It is an attempt to silence civilians who could furnish vital evidence in the international probe into 2009 war, says R. Sampanthan

The Sri Lankan government decided to ban select Tamil diaspora organisations and individuals to thwart a free and transparent international probe into the 2009 civil war, senior Tamil politician R. Sampanthan said on Saturday.

Presiding over a function here in memory of prominent Tamil leader S.J.V. Chelvanayakam — of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and later the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (Federal Party) — Mr. Sampanthan said the government’s current actions sought to intimidate and silence the Tamil civilian population who could furnish vital evidence in the investigation.

Independent observers, he said, were of the view that that the government could be overreacting to developments in Geneva.

In March, a U.S.-backed resolution calling for an international probe was adopted at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In an apparent reference to the Sri Lankan government’s recent claim that the LTTE was trying to regroup in the predominantly Tamil-speaking parts of the country’s north, he said: “The Tamil people have overwhelmingly demonstrated that they are totally opposed to any return to violence and that they are firmly committed to the evolution of a reasonable acceptable political solution within the framework of a united, undivided country.”

‘No room for manipulation’

Observing that discharging its commitments and obligations in a just, equitable and acceptable manner was the only way out for the Sri Lankan government, the Tamil National Alliance leader said: “There can be no further room for manipulation and manoeuvre.”

Many in Sri Lanka and in the international community have pointed to the lack of progress in meaningful reconciliation and political devolution for Tamils after the brutal the war that ended in 2009. .

Mr. Chelvanayakam, known has ‘Thanthai [father] Chelva’, is an important figure in the history of the Sri Lankan Tamils’ struggle for equal rights.

In the 1950s, he led a struggle opposing the then S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike government’s ‘Sinhala only Act’, considered one of the earliest instances of state discrimination against Tamils. Saturday marked the annual event held in Colombo and Jaffna to commemorate his contribution.

‘Democratic space has shrunk’

Delivering the oration, President’s Counsel and constitutional expert Jayampathy Wikramaratne, in addition to giving the historical developments that led to the conflict, also critiqued the executive presidency system of Sri Lanka that he termed one of the “strongest and vilest” in the world. Democratic space has shrunk under the weight of the executive presidency,” he said.

Reform was needed not only to achieve ethnic peace. Issues such as the supremacy of the Constitution, a modern bill of rights, electoral reform, independence of the judiciary, re-establishing the rule of law, national consensus on appointments to high posts, and independent institutions needed to be addressed, he said.