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'Why Sri Lanka's detention of Balenderan Jayakumari is so sinister' - Callum Macrae

Documentary maker Callum Macrae says Sri Lanka has continued with its “particularly sinister” arrest and intimidation of possible witnesses to a United Nations investigation into mass atrocities in Sri Lanka – including of Tamil disappearances activist Balendran Jayakumari - in a piece in the Huffington Post.

Macrae, director of the documenatary 'No Fire Zone', added that whilst the intimidation of witnesses continued, Sri Lanka was “carrying out an ongoing campaign whose aim is nothing less than to permanently change the ethnic make-up of the Tamil areas in the north and east.”

He added that “through the use of major strategic land-grabs, systematic sexual violence, political repression, enforced disappearances and wholesale plantation by non-Tamil families and businesses they are assaulting Tamil identity and ethnically re-engineering the entire region.”

Macrae went on to warn that unless the international community responds promptly, “the ethnic re-engineering of the north and east - arguably the final offensive of the war - will have succeeded.”

In his piece, Macrae said that despite concerns of witness intimidation raised at the UN Human Rights Council, and more recently by the UK's Deputy High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka “continue to do exactly as they always have - while maintaining an almost laughable fiction for domestic consumption.”

Excerpts have been reproduced below. See the full piece here.

"Mrs Jeyakumari remains held without charge - her daughter in ill-defined "protective custody" in an orphanage. Mrs Jeyakumari's continued detention, incommunicado, would be inexcusable in any circumstances, but it is particularly sinister given that she is an important witness whose testimony should be available to UN investigators carrying out an international inquiry - agreed by the United Nations Human Rights Council last March - looking into the crimes committed by both sides in the Sri Lankan war which ended in 2009 and the ongoing abuse of human rights in that country."

"Mrs Jeyakumari's arrest came shortly before that inquiry was endorsed by the council - but the intimidation of those who might want to give evidence to that inquiry continues."

"The response of the Sri Lankan government to all these concerns should perhaps not surprise us. They continue to do exactly as they always have - while maintaining an almost laughable fiction for domestic consumption."

"But even the most avid supporters of the government know that ignoring world opinion, feeding nonsense to their domestic audience and setting up endless domestic inquiries and commissions, (which produce reports that are at best whitewashes or at worst are suppressed), is not a sustainable solution. Like the offensively absurd claim that they had a policy of "zero civilian casualties" during the war, this kind of nonsense will inevitably be exposed in time."

"But the problem is what happens in the period before they are exposed: Because these prevarications and palpable fictions are not designed to convince, they are designed to buy time. For example we now know that while peddling the line about "zero civilian casualties" during the last few months of the war, as documented in my film No Fire Zone they consciously and deliberately targeted and massacred Tamil civilians who had gathered in those zones for their own safety. They were, in the words of the then UK foreign secretary, David Miliband, "buying time"."

"In the same way, today, while peddling nonsense about "expanded" inquiries into the disappeared, or misreporting Ban Ki Moon's "support" for Sri Lanka's political leadership, they are actually carrying out an ongoing campaign whose aim is nothing less than to permanently change the ethnic make-up of the Tamil areas in the north and east."

"Through the use of major strategic land-grabs, systematic sexual violence, political repression, enforced disappearances and wholesale plantation by non-Tamil families and businesses they are assaulting Tamil identity and ethnically re-engineering the entire region."

"The clear danger is that by the time most Sri Lankan people have seen through their government's ultimately unsustainable claims - and the world finally calls the government's bluff over its fake domestic processes - it will be too late. The ethnic re-engineering of the north and east - arguably the final offensive of the war - will have succeeded."

"The world failed to act with sufficient speed and seriousness to stop the massacres during the war. Is it about to fail again?"