Release those wrongfully arrested and detained – Mahinda

Mahinda Rajapaksa

I call upon the government to stop persecuting our armed forces personnel and to release those who have been wrongfully arrested and detained, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa said.

The observation was made while releasing a statement in view of the 7th anniversary of the war victory.

Full statement

On 19 May 2016, we mark the 7th anniversary of the victory of our armed forces over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam which had officially been designated by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation as the world’s deadliest and most effective terrorist organisation outranking even Al Qaeda. This was a victory that captured the imagination of the whole world. I consider it a privilege to have been able to give political leadership to the armed forces to enable them to achieve this feat which has become an inspiration to all countries beset by terrorism.

It is a matter of regret that we are now marking the 7th anniversary of the proudest and most noteworthy achievement of our armed forces in a debilitated state reminiscent of the dark, defeatist years before 2006. Today, the armed forces have been made to feel that it was wrong to have won the war. Dangerous LTTE terrorists held in detention are being released while armed forces personnel are being arrested and held in detention continuously without bail. My government did not try to exact revenge from LTTE cadres captured at the end of the war. We rehabilitated and released more than 11,000 LTTE combatants. It was only around 200 to 300 of the most dangerous terrorist operatives who were kept in detention with a view to taking legal action against them for various crimes.

It is these dangerous terrorists who are being released while our war heroes are being arrested and jailed. All this is taking place in a context where an agreement has been arrived at between the present government and the international powers that tried their best to stop the war and to rescue Velupillai Prabhakaran and the LTTE leadership. According to this agreement which has been reached by co-sponsoring a joint resolution in the UN Human Rights Council, a war crimes tribunal will be established to try our war heroes with the participation of foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators. Armed forces personnel who are suspected of having committed war crimes but against whom there isn’t enough evidence to present in a war crimes court would be removed through administrative action. Furthermore, the government has agreed to allow Western powers to directly finance and maintain this war crimes mechanism.

While our armed forces are being persecuted in this manner, the local and international separatist forces that brought the present government into power are busy with their project of dividing the country. Demands are being made for the complete withdrawal of our armed forces from the North and East. Northern politicians are forcing their way into army camps to humiliate and demoralise the armed forces just as the LTTE did during the infamous ceasefire after 2002. Resolutions are being passed in the Northern Provincial Council demanding a federal state in the North and East. Our motherland is thus facing one of her darkest moments. At this decisive moment, I call upon the entire nation to remember on the 19th of May the brave armed forces personnel who sacrificed their lives so that we may have peace, and to express solidarity with those who have suffered debilitating injuries in the service of the motherland.

The present government claims to be promoting reconciliation by commemorating the war victory with a cultural show instead of a military parade. However it is this same military victory that delivered the Tamil and Muslim people of the North and East from the clutches of terrorism. Tamil children are no longer being abducted to serve as cannon fodder for the LTTE and Muslim people are no longer living under the tyranny of the LTTE. Even though separatist elements seek to portray the war as a war against the Tamil people, it was a war to end terrorism and was never directed at any ethnic group. After the war ended my government took steps to restore democracy in the North and East and to accelerate the development of those areas.

On the 7th anniversary of the war victory that amazed the whole world, I call upon the government to stop persecuting our armed forces personnel and to release those who have been wrongfully arrested and detained. Even the Magistrates before whom cases against these armed forces personnel are being heard have expressed surprise at the flimsy pretexts under which members of the armed services are being arrested and kept in remand custody. Never in living memory have men who have done so much for our nation been treated so unfairly.