Sri Lanka celebrating 70th anniversary under a cloud
Posted on January 22nd, 2018

Sri Lanka celebrating 70th anniversary under a cloud

Queen’s representatives due amidst Naseby controversy

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 201

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By Shamindra Ferdinando
A group of British parliamentarians representing the ruling Conservative Party recently declined to respond to The Island queries pertaining to their visit (January 3 to January 8) to Sri Lanka.
The visit took place amidst continuing controversy over Lord Naseby challenging the basis for Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka on Oct 1, 2015.
Conservative Party member Lord Naseby on Oct 12, 2017, in the House of Lords, revealed the treacherous British role in the Geneva project. The UK is struggling to cope up with Naseby’s revelations, with British High Commissioner, in Colombo, James Dauris, playing down Naseby’s challenge. Sri Lanka, too, adopted a similar strategy.
Although the four-member delegation has been named as an All Party Parliamentary Group of Sri Lanka (APPG-SL) all of them represented the Conservative Party. The APPG-SL comprises, in addition to Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionist Party (of Northern Ireland).
The Conservative Party group that visited Sri Lanka consisted of MPs, Ranil Jayawardena, Chairman of the APPG-SL, Michelle Donelan, Chris Green, and John Lamont. Jayawardena is a British national of Sri Lankan origin.
The writer forwarded the following questions to the delegation on January 5 through the proper channel and was informed of its decision not to respond on January 10: (1) When did you decide to visit Colombo? (2) Did you raise the Oct 12, 2017 statement in the House of Lords by Lord Naseby with President Sirisena, TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran or any other politician or Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry (Minister Marapana, Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam or anyone else) (3) Did President Sirisena, MP Sumanthiran or any other Government representative raise the Naseby issue with you? (4) Did you speak with Lord Naseby before you left London? and finally can you suggest ways and means of establishing the number of dead and missing, during the war, and after?
Obviously, the Conservative Party delegation didn’t want to discuss issues raised by Lord Naseby with the media. Perhaps, the delegation couldn’t have possibly admitted that the revelations made by the former Royal Air Force (RAF) and NATO pilot hadn’t been taken up during its stay here. Statements issued by the Sri Lankan Government in respect of the British delegation’s visit didn’t refer to the Naseby’s affair.
The delegates, also visited Palaly, where they met Maj. Gen. Dharshana Hettiarachchi, Security Forces Commander, Jaffna, and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in Colombo. Surprisingly, the delegation, nor the hosts, had taken up the Naseby issue seriously. May be, both parties, severely rattled by the Naseby revelations, are of the view they shouldn’t respond to media queries though discussions took place on the contentious issue.
Those who had compelled Sri Lanka to co-sponsor Geneva Resolution 30/1 in Oct 2015 were worried over Naseby’s challenge. They side stepped the issue on several occasions.
UN Special Rapporteur, Pablo de Greiff, too, refused to comment on matters raised by Naseby, in Oct last year. The Island received the following response on Nov 17, 2017, from Pablo’s Office: I regret to inform you that the Special Rapporteur will not be able to comment on the content of private meetings. Thanks for your understanding and best wishes.” His office was responding to our queries.
The Island queries: Greiff has had a series of meetings with political and military leaders in Sri Lanka during his two-week official visit. (a) Did Sri Lankan political and military leaders or civil society representatives make representations to him regarding a statement made by Lord Naseby in respect of accountability issues in Sri Lanka and the responsibility on the part of the UN/Geneva to revisit unsubstantiated war crimes allegations against the country? (b) Did Greiff discuss Lord Naseby’s claims with Sri Lankan officials and civil society?
The UN acknowledged receipt of The Island queries on Nov 1 and promised to answer them, obviously the organization subsequently decided against.
Naseby’s Oct 12 declaration that the Vanni death toll couldn’t have been more than 8,000, though the UN quoted 40,000, and that Sri Lanka never purposely targeted the Vanni population, was made when Pablo de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, visiting Colombo.
At the conclusion of his 14-day visit, Colombian de Greiff, at the UN compound, in Colombo, on Oct 23, 2017, referred to Lord Naseby’s statement. Una McCauley, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, flanked de Greiff. But, the UN didn’t want to answer the writer’s simple questions.
Now, the UK Conservative Party delegation has adopted similar tactics. The delegation couldn’t have stated anything contrary to the position taken by the British High Commission in Colombo. Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry, too, dismissed Lord Naseby’s statement when The Island sought its response. Subsequently, FM issued another statement to clarify its first comment that earned the wrath of the vast majority of Sri Lankans.
Army headquarters issued the following statement following the British delegation meeting with Maj. Gen. Hettiarachchi in Palaly.”… delegation led by the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka (APPG – SL), Ranil Jayawardana was briefed on the post-conflict military commitments in the region and civil-military cooperation projects with special focus on peace-building and reconciliation efforts, by the Jaffna Security Forces Commander during the meeting. They were also educated on other humanitarian projects, initiated by the SFHQ-J in coordination with civil sector participation.”
Although, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran had met the British delegation, the Alliance refrained from issuing a statement though a photograph was issued. Having had propagated lies as regards the massacre of Tamil civilians, on the Vanni east front, in 2009, the TNA is yet to answer The Island queries in respect of Naseby’s call to amend the Geneva Resolution 30/1.
The Island submitted the following questions to TNA and Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan on Nov 27, 2017, and repeatedly reminded the Opposition Leader’s Office of the delay on its part: Have you (TNA) studied Lord Naseby’s statement made in the House of Lords on Oct 12, 2017, What is TNA’s position on Naseby’s claims?, Did TNA leaders discuss Naseby’s claim among themselves? Did TNA respond to MP Dinesh Gunawardena’s statements in parliament on Naseby’s statement? And Did TNA take up this issue with UK High Commissioner James Dauris?
Several days ago, The Island was again told of Sampanthan’s readiness to answer queries. However, that promise never materialised even though the Opposition Leader granted an extensive interview (We can’t despair, we can’t abandon things, says Sri Lanka’s R. Sampanthan, posted on January 3, 2018) to Colombo based The Hindu correspondent Meera Srinivasan and subsequently issued a statement to the media to mark Thai pongal. Sampanthan, certainly the senior most MP, in the current parliament, with six decades of experience, in his Thai pongal message expressed hope the country could replace the 1978 Constitution this year. Let me reproduce the relevant section verbatim: “…Tamil people’s long standing aspiration for a lasting political solution to the national question still remains unattained. During last year, meaningful steps were taken to frame a new Constitution in order to address this unresolved issue. As a result of such steps, an interim report of the Steering Committee has been submitted to the Constitutional Assembly which contains matters of importance that merit consideration. My prayer is that a new Constitution will be framed without any further delay in the new year, which will uphold the right of dignity, self respect and justice on the basis of equality amongst all citizens of Sri Lanka so as to ensure goodwill, unity and genuine reconciliation within an undivided and indivisible Sri Lanka.”
Sri Lankans annually celebrates National Reconciliation Week, countrywide, from January 8 to 14. Unfortunately, the government and Western powers have refused to address primary issues that had undermined post-war national reconciliation efforts. The writer is of the view that national reconciliation will never be possible unless tangible measures were taken to disprove lies propagated against Sri Lanka. The Tamil community will never pardon the Sinhala leadership as long as it believed that a slaughter had taken place on the Vanni east front. Silly competitions and various other events, some sponsored by Western governments, will not make any difference as long as the Tamil community believed Sri Lanka military massacred civilians just for the fun of it. Just imagine, the response of the Tamil community if proper international examination of charges directed at Sri Lanka proved Naseby right. Naseby is on record as having declared that Sri Lanka never intentionally targeted the civilian community and the total number of civilians and LTTE cadres killed not more than 8,000. Naseby has asserted on the basis of wartime dispatches from British defence attache Lt. Colonel Anton Gash that one fourth of the dead could be LTTE personnel. Those who had moved Geneva against Sri Lanka during the previous administration and then forced the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to co-sponsor Resolution 30/1, in Oct 2015, are now in a dilemma. They realise that in the wake of Naseby’s revelations their project is no longer tenable. They realise Lord Naseby can be dismissed as a corrupt politician if not for wartime dispatches from the British Commission in Colombo. The bottom line is that they cannot discredit Lord Naseby without disregarding the British High Commission in Colombo. Had that happened, it would have brought all dispatches from Colombo to disrepute.
The UK should reconsider its policy towards Sri Lanka as Colombo prepares to welcome Queen Elizabeth’s representatives, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Countess of Wessex for Sri Lanka’s 70th anniversary celebration of independence on Feb 4. They’ll arrive in Colombo on 31 January and leave 4 February.
The British High Commission spokesperson said: “The Earl and Countess will travel to Colombo and other parts of Sri Lanka, celebrating the long-standing friendship between the two countries and shared interest in the Commonwealth, youth development and education.
“The royal couple will meet participants in The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award and young Sri Lankans selected as Queen’s Young Leaders, an initiative to recognize and celebrate exceptional young people across the Commonwealth. The Earl and Countess will also meet representatives of a number of projects advancing causes they support through their work, including MENCAFEP, whose work to help differently-abled children and their families in the Nuwara-Eliya, Trincomalee and Batticaloa Districts illustrates the close links between the people of Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.
“As the United Kingdom looks forward to hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April 2018, their visit will highlight our countries’ shared ambition to ensure the Commonwealth is well-placed to help deliver a bright future for its Members’ citizens.
“Prince Edward is the youngest child of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The Earl and Countess support the queen in her official duties and undertake many public engagements each year in support of a wide range of charities and non-governmental organizations.”
Can the UK and the Commonwealth continue to turn a blind eye to a friendly country being overwhelmed by unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. The UK-led Commonwealth never intervened on behalf of Sri Lanka, in the 80s, when regional Commonwealth power, India, destabilized its neighbour to its heart’s content. Top British diplomat here Dauris has earned the contempt of the vast majority of Sri Lankans by his recent silly attempt to dismiss Lord Naseby’s revelations, based on High Commission assessments.
There’ll never be a better opportunity than the forthcoming 70th anniversary celebrations to clear Sri Lanka of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. The UK needs to give its consent to Lord Naseby’s call to review the Geneva Resolution. There cannot be any harm in examining allegations on the basis of all available information, particularly wartime dispatches from Western and Indian diplomatic missions in Colombo.
The world must not forget the LTTE attack on Dalada Maligawa, a few days before Sri Lanka’s 50th anniversary celebrations scheduled to take place in Kandy, in 1998. In spite of the attack, Prince Charles attended the event though many expected the UK to call off his visit. It would be pertinent to reproduce a statement that was attributed to the then main Opposition party, the UNP, in a CNN report headlined, “8 killed in Sri Lankan blast at temple,” datelined January 25, 1998. The CNN quoted the UNP as having blamed the then Kumaratunga government for the attack. The CNN reported that the UNP, the country’s main opposition party, blamed the government, saying that the celebrations invite trouble.
“The government was baiting the LTTE…. It was a foolish act,” the CNN quoted UNP leader Ranil Wickeremasinghe as having said.
The UNP took a similar controversial stand when the LTTE mounted a devastating attack on a civilian target in Jaffna, also during Kumaratunga administration.
The importance of a comprehensive review of Sri Lanka’s response to war crimes allegations shouldn’t be further delayed by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

A meticulously planned int’l project in jeopardy

T bond scams take their toll

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 200

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July 2, 2016 at Central Bank: President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the then CBSL Governor Arjuna Mahendran meet amidst moves to replace the Singaporean over treasury bond scams.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono arrived in Colombo on the evening of January 4 with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration in severe turmoil over President Maithripala Sirisena’s statement on Treasury bond scams involving Central Bank and Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL).
President Sirisena, who is also the leader of the SLFP, based his statement on the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (CoI) that probed treasury bond scams and findings made by PRECIFAC (Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges).
Kono was accompanied by a 24-member delegation. The first official visit by a Japanese foreign minister in 15 years, couldn’t have taken place at a worse time for the government.
President Sirisena’s move placed both the UNP, as well as the SLFP, in a deeply embarrassing position, ahead of the February 10 local government polls.
Kono met President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe, in Colombo, amidst desperate damage control efforts undertaken by the latter. The Grand Old Party has never been humiliated and its top leadership castigated like this before.
Premier Wickremesinghe’s Office went to the extent of issuing a statement quoting him as having instructed Central Bank Governor, Indrajith Coomaraswamy, to implement recommendations made by the CoI once it was released.
The enormity of the fraud shook the country with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe being urged to step down over his role in the treasury bond scams.
Before further comment on treasury scams, let me produce a relevant Japanese Embassy statement that dealt with Kono’s visit: “This visit is aimed at further consolidating the Comprehensive Partnership between Japan and Sri Lanka, based on previous visits by President Maithripala Sirisena in May 2016, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in April 2017.
“Strengthening cooperation and collaboration with Sri Lanka is important for the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific area, based on the rule of law,” the Japanese Embassy said.
Japan and Sri Lanka finalized the ‘Comprehensive Partnership’, in Oct 2015, within months after the change of the Rajapaksa government, perceived to be very close to China. The partnership should be examined against the backdrop of joint US-Japan-India response to the growing Chinese challenge, with Japan facing an enormous economic and strategic challenge from powerful China in the entire Far East.
It would be important to keep in mind that the change of government, in January 2015, paved the way for the ‘Comprehensive Partnership’. In other words, had the US-spearheaded regime change operation failed for a second time, in January 2015, Japan wouldn’t have sought the Comprehensive Partnership. That is the undeniable truth.
A brief but high level visit took place at a time Japan is concerned about legal problems that had been caused to ITOCHU Corporation/Dole investment in agricultural sector here in addition to the long-delayed Japanese funded ‘Digitization of Television Broadcasting’ project.
Dole is one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables and produces and markets a worldwide line of packaged and frozen foods. Japan is pursuing an agenda of its own here in addition to being party to US operation.
The first US project went awry in January 2010 when war-winning Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka failed to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa at the presidential poll. In the 2010 operation, those who had wanted the Rajapaksas moved out of office, fielded Fonseka as they believed he was the only one capable of depriving the former of claiming exclusive credit for defeating the LTTE.
The 2015 campaign depicted the Rajapaksas and their cronies as corrupt, while promising good governance and accountability. Those opposed to the Rajapaksas campaigned on anti-corruption platform, vowing to recover USD 18.5 bn Rajapaksa had allegedly stashed in offshore accounts. No less a person than US Secretary of State John Kerry assured US support to recover the stolen assets. The British did the same. Surprisingly, the US and the UK hadn’t said a word on treasury bond scams while foreign-funded NGOs that spearheaded the smear campaign against the overbearing former regime now are struggling to save their faces with the bond scam fallout.
Those who had backed the regime change, in Colombo would never have expected the new government to rob its own Central Bank. That doesn’t mean the US and its allies ever had problem in protecting some very very corrupt governments in various parts of the world. William Blum’s controversial Rogue State has exposed shocking US interventions in support of corrupt and murderous governments over the years. Nahil Wijesiriya, father of Anika, who had exposed Ravi Karunanayake as to how the Karunanayke family lived at a penthouse at the expense of Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius, sent a copy of Rogue State to the writer during the CoI sittings.
The US and its allies are unlikely to voice concern over treasury bond scams, in spite of the world’s solitary superpower currently engaged in high profile project to help Sri Lanka recover stolen assets. Obviously, they are only concerned about assets stolen during the previous administration whereas the present lot continues to remain in the good books of Western powers.
Obviously, the US and its allies will not undermine a government that will pursue their strategic line, in spite of being trapped by Beijing. Soon after the change of government, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government acted as if Beijing didn’t matter, with then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake publicly challenging powerful China. China hit back hard, swiftly brought Sri Lanka to its knees and caused enough turmoil until Colombo didn’t have any other option other than giving into Beijing’s dictates.
Although Western powers are likely to ignore the 2015 and 2016 treasury bond scams, what will be the reaction of the electorate at the forthcoming local government polls? With those who had contributed to Sirisena’s 2015 triumph over Rajapaksa in the fray with the SLFP sharply divided much to the disadvantage of the Sirisena faction, the polls outcome can be devastating. In fact, the UNP and SLFP partnership, under massive pressure in the wake of the presidential statement, on treasury bond scams, will suffer further, whatever the local government polls outcome be.
Second T bond scam
Had incumbent government’s international supporters intervened in the wake of the first bond scam, perpetrated on the 50th day of President’s100-day project, the UNP wouldn’t have gone ahead with the second, a far bigger heist, in March 2016. Instead, they reiterated support to the corrupt system by endorsing dissolution of parliament to pave the way for the August 2015 parliamentary polls that enabled the re-appointment of Ravi Karunanayake as the Finance Minister. They apparently even ensured that Karunanayake was rewarded with a fake international award as the best Finance Minister in the region.
General Secretary of the Communist Party, Dew Gunasekera, who had inquired into the 2015 treasury bond scam, unequivocally blamed the top UNP leadership for the 2015 and 2016 treasury bond scams. Gunasekera, on January 5, 2018, called a media briefing at CP office, Borella, where he discussed the anatomy of treasury bond scams.
The writer sought a clarification as to the responsibility on the part of President Sirisena regarding the second treasury bond scam. Could the second robbery have been averted if Gunasekera, in his capacity as the COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) Chairman, was allowed to present his report to parliament? On the eve of its presentation, parliament was dissolved to save the UNP-SLFP coalition.
The decision to dissolve parliament should be examined against the backdrop of the arrangement between the UNP and Sirisena underwritten by the US and its allies. They couldn’t have allowed, under any circumstances, the collapse of a loyalist administration within months after its formation.
The UNP, SLFP and former President Rajapaksa, as well as those civil society groups, owed the country an explanation as to how Rajapaksa’s 2015 defeat automatically resulted in change of government. Rajapaksa, in spite of having a staggering two-thirds majority in parliament, for whatever the reason remained silent when Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the Prime Minister immediately after Sirisena took oaths as the President, before Chief Justice K. Sripavan. Strange, isn’t it?
Gunasekera acknowledged that the change of government, after Rajapaksa’s defeat at the presidential poll, was still a mystery to him.
The parliamentary group loyal to Rajapaksa never bothered to challenge Wickremesinghe or seek a vote in parliament to test whether the UNP leader had the confidence of the majority of the members of parliament. At that time, the UNP parliamentary group comprised less than 50 whereas Rajapaksa commanded very much more than that number.
Joint Opposition heavyweight MP Bandula Gunawardena recently told the writer that they didn’t really know what was happening when an explanation was sought as to why they accepted the change of government.
Gunasekera still insists the change of government is a mystery.
Turning blind eye to mega robbery
President Sirisena, in spite of being strongly opposed to the despicable UNP project, has had no option but to cooperate with the UNP. To his credit, the President made strong effort to discourage PM Wickremesinghe from appointing Singaporean Arjuna Mahendran as the Governor of the Central Bank.
Having named Mahendran as the Governor, those planning to commit the first daylight robbery moved CB employee Deepa Seneviratne to the Public Debt Department as its head in spite of her not been attached to that particular section before. It seems they had obviously felt comfortable in having a lady officer there they thought they could manipulate at will. But Seneviratne turned tables on the bond thieves by putting up a note to register her strong opposition to Mahendran’s move. The rest is history.
It would be of pivotal importance to keep in mind that the President appointed Commission of Inquiry (CoI) in January 2017, about 10 months after the second robbery, and two years after the first. The commission comprised Justice K.T. Chitrasiri, Justice P S Jayawardena and retired Deputy Auditor General V Kandasamy. Sumathipala Udugamsuriya functioned as its Secretary.
During cross examination of witness PM Wickremesinghe, it transpired how the government received US Treasury advice regarding issuance of treasury bonds in the wake of scams here. Wickremesinghe acknowledged that Sri Lanka had sought the expertise of the IMF and the US Treasury in 2017, to examine the system. Such a study wasn’t done before the 2015 change was made.
Recently, the US revealed the assigning of a resident legal advisor to help Colombo to recover funds moved overseas. The announcement was made by the State Department, in early Dec. 2017.
The Island sought an explanation from the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy, in Colombo on Dec. 11, regarding the State Department categorizing Sri Lanka among a group of countries selected to receive US assistance to combat corruption. In spite of repeated reminders, the following questions went unanswered:
(a) Has the State Department examined treasury bond scams perpetrated in Feb 2015 and March 2016 before offering special assistance to Sri Lanka, including provision of Resident Legal Advisor, Colombo?
(b) As the State Department has revealed allocation of USD 115 mn annually for global anti-corruption activities, could the embassy reveal the allocation for Sri Lanka?
(c) What is the status of Rs 1.92 bn (USD 13 mn) USAID project meant to strengthen accountability and democratic governance in Sri Lanka against the backdrop of the country being named as one of the four countries which required US assistance to tackle corruption?
The US must be certainly ashamed of those who had been elected at the August 2015 general election, particularly against the backdrop of millions of US dollars spent on the regime change operations here.
The Attorney General’s Department that had assisted the Justice Chitrasiri commission sustained inquiry in spite of heavy pressure brought on it by an influential section of the UNP. Karunanayake publicly challenged the commission, both in and outside parliament until the very end and continues to do so even now. The UNP reacted angrily to the commission releasing shocking data pertaining to telephone, Viber and SMS contacts among those who had been investigated.
Senior Additional Solicitor General Dappula de Livera, PC, ASG Yasantha Kodagoda, PC, ASG Priyantha Nawana, PC, Senior DSG Milinda Gunathileka, DSG Dilan Ratnayake, Senior State Counsel Shahida Barrie, Senior State Counsel Nayomi Wickremasekera, Senior State Counsel Dr Avanthi Perera, State Counsel Dhanushan Ganeshayogan, State Counsel Jehan Gunasekera. The Attorney General team was assisted by five-member teams from the Central Bank as well as the Criminal Investigation Department.
The joint AG, CID and Central Bank team proved beyond any doubt that Sri Lanka had the required expertise to undertake complex investigation. Had investigators been given a free hand to inquire into revelations made by COPE and Public Accounts Committee (PAC), many Ministers would have been found guilty of waste, corruption and irregularities. Unfortunately, parliament, in spite of boasting of 70 years of parliamentary democracy, never felt the requirement to amend Standing Orders to enable the watchdog committees to summon ministers.
A former navy chief’s assertion
The likes of National Freedom Front leader Wimal Weerawansa are often ridiculed for alleging US interference in Sri Lanka. For some strange reason, political parties here are struggling to face up to US interference at the highest level. Thanks to Wiki Leaks as well State Department statement and information that had been obtained by US-based Hassina Leelaratne through legal means, the world knows the extent of US intervention here.
Much to the disappointment of the US, the new Sri Lanka leadership had jeopardized the project by robbing Central Bank, certainly a first for any country. Retired Admiral Dr. Jayanath Colombage, Director of the Center for Indo-Lanka relations of the Path Founder Foundation, recently commented on the US intervention here in 2015. The unprecedented comment on US project was made by Admiral Colombage in Islamabad. Colombage alleged that the US and Japan spearheaded the regime change operation here. It would be better to go through verbatim what Colombage said in Islamabad at an event organized by the Center for Global and Strategic Studies (CGSS): “Consequently, India, the USA and Japan realized that the Chinese involvement and influence was seen everywhere in the Indian Ocean Region and especially in South Asia. Chinese maritime infrastructure projects were taking place not only in Sri Lanka but also in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Maldives. Thus, the major powers that are strategic partners of India preferred to see Sri Lanka move away from Chinese influence. When that did not occur, they considered the next option and supported a regime change in 2015. However, this resulted in a predicament as for nearly two years no nation came forward to help Sri Lanka’s economic development after the 2015 presidential and general elections. Following this, Sri Lanka had to reconnect with China in a position of weakness. During this period our economy suffered and now it has fallen to the 6th place among SAARC countries. This is a result of major strategic competition in the Indian Ocean. It is important to note that this region is heavily militarized and nuclearized. An example of this militarization is evident from the number of warships that belong to different countries visiting Sri Lankan ports. From 2009-2017 a total of 398 war ships have visited Sri Lankan ports. A breakdown of this is as follows: India – 82; Pakistan – 24; Japan – 67; Bangladesh – 23; China – 31; USA – 18; and Russia – 26.”
Political parties should make a genuine effort to examine foreign interventions here without further delay. They lacked the courage to face up to the challenge….a growing challenge that seems to be too tough for Sri Lanka to handle.
One-time Indian High Commissioner in Colombo (1997-2000) Shivshankar Menon, in his Oct, 2016 launched memoirs, ‘Choices: Inside the making of India’s foreign policy’, indicated that New Delhi had reason to desire a change of government, in Sri Lanka, due to the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa going back on his pledge in respect of Sri Lanka-China relations.
Menon directly alleged that the former President received Chinese funds for his political campaigns, and projects.
The change of government, in January 2015, also paved the way for Western powers to secure the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government’s consent on Geneva Resolution 30/1 meant to humiliate Sri Lanka. In accordance with the Geneva doctrine, Sri Lanka was told to introduce a new Constitution at the expense of its unitary status, with outgoing Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein declaring, in June 2016, the new supreme law should be subjected to a referendum.
But now the project seems to be in tatters with the government being overwhelmed by the fallout of the treasury bond scams. Weakened by corruption charges, the government will find it difficult to sustain the constitutional making process, a project entrusted on the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration by Western powers.
For a government struggling to cope up with even basic responsibilities such ensuring smooth supply of petrol as well as fertilizer, bringing in a new Constitution, seems certainly a daunting task that cannot be surmounted.

Friday, 5 January 2018

How LTTE’s defeat paved the way for Lanka to accept the Ottawa Convention

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 199

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By ShamindraFerdinando
The road was badly savaged and cratered. Bombs, trucks, armoured vehicles and tanks had corroded its surface. We knew intuitively that to step off the apron and go behind the bushes carried great risk. There were landmines everywhere. The government had tried, before opening up the highway, to secure as many of them as possible.  But, it had been barely two months since the signing of the ceasefire, so how efficient this operation could have been was in doubt – Padma Rao Sundaraji explained in SRI LANKA: THE NEW COUNTRY the circumstances under which she had moved overland to cover a media conference given by LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran in early 2002.
 The LTTE efficiently used mines, including anti-personnel mines, against Sri Lankan security forces as well as the Indian Army (1987-1990).
 Nearly nine years after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is still engaged in mine clearing operations, in the northern region, with the backing of a section of the international community. Japan is one of the major donors, with a staggering contribution of USD 32 mn to various NGOs, engaged in mine clearing operations, since 2003.
 Sri Lanka, last month, accepted the much touted Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention or Ottawa Convention aka anti-personnel Mine Ban Treaty (MBT). Former Secretary General of Parliament and Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Austria, as well as its Permanent Representative in Austria, Priyani Wijesekera, delivered Sri Lanka’s acceptance statement at the 16th meeting of the States Parties to the MBT at the United Nations, Vienna. The four-day meet began on Dec 18, 2017.
 Close on the heels of Sri Lanka accepting the MBT, Japan granted US 604,731 (approximately Rs 90mn) for mine clearing NGOs, with the overall objective of achieving mine-free status by 2020.
 Interestingly, none of those who had been pushing Sri Lanka to accede to the MBT, never uttered a word when mines were introduced at the onset of the conflict, in the 1980s. The so called international humanitarian disarmament community had been blind to Sri Lanka’s plight and was silent on atrocities committed by terrorists.
 The MBT celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. At an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Convention, titled ‘A World Free of Landmines’ in New York, recently, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative there, Dr Rohan Perera, declared, “as a full State Party, we look forward to taking our place in the promotion of this Convention, including through capacity-building and mine clearance.”
 LTTE terrorists utilized a range of mines against security forces, the police, as well as civilians, with impunity. It would be pertinent to address the use of mines in Sri Lanka without restricting the discussion to anti-personnel mines.
Sri Lanka brought an end to the use of mines, of all kinds, on the morning of May 19, 2009, when LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was shot through his head on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.
In fact, the first major terrorist ambush that had claimed the lives of 13 soldiers at Tinnavely, Jaffna, and plunged the country into chaos, in July 1983, couldn’t have been carried out without the effective use of landmines.
Sri Lankan terrorists received Indian expertise to produce a range of mines in the early ‘80s. The LTTE improved and enhanced its capability and capacity to make mines over the years.
The MBT would have been irrelevant to Sri Lanka had the international community intervened, on behalf of Sri Lanka, when big bully India launched their unprecedented destabilization project in Sri Lanka. India provided the required technology. During the 1983-July 1987 period, Sri Lanka really struggled to cope up with deadly mine attacks. The Army suffered heavily due to mine warfare.
The launch of the second JVP-led insurgency, in the South, in the wake of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987, led to the Marxist party, too, acquiring the know-how to use mines. The possibility of some members of a Tamil terrorist groups (other than the LTTE) carrying out landmine attacks cannot be ruled out. The JVP mounted several landmine attacks in the South. The writer was the first journalist to visit the scene of a landmine blast at Kapparatota, Weligama, with photographer Jude Denzil Pathiraja.
Having taught the LTTE to effectively use anti-personnel mines, against the Sri Lankan military, India faced the challenging task of countering the threat posed by various types of mines. The Indian Army suffered substantial losses, at the hands of the LTTE, during its deployment here.
The Memorial put up by Sri Lanka, for the Indian Army, in Colombo, is nothing but a reminder of New Delhi’s foolish strategy that caused massive death and destruction in Sri Lanka, claimed the life of one-time Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and almost resulted in the assassination of Maldivian President, Abdul Gayoom, in early Nov. 1988.
Canadian initiative
Canada has been putting pressure on Sri Lanka to accept the Ottawa Convention – even during the war. Successive Canadian governments allowed the LTTE to receive massive sums of money raised there. Canadian funds were used to acquire arms, ammunition and equipment for the benefit of thousands of terrorists, including children. Canada never really pushed the LTTE to stop suicide attacks, or stop forcible recruitment of child combatants, though it relentlessly pursued Sri Lanka to stop using anti-personnel mines. Ottawa conveniently turned a blind eye to Sri Lanka’s security considerations. Instead, Canada wanted its initiative accepted by Sri Lanka, even at Sri Lanka’s expense. As a key member of the Commonwealth, Canada could have intervened on behalf of Sri Lanka when Commonwealth giant India brazenly sponsored six Sri Lankan terrorist groups. Had Canada, and its backers, been genuine in their efforts, India wouldn’t have been able to destabilize its tiny neighbour with impunity. Even if they couldn’t have thwarted the Indian project, Canada, and like-minded nations, could have certainly blocked large scale fund raising operations in their countries. Funds raised over there, and child soldiers, ensured the continuation of the LTTE terror campaign until Sri Lanka brought the war to an end by crushing it militarily. Canada never felt the need to rein in the LTTE, particularly against the backdrop of growing power and influence of Tamil Canadian voters of Sri Lankan origin who certainly exploited major Canadian political parties.
TULF leader V. Anandasangaree’s son, Gary, now a member of Canadian parliament, is a case in point. Gary Anandasangaree, a vociferous critic of Sri Lankan armed forces, had never dared to discuss the LTTE’s culpability for obvious reasons. The likes of Gary Anandasangaree remained silent as long as they felt the LTTE could somehow overwhelm the Sri Lankan military. They obviously had faith in the LTTE’s prowess vis-a-vis the Sri Lankan military.
The bottom line is that Canada surely prolonged the LTTE’s lifespan by ensuring a steady flow of funds.
 The MBT was opened for signature, in Ottawa, on Dec. 3, 1997, during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidency. Canada obviously expected the Kumaratunga administration to sign the treaty though it was at that time struggling on the Vanni front.
 Sri Lanka asserted that anti personnel mines were a legitimate defensive weapon and the country couldn’t have accepted the MBT at a time her armed forces had been waging war against the LTTE.
Having launched Sri Lanka’s biggest ever ground offensive, Jayasikurui (victory assured), to open the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road, north of Vavuniya, to Elephant Pass, the then government was not in a mood to engage in a foolish exercise. Signing the MBT would have been the last thing on Kumaratunga’s mind. Within two years, after the Ottawa signing ceremony, Kumaratunga had lost the initiative and was struggling to cope up with the growing LTTE challenge. In Dec. 1999, the LTTE nearly succeeded in assassinating her. An irate Kumaratunga revealed how the LTTE had made an attempt on her life, in spite of her being engaged in secret talks with the LTTE, with Norwegian facilitation.
 Those who had been demanding the world to stop using anti-personnel mines, because they maimed civilians, never called for an end to LTTE suicide attacks on civilians. Had Kumaratunga perished in the suicide attack, directed at her on the final day of her presidential polls campaign, she would have been the first female political leader to be eliminated by a suicide bomber.
Having survived a suicide attack, Kumaratunga would have certainly found the Canadian call for Sri Lanka to be a signatory to the MBT ludicrous. Canada, home to the largest population of Sri Lankan Tamils, outside the country, played a pivotal role in the overall LTTE terror project.
 Sri Lanka couldn’t have even considered the MBT as long as the LTTE retained a fighting capacity. It would have been foolish on Sri Lanka’s part to give up, even a minute part of her defence, as long as the LTTE retained fighting capability. The amount of funds that had been provided by Canadian taxpayers must have been one of the largest, during the war, if not the biggest, until the very end of the conflict. Undoubtedly, Canadian funds had been utilized to acquire stocks of explosives that were used to manufacture different types of mines, including anti-personnel mines. Can Canada ever absolve herself of responsibility for providing funds that helped the LTTE acquire conventional fighting capability! A comprehensive examination of Canadian funding methods is essential to understand the enormity of the problem.
 Although Canada proscribed about 40 groups, including the LTTE, in the wake of 9/11attacks, and in January 2008 banned the World Tamil Movement (WTM), the murderous outfit received both funds and moral support from Canada until it was brought to its knees. Devastating four coordinated Al Qaeda attacks, in 2001, promoted Western powers to take some measures against terrorist groups. The Commonwealth, too, threw its weight behind the US counter attack that lay waste to Afghanistan on the basis Al Qaeda operated there. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know why Western powers gave the LTTE an absolutely free hand before the 9/11 strikes? Except the US, those who had tolerated the LTTE always sought to placate Tamil voters. The UK went out of its way to throw a lifeline to the sinking Tigers, in 2009, for purely domestic political reasons. Thanks to Wiki Leaks, the British intervention to save the LTTE from annihilation, on the Vanni east front, is in public domain. The Canadians, too, engaged in some bizarre efforts to save the LTTE.
 The EU also went out of its way to support the Canadian project. One-time European Union head of Delegation, Julian Wilson, declared during Eelam war IV that the EU wouldn’t provide further financial assistance to mine clearing operations as Sri Lanka wasn’t a signatory to the Ottawa Convention. The EU hadn’t been concerned about Sri Lanka’s security considerations. Canada, the EU and their friends hadn’t been worried about Sri Lanka’s security needs. Instead, they wanted to twist Sri Lanka’s arm and compel her to accept the Ottawa MBT, while the LTTE mounted attacks on civilian and military targets, with impunity.
 Those who had been demanding an immediate end to the use of anti-personnel mines turned the other way when the LTTE carried out claymore a mine attack on an SLTB bus, at Kebitigollewa in the Anuradhapura district, in the run-up to all out fighting in August 2006. The blast, on June 15, 2006, claimed the lives of 68 men, women and children.
 While campaigning for the banning of anti-personnel mines, Canada, and some of its allies, allowed the LTTE to receive massive funds. The LTTE had unlimited funds to procure weapons ranging from explosives required to produce anti-personnel mines to China-built long range artillery. In fact, the LTTE acquired a range of Chinese weapons, including mobile anti-aircraft guns as well as ships of Japanese origin. For the LTTE, funds had never been a problem whereas Sri Lanka struggled to equip her armed forces.
 Sri Lanka’s refusal to join the Ottawa Convention hadn’t been an issue for the US as the world’s solitary super power it never intended to ban the use of anti-personnel mines. In addition to the US, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Cuba, Egypt, North Korea and South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam are among nearly 35 non signatories.
 Years after the conclusion of the war, Canada, on behalf of the Tamil Diaspora, requested Sri Lanka to do away with the annual Victory Day parade. Canada asserted that such a parade hurt the feelings of the Tamil people. Although, the Rajapaksa administration ignored the Canadian request, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration meekly gave into the Canadian demand. Sri Lanka refrained from holding the annual Victory Day parade in May 2015. However, Canada did absolutely nothing to discourage the LTTE from using the Vanni population as a gigantic human shield, on the Vanni east front. In fact, the EU, in spite of its public concern for the use of anti-personnel mines, never took tangible measures to prevent the LTTE taking cover behind civilians. They did nothing as forcible recruitment of children continued until the very end of the organization militarily. They shed crocodile tears for civilians getting caught in anti-personnel mine blasts while turning a blind eye to thousands trapped in war zone.
LTTE receives overseas funding for mine clearing
Western powers, and some NGOs, acted irresponsibly though they publicly asserted terrorism wouldn’t be tolerated especially in the wake of 9/11. Funnily, a known LTTE front organization – so-called Humanitarian De-Mining Unit (HDU), tasked with mine clearing operations in areas under LTTE control – received significant financial assistance from Norwegian People’s Aid, British Mine Advisory Group, Swiss Foundation for Mine Action and Danish De-Mining Group in the wake of the Norway-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). The HDU operated as the implementing arm of the LTTE-managed Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) that was under investigation in several countries.
 It would be also pertinent to inquire why leading NATO member Canada undertook the high profile project to ban anti-personnel mines after having contributed to many destructive missions. Canada deployed its forces in support of the US led actions, on many occasions, though it refrained from taking part in the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, certainly a proud moment for the Canadians. The Canadian Air Force caused substantial damage during the murderous air campaign, directed against Yugoslavia. Having read William Blum’s Rogue State, the despicable US-led project, that lay waste to Yugoslavia, was nothing but a war crime. The Canadian project, to introduce the anti-personnel mine treaty, can be compared with Norwegian efforts at international peace making meant to win global recognition.
 Seeking an international ban on anti-personnel mines while dropping massive bombs weighing from 500 pounds to 2000 pounds on countries is pure hypocrisy at the highest level. Canada is reported to have delivered nearly half million pounds of high explosives in Kosovo and Yugoslavia that took place amidst Canadian efforts to ban anti-personnel mines. Can there be anything as silly as demanding an anti-personnel mines ban while dropping 2,000 pound bombs?

How disputes over numbers can distort truth

Controversy over Vanni death toll:

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 198

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By Shamindra Ferdinando
British High Commissioner in Colombo James Dauris recently warned that disputes about the number of people killed or missing, during the war, or in the immediate aftermath of the conclusion of military offensive, in May 2009, could easily distort the truth.
Sri Lanka launched a sustained combined security forces campaign, in Aug/Sept 2006, in response to the massive LTTE offensive, directed at the Jaffna front line, at Muhamalai and Mandathivu island. Western powers had never really tried to stop the LTTE aggression during the Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) until the group launched an all out war.
The LTTE quit the Norway arranged CFA, in April 2003. The move was meant to undermine the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The LTTE destabilization project paved the way for the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to call for early parliamentary polls, in April 2004.
The LTTE exploited the change of government to achieve its objectives, both political and military. The group stepped up hostilities.
The Western powers remained silent. The UK allowed LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham to continue his role, unhindered, in spite of the group committing atrocities. The LTTE violated the CFA at will. Peace facilitator, Norway, as well as the four-country peace co chairs, the US, EU, Japan and Norway, lacked the will to rein in the group.
The UK allowed Balasingham, a British citizen of Sri Lankan origin, to continue his stay there even after the assassination of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, in Aug 2005. The UK’s current role here should be examined with its previous response to LTTE terrorism.
Subsequently Wiki Leaks revealed how Balasingham and Norwegian government representatives had met in the UK to discuss Kadirgamar’s assassination.
Dauris, in an exclusive interview with The Sunday Island, in its Dec 17, 2017 edition, underscored the UK’s position on the ongoing simmering debate over the number of people killed in Sri Lanka.
Dauris was quoted as having said: “while a single death is a tragedy, a large number of deaths is a statistic. If people allow themselves to lose sight of the tragedy of what had happened, reconciliation and the guarantee of future peace will become more elusive. I think we need to be careful not to allow ourselves to get distracted by arguments about numbers, because figures can too easily get in the way of the truth.”
It must also be noted that the LTTE International Secretariat too was based in London for a long time even after it assassinated Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. When a visiting Lankan journalist raised the issue during a visit to the BBC, in London that year their stock reply was that the group had not violated English laws!
The British never called Kadirgamar’s assassination a tragedy.
Educated at Oxford and a lawyer by training, Kadirgamar played a key role in getting the group listed as a banned militant organization in the US and the UK.
The UK refrained from condemning the LTTE. The UK could have taken action against the Balasinghams, or blocked the massive fund-raising operation of the terrorist organisation. The UK could have done so to prevent war. Unfortunately, the British did absolutely nothing. Their unwillingness contributed to the hardening of the LTTE’s position. The world demanded that Sri Lanka implemented the CFA, regardless of Kadirgamar’s assassination.
British envoy Dauris was obviously responding to Lord Naseby’s challenge to the UNSG’s Panel of Experts’ (PoE) claim of 40,000 civilians, killed by the Sri Lankan military in his Oct. 12, 2017 speech at the House of Lords on the Vanni east front. The PoE made its claim in March 2011. Interestingly, Lord Naseby in his Oct 12, 2017 speech at the House of Lords strongly criticized the UK for harbouring Balasingham.
Turning blind eye to Male coup attempt
Dauris represents the UK in Colombo and Male, where, in early Nov. 1988, Indian, trained Sri Lankan terrorists mounted a sea-borne raid on Male. Having left Mannar, Sri Lanka, in two large trawlers, the members of the People’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) raided Male. India had to intervene to save the then Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, though the Sri Lankan assassins killed several Maldivians before commandeering a ship MV Progress Light.
India called its military operation, to save Gayoom, Operation Cactus. The Indian Navy coffee table book proudly declared: “After the success of this operation, the Time magazine featured the Indian Navy on its cover, hailing it as ‘The Next Military Power.’ Had terrorists succeeded in eliminating Gayoom, the Maldives would have plunged into an unprecedented crisis. The writer had an opportunity, in Nov. 2011 to interview Abdulla Luthufee, who had mounted the operation to oust Gayoom.
What would have happened if Abdulla Luthufee’s bid to oust the then Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom succeeded on Nov. 3, 1988?
The Maldives is a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) which was formed in 1985. The grouping NEVER EVER had referred to the Male coup attempt carried out by citizens of one SAARC country, trained by another SAARC nation, targeting citizens of a smaller SAARC member.
Luthufee, in an exclusive interview with the writer on the eve of the 23rd anniversary of his failed takeover bid, said, “I wanted to get rid of Gayoom at any cost. As the election process in my country never gave a reasonable opportunity to the Opposition, I felt an outside force should be used to oust Gayoom. Due to my close association with the then PLOTE leader, Uma Maheswaran, I negotiated for the deployment of an 80-member strong PLOTE raiding party. In fact, we discussed the sea-borne raid since 1987 after the deployment of the Indian Peace Keeping Force, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka, in line with the July 1987 Indo-Lanka peace accord.”
The interview was Luthefee’s first since the coup. The writer invited Luthufee to his home at Negombo as Luthufee was reluctant to be interviewed at The Island editorial or some other place. Longtime The Island journalist Ivan Alvis alerted the writer to Luthufee’s presence here after meeting him at a Colombo hotel (formerly the Ramada).
Western powers, including the UK, NEVER EVER referred to the Indian-trained Sri Lankan terrorists storming Male. India, a major member of UK-led Commonwealth, NEVER EVER acknowledged the far reaching consequences of its destabilization of Sri Lanka in the 80s. The Commonwealth NEVER intervened on behalf of tiny Sri Lanka, terrorized by her giant neighbour India.
Maldivian Ambassador, in Colombo, Mohamed Hussain Shareef, recently discussed the Sri Lankan terrorists making an attempt on the Maldivian leader’s life, in response to a query posed to him by the writer on Bandula Jayasekera’s Sirasa Pathikada on Nov. 28, 2017. Asked by Jayasekera, whether Shareef, who has had his education at the Colombo International School, could respond to that query, the Maldivian said: “Absolutely. It’s a day we never forget, third of November 1988.We still marked that day as the Victory Day and you were right. In fact, for a small country it was a dark day. And that is part of the reason why we still stand with the Sri Lankan government in its fight against terrorism. I was 11 years old… personally I have recollections because immediately after that I moved to Sri Lanka to complete my studies.”
Obviously, Shareef, one-time presidential spokesman and top level politician, believed the then JRJ government had nothing to do with the attempt on Gayoom’s life.
The Bottom line is that none of those who had been demanding accountability on Sri Lanka’s part made a genuine effort to compel the LTTE to reach a consensus with Colombo.
Dauris had served in Colombia as UK Deputy Head of Mission, from 2005 to 2009, during Eelam war IV, the period currently under international scrutiny in terms of Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration, in Oct 2015.
BHC is certainly right
Those who had moved Geneva Resolution on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations never felt uncomfortable until Lord Naseby challenged them, citing wartime Colombo-based UK Defence Attache Colonel Anton Gash’s confidential cables sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The British officialdom had never expressed concern over various interested parties making wild accusations until Lord Naseby confronted them with their own man’s impeccable reports. When the writer recently sought an explanation from the British High Commission as regards the circumstances under which Lord Naseby had his Oct 12, 2017 declaration, The Island was told such information couldn’t be shared with the media.
Obviously, the UK never anticipated the Geneva lie to be challenged in the House of Lords on the very basis of its own dispatches from Colombo. Suddenly, Dauris has felt threatened by exposure of dispatches, hence the shameful assertion they shouldn’t be distracted by arguments about numbers, because figures could too easily get in the way of the truth. Dauris is certainly right. But, he never uttered a word until the numbers game took a different turn with Lord Naseby bringing up a verifiable account that tallied with still confidential UN report (read C)
Various interested parties, including the British, had propagated lies regarding the number of civilian victims. When Sri Lanka was overwhelmed by propaganda, Dauris, or his predecessor, as well as those wanting Colombo to address accountability issues, never felt such lies could hamper post-war national reconciliation here. Four years after the UN’s so called Panel of Experts declared the Sri Lankan military had massacred 40,000, the British parliament was told the actual figure was 100,000, 60,000 of them LTTE cadres.
(a) British Labor Party MP Siobhan McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) told the House of Commons, in September, 2011, that 60,000 LTTE cadres and 40,000 Tamil civilians perished during the January-May 2009 military operations. Hers was the only specific reference to the number of LTTE cadres killed during a certain period. The politician ignored the writer’s emails seeking a clarification regarding her sources. The British HC in Colombo declined to comment on the MP’s claim.
(b) Special Amnesty International report, titled When will they get justice: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, also released in September 2011 estimated the number of civilian deaths at 10,000 during the final phase of Eelam war IV. The AI didn’t give a specific period. When the writer raised the sharp discrepancy in figures quoted by various interested parties, including the AI, its current head Indian national, Salil Shetty, struggled to explain shortcomings, at one point seeking another AI official’s help answer the query. Finally, Shetty admitted that the very basis of the Geneva Resolution 30/1 adopted in Oct 1, 2015, was questionable.
The query was raised on April 5, 2017 when the AI called a media conference at the Sri Lanka Press Institute.
The London headquartered AI acknowledged that it couldn’t even vouch for its own report, titled ‘When will they get justice?: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’… The report submitted to the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) dealt with Eelam war IV (Aug. 2006 to May 2009).
The AI asserted that a credible investigation is required to examine unsubstantiated allegations directed at Sri Lanka. Can there be a situation as ridiculous as calling for a credible investigation to verify accusations two years after adopting Geneva Resolution 30/1 on the basis of the same unproven claims.
AI Secretary General Shetty admitted that a credible investigation was required to ascertain the number of people killed as well as enforced disappearances during the conflict in Sri Lanka. Bengaluru-born Shetty was flanked by Biraj Patnaik (Regional Director, South Asia) and campaigner Yolanda Foster. The AI delegation included David Griffiths, Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary General, Jeannine Guthrie, researcher, Grant Bayldon, Section Director, AI, New Zealand, and Omar Waraich, Media Manager, South Asia and South East Asia.
(c) A confidential UN report placed the number of the dead and wounded, including LTTE combatants, at 7,721 and 18,479, respectively. The report dealt with the situation in the Vanni, from August 2008 to May 13, 2009. The war ended a week after the UN stopped collecting data due to the intensity of the fighting.
(d) Attorney-at-law Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, MP, recently declared that the nearly three decades long war had claimed the lives of 150,000 Tamils. As always, the Trincomalee district MP conveniently refrained from differentiating civilians from those who had died fighting for the LTTE. Sampanthan asserted that 50 per cent of the Tamil population had fled the country, during the conflict, while blaming successive Sri Lankan governments for the plight of his people. The 84-year-old veteran politician was addressing the Counter Terrorism Conference 2017 at the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi, organized by the India Foundation, in association with the Government of Haryana, and the National Investigation Agency (NIA). India established NIA close on the heels of the devastating Mumbai massacre, in late Nov 2008, blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (l-e-T). The Indian government-sponsored event coincided with the 34 sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
In spite of being so sure about the numbers killed and fleeing the country, Sampanthan is yet to answer the following questions posed to him by the writer on Nov. 27, 2017.
The TNA hasn’t responded to The Island queries regarding Lord Naseby’s call to amend the Geneva Resolution 30/1. The Island submitted the following questions to TNA and Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan on Nov. 27 and repeatedly reminded the Opposition Leader’s Office of the delay on its part to respond: Have you (TNA) studied Lord Naseby’s statement made in the House of Lords on Oct. 12, 2017, What is TNA’s position on Naseby’s claims? Did TNA leaders discuss Naseby’s claim among themselves? Did TNA respond to MP Dinesh Gunawardena’s statements in parliament on Naseby’s statement? And Did TNA take up this issue with the UK High Commissioner James Dauris?
In the wake of the British rejecting Lord Naseby’s presentation on Sri Lanka’s behalf, the former Royal Air Force and NATO pilot has written to the UNSG, outgoing human rights chief, as well as Special Rapporteurs, underscoring the requirement for reappraisal of Geneva Resolution 30/1.
But an ungrateful and embarrassed Sri Lankan government is struggling to keep its distance with Lord Naseby’s initiative. Having co-sponsored Geneva Resolution, the government is hell bent on undermining the effort. Having spurned an opportunity to exploit Lord Naseby’s initiative at the recently concluded Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the country’s advantage, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government would need to take a clear decision, especially because the next Geneva sessions are just three months away.
How TNA cleared way for national reconciliation
Sampanthan and his colleagues, as well as the people of the northern and eastern electorates, should be cheered for clearing the way for post-war national reconciliation. Whatever the reasons, they voted for war-winning Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 January presidential polls, thereby, in no uncertain terms indicating the Tamils as a community didn’t believe in politically motivated allegations as regards the Vanni death toll.
Unverified allegations have been the biggest obstacle to post-war national reconciliation. Now, the world has been given an opportunity to verify the actual death toll on the basis of verifiable sources/reports such as those provided by the UK and the US diplomatic missions.
Such an endeavor shouldn’t be considered as something that could get in the way of the truth unless those opposed to re-examination of Sri Lanka’s case feared their exposure.
Thanks to Wiki Leaks, the world know why UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband made an abortive bid to throw a lifeline to the sinking Tigers, in early 2009. Miliband personally visited Sri Lanka with the then French counterpart to convince President Mahinda Rajapaksa to call off the offensive as the LTTE was being militarily crushed.
The UK never hesitated to praise Channel 4 News that propagated accusations that the Sri Lankan military had massacred over 40,000 civilians. UK Prime Minister David Cameron went out of his way to praise the Channel 4 team accompanying him to Colombo for CHOGM 2013 when he addressed the media at the BMICH. The writer was not allowed to raise a question. The British High Commission picked those allowed to pose questions. Interestingly, members of the British media, who accompanied Cameron to Jaffna, too, were allowed to ask questions. In sheer frustration over independent local journalists not being allowed to ask any questions from the visiting British Premier senior journalist Rajpal Abeynayake shouted hypcrite at Cameron as he beat a hasty retreat from the media conference.
It was certainly an interesting situation. Obviously, the British High Commission, Colombo, didn’t want any local journalist to raise an embarrassing question. The writer wanted to seek Cameron’s explanation as regards the UK demanding accountability on Sri Lanka’s part for defeating domestic terrorist threat at a time the then UK Deputy PM Clegg declared that US-UK led invasion on Iraq was illegal. How the UK had wickedly manipulated its own intelligence reports to justify invasion is in public domain.
The UK should really examine its role here, how it had intentionally contributed to terrorism much to the disappointment of the majority of Sri Lankans. Let me end this piece by recalling a statement made by one-time UK High Commissioner David Tattham in 1996 soon after the armed forces brought the Jaffna peninsula under government control. Tattham, during a visit to Jaffna, urged the Diaspora not to fund the LTTE. But the UK didn’t take any notice of Tattham’s appeal. The LTTE was allowed to operate there with impunity. Although, the LTTE, had been eradicated for once and for all, its agents operate in the UK and elsewhere demanding accountability on the basis of unproven accusations.
A new kind of terrorism
The Diaspora never wanted to be reminded of the ghastly crimes committed by the LTTE on behalf of the community. Three major cinema companies in the U.K. refused to screen Madras Café in their theatres. The political action thriller, directed by Shoojit Sircar — and set in the background of India-funded terrorist campaign in Sri Lanka in the 1980s and early 1990s — was to have opened in the U.K. on August 28, 2013 in cinemas owned by Cineworld, Odeon and Vue. Tamils launched protests outside the head office of these theatres. Protesters carried placards that said, “Inciting violence is not entertainment,” “Ban Madras Café”, “Ban hate speech.” Tamils shouted slogans and burnt copies of the film’s posters.
The anti-Madras Cafe campaign also went on the Facebook page of the Tamil Youth Organization (UK) that spearheaded the campaign.
Obviously, they couldn’t have allowed Madras Cafe that dealt with the assassination of ex-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi shown in the UK.
It would be interesting to know whether the UK had allowed any other community to terrorize UK cinemas not to show a movie. Probably, British voters of Sri Lankan origin have some special status. Could there be any other reason for the UK allowing the Balasinghams, who oversaw mindless terrorism in Sri Lanka and India, to live freely. The British treatment didn’t change even after Kadirgamar’s assassination.
Anton Balasingham passed away in Dec 2006 in the UK, over a year after Kadirgamar’s killing.
The Times of London described Balasingham as “the one man the Tigers could trust with their destiny in what looked like being a breakthrough in talks”
It was a reference to Oslo-led peace talks that at one point threatened Sri Lanka’s unitary status.
Balasingham’s body was kept at the Great Hall of Alexandra Palace, north London. Certainly, some ‘events’ can distort the truth.

One Response to “Sri Lanka celebrating 70th anniversary under a cloud”

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    Shamindra Ferdinando waged a lone war at many fronts, highlighting the death total during the last stage of the war among many other things, and was trying to protect Mother Lanka from the unlimited lies circulated by LieTTE and their supporting World Powers in the West. Previous government did not make use of his honest efforts and inputs from the war front experience. If MR’s government listened to his real time facts and arguments and took it up to UNHCR, the enemies of Mother Lanka will not have such ammunitions to plan and trial our Rana wiruwos in the international war court or tribunal or whatever they are planning now.

    Things would have completely on our favour. The same gentleman Shamindra is still on the course of protecting his motherland from dirty liers. As a nation, we all should appreciate his efforts and he should be awarded an highest recognition along with the likes of Warnakulasuriya who are still fighting with LieTTE rump when they visit UNHCR.

    At the same time, I strongly feel that the previous regime owe an apology to these men and women with the pen also including Shenali Waduge, who were providing sufficient material and data to protect Mother Lanka, which the useless officials and ministers did not bother to read.

    With reluctance, by seeing the dedication to the cause of such people like Shamindra, I have to accept the fact that previous President was ignorant on the power of the enemies and living in a safe dream and did not direct his officials and ministers to do the right things for the country and did not put the right people for the key tasks to safeguard Mother Lanka. He only paid large sums of money to lobbying companies, who must have double crossed the GOSL due to richness of the LieTTE.

    Previous President was a hero who saved the country from the killer LieTTE but was careless and ignorant on the threats building up to get Mother Lanka. He was so proud of himself who did not bother to listen to what the caring people to Mother Lanka were telling. The current President on the other hand is good for nothing, who does not bother about anything other than his own survival and good image.

    See what a damage the word IGNORENCE caused to an innocent and a peaceful nation??…. The patriot stock of the country are still struggling to come out of the rut while the Yahap team do not bother about the country.

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