Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe
Selvam Sivapakyam, who is in this picture was a resident of Mullaitivu in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. She participated in campaigns seeking justice for the missing persons during the past three years.
She was in search of what happened to her daughter’s son Alfred Dinu during the final days of the war.
There is no sufficient assistance to uplift the lives of the resettled people who were internally displaced due to the war between state forces and Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka. She died as an exhausted woman at the age of 72 after a long illness in a tin-roofed makeshift hut burning under the scorching sun in tropical dry zone climate of her village.
She was born just one and a half months after Sri Lanka gained Independence in 1948. Sri Lankan President Gotabhaya Rajapakse and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardena were also born after one year from independence. They were at the same age but poor Sivapakyam looked much older.
Siwapakyam’s funeral took place on February 26, 2020. On the same day, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena declared at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council the withdrawal of co-sponsoring the resolutions 30/1 and 40/1 with regard to the accountability of Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka, as a state, joined with several other countries to adopt the resolution 30/1 in 2015. After a regime change in 2019, the state has now announced the withdrawal from the history of the resolution even after a substantial segment of the recommendations of the resolution had been completed.
The withdrawal from co-sponsorship of a proposal is definitely ridiculous even at the village funeral aid society of Sivapakyam’s remote village. However, such mockeries can happen in the arena of international politics. Sri Lanka has shown the world the lack of stable state policy through this action. The impact will not only on human rights charges but also on the trust of foreign investors in terms of Sri Lanka. The country is paddling through a very difficult time and it badly needs international goodwill and support at this juncture.
During the thirty years of war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebel organization Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), both parties violated human rights tremendously. During the final days of the war in 2009, LTTE used the general public as a human shield blatantly violating human rights. The government did not pay much attention to human rights in view of their ambitious thrust to win the war.
Around 15,000 LTTE fighters, who were believed surrendered to the government forces were reported to be missing since then. Sivapakyam’s son also could be among them. They might be militarily eliminated and such summary killing of LTTE fighters, who were forcibly trained under the de-facto government of the LTTE was surely a tragedy. Ultimately, they were civilians who had to bow to the orders of a dominating ruthless regime which was illegal though. Killing such surrendered people who were the citizens of the country by the government forces was a blatant war crime, for which the state must be answerable and prove whether the hypothesis noted here is right or wrong.
The repercussions of the decision taken by President Gotabhaya Rajapakse’s government to withdraw from UNHRC resolutions 30/1 and 40/1 are yet to be revealed. Perhaps this issue will go to the Security Council. The government spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella indicated that the government would expect that China and Russia to ally Sri Lanka at the Security Council and sometimes it too can happen.
However, at least the voice of Tamilnadu and the Tamil diaspora around the world are equally powerful and cannot be permanently ignored. The question of Sivapakyam regarding her grandson’s fate is legitimate. Even though Sivapakyam is dead, her search for accountability of the government will not be diminished.
The government must now bring forward their proposals to address this issue.