“WAR CRIMES” IN EELAM WAR IV Part 2
Posted on May 28th, 2018

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The Eelam War was not a local war. It only appeared to be a local war. It was initiated by the west and funded by the west. The LTTE and the Tamil separatist movement were mere tools in this operation. Sri Lanka is now beginning to realize this. How    else was the LTTE able to survive as a fighting force against the government of Sri Lanka for nearly 30 years, asked one analyst.

Bishop Shantha Francis observed, ‘this is not a war that began and ended in a couple of years. The LTTE became powerful enough to take on the elected government. They possessed the most powerful weapons and good combat training. They also had enough funds. How did they acquire all this? It is obvious that the international community gave the terrorist arms, motivation, and funds and just watched the scene for 30 years.’

Jayantha Dhanapala giving evidence before the  LLRC referred to states which encouraged the war, by nurturing the terrorists groups, letting them have HQs there, do fundraising, helped with weapons. He thought  those states too should also be held responsible for the consequences of the war.

The Eelam war arose because the west wanted to get its hands on  Sri Lanka ‘s coastal belt, which was the most  valuable part of Sri Lanka .The eastern coast has Trincomalee harbor with its command of the Bay of Bengal, and the Pulmoddai mineral sands, the west has  the gas and petroleum belt   of Mannar and easy access to Tamilnadu in India. The new Exclusive Economic Zone of 200 nautical miles  will  further increase the   value of this belt. The Exclusive Economic Zone, all-island, is approximately 7.5 times the land area of Sri Lanka.

Eelam is not a new idea. Eelam can be seen   in the very first Census map of 1871. The British created a brand new set of provinces, starting  in 1833 and  finishing in 1845, each hugging the coastline, and   cutting the coastal areas off from the hinterland. These coastal provinces  had common boundaries. When the common boundaries of the  Northwestern, Northern, and Eastern provinces are  joined together  a ‘’natural‘ Eelam is formed.

The LTTE consisted of Tamil boys who did not know warfare, did not know English, and had  no knowledge of the rest of the world. They were  merely the front, also cannon fodder. The west provided the powerful weapons the LTTE was using,  which gave the LTTE the appearance of great military strength. Powerful telecommunications equipment came in, secretly through the BOI, so that the LTTE could keep in touch with its masters in the west and take instructions. The LTTE was given the title of ‘world’s most feared, ruthless terrorist organization’ by the western media, but the LTTE was viewed with contempt by the Sri Lanka military. The Eelam wars went on for thirty years. During that period the west tried everything possible, including the Ceasefire Agreement and PTOMS to establish Eelam..

In the first three Eelam wars, Sri Lanka succumbed to international pressure   and the military offensive was stopped when the army was about to win. Eelam War IV was different. The government under Rajapaksa was determined to squash the LTTE and regain the northern and eastern provinces. Rajapakse went for the jugular of the LTTE, unswayed by the pressure of the ‘international community’, observed the media. When USA found that that the prolonged war was making the Sri Lanka military strong, they tried to stop the war by helping Sri Lanka blow up LTTE  armaments ships.

When it became clear that the government was going to win the war, the western powers wanted President Rajapakse to stop the war. There were appeals made to the government of Sri Lanka, to “pause” hostilities during the final stages of the conflict. The Rajapakse government refused to do this. The fact that all these appeals were made to the Government and none to the LTTE convinced the Government that all these efforts were to save the LTTE leadership. President Rajapakse firmly stated that he was not going to stop the war. They were going to fight to the finish.  Nothing short of unconditional surrender could save the LTTE.

The pressure exerted on President Rajapakse was enormous. When Kilinochchi fell in January 2009 USA, UK, Norway and France followed by India and Japan met Rajapaksa. These countries were trying to save the badly cornered LTTE. There were    visits by Foreign Secretaries from the U.K. and France, Milliband and Kouchner. Representatives of UN, UNDP, ICRC together with the ambassadors for USA, India and European Union met the Foreign Minister. USA threatened to withhold the promised 9 million loan unless a ceasefire was declared and foreign intervention was allowed. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon sent his chief of staff, Nambiar to meet the President. UN wanted an immediate ceasefire.  USA wanted a meeting between the UN representative and Prabhakaran as well.

About two months before the final battle at Nanthikadal lagoon, USA had offered to evacuate the top LTTE leaders and their families. There were secret negotiations to take away Prabhakaran, Sea Tiger wing leader, Soosai, intelligence wing leader Pottu Amman and their families, numbering over 100.  US wanted them to surrender to a third party. Sri Lanka insisted that LTTE must surrender to Sri Lanka and not to a third party.

USA also wanted President Rajapakse to offer a general amnesty to the LTTE. This coincided with the unilateral ceasefire declared by the LTTE when they found they were losing. President Rajapakse refused. The government could not offer an amnesty, he said. Even if the top leaders surrendered the government would go ahead with legal proceedings against them for crimes committed. It was also too late for the LTTE to negotiate a deal with the government.   President said that he would not accept Prabhakaran as party to any future settlement. Nothing could be more ridiculous than allowing LTTE to take part in negotiations when it had lost it fighting capability.

The government of Sri Lanka     defeated the LTTE  and declared victory on 19. May 2009.” The military victory in the final war was total said analysts.” A euphoric Colombo awaited the deluge of congratulatory messages for having accomplished what even the authors of the global war on terror had not been able to achieve,”   said Indian  analyst Tekwani. However, the messages that flooded in were negative ones. Mostly condemnatory, the chorus of messages chided the triumphant victor for unbecoming conduct on the battlefield and included accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The allegations against Eelam war IV were prepared in advance even before the war ended, noted analysts.   The west would  have had their next scenario ready, by the time the Eelam war IV ended. ‘  Once the war crimes charge is over, they will put in fresh charges’ said Gotabhaya Rajapaksa.

Island editorial in April 2010 warned  that the western countries are sure to resume their anti-Sri Lanka campaign sooner or later. Under the veneer of bonhomie, there is bubbling hatred. So it is best for the government to get its act together without leaving any room for external forces to meddle with the affairs of this country.

The west was not prepared to accept this defeat. They turned to the  United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General  arrived in Sri Lanka on 23 May: observers said he came for the sole purpose of holding Sri Lanka accountable for  the military strategies used during the final phase of the armed conflict.

He held talks with the President, Foreign Minister as well as other senior leaders of Sri Lanka.  He also consulted ‘other relevant stakeholders’, members of international humanitarian agencies and civil society.  He visited the internally displaced persons (IDP) sites at Vavuniya and flew over the area, near Mullaitivu  which saw the final  conflict.

A  joint statement was issued by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United Nations at the conclusion of the visit. This is a very peculiar joint statement. It did  not  affirm the unity of Sri Lanka  and the end of a secessionist effort. Instead, it supported Tamil separatism and even used Tamil separatist jargon.

The statement said,  that Sri Lanka had entered a new post-conflict beginning. .this ‘new situation’  should be used  for the long-term development of the north. The government must ensure  relief, rehabilitation, resettlement and reconciliation in the north. Also  the government must now start addressing the aspirations and grievances of all communities and working towards a lasting political solution.

The government must  begin a broader dialogue with all parties, including the Tamil parties in these ‘new circumstances ‘. There must be a national solution acceptable to all sections of people. Lastly, the Secretary-General underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.  This  marks the formal start of the  war crimes” issue.

But USA  was not satisfied. They  wished to kill this victory. In 2009 itself,  US, working through Britain, France and Austria, tried to get the UN Security Council to examine the deaths in the last stage of the Eelam War. This was to be at a Security Council briefing.  But US was not able to secure the 16 signatures needed   and UN Security Council refused to discuss the situation in Sri Lanka.

The move was ‘strenuously warded’ off by seven countries led by China and Russia. These seven, China, Russia, Japan, Turkey, Uganda, Vietnam and Libya,   said that the current situation in Sri Lanka did not warrant a briefing in the Security Council. China vehemently” opposed any discussion in the Security Council on the issue of civilians trapped in the fighting between government Security Forces and the LTTE, arguing that it was “purely an internal matter”.

The US then turned to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). The Human Rights Council, unlike Security Council, could be manipulated easily by the US. It was short of funds and  gladly accepted donations. The US was influential in the HRC.

In May 2009 UN Human Rights Council in Geneva held a special session, called at the request of US, UK, EU and Denmark  to discuss a Swiss-EU resolution against Sri Lanka.  The sponsor was the United States, and the resolution was known as the US resolution on Sri Lanka.

Many NGOs had supported the EU resolution.  The NGO website, Inner City Press presented what it said were UN statistics of civilian killings in the Wanni since January 2009, and quoted the UN Human Rights High Commissioner Navaneethan Pillay as saying that war crimes “may” have been committed in Sri Lanka by both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government.

There was also vigorous lobbying by the Tamil Diaspora. Many  a Special Rapporteur who had not previously been interested in Sri Lanka, issued a press release calling for an independent inquiry into the situation in Sri Lanka, said Dayan Jayatilleke. Rajiva Wijesinghe added, hordes of LTTE sympathizers turned up to buttonhole various ambassadors, and to brief the UN Commissioner for Human rights, and to make aggressive interventions in the debate. They were aided and abetted by a number of NGOs. However, some Pro-Eelamists  did not like the  text of the resolution. ‘This text is too little,   they said, ‘ also it is toothless’.

The US thereafter sponsored three resolutions against Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in 2012, 2013 and 2014. They were all challenged by the government of Sri Lanka and they were all voted in and accepted by the HRC. The US subsequently said that if Sri Lanka wanted to permanently close its dark chapter it cannot walk alone. Analysts observed that in all these resolutions the US was able to influence the votes and get reluctant countries to at least abstain. Those countries that refrained from voting made speeches in Sri Lanka’s favor and then refrained from voting – which was their way of indicating that they were refraining from voting in favor of Sri Lanka only under duress.

2012 resolution was presented amidst much fanfare .A resolution calling upon Sri Lanka to fully investigate who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Tamil civilians and to establish genuine reconciliation ‘is to be tabled during a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR), which opens tomorrow, ‘ shouted the media.

Many thousands of Sri Lankan civilians died or suffered other violations in the final weeks of the long-running civil war in 2009. There has been no complete accounting of those deaths or other violations and no pursuit of accountability for them,” said Eileen Donahoe, the US ambassador to the UNHCR in Geneva. We believe that real reconciliation must be based on accountability, not impunity. There cannot be impunity for large-scale civilian casualties, and that if there is to be real reconciliation it must be based on an accounting of the truth and serious implementation of changes,” concluded Donahoe

Fred Carver of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said, If successful, this motion will show that  the opinion of the world, and in particular the opinion of nations in the global south, has shifted and that the Sri Lankan government can no longer turn a blind eye to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, Sunila Abeyesekera and Nimalka Fernando were in Geneva at the time, reported the media.  They attacked the Rajapaksa administration as undemocratic, repressive and militarized, with abductions and open killings. They called Sri Lanka a ‘hell hole’. Diplomats had privately wondered how these people were tolerated in Sri Lanka, said the media.

However, Sri Lanka representative, Tamara Kunanayagam had   informed the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights that the OHCHR had acted outside its mandate in facilitating the US resolution. OCHCR has played to the political agenda of the USA, raising serious doubts about the impartiality of the OHCHR. The OHCHR is bound by the UN Charter to be neutral, she said.

In Sri Lanka ,TNA   welcomed the US resolution against Sri Lanka. TNA said that this is the first step in the pursuit of justice and accountability   and thanked those organizations which showed a firm commitment to the achievement of a future for the Tamils in Sri Lanka  that is marked by equality, dignity, justice and self respect.

Elsewhere in Sri Lanka the resolution was condemned as interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka by the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Sri Lanka. It was also condemned by the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation Engineers Association. Rev. Cyril Fernando, of the Diocese of Colombo, said that the action was equal to a direct intervention against Sri Lanka’s independence and sovereignty and an insult to the intelligence of the people.

The Geneva resolution of 2012 was not a surprise, said the government of  Sri Lanka.  We knew that some western countries had launched a conspiracy against Sri Lanka. We saw this at the time of the humanitarian operation in Eelam War IV. At that time these same parties used various tactics to turn the operation back. They took the position that Sri Lanka should give in to LTTE terrorism and divide the country. These agents will continue their project aimed at dividing Sri Lanka into two like Sudan. The project will continue from foreign lands and they will try to create instability and anarchy within the country, concluded the government .

UN’s Human Rights Council has passed a resolution highly critical of Sri Lanka’s record, reported the BBC in 2013. The resolution encourages Sri Lanka to conduct an independent and credible investigation into alleged war crimes .The 2014 resolution wanted an international inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the final stages of a decades-long conflict that ended in 2009.

Unlike the resolutions of 2009, 2012 and 2013, this resolution asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to ‘investigate, assess and monitor’ the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. This undermines national sovereignty, observed the media. The resolution was adopted with 23 members voting in favor of the resolution, while 12 voted against. Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia, Maldives voted against it. India, South Africa, Japan, and Indonesia voted for. There were 12 abstentions. Which showed that those who supported the Resolution numbered less than half of the HRC, commented G.L.Pieris.

Both groups of countries, for Sri Lanka and against Sri Lanka, commented on the resolution. The intrusive manner in which the investigations are carried on against Sri Lanka is unwarranted they said. The resolution ‘went beyond the mandate of the High Commissioner said Russia,  ‘double standard of play” (Cuba), “aimed at developing countries forcing them into submission” (Philippines), intolerable interference in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka” (Pakistan)  “people have the right to choose their own path” (China), serious risks created by intervention” (Venezuela), “the biased approach to specific countries” (Ecuador).failure “to take into account continuing progress” (Thailand)  and ‘ attempt to stifle the “energy” (Indonesia).

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navaneeethan Pillay noted that in recent years, the Sri Lanka Government has established various mechanisms with the task to investigate past violations. But none have had the independence to be effective or inspire confidence among victims and witnesses”, she stated. New evidence continues to emerge, and witnesses are willing to come forward to testify before international mechanisms in which they have confidence and which can guarantee their protection, the High Commissioner added.

This shows that an international inquiry is not only warranted, but also possible, and can play a positive role in eliciting new information and establishing the truth where domestic inquiry mechanisms have failed. The Council has in the past called on the Sri Lankan Government to take credible steps to ensure accountability for alleged serious violations committed during the final months of the conflict ‘.

HRC requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to undertake a comprehensive investigation” into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties, and hold perpetrators accountable.  The OCHRC did as it was told and prepared a report, known today as OISL report.

In 2015, after the Yahapalana  victory, US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal announced that the US intended to The US intention to sponsor a fresh resolution backing a domestic probe in Sri Lanka to address issues of accountability. At the 30 sessions of the UNHRC, In October 2015, Sri Lanka announced its co-sponsorship of the new US-sponsored resolution titled ‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’.(Resolution 30/.) Section 17 said that members of the security forces who had violate the humanitarian  laws of war  would be investigate and punished.

In 2017  at the Universal Periodic Review of Sri Lanka , USA   wanted Sri Lanka to fully implement the commitments agreed to in HRC Resolution 30/1 and hold security forces and government officials accountable for human rights violations and abuses.  Palitha Kohona observed that the High Commissioner had  noted  ‘ominously’, that in the absence of progress on the implementation of Res. 30/1, other countries could invoke the ‘universal jurisdiction’ principle to start judicial proceedings against persons accused of having committed war crimes.  ( continued)

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