BY Pamodi Waravita
The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) has called on the Government of Sri Lanka to reflect on recent messages conveyed by the US and the wider international community through the newly imposed sanctions by the US State Department on two former Sri Lankan Army officials.
“Sri Lanka is in the midst of many crises. The trajectory it is heading – increasing authoritarianism and militarised governance; further marginalisation of Tamil, Muslim, Hindu, and Christian communities; and the debilitating financial crisis and the economic challenges engulfing the people – has the potential to seed new conflicts in the country. Marking the Human Rights Day on 10 December, the US Government has imposed human rights-related sanctions on two Sri Lankan military officials. The US sanctioning these two officers appears more for the message it conveys to the Sri Lankan leadership, than for its direct impact on the individual officers,” the GTF said in a statement over the weekend.
The US State Department sanctioned Sri Lanka Navy Intelligence Officer Chandana Hettiarachchi and former Sri Lanka Army Staff Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake for “their involvement in the gross violation of human rights” on Human Rights Day on 10 December.
The GTF noted that Hettiarachchi was spared from prosecution and that Ratnayake was pardoned after his conviction and called these “actions that are not consistent with international standards and expectations”.
“The Human Rights Day statement from US State Secretary Antony Blinken, articulated the Biden administration’s intent to put human rights at the centre of their foreign policy and their preparedness to use appropriate tools and authorities to draw attention to and promote accountability for human rights abusers and violators the world over. Clearly, the world is entering a new era where the regimes dependent on authoritarianism, militarisation, human rights abuses, and state-sanctioned violence can be expected to be checkmated on many fronts,” the statement added.
The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs wrote to Blinken earlier this month, urging the State Department to focus on a “durable political solution” in Sri Lanka. Whilst the Foreign Affairs Committee emphasised that it is the Sri Lankan people who should lead the debate on the matter, supported and facilitated by the US, the outcome must meet the “needs of all Sri Lankan citizens, including Tamil and Muslim people”.
The letter came following a recent visit to the US by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Parliamentarians M.A. Sumanthiran PC and Shanakiyan Rasamanickam, along with representatives of the GTF, who met with a number of senior US political figures, including members of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Commenting on the letter, the GTF claimed that it is evidence that Sri Lanka is on the “international radar”.
“Through its recent engagements with several countries, the GTF found the same sentiments and the willingness to play a constructive role in resolving many issues afflicting Sri Lanka. Their interests and commitments cover all aspects – promoting human rights and accountability, playing a supportive role in resolving the decades long political conflict, and embarking on impactful initiatives to help the people overcome their crippling economic challenges – whilst appreciating the strong interconnections among all. Presently, this appears to be the only silver lining in the dark clouds hovering over Sri Lanka. The GTF calls on the Sri Lankan people, civil society organisations, and their political leadership to deeply reflect on the messages directly or indirectly conveyed by many countries, particularly the US, and to appreciate the need for meaningful course correction with the long-term interest of all the peoples at the core.”