Feature Article

Colombo's war crimes turn to rape of the fleeing - Jaffna MP

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 28 January 2009, 11:45 GMT]
Civilians who have been caught by the Sri Lanka Army recently in Vadamaraadchi East in Jaffna and from Murasumoaddai in Ki'linochchi district, who are confined to the 'detention camps' run by the Sri Lankan military, have complained to their relatives that the Sri Lankan soldiers have taken several women into their custody and were sexually abusing them, said Jaffna district parliamentarian S. Gajendran on Wednesday. Those who continue to justify and abet the on going war against Tamils and those who directly or indirectly advocate surrender of Tamil civilians to their adversaries are a party to war crimes, he further said.

Selvarajah Gajendran
TNA Jaffna MP Mr. Selvarajah Kajendren
Stating that the relatives of victims in Sri Lankan custody in Jaffna, Vavuniyaa and Mannaar have come with shocking stories of sexual violence meted out to their relatives and family members, the parliamentarian said there is a volume of allegations and a long history of sexual abuse by the Sri Lankan military, which consists of 99% ethnic Sinhalese.

Due to the long culture of impunity enjoyed by the Sinhala dominated military, the families being held under a continuous threat to their lives and honour in the Sri Lankan custody are unable to come out and complain the most inhumane crime of war that is taking place silently, charged the Jaffna district parliamentarian of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).

It is an inherent culture in the Sinhala army to use the weapon of rape that is very sensitive to Tamil mind, in the long history of the ethnic war to subjugate Tamils.

It is not only rape, but the open exhibition of Sinhala chauvinism’s insatiable desire to see Tamils naked, whether man, woman, dead or alive that needs attention of the civilized world, the MP commented.

A leading Muslim industrialist of a South Asian country, after seeing evidence of vulgarity committed by Sri Lankan soldiers remarked that had that happened in an Arab country, the repercussions would have been terrible.

Sinhala sociologists who pester their ‘Tamil friends’ in knowing the nuances of the Tamil culture behind the ‘suicide war’ would do better in undertaking research on this Sinhala mentality, for it is much easier for them to get access to ‘original sources’ and the world would be benefited in understanding the nuances behind the nature of the ethnic majoritarianism in the island, the MP said further.

It is not without knowing the results of what they were doing, India and some world powers abetted Colombo’s war. Their lip-service calls to Colombo government to observe human rights were never honoured or responded positively.

But they continued with military, monetary and moral support and now they expect the Tamil civilians to abandon their fighters and surrender to their predators.

Will they take responsibility to the war crimes, asked the MP.

From the retired and relaxing US President Bush to Indian bureaucrat Shiv Shankar Menon, who found ‘cordial understanding’ with the Colombo government, there is a long list that bears responsibility to the war crimes in the island.

It is the atrocities on human dignity that were committed during the time of the IPKF that made many a Tamil heart to boil at the very mention of the name India, and the Congress Establishment is incapable of learning anything even today.

Humanity is yet to invent an international legal mechanism to indict real war criminals.

The Sri Lankan armed forces have been accused for decades for using systematic rape and murder of Tamil women. It is an openly acknowledged fact, from UN missions to rights watchdogs such as the Amnesty International, that impunity continues to reign as rape is used as a weapon of war in Sri Lanka.

Only a few of the victims were allowed re-join their families, and the victims cannot speak out the truth due to the cultural taboo and the military harassment at the hands of the enemy nation to whom they have become subjugated.

Two of the cases that have received judicial and media focus in Sri Lankan were that of Krishanthy (1996) and Koneswary (1997).

After the Sri Lankan armed forces captured the Jaffna Peninsula from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in early 1996 over 600 young people disappeared. One of the rape victims, Krishanthy Kumarasamy was murderd after being stopped at an SLA sentry point at Kaitadi, Jaffna district, on 7 September 1996. Her mother, a 16 year old brother and their neighbour went missing on the same day after they made inquiries at the sentry point. Their bodies were later found in shallow graves in Kaithady.

Soon after the "Riviresa Operation", Jaffna was under the command of Brig. Sri Lal Weerasuriya, under whom two others Brigadiers, Janaka Perera and Karunatilake, were handling security in prescribed areas. The Chemmani area was under the command of the then Brigadier Janaka Perera (Maj. Gen. Janaka Perera who was assassinated last year), who was one of the responsible as he was Operational Commander for the Jaffna peninsula and Joint Chief of Operations in 1996. Those with command authority over atrocities against Tamil civilians were decorated and promoted and the SL military was continue to be viewed an agent of repression rather than as a protector of the citizens of the island.

Mrs. Murugesapillai Koneswary, a thirty five year old mother of three who was gang raped and murdered in front of her family allegedly by a group of Policemen from the Central Camp Police station on 21 August 1997. Koneswary was killed, according to her family, when the Policemen exploded a grenade on her lower abdomen to destroy evidence of the rape. None of the perpetrators of the woman's rape and murder have been brought to book so far.

In 2007, 108 Sri Lankan soldiers who were serving in the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti were repatriated after they were found convicted in sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of minors in Haiti. The United Nations had asked Colombo to prosecute the soldiers ‘to the fullest extent of the law’.

In 2001, the year before a ceasefire ended the fighting, Amnesty International said it “has noted a marked rise in allegations of rape by [Sri Lankan] police, army and navy personnel.”

“Reports of rape in custody concern children as young as 14,” Amnesty also said.

Amnesty said “to [our] knowledge, not a single member of the Sri Lankan security forces has been brought to trial in connection to incidents of rape in custody although one successful prosecution has been brought in a case where the victim of rape was also murdered.”

Also in 2001, Amnesty wrote to then Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga, “urging her to take action to stop rape by security forces and bring perpetrators to justice” in response to reports of rape by the Sri Lankan forces in Mannaar, Batticaloa, Negombo and Jaffna.

“To date, no response has been received to the appeal,” Amnesty later said in a special report titled “Sri Lanka: Rape in Custody” which was published in January 2002, just as the Norwegian brokered Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) came into being.

In a statement to the UN in 1998, the World Organisation against Torture observed: “Sri Lankan soldiers have raped both women and young girls on a massive scale, and often with impunity, since reporting often leads to reprisals against the victims and their families.”

“The consistent policy of rape and violence against Tamil women that we have documented for many years is a fundamental military tactic of the Sri Lankan forces,” International Educational Development, an NGO, also told the UN that year.

Human rights NGOs have frequently protested the impunity Sri Lankan soldiers enjoy regarding rapes and other abuses.

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