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LLRC

Tag Archives | LLRC

Sri Lanka’s ‘Truth’ Commission: A Brief Assessment of the LLRC Report

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A Sri Lankan journalist reads the final report of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Dec 16, 2011. Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP Photo

Readers will find no big surprises after reading the final report of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

A Sri Lankan journalist reads the final report of Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Dec 16, 2011. Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP Photo

It is very much what most people were expecting. A document that looks to the future, exonerates the military, does not touch on the question of accountability and includes some touchy-feely language about the country’s need to move forward, celebrate its diversity and be grateful for the defeat of terrorism. Essentially, all civilian casualties were the result of people caught in the crossfire or were the LTTE’s fault. “The protection of the civilian population was given the highest priority” by the Sri Lankan armed forces, the Commission has determined.

The report also claims that military operations moved at a “deliberately slow” pace because Sri Lanka’s military personnel were so careful and cognizant of the dangers to civilian life during the final phases of the conflict. While the LTTE deliberately targeted civilians, it appears that Sri Lanka’s military did not, according to the LLRC report. That assertion goes against what most people seem to think, including the report produced by the United Nation’s Panel of Experts. In order to determine “questions of State responsibility,” the LLRC report goes on to note that an “international tribunal” would be unhelpful because there just is not enough evidence about what actually happened during the final phase of the conflict.

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U.S. Foreign Policy and Sri Lanka

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Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights of Sri Lanka, addresses the Human Rights Council. Jean-Marc Ferré/UN

After three decades of war, Sri Lanka is still a mess. President Mahinda Rajapaksa could not care less about national reconciliation.

Mahinda Samarasinghe, Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights of Sri Lanka, addresses the Human Rights Council. Jean-Marc Ferré/UN

Here is a president who did not hesitate to assert his authority at the end of the war. Yet now, he is afraid to be a strong and thoughtful leader, reluctant to take a stand. The widespread human rights violations that occurred during final phases of the war, by both government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, have been well-documented. Unfortunately, nothing has been done to address this, as government security forces continue to harass civilians in the country’s predominantly Tamil north and east.

What members of the international community have failed to understand is that a lack of accountability for what transpired in 2009 has only encouraged further human rights violations, which are still widespread. Impunity in Sri Lanka is not sporadic, but systemic. It is a cancer that will continue to grow as long as the current regime faces no repercussions for its actions. The Sri Lankan military’s intrusion into virtually all aspects of civilian life is appalling. State security forces should not promulgate the idea that the words “ethnic minority” and “inferior citizen” are synonymous. When it comes to the media, Sri Lanka is one of the least free places in the world.

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The Continued Militarization of Sri Lanka

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Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka.  Source: Sri Lankan Government

Led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, post-war Sri Lanka is a sad place. In May of 2009, the Sri Lankan government achieved a resounding military victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka. Source: Sri Lankan Government

Most of the LTTE’s leadership was killed. For the foreseeable future, it is hard to envision another Tamil nationalist movement taking up arms against the state. Yet, if living in Sri Lanka, one might think that the conflict is still going on. In post-war Sri Lanka, the militarization of the entire country has continued unabated. This development is less significant in the predominantly Sinhalese south, where military personnel are often viewed as heroes for defeating the LTTE.

But in the mostly Tamil north and east, they are viewed as oppressors. Indeed the military’s presence in the north and east (both former LTTE strongholds where much of the fighting took place) is disturbing. State security personnel wield enormous influence over all aspects of people’s lives. Precise statistics about military employment in Sri Lanka are not publicly available, but some of the most disturbing effects of this ubiquitous military presence are often left out of statistical analyses anyway. Members of the armed forces are literally everywhere. People are living in fear, especially single Tamil women who lost their husbands during the war.

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