Former Chief Minister of Northern Province in Sri Lanka, C.V. Wigneswaran, slammed the Presidential pardon and release of convicted criminal Sergeant Sunil Ratnayake, referring to it as a “political act” rather than made in response in the best interests of the COVID-19 epidemic.
“Sri Lanka refuses to uphold the obligations it has entered into with the international community and is bent on politicising all aspects of life paying scant respect even to the Judiciary,” said Wigneswaran.
Wigneswaran insisted that the government is using any means necessary in “protecting its own and ensuring votes from among the majority community at the Parliamentary Election soon to take place.”
He highlighted Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s promise to ‘acquit and release’ soldiers who had been jailed during the armed conflict during his campaign, as an opportunistic exploit of the current situation.
Wigneswaran suggested the President’s action follows a long standing history of evasion of justice the Tamils have witnessed against them. He cited the 1956 incidents on the Galle Face green, pogroms in 1958 and 1983 as examples in history in which culprits have escaped punishments despite committing heinous crimes against Tamils.
Wigneswaran also stressed that Rathnayake’s release is particularly ‘misanthropic’ considering the Sri Lanka government’s reluctance to release prisoners “without charge under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and is violating broadly accepted treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
He went on to question Rajapaksa’s commitment to align with its international obligations, efforts for “reconciliation” and easing tensions between communities. “Sri Lanka has demonstrated the low respect or indeed the contempt with which it regards both its international obligations and the UN’s recommendations,” he added.
Wigneswaran pointed out that Rathnayake’s release is an abuse of power and that the move “clearly expose to the international community the calibre of our powers that be.”
He asked why the government has “has no intention of upholding the integrity of its own judicial decisions” against a Sri Lankan war criminal convicted of crimes against Tamils.”
Wigneswaran warned that the “international community has taken note and will no doubt act accordingly in its relations with the Rajapaksa government”. The release and Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council resolutions “should prompt the United Nations member states to review Sri Lanka’s membership in the UN,” he said.
“The Tamil people have endured much and even their small victories are now being reversed. It is time that the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against Tamils be brought to justice at the ICC or at a Special Tribunal designed for Sri Lanka by the U.N,” he added.