Wednesday, 19 April 2017

AI's longstanding ‘alliance’ with the LTTE

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 166

 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Publicly declining to testify before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) that has been tasked by the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to inquire into war crimes allegations, London headquartered Amnesty International (AI) joined the International Crisis Group (ICG) and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) to flay Sri Lanka.

 The LLRC commenced sittings in Aug 2010.

 In a joint statement issued on Oct 14, 2010, the three organizations called for a genuine, credible effort to pursue political reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka. Declaring that the LLRC had failed to meet what they called minimum international standards for commissions of inquiry, they said: "There is little to be gained by appearing before such a fundamentally flawed commission."

 "Accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka demands an independent international investigation."

The Rajapaksa administration brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

 In the wake the change of the Rajapaksa administration in January 2015, those who had been demanding an international investigation reached a consensus with the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government for inclusion of foreign judges in a local judicial mechanism. Their consensus paved the way for Geneva Resolution 30/1 on Oct 1, 2015.

 Against the backdrop of the AI Chief Salil Shetty calling for credible fresh investigation to examine major allegations directed at Sri Lanka, it would be pertinent to discuss the group’s intervention in Sri Lanka years before Shetty assumed leadership of the organization, in Dec 2009.

‘Sri Lanka, play by the rules’

 AI launched a high profile campaign, using the slogan ‘Sri Lanka, play by the rules’ in March-April 2007, targeting Sri Lanka. The project got underway at the onset of Vanni offensive west of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road. By then, the combined forces had been successful in seizing the upper hand in the Eastern theatre of operations. ‘Sri Lanka, play by the rules’ campaign coincided with the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 9th edition of the tournament that took place in the West Indies from March 13 to April 28, 2007.

The AI campaign was meant to pressure Sri Lanka to accept an international body to monitor abuses.

The campaign covered the Caribbean, Europe and South Asia, excluding Sri Lanka. AI planned to persuade celebrities, and members of the public, to sign foam cricket balls bearing the words: "Sri Lanka, play by the rules."

Explaining their choice of theme, Amnesty’s then deputy Asia Pacific director, Tim Parritt, said: "Just as all cricket teams need an independent umpire to make objective decisions, so too does Sri Lanka need independent human rights monitors to ensure that the government, Tamil Tigers and other armed groups respect the rules and protect civilians caught up in the conflict."

"Currently all parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka are breaking international law by killing civilians, destroying homes and schools, or forcibly disappearing people," he said in a statement.

"The situation has got far worse over the last year, and we decided it was time to take action."

A blatant lie

 Having rejected the LLRC, AI in Sept. 2011, launched its own report, titled: ‘When will they get justice? Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.’ The report estimated the number of civilian deaths, due to military action, over 10,000. The AI based its assertion on eyewitness testimony and information from aid workers. AI, too, guaranteed confidentially of its ‘sources.’ Perhaps for want of close cooperation among those who had wanted to drag Sri Lanka before an international tribunal, they contradicted themselves in respect of the primary charge. Interestingly, none of those, except British Labour Party MP Siobhan McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden-Labour) propagating lies, regarding civilian deaths dared to speculate about losses suffered by the LTTE. McDonagh estimated the number of LTTE cadres killed, in fighting, during January 1, 2009 to May 19, 2009, at 60,000. The previous government didn’t even bother to raise the Labour MP’s lie with the UK though The Island pointed out the need to clarify matters. The absurd claim was made during the third week of Sept 2011, in parliament. The previous government never realized the requirement to inquire into the possibility of British parliamentarians’ relationship with Tamil Diaspora. In fact, some politicians had benefited from their relationship. Influential Global Tamil Forum (GTF), during the previous administration, had hired former MP for Enfield, North Joan Ryan, as its policy advisor. Of course, the GTF had the backing of all major political parties with key politicians participating in its inauguration in the UK parliament, in Feb 2010, in the wake of the LTTE’s demise.

London headquartered AI is certainly aware of the propaganda project directed at Sri Lanka though it obviously failed to coordinate with others engaged in the operation. Had there been some basic engagement, among them, they wouldn’t have such discrepancy in numbers, pertaining to the civilians killed, due to military action. MP McDonagh should at least try to get her estimates right. Had she bothered to contact the UK or Europe-based LTTE rump, she would realize that 60,000 men and women hadn’t sacrificed their lives for the group since its inception.

The writer raised MP McDonagh’s lie with AI researcher Jeannine Guthrie at the conclusion of the press conference, given by the organization, at the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI), at Kirula Road, Colombo 6, on April 5, 2017. Guthrie declared that they knew how McDonagh’s estimate came about. In response to queries raised by The Island, AI admitted that a credible investigation was required to ascertain the number of people killed as well as enforced disappearances. AI called the briefing, after having met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera. Shetty was flanked by Biraj Patnaik (Regional Director, South Asia) and campaigner Yolanda Foster. The AI delegation included David Griffiths, Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary General, Jeannine Guthrie, researcher, Grant Bayldon, Section Director, AI, New Zealand and Omar Waraich, media manager, South Asia and South East Asia.

Sri Lanka should be grateful to AI for inadvertently telling the truth. AI’s call for hybrid judicial mechanism to probe war crimes allegations on the basis of the Geneva Resolutions of Oct 2015 and March 2017 is ridiculous against the backdrop of Shetty’s admission that the basis for Oct 2015 resolution is wonky.

Former AI senior in LTTE

delegation

 The LTTE and Tamil Diaspora had the clout to hire not only members of British parliament but former members of AI. It would be pertinent to mention that GTF policy advisor Joan had been once the Chairperson of Labour Friends of Israel (LFI) an influential group within the British parliament. The GTF hadn’t found fault with her for backing Israel, Sri Lanka’s key weapons supplier since the 80s. In fact, Sri Lanka couldn’t have brought the LTTE to its knees if not for the steady availability of Israeli ground attack aircraft Kfirs, Fast Attack Craft (FACs), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), anti-missile defence mechanism for Mi 24 helicopter gunships and a range of other equipment.

The LTTE hired Professor Francis Boyle who had served on the board of directors of AI (1988 to 1992) to represent the group at a high level meeting with the EU in Geneva in Oct 2005. The EU had been one of the co-chairs of the Norwegian-led Sri Lanka peace process. The inclusion of one time AI heavyweight, in an LTTE delegation, revealed the group power in spite of it being a proscribed organization in many countries, including the UK and EU as well. Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois, and a leading practitioner and advocate of international law, had represented the LTTE under controversial circumstances. The Geneva meeting took place on Oct 24, 2005, against the backdrop of an EU decision not to invite LTTE delegations. The EU slapped travel ban on the LTTE on Sept 26, 2005.  But this did not bar V. Rudrakumaran, a New York based attorney-at-law and a member of the LTTE negotiating team at the Norwegian-managed peace talks during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Premier meeting the EU on behalf of the LTTE.

Boyle had thrown his weight behind the LTTE in spite of him knowing atrocities committed by the LTTE. Boyle had been a member of the AI board of directors at the time the LTTE assassinated one-time Indian Prime Minister and Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi. The academic had no qualms in representing a group that threatened resumption of war in Sri Lanka unless the EU lifted the ban imposed on LTTE cadres visiting EU member states in the wake of Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar’s assassination on the night of Aug 12, 2005. The Jaffna University Students’ Union issued the dire warning on behalf of the LTTE. Boyle represented the LTTE in Geneva where the group threatened to resume military operations. The LTTE also demanded that Norway speak on behalf of the LTTE to the EU or face the consequences (LTTE front warns: Lift EU ban or face war, The Island, Oct 10, 2005). Perhaps, Shetty should examine Boyle’s relationship with the LTTE if he is really keen to understand the LTTE’s strategy. The writer is certain that Boyle hadn’t been the LTTE’s only contact. With Boyle’s backing the LTTE demanded the EU recognition for Prabhakaran’s leadership and the influential grouping support to achieve its objectives. The LTTE organized large scale protests on Oct 24, 2005 in Brussels and Oslo in support of its demands. (LTTE wants EU recognition of its national leadership; plans protest in Brussels, The Island, Oct 13, 2005).

Kadir’s assassination

The bottom line is that the LTTE wanted western powers to ignore Kadirgamar’s assassination. Regardless of the EU travel ban, the EU met LTTE representatives in Geneva. In addition to Rudrakumaran and Boyle, the LTTE delegation included TNA MP Gajendran Selvarajah and Norway and Denmark based representatives (Travel ban no bar for LTTE, EU meet in Brussels with strapline Ex-Amnesty International heavyweight in delegation, The Island Oct 28, 2005).

A deeper investigation is required to establish the LTTE’s relationship with Western governments. Thanks to Wikileaks, the world knows how the UK had facilitated a meeting between LTTE representative British passport holder of Sri Lankan origin Anton Balasingham and the then Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen and his deputy Vidar Helgesen in London regarding Kadirgamar’s assassination. The meeting took place on Aug 17, 2005, less than a week after an LTTE sniper shot and killed Kadirgamar through his chest during Norway supervised Ceasefire Agreement (CFA).

AI had never been bothered by even such a high profile assassination during the CFA. Would London have allowed a meeting between any other proscribed terrorist group and a foreign government to discuss a political assassination?

Let me reproduce a US diplomatic cable which dealt with Norway–LTTE talks in the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination. The letter sent by the Norwegian Foreign Minister to Prabhakaran is of crucial importance. The following is the full text:

Dear Mr Prabhakaran,

As I am sure you realise, the peace process is in a critical situation. The killings and counter killings over the last few months have been watched with mounting concern by Norway and the international community. Along with the continued recruitment of children to the LTTE, this has created distrust about the LTTE’s intentions as regards the peace process. The assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar has exacerbated the situation. It is not up to Norway to draw conclusions about the criminal investigations now underway in Colombo, or on any other judicial matter in relation to the killings. However public perception both in Colombo and internationally is that the LTTE is responsible. This public perception is a political reality. The LTTE needs to respond to this situation in a way that demonstrates continued commitment to the peace process.

I see it as my obligation to make clear to you the political choice now facing the LTTE. If the LTTE does not take a positive step forward at this critical juncture, the international reaction could be severe.

Against this backdrop I would ask you urgently to consider the following steps:

1. To accept the Norwegian Government’s invitation to participate in a review of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement in order to find practical ways of ensuring full compliance by both parties.

2. To establish direct communications between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Army in the East, in order to improve security.

3. To accept without delay the Sri Lanka monitoring mission proposal for transportation of LTTE cadres.

4. To collaborate in a practical way with Govt. initiatives to speed up reconstruction in the North and East. The LTTE’s continued commitment to the P-TOMs agreement is vital in this regard.

5. To take effective steps to halt killings and to cease the recruitment of underage combatants.

I trust that you appreciate the gravity of the present situation and will take steps to demonstrate to the international community that the LTTE is committed to the peace process.

Yours sincerely,

Jan Petersen

AI project during CFA

 In the wake Norway arranged CFA in Feb 2002; the LTTE launched a project to legitimise its control over areas held by the group. The then premier Wickremesinghe government hadn’t been aware what was going on in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The LTTE and its supporters among the international community moved swiftly and decisively to help the group consolidate its power in the region.

The LTTE secured the support of AI to spearhead the project.

 Interestingly, both AI and the UN under Secretary on children in conflict areas scheduled visits in the wake of the CFA.

 Olara Otunu, who had been here in May 1998 to explore ways and means of compelling the LTTE to end the use of children as cannon fodder met the then Foreign Minister Tyronne Fernando in New York (Olara Otunu to visit Wanni again––The Island June 20, 2002). AI ignored reports from UNICEF and the ICRC, which dealt with a major child recruitment drive under the nose of the Norwegian-led Scandinavian truce monitoring mission. (More flee training camps as LTTE assures UNICEF it will not recruit children–The Island June 21, 2002).

 On the invitation of the LTTE, a delegation of AI representatives arrived in Colombo in June 2002 for a two-week long visit. The government welcomed the AI delegation, which was led by Derek Evans, one-time Deputy Secretary General of AI. Evans was accompanied by Ingrid Massage, researcher on Sri Lanka at AI’s International Secretariat in London. Although AI had been in touch with the LTTE, the June 2002 visit was its first to an area under the outfit’s control in Sri Lanka.

Addressing the media in Colombo, at the conclusion of their visit here, Evans said that AI was ready to help the LTTE to refine its police force and judiciary. AI was of the view that it could go ahead with the plan. Evans declared in Colombo that AI had the expertise and resources to help the LTTE (LTTE seeks Amnesty help to tighten control–The Island).

The AI delegation went on to explain how its members had been given access to LTTE ‘police stations’ as well as detention centres in the Vanni. Much to the surprise of journalists covering its media briefing in Colombo, AI revealed that members of the delegation made some suggestions to help improve conditions at LTTE ‘police stations’ and detention centres. AI revealed that the LTTE was planning to establish more ‘police stations’ in areas under its control, though it already had 15 ‘police stations’ at the time of the AI visit.

The LTTE and AI also discussed training for ‘Thamileelam Police’, handling of prisoners and streamlining of the ‘Thamileelam judiciary.’

Obviously, the LTTE had high hopes of legitimising its terror through an international mechanism. AI asserted that the LTTE needed to prepare to take over police functions as it could be soon in charge of law and order operations under the proposed interim administration, for the then temporarily merged North-Eastern Province.

AI stressed the need to do away with what it called the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), to facilitate the peace process. Shetty’s delegation demanded the abolition of the PTA at the end of AI’s recent visit to Colombo.

The then President Kumaratunga had told AI in no uncertain terms that the LTTE had taken advantage of its visit to legitimise its reign of terror. The President said that AI’s presence in Vanni would only legitimise illegal detention facilities run by the group. The President criticised AI for visiting LTTE prisons, while suggesting that the visitors wouldn’t have been shown underground detention facilities. While Kadirgamar endorsed CBK’s assertion, AI bluntly told them that it had been invited by the government.

Had the LTTE remained committed to the Norwegian initiative, it could have had the opportunity to advance its strategy. However, it quit the negotiating process in April 2003 and set the stage for an all-out war three years later. The rest is history. Now, the AI is facilitating separatist objectives though the LTTE no longer commanded powerful fighting cadre in Sri Lanka.

The move to provide overseas training for ‘Thamileelam police’ should have been viewed against the backdrop of the AI plan to streamline both ‘Thamileelam police’ and its ‘judiciary. In fact, there hadn’t been a similar project in any part of the world. AI attempted to compare its project in the Vanni with its assignment in Afghanistan to train the police there. AI didn’t see a difference between the situation in Afghanistan and the areas under LTTE control.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Amnesty admits very basis of Geneva Resolution questionable

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 165

 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Amnesty International last Wednesday (April 5) admitted that the very basis of the Geneva Resolution 30/1 adopted in Oct 1, 2015 is questionable.

The London headquartered AI acknowledged that it couldn’t even vouch for its own report titled ‘When will they get justice?: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ released in Sept. 2011. The report submitted to the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) dealt with the eelam war IV (Aug 2006 to May 2009).

The AI asserted that a credible investigation is required to examine unsubstantiated allegations directed at Sri Lanka. Can there be a situation as ridiculous as calling for a credible investigation to verify accusations two years after adopting Geneva Resolution 30/1 on the basis of the same unproven claims.

The Sri Lankan military brought the war to a successful conclusion on the morning of May 19, 2009 on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

Secretary General of AI Salil Shetty admitted that a credible investigation was required to ascertain the number of people killed as well as enforced disappearances during the conflict in Sri Lanka. Bengaluru born Indian was responding to the writer at a media conference called by the AI at the Sri Lanka Press Institute (SLPI) on Kirula road, Colombo 6. Shetty was flanked by Biraj Patnaik (Regional Director, South Asia) and campaigner Yolanda Foster. The AI delegation included David Griffiths, Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary General, Jeannine Guthrie, researcher, Grant Bayldon, Section Director, AI, New Zealand and Omar Waraich, media manager, South Asia and South East Asia.

In addition to the local media, The Hindu, AFP and the AP covered the event. Both the AFP and AP didn’t even bother to report the briefing. The AFP correspondent was there for the opening statement.

In spite of him being responsible for the release of ‘When will they get justice?: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission,’ Shetty refrained from at least reconfirming the number of civilians killed as mentioned therein. Obviously, he is not sure of his own report though AI repeatedly made representations at UNHRC as well as at various other international forums over the years demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lanka.

Shetty sought the support of Jeannine Guthrie, Researcher for Sri Lanka when the writer, having displayed a copy of ‘When will they get justice?: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ sought an explanation in respect of the AI claim 10,000 civilians perished in the final phase of the conflict vis a vis varying claims made by other accusers.

Shocking secret pay-offs

Before discussing AI project in Sri Lanka, let me briefly focus on the circumstances under which Shetty succeeded Irene Khan in late Dec 2009 in the wake of the latter quitting the organization in a huff. Khan’s deputy, Kate Gilmore, too, left. Subsequently, an embarrassed AI admitted that Khan and Gilmore had been paid over £500,000 and £300,000, respectively. Massive secret AI payoffs shocked the entire NGO community against the backdrop of the organization primarily depending on funding from its membership and public donations.

Shetty had served the UN and Action Aid before succeeding Bangladeshi Khan, the first Muslim to head the organization.

Shetty and his associates at the briefing hadn’t been at least aware that ‘When will they get justice?: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ was released several months after the Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts’ (PoE) on Accountability in Sri Lanka issued in March 2011.

Reminding Shetty that his own ‘When will they get justice?: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’ estimated the number of civilians killed at 10,000, the writer sought an explanation as regards various figures that had been quoted by others, the UN, Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan and British Labour Party MP

Siobhan McDonagh.

*In March, 2011, PoE claimed 40,000 civilians perished on the basis of information provided by ‘credible sources.’ However, PoE insisted that its ‘credible sources’ wouldn’t be revealed until 2031.

*In Sept., 2011, AI estimated the number of civilians deaths due to military action at over 10,000. The AI based its assertion on eyewitness testimony and information from aid workers. The AI, too, guaranteed confidentially of its ‘sources.’

*In Sept., 2011British Labor Party MP Siobhan McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden-Labour) told House of Commons that 60,000 LTTE cadres and 40,000 Tamils perished during January-May 2009. The MP made the only specific reference to the number of LTTE cadres killed during a certain period. The politician ignored the writer’s emails seeking a clarification regarding her sources. The British HC in Colombo declined to comment on the MP’s claim.

*In March, 2017, MP Sampanthan declared in New Delhi that three decades long conflict claimed the lives of over 150,000 Tamil speaking people and over 50 per cent of the total Tamil population had fled the country. MP Sampanthan’s Office hasn’t so far not responded to the writer’s request for an explanation regarding the claim made at an anti-terrorism conference organized by the government of India.

Shetty and Guthrie couldn’t explain vast discrepancy in the numbers quoted by those wanting to haul Sri Lanka up before a hybrid war crimes court. Obviously, verification of accusations should have been done before they moved Geneva against Sri Lanka. They repeatedly assured the need for credible investigation to examine accusations when the writer suggested they should have reached consensus on allegations before passing resolution on Sri Lanka.

Shetty and Guthrie struggled to justify their call for war crimes court inclusive of foreign judges after having admitted that the basis of the Geneva Resolution had to be examined.

India let off the hook

While repeating a plethora of accusations against successive Sri Lankan governments in respect of a range of crimes and atrocities committed since early 80s, the AI conveniently let India off the hook. There hadn’t been absolutely no reference to India whose intervention here in the 80s transformed a violent campaign undertaken by several hundred Tamil youth to a war which couldn’t be even fully suppressed by the mighty Indian Army.

Shetty looked almost embarrassed when the writer asked whether the AI would take up the contentious issue of accountability with the government of India in respect of allegations made by the Tamil community here against the Indian Army. Shetty expressed the opinion that depending on the availability of evidence, issues could be taken up with India. Shetty didn’t expect the Sri Lankan media to question the basis of the Geneva Resolution or raise the issue of India’s culpability.

AI Chief refrained from commenting on the deaths and disappearances in the wake of Indian Army intervention in the Maldives in early Nov, 1988. Shetty gave the impression that he hadn’t been fully aware of Indian trained Sri Lankan terrorists making an attempt on the life of then Maldivian President Maumoom Abdul Gayoom. India thwarted the attempt to grab power in the Maldives but never accepted the responsibility for destabilizing the entire region.

Now that Shetty had announced plans to set up regional office in Colombo and demanded that Sri Lanka address accountability issues within the stipulated period of two years granted by Geneva, he should make a genuine effort to verify accusations directed at Sri Lanka and India. Perhaps, Shetty should speak with TNA MP Dharmalingham Suddarthan, who is on record as having blamed the premier Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for killing his father, a lawmaker in Sept 1985. Vanni District TNA MP has alleged that his father V. Dharmalingam and his colleague M. Alalasundaram had been abducted and killed by the TELO (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization) at the behest of the RAW. In fact, Dharmalingham had explained the RAW role in his father’s assassination in the 90s when he was interviewed in Colombo.

Having taken over the AI seven years ago, Shetty cannot pretend he lacked knowledge of the Indian intervention in Sri Lanka. Subsequently, the AI made available to the writer a report titled ‘SRI LANKA: THE INDIAN PEACE KEEPING FORCE AND "DISAPPEARANCES’ that dealt with 43 cases of disappearances blamed on the Indian Army during its deployment here. The report revealed that the AI had urged both India and Sri Lanka to inquire into the disappearances. Alleging that the Indian Army had been accused of human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial execution and "disappearances", the report released in Sept. 1990 underscored the Indian Army held thousands of prisoners without reference to the provisions of either Sri Lankan or Indian law. However, the report dealt with reports of "disappearances" only.

The Hindu report

The following is Colombo based Meera Srinivasan’s The Hindu report titled ‘It’s time to act in Sri Lanka’ with strap line Amnesty urges govt. to repeal Prevention of Terrorism Act:

"Acknowledging "important improvements" in the overall situation of human rights in Sri Lanka, Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty on Wednesday said it was now time for the government to act, after it recently got a two-year extension at the UN Human Rights Council to fulfill its commitments.

Drawing from a report that Amnesty released earlier this week on enforced disappearances, Mr. Shetty said: "Families of the disappeared have spent years, sometimes decades, waiting for answers. The government can delay no longer." Urging the government to swiftly operationalise the Office On Missing Persons and to repeal the Prevention of Terrorism Act, Mr. Shetty emphasized that Sri Lanka would not be able to break away from its violent past until families of the disappeared "get the truth they demand and the justice they deserve".

In addition to questions on accountability and militarization, people in the north constantly underscored poverty and the loss of livelihoods, particularly among women-headed households, Mr. Shetty observed.

"Often, this was closely linked to land... these are people whose land is their livelihood," he said, even as hundreds in the island’s north and east are protesting for their land, currently held by the military, to be returned.

On the sidelines of the press conference, Mr. Shetty told The Hindu geopolitical dynamics had a direct bearing on the nature of engagement of international actors. The fact that there was now a UNHRC resolution co-sponsored by the U.S. and Sri Lanka was positive. "But once it comes into the domestic sphere, I am not sure how much influence the U.S. or anybody else has."

Geneva Resolution forced

on Lanka

Obviously, Shetty has either no idea of what was going on in Sri Lanka and growing US influence here or he pretends lack of knowledge. Shetty couldn’t be unaware how US directed Sri Lanka to accept Geneva Resolution moved on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations in spite of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government expressing serious concern over the draft resolution. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha at the first informal session called by the US on the draft resolution on Sept 21, 2015 rejected it. Ambassador Aryasinha called for drastic changes. At the behest of the US, the government instructed Sri Lanka’s Geneva mission to accept the draft resolution based on unproven allegations.

It would be interesting to see whether the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government sought an explanation as regards the validity of allegations in the wake of Shetty’s admission. The PoE alleged that killing of civilians through widespread and indiscriminate deployment of heavy artillery and shelling of hospitals. Even if the present government lacked courage to take up Shetty’s statement with those who had been demanding hybrid court to address accountability issues, the latter certainly owed an explanation to the world.

The fact that Amnesty International is not certain of its allegation at least 10,000 had been killed due to military action is evidence of the previous government’s failure. The previous government turned a blind eye to repeated requests to take up significant discrepancies in the number of dead and disappearances claimed by the self-proclaimed international community with Western powers and NGOs propagating those lies. The Rajapaksa administration played politics with the Geneva issue. It lacked a cohesive strategy to address issues raised by Western powers. Instead of constantly engaging those who had been propagating lies with the intention of humiliating war winning Sri Lanka, the previous government hired costly US public relations firms to improve Sri Lanka’s image overseas.

Against the backdrop of Shetty’s shocking admission that credible investigation is required to ascertain the validity of numbers killed as well as enforced disappearances, would Sri Lanka request the UNHRC to examine still confidential UN report that dealt with the situation in the Vanni from Aug 2008 to May 13, 2009. The report placed the number of dead at 7,721 and the wounded at 18,479 on the basis of information provided by Tamils working for the UN and NGOs in the Vanni, the ICRC and the clergy.

The writer intended to ask the AI whether it had received a copy of the UN report or would request the UN to share it in the wake of Shetty’s scandalous admission in Colombo.

In fact, Shetty had now admitted that the entire process leading to Geneva Resolution is questionable as the very accusations which were basis for the co-sponsored resolution required reexamination.

The four party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) cannot act as if it is not concerned. As the main party representing Tamil speaking people, the TNA shouldn’t hesitate to seek an explanation from AI with regard to war dead and enforced disappearances. Although, Shetty at the onset of his briefing estimated the number of enforced disappearances at 100,000, it would be pertinent to ask the AI whether his organization had taken into consideration Sri Lankans leaving and entering foreign land through illegal means.

Western governments have repeatedly refused to assist Sri Lanka to establish the whereabouts of Sri Lankans living overseas under different names. In addition to those still languishing in refugee camps or similar facilities, the number of Sri Lankans given foreign citizenship over the past 30 years has never been revealed. Both Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Justice Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse had declared that those reported missing were either dead in battle or living overseas.

Did Shetty take into account those who could have died in treacherous Australian seas or seas adjoining while trying to reach Down Under in boats?

Although issuance of passports to Sri Lankans under new names is well known over the years, Sri Lanka never realized that some governments went to extent of changing ethnicity of those receiving new identities. One time top JVPer Kumar Gunaratnam received a new identity with changed nationality courtesy Australia. Canberra had renamed him Noel Mudalige Today, Gunaratnam is trying to become Gunaratnam again though Australia seems in no hurry to do away with his Australian citizenship.

Can Sooka help AI?

Perhaps, Shetty should get in touch with Yasmin Sooka, a member of the PoE to verify entire range of unproven allegations directed at Sri Lanka. Sooka, in her Forgotten: Sri Lanka’s exiled victims launched in June 2016 claimed to have had information pertaining to former LTTE cadres living overseas and the proprietor of the most comprehensive data on Sri Lanka.

The writer strongly believes proposed war crimes probe shouldn’t be a political issue. For those who really wanted to clear Sri Lanka’s name the issue is not the inclusion of foreign judges and other foreign experts, including defence lawyers but whether the accusations were valid. It would be the government’s responsibility to seek clarification in respect of unproven allegations before proceeding with the setting up of (1) A Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence (2) An Office on Missing Persons (3) hybrid court and (4) An Office for Reparations.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Chagie’s plight grim reminder of Sri Lanka’s failure in Geneva

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 164

 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Having defended Sri Lanka, in Geneva, during the recently concluded 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera grudgingly acknowledged the power of the foreign funded Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) backing war crimes and crimes against humanity allegations, against the government of Sri Lanka (GoSL).

Obviously, the naval veteran hadn’t been fully briefed about the well funded NGO operation, conducted in Geneva, over the years, much to the detriment of the GoSL. The Rajapaksa administration pathetically failed to counter the NGO project though it brought the war to a successful conclusion, in May, 2009.

Addressing the media, at war-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s office, at Nelum Mawatha, Battaramulla, the former member of parliament, representing the Digamadulla District, last Friday (March 31), explained the circumstances under which local NGO activists, spearheaded by Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu and Nimalka Fernando, and diaspora operatives, had overwhelmed him, in Geneva.

Flanked by former External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris and Dr. Channa Jayasumana of the National University Teachers’ Association (NUTA), Weerasekera disclosed how a Geneva-based Buddhist temple deprived him of an opportunity to use time allocated to the temple to defend Sri Lanka. Weerasekera admitted that he had to secure time allocated to another Buddhist temple, situated at Birmingham, for the same purpose.

Although, the Federation of National Organizations (FNO), the Joint Opposition as well as the Global Sri Lanka Forum (GSLF), behind Weerasekera’s effort, knew that the naval veteran required time allocated to an NGO registered with the UNHRC to make a presentation. They wouldn’t have thought the opponents power to influence Geneva temple to renege on its promise. Weerasekera claimed the Geneva temple had reneged at the last moment.

It would be pertinent to keep in mind the previous government lacked a cohesive strategy to counter lies propagated by various interested parties ranging from Western powers to local NGOs funded by them. Dr. Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu, who had been recently present at the launch of an academic programme at the Kotelawela Defence University (KDU) campaigned for the implementation of the Oct 1, 2015 Geneva Resolution. Executive Director of the Center for Policy Alternatives (CPA) Dr. Saravanamuttu, in his capacity as the Secretary to the CTFRM (Consultation Task Force for Reconciliation Mechanisms), threw his weight behind the Geneva sanctioned road map to address contentious issues. Dr. Saravanamuttu has taken a clear and consistent stand on allegations directed at Sri Lanka, regardless of the political party in power, and courageously demanded robust international participation in accountability process.

Although foreign judges’ participation is definitely contrary to Sri Lanka’s constitution, the writer is of the view that foreign participation can be quite advantageous to Sri Lanka and place those propagating lies in a difficult situation. Those who had been propagating high profile lies would have to prove them in the hybrid court. Let there be judges as well as other experts from India (in case there’ll be more than one such court) whose responsibility for launching terrorist groups here in the 80s is well documented. It would be the responsibility of the Joint Opposition to prove NGO operatives wrong without calling them traitors. Had the previous government acted responsibly in the wake of unsubstantiated allegations, Sri Lanka wouldn’t have ended up being accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Australia’s decision to deny visa to Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage, over such wild allegations, is a grim reminder of the previous government’s failure. Australia based its decision on unproven UN reports.

The writer raised the issue with Weeraselera at last Friday’s meeting at the former president’s office, at Nelum Mawatha, Battaramulla. Asked whether the JO would defend the country, even reluctantly, at a hybrid tribunal, Weerasekera said: "Such mechanisms aren’t acceptable under any circumstances."

Prof. Peiris refrained from responding to The Island query whether former President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa would defend themselves in a proposed hybrid court. The JO should examine the issue afresh without being influenced by political factors. Now that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government has reiterated commitment to the Oct 2015 resolution and secured two years to fulfill Lanka’s obligations, both the ruling coalition and the JO should reach a consensus on a Sri Lanka strategy. They shouldn’t engage in petty politics at the expense of the war-winning military and seek consensus on a strategy to meet the Geneva challenge. They cannot be absolved of their responsibility for defending Sri Lanka.

Premadasa era story

Before commenting further on the current situation, let me discuss the second JVP – inspired insurgency taken up at the then United Nations Human Rights Commission, way back in Feb-March, 1990. The United Nations Human Rights Council was established in 2006. Members of parliament Mahinda Rajapaksa and Vasudeva briefed the media, in late March 1990, at Hotel Taprobane, regarding the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) commending Sri Lanka’s human rights record much to their disappointment at the Geneva session. The duo had been there to raise the bloody counter insurgency campaign directed by President Premadasa at the JVP. However, the LTTE had negated their campaign by praising President Premadasa for restoring peace in the temporarily merged Northern and Eastern Provinces. The LTTE threw its weight behind the then UNP government as President Premadasa had been engaged in direct negotiations with the group. The LTTE worked closely with the government delegation, in Geneva, to thwart Rajapaksa and Nanayakkara. The writer had been among those journalists present at the Taprobane briefing, where Rajapaksa and Nanayakkara praised UK support for their effort. They commended one time British High Commissioner David Gladstone, who had earned President Premadasa’s wrath and was deported for interfering in national election. Who would have believed the LTTE coming to Sri Lanka’s rescue in Geneva just a few months before the group launched eelam war II. Whatever twice president Mahinda Rajapaksa said now, the SLFPer, at that time, strongly pushed for UN intervention in Sri Lanka.

Having defended President Premadasa in Feb-March 1990, the LTTE resumed hostilities in June 1990. The LTTE brought the 14-month honeymoon, with President Premadasa, to an end, alleging that their grievances weren’t addressed. Rajapaksa and Nanayakkara claimed that LTTE representatives in Geneva clearly undermined their effort though they promised not to interfere. During the media briefing, given on March 27, 1990, it also transpired that the then Opposition Leader Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s private secretary Lasantha Wickrematunga had fled the country following threats (Tigers commend President for bringing peace to N.E Province-The Island, March 28, 1990 and UN Human Rights Commission to visit Sri Lanka in June, also in the same edition).

The LTTE had no issue in praising Sri Lanka, at Geneva, as long as the Geneva project was within its overall strategy. Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t have thought, at that point in time, he would one day face Geneva allegations in respect of decisions taken as President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Those taking a particular stand, in Geneva, or some similar forum, for that matter, would be always guided by the interests of their sponsors. In fact, sponsorships will entirely depend on NGOs readiness to pursue specific strategies developed by sponsors. That is the undeniable truth.

Slain State Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne, in January, 1990, alleged that the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) had transferred a part of funds, that had been received from the London headquartered Amnesty International, to subversives, a reference to members of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramina (JVP). The unprecedented allegation was made at the weekly cabinet briefing, where Wijeratne flayed the BASL for not being concerned about the victims of violence unleashed by the JVP (AI funds to Bar Association channelled to subversives, The Island, January 26, 1990).

The LTTE defending Sri Lanka, in Geneva, and the unsubstantiated claim in respect of the BASL allegedly providing funds to ‘subversives’ meant controversial decisions could be made under extraordinary or not so extraordinary circumstances.

NGO operations

The National Peace Council (NPC), one of the most influential NGOs among the Western diplomatic community, threw its weight behind Sri Lanka’s call for two years to implement the Oct 1, 2015 resolution. Dr. Jehan Perera, executive director, NPC, sat with the GoSL delegation and expressed views in support of a resolution calling for time and space to Sri Lanka. Of course, Dr. Perera had the approval of NPC’s sponsors to back Sri Lanka as US-led Western powers, too, endorsed the resolution.

In fact, the GoSL, the LTTE rump, diaspora elements and local NGOs had approved the resolution whereas nationalist elements made an abortive bid to make an intervention through submission of reports countering war crimes accusations. Weerasekera handed over a comprehensive report, prepared by attorney-at-law Dharshan Weerasekera, on behalf of the Federation of National Organizations (FNO) titled ‘A factual appraisal of the OISL report: A rebuttal to the allegations against the armed forces’ to the Office of UNHRC Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein. In addition to that dossier, several other written reports, commissioned by the previous administration, had also been handed over to al-Hussein’s Office.

Obviously, the Western operation, against Sri Lanka, is certainly not reversible and every effort must be made to counter lies. It would be pertinent to mention that operations undertaken by the NGOs will continue as long as they received foreign sponsorships. Norwegian study Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian Peace Efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009 revealed the extent of funding available to local NGOs.

Christian Michelsen Institute (CMI) based in Bergen, a major recipient of Norwegian funds, led the evaluation of four separate peace efforts by Norway from 1997 to 2009.

A nine-member evaluation team comprised CMI’s Gunnar Sorbo, Jonathan Goodhand of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London and seven others, including four Sri Lankans. SOAS is part of London University (UK).

The CMI receives funding through the Research Council of Norway (NFR), which in turn is funded by the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Gunnar M. Sorbo, who had held several positions in several Norwegian institutions, including NFR and the Agency for International Development, headed the CMI investigation.

The report, in a special section, titled Aid and Peace, discussed the costly NGO project. Let me produce verbatim what the Norwegian investigation said regarding the expanding role of the NGOs: "However, they (NGOs) were invited for occasional meetings in the embassy and the foreign ministry in Oslo and when it became difficult for Norwegian diplomats to access the north, some of them played important roles in providing information about local developments. A Sri Lankan NGO network was established in Norway and the dialogue with the ministry was generally positive and fruitful."

The Norwegian report revealed that those who had been engaged in the peace process and related projects in support of the primary objective were funded to the tune of NOK 210 mn (approximately 28 mn US), between 2001 and 2004. Of the total funding, NOK 200 mn were received by ten organizations, including the Foundation for Co-Existence led by NGO guru the then darling of the Norwegians, Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe. According to the report, Rupesinghe’s outfit received about NOK 35 mn (about 6 mn US between 2004 and 2008). The National Anti-War Front also led by Dr. Rupesinghe, received substantial funding. The Norwegians named Dr. Rupesinghe as he had switched allegiance to President Rajapaksa at the onset of the eelam war IV after having immensely benefited from the Oslo government.

Among the other recipients were the Center for Policy Alternatives, One Text Initiative and the National Peace Council. Those receiving Norwegian grants were careful not to say anything critical of Norway’s handling of the peace process here. They refrained from being critical of the LTTE for obvious reasons. The Norwegians even funded the Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO), in spite it being a front for LTTE operations overseas.

Both CPA and NPC had been in Geneva at the recently concluded sessions with both backing the implementation of the Oct 1, 2015 resolution. The government seems to be either unable to comprehend the developments or simply accepted it had no option but to appease those who facilitated change of government in January 2015.

In addition to Norway, several other countries and major foreign NGOs, provide funds for their local counterparts. During the war, funding received from overseas was meant to promote a negotiated settlement, influence politicians representing major political parties, undermine military effort, discourage recruitment to armed forces and exploit the media. Those who had been wanting a settlement, favorable to the LTTE, propagated the lie that it cannot be defeated. A section of the media, and Colombo-based Western embassies as well as the Indian High Commission, promoted that view until the very end. They believed in an LTTE counter attack on the Vanni east front, even after the Army regained Kilinochchi, in early, January, 2009.

After the conclusion of the conflict, in May 2009, some of those who had been involved in projects, inimical to Sri Lanka, redirected their energies to implicate the Sri Lankan military in war crimes and influence the new administration to introduce a brand new constitution et al. They had never tried to convince the LTTE that it could never secure an outright victory over the military and therefore a negotiated settlement should be sought. Had they made a genuine bid, they could have proved their effort today.

Foreign funding had been made available to NGOs in spite of the end of war. The CPA, the NPC and Transparency International Sri Lanka had been major recipients of foreign grants during the 2008 to 2010 period. The war ended in May 2009. The CPA has received Rs. 272.31 million during the three-year period. The NPC and TI had received Rs. 171.23 million and 174.79 million, respectively.

The funding sources included Meyers Norris Penny Ltd RM (Canada), Canadian International Development Agency, Berghof Foundation (Germany), Facilitating Local Initiatives for Conflict Transformation (Germany), Stichting Cordaid (The Netherlands), Norwegian Embassy, Commission Des Communautes (Norway), ICT for Peace Foundation (Switzerland), Dep. F. Auswaert, Angelegenheiten (Switzerland), Swedish Embassy, Swedish International Development Agency, Goldman Sachs Grant (UK), Minority Rights GRP Ltd BCA (UK), European Commission, Transparency International Division (UK), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (UK), European Union, Diakonia (US), Forum of Federations/Forum Des (US), International Media Support (US), the Ford Foundation (US), Fredskorpset Bergen (US), National Endowment for Democracy (US), Partnership for Transparency Fund (US) and Academy for Educational Development (US).

Of Rs. 618.33 million received by the CPA, NPC and TI during the three-year period, Rs. 111.48 million had been donated by various other sources, not mentioned above.

Unfortunately, the previous government lacked a strategy to probe NGOs thoroughly.

Norway had been the largest donor to the three NGOs during the three year period. Norway had granted NGOs Rs. 148.11 million during the three-year period and the NPC the recipient of the single largest grant from them; it received Rs. 70.48 million.

The TI has received its largest single grant from Norway amounting to Rs. 63.28 million, whereas CPA’s single biggest contribution came from the European Commission (Rs. 43. 27 million).

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) has revealed that of NOK 2.5 billion spent on development cooperation during the period 1997 to 2009 in Sri Lanka, NOK 100 million was allocated for the peace process.

The European Commission (Rs. 55.61 million) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Rs. 43.11 million) are the second and the third major contributors.

The country’s banking system has no records of the exact amount of funds received by NGOs over the past three decades. An enormous amount of funds had been received by NGOs since Feb. 2002, with some countries and the UNDP providing funds to the LTTE Peace Secretariat.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

War crimes: Lanka overwhelmed by unsubstantiated allegations

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 163

 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Having received two additional years to fulfill the Oct 1, 2015 Geneva Resolution 30/1, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government last Friday (March 24) thanked those who had brought a second resolution 34/1 to give time and space to Sri Lanka.

Director Information, M. G. Jayathissa, on behalf of the government, issued a one page statement thanking the US-UK led countries for backing the second resolution that called for judicial mechanism, comprising local and foreign judges.

There had never been such a situation at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), where a country welcomed punitive action proposed on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Those who had fought the LTTE had been unjustly punished on the basis of unfounded UN allegations. A case in point is Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage being denied an Australian visa over war accusations directed at the Sri Lanka Army (SLA). Australia has found fault with Gallage for giving leadership to the 59 Division, deployed on the Vanni east, front during the final phase of the offensive. Alleging that the 59 Division had massacred Tamils, Australia turned down Gallage’s visa application. Gallage, presently Director General Infantry, wanted to visit his brother, in Australia, last Dec-January (2017).

An external investigation, launched during the previous Rajapaksa administration, led to resolution 30/1, and now the government reassured its commitment to the same resolution without even bothering to at least examine the accusations. In fact, yahapalana rulers hadn’t examined the UN allegations at all. The Rajapaksa administration, too, lacked a cohesive strategy to counter lies. The Rajapaksas squandered millions of USD on expensive US public relations firms in a ridiculous project to influence the US administration.

For want of a clear strategy, those who had been propagating unsubstantiated allegations pertaining to war crimes, and crimes against humanity, since the conclusion of the war, in May 2009, humiliated Sri Lanka at the Geneva sessions. The government turned a blind eye to what was going on in the run up to the crucial Geneva sessions.

The government did absolutely nothing to counter accusations. The government’s failure facilitated those who had been propagating unsubstantiated allegations against the war-winning military. The government lacked courage at least to point out the vast discrepancy in varying figures pertaining to war dead, quoted by those wanting to haul Sri Lanka up before a hybrid court.

Sampanthan’s claim

Attorney-at-law Rajavarothiam Sampanthan, MP, recently declared that the nearly three decades long war had claimed the lives of 150,000 Tamils.

Trincomalee district MP conveniently refrained from differentiating civilians from those who had died fighting for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Sampanthan asserted that 50 per cent of the Tamil population had fled the country, during the conflict, while blaming successive Sri Lankan governments for the plight of his people.

The 84-year-old veteran politician was addressing the Counter Terrorism Conference 2017 at the Hyatt Regency, New Delhi, organized by The India Foundation, in association with the Government of Haryana, and the National Investigation Agency (NIA). India established NIA close on the heels of the devastating Mumbai massacre, in late Nov 2008, blamed on Pakistan - based Islamic terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (l-e-T).

The third edition of the Counter Terrorism Conference attracted both politicians and various security experts. In addition to Sampanthan, Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe and Law and Order and Southern Development Minister Sagala Ratnayake made presentations.

The Indian government - sponsored event coincided with the ongoing 34 sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Key speakers discussed issues relating to ‘terrorism in the Indian Ocean region’ without any reference whatsoever to the LTTE whose sea going arm, Sea Tigers, once threatened international shipping. LTTE terrorism had inspired terrorist groups in various parts of the world. Daring Sea Tiger attacks on the Sri Lankan Navy vessels had inspired Al-Qaeda suicide bombing of guided missile destroyer USS Cole, in Oct 2000, in Aden, Yemen. Israel has said that the Jewish State had been a victim of suicide bombing, pioneered by the LTTE, and Indian trained terrorists, belonging to the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), almost succeeded in assassinating Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, in early Nov 1988.

Leader of the Opposition, Sampanthan, who heads the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) addressed the gathering on March 15. Sampanthan tackled the issue in his speech, aptly titled ‘ballot vs bullet’ and was extensively covered in the local media. Sampanthan justified LTTE terrorism. (Of course, he conveniently refrained from mentioning how India sponsored terrorism in Sri Lanka to achieve its geo political objectives, as outlined by no less a person than one time Foreign Secretary, J.N. Dixit, in his memoirs, Makers of India’s Foreign Policy, launched in January 2004)

Sampanthan declared that Tamils had resorted to terrorism (TNA leader called it armed revolt) more than three decades after Sri Lanka gained independence, following the failure of democratic and political process. Referring to the bloody war in Sri Lanka, Sampanthan declared: "... was a classic instance, in which the bullet filled the void created by failure in the process of the ballot."

Sampanthan asserted that the war could have been avoided had the government accepted the Tamils right not to be governed from Colombo.

Sampanthan’s unprecedented claim, in respect of 150,000 Tamils killed should be thoroughly examined against the backdrop of different figures quoted by the UN, and various other parties wanting to haul Sri Lanka up before the proposed hybrid war crimes court, in accordance with the Geneva Resolution 30/1 adopted on Oct 1, 2015. Sri Lanka, last week, reiterated its commitment to 30/1.

Though the writer had referred to the TNA’s sordid past in numerous times, it would be necessary to recall the formation of the grouping consisting of politicians and members of one-time India sponsored terrorist groups. The PLOTE that had made an abortive bid to assassinate Maumoon Abdul Gayoom is among constituents of the TNA, now in control of the Northern Provincial Council, as well as parliament.

The LTTE formed the TNA, in late Oct 2001. Having joined the LTTE-led formation, Sampanthan remained faithful to its cause though his colleague V. Anandasangaree quit the outfit at an early stage. The TNA remained an appendage of the LTTE until the Sri Lankan military brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009. Had Sri Lanka allowed Western powers to rescue LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, in May 2009, Sampanthan would certainly not have received an invitation to address the India - sponsored event at Hyatt Regency. Had Prabhakaran survived, perhaps Western powers, the TNA, as well as funded civil society organizations wouldn’t have moved Geneva against Sri Lanka. They wouldn’t have moved a series of resolutions in Geneva, finally leading to consensus on resolution 30/1 in Sep/Oct 2015.

Had the war ended in a stalemate, the LTTE would have remained the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people as declared by Sampanthan, himself, in the run up to eelam war IV. Prabhakaran would never have accepted the TNA, in the decision making process, under any circumstances. The TNA had no option but to carry out Prabhakaran’s directives or face the consequences. A case in point is Prabhakaran’s decision to prevent Tamils exercising their franchise in support of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, at the Nov 2005, presidential polls. Prabhakaran purposely sabotaged the understanding between the UNP and the TNA to ensure Wickremesinghe’s victory. Prabhakaran wanted UPFA’s Mahinda Rajapaksa to win as he naively believed the SLFPer could have been easily overwhelmed, both on the political front as well as on the battlefield. Rajapaksa proved Prabhakaran wrong within three years after the latter launched eelam war IV, with spectacular coordinated attacks on the northern and eastern theaters, in Aug 2006.

TNA silent on key issues

Now that Sampanthan has quite confidently placed the number of Tamils killed at 150,000 before an international audience, he should be able to provide a breakdown in respect figures during the different stages of the conflict.

The TNA chief should also explain the despicable partnership between his party and the LTTE confirmed by the EU, in June 2004, following the parliamentary polls, in April 2004.

First of all, Sampanthan should explain whether those who had been killed, fighting for the LTTE, were included in the 150,000. Even seven years after the war, the LTTE appendage TNA is silent on the number of Tamils, including children, perished in fighting for the LTTE.

The TNA shouldn’t hesitate to present evidence it had in respect of ‘150,000 Tamils killed’ to the proposed hybrid court and demand tangible action against successive governments, including that of twice President and Commander-in-Chief of armed forces Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (Aug 1994-Nov 2005). Kumaratunga, widely credited for liberating the Jaffna peninsula during her first term, today functions as the Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR).

Sampanthan’s recent claim should be examined against the backdrop of the UNSG Panel of Experts (PoE) placing the number of civilians killed at 40,000. The UN assessment has been made on the basis of about 4,000 submissions received by the three-member Darusman Panel. The PoE has received information from about 2,300 persons. It would be pertinent to mention that these accusations cannot be verified until 2031 in accordance with a UN directive. Even then, verification has to be approved by the UN.

Obviously, Sampanthan has received and gathered much more evidence than the PoE to place the number of dead at 150,000.

Sampanthan should be able to reveal how many Tamils were killed during fighting among various terrorist groups as well as the battle between the LTTE and the Tamil National Army (TNA) formed by India, in late 1989.

Various interested parties quoted varying unsubstantiated figures since the conclusion of the conflict. Interestingly, Sampanthan claim that 150,000 had been killed in 30 years placed into insignificance when one considered what the British parliament was told two years after the conclusion of the conflict, in May 2009.

= British Labor Party MP Siobhan McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) told the House of Commons, in September, 2011, that 60,000 LTTE cadres and 40,000 Tamils perished during January-May 2009. The MP made the only specific reference to the number of LTTE cadres killed during a certain period. The politician ignored the writer’s emails seeking a clarification regarding her sources. The British HC in Colombo declined to comment on the MP’s claim.

* Special Amnesty International report titled When will they get

justice: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission also released in September 2011 estimated the number of civilian deaths at 10,000 during the final phase of the eelam war IV.

* A confidential UN report placed the number of the dead and wounded, including LTTE combatants, at 7,721 and 18,479, respectively. The report dealt with the situation in the Vanni, from August 2008 to May 13, 2009. The war ended a week after the UN stopped collecting data due to the intensity of the fighting.

The UN is yet to release the report though it was made available to Darusman. Will it be placed before the proposed judicial inquiry? It would be pertinent to mention that the UN report had been based on information provided by those who were trapped in the war zone and even today further verification can be made as the identities of those who had provided information are known to the UN. Darusman refused to accept the report as it contradicted his own claims.

Ramadoss in Geneva

The eelam lobby also brought in Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, MP, in support of their Geneva project. Former Indian Health Minister claimed that the Sri Lankan military had massacred over 100,000 Tamils, in 2009. The Indian’s statement should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka bringing the war to a successful conclusion on May 19, 2009. Perhaps, Ramadoss and British Labor Party MP Siobhan McDonagh had been adviced by the same party as both claimed 100,000 Tamils died, in 2009.

Let me reproduce the statement made by Ramadoss posted on UK Tamil News website: "I come here on behalf of 78 million Tamil people in India.

The Tamils in Sri Lanka have been subjected to constant racial abuses, ethnic cleansing and structural genocide since its independence, which culminated in the killings of more than 1,00,000 Tamils, in 2009, by the Sri Lankan Government forces. Even after 8 years Justice has not yet reached the victims.

The report of the High Commissioner on Sri Lanka assesses the progress the Government of Sri Lanka has made on transitional justice as ‘worryingly slow,’ describing actions taken so far as ‘inadequate to assure real progress.’ It is vital, therefore, that the Human Rights Council continue its oversight of the accountability process in Sri Lanka with renewed vigor.

"The High Commissioner’s report reiterates the need for international involvement in a special hybrid court for crimes committed during and after the war. A weak and ethnicized judicial system refuses to punish military personnel when the victims are Tamils. Just last week, we learned that 10 Sri Lankan soldiers, accused of the 1997 murder of two Tamil youths, in Siruppiddy, are to be acquitted on the instructions of the Attorney-General.

"The structural genocide of Tamil Eelam continues as Sinhalisation, land grab and military presence in the Tamil region remains. The democratically elected Tamil Nadu assembly, in India, representing 78 million Tamil people, had unanimously passed three resolutions demanding a Judicial tribunal on war crimes and genocide and conducting a referendum.

"Sri Lanka has got the audacity to not only kill its own citizens but also the neighbouring Indian citizens as well. Just a fortnight ago the Sri Lankan navy brutally shot and murdered an Indian fisherman, from Tamil Nadu, called Bridjo. It is highly condemnable that Sri Lankan Navy has murdered more than 600 Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu in the last 35 years and still continue to do so.

"The President and Prime Minister of Sri Lanka have repeatedly stated that no international involvement will be allowed, contrary to commitments made in resolution 30/1. As the next step of non-compliance, Pasumai Thaayagam strongly recommends that the UNHRC must immediately refer Sri Lanka to the General Assembly and the International Criminal Court (ICC). It is high time the UNHRC and the International Community  respects the right of the Tamils to exercise the right to self determination and find a lasting solution through a referendum."

Ramadoss should be asked to reveal the number of SriLanka Tamils killed by the Indian Army during its deployment (July 1987-March 1990) and comment accusations pertaining to rape of women.

Sushma’s anguish and pain

Having caused massive death and destruction in Sri Lanka, neighbouring India continues to shed crocodile tears. Unfortunately, Sri Lankan politicians lacked the courage to remind India of its duplicity. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj strongly condemned Sri Lanka’s human rights record ahead of the passage of resolution endorsing 30/1.

The Indian media quoted Swaraj as having said that India felt anguish and pain over the Sri Lankan military’s alleged war crimes against unarmed Tamils in the 2009 war.

Ms. Swaraj reiterated India’s commitment to the protection of the rights of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

"The anguish with which the members have raised the issue [of crimes committed during the war of 2009], the government associates itself with the same pain," Ms Swaraj said.

"Our aim is to protect the interests of Tamils in Sri Lanka. You can achieve this through two means: by either doing it forcefully or through persuasion with the friendly country," she said answering a question from D. Raja of the Communist Party of India (CPI).

India should take the responsibility for her actions in the 80s that caused massive destruction in Sri Lanka. It would be pertinent to ask Swaraj whether mother India accepted Sampanthan’s claim in respect of 150,000 Tamils killed in 30 years or Ramadoss’s over 100,000 massacred in five and half months. Sampanthan, too, should acknowledge his outfit’s relationship with the LTTE and how it benefited as a result of LTTE terrorism. Sri Lanka shouldn’t hesitate to face the hybrid court, let Indian judges take part in the process, and hear how India subverted a small neighbour to her heart’s content until Sri Lanka finished off the murderous LTTE, in May, 2009.