President Maithripala Sirisena gave concrete expression to his ideals of healing Sri Lanka’s post war wounds when he utilized his presidential powers to pardon a former member of the LTTE, Sivarajah Jeneevan, who had been convicted and imprisoned for having attempted to assassinate him in 2005 when he was Minister of Mahaweli Development.
This symbolic and healing gesture coincided with the first year anniversary of his becoming President.
Jenivan was arrested on April 23, 2006 and sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment by Polonnaruwa High Court over nine years later on July 3, 2015. The National Peace Council (NPC) is of the view that the State has the right to charge those who indulge in crimes irrespective of how long the time since the commission of the crime.
However, it is not necessary that persons accused should be remanded for an indefinite period because they are alleged to have committed a crime unless they are a continuing threat to others. We note in this context that there has been great controversy for the past several years over the continued detention without charge or without trial of over two hundred alleged LTTE members. We urge that they be either charged and subjected to the legal process, or released without further delay.
As a co-signatory to the resolution of the UN Human Rights in Geneva in October last year, Sri Lanka is required to ensure accountability for serious human rights violations and war crimes.
The government is presently supporting a consultation process with the general population in regard to its proposed four-fold mechanism to ensure truth seeking, judicial accountability, reparations and to clarify the issue of missing persons.
We believe that the legal process needs to be followed with regard to the country’s past and present, as in the case of Sivarajah Jeneevan though in a more expedited manner in the spirit of the President’s healing gesture.
NPC believes that these are not only political issues, but are also human issues of the heart and of people’s lives where there is no closure and families cannot move on. The anguish of family members of disappeared persons and those held in custody for several years has become a common sight mainly in the former conflict affected areas and elsewhere.
The government needs to take meaningful steps to ensure these cases are concluded expeditiously. This would enable those long term detainees and their families, and those of missing persons, to rebuild their lives and ensure that good governance is meaningful to them.