In response to a report appearing on The Hindu newspaper, the President’s Office has said that no official documentation had proven allegations of war crimes.
Responding to the report ‘Sri Lanka will not tolerate targeting of war heroes: Gotabaya Rajapaksa’ published on May 20 in The Hindu, the office of the President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, has said the article did not reflect “the real situation”.
The President’s Media Division, in a written response, pointed to its reference to several Sri Lankan soldiers, especially top officers, being accused of human rights violations during and soon after the war, and said: “In any armed conflict, maintaining human rights of an individual is akin to preventing muddy puddles during rain.” Due to the “volatile” nature of warfare, International Humanitarian Laws are “not a set of clear-cut rules in black and white that one may tick off against.” “Instead, it must take into consideration the principles of distinction and legitimate targeting, military necessity and proportionality to judge a military operation for its action,” the statement said, adding that no official documentation had “proven allegations” of war crimes.
On the reference to Mr. Rajapaksa recently pardoning a soldier convicted for the murder of eight Tamil civilians, the statement said, the President had used his powers according to the Constitution. “After taking 13 years to sentence Ratnayake, the court still held reasonable doubts. Sri Lanka pardoned, without trial, 14,500 arrested or surrendered LTTE cadres. Amongst them were those who too had committed similar or worse acts as the one Ratnayake was embroiled. Therefore, for Sri Lanka to pardon Ratnayake also is not unreasonable or unethical,” said the statement.
The reference in the report to Sri Lanka’s Army Commander as “a general accused of war crimes” is “very unfair”, the statement said, noting that the allegations are “unsubstantiated and arbitrary”. The National Ranaviru [‘War heroes’] Day “is not just a day to salute the fallen soldier, but to celebrate the peace that their supreme sacrifice ushered into the country”. Pointing to the report’s description of the LTTE as a “rebel” outfit, the statement said it was a “terrorist” group. Further, contesting the reference to an estimated 40,000 casualties during the final phase of the war, the statement said the figure, cited in past UN reports, was a “guess” and “not an estimate”.
Denying that militarisation was “a lingering concern in post-war Sri Lanka” as mentioned in the news report, the statement said there were “a number of instances where closely bonded relations between the security forces and people in the area had surfaced.”