiple civil conflicts.

Whatever remains is evidence of Sri Lanka’s grisly history of the extrajudicial executions of rebels in both Northern and Southern insurrections.

Most of the bodies remain in mass graves that stretch from Chemmani and Duraiappah Stadium in  Jaffna to burial sites in the Colombo and Matale Districts and the Southern and Central Provinces.

The dead could be anyone; captured rebels, those caught in crossfires and others who were deemed to be “inconvenient,” according to a report titled ‘Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s War Time Role’ released by the International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) on 17 January 2024.

A horrific record

Sri Lanka’s recent blood-soaked history is replete with mass killings and many “disappearances” from the various incidents during the insurgencies of the JVP as well as the Tamil separatist war.

The activist group Journalists for Democracy and affiliated organisations claim that at least 32 mass graves have been identified across the island. A report published in Groundviews in January said these graves “dotted across the country that hold the remains of not just the casualties of the civil war but also those who disappeared during the two JVP uprisings in 1971 and from 1988 to 1989.”

A 1999 United Nations study noted that Sri Lanka has the second-highest number of enforced disappearances in the world with around 12,000 people missing after being detained by government Security Forces. Figures vary with Amnesty International reporting that the number of disappeared persons could be as high as 60,000.

There is no official government figure.

Evidence against GR

Now, fifteen years after the separatist war in Sri Lanka ended, mounting evidence has emerged against former President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, for his pivotal role in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the civil war, say Human Rights lawyers in this new report.

Rajapaksa figures in two serious passages of time where suspected cadres of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna were killed at Matale in the 1988-89 period and LTTE cadres and civilians on the frontlines of Nandikadal which proved to be the final battle of the Eelam War.

The ITJP report quotes its Executive Director Yasmin Sooka as saying if Sri Lanka “is serious about dealing with its violent past, the litmus test is to hold (former President) Gotabaya Rajapaksa criminally accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The report presents detailed evidence connecting the former President when he was Secretary to the Ministry of Defence to numerous massacres of civilians. Although not the army commander, nor Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gotabaya had command and effective control of the security forces during the Civil War as the Defence Secretary and the younger brother of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The ITJP report says the then Defence Secretary Rajapaksa had “contemporaneous knowledge of the violations of international humanitarian law and international criminal law being committed, and failed to take any steps to prevent them, or to hold those under his command accountable. He and successive Sri Lankan governments have had countless opportunities since the war ended to initiate credible investigations into allegations of gross human rights violations and to establish prosecutions. Instead of allowing the truth to come to light, Gotabaya and his successors have perpetuated denial of the complicity of the security forces in these violations, rewarding and protecting the alleged perpetrators.”

The 104-page document examines evidence of Rajapaksa’s involvement in and knowledge of attacks on the No Fire Zones set up to protect civilians, his failure to prevent and investigate summary executions, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence, arbitrary detention and the denial of humanitarian aid to civilians.

Individual stories that were leaked at the time gave credence to these incidents.

One was the evidence of the killing of LTTE Leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s younger son Balachandran. The boy, according to some reports, had been escorted to the Sri Lanka Army lines by an LTTE bodyguard at Mullivaikkal. Photos purported to have been taken at that stage show the boy wrapped in a Sri Lanka Army issue sarong eating a biscuit behind the Sri Lanka Army lines. A second photo shows him dead at the same location, his body riddled with bullets.

Another set of pictures was that of the LTTE’s TV icon Issapriya whose image was widely circulated. There were unconfirmed reports that she had been sexually assaulted along with other young women who had been captured as the LTTE unravelled. That is followed by another picture of her corpse shot at close range.

Eventually, the Sri Lankan government during President Maithripala Sirisena’s tenure acknowledged that some 65,000 persons were missing and granted close surviving relatives rights to manage their properties, the ITJP report states.

Matale Mass Grave

Rajapaksa was the military Coordinating Officer for the Matale District in 1989 when the area was rocked by the so-called Deshapremi Janatha Vyaparaya a JVP offshoot. He was a Lt. Colonel at the time.

In December 2012, reports emerged that a mass grave had been found in the grounds of the Matale Hospital.

Accusations were made at the time that the remains unearthed were that of JVP cadres who had been captured and allegedly killed during the insurrection, a claim the party repeatedly made.

No government however pursued an investigation into the discovery because politics got in the way; after all the UNP was in power when the killings were supposedly carried out and the officer responsible, Gotabaya, was the brother of Mahinda Rajapaksa at the time, a prominent leader in the SLFP.

The government of the day meanwhile claimed the bodies were of victims of a landslide in the 1950s.

However, there was no proper investigation to prove which theory was factual.

The ITJP report also contains the names of former Army Commander, Lt Gen Shavendra Silva and others who are seen as Gotabaya loyalists in the Army.  The report also claims that Army top brass, other than Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka, who was Commander of the Army at the time the civil war ended, had close personal connections to Rajapaksa.

These incidents, however, are not the only horrific events of our island nation’s history; abductions and disappearances of young men, allegedly by members of the armed forces, the massacre of a group of Buddhist monks at Aranthalawa, the killing of pilgrims at Anuradhapura, the latter two by the LTTE, random killings of public servants and others by rebel groups, and more recently the Easter Sunday bombings, the list goes on. And the powers that be, govern with impunity.

So, it is unlikely that the relatives of the victims will find closure until justice is served and those whose hands are bloodstained are held accountable for their actions.

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  1. sacre blieu says:

    The appointment of the IGP who has been issued with decision against him by then highest court, is an aberration of justice.

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  1. sacre blieu says:

    The appointment of the IGP who has been issued with decision against him by then highest court, is an aberration of justice.

Anger, suspicion prevail as Sri Lanka Catholics mark fifth year of Easter attack

MOURNING FOR EASTER VICTIMS – Worshippers at St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya on July 1st when the Church reopened after the Easter bombings/Pathum Dhananajana EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT – Five years after Sri Lanka’s worst ever attack on churches, the island nation’s ethnic minority Catholics are still struggling for justice and find the mastermind behind the Easter Sunday carnage that killed at least 269 people in 2019.

The attack was carried out by local Islamist militants, but the investigations have failed to find the reason for the attack and who was behind local Islamist suicide bombers.

Successive governments have promised independent probes into the attack, but nothing was done.

And still key political parties use the Easter attack probe as their election promise.

A parliament fact finding panel, a presidential commission of inquiry, and police investigations have found crucial facts related to the attack and those who are involved in the crime.

However, Catholic leaders say no justice have been served for the innocent followers who were killed brutally when they were on prayers.

“I remember, a day after receiving the presidential commission report, (former president) Gotabaya Rajapaksa called me and told he cannot implement the recommendations because it will lead to arrest some leaders who are close to him and ban some organization,” Sri Lanka’s Catholic leader Cardinal Malcom Ranjith told at the commemoration event on Sunday.

“It is sad to note the actions by president (Gotabaya Rajapaksa) to sabotage the investigations by removing the investigators from the posts – one official was arrested, and others were transferred to far areas and appointing his allies to investigate it and manipulate it as he wanted.”

He said both former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and current leader Ranil Wickremesinghe did not even acknowledge a letter by the Catholic clergies requesting an independent investigation.

“From all these actions, we have a suspicion over one thing. Both former government and this government are trying to cover up the truth and protect some people and organizations involved with this (Easter attack).”

Gotabaya Rajapaksa has denied any involvement in the attack, which later led to anti-Muslim riots in some parts of the country.

NEW FACTS IN PARLIAMENT THIS WEEK?

The island nation’s parliament has already discussed and debated about the Easter attack for 11 days.

With the new topics and former president Maithripala Sirisena’s recent claim that he knew the master mind following a statement to the police criminal investigation unit, the parliament has scheduled another three-day debate the attack this week.

Sirisena has given a statement at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on the Easter Sunday on March 25 after he was called by the police for questioning. Government sources have said Sirisena has accused India of having a hand in the attack.

India is yet to make an official statement on Sirisena’s allegation as he has recorded his statement in a confidential manner.

Sirisena, who was asked by the country’s Supreme Court to pay 100 million Sri Lanka rupees for the Easter attack victims for his failure to prevent the carnage, is a legislator now and has been leading center-left Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

It is still not immediately clear if Sirisena has strong evidence for his latest claim.

Investigations into the attack have revealed there had been serious lapses in intelligence where law implementing agency neglected a series of warning by Indian intelligence agency.

Despite an in-depth probe by the local authorities, the investigators failed to identify the real motive and the mastermind of the attack so far.

Last week, Father Cyril Gamini Fernando, the spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Colombo, on Friday (19) said there were eight questions that were unanswered by the authorities, disclosing some new facts in the investigations.

He questioned a range of issues including what he called as covered up murders of two police officials in November 2018, suspicion over the involvement of military intelligence in that cover up, and some other communications with the terror leader Zahran Hashim.

He also asked the mysterious handling of the final suicide bomber who was supposed to attack Taj Hotel, role of a key military leader who was close to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and the role of a foreign handler, possibly from India.

Father Fernando was asked to make a statement by the Police Criminal Investigation Department last week over the information they he had got on the attack.

ELUSIVE JUSTICE

We have said what we knew more than enough, but we don’t understand if there had been investigations over those,” Father Fernando told reporters after making the statement to the CID.

“Even now, I don’t know if what we say would be useful. I think there are enough information as far as I know. There are enough information to find the truth and who has been behind the attack. But those are not happening,” he said.

“The problem is not with the law, but with those who implement the law. I personally have no confidence if there would be justice, It is not only about this, but about everything. How many murders and disappearance have taken place?”

“Nothing is happening not because there is a problem in the law, but the rulers want to cover them up. Until such system prevails, we would not get the justice. People should understand this.”

Cardinal Malcom Ranjith has said the Catholic Church has not been given the full report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on Sri Lanka’s Easter Sunday attack and there had been over 1,500 missing pages in the report which included key information on evidence of Hadiya (terror leader Zahran’s wife).

Public Security Minister Tiran Alles has said there was no deliberate attempt to hide anything.

ALLES RESPONDS

Sri Lanka’s Catholic leadership had demanded an independent investigation into the attack and said the Easter carnage clearly supported former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to win the 2019 presidency.

Alles this week said Cardinal and some Catholic clergies have gone to media without engaging with the law implementing authorities.

“Since the day I got this minister post, I have been asking both cardinal and Catholic Church to look into the continuous investigation done by police. I will bring all of them and make a presentation. If there is any shortcomings, let me know,” Alles said addressing a political meeting on Sunday.

“There are various talks about a mastermind. I have given a promise that whoever is involved, even if it is a powerful political leader, I will arrest him. It has been two years since I have promised them and invited to discuss the investigations with us to see who the real mastermind is.”

“But unfortunately, the cardinal and some priests conduct press conferences and say the government has not been doing anything and has not found the mastermind. They have been telling the same thing in all the press conferences.”

“I invite both the Cardinal and the Catholic Church to place go through the police investigation and to conclude these investigations.” (Colombo/April 23/2024)

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Iran President to open Sri Lanka $514mn irrigation, hydro power project

MULTIPURPOSE: Uma Oya multipurpose development project is the largest since the end of the Mahaweli projects.

ECONOMYNEXT – Iran President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi will inaugurate an irrigation and hydropower project that was designed and built by Iranian engineering firm and was also initially financed before international sanctions hit the project.

The Uma Oya (River) project will irrigate 4,500 acres of new agricultural land, generate 290 Gigawatt hours of electricity and also provide drinking water, a government statement said.

Sri Lanka had awarded an engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) to Iran’s FARAB engineering group to design and construct the 514 million dollar multipurpose project in 2010.

The project was funded until 2013 with a million US dollar credit from the Export Development Bank of Iran but international sanctions prevented the country from continuing financing, a government statement said.

The project continued with funding from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka had since repaid 19.3 million dollars of the credit and 35.2 million remains outstanding.

The Uma Oya project has a 120MW of hydro power generators, which can generate 290 Giga Watt hours of energy.

Each year 145 million cubic metres of water will be taken from Uma Oya to the Kirindi Oya river valley after generating electricity in an underground power station.

It will irrigate 1,500 hectares of existing agricultural and 4,500 hectares of new land in the Moneragala district, where crops can be cultivated in both the Maha and Yala seasons.

About 39 million cubic meters of water will be used for drinking and industrial purposes.

Two reservoirs built at Dyraaba and Puhulpola in Uma Oya basin is connected by a 3.98 kilometre conveyance tunnel and water is taken through a 15.2 kilomtre headrace tunnel to an underground power station. A tailrace tunnel takes water from the power station to the Kirindi Oya basin.

The project was originally expected to be completed in 2015, but due to financing delays and later water leaking into the headrace tunnel and the Covid pandemic had delayed it. The project completion date was extended to March 31, 2024 and defect liability date to March 31, 2025.

(Colombo/April23/2024 – CORRECTED Iran President Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi will inaugurate an irrigation and hydropower project that was designed and built by Iranian engineering firm.)

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Sri Lanka state oligopoly allowed to import some black gram

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka has allowed the import of some black gram, by three state agencies, according to a gazette notice issued under the hand of President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Import licenses will be given for 2,000 metric tonnes of the seed classified under HS Code 7312.31.22 and 29.

Sri Lanka State Trading Corporation, National Food Promotion Board and Sri Lanka Hadabima Authority is to be given import licenses.

Traders have resorted to smuggling some types of black gram (ulundu) mis classified as chick peas, to get over high taxes and import restrictions.

Tamil legislators have also protested the import controls, which they go into several key ethnic foods they consume. (Colombo/Apr23/2024)

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