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‘Reconciliation is off the agenda’ says ITJP

Sri  Lanka’s promotion of troops who have reportedly been involved in war crimes, as Tamils around the world marked 11 years since the Mullivaikkal massacre, is an “insult to victims and reeks of brazen impunity” said the International Truth and Justice Project Sri Lanka (ITJP).

The military announced that more than 14,000 soldiers are to receive “a record promotion bonanza” as part of the state’s “National War Heroes’ Day”, which took place as Tamils mourned the tens

“The choice of these individuals is a highly politicised one which again sends a message to Sri Lankans and the international community that even lip service to reconciliation is off the agenda. This is yet another insult to victims and reeks of brazen impunity,” said the ITJP’s Executive Director, Yasmin Sooka.

Amongst the promotions was Brigadier Priyanka Fernando, who was found guilty by a British court of threatening Tamil protestors in London. He is one of five soldiers being promoted to Major General.

“The message to army officers – and diplomats - is if you go around the world insulting and threatening the Tamil diaspora you will be rewarded,” said Ms. Sooka. “It is also an acute show of disrespect for the judicial system in the UK”.

Meanwhile, Harendra Parakrama Ranasinghe, who has been identified in a video clip where Tamil TV presenter Isaipriya is seen alive and surrounded by Sri Lankan soldiers, has also been promoted. Isaipriya was executed in Sri Lankan military custody, with her subsequent photographs showing her body bearing the signs of sexual abuse.

“Ranasinghe to date has never been questioned about what happened though he’s clearly visible in the video with Isaipriya, whose semi-naked corpse was also seen in trophy photographs,” said the ITJP.

“One has to ask what it means to Isaipriya’s surviving family – driven into exile – to see a material witness to their daughter’s execution promoted to Major General,” said Ms. Sooka.

“The promotions come against a backdrop of increased militarisation and civilian jobs being given to retired and serving officers close to the President,” added the ITJP. “A war commemoration event involving the armed forces was permitted to go ahead in Colombo this week despite concerns about Covid19 but security forces used the virus as an excuse to prevent such memorialisation by Tamils in the north-east.”

“What we are seeing is the “normalisation” of military influence in the civilian sphere,” said Ms. Sooka, “informal networks are becoming formalised under President Rajapaksa with the result that impunity is further entrenched”.

See more from the ITJP here.