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Catholics and Tamil activists view civil war census with suspicion

2013 Dec 06

by Melani Manel Perera
A government-sponsored survey of damages (to people and property) caused by the country's civil war gets underway. For some priests and activists, the investigation is "not credible" because it is being conducted by the government, which has been accused of war crimes. Tamil activist says, "The president creates commissions to escape awkward situations."

For a group of Catholic priests and Tamil activists, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's decision to conduct a survey of the number of people injured, disabled, and missing since 1983 up to May 2009 is a "reaction to pressure from the international community" that "will not [however] give true answers to the victims of Sri Lanka's civil war".Launched on 28 November, the investigation is set to last six months. Some 16,000 officials are expected to fan out across the island to collect data about the conflict's final toll.

The government only decided to carry out the census following allegations of war crimes made during the recent meeting of Commonwealth leaders. However, President Rajapaksa continues to back the idea that "no civilians" died during the fighting.

The survey is not credible according to Fr Oswald B. Firth, h, OMI, one time national director of Caritas Sri Lanka. "Although a nation-wide investigation is welcome," he told AsiaNews, "those who will conduct it are not credible" because they "belong to the "Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs and the Department of Census and Statistics, which are government bodies. [. . .] No government would want to kick into its own goal."

Indeed, "Executions and kidnappings are still happening today," this according to Fr Terrence Fernando. "They have not finished yet."

"This," he bemoans "is a land of murderers. I do not think this investigation will bring any comfort to the families of the victims."

For Suren Surendiran, spokesman for the Global Tamil Forum, "Mahinda Rajapaksa always comes up with ideas of commissions of various kinds every time when the noose falls on his neck."

"He is the same man," Surendiran noted, "who claimed at the end of the war that there were zero civilian casualty when in fact more than 100,000 have probably died at the hands of the same military of which he is the Commander in Chief."

"Less than two weeks before the end of the war, he claimed that there were only 5,000, maximum 10,000 civilians left in the so-called no fire zone. When the war ended, nearly 300,000 came out of the zone."




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