Coinciding with the Core Group on Sri Lanka, led by the United Kingdom on Monday tabling the Resolution on Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, university students in Sri Lanka’s former war ravaged North announced a massive protest rally to be held on Saturday demanding the setting up of hybrid courts to investigate alleged war crimes of Sri Lanka. The Core Group on Sri Lanka, comprising Canada, Germany, Montenegro, North Macedonia and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland presented the resolution A/HRC/40/L.1 titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’ which Sri Lanka is set to co-sponsor.
Meanwhile, major developments are taking place in Sri Lanka in the backdrop to it controversially yet again, as in 2015 planning to co-sponsorthis roll over resolution that for the second instance, seek more time to implement the pledges it made to UNHCR four years ago, including setting up of special courts to try war crimes.
One of the major developments taking place in Sri Lanka is that the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) is currently questioning the former Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda over his alleged role in the abduction of 11 youths between the years 2008-2009 after the Sri Lanka Police last month added Karannagoda to a list of 14 men accused of abducting 11 youth from wealthy families to extort money. Some see the charges as legitimate and deserving investigation while other decry it as a typical case of using the retired official as a pawn to showcase to the world that the government is serious about impartially pursuing allegations of human rights violations.
The former Army Commander, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka under whose command the final phase of the war against the LTTE took place is currently affiliated with the UNP regime of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while the former Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa who gave leadership to the war between 2006 and 2009 is currently a US citizen, although he is in the process of revoking that status to contest the Presidency under the political party of his brother and ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Meanwhile, the sending of arbitrary samples by Sri Lanka to a US lab, from the mass grave in Northern Mannar discovered mid last year, has run into controversy after the six samples sent were declared to belong to the years between 1499 – 1719 when the Portuguese and Dutch ruled North-Western Sri Lanka. The Mannar Judicial Medical Officer, and the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) which sent six samples to Beta Analytics in Miami, Florida, USA have done so against the advice of the main archeologist involved in investigations into the mass grave, Dr. Raj Somadeva who had wanted a larger and systematically chosen sample, sources confirmed. Hence it is pointed out that it cannot be determined that all skeletal remains of the grave are from the Portuguese and Dutch era.
In this backdrop, reaffirming Human Rights Council resolutions 30/1 of 1 October 2015 and 34/1 of 23 March 2017 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka, the draft resolution 40/1 made public this week, requested the Office of the High Commissioner to continue to assess progress on the implementation of its recommendations and other relevant processes related to reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. The draft resolution also requests a written update made to the Human Rights Council at its 43rd session, and a comprehensive report, followed by a discussion on the implementation of Council resolution 30/1, at its 46th session.
It also welcomes the ‘positive engagement of the Government of Sri Lanka with the High Commissioner and the Office of the High Commissioner since October 2015’, and encourages the ‘continuation of that engagement in the promotion and protection of human rights and truth, justice, reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka.’ It recognizes‘the strong role played by Sri Lanka’s democratic institutions in the peaceful resolution of the political situation that arose in Sri Lanka from October to December 2018,’ and welcomes ‘the establishment of the Office on Missing Persons in September 2017, the appointment of its Commissioners in February 2018 and the assumption of its work to fully implement its mandate.’ Sri Lanka is expected to cosponsor this Resolution 40/1 next week.
Meanwhile sources from Sri Lanka’s North where the ethnic conflict between the government military and the LTTE took place, say that there is an alarming rise of pro-LTTE sentiment among public. In announcing the anti-government rally to be held on March 16, vehicles were seen on the roads of the Jaffna district carrying replicas of the ‘war memorial’ built at the Jaffna university in memory of LTTE cadres killed during the conflict. This is seen as a significant act and comes in the background of the Sri Lankan government failing in the past post war decade to usher in a tradition of collective mourning of the war dead irrespective of whether they are the government military, the LTTE or civilians.