Sri Lankan rules out talking to banned diaspora groups

Sri Lanka has ruled out talking to banned diaspora organisations weeks after the country’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced that his government would engage with Tamil diaspora groups that have been critical of Rajapaksa’s government and its treatment of minority Tamils

Oct 17, 2021
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Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa

Sri Lanka has ruled out talking to banned diaspora organisations weeks after the country’s President Gotabaya Rajapaksa announced that his government would engage with Tamil diaspora groups that have been critical of Rajapaksa’s government and its treatment of minority Tamils.  

In an interview to the Daily Mirror newspaper, Foreign Minister G L Peiris said there would be no direct talks with those diaspora groups which are banned by the Sri Lankan government. However, other groups would be included in talks, he assured.  

Last month during the 76th UNGA session in New York, President Rajapaksa had told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his recent visit to the UN that internal issues of Sri Lanka should be resolved through an internal mechanism of the country and that the Tamil diaspora would be invited for discussions in this regard.

LTTE, an ethnic Tamil guerilla group that had in the past waged a three-decade-long civil war against the Sri Lankan government for a separate Tamil homeland, used to get considerable support--political and funds--from Tamil diaspora groups in western countries. 

Many of these groups were later banned by the Sri Lankan government which decisively defeated the LTTE in 2009.   

“We can’t speak to organizations that have been banned by the Sri Lankan government. That is not possible because that would be a violation of our law,” Peiris was quoted as saying by Daily Mirror. “But there are other shades of opinion. So, it’s useful to engage with them,” he added.

After the end of the LTTE war in 2009, Sri Lanka initiated a reconciliation process, promising transitional justice and inquiries in missing people to war crime victims. Much of these promises, however, remained unfulfilled, even after a decade of peace. Meanwhile, the criticism by the international community as well as domestic Tamil political parties has only grown recently. 

Colombo has been resisting external mechanisms--as suggested by right groups and other international bodies-- to address these issues.  
 
In the interview, the foreign minister said, “It is always good to get feedback and we are now having extensive discussions with people right across the spectrum.” He added they would be open to both NGOs and political groups.  

(SAM)