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Inside Story
Can Sri Lanka achieve reconciliation?
We ask if the government is committed to harmony as alleged evidence of war crimes against Tamils airs on British TV.
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2012 09:15

It was a civil war that ravaged Sri Lanka for almost 30 years. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, many of them civilians.

And now damning evidence in a documentary aired in Britain alleges that the Sri Lankan government did, in fact, commit war crimes.

"I think you're talking absolute rubbish. I have to rebut charges that are false. We do have inquiries that are going on internally. I don't know why you think external inquiries are independent."

- Rajiva Wijesinha, a Sri Lankan MP

Channel 4 in the UK aired alleged evidence of war crimes in Sri Lanka through a documentary video of five men and a child who had been executed.

The Sri Lankan defence ministry responded angrily, laying the blame squarely on the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE), saying:

"The Ministry of Defence rejects all allegations of human rights violations… that it is able to prove with valid evidence that it was the LTTE that committed gross violations of human rights over the past three decades."

Accusing the Sri Lankan government of human rights abuses, Amnesty International says hundreds are detained without trial and many are tortured.

Next week, the UN Human Rights Council is due to consider a resolution calling for Sri Lanka to investigate the alleged war crimes. The government says it has already taken steps towards reconciliation.

"There has to be an international, independent investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka… There is no point in just denying it."

- Kumar Kumarendran, a member of the British Tamils Forum

The war between the Tamil Tigers and government forces lasted for nearly 30 years, ending in 2009 after government troops crushed a Tamil rebellion.

The UN estimates 100,000 people were killed and thousands more displaced.

Both sides, however, have been accused of committing war crimes.

So, will the Sri Lankan government admit these alleged war crimes? How would it refute the accusations? And, with neither side being held accountable are hopes for reconciliation fading?

Joining Inside Story with presenter Adrian Finighan to discuss this are guests: Rajiva Wijesinha, a Sri Lankan MP and advisor to the Sri Lankan president on reconciliation, and the former head of the country's peace secretariat and human rights ministry secretariat; Phil Rees, the author of Dining with Terrorists: Meeting with the world's most-wanted militants, in which he was embedded with the Tamil Tigers; and Kumar Kumarendran, a member of the British Tamils Forum and part of the Tamil diaspora now residing in the UK.

The Rajapaksa government felt they could eliminate the Tamil Tigers. They had a policy not of reconciling the Tamil population there but of gaining political success by developing a kind of populist Sinhala view… which has also driven their military policies in this war.

Phil Rees, an author with 25 years experience of covering Sri Lanka

Source:
Al Jazeera
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