Sirisena’s move is only half commendable

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s plan to consult, but not involve, the United Nations as it proceeds to conduct an internal inquiry into alleged war crimes and human rights abuses, committed during the army’s offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), is a measure that is half commendable. Sirisena’s latest move follows his decision to rehabilitate citizens displaced by decades of conflict and release land previously owned by Tamils but taken over by the state during its military campaigns back to their rightful owners. All noteworthy decisions.

Tamil women hold portraits of missing relatives at a protest in Jaffna during David Cameron's visitBut the country’s Tamil minority needs more assurances and an inquiry endorsed by the international community will catapult Sri Lanka back into the global mainstream. International reputation counts a lot and Sri Lanka is poised to attract attention, especially on the economic front, provided of course it is seen to be doing the right things. Sirisena’s triumph in the general elections against the semi-dictatorial regime of Mahinda Rajapaksa illustrates that the people’s minds are pregnant with optimism for the future. They seek change, coupled with domestic and economic prosperity, and this requires vigorous engagement with the international community for privileges. Against this backdrop, a domestic inquiry may not be credible enough, given that there could be a lack of impartiality.

Noteworthy, however, is Sirisena’s proactive stance. Irrespective of the execution of this latest reform, it appears that he is keen to bury the ghosts of the past and ensure that all Sri Lankans — irrespective of their ethnicity — find equal space in the country’s social fabric.