ASIA/SRI LANKA - The diocese of Mannar: “The government must be committed to the truth about human rights abuses”

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Mannar (Agenzi Fides) – The Sri Lankan Government “must publicly demonstrate the commitment to the truth about the events recorded during the decades of civil conflict. This commitment is a important prerequisite to any efforts at reconciliation”, says a note from the Diocese of Mannar which was sent to the Commission on Reconciliation, established by President Rajapaksa's Government (the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission”, LLRC).
The note, signed by the Bishop Joseph Rayappu of Mannar, and sent to Fides, highlights the urgent need to “not cover up the truth about the violations of human rights and humanitarian law” calling for an explicit clarification on the fate of more than 146,000 citizens from the Vanni area, of whom no news has been heard since the end of the conflict.
Recognizing the importance of the work for national reconciliation, the local Church “disapproves the actions of the previous Commission of Inquiry which failed to bring out the truth about human rights violations and extra-judicial executions,” citing a number of sensational episodes such as the attack on the Catholic church in Pesalai (in the diocese of Mannar), where many civilians had taken refuge, and the disappearance of Catholic priest, Father Jim Brown, both of which occurred in 2006.
The Church notes that the visit of representatives from Mannar's Reconciliation Commission was too short: three days to gather information and evidence, for more than 30 years of conflict. The local Church also noted the thousands of displaced persons still in the area of Mannar, whom in 20 months since the war ended, still do not have a home, any means of livelihood, nor any access to water and essential services such as health and education.
In the past, the Commission for Reconciliation was heavily criticised by a group of international NGOs and by sectors of Sri Lankan civil society (see Fides 3/11/2010). The NGOs criticised “the lacking independence and credibility”, basic conditions for conducting serious investigations on the abuses and effective work towards reconciliation. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 3/2/2011)