Socialist Worker

Thousands of Tamils still held as Sri Lanka's election approaches

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2184

UN investigator Philip Alston has reported that footage of Sri Lankan soldiers executing prisoners last year was authentic.

He said that three independent experts had confirmed this and he demanded “an independent inquiry to… carry out an impartial investigation into war crimes”.

The atrocities were filmed during the government’s final offensive against areas previously run by the rebel Tamil Tigers. Up to 20,000 people were killed.

Sri Lanka is set to hold presidential elections on 26 January. Desperate to improve its international image, the government has publicised the release of detainees held in detention camps since last May.

However, it admits that over 80,000 of the original 300,000 are still being held.

Human rights groups are worried that people who have been detained will not get a vote. IRIN news says that only about 35,000 of the displaced have managed to register to vote.

The defeat of the Tamil Tigers has created a political crisis among Sri Lanka’s Tamils.

This was highlighted by the fact that the Tamil National Alliance – which was associated with the Tigers’ politics – has said it will back Sarath Fonseka in the election.

Foneska is the most likely candidate to beat sitting president Mahinda Rajapaksa. He has also exposed in the press how the government killed Tiger leaders rather than let them surrender.

But he should know – General Foneska was head of the military at the time of last year’s assault.

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Tue 12 Jan 2010, 18:09 GMT
Issue No. 2184
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