As Sri Lanka’s civil war raged in the country’s Northern Province, September 16, 2008 augured the beginning of the end. On that day – almost exactly six years ago – the Sri Lankan government announced that it could no longer guarantee the safety of international humanitarian workers. The administration, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, told all foreigners to leave the north.
Rajapaksa and his collaborators knew that a war without witnesses would help Sri Lankan government forces crush the Tamil Tiger insurgency – whatever the cost. What transpired during the war’s final phases in the Vanni – serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law – is something that cannot not be ignored.
Through the stories of four unique individuals, Muttrupulliyaa…? reminds us that the way Sri Lanka’s civil war ended must never be forgotten. And that it’s both the scale of previous atrocities and the unmistakably human element of the ongoing conflict that makes the island nation’s case so gripping.
Sri Lanka continues to receive some international scrutiny at venues such as the UN Human Rights Council. And the ongoing international investigation into war crimes by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is most welcome. However, justice is still far away and many wounds remain unhealed.
As the international community turns its attention to other global hotspots, let’s not forget what happened in Sri Lanka. And let’s acknowledge that what continues to happen under the watch of the Rajapaksa administration – the systematic denial of Tamil rights, the ruthless repression of dissent, the shrinking space for civil society and the complete institutionalization of impunity – must not be allowed to continue.