The 2019 Common Ground Award accorded to former President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga on the 17th of June 2019 has created an uproar amongst the victimised Tamil community worldwide. Intractability of Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict as it is today is a legacy of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Her lack of vision and unwillingness to pursue a sustainable political solution during her tenure contributed to the bloodshed in Sri Lanka.
The British Tamils Forum (BTF) oppose this award because of the atrocities committed by Chandrika Kumaratunga during her tenure in office. The BTF contacted the concerned organisation, Search for Common Ground (SFCG). One of the responsible officers from SFCG met members of the BTF.
BTF clearly explained to the representative, BTF’s displeasure in the award being given to someone like Chandrika Kumaratunga and was given a brief summary of the history of conflict in Sri Lanka.
BTF was successful in cancelling two planned speeches, one in the prestigious Oxford Union and the other at the Mansion House in London by the former President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Unfortunately, sufficient notice was not given in the award ceremony for Mrs Kumaratunga. However, in the constructive meeting with SFCG the following list was presented to them.
List of human rights related issues that happened during the period of Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
· She failed to implement the recommendations of the Four Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearances, namely the three Zonal Commissions and the one All Island Commission which inquired into approximately 30,000 complaints in all.
· The recommendations included – taking action against nearly 1500 perpetrators of disappearances against whom these Commissions had found credible material indicative of their responsibility for the disappearances.
· That list included members of the security service officers, police officers and politicians.
· Though these Commissions had received information on about 10 Mass Graves where persons alleged to have been killed and buried, that information was not acted upon. No action was taken to exhume bodies and establish the cause of death.
· Evidence of about 6 torture chambers had been provided to these Commissions with the names of those who maintained those chambers, but no action had been taken against any of them.
· The recommendations made to prevent disappearances of persons in the future were not implemented.
· The changes suggested to the existing laws to prosecute persons involved with causing disappearances not implemented.
· No action taken to identify the bodies exhumed at Chemmani.
· Following the “Riviresa” Military Operations to regain control of Jaffna from the LTTE in 1996, 600 Tamil youth had disappeared, and no action was taken to trace them.
· The National Human Rights Commission appointed a special team to inquire into the disappearances that occurred in the Jaffna District following the “Riviresa” Military Operations. That Team found credible evidence against about 20 military officers of their involvement in the disappearances in Jaffna, but the Government did not take any action against them.
· In July 1995 The Sri Lanka Airforce bombed the Navali Roman Catholic Church and many civilians were killed.
· In 1995 the military killed many civilians in Nagar Kovil.
The SFCG officer was requested to hand over this list to Mrs Kumaratunga for her response for each and every item on the list. If she fails to respond the organisation should consider withdrawing the award. The SFCG officer agreed to consult with his colleagues.
Mrs Kumaratunga was responsible for the derailment of the peace process initiated by international community in 2001. Currently, she is responsible for reconciliation in the country. BTF explained to the SFCG officer that a reconciliation process will never be successful without dealing with the issue of accountability. It would be akin to putting the cart before the horse.
In a recent interview Mrs Kumaratunga stated that war crimes investigation should not take place in Sri Lanka.
During her regime she herself followed a policy of ‘war for peace’. Lest we forget Sri Lanka is a co-sponsor of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 that requires independent investigation into the war crimes and crimes against humanity with the help of foreign investigators, prosecutors and judges.
BTF strongly feels that the award given by Search for Common Ground should be withdrawn
BTF Media Coordinator
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