The Left must not ignore Sri Lanka

It is an issue that receives far too little attention, despite the government in Colombo committing egregious human rights abuses for years. Mass murderers run the country. Emanuel Stoakes, a colleague, writes the following for New Statesman:

Earlier this week, a piece was published by the… Daily Telegraph… that contained the latest in a powerful body of evidence that indicates the Sri Lankan army committed atrocities during the final phase of the country’s civil war.

It referenced damning allegations of war crimes committed by government forces during the conflict’s conclusion. These were sourced from an affidavit containing the testimony of a former member of the military who held a very senior position during the war, and had access to the flow of orders from the highest levels of the military command. The source asserted that government-sanctioned “hit squads” operated during the war to kill civilians; that the army killed surrendering enemy combatants and civilians in contravention of international law; and, most crucially, included the assertion that these were ordered by the Defence Minister, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

But yet, as the Sri Lankan government publishes its anaemic in-house “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Committee” report (politely described… by Amnesty International on Monday as “ignoring serious evidence of war crimes”) and Tamil asylum seekers… get deported from this country… to face the risk of intimidation — even death — at home, the left appears not to be paying the sort of attention the issue deserves.

Why? Not only do human rights organisations suspect that tens of thousands of civilians were intentionally shelled into annihilation by the Sri Lankan army’s unilaterally declared “no fire zone” in the North East of the Island nation in 2009, it appears that the survivors are being kept in camps not dissimilar to internment centres for prisoners of war. Civilians kept in these places are experiencing rape, brutalisation and malnourishment if… reports by rights groupsand journalists are to be taken seriously.

The more people willing to raise their voice and call for accountability for the Rajapaksa regime, the more people standing up for the rights of asylum seekers not to be deported home to risk of torture, the greater the possibility that, at the very least, the issue of Sri Lankan Tamil suffering will become more widely known.

It would be a source of disappointment for those who naively assume that it is the province of the left to lead the charge for such causes to discover that this was merely wishful thinking.