Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission asks President to allow everyone right to mourn war-dead
June 09, Colombo: The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has written to President Maithripala Sirisena asking him to ensure the right of families to engage in memorialization activities to mourn those who died in the three-decade long armed conflict regardless of their beliefs.
The HRCSL in a letter to the President said that the Commission is of the view that allowing families the space to do so would enable them to feel they too have, and are able to exercise their rights as citizens of Sri Lanka, and are part of a common journey towards reconciliation.
“Denial of such an opportunity will only serve to deepen ethnic divisions and hamper reconciliation efforts,” the Commission points out.
The Commission has written to the President in response to a complaint received from Rev. Fr. Elil Rajendran of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) Mullaitivu.
Fr. Elil has been summoned numerous times by the police to be interrogated in relation to a memorialization activity he had organized to remember those who lost their lives during the latter stages of the armed conflict.
The memorialization was to be established by carving the names of those who had died on stones to be placed at a permanent memorial in Mullaivaikkal, Mullaitivu.
On several occasions the police had summoned Fr. Elil to appear at different police stations (Mullaitivu and Vavuniya) for questioning about the event. The police had also sought and obtained a judicial injunction to prevent the event from taking place.
Following the court order the police had summoned Fr. Elil and had requested him to submit all names that were to be carved on stones for memorialization to ensure there were no names of LTTE cadres.
Fr. Elil has complained to the Commission that repeated questioning by the police at police stations and at his residence on this ceremony constituted harassment and placed fetters on his freedom of movement, expression and association- rights which are enshrined in the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Further, the questioning of Fr. Rajendran’s elderly parents caused them great distress and anxiety.
“After a thirty year armed conflict Sri Lanka is at present attempting to rebuild ethnic relations and work towards reconciliation. In this process it is important that all communities have the space and ability to mourn the loss of their loved ones and remember them. Hence, memorialization is an important and integral part of the reconciliation process,” the HRCSL wrote to the President.
“In Sri Lanka we have built many memorials to commemorate the soldiers who have lost their lives during the armed conflict. Likewise, all communities should have the right to construct memorials to remember their family members and loved ones. The fact that the person who died was a LTTE cadre should not be used as the reason to deny the family to mourn and remember their loved one. Every family has the right to remember and memorialize their loved ones irrespective of their status or political beliefs,” it said.
In this spirit, the Commission requests the President, particularly in his capacity as Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation, to ensure the right of families to engage in memorialization activities, and also the security of persons who engage in such activities.