So, as a few of my friends know, I attended an Amnesty International talk in Shoreditch last Friday that focused on the closing months of the Sri Lankan Civil War. I am of Sinhala descent and have some experience in journalism, so I thought I'd go along to the talk.
For the first time, Norwegian peace mediator, Erik Solheim discussed his role in trying to broker a Tamil Tiger surrender at the height of the crisis in 2009. He was also joined on the panel by Alan Keenan, Sri Lanka project director at the International Crisis Group, and Yasmin Sooka, who is part of the UN Panel of experts on Sri Lanka.
The audience was predictably full of Tamil diaspora who wanted questions answered, by Erik Solheim in particular - as he played a major role in leading (failed) peace talks between the LTTE leader Prabhakaran and the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa months before the climax of the Civil War in May 2009.
Here are the main questions that were raised during the talk:
1. Why did the media and international communities stay silent during the end of the Civil War?
2. Why is it that the estimated death toll of civilians varies from 40,000 to 147,000?
3. Why hasn't the atrocities that occurred in May 2009 been declared as genocide?
4. Why haven't the Government and others still not been held accountable for the death of countless of innocent civilians?
Did you know that at the beginning of 2009, in the space of 5 months, it is estimated that (at least) 40,000 civilians were killed in the North/North-East of Sri Lanka. And at the same time the world's attention was focused on the Israeli incursion into Gaza, where the death toll was about 1,500.
Erik Solheim stated that "it's clear that no one in the international community can say that it didn't know what was going on in the final months of the war", countries like Pakistan, Iran and China were even Sri Lanka's weapon suppliers.
Now I have been lucky enough to work with the BBC Sinhala team and also with the Editor of The Sunday Leader, a Sri Lankan based newspaper that bravely defies Government scare-tactics in order to bring the Sri Lankan people and diaspora unbiased news. What I have uncovered is that a great number of people are totally oblivious to what went on during the final months of the civil war, which (scarily) includes a good majority of the Sri Lankan diaspora.
Therefore I urge you to read up about the end of the Sri Lankan civil war, and the culture of impunity that has been installed under the cloak of Sinhala nationalism by the current government. This culture of impunity remains the biggest threat to any sort of reconciliation and is the biggest barrier to holding anyone accountable for the crimes to humanity that occurred in May 2009.
Also, if you can please do come along to a talk lead by the former BBC correspondant of Sri Lanka, Frances Harrison. This will be held at SOAS on the 15th October. It will truly open your eyes to an untold war.