Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe dismissed political and ethnic divisions on the island as “small things” and told a Tamil audience in Batticaloa not to seek “external intervention,” at an event in the East on Friday.
Addressing an audience at St. Michael’s College in Batticaloa, Wickremesinghe downplayed unaddressed historical grievances and instead called on the audience “to come together as one people”.
He went on to urge “everyone to come together to find solutions, emphasizing the importance of resolving these “small things” for the greater good of the nation” and not to seek “external intervention”.
Images courtesy of Presidential Media Division
His remarks come just days after a fiery interview exchange with Deutsche Welle, where he repeatedly rejected the possibility of international investigations into human rights abuses on the island.
Tamils on the island, including in Batticaloa where the Sri Lankan president was visiting, however, have been clear on their demand for international accountability for years. As recently as last month, activists and civil society organisations when commemorating events such as the Sathurukondan massacres and the mass disappearance of 158 refugees in Batticaloa in 1990, urged the international community to hold the Sri Lankan government and officials responsible for enforced disappearances accountable.
To date, justice has still not been served for the massacres.
Wickremesinghe however claimed acts such as the singing of the Sri Lankan national anthem in Tamil, were signs of “national unity”, despite Tamils for decades having rejected the anthem and symbols of the Sri Lankan state.
In his speech, Wickremesinghe also referred to the economic and political crisis on the island, that has left millions suffering. He emphasised the need for "unity" to achieve development goals, referring to his own efforts to stabilise the economy. The government’s approach to economic recovery has come under heavy scrutiny by local activists and economists.
Image courtesy of @AzzamAmeen
Ahead of the event, a large cutout of Wickremesinghe was displayed in Batticaloa town with the slogan "We for Ranil 2024." There has been speculation that his public engagements, such as at St. Michael's College, is part of his election campaign for his bid for presidency once again in 2024.