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Lankan lessons: War crimes and Rajapaksa regime – The Economic Times

[MISC, Tuesday, 27 December 2011 10:09 No Comment]

Given scepticism about the intentions of the Rajapaksa regime, the big question mark over Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was if it would impartially probe alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan army during the last phase of the war with the LTTE or if it was part of Colombo’s prevarication.

On the war crimes front, the LLRC’s report, made public recently, is a disappointment. It has attracted criticism from UN-affiliated and other international rights groups, citing doubts about the LLRC’s mandate and impartiality. The report virtually exonerates the Lankan army from the charge of deliberately targeting civilians, including using heavy artillery in the No Fire Zone.

Pertinently, Colombo had, then, after some nudging by New Delhi, sought to allay fears of a massacre by promising not to use heavy weaponry in the zone. Indeed, the LLRC’s report even suggests that given the foggy nature of events during the last stages of the war, it is impossible to find out exactly what happened. This is bunkum.

Closure, as the report itself notes, is part of the process of reconciliation. And that means an independent, impartial enquiry into these alleged crimes is vital for that process to be meaningful. On some other counts, like, say, on missing persons and detainees, language policies, land issues, demilitarisation and so on, the report proposes some sensible measures. It also stresses that the devolution of powers issue is central for a reconciliation based on a political solution.

The murderousness of the LTTE was to blame too but, as the report notes, the whole conflict is rooted in the sense of grievances of the Tamil people. In that context, there have been fears the LLRC was set up as part of an effort by Colombo to stave off international pressure and buy more time while really not doing much on most issues in reality.

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