Elaine Pearson’s (Human Rights Watch) Presentation on Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Violations‏ – November 18,2011
Posted on November 28th, 2011

Ira de Silva London, Ontario

Mr. Scott-Reid, M.P.
Canadian House of Commons Sub-Committee on Human Rights of the Standing committee of Foreign Affairs & International Development
Re: Presentation by Ms. Elaine Pearson, Deputy Director, Asia Division of Human Rights Watch on Sri Lankan Human Rights – Nov. 18,2011

Dear Sir:
I have read Ms. Elaine Pearson’s presentation on Sri Lanka to your Committee. I am sending this response to you and sincerely hope that you will read it as I believe that Ms. Pearson’s presentation has made various assumptions, used material that is unsubstantiated, relied on material such as the Channel 4 documentary which has been proven to be fabricated, “photo-shopped” and much of it originating from the LTTE propaganda publications such as TamilNet without verification or any attempt to determine the authenticity of the facts. Further, Ms. Pearson refers to the report given to the U.N. Secretary General which is called the Darumsman Report which is  not a U.N. report because it was not sanctioned by the General Assembly or the Security Council but an advisory report for the Secretary General. The over-riding impression made by Ms. Pearson’s presentation is accusatory and criticism of the Government of Sri Lanka. It is plain that  her mission is to achieve her organization’s objective of an investigation in Sri Lanka to which end she is seeking Canada’s backing. What I find most disturbing is that her organization is continuing to make statements ignoring all information and evidence that some of the claims made by them have been shown to be false. It indicates that Human Rights Watch (HRW) is not open to information and disregards whatever is available from many sources if it does not fit their mission to condemn Sri Lanka. 
To substantiate the statements I have made regarding Human Rights Watch, and their apparent prejudice and bias against Sri Lanka, I would ask that you review the following facts which illustrate some of the inaccuracies in the HRW presentation.  
Ms. Pearson – “I’ll talk a little bit about the lack of accountability for alleged war crimes, particularly during the final stages of the conflict” – At the U. N. Human Rights sessions in Geneva in June this year, this same statement was made by the HRW representative. When asked to provide one example of an alleged war crime, there was none provided.  Asked what credible evidence HRW had, there was no response. These are the same accusations which Ms. Pearson is making in November. In this context may I bring to your attention a report published by a HRW researcher in May 2009 describing “death and destruction in the Vanni (north Sri Lanka) during the height of the war – “dead bodies of civilians lie strewn along the dusty roads. Hospitals, play grounds and houses stand ravaged by rockets fired from multi-barrel launchers” giving the impression of a first-hand account – the problem was that she had not been anywhere near the area. Similarly, it appears that Ms. Pearson is also relying on hearsay without any substantiation or evidence, unable to provide credible evidence but continuing with the same accusations which suits her goal to discredit Sri Lanka. HRW makes much of calling for accountability from Sri Lanka but demonstrates no accountability or integrity in it’s own actions.
Ms. Pearson – “we have analyzed photos, video and satellite imagery. Our findings are consistent with the investigations by other independent human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and the International Crisis Group, and more recently, a panel of experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General”.  It was Amnesty International  that sponsored the Channel 4 video’s first presentation at the U.N. in Geneva this year but as pointed out by  reporter A. Gill writing to the London Times of the U.K. about this video  – “the channel has accumulated a large collection of samizdat amateur footage with comment from unnamed sources with distorted voices and shadowed faces … not a second of this has been shot by Channel 4”.  Is this what HRW deem reliable and “accountable”?
Further, when it comes to Sri Lanka, Amnesty itself does not follow their own mandate which states that they should independently verify any allegations made against a sovereign nation, or for that matter an individual before taking action. In correspondence with Amnesty Canada I raised this question of independent verification and it appears that they had not done any. Without any questions Amnesty relied  on Channel 4 which in turn had just accepted doctored videos, propaganda material downloaded from TamilNet, photo-shopped photographs, as well as commentators such as V. Kumar who have been definitively established as LTTE cadres but not introduced as being LTTE members in the documentary. If HRW is relying on Amnesty which has not done any investigation or verification and others who too have no independent, credible, verifiable proof, of what value are their statements? It seems that like minded organizations are using each other to condemn Sri Lanka but none of them have any independent credible evidence to back their accusations. Which of them is showing any responsibility or accountability?
Reports and other material relied on by Human Rights Watch in this presentation
Ms. Pearson – “The panel’s report found strong and credible allegations that both the government and the LTTE committed serious violations during the final months.”  May I bring to your attention that regarding the “facts” in the report, the panel states in paragraph 53 that (these facts) are “not to be taken as proven facts and any effort to determine specific liabilities would require a higher threshold”. The panel itself has cautioned that the report should not be accepted without proven facts which caution  has been ignored by Ms. Pearson. Also, it appears that  HRW has merely taken certain parts of the report to suit it’s actions against Sri Lanka.  It is obvious that no attempt has been made to make any serious study of the report’s contents.  Amnesty Canada confirmed to me that they had not, but relied on others for information. I would also like to bring to your attention that the report was based on information within the U.N. system and various submissions to them by organizations and individuals. However, no one has access to the contents of these submissions as they have been sealed by the U.N. and are not available for scrutiny for twenty years. Therefore these organizations could not have any access either.  Calling for an investigation is possibly to satisfy their donors.
Reference the claim that 40,000 may have died, the majority from government shelling, is again the view of those responsible for the documentary. It was Mr. Gordon Weiss of the U.N. who initially claimed that the number of dead was 7,000 which was immediately discredited by the U.N. itself claiming that it was unsubstantiated and that the actual figure was much lower.  The estimate from the U.N. itself in May 2009 was that it was approximately 1000. The 40,000 was claimed by Mr. Gordon Weiss and the LTTE propagandists without any proof and  Mr. Weiss  when questioned during his public appearances in the last four months has  brought that number down dramatically! Apparently he has no definite number yet HRW is presenting these false claims. Once again HRW is merely picking at statements without any verification.  No mention is made of the government’s unilateral declaration of two 48 hour ceasefires to enable the displaced civilians to move out to safety which was blocked by the LTTE firing on any who attempted to do so, nor the fact that the LTTE ignored calls to surrender when they were surrounded and restricted to a small area. This is confirmed in the press interviews the LTTE gave to the BBC just days before the end of the war.
Mr. Pearson claims – “government forces killed civilians by widespread shelling  and attacks on government designated safe zones including clearly marked hospitals – What Ms. Pearson did not inform you was the fact that the LTTE retreated to these “safe zones” with all their heavy weaponry, surrounded these guns with civilians and continued to fire at the security forces as well as despatch suicide bombers until the end of the war. HRW ignores the principle that in a war, if attacked, security forces have the right and duty to defend themselves and make every effort to stop the opposing side. In such situations, care was taken to track the position of the LTTE’s long range guns and presence of civilians in its immediate vicinity, if any, by use of UAV photos, and thereafter disable the threat by a surgical strike on the heavy weaponry to avoid civilian casualties. Can these so-called human rights groups name any war in which state forces are obligated to not return fire and just sit around to be killed? As for the hospitals, it is strange that the buildings were intact and the patients were in their beds after the shelling.  In fact, the use of heavy weapons was virtually abandoned in the latter stages of the military action from around April 2009, changing the strategy to an infantry operation which led to the government’s security forces to suffer nearly 60 percent of their total casualties of almost 6200 dead and over 29000 injured men as they came up against the incessant heavy weaponry fire of the LTTE.  As for the food, all the food and medicines even to the terrorists were supplied by the Government of Sri Lanka throughout the duration of the war and to the very end. UN reports confirm that when the supplies could not be sent by land, they were sent by ship. The World Food Program and the International Red Cross was associated in the distribution of food and medicines whilst the ICRC with the assistance of the Sri Lankan Navy helped in getting the sick and injured out of the war zone. All of this is very well documented but ignored by HRW.  A Tamil parliamentarian who was with the trapped civilians to the end of the war, Mr. Kanagaratnam clearly states that every effort was made by the Government to supply their needs and that the LTTE killed the civilians like “stray dogs” when they attempted to leave the clutches of the LTTE.
Ms. Pearson claims that the footage in the video (Channel 4) is authentic and that various sources confirm that there was a summary execution of prisoners by government troops. Again, HRW has made no attempt at verification because if they had they would know that the original footage of the summary executions had the killers speaking in good Tamil which indicates that the killers were in fact the LTTE and their possible victims were captured government soldiers. The footage which Ms. Pearson is relying on without any attempt at getting at the truth, is one which has been later dubbed into bad Sinhalese  to imply that it was by government soldiers. That there are two videos is well known. However, Ms. Pearson has chosen the one that implies it was the Sri Lankan security forces and ignored the existense of the other which clearly illustrates the bias of HRW.  I bring to your attention that an asylum seeker to Canada aboard the MV Sun Sea admitted to have been asked to shoot Sri Lankan soldiers held prisoner, vide report by Doug Quan in Global News of 4/19/11.
As for the woman named Isaippiriya, who Ms. Pearson calls a 27 year old reporter, once again she has chosen to twist the facts. Please note that Isaippiriya was in fact  a known, active LTTE (Tamil terrorist) with a rank of Lt. Colonel, known to have played a key role in persuading children to undertake suicide missions and was a fighting cadre in the war at her time of death – photo evidence is the identity card issued to her by the LTTE.  As a picture is worth a thousand words, I am sending you one of Isaippiriya.
  Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet. Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.  
Please note the combat attire which confirms her military involvements with the LTTE – had HRW done even a preliminary inquiry about her, this fact would have been clear to them.  It not only indicates their bias but also that they deliberately ignore the fact that during the final stages of the war the LTTE used  ALL its members to fight against the security forces irrespective of their fields of employment, political, media, finance, administration etc. It is not the Sri Lankan government that has made no effort to genuinely investigate but HRW that is merely repeating their accusations even though this evidence is clearly available to the public.  
Comment on the Lessons Learnt Committee of Sri Lanka
Please note that HRW, Amnesty and other organizations were invited to make presentations to the Commission. They chose not to claiming that the Commission’s madate was not satisfactory to them. They ignore the fact that every sovereign state has the right to set up it’s own commissions and establish mandates to deal with their own citizens. Sri Lanka’s war on terrorism was an internal conflict which affected only it’s own citizens.  Sri Lanka has the right and obligation to set up it’s own mechanism within the framework of the laws of Sri Lanka. The U.N. has acknowledged this right. The so-called human rights champions can not accept this fundamental right because they believe that for Sri Lanka it is they who have the right to investigate judge and impose a sentence. It is ironic that they believe that they have the right to criticise the mandate of the LLRC when, as I pointed out earlier, HRW is relying on Amnesty and Amnesty is not even following it’s own mandate regarding independent investigation and verification. In other wars on terrorism being conducted in the world today, countries are being invaded by foreign forces supposedly to fight terrorsm to protect their citizens living thousands of miles away, yet HRW believes that Sri Lanka does not have similar rights in an internal conflict. 
Responding to Hon. I. Cotler regarding  experts going to Sri Lanka, Ms. Pearson claims that “this was actually an issue with the UN panel of experts report”. The facts are that, as stated by the panel of experts themselves, they did not have a mandate to investigate. They had to abide by the mandate given to them not the spin placed on this information by Ms. Pearson –  “this was actually an issue with the UN panel of experts report” – there was no issue – they did not have a mandate to investigate and they were told they could visit Sri Lanka.  “I think they were granted some permission to go to Sri Lanka – again they were not granted “some” permission – they were granted permission.  As for “but it was under such conditions that would not allow them to do independent kinds of questioning”they had no mandate to do what Ms. Pearson calls to do independent kinds of questioning“. “So they were not able to visit Sri Lanka” they were able to visit but chose not to do so. The above answer clearly illustrates Ms. Pearson’s vague knowledge of and biased interpretation of what was a simple situation.
My final comment is that it is ironic that an organization called Human Rights Watch completely ignores the fact that eliminating the hierarchy of the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world gave the people of Sri Lanka their basic right to live without fear of terrorism after a period of twenty seven years. Further, HRW ignores the fact that in Sri Lanka it was an internal conflict and every government has the duty and responsibility to protect it’s citizens from terrorism. Contrast what took place in Sri Lanka to what has and is taking place in other parts of the world where foreign forces are invading countries and attempting to fight those they deem to be terrorists to prevent them from harming their own citizens living thousands of miles away. What Sri Lanka achieved in May 2009 was the right to life without fear for all it’s citizens which is a fundamental right and one which in Sri Lanka was not supported by these same organizations for decades.
I would also bring to your attention that when these organizations accept funding from the supporters of LTTE terrorism in the west, including Canadian citizens, it is not any surprise that their attitude is one of condemnation of Sri Lanka and that they are articulating the call for revenge which is the mantra of these same supporters of LTTE terrorism. It is a fact that just this year, Amnesty in Canada received a cheque for $50,000 from organizations in Canada that have been very vocal in their support for the LTTE and who have set up a Transnational Government to continue their goal of dividing Sri Lanka with support from the Canadian Government. Instead of funding guns and bombs they are using these so-called human rights organizations to achieve their goal of dividing Sri Lanka. Will the Canadian Government be supportive of this goal? Will your Committee recommend support for this goal of the Tamil diaspora who are citizens of Canada not Sri Lanka? Do you support that the citizens of Sri Lanka should be punished further by the Tamil diaspora when they have already suffered for decades because of terrorism funded by citizens of western countries? Should not the people of Sri Lanka be given the opportunity to live in peace and work out their problems based on their needs and beliefs? 
HRW in passing claims that the LTTE is also guilty of killing civilians, using child soldiers etc. If as Ms. Pearson states the LTTE leadership was responsible for “horrific abuses” do they intend investigating the LTTE leadership who are flourishing in the west, who are very vocal and waving the LTTE flag at all their events and are funding human rights organizations? Canadian citizens funded LTTE terrorism in Sri Lanka as did the citizens of the U.K., France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand to name the most prominent.  Mr. J. Daniel is correct when he states that the leadership of the LTTE has not been destroyed. Although the hierarchy of the LTTE was killed in Sri Lanka in May 2009, those who are carrying out their campaign against Sri Lanka in the Tamil diaspora, Canada being one of the main centres, have “elected” their leaders, ministers, and even issued identity cards to their “citizens” throughout the west. Will they be held responsible and accountable for the atrocities and terrorism they perpetrated on the people of Sri Lanka and be prosecuted by the governments of the countries they are living in?  Perhaps HRW can provide the security forces of these countries with whatever information they have to assist in these prosecutions.  
If there is to be any benefit from these hearings towards providing the basis for Canada’s policy on Sri Lanka, there needs to be a balance of information, the above issues addressed without bias or being influenced by domestic Canadian politics.  
Yours truly,
Ira de Silva
London, Ontario  

4 Responses to “Elaine Pearson’s (Human Rights Watch) Presentation on Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Violations‏ – November 18,2011”

  1. gamunu6 Says:

    Hello Ira de Silva, Lodon, Ontario~ Canada

    As usual very impressed by your analysis & comments. Our politicians, interlectuals & people in the know, must engage in defending Sri lanka, when powerful west & its inhabiltants with influence mostly Tamils & LTTE sympathizers, spread false propganda against Sri lanka.

    Your comments & articles are very appropriate to Canadian political parties & leaders, NOT to be fooled by LTTE & other sister organizations who are hell bent on a dis-information campaign.

    To get elected to Canadian parliament, these so called HUMAN RIGHTS gurus commit enough damage & destitute to disadvantaged people in Canada, by associating theselves with LTTE rump.

    It is time to stand up to these political masters as the people in the UK did in ousting the then Foregin secretary who catred for & openly suppoted LTTE & FUNDRAISING against Sri Lanka a Sovereign State.

    Thanks so much for your contribution & hope you will endevour to write more on important issues that affect Canada & Sri Lanka……………Just expressing my opinion in support of your efforts…..Gamunu Alahakkone., P.Eng(Retd Engineer-Canada).

  2. S de Silva Says:

    Thank you Ira again for your detailed rebuttal of the accounts by the bogus HR outfits like AI, HRW etc. Sadly I am afraid you will have to think of endless rebuttals of this same cooked up story for ever because they seem to ignore the truth. To move from this situation GoSL must sue these outfits (at least one of them) for libel. That is the only way to stop these bogus allegations. And if we do not do that, this situation will go on, and on and on…….! – S de Silva- London

  3. douglas Says:

    Dear Ira de Silva – Thank you for the presentation you made on behalf of all Sri Lankans.

    I have a question for you. Isn’t there any other single organization in Canada who are invited or authorized to go before this “Canadian House of Commons Sub Committee of Human Resources for the Foreign Affairs Development” other than this corrupted HR activists? Why are not other Sri Lankan organizations such as SLUNA or individuals like Asoka Weerasinghe, Mahinda Gunasekera or yourself not allowed or invited to present matters, such as what you have given in your presentation above ?

    Or if that is not possible, why can’t the High Commission based in Ottawa go before such a committee and present the views of the Government of Sri Lanka? We knew that some weeks back an MP Ms. Rathika Sitsabasen screened the Channel 4 “Killing Fields” to the members of the House of Commons. If she can do that why the High Commission based in the capital, Ottawa screene “Lies Agreed Upon” to the very same Parliamentarians so that they can have a first hand knowledge of the other side of the story?

    I do not how many Parliamentarians in your House Commons read this Web Page or read your letters. I therefore suggest you seriously think of a strategy, in consultation with the High Commission of Sri Lanka, whereby you patriots can effectively present the TRUTH to these members of Parliament. If that is not done, it is a one sided story that will be prevailed and nothing could be expected from the Govenrment and the people of Canada.

    I urge you all to explore this possibility. Thank you

  4. S de Silva Says:

    Yes Ira, if it is not practical for Canadians to do what I have suggeted above, (or in addition)then the next best is what Douglas has kindly suggested above. We need action deparately on the LTTE propaganda machine – not simply enless reaction to it and these coments apply equally to the HC in the US. UK, Fr, AU & NZ! – S de Silva – London

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