Category Archives: Tamil civilians

Presidential Pardons for Criminals, Terrorists, and Who Else?

Chandre Dharmawardana, whose thoughts should be ruminated on in the light of the preceding item = https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2020/03/30/justice-decimated-with-gotas-ominous-step-military-murderer-rathnayake-pardoned/

When the family of the Czar Nicholas, children and women included,  were brutally killed by the Bolshevik revolutionaries, that was justified by a throng of intellectuals who were ready to defend anything done in the name of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin. Clever dialectical arguments were presented as to why even the children had to be killed. More sensitive souls presented excuses rather than justifications. A  favorite one was that “it is inevitable” that some bourgeois  sentiments will be upset when a little extra blood is let – but all that is justified in the quest to reach the coveted end.

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Justice decimated with Gota’s Ominous Step: Military Murderer Rathnayake pardoned

ONE: Ambika Satkunanathan: “Presidential Pardon emphasizes the State’s Privileges and the Denial of Justice

Lawyer, human rights advocate and former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Ambika Satkunanathan, questioned the basis for the presidential pardon of Sunil Rathnayake and the legitimacy of the process, using the case to underline the challenges Tamil families’ face in holding perpetrators accountable and obtain justice.

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa pardoned sergeant Sunil Rathnayake, who was sentenced to death for killing eight Tamil Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mirusuvil, Jaffna on December 2000.

Despite being found guilty by the Colombo High Court in June 2015, and having his sentence upheld by the country’s highest judicial Supreme court in April 2019 with a compelling witness testimony and evidence, Rathnayake was given an unwarranted pardon.

The sanctioning of presidential pardons have been reserved for situations where the convicted person has been unfairly or wrongly convicted and a process following the Article 34 (1) of the Constitution needs to carried out. Historically, presidential pardons have been granted by the executive in an “arbitrary and non-transparent manner” and instead “special pardons should be standardized,” argued Satkunanathan.

The process should be ‘transparent’ and should be disclosed to the public if this process was followed for Rathnayake’s case. “This is particularly important since Rathnayake was released less than a year after his sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court, which renders any rehabilitation within such a short period improbable,” added Satkunanathan.

Satkunanathan questions the impartiality of the Sri Lanka justice system, identifying the privileges held by those in governance and the discrimination faced by “vulnerable” minority groups in Sri Lanka.

This can be highlighted by Rathnayake’s wife thanking both President Rajapaksa for his ‘promise’ to give Rathnayake a pardon and state officials, with the latter having no legal authority to influence the presidential pardon, stated Satkunanathan.

Minority groups in Sri Lanka, namely Tamils, “are unable to exercise and enjoy their rights, which exposes them to potential further violations and restricts their ability to seek justice for the violations they experience.” Satkunanathan explains the victims of the Mirusuvil massacre were no different as they faced “economic and physical insecurities” that positioned them in a position where they were vulnerable to violence.

Satkunanathan stressed that there has been a lack of public outrage caused by the pardoning, despite the lack of transparency and validity in the process of the pardon. She asks whether Tamils lives are “worthy of being mourned” and added that the victims of the massacre were labelled as “terrorists merely by the fact they lived in the North or because they were Tamil.”

By shifting the blame onto the Mirusuvil victims by casting them as terrorists, it gives the notion they are “someone not deserving of empathy nor of being mourned” and justifies the crimes of Rathnayake as a “heroic act.”

Satkunanathan expressed her concern at the measures implemented by the governments to restrict civil rights and free speech – “particularly speech that challenges or critiques state action or inaction” – under the guise of stemming the pandemic.

However, she adds that free speech has been impacted by several factors such as various socio-economic and political elements, but the ability to criticise the decisions of the executive and draw criticism, is dependent on a person’s identity (whether they are Tamil or not) and privilege. Despite the fear of reprisals from speaking out, Satkunanathan has maintained the importance of challenging the states’ decisions as a means of “exercising one’s citizenship.”

His victims – which included children, amongst who was a five-year-old whose body showed signs of torture – were meticulously killed by him and a group of others. Rathnayake vehemently denied involvement in the murders in his Dock Statement and showed no remorse for his actions, making it a greater injustice that such a pardon was allowed.

The court has concluded that it was “highly improbable if not impossible for a single person to commit all these acts” and it was indicative of a premeditated massacre. Rathnayake was the only one to be convicted for the crimes and to undo the little justice won adds to the “negligible action that has been taken by the state to prosecute those accused of human rights violations during the thirty-year internal armed conflict in Sri Lanka,” emphasised Satkunanathan.

This is one of the rare instances of a perpetrator being made accountable, the pardon doesn’t serve the interests of justice, particularly in relation to holding those responsible for conflict-related violations accountable,” she added.

***  ****

TWO : News Item in Tamil Guardian, January 2020, entitled Sri Lanka to release soldier from prison for massacre of Tamils”

The Sri Lankan government is reportedly set to release a soldier who was sentenced to death over the massacre of eight Tamil civilians, according to an opposition parliamentarian who applauded the move.

“Now we have got information that the government has taken measures to release 34 members of the intelligence and Sunil Ratnayake, as mentioned during the Gotabaya Rajapaksa election campaign,” said UNP MP Ajith Perera.

“That is how a leader who does what they say works,” continued Perera. “Therefore I would like to extend my gratitude to president Gotabaya Rajapakse and Minister of Justice Nimal Siripala De Silva for taking this decision.”

It is unclear as to whether the soldier has actually been released as of yet, and whether he has received a presidential pardon.

Staff Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake was sentenced to death in 2015 for the murder of the 8 Tamils, including 2 children, in the town of Mirusuvil. The Tamils had been arrested by Sri Lankan security forces on the10th of December 2000. The following day their bodies were found in a mass grave with their throats slashed, according to the District Medical Officer’s post-mortem report. All but two of the bodies had been stripped naked. The youngest to have been murdered was a 5-year-old child.

The killings have since been dubbed the Mirusuvil massacre.

Ponnathurai Maheswaran, who managed to survive and escape from the army, testified in court and identified at least five of the soldiers responsible. After a lengthy court process only Ratnayake, a member of the military’s elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), had been sentenced. The other men were cleared of all charges.

As mentioned by Perera, current Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa made repeated pledges to release soldiers that had been convicted of rights abuses. His regime has also vowed not to abide by a UN Human Rights Council resolution that mandates a hybrid accountability mechanism to prosecute those responsible for rights violations.

The case of Rathnayake, one of the few convictions of Sri Lankan soldiers for abuses of Tamils, drew particularly widespread support amongst the Sinhala south.

At the time of the 2015 conviction, Together Against Genocide released a statement welcoming the sentencing, but added “much more” needed to be done to end impunity on the island.

“Even though the war has ended, the racial hatred is far from resolved,” TAG said.

“The open support for the convicted soldier as a ‘War Hero’ clearly shows that racial tensions are still extremely high. This racial hatred prevents justice for the Tamil victims of this and other massacres. There is a clear reluctance among the majority ethnic Sinhala population to hold SLA forces responsible for their war crimes.”

The names of those killed in the massacre are listed below.

Kathiran Gnanachandran (35)
Gnanachandran Santhan
Baskar Gnanabasakaran (19)
Sellamuttu Theivakulasingham (31)
Vilvarajah Pratheepan (15)
Sinniah Vilvarajah (41)
Nadesu Jeyachandran (21)
Vilvarajah Prasath (5)

THREE:

Maria Abi-Habib and As Pandemic Rages, Sri Lanka’s President Pardons a War Criminal,” 28 March 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/28/world/asia/sri-lanka-war-crimes-coronavirus.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap

28srilanka-war-jumbo

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Tamil Tiger Power-mongering and Accumulation in the Avenues of Britain

ITEM ONE = Glen Jenvey of London – An exclusive to Asian Tribune, entitled LTTE to take British Government to Courts”

The LTTE – acronym stands for the Tamil Tigers of Tamil Eelam, is set to challenge the British Government in the appeal courts, over their banning as the terrorist organization, who were credited with the claim of inventing the modern suicide bombers, and also that they are not a terrorist organization (?) but only ‘Freedom Fighters’ and they have given notice of appeal to the Proscribed Organization’s Appeal Commission, under the Terrorism Act of 2000.

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Ruki Fernando on Recent Questionings & Intimidation from Governmental ‘Arms’ ‘

An Email Memo from Ruki Fernando, a human rights activist within Sri Lanka

Dear Michael, I present herewith some personal information in response to your Memo.

Please find a a report, based on both incidents reported in mostly local media, but also some not reported, but narrated to me and colleagues directly in private. published Friday, 21st Feb. night SL time https://www.inform.lk/repression-of-dissent-in-sri-lanka/

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HRW and Hodge clamour about Renewed Intimidation under Gota

Amanda Hodge, in The Australian, 20 February 2020, with this title “Fear campaign ‘silencing Sri Lanka activists’

Three months after Sri Lanka’s feared former security minister Gotabaya Rajapaksa won a shock presidential victory, rights groups say security forces and intelligen­ce agencies have intensified surveillance and intimid­ation of activists and families of victims of his former regime.

 Gotabaya Rajapaksa in October 2019  …. Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on the new government to end the ­intimidation of activists and families of those forcibly disappeared during the country’s 28-year civil war, including the 10 years in which the Rajapaksa family held power until its defeat in 2015.

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Yogaraja sparks Protest against Caste Disabilities in the Tamil Regions

Ahilan Kadirgamar. in Daily Mirror, on 17 February 2020, where the title is “Breaking the Silence on Caste”

Caste is all present in Jaffna, but a silence prevails about caste oppression. Such silence and invisibility were not always the case, where vibrant struggles against caste oppression shook Jaffna some five decades ago.

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When Vengeance drives Human Rights Recrimination on the World Stage: The Ban Ki-moon Story

Michael Roberts

As the annual witch-hunt directed at Sri Lanka from the UNHRC at Geneva looms, we can benefit from recalling the role of the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, in this pantomime. Ban Ki-moon is a South Korean who has been identified as “a lackey” of USA in the same category as Kofi Annan by the Canadian activist Chris Black in an email communication on 20th January 2020. Ban Ki-moon and the UN Rehabilitation Commissioner, Navy Pillai were behind the selection of Marzuki, Sooka and Ratner to man the UN Panel of Investigation whose report has served as the foundation for the campaign mounted by the UNHCR offices in Geneva to hound Sri Lanka for human rights abuses.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (r) is greeted by IDPs (Internaly Displaced Percons) as he visits Manik Farm in Sri Lanka on May 23, 2009.
AFP PHOTO/JOE KLAMAR (/AFP/Getty Images)       

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