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Sampanthan confident about Chandrika-led commission

The leader of the Tamil National Alliance, Rajavarothayam Sampanthan, expressed confidence that the Special Presidential Commission, headed by former president Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, can find a suitable solution to issues concerning Tamil by the end of this year, Ceylon Today reported.

"We have clarified to the former President all matters relating to the problems faced by the people of the North and East and urged that such issues be immediately addressed meaningfully. When Kumaratunga became the President in 1994, she was very keen about settling the grievances of the Tamil people and she also mooted a suitable political solution to those issues. We were however, unable to see anything come out of it" he said.

"President Sirisena won the elections. Everyone should benefit from the change that the Presidential election has ushered in. We believe that President Sirisena will respect the legitimate demands of the Tamil people. We should be clearly focused on winning those demands," he added.

Mr Sampanthan said if the presidential election failed to bring about a change in government, there would be nothing left of the Tamil identity today.

"The International Community is continuously urging Sri Lanka to find a suitable solution to the political issue," he said.

Chandrika Kumaratatunga, who was president of Sri Lanka from 1994 till 2005, faced extensive criticism by international human rights group for impunity and injustice over numerous incidents killings of Tamils by state forces during her long term in office. 

Despite setting up three zonal Commissions of Inquiry - All Island Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removals and Disappearances of Certain Persons (1998); Commission of Inquiry into the Establishment and Maintenance of Places of Unlawful Detention and Torture at the Batalanda Housing Scheme (1995); Commission of Inquiry into the incidents that took place at Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre on 25 October 2000 (2001) - as well as the Presidential Truth Commission on Ethnic Violence 1981-1984 (2001), only handful of perpetrators were ever prosecuted and many of the commissions' reports were not made public. 

Limitations to the commissions' mandate raised concerns about the lack of political will, noted The Law and Society Trust, in its report, 'A Legacy to Remember: Sri Lanka's Commissions of Inquiry 1963-2002'. 

"A fundamental flaw underpinning the creation and functioning of the Commissions, was the absence of unequivocal political will to systematically address the structures, policies and practices that gave rise to the gross and persistent violations of human rights during that time. This was further evidenced by the lack of process in the creation of the Commissions. 

The government did not avail itself of the experience or support of local and international actors who could have contributed substantially to the elaboration of the mandate and procedures of the Commission(s) to ensure that they conformed to international standards and that they resulted in a rigorous and systematic process and concrete results. Instead, process, standards and results were undermined by a problematic mandate and defective institutional arrangements." 


In 2005, the Asian Centre for Human Rights, called on Ms Kumaratunga to make public the report on the massacre of 28 Tamils whilst in custody in Sri Lanka in Bindunuwewa public, calling the national commission's report into the incident an "operation whitewash". All those accused in the trial were aquitted. 

In a report entitled "The Bindunuwewa Massacre in Sri Lanka: A cry for Justice", released on the 5 year anniversary of the massacre, the ACHR said: 

"In the face of increasing international criticism for the custodial massacre of 28 Tamil youth between the ages of 14-23 years and injury of 14 other Tamil youth, on 8 March 2001 President Chandrika Kumaratunga set up the Presidential Commission of Inquiry. The report was reportedly submitted in early 2002 but President Chandrika Kumaratunga failed to make the report public. In the meanwhile, all accused of the massacre have been acquitted by the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka on 21 May 2005.

Although Justice PHK Kulatilaka Presidential Commission of Inquiry was mandated to inquire extraneous issues and not to find the truth and prosecute the culprits, its report is important in more than one way. No other massacre so devastatingly illustrates the collective failure of the institutions of the Sri Lankan state to provide justice to the Tamil minorities."

See more here. 

Amnesty International in its 2012 report, 'Twenty Years of Make Believe: Sri Lanka's Commissions of Inquiry', highlighted the mass graves of Tamils at Chemmani, exhumed in 1998, and the bodies of Tamils found floating in Bolgoda Lake in 1995 as prominent examples of where "the Sri Lanka State has been manipulating evidence to exculpate the security forces personnel from blame."

Former Sri Lanka president will lead task force to identify needs of Tamil community (27 March 2015)

Chandrika concerned about impunity over hate crimes (25 Jun 2014)

30 Oct 1995: Jaffna exodus as Tamils flee for Vanni ahead of SL military advance (30 Oct 2014)