[lg policy] Sri Lanka war panel hears Tamil grievances

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Aug 14 16:05:41 UTC 2010

Sri Lanka war panel hears Tamil grievances
By Charles Haviland BBC News, Vavuniya

Former Sri Lankan diplomat Bernard Gunathilaka, back to camera,
testifies on the first day of public hearings in the commission
looking into Sri Lanka's civil war in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 11 August
2010 The commission began public hearings in Colombo on Wednesday A
Sri Lankan government war commission has heard testimonies from Tamils
alleging their loved ones were abducted or detained by the army. Six
people came forward to speak of their missing sons or husbands at the
hearing in northern Sri Lanka, close to the former war frontline.

The panel has invited people to speak - either in public or in private
- of their experiences of war.  The government has dismissed calls for
an independent inquiry.


Sinnasamy Nallathamby, an elderly tailor, said his son was picked up
in an army roundup in late 2008. He was released by magistrates but,
while on his way home, was abducted by people in a white van - a type
of vehicle notorious in Sri Lanka for perpetrating forced
disappearances. A woman said her husband was also taken in a van and
hadn't been seen since. Others said they believed the military was
holding their husbands, who had previously worked with the Tamil
Tigers, but they lacked clear information.

Human rights groups have demanded an international probe into possible
war crimes perpetrated during Sri Lanka's 37-year conflict with the
Tamil Tigers, which ended last year. The UN says it believes at least
7,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final five months of the war
during a government offensive against rebel-held territory. The
government disputes these figures.


The commission said it would pass the people's details to the relevant
authorities. Sri Lankan soldier Both sides have been accused of
committing human rights abuses The eight Sri Lankans chosen by the
government to sit on the panel have been hearing from ordinary people
in Vavuniya, a town now home to tens of thousands of Tamil war
refugees. Another complaint involved a man who said there was a broad
perception among Tamils that they were being discriminated against in
the courts.

The panel also heard allegations that the government was deliberately
settling ethnic Sinhalese people in previously Tamil areas.
One constantly recurring theme was the poverty of people trying to
resettle after the war, several saying they simply didn't have the
resources to rebuild their lives. The commission will also hold
hearings in refugee centres and camps where thousands of men and women
said to have links with the Tamil Tigers are detained for what the
government calls rehabilitation. The commission chairman has told the
BBC that no one needs to fear testifying, as secrecy and anonymity can
be guaranteed.
But a report by the US State Department this week cautioned that those
who criticise the government in Sri Lanka run the risk of reprisals.


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