Two years after defeating the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and eliminating it as a military entity, Sri Lanka is still struggling to emerge from the woods on some important fronts. Two issues are predominant. One is the nature of the peace, and the efforts by the Sri Lankan government towards a political reconciliation between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. The military victory over the LTTE, and President Mahinda Rajapaksa's strength in parliament, gave the government an unprecedented opportunity to put in place a progressive political framework to heal the wounds of a 30-year war, and address Tamil grievances that predate the war. That it has taken only nominal steps in this direction is a matter of concern even to friends of Sri Lanka, such as India, which stood by its military efforts against the LTTE. The second issue, which has found strong voice in a recent documentary by a British television station, Channel 4, and in a United Nations report, has to do with the nature of the military operations in the final stages of the war in 2009. Both make allegations of war crimes against the Sri Lankan Army, accusing it of knowingly aiming fire at civilians such that thousands lost their lives, of killing captives in cold blood, and of possible sexual assault. It is shocking that instead of addressing these issues in the right spirit, a high-ranking official of the Sri Lankan government, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a brother of the Sri Lankan President, has chosen to vitiate the atmosphere even more with his intemperate remarks against Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, and by attributing motives to the adoption of resolutions on Sri Lanka by the State Assembly.
Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa's comments, made in the course of an interview to Headlines Today television, reveal a troubling contempt for the Tamil minority. He has trashed “the political solution talk,” asserting, among other things, that it was “simply irrelevant” because “we have ended this terrorism in Sri Lanka,” making the egregious assertion that when the 13th Amendment was being drafted, “the government of Sri Lanka was not involved,” and proposing that with the LTTE “gone,” there was no further need to amend the Constitution. President Rajapaksa would be well advised to distance himself swiftly from his brother's stream-of-consciousness on sensitive issues that are not his business. This includes an outrageous comment that because a Tamil woman, an “LTTE cadre” who was a British national, interviewed in the Channel 4 documentary was “so attractive” but had been neither raped nor killed by Sri Lankan soldiers, the allegation of sexual assault by soldiers could not be true. For this statement alone, Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa must be taken to task.