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‘I was not army commander’ laughs off Gotabaya when asked about executions

Sri Lanka’s former defence secretary laughed off blame for the disappearance and execution of surrendering Tamils during the final phase of the armed conflict a decade ago, claiming he had no responsibility over what happened.

“I was not the commander of the army,” Gotabaya Rajapaksa told a press conference yesterday when asked about surrendering Tamils who had disappeared. In the same press conference, Rajapaksa had earlier rejected a UN Human Rights Council resolution on accountability for mass atrocities committed during his tenure as defence secretary.

Rajapaksa’s shirking of responsibility comes as Tamil families of the disappeared passed more than 950 continuous days of protest on the roadsides of the North-East, where they have demanded information on their missing loved ones.

“We produced a document on that,” claimed Rajapaksa, without specifying what he was referring to. “But the foreign investigators, without even listening to us, produced their own reports and numbers. There are a lot of ambiguous documents there. We’re an independent country, where we can follow [the law] without foreign-appointed people producing documents without even coming here.”

Pushed on disappearances, Rajapaksa went on to state,

“I didn’t start a white van culture. Everyone’s forgotten how people were abducted not just in white vans but white lorries in 1989. A period of burning tires, torture chambers — everyone including journalists have forgotten that period.”

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