03/07/2012, 00.00
SRI LANKA

Bishop of Mannar appeals to the UN. Buddhist Party calls for his arrest

Melani Manel Perera
Bishop Joseph Rayappu and 30 other priests are asking the Rights United Nations Council for Human to push the Rajapaksa Government to recognize their war crimes. Seizures of human rights activists, hate campaigns against non-governmental journalists; disorder of peaceful protests, witnesses never heard of violence amid post-conflict government abuses.

Mannar (AsiaNews) - The Buddhist nationalist party Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), in government, is calling for the arrest of Msgr. Rayappu Joseph, bishop of Mannar (Northern Province), for his appeal to the UN. In fact, in a letter, the prelate, and 30 other priests have asked the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to intervene to push the Sri Lankan government to "protect human rights" and "implement the process of reconciliation." On 27 February, the UNHRC in Geneva announced a resolution on the alleged abuses committed by the government and Tamil rebels during the civil war. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has denied all charges, accusing Western countries of wanting to interfere with domestic politics. The resolution follows a UN report of April 26, 2011, in which the government is accused of the murder of thousands of civilians, during the final stages of the conflict in 2009. Even Card. Ranjith, president of the Bishops' Conference of Sri Lanka, has criticized the UN resolution, calling it "an insult to the intelligence of Sri Lankans."

"We are writing - we read in the appeal of the clergy of Mannar - as a Christian religious group in northern Sri Lanka, who have been affected directly by war and have always worked to help the people of our region."

The priests continued: "Given the constant refusal of the Sri Lankan government to recognize the scope and nature of the abuses committed during the conflict, to address the concerns of the people in the postwar situation; [date] the seriousness of the allegations of abuse made against them and their  co-responsibility in such, we believe that an independent international body would better address the question of truth, responsibility and reparation for victims. For them, the survivors and their families to regain confidence. " Sri Lanka has more than 200 thousand IDPs (Internally Displaced People, IDPs), 39 thousand war widows and at least 12 thousand missing, mostly men.

The appeal, Msgr. Joseph and the other signatories recognize the commission created by President Rajapaksa (the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, Llrc) had "correctly identified the crimes committed by Tamil rebels" and "gave positive suggestions for reconciliation." However, they add, "the Llrc has failed in addressing the most critical issues: the search for truth and accountability, despite the existence of evidence and testimony."

The priests also suggest some events that occurred after the war: "Seizures of activists to disrupt the demonstration organized in Jaffna for Human Rights Day; disruptive actions against the peaceful campaigns in the north, the murder of a fisherman during the protests in Chilaw [ those against the rising cost of gasoline, ed] vicious hate campaigns against journalists who criticize the government and organizations; singing of the national anthem only in Sinhalese, when even Tamil is also the official language of the country. "

Based on this, the men end their campaign letter calling for the UN to urge the Government to: implement the suggestions in the report Llrc; present a detailed action plan by the 20th session of the UNHRC (May - June 2012), present a guide to what has been done by the 22nd session of the UNHRC (2013), accept the intervention of an independent international body, and collaborate with it to control all matters not identified by Llrc.

For these requests, Msgr. Joseph could now go to jail. The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) is a party born in 2004 from the ashes of the Sinhala Urumaya, the Sinhalese nationalist party. A group of Buddhist monks inherited the ideological leanings of the party creating the JHU. This party is the Upfa (United People's Freedom Alliance), the coalition government led by Rajapaksa. Many other Buddhist monks, including the All Island Clergy Organization, condemned the decision of monks entering politics. However, the JHU has the support of the conservative middle class (Sinhalese and Buddhist) and young Buddhists.

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