“Two weeks ago I learned there were about 30,000 to 35,000 dead bodies during the final armed conflict near Viswamadu in the North,” the Bishop told BBC Tamil on Monday. “I learnt this from the circle of officers who went there to conduct post-mortems”.
Reiterating his previous statement that 146,679 Tamils were left unaccounted for from the final 8 months of the armed conflict, the Bishop said that the massacre of Tamils on this level was also a genocide and that the Sri Lankan state’s actions to take away the Tamil people’s land, culture, language, homes and political rights amounted to a “structural genocide”.
NPC resolution is the truth
Welcoming the resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council earlier this month calling for a UN investigation into the genocide of the Tamil people, Bishop Joseph said: “They [Northern Provincial Council] have said what is the truth. To say the truth there is no need to wait for a time. The truth is always the truth. Therefore we must say this truth at the time it needs to be said.”
“I welcome what they have done to bring this truth out as a good thing. I welcome what they have said,” he said, challenging those who criticise the NPC resolution to counter his statement on the need for the truth to be expressed.
“From the 1970s people have been leaving here because they feel the Tamil people have no future here. Successive governments from the South have done politics to ensure that Tamils can only live as just parasites. They [Sri Lankan governments] have denied the Tamil people’s rights, their basic human rights. Even when they [Tamils] asked for their rights they were silenced with weapons.”
“Therefore, we are here today with very big expectations from the new government,” the Bishop said, stating that they should realise that they need the Tamil people’s support.
“They should resolve the Tamil people’s basic rights. Additionally, there are many youths and political prisoners wasting away in jails, held under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA),” he said, calling on the government to release those detained granting them an amnesty as JVP detainees were granted an amnesty after the JVP uprising in the 1970s.
Genocide continues in a different way today
Stating that genocide activities continue today in a different way, Bishop Joseph said Tamils are seeking political asylum else where because they still feel that cannot live freely here, with their political rights and their heads held high.
“The agenda of destroying the Tamil people’s basic identity continues,” he added. “Those who were responsible for the genocide are still there. They are continuing these activities,” the Bishop said, calling on the new government to address these issues.
“If they do not, in some way the structural genocide will continue. Even if it is not mass killings, it will continue in a different way,” he added, pointing to the ongoing militarisation of the Tamil areas.
“Even the new government says it will not removed the military [from the North-East]. What is the need for the army me to remain there? Is to continue a war on Tamil people?” “They are stealing our economic growth and job opportunities,” he said, describing the military’s activities in the North-East, including selling groceries, fishing, retail sector and farming.
“It has turned the Tamil economy upside down. These activities are intended to make the Tamils even poorer.”
Stating that the military was also creating political pressures, the Bishop said “there exists also the culture where be it the government officers, or senior officials, they are often listening to orders from [military] to act.”
“For an environment where people can lively freely there must be a reduction in the numbers of the troops. That is definitely something that is essential. Their [new Sri Lankan government’s] refusal to remove the army from the [Tamil regions] will cause a great damage to Tamils people’s future we feel.”
An internal investigation will never be successful
Asked for his view of the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to defer the publishing of the UN report into mass atrocities against the Tamil people, the Bishop of Mannar told BBC Tamil that is was “very unfortunate and disappointing.”
“This is not just about one country, but it would have provided a good lesson for the whole world,” he said, stating that the investigative team should have finished their job. “I don’t know why they [Sri Lankan government] think this as bad for them. To be honest it is good for them allowing for a better society.”
“I do no understand why they think this is a bad thing. It is good for Tamils, it is good for the whole of Sri Lanka, and for the world,” the Bishop said, stating that practising human rights is essential for the well-being of the whole world and said he hoped the new government would take action.
“I hope the UN team will use this extra time the gather more evidence,” he added. “We all think – myself too – that the international community thinking an internal Sri Lankan inquiry can take place, is not something that can ever happen, because a [Sinhala] nationalist ideology is prevalent everywhere. Specifically those carrying weapons have that mentality, and act and think based on that”
“Most of the atrocities took place in the North-East, so to investigate that they [UN team] should come here to investigate. However, the military will try and stop this, they will not support it. Therefore, we cannot expect that they [UN team] will be able to carry this out.”
“It is very doubtful if they [Sri Lankan military] will allow it.”
Criticising the Sri Lankan government’s pledge to conduct a domestic inquiry, the Bishop of Mannar said, asking, “what have we seen from investigations they have conducted themselves to date?”
“They just come, do something and release a statement. Nothing else happens.” “Even though the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) said many good things, none of those things were implemented.”
“Therefore, I do not understand why they [Sri Lankan] government are saying they will do it themselves, because [The UN inquiry] has done things for their [Sri Lankan government’s] benefit. They will submit it [UN inquiry report] based on truth and justice.”
“Therefore I would say it is easier for the Sri Lankan government to accept the findings [of the UN inquiry] rather than try to do something themselves and fail. What I can say from the history and my experience of politics is that an internal investigation will not be successful.” (Tamil Guardian)