‘Cluster munitions’: Transparency needed
Posted on May 5th, 2012

Editorial The Island

A Colombo-based UN official’s claim that a foreign demining group chanced upon cluster bomb munitions in Sri Lanka’s former war zone has received wide publicity in the global media. International human rights groups have used it to bolster their claim that war crimes were committed in Sri Lanka and a probe is needed.

But, the Sri Lankan military says the UNDP has not yet furnished details of the alleged detection of cluster munitions such as the exact location and the identities of the deminers concerned. It is rather unbecoming of a UN organisation to remain mum without co-operating with the host government on so vital an issue.

Deminers are neither equipped nor authorised to dispose of explosive devices they unearth. Theirs is to remove mines and hand them over to Sri Lankan military experts who alone are tasked with defusing explosives so recovered. The question therefore is why the UNDP and the demining outfit which claims to have found unexploded cluster bomblets did not inform the army of their detection and seek the latter’s help to render them safe forthwith.

If someone has really found cluster sub munitions as claimed, and is holding on to them at a tremendous risk to his life and those of others, let him be urged to hand them over to the army, maybe in the presence of some UN bigwigs if he fears that the government is trying to obliterate evidence of cluster bombs. International human rights organisations demanding a war crimes probe against Sri Lanka ought to call upon the UNDP to produce evidence of cluster bomb munitions forthwith.

The UNDP’s credibility, we are afraid, is at stake like that of any other UN agency. In Sudan, four deminers including a UN worker have been arrested on charges of working for the newly carved out South Sudan. The Sudanese government has accused them of serving as military advisors to the enemy. Although this allegation has not yet been substantiated and the deminers’ employers are insisting that they were engaged in humanitarian mine clearing at the time of their ‘abduction’, the incident has raised serious doubts about UN workers’ neutrality. In this country, too, some UN employees have been accused of working for the LTTE. One of them was arrested with a micro pistol while the war was going on. Former UN spokesman in Colombo Gordon Weiss is now helping the LTTE with its propaganda as evident from his role in the controversial Channel 4 video on Sri Lanka.

The only way the UNDP could prove that its official who claims to possess evidence of cluster sub munitions in the Vanni has not uttered a diabolical lie is to cooperate with the military fully and make available the required information without further delay. The UN should ensure that claims that its employees make are substantiated and probed. In 2006, it may be recalled, when the LTTE’s Sencholai training facility was bombed, a UN official based in the Vanni claimed that the Sri Lankan Air Force had attacked a school. Her claim received wide publicity, though she was a notorious LTTE supporter fondly called ‘mother’ by Tiger combatants. The SLAF had to fight quite a battle to clear its name with the help of UAV images of the damaged LTTE facility and combatants running helter-skelter following the air raids. Human rights groups made a great hue and cry, condemning Sri Lanka and calling for a probe, but they never took up that issue again for obvious reasons.

The UNDP must act responsibly without sullying its image. It should abide by the principle of transparency and make public evidence it claims to have of cluster munitions in the Vanni.

One Response to “‘Cluster munitions’: Transparency needed”

  1. Dham Says:

    Lack of action by Governement is again seen.
    Denying only will not solve this issue.
    They are waiting for an opportunity to smuggle something out of the country.
    White Van should spring into action, here and now.

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