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Whitewash

The acquittal of the remaining four accused in the Bindunuwewa rehabilitation centre massacre was inevitable. The Supreme Court decreed the was “no direct evidence” to implicate them. The case itself is notable. On October 25 2000, dozens of young Tamils being held at a rehabilitation centre in Bindunuwewa near Bandarawela in the south-central part of the island were attacked and killed by a Sinhalese mob comprising residents from the nearby town and wardens. The Police stood by at best and some charge them with participating in the massacre which involved incomprehensible savagery. The incident caused international controversy, not least since Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar had trumpeted it as a symbol of Sri Lanka’s enlightened approach to detentions.



Five years on Bindunuwewa is no longer part of Sri Lanka’s political landscape. But the massacre and its investigations a crystallisation of the ethnic discrimination at the heart of the Sri Lankan state. Tamil youths arrested in the Northeast were taken to the detention centre in the hill country. Alleged to be child soldiers, they were paraded for the international community. The Sinhala mob that attacked the centre did so on racially motivated rumours. The Sinhala police contributed. These aspects are neither unexpected nor unusual in Sri Lanka. The subsequent investigation speaks much more about the racist character of the state. Amid much international pressure, a half hearted probe was launched. Although the mob numbers in the hundreds and came from the local area, very few people were charged. Most were released, only five were convicted. Ironically, they have no been released due to ‘lack of evidence.’



This is yet another whitewash. It proves yet again that the Sri Lankan state is shot through with Sinhala supremacy. We reject the argument of institutional weakness. We doubt very much if the ethnic roles in the mob violence had been reversed, this would have been the outcome. We shall see what the peace process brings. But we seriously doubt this state can be reformed – by the island’s people or indeed the international community.