UN Charter and Sri Lanka – President’s WORD
Posted on February 8th, 2013

Lucian Rajakarunanayake

It was a very clear message of Independence and Sovereignty as a nation, and that Sri Lanka is entitled to all rights based on the principle of sovereign equality of all members of the United Nations. On the 65th anniversary of independence, President Mahinda Rajapaksa saw the need to emphasize these facts to the world in his address to the nation from the port city of Trincomalee.

Taking the Freedom Day celebrations to Trincomalee this year was of significance as it emphasized the post-conflict progress made in national unity and the conditions of peace that prevail throughout the country. It is a location that demonstrates well the multi-ethnic and multi-religious nature of Sri Lankan society, with considerable historical importance attached to it. Its importance as a harbour with a strategic location in the Indian Ocean, and the centre of the interactions with the world through millennia, made it a suitable venue to send out the President’s important message to the world on the principle of sovereign equality.

The continuing pressure being brought to Sri Lanka by sections of the “ƒ”¹…”international community’, in total disregard of the three decades of tragedy it suffered when attacked by the forces of separatist terror, and what seems to be the continued lack of genuine interest in the successes achieved in building peace and reconciliation, as well as economic growth, under conditions of democracy since the defeat of terrorism, President Rajapaksa gave a very clear message of Hands Off Sri Lanka, based on the Charter of the United Nations.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa hoists the National flag at the 65th Independence Day celebrations held in Trincomalee. Picture by Sudath Silva

As a country that has always respected the Charter of the United Nations, and believes that all member countries, whether powerful or weak, should similarly this Charter, he thought it both timely and necessary to remind the world of the key provisions in the Charter that provided for equality among members and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He quoted the provisions of Article 2 of the UN Charter that said:

* The Organization is based on the Principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

* All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

* Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter.

Focus of pressure

From even before the LTTE and its brutal terrorism was finally defeated, Sri Lanka has been the focus of pressure mainly from countries of the West, with a greater interest in domestic politics in their own countries due to the influence of pro-LTTE Tamil settlers and asylum seekers in those parts. In some countries they have become the deciders of elections in important cities and local authorities, and electorates that are in the balance. These reasons, and not any concern for the Tamils of Sri Lanka, saw many countries of the West seeking to bring pressure on Sri Lanka to come to a cease fire with the LTTE, when it was clear that its fighting capability was fast on the wane. These pressures paid no heed to the conditions of the Tamil civilians who were being herded through LTTE controlled areas as human shields, or for the continued use of child soldiers and suicide killers. This is in strange contrast to the battles against terror that these same countries claim to wage in other parts of the world, in coalitions that have no hesitation to use strategies that lead to much civilian killings, displacement of civilians in vast numbers, and also running away from their once declared aims of establishing democracy in the countries that have been bloodied and divided in their proclaimed operations against terror.

From the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to lesser UN officers and key figures in western governments have been consistent in their efforts to echo the claims and demands of the pro-LTTE forces that operate in western countries and in organizations that have demonstrated their links to the funds and other resources of these forces. These are groups that do not reject separatist terror nor have uttered one word of apology for all the crimes against humanity they have committed or supported in this country, and abroad too, in their battle for a separate state within Sri Lankan territory.

Darusman charges

A good example of such interference is the document known as the Darusman Report, compiled by persons with a clear bias against Sri Lanka, which was intended to give advice to the UN Secretary General on the developments in Sri Lanka, relating to the period of leading to the rout of the LTTE in May 2009. It is a clear example of this biased interference in Sri Lankan affairs. Leaked to a pro-separatist media, before any consultation with Sri Lanka on its contents, it stands out as a document that lacks the basic requirements of reliable verification of alleged charges against Sri Lanka, and also takes shelter under a secrecy clause that hides its sources of information from the public, whether in Sri Lanka or abroad.

Commenting on it shortly after its release by the Office of the UN Secretary General, President Rajapaksa said this report on the final phase of the operation to defeat terrorism in Sri Lanka is a tendentious document that makes grossly false allegations about Sri Lanka and its Security Forces. The government will defend the good name of the country and expose the false allegations that are abundant in this report.

Speaking to editors of the print and electronic media in Sri Lanka, the President emphasized that although there were questions about the validity of the panel that prepared this report, Sri Lanka would not take it lightly because it is necessary to expose the abundance of false allegations made, and it is the responsibility of government to safeguard the good name and the image of the country.

The report was admittedly a narrative of unsubstantiated statements and not a record of any verified or authenticated facts. He said there was an abundance of evidence available through very reliable sources within the UN and several international agencies that were associated with the government in carrying out humanitarian operation to eradicate terrorism. None of this had been looked into by those who produced this report.

On the matter of civilian casualties mentioned in this report, there were many reasons to doubt the authenticity of the sources that have provided these figures. The government had consciously followed a policy of aiming at zero casualties among civilians. For this purpose the Security Forces had been given special education and guidance on Human Rights and humanitarian law. Considering that nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians sought relief and protection with the Sri Lankan Armed Forces it was most surprising to believe that they came for such relief to an army that was attacking them. He added that there was considerable evidence, somehow missed by this panel, which recorded the mass killings of Tamil citizens who tried to flee from the LTTE by the same LTTE that claimed to be their liberators.

The President also said it is surprising how any reasonably accurate figure of civilian casualties or even the number of civilians present in the battle-torn area could be assessed with any exactitude when it had not been possible to carry out a proper census of the population in the North of Sri Lanka from 1981, due to the obstruction of the enumeration work in the census of 1991 and 2001 by the terror of the LTTE. In fact those who are aware of facts know of the several conflicting reports about civilians present in the area in the last months of the operation against the LTTE.

If the Darusman Report showed the bias against Sri Lanka within the UN structure, especially the Office of the Secretary General and its chosen advisors, there was another example of such unwarranted criticism of Sri Lanka in the internal UN report that found fault with the UN staff for its major failings in the last months of the battle to defeat the LTTE.

Petrie Report

Taking note of how this internal report known as the Petrie Report, had also been leaked to the pro-separatist media prior to any consultations with Sri Lanka, the Ministry of External Affairs was very strong its criticism of how it was released and its contents. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York protested against the leak an stated the “Petrie Report” was an internal document to assess the working of the United Nations system in Sri Lanka during a given period, following a recommendation in the Report of the advisory Panel of Experts appointed by the Secretary General, known as the “Darusman Report”.

The Permanent Mission stated that while noting that both these Reports are internal advisories to the UN, it is disconcerting that the Darusman Report came into the public domain initially through a leak, and in this instance of the Petrie Report too, the unacceptable procedure of leaking has been resorted to, establishing a disturbing pattern which brings into question the bona fides of the authorship of the document and its underlying motivation. It may be recalled that following the leak of the Petrie Report, while the UN Spokesman took the position that he could not comment on a leaked Report, the author stated to the media that the penultimate draft “very much reflects the findings of the Panel”. Following formal discussions on this issue by the Permanent Representative in New York, with the UN Secretariat, the latter characterized the Report as a document prepared by an independent body over which the Secretariat and has no control. However, the expectation of a sovereign government, quite legitimately, is that the accepted procedure of first consulting with the country concerned be rigidly adopted when commissioning experts. It is pertinent to recall, in the context of a recurring pattern, that the Darusman Report was formally made available by the UN to the public on the basis that it first leaked through the media, and in fact the Petrie Report also was formally released to the media the day after its leak.

The government of Sri Lanka does not intend to comment on the entirety of its contents. However, some of the issues raised in the Report are of grave concern to Sri Lanka, and should not be construed as the accepted position.

This Report seems to seek to endorse the baseless and discredited allegations in the Darusman Report, of an exaggerated civilian casualty figure during the last stages of the terrorist conflict, which has not been agreed upon even among the senior UN officials at the time, because of the speculative nature of the information which could not be verified. The statistics in the Petrie Report are based on ‘unnamed sources’ quoted in the Darusman Report and unsubstantiated allegations made by NGOs and certain lower level UN officials. However, a censored section of this Report refers to a meeting of the Policy Planning Committee to discuss Sri Lanka where several participants including the then Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and the Resident Coordinator did not stand by the casualty numbers, saying that the data were “ƒ”¹…”not verified’ and questioned the proposal by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to release a public statement containing references to the numbers and possible crimes. No mention has been made of the intransigence of the LTTE which held the people as a human shield, and even shot in cold blood those who tried to escape to gain their freedom.

Humanitarian assistance

While the Report admits that the LTTE positioned its artillery among civilians, the allegation of government shelling into civilian concentrations does not take into account the principles of self-defence or reasonableness of retaliation, proportionality, or a technical analysis of the trajectories of the shells allegedly fired, to determine their source.

The allegation relating to the government deliberately restricting food and medicine to the North is another unsubstantiated statement which, as in the Darusman Report, is repeated in the Petrie publication. The attempts of the GOSL to demonstrate the fallacy of this contention from the time it emerged seem to have been dismissed in cavalier fashion in the Petrie Report. It is a well known fact that food and medicine sent to the North were monitored regularly by the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA), which comprised officials from the government, the UN and other humanitarian agencies, and representatives of the diplomatic community based in Colombo, including Japan, USA, Norway and the European Union. The efforts of successive governments to provide food and medicine to the North, despite the definite knowledge that a major part of it was ending up in the hands of the terrorists, have been appreciated from the early stages of the conflict by the UN. This is amply corroborated by contemporaneous statements by the UN in Sri Lanka at the time. Further, the alleged intimidation of UN staff for delivery of humanitarian assistance is completely baseless, a position which has been endorsed by the former United Nations USG for Humanitarian Affairs and reported widely at the time in the media.

Repeated characterization of the welfare villages without any basis as “military run internment camps” demonstrate the ignorance on the part of the author of the Report, as well as resolve to ignore the efforts taken by the government to provide basic needs and essential services to the thousands of displaced civilians who fled from the stronghold of the terrorists to the government side. Without the assistance of the military at that juncture, the GOSL could not have handled the magnitude of the humanitarian task at hand. The military’s role in responding to any humanitarian crisis is well established the world over. It has been in this sense that the military has been engaged in Sri Lanka to overcome the challenges of the terrorist conflict.

Furthermore, while it refers to the military campaign to defeat the LTTE, the Report makes scant reference to the long series of negotiations engaged in by successive governments to arrive at a peaceful settlement, while all those efforts and brief periods of cease fire were used by the LTTE to regroup and rearm, to be subsequently unilaterally violated.

The Report appears to be another attempt at castigating Sri Lanka for militarily defeating a ruthless terrorist group which has held the very people it claimed to represent as human shields. The basis for blacking out sections of the Petrie Report is unclear and it is left to the GoSL to surmise that references which may serve positively are those which have been censored.

Finally, the Report, which is critical of the Member States, seems to forget that the United Nations is an inter-governmental organization whose members are equal in terms of sovereignty and dignity. We remind the author of the Report that they must act within their given mandate and the Charter, and be equal and fair in their dealings with all Member States. A Report of this nature could serve to dangerously have the statistics and unsubstantiated information acquire a life of their own. In fact, the initial statements emanating from some countries seem to disregard the fact that the basic purpose of the Report was to engage in a critical appraisal of the UN system’s performance. Ignoring this vital aspect, they have taken the opportunity to resort to criticism of the GoSL in a manner that reflects patent bias and unwillingness to examine the developments with any degree of objectivity.”

The situation arising from these two reports alone, and the manner in which they were released and subsequently used by UN officials in continued attempts to castigate Sri Lanka on its success in defeating terrorism, points to the necessity for President Rajapaksa to draw the attention of the world to the situation faced by Sri Lanka in the context of disregard for important aspects of the UN Charter. It is a timely call for the sections of the ‘international community’ that is wallowing in double standards over violations of human rights, humanitarian law and war crimes, to look at the Sri Lankan situation with greater objectivity, and the success it has achieved in the important areas of resettlement and rehabilitation of the victims of terrorism, and the continuing process of reconciliation in the country.

2 Responses to “UN Charter and Sri Lanka – President’s WORD”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    The cat is out of the bag!!

    From the Hindu

    “India should wake up at least now and understand the true colours and motives of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has ruled out autonomy for Tamils, DMK president M. Karunanidhi said on Wednesday.

    Recalling Mr. Rajapaksa’s speech at the 65th Independence Day celebrations of Sri Lanka that it was “not practical for this country to have different administrations based on ethnicity”, Mr Karunanidhi said the President had violated the promise he had made to India and other countries.

    So this is what India wants!!!

    We knew it from the start.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    Further from the Hindu.

    “Past history, Mr. Karunanidhi said, showed that none of the promises made by the Sinhalese to the Tamils had been fulfilled.

    “The agreement reached between the Ceylon National Congress and the Sri Lankan Tamil Mahajana Sabha in 1925 was thrown to the winds. In 1956, when S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became prime minister and enacted a law to make Sinhala sole official language,” Mr Karunanidhi pointed out.

    He said though Dudley Senanayake signed an agreement with S.J.V. Chelvanayagam for devolution of power, he unilaterally gave up the agreement in 1969.

    The Indo-Sri Lankan accord of 1987 also met with a similar fate.

    “The Sri Lankan government has not only failed to fulfil the promises, but violated every agreement,” he alleged.

    Mr. Karunanidhi said that during Mr Rajapaksa’s rule lakhs of Tamils had been massacred; many uprooted from their soil and forced to lead a life of refugees and orphans in various countries.

    “He destroyed their livelihood, appropriated the lands, homes and factories of Tamils in the North and East and deprived them of democratic rights. He interferes with the judicial system and controls the media.”

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Tamil media in SL has given this BS story WIDEST publicity.

    MOST SL Tamils look up to these racist rascals as leaders, film starts, poets, etc.

    Now Tamil racism will RISE in SL. That is their plan.

    3 years of reconciliation work is GONE with one racist sweep by TN racists.

    Now India will AGAIN vote AGAINST SL.

    “Autonomy for Tamils” MY FOOT!

    We will give them NANTHIKADAL instead unless they stop this autonomy crapp.

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