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Rathnayake pardon fortifies need for international justice to combat ‘Sinhala chauvinistic structures’ - TNPF

The Tamil National Party People’s Front (TNPF) leader Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam condemned the Presidential pardon issued to Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake and said that “nothing can be achieved through the Sri Lanka’s judiciary or its internal mechanisms.”

Rathnayake, was sentenced to death for killing eight Tamil Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mirusuvil, Jaffna on December 2000, after being convicted in June 2015 and had his sentence upheld in April 2019 at Sri Lanka’s supreme court.

Ponnambalam called a media conference at the TNPF office on Thursday, to address the pardon and stated;

“Sunil Rathnayake, who was responsible for the massacre of eight tamils in Mirusivil, Jaffna in 2000 was released by Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s executive powers, despite being found guilty and sentenced to death at a Sri Lanka High Court.

We have been saying since 2012 for such reason, that calls for justice will not be answered within Sri Lanka or Sri Lanka’s justice mechanisms for the genocide that occurred in Sri Lanka.

Thus, we have consistently urged an international investigation to be conducted within an international criminal court.

As we held and stood by our position on the matter over the past 10 years, other political parties, namely Tamil parties elected by Tamil people, disagreed with our stance and insisted the Sri Lanka judiciary is trustworthy and eliminating the political interventions is the only problem.   

For the past 10 years, the elected representatives for Tamil people have been carrying this narrative. However, the release today of Sunil Rathnayake exhibits the way that the Sri Lanka judicial system functions.

The fact an individual found guilty at a Sri Lanka court has still been allowed to be released shows that nothing can be achieved in a Sri Lanka judiciary or its internal mechanisms.

Sri Lanka’s judiciary is rooted in a Sinhala chauvinistic ideology. It always sees the other side as enemies and therefore always exhibit Sinhala chauvinistic attitudes.

Some people claim this presidential pardoning is attributed solely to the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. However, that is not the problem. The issue is attributed to the deep-rooted Sinhala chauvinistic ideology within the Sri Lanka judiciary.

Even former president Maithripala Sirisena, who had garnered the Tamil vote, issued a pardon to hard-line Buddhist Gnanasara Thero. This is what has been happening for generations.

This clearly demonstrates the chauvinistic structures in place in Sri Lanka. You can’t be neutral nor can you make neutral decisions as there is a fundamental structural problem. Over the past 70 years, Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism has been in place and manifested across all communities, to the point Tamils have started to adopt it themselves.

Since 2012, when the world shifted its sights towards Sri Lanka, certain parties have insisted that an international inquiry is sufficient with the completion of a hundred-page report. As such, they should take responsibility for all this. They must also admit responsibility for misleading the world to believe a false narrative.

If appropriate international measures were taken in 2012, anyone who came into power would not have been able to reverse the conviction charge.

These parties have allowed these war criminals back on the streets and with the start of elections, they will express many different opinions.

Tamil people should not be fooled by the comments made recently and should judge these parties on the basis of their actions over the course of the past 10 years.”

TNPF’s denunciation adds to the many Tamil parties and organisations who condemned the pardon, but still there has been no criticism from Sinhala parties and very public outrage. 

Read more in our feature here.