Many cannot celebrate Sri Lankan Independence Day

A letter by MAPW Vice-President Dr Sue Wareham was published in The Canberra Times on 6 February 2012. It responded to an advertising feature placed in the newspaper at the time of Sri Lankan Independence Day.

Many cannot celebrate Sri Lanka's recent history

The advertising feature (Canberra Times, February 3) promoting Sri Lanka as a country of peace - complete with a handshake between our PM and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and congratulations from the University of Canberra - is an offensive whitewash of the country's recent past.

The President stated in his message that the nation celebrates its 64th Independence Day ''with a genuine sense of dignity about freedom''.

One wonders whether the Tamil minority will share this sense of celebration, following the bloody conflict in 2009, in which 300,000 Tamil civilians were trapped, many thousands were killed, humanitarian aid to them was blocked, and international media were denied access.

The International Crisis Group in May 2010 reported there were ''reasonable grounds to believe that the Sri Lankan security forces committed war crimes with top government and military leaders potentially responsible''.

The Sri Lankan Government has consistently ignored calls from the highest levels for independent investigations into these allegations.

Sri Lanka's high commissioner to Australia, Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, prominent in the advertising feature, is one of those accused of war crimes. Perhaps Sri Lanka is trying to sweep such crimes under the carpet.

Sue Wareham, Medical Association for Prevention of War (Australia), Cook