In view of the Sri Lanka's new president's closeness to the last stages of the armed conflict, serving as acting defence minister for the final two weeks, the exiled journalist, J S Tissainayagam, stressed the need for the international community to ensure he too is held to international standards of justice.
"As details of Sirisena’s possible connection to war crimes emerge, what is the international community – especially the Western democracies that are pushing for an international investigation – going to do?," asked Mr Tissainayagam, writing in the Asian Correspondent.
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"Following the presentation of the investigating body’s report, the UNHRC has to vote on its recommendations. If the report says war crimes were indeed committed and action should be taken on the perpetrators, will the UNHRC and the international community act?
The heart of the matter is whether national interests and international politics trump justice. While Western democracies have been pushing for an international investigation into war crimes, they have also heaved a sigh of relief at the passing of Rajapaksa’s government and its pro-Beijing policies. And they would have been pleased by Sirisena’s manifesto announcing that his government would be “having cordial and fruitful relation with all nations and organisations of the world.”
It is here that it becomes imperative that India and the Western democracies balance their short-term national interest in doing business with the Sirisena regime with the long-term obligation of pursuing justice if command responsibility implicates him in war crimes.
If the international community is not honest about it, Rajapaksa’s oft repeated words will appear true: Western democracies pin human rights charges only on leaders and regimes they want changed, but are willing to look the other way with those they favour."