Bindunuweva commission’s mandate queried

[TamilNet, Monday, 12 March 2001, 18:16 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government said Monday that it would appoint a one-man commission to probe into the massacre of the inmates of the Bindudunuweva Rehabilitation camp near the hill country town of Bandarawela. Young Tamils, mostly former guerrillas from the eastern province, were hacked to death by a well-armed Sinhala gang on 25 October last year. Some inmates were thrown into a timber-sawing machine that chopped them to pieces. The Sri Lankan Police or the government are yet to name the culprits. In statement issued Monday night the Sri Lankan government said that the President has appointed P.H.K Kulatilake, a judge of the Court of Appeal, to probe the massacre. This is the second commission of inquiry ever appointed by Colombo to probe a massacre of Tamils. “The merit of this commission and its effectiveness can be judged only when its mandate as stipulated by the government is clearly laid out”, a human rights lawyer in Colombo said.

The first ever commission of inquiry to probe a massacre of Tamils was appointed by the Sri Lankan government in 1991 to inquire in to the Kokkaddicholai massacre in Batticaloa. It turned out to be a cosmetic exercise as that Commission’s mandate was extremely limited, making it an officially sanctioned fact finding mission.

Although Tamil politicians and human rights activists have been pressing the Sri Lankan government for more than seventeen years to appoint commissions of inquiry for scores of massacres in which thousands of Tamils, including 49 political prisoners in the Welikada prison in Colombo and more than 6000 in Batticaloa, were murdered by Sinhala gangs or the Sri Lankan security forces, Colombo has been very reluctant to do so.

“The much-delayed commission of inquiry on the Bindunuwewa massacre has eventually been appointed under pressure from western donors. But if it has a limited mandate then it will be a hoax, aimed basically to satisfy the donors who have been concerned that even a cosmetic measure had not been put in place by Colombo”, the lawyer said.

 

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