The highly controversial initiative ‘Himalayan Declaration’ where a group of Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka and the UK-based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) was funded by the Swiss Government, a trustee of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture has revealed.

Writing in a leading English daily, Ambika Satkunanathan, a leading attorney and former commissioner in Sri Lanka’s human rights commission (HRCSL), said the initiative has earned harsh criticisms rather than any welcome.

“The Global Tamil Forum’s (GTF) initiative with the Sangha for a Better Sri Lanka (SBSL), facilitated by the Association of War Affected Women and funded by the Swiss Government, has earned the ire of the Tamil community, both in Sri Lanka and abroad”.

While the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council and the Tamils are pushing hard for accountability into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state security forces, the funding of the GTF-Buddhist monk declaration has sent shock waves across the Tamil community around the globe.

Although the leaders of the GTF met the Asgiriya and Malwatta prelates after handing over the joint declaration, it has not found favour among the Buddhist clergy within Sri Lanka. The Amarapura Chapter has rejected the said declaration.

“This does not represent the position of the Amarapura chapter” the Assistant Registrar of the Assembly of Amarapura Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka has announced in an official statement.

Their Anu Nayaka Madampagama Assaji Tissa led the Buddhist monk signatories to the declaration, which was rejected by his own leadership.

The declaration doesn’t speak about the alleged grave war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan security forces and an internationally monitored accountability mechanism proposed by the UN Human Rights Commission and demanded by most of the diaspora organizations.

Even the Ministry of Buddhasasana, Religious and Cultural Affairs has said it doesn’t have any information about the joint declaration.

“Inter-faith initiatives aren’t new to Sri Lanka. To the contrary, such initiatives have been funded by international donors and have created a mini peace building industry over the decades. These initiatives have been unsuccessful due to various reasons. One of the main reasons is that these initiatives avoid addressing the impact of Sinhala Buddhist majoritarianism on inter-community relations despite Tamils and Muslims identifying it as a factor that impacts their lives socio-economically and politically,” Ambika wrote in her column.

Neither the Swiss ambassador to Colombo nor the government in Geneva has commented on their funding for the controversial declaration which has been rejected by the Tamils.


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