Beautiful beaches, rich culture and guaranteed sunshine make Sri Lankan a top tourist destination and favourite choice for honeymooners. But Beneath the exotic exterior lurks a fragmented reality Sri Lankan officials choose to hide. Last weekend marked the third anniversary of the end to 26 years of a bitter civil war.
A military parade through Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo was held to commemorate the soldiers that fought against the Tamil Tigers (LTTE). As the nation celebrated another year of peace, the UN Human Rights Council voted in favour of a resolution prompting the Sri Lanka government to re-investigate alleged war crimes.
The government has recently launched a campaign against “traitors”, namely journalists and activists. State media is condemning whistle-blowers and Sri Lankan journalists saying anti-government reports helped the LTTE.
Exiled Tamil reporter Rajkumar Subramaniyam said: “Sri Lanka is the worst conflict zone on the planet when journalism is considered. More than thirty journalists have been killed by the current regime for revealing the reality of war. Even before the final war against LTTE, the government targeted the journalists who declined to fall in line with them.”
Mr Subramaniyam said the government suspect embedded journalism leaked evidence of war crimes which has lead to the vilification of journalists. “They tried to silence us and failed, this campaign will fail too-the world is watching the (Sri Lankan) government and the truth is coming out,” he added.
The UN estimates over 70,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 displaced, many of whom are still unable to return to their homes. Ethnic tensions between the Sinhalese community and minority Tamil community of the Northeast officially ended in 2009, with the Sri Lankan government seizing the last of the Tamil Tiger rebel areas. The Army and Tamil Tigers fought a merciless battle involving suicide bombings, air raids, sea battles and road side blasts.
Last year the UN conducted a report investigating war crimes against civilians committed by both the Sri Lankan Government and Tamil Tigers. The report was rejected by the government who called it “biased” and requested it not be published saying it could “damage reconciliation efforts”. The government said it would conduct its’ own investigation.
The Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) (established by the President of Sri Lanka and UN General Secretary) cleared the military of all war crimes. The report was heavily criticised for failing to reach international standards, ignoring crimes of illegal killings, enforced disappearance, widespread shelling of civilians and civilian human shields.
The Sri Lankan Civil War was relatively unpublicised in the western world but sparked international outrage towards the end as 250,000 Tamil civilians were caught up in the conflict. The civilians were left to live in refugee camps for months as allegations concerning the government threatening to execute those captured if the rebels did not surrender became common place.
Posted by Sheela