Home » News

Colombo’s denial won’t help

[Express Buzz, Tuesday, 12 January 2010 11:41 No Comment]

In January last year, during the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war, an unknown person recorded a video of what looks like government soldiers shooting two men dead. The grainy footage shows some eight other bodies, all but one naked, hands tied behind the back. It caused a huge outcry when released last August, but Colombo dismissed it as a fabrication intended to defame the military.

Now a United Nations investigation has concluded it may not be a fake and called for Sri Lanka to accept a war crimes probe. Colombo has predictably rejected the demand again, but this time the story may not go away. In the first instance, allegations of atrocities by the military are not new as the 25-year civil war was marked by unrelenting hatred between the Sinhalas and the Tamils. Few people would be surprised to hear the video is genuine, but the UN has an unlikely ally in its camp.

In December, former army chief Sarath Fonseka, the man credited with destroying the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, said a top defence official had ordered that surrendering rebels be killed, a charge the government vehemently denies. Fonseka is standing for president against his former master Mahinda Rajapaksa, so his statement has been described as an attempt to gain Tamil support. But it will carry weight, as it comes from a senior figure privy to the inner workings of government. Before their bitter parting, Rajapaksa and Fonseka were the closest of compatriots.

Colombo now has a real dilemma. If the allegations are true, it becomes an international pariah, and there will be no reconciliation with the Tamils. And if it rejects an investigation, it will be construed as an attempt to hide the truth.

There are few substantive options for the government. It won the war, but peace is still far away. The Tamils still fear and distrust the Sinhalas and the government has done little to gain their trust. Odd as it may sound, the UN call does present an opportunity to right the wrongs. Without a mea culpa there is no hope of closure. So let the probe take place and deal with the truth when it comes to light.

[Full Coverage]

(For updates you can share with your friends, follow TNN on Facebook, Twitter and Google+)

Comments are closed.