The deep sense of hurt and mistrust among Tamils towards Colombo has come to the fore with the Northern Provincial Council, the elected body of the predominantly Tamil region in northern Sri Lanka, passing a resolution on Tuesday seeking a UN-led probe into the alleged genocide against the community by the state. The resolution presents a slew of charges against the Sri Lankan state and accuses it of carrying out “anti-Tamil pogroms, massacres, sexual violence, and acts of cultural and linguistic destruction” against the Tamil minority. It lists laws like the Sinhala Only Act, the disenfranchising of a section of Tamils, police actions and riots over the decades and the final phase of the Eelam war as evidence. It calls on the UN to “investigate the claim of genocide and recommend appropriate investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court”. The resolution, however, is silent on the LTTE, which has been implicated for murdering scores of civilians, many of them Tamils.
Many of the claims made in the resolution could be true and the cry for justice is real. But its tone and timing are worrying. The new government has given indications that it will not be unresponsive to the concerns of the Tamils. It has, in principle, agreed to transfer more powers to the provinces and promised a probe into human rights violations within the jurisdiction of Sri Lanka. The Tamil National Alliance provincial government in Jaffna could have waited for the Maithripala Sirisena government to settle in and prepare the ground for reconciliation. The resolution could vitiate the mellower mood and result in the renewal of anti-Tamil sentiment among the Sinhalese, which would make it tough for Colombo to institute a war crimes probe or attempt a devolution of powers.
Colombo must not allow itself to be riled by the resolution. It must announce a probe into war crimes by a panel of mutually acceptable international jurists and investigators and the TNA should accept that crimes committed by the LTTE, too, need to be probed. A public apology for past crimes could also be in order. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission to address old wounds may help the Tamils and Sinhalese reconcile their differences and tend to their hurt.