GENEVA WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS – GOVERNMENT OUGHT TO CHANGE STRATEGY
Posted on March 27th, 2022

Chanaka Bandarage

The Tamil Diaspora (and their western allies) and the TNA exert immense pressure on Western Nations to set up an International Tribunal to investigate the bogus War Crimes allegations that have been made against Sri Lanka.

The Western countries pay high deference to Tamils as the Tamil vote is crucial for any party to win elections (there are millions of Sri Lankan Tamils living in these countries). Furthermore, the worldwide Tamil movements are extremely powerful.  Some operate as viscious cabals.

Tamil groups mollycoddle many leading Western politicians.  They fund Western election campaigns.

We must not forget that the LTTE even killed an Indian Prime Minister. 

In the West, it is customary for politicians to give promises to Tamils before an election.

True, there are more Sinhalese living in the West than (Sri Lankan) Tamils, but they are largely silent and lethargic. They hardly make any noise. They are active in cricket matches (wave flags), attend Buddhist temple/Sinhala Avurudu functions en mass, Dinner dances etc (eg. in Australia, New Zealand. England, USA, Canada). For a meeting/demonstration to save Sri Lanka from the Separatists, only a handful turns up. In contrast, for a Tamil Separatists’ event hundreds and thousands of Tamils attend.  The Western parliamentarians are well aware of this – that the Sinhalese are in deep sleep; they do not care about their rights. The Western parliamentarians are relieved that unlike the Tamils Sinhalese do not operate as Voting Blocs (their voting patterns are not motivated by common concerns).

The War Crimes allegations were first made against Sri Lanka by the UN’s (biased) Darusman Report and thereafter by the UK’s Channel 4 TV. They are now well established evidence against Sri Lanka. 

UNHRC wants Sri Lanka to be prosecuted.  For a number of years UNHRC has been asking its member states to set up an International War Crimes Inquiry. Such an Inquiry will definitely use the Darusman Report and the Channel 4 documentary to prove the charges.

Sri Lanka has opposed an International Inquiry. The Yahapalana government desired to set up a Domestic Tribunal (Court), with local judges to hear cases (if any). This is the correct way forward. 

As we have no respite from the West, the writer states that we must work with the West in unison to come out of this mess with minimum fuss/damage.

It seems the current government is opposing any form of Inquiry. Thus, we have an on-going war in Geneva.

About Geneva proposals, the government always attacks the West.  By doing so its domestic popularity soars (majority of the Sri Lankans have socialist inclination).

But, this this does not help us internationally. In fact, the government’s rhetoric exacerbates the problem.

Traditionally, our governments do not know how well to face international critique.  It appoints advisors who do not have any understanding/knowledge as how to amicably resolve international problems/disputes. The governments believe in the policy of fighting against the West rather than working with them.

The late Mr Mangala Samaraweera handled the situation well. Instead of fighting the West in Geneva, he befriended them. Thus, a jointly sponsored Resolution by the West and Sri Lanka was passed in Geneva in October 2015 (No 30/1).  It laid out a roadmap as how to resolve the outstanding issues. This was a first time achievement for Sri Lanka, previously all the Resolutions have been made against Sri Lanka.

Samaraweera was castigated in Sri Lanka by Pohottuwa supporters that he betrayed the Nation. Even now some consider him as a traitor.

What wrong did he do? Nil. He simply extinguished burning fires.

The armchair pundits do not realise that once we and the West are in the same camp (in Geneva), it is the best way forward.  Then, the West considers us as a friend and not an enemy.  That is an easy way to get things done (because JR Jayawardane was very friendly with the West, they did not impose sanctions on Sri Lanka over the July 1983 incident).  

The present government foolishly withdrew from the co-sponsorship last year. Thus, an adverse Resolution was passed against Sri Lanka in 2021.

Sri Lanka is now again under the stern EU microscope.  They have imposed many conditions on us including the need to amend the powerful Prevention of Terrorism Act 1979 (PTA). Why do we have to do this  under international pressure? Sri Lanka is an independent country. Can we ask the UK to amend their Terrorism Act 2000?  Have we lost our Sovereignty?

Samaweera’s was the correct strategy to adopt. Israel adopts the same in Geneva. Thus, they always get away from harsh Resolutions.

Samaraweera had the wisdom to realise that the West was making the allegation to please the Tamil Diaspora and their allies; they are compelled to show those groups that the West is doing something for the Tamils.

Again, Tamils are very powerful in the West.

The West agreed with Samaweera’s idea of setting up a domestic Sri Lankan Tribunal (without foreign judges). 

If after the trials, few Army and other military personnel have to go to jail (in Sri Lanka), so be it.  They are doing that to save Sri Lanka from the trap laid against Sri Lanka by Tamil separatists.

The present government seems wanting all action against Sri Lanka to stop and the status quo to be restored. Things will not happen that way; ‘too much water has flown under the Geneva bridge’. 

The government must revert to the Samaraweera strategy. That is the wise thing to do.

The most important thing for the country is to finish off Geneva.  We have faced adverse Resolutions since 2010. The country’s name worldwide has been severely tarnished. We are treated a Basket Case in Geneva. The way we are heading, we will have to pass on the Geneva baton to future generations. This will be our Geneva legacy to them.  The Geneva pit we are in becomes deeper each year. Failed governments/leaders have brought forth this to us.

We must not forget that in May 2016, Sirisena was invited to attend the G7 Summit held in Nagoya, Japan. This was a remarkable achievement – a huge turn around for Sri Lanka.  Few years before, the US and EU had imposed stern sanctions against Sri Lanka! Those who warmly greeted Sirisena included the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, US President Barak Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, France President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, President of the European Council Donald Tusk and EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker.

All of them were eager to warmly handshake with Sirisena.  This is because the G7 leaders were happy that the people had peacefully revolted in 2015.  Had Sirisena conducted a just government without bizarre antics, he would have ended up winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

The G7 is meeting again in June 2022 in Germany.  Will they invite the current President? No. Will they discuss sanctions against Sri Lanka? Possible.

In the recent past, some Western countries have imposed travel bans on our leading Military Leaders who successfully prosecuted the war (Ranaviriwos).  This includes the country’s only Field Marshall and the current Army Commander.  In the latter’s case, the US sanctions included his family members. In the coming days, the UNHRC without passing a Resolution will ask its member states to adopt this practice. Some (UK, Canada, Germany, Macedonia and Montenegro) have already indicated that they will follow the Commissioner Bachelet’s instructions.

It is believed that 28 leading Ranaviriwos are to be listed by UNHRC.  Then, they will be banned from travelling to many Western countries.

This is most unfair.  This is a breach of the Ranawiruwos’ fundamental human right. At least they must be given a hearing. Otherwise, such action amounts to a clear breach of the rules of Natural Justice.

This time the UK is leading the fight against Sri Lanka.  They are likely to move a separate Resolution by early April.  Its contents are still unclear.

In the March 2021 Geneva vote, majority of the 47 members voted against Sri Lanka. It is likely that the majority will vote against Sri Lanka this time also.  Currently we seem to be having only 11 countries on our side. How many will abstain from voting, it is difficult to predict.

Based on the harshness of the impending UK Resolution (as stated before, likely to be successful), the EU could later impose tough sanctions on Sri Lanka such as withdrawing the GSP+ and other trade benefits. The EU can also ban fish exports from Sri Lanka. They have imposed such sanctions before. The fact that Sri Lanka has taken a neutral stand on the Ukrainian War, the West now has a chance to punish Sri Lanka.  Note the recent adverse travel advisories issued against Sri Lanka by the UK and Canada.

Let us hope that sanity will prevail and no harsh sanctions are imposed on Sri Lanka by the EU.

At the same time, Sri Lanka must make a u-turn from its combative approach to a conciliatory approach.

In the Channel 4’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” documentary broadcast in the UK on 14 June 2011 (see, YouTube video; Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” uploaded by ‘Real Stories’ on 20 September 2015), it made the main charge that Sri Lanka killed a large number of innocent Tamil civilians (40,000+) in the last stages of the war. This is a blatant lie on their part.

Channel 4 went on to making several supplementary videos that were also full of lies; they knew that Sri Lanka would not fiercely fight back.

It is of paramount importance that Sri Lanka stresses that it fought a very humane war. But, overall, there has been enormous apathy on Sri Lanka’s part in rebutting the baseless allegations. Basically, Sri Lanka sat and stayed idle allowing its enemies to go round spreading lies about the last stages of the war.  When the Darusman Report and the Channel 4 documentary were released, Sri Lanka did very little to attack their unfair findings and overall objectivity.

There was much that the government ought to have done.  But for a long period of time it maintained an eerie silence. This allowed time for the lies to be well established.

Much belatedly, in August 2011, the government came up with the documentary Lies Agreed Upon”. This effort is commendable. But, it failed to rebut the unfair Channel 4 allegations one by one.  When fighting against a powerful media organisation like Channel 4, there is no point in attacking them in an ad-hoc manner. What is important is to meticulously attack each and every lie. And, the Channel 4 video is full of lies.

Later, the Government released another documentary Humanitarian Operation – Factual Analysis”.  This was more about how the government had cared for the Tamils in the North between July 2006 to May 2009.

Again, Sri Lanka has been very passive.   It only issued mere denials – they were very short, sometimes confined to one or two sentences. Such responses were hopelessly insufficient. 

When Channel 4 offered Sri Lanka the opportunity to comment about the allegations, it should have grabbed the opportunity and made strong submissions within the Channel 4 programs. Surely, we have bright, capable people to undertake these tasks.

Again, overall, what Sri Lanka ought to have done was to embark on a vigorous campaign to rebut the war crimes allegations that were made against it. Sri Lanka should have fully utilised its diplomatic missions for this purpose.

After Australia’s ABC TV broadcast Channel 4’s Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” (narrated by Kerry O’Brien) on 4 July 2011 (then, again on 5 July 2011 and on 9 July 2011), this writer took all necessary immediate steps to initiate legal action against ABC TV in Australia. It was impossible to undertake such a task without the Sri Lankan government’s support (especially in regards to adducing evidence).  Initially the government indicated its willingness to support; but all of a sudden everything came to a standstill. The writer came to know that someone in highest of the government’s legal echelons had pulled the plug.  A golden opportunity to restore Sri Lanka’s honour, glory and dignity in Australia (thereby worldwide) was thwarted. The Application drafted by this writer sought an unspecified amount (in Australian dollars) from ABC TV as damages. He as Legal Counsel was going to conduct the matter himself in the NSW Supreme Court.

Note the writer’s comprehensive analysis on Channel 4 Lies and Deceptions published in Lankaweb on 15 September 2021. 

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