One step at a time

Southasia - - Briefing -

Bow­ing down to in­ter­na­tional pres­sure, the Sri Lankan govern­ment has fi­nally taken the first step in count­ing on its own, how many civil­ians were killed in the bloody civil war that en­cap­su­lated the coun­try for decades and fi­nally ended in May 2009. In­ter­na­tional hu­man rights groups have placed the num­ber at tens of thou­sands, and this in­ves­ti­ga­tion is seen as a move by the govern­ment to prove the global com­mu­nity wrong.

How­ever, the ac­knowl­edge­ment that Sri Lankan soldiers could have com­mit­ted se­ri­ous atroc­i­ties against the Tamils and an in­quiry into the ac­tual num­ber of those killed, marks a ma­jor shift from the pre­vi­ous of­fi­cial govern­ment stance of out­right de­nial of the is­sue. De­fense Sec­re­tary, Gotab­haya Ra­japaksa, stated that the cen­sus depart­ment’s re­port shows a very small num­ber of peo­ple killed and “It has been pos­si­ble to iden­tify by name all such per­sons (dead or miss­ing).”

The Sri Lankan govern­ment has come un­der strong pres­sure af­ter hu­man rights groups de­manded a war crimes probe fol­low­ing video footage show­ing soldiers shoot­ing their vic­tims. The videos were slammed as fab­ri­cated and Ra­japaksa ar­gued that the numbers of the dead were val­i­dated and pro­vided a much more re­al­is­tic fig­ure than sen­sa­tional UN sta­tis­tics. He ar­gues that geno­cide claims are ab­surd and main­tains the govern­ment stance of re­sist­ing any in­ter­na­tional in­quiry and in­volve­ment in is­sues it deems as in­ter­nal mat­ters.

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