Mahinda Gunasekera Tambrook Drive Agincourt, Ontario Canada
Mr. Scott Reid, MP
Member for Lanark- Frontenac-Lennox and Addington
Chair of the Sub-Committee on International Human Rights
Of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Int’l Dev.
House of Commons
Dear Mr. Scott Reid,
Resumed Hearings on the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka : Nov 26,2013 – Ms.F.Harrison
I would like to repeat my opening sentence in my submission dated February 6, 2014. I have had an opportunity to read some of the presentations made to your sub-committee and found it quite disconcerting to note that you had invited only critics and vociferous accusers of alleged violations by Sri Lanka to make submissions, which needless to say calls into question your bias and impartiality.
Frances Harrison who made a presentation on November 26, 2013 has earlier been a BBC correspondent reporting from Sri Lanka during the Norwegian facilitated ceasefire commencing February 2002. The peace talks broke down in the Spring of 2003 after six rounds as the LTTE did not negotiate in good faith and withdrew their participation, as they were merely using the talks to buy time to build up their forces to commence hostilities as on prior occasions. The Tamil Tigers later came up with a proposal in October 2003 for an Interim Self Governing Authority for the northern and eastern provinces mainly under their control, that was considered a blue print for a separate state which was rejected by Sri Lanka. It was during this time that Frances Harrison had struck up a close relationship with LTTE high ups who were using part of their vast financial and other assets to influence major international media networks through ties of this nature. It is therefore not too difficult to determine the reasons why she cultivated a sympathetic attitude to the Tamil Tiger terrorists banned by the UK at the time.
Ms. Harrison claims she was engaged in research for a BBC documentary on ongoing rape and torture in Sri Lanka when she came across 12 cases (8 females and 4 males) who had arrived on student visas or false passports and then claimed asylum in the UK. HRW had documented 62 cases of sexual abuse in the postwar period of 4 ½ years. Those who travelled on false passports are said to have gone by boat to India and then travelled through the Middle East before reaching the UK. These asylum seekers had claimed that they had been repeatedly raped and tortured (most having cigarette burns on their person) while in detention by the Sri Lankan military and the Criminal Investigation Division of the Police. Nine of them had medical/legal reports to corroborate their story of torture. The twelve she interviewed are in addition to the twelve documented by Human Rights Watch in the previous year, with more out there she says it is the tip of the iceberg. These people have to have the money, the luck, and the way to get to the U.K. and so quickly.
Notes taken from Ms. Harrison’s presentation: “I used to live in Sri Lanka. I was there during the peace process period, so I spent quite a bit of time with the LTTE. I’ve interviewed a lot of Tigers, and I don’t think these were hard-core fighters. These were people who had joined them in Jaffna or in Colombo, who had helped them pass messages, find safe houses, stitch uniforms, those sorts of things. They were not people who really fought with guns, most of them. If they had been in the war, then they said they had been forcibly recruited in the last few months. They were stalked, often in the north of Sri Lanka, blindfolded and handcuffed, and thrown in the back of a white van. The women all talked about hearing other Tamil female voices screaming, and they supposed they were being tortured or raped. All of them were fingerprinted and photographed. All of them were forced to sign a confession in Sinhala, a language they couldn’t understand. They were held until their family members could find someone, quite often from the Tamil pro-government militia party, EPDP, to negotiate a trade, basically a giant bribe to get the person out of detention. They were not told that they were being released and they would be taken out in this van, they would have the blindfold removed and see an uncle or a father or somebody standing there. Some of them saw money changing hands. They didn’t go and see their mothers. They were put in hiding somewhere and smuggled out of the country as quickly as possible.”
MG-Comments: According to Ms. Harrison these persons claiming to have been raped and tortured had played minor roles in the Tamil Tiger terror outfit, and that they had to have money, luck and a way to get to the UK with either student visas or fake passports . One of the minor roles was finding “safe houses”, quite possibly for a LTTE suicide bomber sent to assassinate a political or military leader in the capital city. Those with student visas would have had to undergo medical examinations where they successfully concealed the obvious signs of torture prior to being granted visas by the British High Commission in Colombo without raising any alarm bells. They are said to have been detained by the military or police where they were ill treated. On their release following payment of bribes by some rich relative or other party they had to be hidden somewhere unknown to their mothers and secretly smuggled out of the country with fake passports via the Middle East. There are a lot of gaps in these stories which have been carefully woven with one objective of demonizing Sri Lanka, probably by the pro-Tiger diaspora organizations which have the money and the master forgers to produce fake passports. In my opinion, Ms. Harrison is either naïve to accept these tales without a proper investigation or is being used by her friends in the powerful Tamil diaspora to build up a case of continued harassment of Tamils in Sri Lanka four years after the defeat of their heroic liberation forces whom they funded, to cause adverse publicity for Sri Lanka before the next UNHRC sessions are held in Geneva in March 2014.
I recall reading an article written by a Canadian Refugee Determination Board officer in the Reader’s Digest sometime back to relate the uniform story related by every Tamil refugee applicant from Sri Lanka, where they said that they left the north of the island where they lived as they feared their children being abducted and forcibly conscripted by the LTTE and moving to the capital city of Colombo. On being informed that their having refuge in the south of the country would disqualify their application for refugee status in Canada, they were quick to revise the story. In the new story, they said that when they came to Colombo they were harassed by the Police who would arrest and detain them, necessitating the paying of bribes to obtain release before coming to Canada. The officer felt that the story was not genuine and that they were being well coached to meet the Refugee Board requirements.
Ms. Harrison next talks of receiving the case documents of seven former Tamil Tiger cadres who had surrendered to the army who had been detained and placed in a rehabilitation program. Four had medical reports establishing torture and government documentation having been in this rehab program. One of them who was 17 had been in rehab for four years in different centres where he was tortured and abused. The other thing that I looked at was a particularly nasty form of torture branding which you might be aware of: a hot metal rod is used to brand diagonally somebody’s back. You will see in the U.K. now men, and some women too, who’ve got anywhere between two and 15 of these branding marks on their backs. She said she knew of two doctors who specialize in torture associated with the charity Freedom from Torture that helps survivors having 100 cases from Sri Lanka of Tamils who have been branded like that in the last two or three years after the war. Freedom from Torture has done a Forensic study of such branding to see if it could be self inflicted. To sustain such branding, one would need to be tied or anesthetized to cope with it. Many of those torture victims had passed out because of the pain. An independent medical witness who testifies to the Home Office for asylum cases had told her that there were 200 such cases from Sri Lanka in the last five years. It must be mentioned that it is a common occurrence for Tamil Hindus to undertake an act of penance in atonement of a vow taken to appease a god by having their bodies pierced with metal hooks and strung up on a special religious chariot placed outside a Hindu kovil or temple which may be taken in procession, as observed by us at kovils even located in Scarborough, Ontario.
Strange indeed to hear of such cruelty being practiced in a rehabilitation program intended to give new life skills to persons misled by the LTTE terrorists before their release to society. These branded cadres have only been seen in the UK and other countries to which they were able to enter with fake passports or other illicit means, as normal immigration would require medical examinations prior to grant of visas. There have not been any such cases reported in Sri Lanka in respect of the rest of the 12,000 LTTE cadres who surrendered and later placed in rehabilitation at the conclusion of the war in 2009. Dr. P. Saravanamuttu who made a presentation on November 21, 2013 did not report of any such torture, and in reply to a specific question said he was satisfied with the rehabilitation program conducted by the Sri Lankan military. None of the INGO/NGO operating in Sri Lanka or Tamil politicians in the north have made any such allegations relating to any cases of torture by branding. Could it be that this is yet another attempt by the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora leading the campaign to blame and shame Sri Lanka having had these former Tamil Tiger cadres whom they helped to come to UK and EU countries through whatever means, to be so branded as part of the deal for bringing them over to the developed west?
In response to questions from the Sub-Committee members, Ms. Harrison replied as follows:
(a) (Answers given to Nina Grewal,MP) Ms. Harrison had heard of sexual harassment of women in the north with many female headed households due to them being widows, or where husbands had disappeared or held in detention, due to the presence of more women in the region than men and military being stationed there. There was also a problem with unwanted pregnancies and underground abortions. Those granted asylum in the UK would not give their real names fearful that their relatives in Sri Lanka could be harmed. She thought the composition of the LLRC was not satisfactory and its mandate limited. The LLRC exonerated the military. She thinks the Commission’s report is not available to the public, and it has remained a secret. She said that the appalling ongoing crimes shows that the LLRC recommendations have not been implemented. Media freedom is worse than when she reported from Sri Lanka 2000-2004, as there is greater fear. “We know that about 50 journalists fled from basically 2008-09. When you remove 50 of the best, and the most liberal, and the most open-minded journalists, then it’s a huge dent in civil society. “
MG Comments: Contrary to what Ms. Harrison has said, HRW recorded only 62 cases of rape over a period of 4 years after the war ended in 2009. The torture stories are emanating from former LTTE cadres seeking asylum in the UK and Europe. Their links to a banned terrorist organization makes it more difficult for them to be considered for admission, and their undergoing cigarette burns and branding with hot metal implements on their backs could be the extreme lengths they are prepared to suffer to win their asylum claims. All of them joined the LTTE and even wore cyanide capsules around their necks to be bitten in case of capture by the army, whilst a whole squadron were brainwashed to becoming suicide bombers for the cause with 388 detonating themselves causing immense destruction of life and property. The LLRC held open sittings and heard over 1,800 oral submissions plus several written ones and presented their report within 18 months in November 2011, unlike the UNSG’s so called Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka who heard one-sided evidence in camera which they locked away for 20 years . The LLRC report was presented to parliament in December 2011, translated into the national languages of Sinhala and Tamil by July 2012, and an Action Plan drawn up with timelines which is constantly monitored by a Task Force headed by the Presidential Secretary, Mr. Lalith Weeratunge. One could ascertain the ongoing progress of the implementation process by accessing the following website which gives updates and relevant information, i.e. www.llrcaction.gov.lk .
(b) (Answers given to Wayne Marston, MP) Questions: Channel 4 video showed civilians being herded into areas that were bombed by the government. Red Cross would provide GPS location of hospitals to the army to avoid hitting but shortly thereafter these were bombed. Has anyone been held to account for these horrific crimes?
Ms. Harrison said that she met a doctor who had escaped from the country saying that he’d given the GPS locations to the ICRC only to find within days or hours of passing the information these hospitals being hit. Nine such locations were hit while five that he did not inform the ICRC were not hit. Others who were patients or volunteers had told her their advice to the injured and sick was not to go to hospital as they could not help due to lack of medicine and the greater probability of one being hit in hospital. Nobody has been held responsible for repeated, deliberate targeting of hospitals. Worse stories one hears from survivors is the shelling of food/milk queues where pregnant mothers and others with infants stood to collect rations. Her book ‘Still Counting the Dead’ was attacked by the Tamil diaspora as they did not like discussion of forced recruitment and child recruitment. Also, they did not like to be told of the Norwegian sponsored surrender offer because they preferred martyrdom, as it gives better reason to continue their struggle in the longer term. She was of the opinion that just like Prime Minister David Cameron was able to put pressure on Sri Lanka during the CHOGM in Colombo, Canada could hire lawyers to bring out the ongoing violations in Sri Lanka to the world’s attention.
MG Comments: Ms. Harrison is relying on someone whom she refers to as a doctor who had escaped the country and sought asylum in the UK and other supposed survivors of the war who are also asylum seekers in that country, to conclude that the army was repeatedly and deliberately shelling hospitals, food/milk queues in the war zone. Rosie DiManno of the Toronto Star who also visited Sri Lanka in November 2013 also claimed that one Dr. Sathiyamoorthy had also told of GPS coordinates supplied to the ICRC being used to target hospitals. Dr. Sathiyamoorthy on learning of the Toronto Star article wrote to the papers stating that he had not met the Star reporter and had not said anything to that effect. Also Dr. Veerakanthipillai Shanmugarajah, the Medical Superintendent of the Mullativu Hospital who was the head of the medical team of ten doctors and surgeons serving in the war affected areas has issued an affidavit on May 10, 2012, to the effect that they were compelled to falsify the death and casualty numbers by the LTTE who were in control of the Vanni region, but that there was no deliberate targeting of hospitals. He recalls two hospitals which experienced shells falling on the hospital buildings whilst in the case of the two other hospitals shells had fallen on the hospital grounds or hit a building. The four hospitals were located at Vallipuram, Puthukuduyirippu, Vellamullivaikkal and Mullaivakkal, where it caused 14 deaths and 34 injuries. He has also said that the LTTE terrorists had placed their long range weapons close these hospitals to which he objected, and had used them to attack the advancing army to attract retaliatory fire, which likely caused some shells to damage these four hospitals and also fatally harm a few patients and persons on the hospital grounds. He further said that the doctors only reported the closure of hospitals and moves to makeshift hospitals to the ICRC, and that they did not provide any GPS coordinates. His affidavit prepared with the assistance of one Stephen Williams, a solicitor of the High Court of England and Wales which could be accessed at http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/dr-veerakanthipillai-shanmugarajahs-affidavit-description-of-conditions-in-the-vanni-pocket-in-refutation-of-channel-four/ .
( c ) (Answers given to Gary Schellenberger,MP) Questions: You have criticized the UN’s response
stating that they were aware of atrocities committed by Sri Lanka but deliberately told the diplomats that they were not responsible. What led to the false reporting and what was their agenda? Ms. Harrison pointed out that the answers are there in the UN’s internal review report by Charles Petrie. She claimed there were two expatriate staff in the war zone in January who were witnessing, documenting, photographing, and tracking coordinates of a massive shelling of a humanitarian zone where the UN was distributing food. The UN expatriate staff in Colombo also set up a long distance casualty counting system where they telephoned the Tamil local staff attached to NGOs numbering 240 who were not allowed to leave by the LTTE, the ICRC staff, the priests and doctors who were within the war zone, some of whom had satellite phones, and triangulate every death or injury report. There had to be three witnesses for every death to be counted preferably with one of them a UN staff member. They had counted 7,700 deaths till about mid-April. They had about 50,000 unconfirmed reports of dead and injured that were not corroborated and triangulated per this UN report. These were not included in the publicized reports but leaked to diplomats. While the estimates ranged from 7,000 to 147,000 with the higher end reported by a Catholic Bishop. Based on information leaked by an expatriate relating to World Bank population data of 2010 and Government data used for grants to the region, there is a difference of about 100,000 persons missing who may not all be dead as some may have moved within the country or to India and western countries.
MG Comments: The UN spokesperson in Colombo, one Gordon Weiss claimed at the end of April 2009 that the number of civilians killed was in the range of 7,000 and not 7700. His boss, Sir John Holmes, Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs rejected the number saying that the UN did not have a presence on the ground and could therefore not be in a position to ascertain accurate figures that could be verified. Much later, after leaving the UN, Gordon Weiss published a book called the ‘Cage’ aimed at marketing it to the one million strong Tamil diaspora and with an eye to personal profit, where he went on to state that the final number would run into tens of thousands of civilian deaths, padding it up to the figure to at least 40,000 killed. Later, at a book launch in Canberra, when he was challenged about the number of casualties, he rolled back the figure to about 10,000 and claimed that the higher number shown was a printer’s error. He has been described as an unreliable witness.
It appears that the UN spokesperson is basing his calculations on one single incident that had taken place in January 2009 when Food Convoy Number 11 made its way to the Vanni accompanied by two UN security officers (one retired Bangladeshi military officer and a Canadian Tamil) who had travelled without notifying the UN Resident Representative, Neil Buhne, and had camped out in Mullativu where they got some some Tamil civilians to dig a bunker for them to stay during the night. Their presence in Mullativu was subsequently brought to the attention of the Sri Lankan Army which had to immediately suspend hostile actions in the region to ensure the safety of the UN personnel. They claimed they had gone there to try and negotiate the release of the UN’s local staff who were Tamil residents of the Vanni who obtained employment in the UN Agencies with the permission of the LTTE. The LTTE merely played games but would not release a single local employee. As they camped out in this place which they assumed was one of the declared safe zones, they had the terrible experience of being bombarded with artillery shelling through the night. In the morning they discovered that 23 of the civilians who came to pass the night where the UN officers camped including children (or child) had been killed by the shelling. They immediately assumed that the shelling came from the Sri Lankan Army, and this information was relayed to Gordon Weiss and ended up in the hands of the UNSG’s panel and the rights groups. These UN security officers managed to safely extricate themselves and reach Colombo. Later, when the Sri Lankan authorities came to hear of it, they summoned the UN Chief Security Officer, Chris du Toit (who had earlier trained Joseph Savimbi’s terror group in Angola at the behest of the white South African Aparthied regime) and his deputy the Bangladeshi officer, and questioned them as to how they concluded that the artillery shelling came from the Army (see Rajiva Wijesinha’s blog) when the Army had suspended operations due to their presence. They had then admitted that they could not figure out from which direction the shelling had come, but had identified one shell as having come from the LTTE. This single incident resulting in 23 deaths was also extrapolated by Gordon Weiss into the estimated number of artillery duels to arrive at his unverified number of 7,000 civilian deaths, whereas the party responsible for the 23 civilian deaths was the LTTE. Even after the UN security officers admitted their erroneous assumptions to Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Disaster Management, the wrong information relayed to Gordon Weiss gets planted in UNSG’s POE report and reports prepared by HRW, AI, ICG, etc., and is later quoted as fact by Frances Harrison to the House of Commons Sub-Committee.
After the official census taken in 1981, the Tamil Tigers did not allow any census or elections to be carried out in their area of control as they could then provide inflated numbers to receive higher quotas of food and other essentials from the government. Many people moved out of the Vanni paying a cash penalty to the Tigers or leaving a child behind to fight for the separatist cause and settling in the capital city of Colombo and suburbs which helped the Tamils to become the largest community in Colombo, while yet others fled to South India by boat. Yet others in excess of one million have migrated to Canada, UK, Australia and other western countries capitalizing on the ongoing terrorist insurgency, to not only better themselves but also to add fuel to the flames in Sri Lanka from the safety of their new domain by funding the violence and terrorism of the LTTE. Just like the casualty numbers being stretched by leaps and bounds, the population figure given is also highly elastic to fit the bogus casualty numbers picked from thin air.
Gordon Weiss who was attached to the UN Resident Representative’s office in Colombo was aware that the UN had counted a total 7,721 civilian deaths in the last five months based on information gathered from their local Tamil staff of 240 who remained in the conflict zone as they were prevented by the Tigers from leaving the area. We have to rely on numbers compiled by the UN Resident Representative’s office in Colombo which is not being talked of by the media and the UNSG’s Panel of Experts who preferred to conceal this number of 7,721 and instead invent numbers out of thin air in the tens of thousands ranging up to 40,000. The Petrie report estimated as much as 70,000 civilian deaths merely by reviewing the UNSG’s POE report. The UK Sunday Times reporter who overflew the final battle ground estimated 20,000 civilian deaths and carried this number in his column. The post war census carried out by the Government of Sri Lanka in 2012 using school teachers and public officials from the Tamil community as enumerators arrived at a number of 7,432 deaths. The total number of deaths reported by the Tamilnet which was a propaganda unit of the Tamil Tigers for the period January 1 to May 18, 2009 was 7,398, which is slightly lower than both the UN’s local office and the Sri Lankan Government’s census figure. None of these three reports distinguished between combatant and civilian deaths, which leaves one to conclude that these casualty figures included Tiger combatants as well as civilians who were pressed into combat roles to replace fallen cadres and genuine civilians caught in the crossfire. None of the INGO/NGO or community groups, church bishops, or relatives of such hugely inflated numbers of civilian dead have been able to produce names and verifiable evidence to support such bogus claims. The census carried out in the region by Tamil enumerators revealed only a total of 7432 deaths in the period from January 1 to May 18, 2009, which includes fallen LTTE cadres (that should at least equal the army’s KIA of 3,600 in the same period) and others conscripted by the Tamil Tigers for battle in civilian attire, yet others killed by the LTTE in their attempt to flee to government controlled areas, which leaves at most about 2,500 genuine civilians who may have died in the crossfire.
The Sri Lankan forces had abandoned the use of heavy weapons from about the 3rd week of April 2009, withdrew air cover and only fought with hand held weapons to minimize harm to the civilians forcibly held by the LTTE. They also limited the use of heavy weapons except on occasions when they used it to neutralize enemy artillery guns attacking them, after ensuring via UAV photos that the civilians were at a safe distance away from the Tiger guns. In fact, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) which was engaged by HRW and AI to study satellite photos to determine the allegation of indiscriminate shelling of the final ‘safe zone’ by the army, were able to find only 65 craters in total caused by mortars on the periphery of the Nandikadal lagoon where the LTTE forces were concentrated and a lesser number on the eastern boundary fronting the ocean where the Sea Tigers were based at the time. As a result of doing away with heavy weapons except sparingly during the latter four weeks of the war as explained, the Sri Lankan Army suffered almost 60% or around 3,600 of the total of about 6,000 men killed in action in the 33 month operation , which is more than the 3,423 lost by the US and her coalition forces combined in their 13 year war in Afghanistan. Even taking the higher UN figure of 7721 which exceeds the Sri Lanka census count and the Tamilnet figure, when one excludes the fallen Tiger cadres and their combatants in civilian attire the number of genuine civilian casualties will drop by over 50 percent, of whom many were done to death by the LTTE to prevent civilians from fleeing to safety on the other side. The military operations carried out against the LTTE terrorists has been outlined by Lt. Col. (Retired) Ivan Welch of the US Army published in ‘Infantry Online in the May-June 2013 issue,vide http://www.benning.army.mil/infantry/magazine/issues/2013/May-June/Welch.html
(d) (Answers given to Hon. Irwin Cotler, MP) Question: Writing on Sri Lanka, you refer to “Ban Ki-moon’s Rwanda moment”. What should the UN do to meet their obligations? What can the international community do to combat this culture of impunity in Sri Lanka?
Ms. Harrison said that labelling it a war on terror placed the UN in a difficult situation. Many member states supported the elimination of the LTTE. Nobody reckoned on the extent of civilian casualties being quite as grave as it was. Failure to hold them accountable for these appalling crimes has led to ongoing crimes against humanity in terms of the scale of rape. Sri Lankan government harassed them to the nth degree, so that it became very difficult for them to operate. According to Yasmin Sooka, the UNSG’s POE report should be tabled by a member country at the UNHRC to make it a formal UN document. British lawyers are willing to take on a case if I can find a victim who could identify a perpetrator. That’s quite difficult because in the recent cases everyone’s blindfolded. Take testimonies and witness statements from victims of rape and torture and determine patterns of abuse at particular police stations and file cases against persons in charge.
MG Comment: First and foremost, the UN Secretary General did not have any authority either from the General Assembly, UNHRC or the Security Council to appoint outsiders to a special panel of inquiry in respect of a member country. He should have appointed persons from within the UN to study and report on areas that he was concerned about. He has exceeded his authority in this instance, and even gone beyond by releasing a copy to the UNHRC where the Commissioner Navi Pillay acted in violation of UN principles by including it in the UNHRC agenda. Sri Lanka did protest these actions, but as a tiny country her objections were ignored by the UN backed by some of major powers which failed to uphold established principles. Even though an equal member subscribing to the UN Charter Sri Lanka was dealt with differently by this world body. The UNSG’s Panel of Experts report (Darusman report) has looked at one sided information emanating from prejudiced sources linked to one of the parties to the conflict, to arrive at what they refer to as “credible allegations “ of violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. None of these allegations have been substantiated, and as stated by the panelists themselves, nothing has been proven and also that it falls short of the standards required of a UN report. Furthermore, it was not an open process to begin with, and the evidence looked at to base their report has been locked away for 20 years preventing scrutiny thereof.
(e) (Answers given to David Sweet, MP) Questions: You mentioned that UN internal review report by Petrie had been leaked out in its entirety. How could the Sub-Committee obtain copies of it?
I have these notes from the Sri Lanka High Commission: “The need of the hour is to focus on reconciliation issues. The people in Sri Lanka and especially the Tamils in the North and East want to live in peace. Sri Lanka needs the time and space to address these huge challenges.”
From your testimony today, I think there is little to no sincerity in the regime that’s presently in Sri Lanka, in regard to that statement of needing reconciliation. Is that an overstatement?
Government has spent over US $360 million on its resettlement program. There “were more than 11,951 former LTTE combatants and 595 child soldiers who had surrendered or were detained at the end of the conflict”. I’m concerned that this rehabilitation program might be a euphemism for how they’re actually treating these LTTE combatants? You also referred to 12 cases of rape. We have heard numbers of 40,000 to 90,000 war widows. What they’re going through right now?
Ms. Harrison said she had the full document. She offered to give a copy of her draft or suggested that the redacted version be accessed which contains notes sent to senior UN officials in New York. With regard to the second question, she said; “No. I think for many Tamils “reconciliation” has actually become a dirty word, a tainted word Even seven cases of torture are far too many, and there well may be more out there. They say they need more time and space, but we’re nearly five years after the conflict. In fact, they’ve picked fights with Muslims, other minorities, Christians. They have resisted even modest devolution despite Indian pressure.
Seven cases in the UK amongst 12,000 is just a drop in the ocean. It’s of great concern if the rehabilitation program was really a place where there was torture. The ICRC had initial access, and then no access. The IOM had some access in the latter phases. None of the people who said they’d been tortured said they could actually say so to either ICRC or IOM.
In the U.K. alone, I found 12 men and women who had been raped in 2013. Then there were eight from last year. Human Rights Watch had 12 different cases from last year. I was surprised that I could find quite so many people already in the U.K. alleging rape in, basically, secret military camps and similar places. It was systematic.
People were resettled from the Menik Farm refugee camp, but certainly one hears of a lot of poverty and lack of income amongst these women, and the physical insecurity as well, especially amongst those who are in some way connected to the LTTE. The community shuns them now, too, for fear that they bring the scrutiny of the security forces.
MG COMMENT: The Petrie report is one which reviews another invalid report where the UNSG exceeded his authority and produced one which speaks of credible allegations based on one sided information from a prejudiced source that is locked away for 20 years. What Sri Lanka’s High Commission said about monies spent on resettlement and number of LTTE cadres and child soldiers to be rehabilitated is accurate. The amount incurred in four years on resettlement/development has now amounted to US$ 3 billion. In fact, prior to resettlement, nearly 1.5 million landmines and IEDs planted by the LTTE contaminating 6,218 sq. km. of land had to be cleared. Necessary infrastructure had to be put in place to resettle the 295,873 internally displaced Tamils forced to move with the retreating LTTE forces to be exploited for their labour, conscripted to replace fallen cadre and to finally form a human shield for the Tamil Tigers. These IDPs were rescued by the security forces by May 18, 2009 and well cared for in temporary transit camps till the ground conditions were made possible to resettle them. The Sub-Committee members should go and see for themselves without going by gossip and hearsay evidence. Resettlement needs time and space. There is much that needs to be done to assist not only the vulnerable people in the north but also in the rest of the country as well. The only industry that functioned in the north under the LTTE was the assembly of landmines and IEDs.Reconciliation cannot be accomplished by laws, it is a two way street, and everybody needs to make a contribution as it will not happen on demand.
The powers devolved to Provincial Councils through the 13th Amendment were those imposed on Sri Lanka by her militarily superior neighbor India that trained and armed the Tamil Tigers and other Tamil militant groups on Indian soil to destabilize Sri Lanka, and threatened to militarily intervene. It was passed in parliament by the then President Jayawardene resorting to undemocratic means of using undated letters of resignation that he had previously obtained from his caucus members to be tabled to unseat these MPs. This important constitutional amendment was not referred to the people for a decision at a special referendum. It is not possible to devolve more powers merely because it is requested by anyone or group, without same being properly discussed and the consent of the people obtained for the purpose.
(f) (Answers given to Pierre Jacob, MP) Question: How is the Sri Lankan Government treating public servants accusing security forces of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity or violations of international humanitarian law?
You wrote an article in Huffington Post UK about the opening of a new hotel operated by the Sri Lankan army and located, according to the official advertisement, in a place where thousands of war heroes, terrorists and others died. Could you tell us about that project?
Ms. Harrison: There were five civil servants—government doctors, Tamils—who stayed on during the war in the war zone, and were extraordinarily brave. They probably saved tens of thousands of lives. Of those, four were detained at the end of the war and forced to basically renege on everything they’d said during the course of the war. They were put under extraordinary pressure and forced to recant.
Yes, this was a hotel called Lagoons Edge. It was right in the heart of the war zone where hundreds if not thousands of people probably died. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, wanted to sprinkle flower petals in commemoration of the dead. To have a sort of party hotel there, owned, run, by the Sri Lankan military, was pretty crass. The military has created a sort of terrorism-tourist trail. Real problem about the military in the north more broadly taking over many of the economic roles that normally would be left for local people.
MG Comment: There was much talk about rape of former LTTE cadres and other women in female headed households in the north and east citing a total of 62 rapes in a 30 year conflict affected country recorded by HRW over a period of four years. Even a single rape is not acceptable, and action must be taken by the community at large to correct the situation. A London based Minority Rights Group published their report in late 2013 on ‘Abuse, Marginalization of war-affected women in Sri Lanka’s north and east’ was continuing after the end of the war in 2009. The island’s military spokesman, Ruwan Wanigasooriya, told IRIN: “We deny in the strongest terms that there is a prevailing culture of silence and impunity for sexual violence crimes,” noting that the government has taken “legal action” and that convicted soldiers are referred to the military tribunal for court martial. “It is worthwhile to notice that only 11 incidents out of a total 375 reported incidents [from January 2007-May 2012] can be attributed to security forces. Therefore the inference that the presence of the military contributes to insecurity of women and girls in the former conflict affected areas is baseless and disingenuous.” With the increasing presence of expat Tamils in the diaspora coming on visits to their home towns (places of origin), community women have told us that their daughters are often being viewed as sexual objects and in some cases, been sexually assaulted,” a leading woman’s activist working in the north told IRIN in an e-mail. Refer link to article: http://www.irinnews.org/fr/report/98978/abuse-marginalization-of-war-affected-women-in-sri-lanka-s-north.
It might of interest to look at this same issue in the UK where the Daily Mail published figures which are indeed shocking. (Refer: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-369262/women-blame-raped.html) Statistics from USA are even worse with a woman being sexually assaulted every two minutes. You could yourself access these publicly reported data online. One of every 17 Canadian women is raped at some point in her life. Statistics Canada has found that one in four girls and one in eight boys have been sexually abused by the time they are eighteen.( Source: Justice Institute of British Columbia). In 2009 in Canada, women self-reported 472,000 sexual assaults, according to Statistics Canada. We do have serious problems in respect of sexual assaults closer to home in Canada which should be looked at and solutions found to uphold the dignity and safety of Canadian women.
P.S. I will be submitting my response to the presentation made by Callum McRae of UK shortly. MG
Copy to: Ms. Miriam Burke, Secretary to the House Commons Sub-Committee on Foreign Affairs: Please take printed copies and kindly distribute to all members of the Sub-Committee. Shall appreciate if you could also forward a copy to the witness, i.e. Frances Harrison. Thanks. MG
Copies to Members of the House of Commons, Sub-Committee on International Human Rights: Copies of this document are being sent by e-mail to you pending distribution of printed copies by the Secretary. MG .