Alex Neve and John Argue’s presentation on Sri Lanka for AI to a sub-committee in parliament
Posted on November 25th, 2011

Asoka Weerasinghe Kings Grove Crescent . Gloucester . Ontario . K1J 6G1, Canada

25 November 2011

Mr. Scott Reid, Conservative MP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington
Chairperson, House of Commons Sub-Committee on Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, House of Commons, Ottawa

A Response to the presentation by Mr. Alex Neve, Director General, Amnesty International, Ottawa and Mr. John Argue, Amnesty International,  Sri Lanka Coordinator, Toronto,  on 17 November 2011

Dear Mr. Scott Reid:

It is with great admiration to you and your Sub-Committee on Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, that I request your generous indulgence to read my response on the presentation by Amnesty International (AI) representatives, Alex Neve and John Argue on Sri Lanka’s violations of Human Rights during the  pre- and post- Tamil Eelam War which lasted 27 years and ended on 19 May 2009.

Listening to their presentation I was taken aback how this duo who represented an apparently squeaky clean institution and defenders of human rights with almost saintly impartiality, unmotivated by the slightest shred of ideological prejudice, going about the world protesting against human rights abuses by officials of governments wherever they be found, but unfortunately the presentation to you and your sub-committee on Sri Lanka unraveled that they are nothing what they portray themselves to be as this presentation was infected with half-truths and lies.  And that is unfortunate.

“Saintly impartiality“, I said.  How could they in this case, as one of their sponsor/donors, the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) based in Toronto who gave AI $50,000 after a Walk-a-Thon this autumn was breathing down their necks as observers during the presentation.  AI certainly would  not want to jeopardize receiving the next $50,000 installment for their survival next autumn by presenting facts inimical to the separatist Tamil cause in Sri Lanka.  CTC defended the Tamil Tigers vigorously during TV panel discussions during the late 2009 when they were going down in defeat.  One almost wonders whether the AI’s presentation would have been different if their Tamil sponsors were not present as observers.

*Rubbishing Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) by AI:    One wonders whether the reason why AI was rubbishing LLRC was because they felt threatened that they might lose their lucrative business of Human Rights policing in Sri Lanka!

Yes, AI was invited by LLRC to present themselves to the Commission, but AI spurned the invitation.  Why?  Was it that they suspected that they would expose themselves as a weak link on human rights violations in Sri Lanka during the war?  Their feeble excuse was “the inquiry would not be credible and there was no system for witness protection”.  That was John Argue’s excuse.

No witness was given protection during these hearings, nor was I given protection when I went down to Sri Lanka spending $1,600 for the plane ticket to present myself on 30 November 2010, as I felt that the Commission was credible and wanted to help the country go forward in their reconciliation process with my presentation, hopefully in a minimal way.  There were two persons who had travelled from Australia to make presentations prior to my presentation and they too did not have “ƒ”¹…”witness protection’ nor did they or  I ask for “ƒ”¹…”witness protection’.

Undermining LLRC by AI:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yes, AI launched their 69 page report “When will they get Justice?” in Geneva, pushing for an international war crimes probe on the behest of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (aka Tamil Tigers) to undermine the LLRC.

Yes, AI said, “The LLRC is the latest in a long line of failed domestic inquires.  In reality it’s flawed at every level: in mandate, composition and practice.”

That comment had every element of being arrogant, and callous audacity on AI’s part, a group which has polished its barbs of blatant lies against Sri Lanka that has done nothing, not a single thing, to promote Human Rights in Sri Lanka, other than being critical of the government who went about eliminating the most ruthless terrorist group in the world, that every foreign diplomat thought were invincible.

It was strange that AI had not produced a war manual, “How to Win a Terrorist War Without Human Rights Violations for Dummies”, that they could have thrown at the Sri Lanka Government to follow the AI strategies.  Strange!

“The inquiry would not be credible” AI said.  As for LLRC’s credibility, it was established by a democratically elected President and Government and composed of personalities of eminence and of untarnished integrity from the Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities. That blows the lie by John Argue who told you that the Tamil community was not consulted.

 I could easily ask Alex Neve and John Argue, what credibility do you two  have to challenge these personalities who you think would not bring “credibility” to the LLRC when its composition reflects the pluralistic nature of Sri Lanka’s polity.

As a defense of the LLRC which AI has decided to rubbish: permit me to tell you that it is a well known rule of international law that domestic remedies must first be exhausted.  For Alex Neve’s and John Argue’s benefit, this rule is found in the case law of  the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, the American Convention of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, and International Human Rights Treaties.  And I am sure our good Professor Irwin Cotler of your Sub Committee who I have a great admiration for as an International Human Rights lawyer will agree with me.  If so, I would request that your Sub-Committee shelve all what this AI representatives presented you all on Sri Lanka’s LLRC, as it is biased in favour of the Tamil separatist cause, now that we have found through a national newspaper that they are being ‘Walk-a-Thon’ funded by a Tamil group.

Pre-Judgment of LLRC’s deliberations by AI:    For AI to pre-judge the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) is unwarranted and questionable, and shows AI’s unprofessional, immature and vindictive approach towards Sri Lanka, especially when they  had absolutely nothing positive to present to you all on Sri Lanka and Human Rights.  Let me hasten to add that AI demonstrated its bad faith policy when it refused to accept the invitation from the LLRC which would have been a beneficial symbiosis for both parties and an opportunity to obtain first hand news of the workings of the LLRC and AI.

Why appointing the LLRC that AI has pooh-poohed:  It was put in place by the Government of Sri Lanka on the principle of restorative justice and to focus on identifying those responsible for past events related to the conflict and identifying the institutional, administrative and legislative measures which need to be implemented in order to prevent a recurrence of such events in the future.  What was wrong with that I ask AI other than feeling that they are being pushed out of the business of policing human rights around the world, especially in Sri Lanka?

There were many positives of Human Rights associated with the Eelam War that AI refused to give credit to the Sri Lanka Government during their presentation.  The question that I keep asking is Why AI?

  This was an ugly war like any other war, there were killings and there were shootings and bombings.   There were massacres of fisherfolk, massacres of novice Buddhist monks, there were massacres of 700 policemen who surrendered to the Tamil Tigers shot through their heads at point blank range, and there were bayoneting of infants having plucked them from young Sinhalese mother’s arms, all executed by the Tamil Tigers.  It was that ugly and it was that brutal and AI has decided to skim over these human rights violations by the Tamil Tigers but go after Sri Lanka Government’s pound of flesh.

  Unlike World War II which lasted only six years the Tamil Tiger Eelam War lasted 27 years, a good 297 months which saw over 100,000  innocent, unarmed people dead.  Out of that AI has picked the last five months wanting to nail Sri Lanka to the wall on grounds of human rights violations and war crimes.  Why? I ask.  Is there a motive behind this?

For the Sri Lankan government it was a liberation war, not only to liberate the sovereign land which the unelected Tamil Tigers controlled as a de facto separate, mono-ethnic racist, Tamil state Eelam, but also 300,000 Tamils who were herded by the Tamil Tigers as a human shield, and also to give back the “ƒ”¹…”right-to-life’ to 22 million innocent people in the island which was hijacked by the Tamil Tigers for 27 bloody years.

With the end of the war on 19 May 2009, when the Tamil Tigers were militarily eliminated, the First Positive that AI decided not to acknowledge was, the Rajapaksa Government giving back to 22 million peoples of that sovereign island nation,  their “ƒ”¹…”right-to-life’, the most treasured and precious tenet of human rights.  And AI decided not to mention that to you.  Why?I ask AI.  Was there a motive behind it?

The Second Positive was to stop Tamil Tigers kidnapping and recruiting children under the age of 14 to become front line fighters and suicide bombers, and stop the pain and tears of their Tamil mothers.  There were over 5,300 child soldiers by the end of the war, and AI knew it and decided not to acknowledge and give credit to the Sri Lankan Government for this achievement.  Why? I ask AI.  Was there a motive behind it?

The Third Positive was on September 30th, the Sri Lankan Government reintegrated 1,800 rehabilitated former Tamil Tiger combatants into society at a ceremony at Temple Trees, the official residence of the President.  They had gone through a two year rehabilitation program since the war ended.  Parents and family members in attendance rejoiced the reunion of their misguided children, brothers and sisters  These ex-Tamil Tigers had been given training in business skills, clerical, administration, masonry, plumbing, carpentry and various arts and crafts.  Some also trained as psychologists and computer programmers.  Some of the rehabilitated cadre had already secured foreign jobs.

I recognized our High Commissioner Bruce Levy in the photograph of the ceremony together with the Ambassador to the US and the High Commissioner to Australia.  They were witness to this extraordinary, yet happy event.

My question to you is why  did AI ignore these positives to relate to you during their presentation.  I am disappointed with Alex Neve and John Argue.  They had reasons not to give credit to the Sri Lankan government for their effort to restore Human Rights in Sri Lanka.  I smell a rat here and a nasty one at that.  And  let me assure you that the Rajapaksa Government is continually restoring human rights in the island and there are many more positives and there will be many more down the road.  All this takes time, but, believe me, they are determined.

My observations are the flip side of the coin which Amnesty International deliberately will not identify nor acknowledge.  Perhaps this is a money-shell game for survival. Human Rights is a business and they need funds and the Tamil Diaspora,  and the Tamil Tiger rump have oodles of it.    And Amnesty International certainly have their hands buried in that money till.

My observations are honest and I call on you and the members of the Sub-Committee to view  my interventions with compassion, keeping in mind that there are 22 million silent voices 20 thousand miles away in that puny island stuck in the middle of the Indian Ocean wanting to get on with their lives  after 27 years of hemorrhaging and reconcile with their Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher neighbours and live happily ever after.  They deserve that break and it is for you to switch the light of compassion on them.

It is for you to be judge and jury on AI’s presentation and my observations on their presentation  and do what is right for those 22 million people.   It is they who have to live there together in harmony and not Alex Neve,  John Argue, you or me.  And that is the bottom line.

 My final comment is that I certainly do not trust Amnesty International anymore.

Sincerely,

Asoka Weerasinghe (Mr) (C11255047)

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