ERASING THE EELAM VICTORY Part 18D Pt 4E
Posted on June 11th, 2021

KAMALIKA PIERIS

One aspect of the Eelam war which has not received much attention is the support at UN level for Eelam War. To start with, the UN High command, based in New York, was supporting the Eelam War.

 In 2005,   Kofi Annan, as UN Secretary General had sent a condolence message on the death of LTTE Eastern province political wing leader, Kaushalyan. The National Bhikkku Front marched down the streets and demonstrated outside the UN Head Office in Colombo. They said this gesture   by Annan had given diplomatic status to a terrorist outfit. 

V. Nambiar, UN Under-Secretary-General had phoned the leading LTTEer KP” (K. Pathmanathan) in Malaysia. Nambiar had been in touch with the LTTE for some time, said the media in 2009. Diplomatic circles had commented on the clandestine links top UN envoys maintained with the LTTE, the media added.

Some UN agencies in Sri Lanka were supporting Tamil separatism, observed Shamindra Ferdinando. In     2007 UNICEF had imported 6000 ready to eat meal packs and it was suspected that this was for the LTTE. UNICEF staffers in Sri Lanka were working with the LTTE.  James Elder, the official spokesman for   UNICEF in Sri Lanka was ordered to leave the country in September 2009 for “supporting terrorism”.

Rajiva Wijesinha   said he had been saying for a long time, that Sri Lanka was simply too indulgent about letting in UN staff, without a proper assessment.  They should be vetted more carefully. He found that junior staff of the UN came to Sri Lanka with agendas.

Chris du Toit, the Head of UN Security in Sri Lanka, had built up a network of UN informants, in LTTE controlled areas, said Rajiva Wijesinha. The purpose of this network, Rajiva thought was to declare that large numbers of civilians were being killed in the war zone. The existence of this network was first revealed in the Darusman Report. Rajiva Wijesinha observed that this revelation has not received the attention it deserved. The propriety of UN setting this up needs to be questioned. Rajiva had wanted the government to call in the head of the UN and find out on what mandate such a network had been set up.

The Sri Lanka United National Association of Canada wrote to the UN Secretary General, in 2011 objecting to the appointment of Chris du Toit as the UN Security Chief in Sri Lanka, Du Toit had trained and advised terrorists in Angola. Further, he has established a network of observers In Sri Lanka described as ‘a ring of paid informers and questionable snoopers”. The Association wanted him removed. The Secretary General took no notice. Du Toit continued in Sri Lanka till the end of the war.

Some UN officials posted to Sri Lanka during Eelam war IV were supporters of Eelam. Gordon Weiss was the UN’s official spokesman in Sri Lanka during the final stages of the civil war. He was nowhere near the war zone, he was in Colombo, but in 2009 he spoke of a bloodbath in Mullaitivu. His visa was not renewed.

Gordon Weiss was a major player in the numbers game, said Rajiva Wijesinha.  When he was working for the UN in Colombo, Weiss said the number of civilian casualties at the end of Eelam War IV was 7,000. This became the official figure at the Office of the UN General Secretary. Then Weiss left the UN, returned to Australia and increased the figure, first to 15,000, then to 40,000, the figure quoted thereafter by everybody.

The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) had a number of staff in Sri Lanka, who supported the LTTE, such as Peter Mackay and Benjamin Dix.  Two other   UNOPS staffers were arrested for transport of weapons.

Benjamin Dix had worked as a Communications Manager for the United Nations and various international NGOs across Asia and Africa for over 12 years. He had a BA in Political Geography of South Asia (SOAS, 2002) to which he later added an MA in Anthropology of Conflict and Violence, (2011) and a PhD in Anthropology (2016).

Dix had worked in Sri Lanka from 2004 -2008 as Communications and Liaison Manager for the UN   He had been based in Kilinochchi. I interviewed hundreds of people whilst I worked in Vanni for 4 years, he said. The experience, it appears had affected him and he had returned to London with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

He then turned propagandist for Eelam. Amnesty International had taken Benjamin Dix   to a UNHRC session in Geneva to speak on the war after the Eelam War ended, said Rajiva Wijesinha. Benjamin Dix and Gordon Weiss provided interviews to Channel Four’s No fire Zone” and ‘Sri Lanka Killing Fields.’

In 2019, Dix produced a cartoon book on Tamil refugees, which included the last stages of the Eelam War. The book followed the fortunes of one fictionalized Tamil family, through war, displacement and the search for asylum abroad. The book, ‘Vanni, a family’s struggle through the Sri Lanka   conflict”, by Dix and Pollock,   was published by Penguin Random House, 2019. It was funded by Arts Council of England. 

Dix and Pollock decided on telling the story through a ‘comic book’. They thought it a good way to reach the public. Comics reach a different readership. Cartoon books connect with people in a different way. The initial impulse for the book was publicity, to alert the general public to the injustice which had befallen the Tamils. It was intended to educate and campaign.

I left Vanni with a huge collection of interviews, photographs and reports, along with my own lived experiences and relationships within the Tamil community. A deep sense of shame and guilt engulfed me as I drove out of Kilinochchi in the last UN convoy on 16 September 2008,” said Dix to Indian Express in 2019.

I wanted to turn what I was seeing in Vanni into a graphic novel, depicting the displaced people, the carnage, our impotence at the UN and the many stories of human suffering,” he told the interviewer.

For the international media, the war remained largely a story of freedom” from a terrorist organization. But that did not take into account the hundreds of displaced Tamilians, on the move, dying as shelling continued, or of the many others who were disappearing” into internment camps, continued Dix.

Sri Lanka is especially important, because, Dix said, 10 years on; there still has not been any credible sense of closure and justice for the victims. The lack of respect the state shows towards their people sets a dangerous precedent.

Peter Mackay, of Australia,   was Field Coordinator, UNOPS,  from June 2008 – January 2009.  He managed the UNOPS Offices in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu & Vavuniya and was based in Kilinochchi.

 Then he was made Field Coordinator, UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS). After that he was appointed UNDSS Representative in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Colombo from January 2009 – October 2009.  He also represented UNOPS on the Special Crisis Operations Group (COG) in the same UN Office. During this time, he oversaw the collection, documentation & dissemination of information relating to civilian casualties & possible violations of international laws in   the war.

Mackay was in touch with local staff and put together briefings, for embassies in Colombo,   using eyewitness reports of the war. These briefings challenged Sri Lanka’s official civilian death toll and its arrangements for relief operations. They led the UN to warn of a “bloodbath” in the final weeks of fighting. Mackay, played a key role in keeping the outside world informed about the number of civilians killed in the final months of the war, deaths that Sri Lanka was keen to play down, said Guardian.

In July 2009, Mackay was asked to leave the country   saying that his “adverse activities had come to the notice of the intelligence services”.  The  UN took the matter up through diplomatic channels with the government, but their decision remained unchanged”, said the UN.

On leaving Sri Lanka, Mackay joined International Crisis Group.  He held the post of United Nations Representative – Sri Lanka Investigations Unit of the International Crisis Group  from August 2009 – December 2009. He was based in Brussels.

  His work there included assisting the International Crisis Group in forming the framework for the investigation of war crimes committed in Sri Lanka in 2008-2009.  He facilitated the collection, analysis & dissemination of information to the ICG investigative team and provided them with the data assembled from the UN Crisis Operations Group in Colombo. He also helped ICG search for possible violations of all applicable international laws, covenants and conventions. He helped to obtain additional evidence testimony.

MacKay had also been part of the network of UN informants which Chris du Toit, the Head of UN Security in Sri Lanka, had built up. Mackay appears to have stayed on in war zone, after the UN staff were asked to leave. He says he got trapped by artillery fire in Mullaitivu and was stranded behind LTTE lines.  He was repeatedly bombed for 10 days in January 2009.

During this secret stay, Mackay had obtained high-resolution satellite images showing that the number of people trapped on beaches where the Tigers made their last stand was far higher than that claimed by the government. The scale of civilian casualties at the end was far higher than the Sri Lanka government claimed, said Amnesty International.

McKay alleged government forces deliberately targeted those taking refuge in the first No Fire zone declared in late January 2009. The data showed that not only were more people in danger than the government admitted, but that the food and medicine sent to the “No fire zone” were inadequate, said Guardian. Mackay was the source for Channel Four’s report of bombardments on a UN camp in January 23rd.

There was another channel which the UN used to provide  pro-Eelam information. The UN left the Wanni at the end of September 2008, but continued to send food convoys deep into LTTE territory, returning to base at Vavuniya after each trip.

 On January 21 2009, a convoy delivering food to Puthukudiruppu (PTK) returned to Vavuniya after being stuck for four days because of fighting. This convoy was labeled Convoy 11.  But two UN staffers stayed back and set up an unauthorized UN hub” in Susantipuram, reported Padraic Colman.

 This was in direct contravention of UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/46/182 of 1991. The UN hub was deliberately located between two hostile military forces and the UN personnel did not follow basic UN rules for humanitarian workers in conflict zones.

UN claimed that Convoy 11 stayed on after it had unloaded supplies because ‘the government had cancelled their permission to return’. Government says there was no such cancellation. The Convoy had decided, without consulting the government, to use this opportunity ‘to negotiate the release of United Nations national staff and dependents by the LTTE’, reported Rajiva Wijesinha.

The convoy staff returned to Vavuniya, leaving behind two international United Nations staff who chose to stay back with the national staff.’ Rajiva Wijesinghe thought they were there to confirm that large numbers of civilians were being killed.  Wijesinha said that Mackay’s name was not on the list of persons travelling in Convoy 11.

One officer who remained was Colonel Harun Khan,  from Bangladesh. Harun Khan said that the fire came overwhelmingly from government forces”.’  ‘The night’s bombardment was nothing short of the intentional massacre of civilians” he is reported to have said.’ But Rajiva observed that when shooting was supposedly taking place, near Puthukkudiyirippu Hospital, the colonel who was staying in a house just across the hospital,  had slept soundly. [1] (Continued)


[1] https://rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com/2011/07/05/gordon-weiss-and-his-military-mentor-jonas-savimbi-as-predecessor-to-mr-prabhakaran/

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