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These blog postings do not necessarily represent the views of all members of the Advisory Council.

31/07/2011

Male rape as a weapon of war - Sri Lanka

A recent Observer investigation into male rape as a weapon of war contained a shocking statistic about Sri Lanka. The article states that ‘…21% of Sri Lankan males who were seen at a London torture treatment centre reported sexual abuse while in detention.’ This comes from a report in the medical journal The Lancet from 2000, before the escalation in the Sri Lankan conflict in 2009. The abuse suffered included forced nudity, taunting, verbal sexual threats, genital mutilation and forced sex acts.
There have been hardly any statistics on male rape in Sri Lanka since this report. The recent Channel 4 documentary ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ showed authenticated footage of women who appeared to have been sexually abused and naked male and female prisoners being killed. Given the culture of impunity at the end of the war, plus the lack of independent witnesses, the possibility and scale of male rape can only be guessed at.
The Observer article, and the report it cites by academic Lara Stemple at the University of California, outlines how infrequently cases of male rape are reported to authorities and dealt with by governments and NGOs. Stemple’s ‘study cites a review of 4,076 NGOs that have addressed wartime sexual violence. Only 3% of them mentioned the experience of men in their literature. "Typically," Stemple says, "as a passing reference." ‘
There are many reasons for this secrecy. Male rape is still a taboo and there are only very few organisations that help male rape victims. The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims states that rape was not classed or ‘prosecuted as a crime against humanity under international humanitarian law until the mid 1990s’.
A New York Times article on the subject earlier this year adds:
‘Our failure to acknowledge male rape leaves it in the shadows, compounding the humiliation that survivors experience. For instance, the majority of Tamil males in Sri Lanka who were sexually assaulted during that country’s long civil war did not report it to the authorities at the time, later explaining that they were simply too ashamed.’
There is also an argument that male rape is not possible, especially in conservative or patriarchal cultures like Sri Lanka as the perpetrators would not want to be deemed homosexual. However experts say that ‘ male rape, in time of war, is predominantly an assertion of power and aggression, rather than an attempt on the part of the perpetrator to satisfy sexual desire. The main aim of such an attack is to damage the victim psychologically, rob him of his pride, and intimidate him.’
The IRCT article in 2007 on male rape states: ‘We should emphasize the fact that wartime rape is the ultimate humiliation that can be inflicted on a human being, and it must be regarded as one of the most grievous crimes againsthumanity. The international community has to consider wartime rape a crime of war and a threat to peace and security.’
If there is a war crimes investigation into the conflict in Sri Lanka, sexual abuse of both men and women must be investigated too.

If you know of any research or rehabilitation around Sri Lanka rape victims, please do get in touch with us: info@srilankacampaign.org

29/07/2011

Another journalist is assaulted

Tragically proving the timeliness of our press freedom campaign, there has been another assault on a journalist in Jaffna.

"A top editor of the Jaffna-based 'Uthayan' newspaper has been brutally attacked and seriously wounded by unknown armed men on Friday (29) in the heart of the heavily-guarded northern Jaffna town.

"According to media sources in Jaffna, the news editor of 'Uthayan', Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan (59) was on his way home by foot from the office after work when the two armed men unleashed their brutal attack on him using iron rods and cables."

You can read the rest here.

28/07/2011

New Report: Sri Lanka - an attack on media freedom


The Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice has today launched a new briefing on press freedom in Sri Lanka. you can read it here.

It paints a bleak picture of life for journalists in the nation ranked 4th in the Committee to Protect Journalists' impunity index. The murder of 34 journalists in the last 7 years - none of which has resulted in the conviction of a single perpetrator - is portrayed as the tip of an iceberg of mechanisms used to silence dissenting voices.

Torture, abduction, and intimidation of family members are routinely used to dissuade members of the media from speaking out, as are the often vitriolic rebuttals by newspaper columnists loyal to the Sri Lankan Government and the postings of comments online.

As Edward Mortimer, Chair of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said, "the situation may now seem better than it was in 2009, when journalists were being abducted at a frightening rate, but in actual fact the number of such incidents has only gone down because the Sri Lankan government has effectively cowed its critics into silence."

Speaking at a packed benefit evening at the Arcola theatre in Dalston, Fred Carver, Campaign Director for the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said, "When we hear about the war crimes that were committed in the first few months of 2009, it is natural to ask how it was possible that the government and the LTTE could get away with such things. The answer is that you have to be very very brave to talk about such things in Sri Lanka."

He later added, "Other reports have attempted to capture the Sri Lankan state's attempt to intimidate journalists into silence. This report show the effect this is having on the nature of debate in Sri Lanka - and how a culture of fear and self censorship is allowing the Sri Lankan regime to go almost entirely unchallenged in Sri Lanka.

"Just last week Radio Netherlands wrote about how their personnel were subject to a "white van abduction", demonstrating that no one is safe from attack and that the situation is not improving.

"We urgently need the international community to take action to protect those relatively few brave journalists who do speak out from Sri Lanka and to support journalists in exile and other independent media in their reporting of Sri Lankan affairs."

Sri Lanka: An attack on press freedom (pdf)

Cartoon by Latuff2.

27/07/2011

A landmark speech

For many years only a few brave Sri Lankans have dared to talk about the Government's oppression, nationalist extremism, and refusal to address the aftermath of the civil war. Most of the leaders of public opinion in Sri Lanka have been either too scared or too complicit to speak out.

Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was President - Sri Lanka's only woman President - for 11 years, her father was a significant figure in Sri Lankan history, and her mother - the first woman Prime Minister in any country – was Prime Minister for 18 of the 40 years between 1960 and 2000. She is also a lifelong member of the current President's Sri Lanka Freedom Party. In its time, her regime was also significantly criticised over its handling of human rights, minority rights, and free speech issues. She is no dissident, but represents the most establishment of Sri Lankan views.

Yet last Sunday, at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute, she gave the most extraordinary speech. You can read the full text here.



Spine-tingling quotes include:

"We have begun, in the past few years, to engage in an extremist discourse of Sinhala Buddhist exclusivism. Anti-terrorist emotions are being recruited to increase anti-Tamil, and now anti-foreigner and even anti-everyone else sentiments, by means of a massive State led media campaign."

"I wonder when I see that today the State has clearly adopted authoritarian rule, not to strengthen democracy and human rights, but to do the opposite."

"If we persist in the present policy of winner takes all, we certainly will lose the remaining members of the minority communities."

"I shall remember till the end of my days the morning when my 28 year-old son called me, sobbing on the phone to say how ashamed he was to call himself as Sinhalese and a Lankan, after he saw on the UK television a 50 minute documentary called “Killing Fields of Sri Lanka”. My daughter followed suit, saying similar things and expressing shock and horror that our countrymen could indulge in such horrific acts. I was proud of my son and daughter, proud that they cared for the others, proud that they have grown up to be the man and woman their father and mother wanted them to be."


If even people like Kumaratunga are now choosing to speak out, there must be hope that the tide is at last beginning to turn against the current government's policies - and that the days of impunity, nationalism, and flagrant human rights violations are numbered.

26/07/2011

Stop tourism land grabs

An international fact finding mission has just returned from the Kalpitya islands in western Sri Lanka with a disturbing report that many local villages are to be forcibly displaced by a multi-million pound new tourism facility. The Sri Lankan government and large tourism developers are forcibly displacing communities inhabiting the 14 islands of Kalpitiya, destroying livelihoods, threatening food security, and wreaking havoc on the environment.



Image of Kalpitiya taken from Peppergrass under a Creative Commons Licence.

A coalition including Tourism Concern, the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, National Fishworkers Solidarity Movement, Puttlam District Fisheries Solidarity, Praja Abhilasha, Land Forum, Food Sovereignty Network of Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka); and members of the International Fact Finding Mission: EQUATIONS, Institute for Motivating Self Employment (India); Sustainable Development Foundation (Thailand) and the All Nepal Peasants Federation (Nepal) have come together to demand that project to be halted and a full, transparent review to be conducted, as recommended by the Independent Fact Finding Mission.

Tourism Concern have suggested all its supporters write to the Minister for Economic Development to protest against the scheme. They have set up a web page to publicise the scheme here.

Please do join in and help protest against this unconscionable scheme. The Kalpitiya development is typical of the Sri Lankan government’s approach to anyone who stands in its way: ordinary people and their livelihoods are swept aside by the military to make way for business opportunities for the governments' cronies. There is no accountability or commitment to the people of Sri Lanka.

16/07/2011

Milliband and Kochner speak out on Sri Lanka

The following appeared in the New York Times and is reproduced in full below.

The Silence of Sri Lanka


By DAVID MILIBAND and BERNARD KOUCHNER
In April 2009, we travelled together as foreign ministers to Sri Lanka, as 25 years of fighting between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers neared its end.

The remaining fighters were trapped in the northern most part of the country — along with large numbers of civilians. U.N. estimates put the numbers of civilians there in the last few months of the war at over 300,000.

Our purpose was simple: to draw attention to the human suffering, to call for humanitarian aid and workers to be allowed in, and to call for the fighting to stop.

We visited refugee camps that had been created to house Tamil refugees from Jaffna. Their stories were brutal and shocking. Random shelling in areas of fighting — including after the government had announced an end to fighting. Men and boys taken away from refugee camps — and now out of contact. Tamil life treated as fourth or fifth class. If foreign policy is about anything, it should be about stopping this kind of inhumanity.

When we met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and members of his government, we argued that his government had legal obligations to its people, whatever the heinous tactics of the Tamil Tigers.

We also urged a recognition that to win the peace, President Rajapaksa needed to reach out to Tamil minorities to make real the constitutional pledges of equal treatment for all Sri Lankans.

Restrictions on journalism meant that there was a war without witness in Sri Lanka. But in March 2009 the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki Moon, visited Sri Lanka and wrenched from President Rajapaksa a commitment to independent investigation of alleged human rights abuses.

The agreement was subsequently denied by the president, but in 2010 the secretary general set up his own independent Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka. The damning report, compiled by three leading and independent figures, was published on March 31, 2011.

It reports that tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the space of three months at the beginning of 2009, most as a result of government shelling. The government shelled on a large scale in three no-fire zones. It shelled the U.N. hub and food distribution lines. It “systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines.” Meanwhile the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or L.T.T.E., refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, and shooting point blank those who attempted to escape.

The panel of experts found credible allegations of serious violations of international law by the Sri Lankan government and the L.T.T.E., some of which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It says that the conduct of the war represented a “grave assault on the entire regime of international law.” It says the Sri Lankan government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission fails standards of impartiality and independence, is deeply flawed, and does not satisfy the joint commitment of the Sri Lankan president and the U.N. secretary general to an accountability process.

The report constitutes a serious test for the Sri Lankan government. Will it realize the error of brushing wrongdoing under the carpet? Will it recognize that the continued detentions under “state of emergency” laws undermine Sri Lanka’s claims to a normal place in the international community? Will it recognize that the continued failure to resettle Tamils in an equitable way, and give them economic opportunities as well as social rights, is a dangerous cancer at the heart of Sri Lanka’s future?

But the report is also a test for the U.N. system and the wider world community. In 2005 the U.N. unanimously embraced the doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect.” It must not be honored in the breach rather than in the observance.

The U.N. report calls for the secretary general to take further action, including establishing an independent, international mechanism to monitor Sri Lanka’s reconciliation efforts, and to conduct independent investigations into alleged violations. The U.N. human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, supported this at the opening session of the Human Rights Council this year.

It seems to us essential that this process is taken forward. As the report says, accountability is a duty under domestic and international law, and those responsible, including Sri Lanka Army commanders and senior government officials, would bear criminal liability for international crimes.

The integrity of the international system in addressing human rights abuses is rightly under scrutiny as never before. And when peaceful, diplomatic initiatives to hold accountable those who abuse human rights run into the sand, they only fuel the arguments of those who want to take the law into their own hands. So this decision about the handling of this report matters for Sri Lanka but it also matters more widely.

Kofi Annan has said that the international community cannot be selective in its approach to upholding the rule of law. We therefore call on our governments to set a deadline, soon, for satisfactory response from the Sri Lankan government, and if it is not forthcoming to initiate the international arrangements recommended by the report.

Reports like the one compiled for the secretary general must not stand on the shelf. They must be the basis of action. Or the law becomes an ass.

David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner were foreign ministers, respectively, of Britain and France from 2007 to 2010.

15/07/2011

The realities of life in Jaffna

A recent column in the Sunday Times gives a chilling insight into some of the risks residents in the north of Sri Lanka face on a daily basis. To quote:

"Balachandran Sathkunanthan (30) set out from his house in the farming town of Avarankal in the Jaffna peninsula the previous Saturday evening for a leisurely ride on his motorcycle.

The next day (last) Sunday morning, his blood-drenched body was hanging from a goal post in a playground in Putur, just two kilometres from his home. It bore torture marks. The nails of fingers in both hands had been plucked out, Jaffna Judicial Medical Officer (JMO), Dr. S. Sivaruban, testified at the post-mortem inquiry. He said there were no suicide signs on the body that hung from a nylon cord. The inquest is still pending."

The full article can be read here.

14/07/2011

Spread the word!

Dear Friends,

It has been a few weeks since Channel 4 screened "Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields." This documentary examined the last few weeks of the war in Sri Lanka, and showed videos illustrating the horrific war crimes that were committed on both sides. This included, in their own words, "some of the most horrific footage [Channel 4] has ever broadcast".

This was a harrowing piece of broadcasting. But it has been watched by over a million viewers in the UK with over 270,000 views online and has been viewed in over 30 countries. A special screening took place for MPs in the British Parliament on Wed 22nd June. Here at the campaign, our website traffic has increased enormously, with a huge leap in numbers signing our petition to the UN calling for a war crimes inquiry.

The documentary has permeated the public consciousness and engaged people in Sri Lanks’s situation like nothing before it. Members and volunteers of the Campaign have worked on Sri Lankan related issues for a number of years, and it is very apparent that the response to this documentary is unprecedented. The challenge for the Campaign, and all those interested in improving the situation in Sri Lanka, is how to use the momentum given to us by Channel 4.

Please help us keep up the pressure instigation by this landmark documentary.

Tell your friends and family they should go to sign our petition.

Many people have said how helpless the documentary made them feel, but there are things individuals can do to help. Talk to people who are talking about the documentary on blogs and social media (using the hashtag #killingfields) about the petition, and send them the link.

‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ is a difficult program to watch. But it is important that as many people as possible see it and understand what took place in those weeks in May 2009. People also need to understand that there has been no serious attempt to bring the criminals on either side to justice - or even to fully investigate what happened. This despite the Channel 4 footage and the recent UN Panel of Experts report show which both show credible allegations of serious war crimes committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.

An independent investigation needs to happen because some of the perpetrators are still in positions of authority, and some of the crimes are still taking place - nearly 4,000 people are being held in camps to which theinternational community has no access.

The Government of Sri Lanka continues to insist that the footage is fake. The reporting of Channel 4 to Ofcom by pro Government supporters shows a ramping up of attempts to discredit the horrific footage. But the footage shown is genuine, in all its horror: 5 forensic experts commissioned by the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights have testified that they believe the footage to be authentic.

Please help us fight for justice for those war crimes victims shown in ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, and for all those who weren’t filmed but suffered immensely too.

13/07/2011

The response to Kumar Sangakkara's lecture

Never has the link between cricket and politics been so evident and so alarming in the history of Sri Lanka as when one reflects for just a moment on the 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture, given by former Sri Lankan Cricket Captain Kumar Sangakkara, on 4th July 2011. Sanga became the first Cowdrey lecturer to receive a standing ovation since Desmond Tutu in 2008. The very next day, the Sri Lankan Minister of Sports ordered a report into the very address that won him the praise of a distinguished audience at Lords and plaudits from the international media.

Kumar Sangakarra. Image uploaded under a Creative Commons licence, thanks to Paddynapper.
Why the backlash? The answer is simple. In describing the corruption and malpractice within the Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) administration, Sanga's speech also highlights the malaise that afflicts governance and civil administration in Sri Lanka today: a lack of accountability, a propensity to discount minority aspirations, and a callous disregard for the rule of law. It is reflected in the way the north of Sri Lanka is being militarised with entry to towns being checked, civilians being monitored, and the military presence growing ever more overpowering. It is reflected in the way politicians show no restraint in flexing muscle at any given opportunity, whether in giving approval to a major civil project or in obstructing a civil protest on any issue. It is reflected in the way industrial action by factory workers in the Katunayake free trade zone to protest against a pension scheme was followed by police action that resulted in the death of a protestor.

The Island editorial on 7th July draws a parallel between the prosecution of “Sanga’s crime” (which was to highlight the maladministration of SLC whilst being a “contract player”) and murder: “This is a country where even contract killers get away with their crimes thanks to their political connections….So, while notorious criminals are going places, why should the incumbent government try to persecute a brilliant cricketer of international repute who passionately feels for his country and has done her proud, for calling a spade a spade, on the flimsy grounds that he is a 'contract player'?"

The hypocrisy is astounding. The contrast is damning. Perhaps this is why a statement has been released yesterday (12th July) by the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa , “commending” Sanga for his speech stating that, “he can’t recall any sporting personality throwing his or her weight behind the military before such an audience under similar circumstances”. It appears to be yet another public relations ruse to cause confusion – for once, something that is very transparent!

There is no need to labour the point any further - especially considering that following the Minster of Sports’ statement, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka told parliament of the involvement of certain Sri Lankan politicians in drug trafficking. Of course, there have been no questions asked. No investigations by the police. No accountability. No transparency. No integrity. No discipline. No commitment to the people of Sri Lanka.

Funnily, these are the same concerns that Sanga raised in his address at Lords with respect to SLC; the stark reality is that these concerns go far wider than the SLC administration. The corruption and nepotism of SLC as described in Sanga’s address is symptomatic of the corruption and nepotism of the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). In fact, if one were to remove the word "cricket" from one of the key statements contained within Sanga’s address, the truth comes across loud and clear:

"Accountability and transparency in administration and credibility of conduct were lost in a mad power struggle that would leave Sri Lankan [....] with no consistent and clear administration."

The last minute tampering with the order of the Sri Lankan cricket team before the 2011 World Cup final and the inclusion of Sanath Jayasuriya, a government parliamentarian, in the recent English tour are just examples of the malaise touching one aspect of Sri Lankan civil society. There are no questions asked; just the imperative that orders are to be complied with. However, Corruption, bribery and partisan politics are widespread across all aspects of Sri Lankan society, not just cricket and it has lead to a strong culture of impunity replacing democracy and with it the freedom of expression and preservation of civil liberties and human rights.

Mike Atherton, former England Cricket Captain captures this sentiment in his article in The Times on 28th June, 2011: “It is a selfish and an overtly political act. Jayasuriya is no longer a cricketer but a politician; since February 2010 he has been an elected MP in his home constituency of Matara for the United People’s Freedom Alliance, the ruling party in Sri Lanka that has the final say on the selection of the national team and is accused of running the country in an increasingly anti-democratic manner and ending the civil war in a barbaric way.”

Strong arm methods are effective and often applied. Everything seems to work that way in Sri Lanka in and out of the cricketing sphere.

Sangakkara is but one voice - but what a difference he has made with that one voice. His address has demonstrated that regardless of professional or cultural background, individuals can make a huge difference. How many more will join him and the few others that have spoken out before him? Not with any agenda or motive but simply the desire to restore democracy, transparency, accountability and liberty to all aspects of Sri Lanka’s civil society. For those who do not want to stand alone, organisations working for the greater good - such as the Centre for Policy Alternatives and Transparency International in Sri Lanka – need your support. Sanga’s speech was a plea for good governance within the SLC administration; your actions can make it a call for good governance throughout all aspects of Sri Lankan society.

12/07/2011

Update on the disapearence of Pattani Razeek: chief suspect arrested

Dear friends,

See below / attached a brief update about the disappearance of Mr. Pattani Razeek, a Sri Lankan HRD missing for more than 500 days – the arrest of chief suspect, after more than 500 days since the disappearance

Together with the family, we thank all those who contributed towards this arrest by appeals, publicity and various interventions

Although this is a significant development, much more needs to be done – questioning the chief suspect identified by the Police to uncover whereabouts of Razeek remains the main challenge and also questioning of Irshad, a associate of a Minister, who had claimed that Razeek was in custody of the Defense Ministry. These need to be done quickly and urgently, in order to find Razeek.

We look forward to your continued interventions and help to find where Razeek is.

Update on Disappearance of human rights defender Mr. Pattani Razeek
Arrest of chief suspect Nowshaadh, 11th July 2011

Shahabeen Noushadh, the main suspect in the disappearance of Human Rights Defender Mr. Pattani Razeek was arrested by the Colombo Crimes Division on Friday July 8 in Killinochchi. The Puttalama police identified Shahabdeen Nowshaadh as the chief suspect in Mr. Razeek’s disappearance in June 2010, based on evidence that calls were made on Nowshaadh’s phone using Razeek’s sim card to Mr. Razeek’s family shortly after his disappearance. Nowshaadh has also admitted to being in Polonnaruwa and meeting Mr. Razeek on the day he disappeared.

June 25 marked 500 days since Mr. Razeeks’ disappearance. The arrest happened on the last day of a signature campaign by Mr. Razeek’s family, the Mosque Committee and local civil society groups, and public appeals for his arrest by Sri Lankan civil society activists and international human rights organizations.

As background, below are three recent statements / appeals by Sri Lankan civil society, FORUM-ASIA and OMCT-FIDH:

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04/07/2011

Cricket and the Killing Fields

An article written by Andy Bull in The Guardian last week, republished in full below.

Disgrace. What a tediously familiar word; stripped of significance by its overuse, shorn of force by its frequent repetition. Read it again. Roll it around your tongue. Feel its heat and taste its weight, because I am about to use it and I do not want to do so lightly. In the next seven days England are due to play two games against Sri Lanka which will be used as valedictory matches for Sanath Jayasuriya, who has been recalled to the squad at the age of 41. Jayasuriya's selection is a disgrace and the idea of playing cricket against a team that includes him is a disgrace.

The Test series between Sri Lanka and England was played out to the sound of protests from London's expatriate Tamil community. During the Saturday of the Lord's Test they picketed the ground. Nothing epitomised the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil attitude of the cricket community so well as the fact that the protestors were hemmed in behind metal barricades on the far side of the main road, shouting their slogans at a 10-foot tall red brick wall. On the other side business at Lord's went on as usual, with the brass bands blaring away in Harris Garden all but drowning out the distant catcalls.

Only a fool thinks that sport and politics do not mix. But I can understand the desire to try and keep the two things separate, to stick your fingers in your ears and insist that the worries of the real world should not intrude of the field of play. Sport is supposed to be escapism, after all. But Jayasuriya is not a sportsman any more, he is a politician. His selection is an intrusion of a politics into sport, and means that isolation of the two is not an option.

In April 2010 Jayasuriya was elected as the MP for Matara in southern Sri Lanka. He represents the United People's Freedom Alliance, the party of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Jayasuriya's recall was ordered by Rajapaksa's government. It is an overtly political decision. Kumar Sangakkara's recent comments on the unique difficulties of captaining Sri Lanka - "it is a job that ages you very quickly" - were a thinly veiled reference to this kind of political interference in team selection. It was a sentiment echoed by stand-in coach Stuart Law in the wake of the last Test, when he said he was learning that the job was about "more than just cricket matters".

There is no convincing case to be made for recalling Jayasuriya. It has been two-and-a-half years since he scored a century in any kind of cricket, and the fact that he has said he will play only in the first of the five ODIs against England is testament in itself that he is not coming back because he has the interests of the team at heart.

But even if there was any cricketing logic to his inclusion, his selection would still be unacceptable. Jayasuriya is an elected representative of a government who, according to a United Nations report published this April, could be responsible for the deaths of 40,000 Tamil citizens during the final campaign of the civil war in late 2008 and early 2009.

"The number [7,721] calculated by the United Nations Country Team provides a starting point, but is likely to be too low," the report states. "A number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths."

Last Tuesday Channel 4 broadcast the documentary Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, a film which detailed the crimes committed against the civilian Tamil population by the Sri Lankan army in excruciating detail. It used nauseating mobile phone footage shot on the ground to substantiate allegations of the systematic rape and murder of Tamils and the direct targeting of civilian hospitals and medical facilities in no-fire zones. Gordon Weiss, a former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka, reported that by May 2009 there had been "roughly 65 attacks on medical facilities that were treating civilians" and that "the no fire zone was taking significant amounts of shelling from the government and it was killing civilians."

This is an extremely emotive issue. When I wrote about the Tamil protest at Lord's, I was emailed by one reader demanding to know whether I had "asked the protestors for their opinion of the use of child soldiers, suicide bombings and human shields by the Tamil Tigers?" The UN report confirms that atrocities were committed by both sides on the civilian population, who were ushered into supposedly-safe 'no fire zones' by the army and then held there at gunpoint by the Tigers. In the words of Weiss, the army "systematically denied humanitarian aid in the form of food and medical supplies".

In a recent interview with the BBC's Sinhalese service, Jayasuriya explained that "the world should realise that the Sri Lankan government has stopped one of the worst terrorist organisations in the world. I am 41 years old. Thirty years of my life, we went through a terrible time in Sri Lanka. Anybody can come into my country now and walk anywhere without fear," Jayasuriya continued. He added that the world should be "happy" at what the government had achieved.

David Cameron has called for an independent investigation into what happened in Sri Lanka, something Rajapaksa's government, Jayasuriya's government, has refused to allow. According to the UN report, there are "reasonable grounds to believe that the Sri Lankan security forces committed war crimes with top government and military leaders potentially responsible".

The English players once blanched at being made to shake hands with Robert Mugabe. This Saturday they will be expected to play against a man who is a direct representative of a government accused of war crimes on a horrific scale by the United Nations. The politics of the matter is not outside the ground or behind a metal fence any more. It is right there in the middle of the pitch and it cannot be ignored.