Advisory Panel of Experts (APE) on last days of Sri Lankan war
Posted on June 21st, 2011

H. L. D. Mahindapala

 To: Julia.Gillard.M, Tony.Abbot.MP, Kevin.Rudd.MP, “Bishop, Julie (MP)” , Anthony.Byrne.MP, “Robb, Andrew (MP)” , “Dodd, John (Sen B. Brown)” , “Ferguson, Laurie (MP)” , john.alexander.MP, A.Albanese.MP, Don.Randall.MP, “Tudge, Alan (MP)”, senator.Evans, senator.brandis

I thought of sending you the attached snippet from the London Times (please see below) to focus on one fact: if there is a war one of the first casualties will be human rights. I do not think that the Australian government did ever endorse the brutal act committed by the Aussie soldier mentioned in the book. Nor do I think that it was the official policy of the Australian forces to carry out such atrocities which are against the Geneva Convention. Without condoning it, may I say that these aberrations will continue to happen in every war that explodes in any other part of the world. In fact, last night BBC announced that NATO had apologized for killing civilians “”…” including babies “”…” when their planes hit a residential area.

In Sri Lanka too similar incidents would have taken place but there was no official policy of the government to kill civilians. Take, for instance, the latest incident in Sri Lanka. The Police shot and killed a protesting striker near a factory. The Inspector General of Police resigned saying that the Policeman did not carry out his directive not to use fire arms. Similarly, in the battlefield “”…” particularly in the controversial No-Fire Zones “”…” it was not the policy of the forces to open fire on the civilians. But individual acts of aberrant soldiers would have taken place. The worst would have been when the LTTE turned No-Fore Zones into War Zones. Each time the government declared a No-Fire Zone the LTTE moved in with their heavy artillery to fire on the soldiers who were forced to retaliate aiming not at the civilians but at the LTTEers who were deliberately using No-Fire Zones as a War Zone. There was bound to be collateral damage.

Which civilized government would pack up and go home when a unilaterally declared No-Fire Zone is turned into a War Zone by a gang of terrorists? Judging a situation like this creates serious moral problems. It is easy to say that a democratically elected should not use the same the tactics of the terrorists. The civilized world, of course, expects higher moral standards. But, as you know, when it comes to the crunch the standards set by the civilized world “”…” examples: fire-bombing and flattening Dresden, pulverizing Okinawa, blasting Hiroshima, Nagasaki and now bombing Libya and Afghanistan “”…” have been and will be the norms that will be adopted to deal with lawless violent forces, despite all platitudes expressed in maintaining international humanitarian law.

The civilized world did not hesitate to cut losses and bring the boys back home safely and early for Christmas. This will be their priority in the future too and no amount of laws and institutions can stop it. For instance, you and I know that the same civilized world has stockpiled WMDs not to decorate their back garden at No. 10 Downing Street or the front lawns of the White House, eh?

Much noise is made about the Sri Lankan incidents using the APEs report by the media, NGOs and even some Church groups. Gordon Weiss is making hay with his book The Cage quoting questionable and inflated figures which he can’t justify. He refused to appear on ABC either with me or even with the visiting MP, Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe. I’ll leave you to guess the reason behind it. But I think in rushing to judgment on Sri Lanka the international standards should be applied NOT on the preachy rhetoric used by the international community taking the high moral ground but as practised by them each time they went to combat with enemies of their states.

The international community would do a great service to the war-weary people of Sri Lanka if they could give the necessary political space for the Sri Lankans to work out their own home-made solutions for peace and reconciliation. Australia should not prejudge the case when there is a commission already evaluating the available evidence to find a way to the future.

Australian Foreign Office could do a great service to regional peace and stability if it exerts its benign pressure to let Sri Lanka evolve its own solutions without external interventions.

Yours sincerely

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Editor, Sunday Observer (1990-1994)

President, Sri Lanka Working Journalists’ Association, (1991 “”…” 1993)

Secretary-General, South Asia Media Association (1993 “”…” 1994)

6 Responses to “Advisory Panel of Experts (APE) on last days of Sri Lankan war”

  1. Sarath W Says:

    It is a great article by Mahindapala. Every time someone accuses the Sri Lankan government of war crimes the only response by the government is to totaly deny them.Of course as Mahindapala says such things could have happened during the heat of the battle.One has to understand the final battle was fought mostly during the night and the soldiers were under a lot of pressure fighting an enemy mostly clad in civilian cloth and hiding among hundreds of thousands of civilians.
    It was clear to any independent observer the government gave strict instructions to the soldiers not to fire at the civilians and to do their utmost to save them.Can any one positively identify among the thousands died the civilians and the terrorist? The government should show the world the positives that came out of the final battle.The number of soldiers died in trying to rescue the civilians, how the soldiers went out of their way to help the needy etc.

  2. Sirih Says:

    Also Pls. go to BBC Sinhala service audio stream site since I had a interview with BBC re. the rebuttal I made… I spoke to senior BBC executives re. how UK Broadcast standards gone down with this kind of monkey business.. since ch4 got equipment to authenticate the video and can be done in 10 minutes… I was involved with Ch4 Broadcast design when the ch4 started and know what they got.

    Pls. verify the Sinhala translation of what I said since these Sinhala words are too heavy for me to understand.

  3. Cyril D Says:

    Sirih – Did BBC Sinhala say they will broadcast your interview or were they going to write a story based on it?

    Lots of monkeys there too – Hope you recorded your conversation….

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    WAR CRIMES are defined as :

    “War crimes are serious violations of the laws applicable in armed conflict (also known as international humanitarian law) giving rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of such conduct includes “murder, the ill-treatment or deportation of civilian residents of an occupied territory to slave labor camps”, “the murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war”, the killing of prisoners, “the wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, and any devastation not justified by military, or civilian necessity”.
    Similar concepts, such as perfidy, have existed for many centuries as customs between civilized countries, but these customs were first codified as international law in the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. The modern concept of a war crime was further developed under the auspices of the Nuremberg Trials based on the definition in the London Charter that was published on August 8, 1945. (Also see Nuremberg Principles.) Along with war crimes the charter also defined crimes against peace and crimes against humanity, which are often committed during wars and in concert with war crimes.
    Article 22 of the Hague IV (“Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907”) states that “The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited” and over the last century many other treaties have introduced positive laws that place constraints on belligerents (see International treaties on the laws of war). Some of the provisions, such as those in the Hague, the Geneva, and Genocide Conventions, are considered to be part of customary international law, and are binding on all. Others are only binding on individuals if the belligerent power to which they belong is a party to the treaty which introduced the constraint.

    By the above definitions, Sri Lanka Army is definitely not guilty of War Crimes. We presume that it is for this reason that GoSL repeatedly states that there were no War Crimes in the final war against the ltte. However, the ltte appears guilty of War Crimes on several counts against the State & the People of Sri Lanka.

    In this war, what did happen was ‘collateral damage’, quite unintended on the part of the SL Army.

    We are not experts on the subject of War Crimes, but use of common sense seems sufficient in this case to present the truth.

  5. Sirih Says:

    BBC interview was broadcast on Monday or Tuesday Sinhala service on Sandeshaya via voice streaming.. Yes I did record it and also told them as well.

  6. Vis8 Says:

    A documentary showing the American army command was complicit in the killing of 3,000 prisoners who were separated out from the total of 8,000 POWs and transported to a prison compound in the town of Shibarghan, was aired in Germany in 2002. It was covered-up nicely by the West:

    German TV aired documentary charging American war crimes in Afghanistan

    Wonder if Channel-4 and its ltte cronies saw this.

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