Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Keshap recalls ‘checking into Colombo very much caught in the teeth of war’



Indeewari Amuwatte interviewing outgoing US Ambassador Keshap. He’ll be replaced by Alaina-B-Teplitz, currently US Ambassador in Kathmandu. The change takes place amidst high profile project to move US court against wartime Sri Lankan Ambassador in Washington, Jaliya Wickremasuriya. Keshap secured Sri Lanka’s consent to US action recently by obtaining an assurance that Wickremasuriya would be deprived of diplomatic immunity. Wickremasuriya is in the US unable to return to Colombo.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

US career Foreign Service Officer, Ambassador Atul Keshap, who oversaw a high-profile project to secure Sri Lanka’s consent to a resolution seen by many here as anti-Sri Lankan on ‘Promoting Reconciliation, Accountability and Human Rights in Sri Lanka’ within two months after 2015 August parliamentary election is leaving Colombo, with the operation in the balance.

The whole exercise is in jeopardy due to treasury bond scams involving tainted primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) allegedly perpetrated in Feb 2015 and March 2016.

In a record interview @ Hyde Park with Indeewari Amuwatte, shown on Derana 24/7 recently, Keshap, at the onset of the discussion recalled his first visit to Colombo in 2006 though he didn’t indicate the exact month but it was most likely to be after Aug. 2006. In his response to the opening question, Keshap recalled the grim situation in Colombo as the then Rajapaksa administration battled the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Colombo was under siege then.

The LTTE made an abortive bid in Dec 2006 to assassinate wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, now front runner for Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) candidature for the 2020 presidential poll.

Family visit during war

South Asia specialist Indian-American Keshap said: "I had a great time. There were so many memories. I first came here in 2006. And I was here for a very short stay for a conference. I remember landing in Colombo, (read Bandaranaike International Airport) late at night, all the flights come at late at night and it was very dark. There were a lot of checkpoints on the streets on the way into the capital. And checking into the city very much caught in the teeth of war. I remember it was an incredibly beautiful city. In fact, I brought my family back in 2007 for a very brief vacation."

We should be glad the then New Delhi-based diplomat felt comfortable in bringing in his family here during the war.

At the time of his first visit, Keshap had been based in New Delhi as deputy political counselor (2005-2008) and certainly knew what was going on here following the Norwegian failure to prevent the LTTE resuming war.

The LTTE launched eelam war IV with large scale simultaneous assaults in the northern and eastern theaters in the second week of Aug 2006.

Keshap acknowledged that he never thought at that time he would return to Colombo as the US Ambassador. Keshap would also not have envisaged the UNP perpetrating treasury bond scams, thereby jeopardizing a meticulously worked out plan to punish Sri Lanka for crushing the LTTE militarily against the wishes of the West. Keshap leaves Colombo with the UNP in a massive political crisis with some of its lawmakers accused of financially benefiting from those who had been involved in the treasury bond scams. Last week’s revelation of State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe and disgraced CB Governor Arjuna Mahendran receiving Rs 3 mn and 3.2 mn, respectively, embarrassed the yahapalana party.

The US announced Keshap’s appointment on March 26, 2015 in the wake of Michele J. Sison completing her term in Colombo in Dec 2014 ahead of the January 2015 presidential poll. The US played a significant role in the project that brought the Rajapaksa government to an end. The operation was almost similar to the one in support of war-winning Army Commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the January 2010 presidential poll. Fonseka lost the poll badly.

Geneva move

Keshap presented his credentials to President Maithrpala Sirisena on Aug. 21, 2015. Exactly a month later, Keshap was at the informal talks in Geneva where Sri Lanka rejected the draft resolution. The session called by the Core Group pursuing the matter obviously didn’t go as panned. The group comprised the US, the UK, Montenegro and Macedonia.

The then Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha didn’t mince his words when he quite rightly rejected the draft resolution. Sri Lanka accepted an amended resolution though it was essentially the same. The amended resolution was dated Sept. 24, 2015.

Let me reproduce verbatim the sections relating to judicial mechanism in the two draft resolutions: (September 21, 2015 draft resolution) Welcomes the government’s recognition that accountability is essential to uphold the rule of law and build confidence in the people of all communities of Sri Lanka in the justice system, takes note with appreciation of the government of Sri Lanka’s proposal to establish a Judicial Mechanism, with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable; and affirms that credible transitional justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality; and calls upon the government of Sri Lanka, to involve international investigators, prosecutors and judges in Sri Lanka’s justice processes.

(September 24, 2015 draft resolution) Welcomes the government’s recognition that accountability is essential to uphold the rule of law and build confidence in the people of all communities of Sri Lanka in the justice system, takes note with appreciation of the Government of Sri Lanka’s proposal to establish a Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, as applicable; and affirms that a credible justice process should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for integrity and impartiality; and further affirms in this regard the importance of participation in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism, including the Special Counsel’s office, of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorized prosecutors and investigators.

The Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council, on October 1, 2015, adopted, what it called, a consensus resolution on accountability for the alleged human rights violations during the war.

The 47-member body is divided into five regional groupings. Members are chosen for three-year periods.

Western powers moved three resolutions, targeting Sri Lanka, in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The third resolution demanded an external inquiry into accountability issues. The draft resolution finally adopted in 2015 is largely based on the findings and recommendations made in a report prepared in accordance with the 2014 resolution. The report was prepared by UN staffer, Ms Sandra Beidas, formerly of the Amnesty International.

Having caused terrorism, in Sri Lanka, in the 80s, leading to massive death and destruction, India continues to play the overt role of friendly neighbour. Sri Lanka lacked the courage at least to make a reference to India’s despicable role during the Geneva sessions since the contentious issue of Sri Lanka’s accountability was included in the UNHRC’s agenda.

Post-war treachery

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government fully cooperated with the US and its allies hell-bent on proving the previous administration guilty on unsubstantiated war crimes charges. The US State Department ignored what its wartime Defence attache Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith said in Colombo in early June 2011. Smith is on record as having denied specific allegation pertaining to the execution of surrendering LTTE cadres and their families in May 2009 a.k.a ‘white flag case.’

Keshap did well in his first ambassadorial appointment. He ensured that Lt. Col. Smith’s explosive was never ever taken up and the Geneva Resolution proposed on allegations never examined at any level and protected by confidentiality clause until 2031, adopted without a vote.

It is certainly not fare to find fault with Keshap for in doing his job of pursuing US objectives regardless of consequences for the host country.

The US simply ignored revelations made in the British House of Lords in Oct 2017 on the basis of wartime dispatches of Lt. Col. Anton Gash, British counterpart of Lt. Col. Smith. In fact, the assertions made by Colombo-based British and US military attaches seemed to be alike and Amb. Keshap description of Colombo at the onset of the eelam war IV highlighted the LTTE threat on the city, a city under siege.

South Korean experience

Recently, it transpired that Colombo was so much under threat that South Korea seriously considered closing down its mission here during the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s presidency. Current South Korean Ambassador Heon LEE had been here at the time the LTTE stormed the BIA and made an abortive bid to assassinate Kumaratunga at the final 1999 presidential polls campaign rally at the Town Hall grounds. On the same day, at Ja-Ela, north of Colombo, the LTTE assassinated retired Maj. Gen. Lucky Algama, who was campaigning for the UNP. Heon LEE was a junior diplomat at that time.

Keshap couldn’t have been unaware of the LTTE-Tamil National Alliance (TNA) partnership as he was based in New Delhi and how the latter unashamedly represented LTTE interests, both in and outside parliament. Having stood by the LTTE until the very end, the TNA emerged as the first Northern Province administration in Sept. 2013 under the leadership of retired Supreme Court judge C.V. Wigneswaran. The LTTE and the TNA reached a consensus in late 2001 and they pursued a common agenda until the previous government annihilated the former on the Vanni front.

It would be pertinent to discuss a tripartite understanding involving Sri Lanka, the US and the TNA reached ahead of Keshap presenting his credentials to President Sirisena on Aug 21, 2015. The public wouldn’t have known about this agreement if not for TNA Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran’s declaration at a Congressional caucus briefing on June 14, 2016.

The event was moderated by Sadanand Dhume of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank. The Caucus is an initiative launched by United States Congressmen Bill Johnson of Ohio and Democratic Danny Davis of Illinois, in November, 2013.

On behalf of the TNA, its spokesperson and Jaffna District parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran told a ‘Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka’ in Washington that the government of Sri Lanka, the TNA and the US had been involved in the negotiations leading to the agreement.

Sumanthiran in Washington

Let me reproduce the section of Sumanthiran’s speech verbatim that specifically dealt with the US intervention. That part was headlined ‘On the role of the US.’ Sumanthiran said: "I think the US has played a very significant role already in the resolutions that it mooted in the UN Human Rights Council encouraging changes, and therefore must continue to play that role. It is true that there has been a significant change, a monumental change as described by the Ambassador, but the foot must not be taken off the pedal too early. For the simple reason that we have seen change, as a result of some pressure, some encouragement, some nudging and those must continue. Our plea to the US government would be don’t express satisfaction too early as there is still a lot to do during that phase."

Sumanthiran was there referring to a statement made by the then Sri Lankan Ambassador to Washington Prasad Kariyawasam (currently Foreign Secretary). For want of a cohesive strategy Sri Lanka pathetically failed to present its case, thereby allowing the Tamil Diaspora to exploit the US system for their advantage. Sirisena-Wickremesinghe simply ignored the circumstances leading to the formation of the Congressional caucus in Nov 2013, four years after the conclusion of the war in Sri Lanka. The Diaspora never ever examined the possibility of the LTTE being defeated on the northern front though they suffered some setbacks on that front. However, following their defeat, the Diaspora worked overtime to win US public sympathy. They felt the need to secure the support of the public, lawmakers and interest groups to the Tamils in Sri Lanka. It would be pertinent to mention that the UK and Europe based Diaspora by then had formed the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) and were pursuing a well funded campaign against Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the foolish Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government did nothing to counter anti-Sri Lanka propaganda projects, both here and overseas. The government was busy humiliating the previous administration responsible for unparallelled victory over terrorism.

Congressman visits Kilinochchi

The Diaspora had a way with politicians. They used selected British and Canadian politicians as well as US Congressman Danny Davies, who had been involved in the formation of the Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka’was one of those tainted politicos to visit LTTE held Vanni in the run-up to the eelam war. Davies visited Kilinochchi in April 2005, ahead of the parliamentary and presidential polls. The late TNA MP Joseph Pararajasingham accompanied Davies when the US citizen visited Kilinochchi-Mullaitivu region. Davies met the then head of Tamileelam police P. Nadesan in Kilinochchi where preparations were being made to overwhelm Sri Lanka, at both political and military fronts.

Outgoing US Ambassador Keahap, in his interview with Derana 24/7 discussed a range of issues, including the Geneva Resolution and post 2015 January developments.

Sri Lanka, during Keshap’s tenure created history by being the only country to co-sponsor a Resolution against its own armed forces on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. Sri Lanka received Keshap’s praise for its treacherous act. In responding to Amuwatte, Keshap praised what he called leadership given by the government in 2015 and 2017 ‘in joining hands with the US and with well intending international partners, including the UN, to co-sponsor a resolution that talked about the bright vision of the voters of the country for a reconciled, peaceful and happy Sri Lanka.’

However, there was absolutely no reference to significant US investments here in support of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration. US investments, ranging from post-January 2015 presidential poll USD 3.4 mn to far bigger ‘donations’ made in support of high profile project to bring the Rajapaksa administration to an end as revealed by the US State Department. The US categorized Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Burma as ‘democracy projects’ that received USD 585 mn during 2015.

The US embassy ignored The Island request to reveal the exact amount allocated for Sri Lanka. In addition to that during Keshap’s tenure US finalized a three-year project in late 2016 with parliament to strengthen democratic reforms et al. Sri Lanka ignored US efforts to weaken Sri Lanka by promoting those who sought to divide the country on ethnic lines by bringing in a new Constitution or at least diluting executive powers. Having enacted 19th Amendment to the Constitution in April 2015, the US is working overtime to assist the TNA efforts. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka lacked vision to counter these projects meant to destabilize the country.

Ongoing controversy over US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell’s strategy never received the attention of our political parties struggling to cope up with treasury bond scam revelations and other projects near and dear to them.

The international media reported demands that German leader Angela Merkel expel the American top diplomat in the country, who was recently quoted as having said that he was working to "strengthen" right-wing political movements in Europe.

The German foreign ministry has said it had "asked the US side for clarification" after the card-carrying Republican indicated readiness to intervene in European politics – a massive breach of diplomatic protocol.

Here, foreign envoys can get away with anything.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018





Dharmasena Welipitiya captured Gotabhaya Rajapaksa leaving the podium after addressing Viyathmaga Convention 2018 on May 13, 2018 at Shangri-la, Colombo.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Ravaya and Annida (Day After Tomorrow) edited by attorney-at-law K. W. Janaranjana, former editor of Ravaya, recently dealt with the possibility of war-winning Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa contesting the 2020 presidential election. In fact, both Ravaya and Annida allocated significant space to the contentious issue of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa entering the presidential race, following the Viyathmaga Convention 2018 at Colombo’s latest five-star hotel Shangri-La on the evening of May 13, 2018.

Civil society activist Janaranjana, co-convenor of Purawesi Balaya launched the new publication after having quit Ravaya over personal differences with the founder editor Victor Ivan, a former senior active member of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) during its first attempt to overthrow the then Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government in April, 1971. In spite of the break-up, Ravaya and the breakaway faction are continuing courageous journalism with no holds barred on their criticism of the government and the Joint Opposition (JO).

The possibility of Gajaba Regiment veteran Rajapaksa securing the nomination from the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) seemed to have aroused many. With former External Affairs Minister and SLPP Chairman, Prof. G.L. Peiris, repeatedly declaring that it would contest the next parliamentary and presidential poll under its symbol, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa appeared to be the front runner though the breakaway SLFP-led UPFA faction (read JO) is still struggling to comprehend the reality.

Civil society activist, Sunanda Deshapriya, in his latest piece titled Gotabhaya Perahera (Procession of Gotabhaya) in the June 3, 2018, edition of Ravaya, lucidly discussed the former Defence Secretary’s strategy. Before proceeding, it would be pertinent to mention that Sunanda is the brother of Mahinda Deshapriya, outspoken Chairman of the National Election Commission (NEC), who is full brave talk, but short on action by his NEC when it comes to holding polls on time. 

Alleging that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had been backed by retired military top brass (Sunanda named retired Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekera and retired Maj. Gen. Kamal Gunaratne as key supporters, in addition to Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila), the civil society activist asserted that the Rajapaksa Group believed (1) the national issue did not require a political settlement based on the devolution of power (II) economic development is the panacea for the country’s problems and that war crimes weren’t perpetrated during the war (Aug 2006-May 2009) (III) continuation of waste, corruption and irregularities in the public sector.

Referring to President Maithripala Sirisena’s May 30, 2018 declaration that he wasn’t even aware of the much touted 100-day yahapalana programme, Sunanda alleged the SLFP leader was facilitating the Rajapaksa project.

He alleged that the treasury bond scams, involving tainted primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries Limited (PTL) in 2015 and 2016, had led to the current political crisis, with President Sirisena flaying the UNP. 

Declaring Wickremesinghe would suffer a heavy defeat in case he contested the 2020 presidential poll, the long standing NGO lobbyist insisted that whatever the issues caused by Wickremesinghe and his henchmen, President Sirisena had no right to cause political mayhem. Sunanda Deshapriya strongly criticized President Sirisena for distancing himself from the 100-day programme. But, what really captured the attention of the reader was Sunanda’s assessment on Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s presidential bid. 

Claiming that the JO rejection of the JVP proposed 20th Amendment, meant to further weaken the executive presidency, indicated the breakaway SLFP-led UPFA faction was ready to throw its weight behind the younger Rajapaksa, Sunanda asserted: "Whether Mahinda Rajapaksa liked it or not Gotabhaya will be the SLPP presidential candidate. The US is the main factor that can thwart Gotabhaya. If the US bureaucracy delayed decision on Gotabhaya’s request to rescind his US citizenship, his presidential dream cannot be realized. In the final analysis, Gotabhaya’s political fate will be in the hands of US imperialists to decide whether to allow Gotabhaya to proceed."

In accordance with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, enacted in April 2015, those with dual citizenship cannot contest either presidential or parliamentary polls. Interestingly, those loyal to twice President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, voted for that Amendment. The only exception was Digamadulla MP Sarath Weerasekera.

Newly appointed SLFP National Organizer Duminda Dissanayake and UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam on Monday (June 4) declared President Sirisena and PM Wickremesinghe as their presidential candidates, respectively, at the 2020 poll. Cabinet spokesman Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, too, have declared their readiness to contest on the UNP ticket.

A crucial US visit amidst fresh crisis

 An irate President Sirisena couldn’t have carried out such a venomous assault on Wickremesinghe at a worse time. Although, there had been public criticism of the UNP and its top leadership since nominations for the Feb 10, 2018 Local Government polls, President Sirisena advanced his strategy to a new level. Angry over alleged UNP strategy to humiliate him vis-a-vis the statesmanship of re-elected Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamed and deliberately leaving him out of a commemorative event to mark the birth anniversary of yahapalana architect the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha, President Sirisena went all out against Wickremesinghe.

Earlier in the day, President Sirisena received a bipartisan delegation from the U.S. House of Representatives led by Congressman Mac Thornberry (Republican – Texas), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The visit highlighted the broad bipartisan support for Sri Lanka in the U.S. Congress. The powerful Committee is responsible for the supervision of the Department of Defence and the armed forces and sections of the Department of Energy.

During the visit, the delegation met President Sirisena, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya, Leader of the Opposition and Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan, State Minister of Defense Ruwan Wijewardene, Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam, Defense Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne, members of Parliament, and civil society.

The high level US visit took place in the wake of unprecedented simmering crisis over some members of parliament receiving money from Walt and Row Associates, affiliated to the disgraced PTL in the run-up to the 2015 Aug parliamentary polls. The US obviously realizes high profile project undertaken by the international community (read as US and its allies, including India) to change the 1978 Constitution is in jeopardy due to continuing crisis caused by the treasury bond scams. The US wouldn’t have envisaged for a moment, the UNP ‘storming’ the Central Bank, twice, over a year apart, thereby undermined the meticulously planned project.

Having galvanized the electorate, on the basis of alleged massive corruption, during the Rajapaksa era, the US is in a deeply embarrassing position as the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government struggles to cope up with the treasury bond scam revelations. With civil society activist Keerthi Tennakoon, executive director Human Rights and Research Sri Lanka, vowing to reveal the names of all PTL beneficiaries, including religious leaders, the yahapalana government is in disarray. Another high profile US project to promote good governance and accountability in Sri Lanka, finalised in Nov 2016, should be re-examined against the backdrop of corruption charges directed at lawmakers representing various political parties. The US declaration that the three-year Strengthening of Democratic Governance and Accountability Project (SDGAP) would improve strategic planning and communication within the government and Parliament, enhance public outreach, develop more effective policy reform and implementation processes, and increase political participation of women and under-represented groups in Parliament and at local levels seemed hallow in the wake of recent revelations.

With the yahapalana administration in shambles, the US spearheaded political project is in serious trouble though the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) seems to be still confident it can be pulled off. 

It would be prudent to examine the US response to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s possible entry into active politics. Another Ravaya article, carried in its June 3 edition, by Tiran Kumara Bangamaarachchi, also discussed the former Defence Secretary’s strategy as well as that of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Bangamaarachchi explained the circumstances under which Gotabhaya Rajapaksa recently visited the predominately Muslim Beruwela and Wickremesinghe toured the Jaffna peninsula and Kilinochchi. In spite of being severely critical of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s role during the Rajapaksa administration, the writer acknowledged that at the moment he was the most popular person in Sri Lankan politics. Bangamaarachchi asserted that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa was surpassing Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity and a specific strategy was being implemented to achieve that status.

The US response to the rapidly developing political situation should be examined, keeping in mind how the solitary super power threw its weight behind retired General Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 January presidential poll. Thanks to Wiki Leaks, the US role in getting R. Sampanthan’s TNA to back Fonseka, after having accused his army of war crimes on the Vanni east front in 2009, is in the public domain. However, Fonseka suffered a heavy defeat against Mahinda Rajapaksa, who secured 57.8 per cent of the vote against Sarath Fonseka’s 40 per cent.

At the time of the 2010 January contest, Sarath Fonseka hadn’t even registered himself as a voter and was unable to vote. The state-run media exploited Fonseka’s lapse during the last phase of the voting when it emerged the former Army Commander could not vote at the crucial poll. Recently, Fonseka declared in Kandy his readiness to contest the 2020 presidential election if his party (read as UNP) chose him. Having contested the last parliamentary poll on the Democratic Party (DP) ticket, Fonseka entered parliament through the UNP National List in early 2016, following the vacancy created by the demise of M.K.D.S. Gunawardena on January 19, 2016. Fonseka’s declaration should be examined against the backdrop of several key Uppers such as Mangala Samaraweera and Akila Viraj Kariyawasam naming Wickremesinghe as their presidential candidate. However, the civil society seemed to have written Wickremesinghe off. In an interview with Ravaya carried in its April 29 edition, Fonseka when asked whether he would be the one to face Gotabhaya Rajapaksa in case the former Defence Secretary contested 2020 presidential poll, said: "Gotabhaya will contest, if he was not arrested for wrongs committed by him. In case he came forward, the best person to face him must emerge from the people and the party. It’ll happen. I’m not saying that should be me. We’ll have to see what is happening."

TNA-US agenda  

Regardless of the political upheaval, the TNA and the US reiterated their commitment for a new Constitution. They seemed to be still confident of their project though the ground situation is deteriorating with President Sirisena taking on Premier Wickremesinghe. Why did Ambassador Keshap arrange a meeting between the visiting House Armed Services Committee representatives and the TNA as the former cannot be involved in the post-war political situation here. Although, brief US embassy statement didn’t say what they discussed, the TNA issued a detailed report on the deliberations. 

The TNA statement revealed how Sampanthan had conveniently turned a blind eye to the rapidly deteriorating relationship between President Sirisena and Wickremesinghe and the growing challenge to his position as the Opposition Leader by the Joint Opposition.

"Sampanthan briefed the US delegation on the current political situation and emphasized the importance of both the President and Prime Minister working together in order to find solutions to fundamental issues and taking this country forward. We are unhappy about the way the country is progressing," the statement quoted Sampanthan as having told the delegation.

The veteran leader was also quoted as having said: "the majority of the people in this country are willing to address the national issue once and for all. What is lacking is that the courage from the Sinhala leaders to go out to the people and explicitly tell them on the need for a new Constitution and the benefits of framing a new Constitution, he said. "Some Sinhala political leaders are trying to satisfy the hardliners than being just and equal to all people in this country, they cannot go on this path forever, it will only end up in history being repeated," Sampanthan warned.

Sampanthan said: "Especially the President and the Prime Minister must go to the Sinhala people and genuinely explain the need for a new Constitution. Since 1988 every successive government and President have made several attempts to change the present Constitution, therefore, this should not be a difficult task for the majority of Sinhala people to understand.

 "We want a solution within a united undivided and indivisible country. The power-sharing arrangements should be in accordance with the international covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Expressing his concerns on the stalled process of drafting a new Constitution, Sampanthan said that a New Constitution would pave the way to solve many issues that this country had faced including the heavy debt and economic crisis, and therefore this effort could not be abandoned.

Sampanthan told the US delegation that the legitimate demands of the Tamil people in finding a lasting solution to the national question could only be addressed through adopting a new Constitution. 

Sampanthan highlighted that his party was confident that if the Constitution was passed in Parliament with a two-thirds majority it would be approved by the people at a referendum, which was necessary for a new Constitution he said.

"We may have to rethink and our people will be forced to rethink our position if things do not go well and if things are not achieved within a certain time frame."

Sampanthan reminded the delegation that the Government of Sri Lanka has given a Commitment to fully implement the UNHRC resolution adopted in 2015 before March 2019. They must fast-track their process to achieve those commitments.

Sampanthan urged the delegation that the role of the International community with regard to Sri Lanka must be defined in relation to the UNHRC recommendations. The International community must ensure that the promises and the commitments given by the Sri Lankan Government are adhered to and implemented. The International community cannot be a spectator anymore with regard to Sri Lanka, if the government of Sri Lanka continues to fail in their commitments the international community must clearly state their position on their follow up mechanisms to safeguard the victims and ensure the non-recurrence of the past.

Although, the US embassy statement did refer to Mac Thornberry’s delegation meeting with civil society, the discussions are not in the public domain. But, it is not too hard to fathom at least one issue that had come up in the discussion and possible remedial action. As always, US strategy here will be primarily based on its permanent interests.

In early March, 2007, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa faciliated the Acquisition and Cross-Services Agreement (ACSA) between the US and Sri Lanka which provides for among other things logistics supplies and re-fuelling facilities though a section of the Rajapaksa administration opposed it. The 2007 agreement, finalized at the onset of the Vanni campaign that brought an end to terrorism here, highlighted the importance of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Tamil Guardian report on Genocide Remembrance Day irks GSLF



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Tamil Guardian posted a series of messages, from sitting British politicians and other schemers, issued to mark what they called ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day.’ The Island carried the Tamil Guardian report in its Saturday, May 27, 2018, printed edition. The full report can be accessed online.

The Global Sri Lanka Forum (GSLF), in a letter to The Island, alleged that the pro-LTTE Diaspora had paid a person in the editorial to publish the Tamil Guardian report. The grouping also called for an inquiry to establish how the report, without a byline, was carried. The writer, in his capacity as the News Editor of The Island, carried the Tamil Guardian report on page 4 of May 26 edition of our newspaper. Let me assure GSLF that the writer takes the full responsibility for carrying Tamil Guardian report and will continue to accommodate news reports which the GSLF may feel anti-Sri Lanka and also statements issued by UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF). In fact, by the time, the GSLF complained, the writer had almost finished the Wednesday piece that dealt with ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day.’

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

The spineless current administration gave up Sri Lanka’s right to celebrate its triumph over terrorism, with a Victory Day Parade, immediately after the change of government, in January 2015. War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa inaugurated the Victory Day Parade in May, 2009. It was last held in May, 2014, in Matara.

British MPs right to call the commemoration ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day’ shouldn’t be disputed under any circumstances. In fact, it would be unfair on Sri Lanka’s part to oppose the British playing politics with the Sri Lanka conflict for their advantage. When our present and former members of Parliament had exploited/continue to exploit the conflict and pursued agendas of their own, it would be foolish to expect others to be mindful of Sri Lanka’s plight.

The UK never expected the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to lose the war, though the Sri Lankan military made steady battlefield progress on the Vanni front, after having liberated the Eastern Province, by mid 2007. The war commenced in August 2006 with devastating simultaneous LTTE attacks, both in the northern and eastern theaters of operations. The British believed the LTTE could mount a massive counter offensive and reverse the ground situation in late 2008 as fighting formations converged on the Vanni east theatre.

As long as the UK believed the LTTE could somehow overwhelm the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) on the Vanni east front, British politicians never bothered to push the LTTE to give up arms. Those MPs, shedding crocodile tears today, never demanded the LTTE to give up holding its own civilian population as human shields or surrender. It would be pertinent to mention that MPs remained silent because the UK-based Tamil Diaspora really believed the LTTE was on the verge of defeating the Sri Lanka Army (SLA). Had the Tamil Diaspora realized by Dec 2008/Feb 2009, the LTTE was cornered by several fighting formations and counter attack wasn’t realistic, interested Britishers would have called for their government intervention. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t the case.

Ryan’s relationship with GTF

And some British politicians benefited by the LTTE’s defeat. Let me briefly examine the case of British Labour Party politician for Enfield North.

Among those who had been quoted in the Tamil Guardian report headlined ‘British MPs release messages to commemorate Mullivaikkal Genocide’ was Labour Party MP Joan Ryan, former Chief Executive and Policy Advisor of UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF).

Ryan is the Vice Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT). The APPGT came into being years before the conclusion of the war, whereas the GTF was established in Feb, 2010, less than a year after the LTTE’s demise.

Tamil Guardian quoted Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, Vice Chair of APPGT, as having said: "My thoughts and best wishes are with you all as we commemorate the tragic events of Mullivaikal. 9 years on from the end of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict, I share your deep concerns that the Sri Lankan Government has made no meaningful progress on truth, justice and reconciliation. Justice delayed is justice denied.

"Unless the culture of impunity on the island is tackled, and there is a genuine reckoning with the country’s past, Sri Lanka will be unable to lay the foundations for a sustainable peace.

"I can assure you that I will continue to support all efforts to ensure an enduring peace in Sri Lanka and the recognition of the Tamil people’s fundamental rights and freedoms."

Having represented Enfield North from 1997, Ryan was rejected by the electorate at the 2010 parliamentary polls and soon joined the GTF as its Chief Executive and Policy Advisor. Ryan gave up the assignment in 2015 when she regained Enfield North.

The Labour Party politician had been also embroiled in parliamentary expenses scandal and was one of those beneficiaries of highly controversial claims and was directed to repay.

Oh McDonagh

Another Labour Party MP, Siobhain McDonagh, who declared in the UK parliament, in Sept. 2011, that the Sri Lankan military killed 100,000 Tamils, including 60,000 civilians, in the final phase of the war, too, issued a statement to the Tamil Guardian.

The Tamil Guardian quoted Siobhain McDonagh MP for Mitcham and Morden, Senior Vice Chair of APPGT, as having said: "Dear All, today we pause to mark the 9th anniversary of the massacre at Mullivaikal. We reflect and remember all those who died during Sri Lanka’s civil war. And we reaffirm our strong belief that only truth, justice and accountability will set Sri Lanka on a path to lasting peace. Each of you will be fully aware of the failure of the Sri Lankan Government to live up to its promises on justice and reconciliation. The Tamil community has valiantly brought the damning evidence of the Sri Lankan Government’s war crimes to the attention of the world. And yet, the overwhelming majority of the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government remain unachieved. None of the four key transitional justice mechanisms pledged have even been operationalised." McDonagh, too, has been embroiled in parliamentary expenses scandal.

Those, who had been quoted in the Tamil Guardian report, conveniently refrained from mentioning the accountability on the part of the LTTE whose British theoretician, of Sri Lankan origin, Anton Balasingham, was allowed to operate freely in the UK in spite of the massive death and destruction caused by the group. The British turned a blind eye to the LTTE assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1991. Soon after the LTTE assassinated Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, in Aug. 2005, UK-based Balasingham was allowed to receive top Norwegian representatives to discuss ways and means to overcome the latest high profile killing. The Independent newspaper, in a piece titled ‘negotiator for Tamil Tigers’ posted on Dec. 18, 2006, described how Britisher Balasingham received international recognition. The Independent obituary referred to how the Norwegian Prime Minister addressed Balasingham as ‘Excellency.’ Let me reproduce the first paragraph of that obituary: "Anton Balasingham was the international face of the militant group that pioneered suicide bombing, yet he was welcomed in the drawing rooms of Europe. The Prime Minister of Norway addressed him as "Excellency", as if he were an ambassador for an internationally recognized state, instead of chief negotiator for the Tamil Tigers, banned as a terrorist organization in the European Union and the United States".

Balasingham died, in London, on Dec. 14, 2006, four months after the LTTE launched Eelam war IV expecting swift and decisive battlefield victories, especially in the northern theatre. The UK turned a Nelsonian eye. On the basis of British High Commission diplomatic cables from Colombo, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office believed the LTTE was right on top of the situation. The British remained confident, even after the SLA regained Pooneryn, on the Vanni mainland, in Nov. 2008, and swiftly turned east and rapidly advanced across the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road to seize Paranthan, and then moved northwards and southwards to liberate Elephant Pass and Kilinochchi, respectively.

The fall of Kilinochchi, in early January 2009, sealed the LTTE’s fate.

UK diplomats visit The Island

The writer received New Delhi-based British diplomat at The Island editorial a few months before the fall of Kilinochchi. The visitor was accompanied by a British diplomat, based in Colombo (not the defence attache). They inquired about the ground situation on the Vanni front where the Army was making progress. But when the writer, having showed them the latest battlefield map and explained that the LTTE couldn’t hold Kilinochchi much longer and the re-opening of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road was on the cards, the Britishers looked amused. Obviously, The Island assertion certainly was contrary to that of other media as well as political party spokesmen who knowingly or unknowingly propagated the lie the LTTE had strong conventional forces deployed on the Vanni east front. They continued to believe the propaganda, even after the SLA had Kilinochchi partially cut off, thereby leaving demoralized defenders with no option but withdrawing eastwards.

The likes of Ryan and McDonagh remained mum throughout this period. They never felt the need to discourage the LTTE from continuing the unwinnable war. They never called for punitive measures against Balasingham, who obviously abused his British citizenship and exploited the coveted British passport to promote and justify terrorism, along with his wife Adele. They readily accepted all those terrorists who had obtained British citizenship after having entered the UK over the years. But, the duo demanded immediate expulsion of Sri Lanka’s defence attache Brig. Priyankara Fernando whose throat cutting gesture in response to unruly protest outside the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission in London on Feb. 4, 2018, drew condemnation. The UK forced the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to recall Fernando of the Gemunu Watch (GW), one of the infantry formations engaged in anti-terrorist operations.

Ryan and McDonagh found Brigadier Fernando’s gesture unacceptable especially as he was there as a guest of the UK. The writer is of the opinion that whatever the provocation, Brigadier Fernando shouldn’t have run a finger across his throat.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to know whether the British at least sought an explanation from Balasingham in the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination in Aug 2005? Did the UK warn Prabhakaran, through Balasingham, that war shouldn’t be resumed under any circumstances? The abortive bid to assassinate Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, in April 2006, made it clear the LTTE was ready for final war. Obviously, the UK didn’t care or felt the need to pressure the LTTE to return to the negotiating table which it quit in April 2003.

The UK government accepted the stand taken by the two Labour Party MPs. If Brigadier Fernando was found fault with running a finger across his throat, could the UK explain a British citizen allowed to represent a terrorist organization responsible for massive death and destruction and at least three dozen of political assassinations, including one President (Ranasinghe Premadasa, May 1993) and one former Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi, May 1991) and presidential candidate (Gamini Dissanayake Oct.,1994). Balasingham not only represented the LTTE but actually advised the LTTE on strategy.

Did the UK ever threaten to deprive Balasingham of its citizenship if he did not dissociate from the LTTE at least after the NATO power proscribed the organization in Feb 2001? Had they been comfortable with a British citizen being a key member of a proscribed international organization?

The Amirthalinghams

Those who had been upset of the LTTE’s defeat remained mum on atrocities committed by the LTTE on the Tamil community. Mangaiyarkkarasi Amirthalingam moved to the UK soon after the LTTE assassinated her husband, Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi stalwart, Appapillai Amirthalingham, on July 13, 1989. Mrs Amirthalingham, too, received British citizenship. Before the LTTE assassinated Appapillai, his sons had moved to the UK, where a substantial number of Tamils, who fled the LTTE, lived. However, British political parties realized the importance of developing relationship with those who took extremely anti-Sri Lankan stand for their advantage. They needed continuation of anti-Sri Lanka sentiments for political purposes as some of those who had fled Sri Lanka, fearing the LTTE as well as other Tamil terrorist groups sponsored by India, propagated lies primarily to ensure British acceptance of bogus political refugees.

Mrs. Amrthalingham passed away in the UK a few years after the end of the war.

Over nine years after the end of the conflict, British politicians continued to talk of abductions and disappearances, in Sri Lanka, for obvious reasons.

Thanks to Wiki Leaks, the world knows how one-time British Foreign Secretary David Miliband intervened on behalf of the LTTE in a bid to win over British voters of Lankan Tamil origin.

Miliband’s strategy to win the support of expatriate Tamils living in key Labour marginal seats came to light when US diplomatic cable, quoting one of his own Foreign Office staff, was posted in Dec. 2010.

Tim Waite, a Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka, was quoted, in a leaked cable, explaining why Miliband gave so much attention to the war in Sri Lanka.

"Waite said that much of (the government) and ministerial attention to Sri Lanka is due to the ‘very vocal’ Tamil diaspora in the UK, numbering over 300,000, who have been protesting in front of parliament since 6 April," wrote Richard Mills, a political officer at the US Embassy in London.

"He said that with UK elections on the horizon and many Tamils living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka, with Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60 per cent of his time at the moment on Sri Lanka."

Had there been over 300,000 Tamils there, by early 2009, one could imagine their strength nearly 10 years after the war. British political parties, especially Labour politicians, will continue to exploit the Tamil community there for their advantage. Politicians world over are the same. They cannot be faulted for seeking to enter parliament, or retain their seats, under any circumstances.

The bottom line is that as the group of British of citizens of Sri Lankan Tamil origin grow, major political parties will bash Sri Lanka to secure their votes.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A country divided over eradication of terrorism!



The Global Sri Lanka Forum (GSLF) celebrated Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism in May, 2009 with a public gathering in Dubai. Former Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohina addressed the gathering. On the invitation of the GSLF, Mrs S.G Juliet, mother of Corporal Gamini Kularatne of the Sixth Battalion of the Sinha Regiment garlanded a statue of her son. Gunaratne carried out suicide attack on an LTTE bulldozer on July 14, 1991 during the battle for the strategic Elephant Pass base, the gateway to the Jaffna peninsula.The event took place in the wake of the recent split in the GSLF, leading to the formation of another organization, World Patriotic Lankan Forum (WPLF), headed by Wasantha Keerthiratne.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Nine years after the successful conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is still struggling to cope up with her greatest post-war achievement. A deeply divided Sri Lanka marked the ninth anniversary of the defeat of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), once considered invincible by many, on the Vanni east front, with a series of countrywide commemorative events this month. Much to the disappointment of the vast majority of people, the government and the military couldn’t even organize these events in one day.

Commemorative events were held on May 18 at the Security Forces Headquarters, Division Headquarters, Forward Maintenance Areas, Regimental Centers, Army Training Schools, Units, Field Headquarters and military rehabilitation centers.

Many an eyebrow was raised when the Security Forces Headquarters, Jaffna, organized a commemorative event on May 4 with Northern Province Governor Reginald Cooray as the Chief Guest. It is still not clear why the Jaffna Security Forces Headquarters organized a commemorative event in the first week of May.

Religious events, too, were held with an aaloka pooja at Kelaniya Raja Viharaya, where 28,619 lamps were lit in memory of the fallen officers and men and those listed missing. The Kelaniya event was held on May 19.

The main national event was held at the National War Heroes Monument at Battaramulla on May 19, with the participation of President Maithripala Sirisena and service commanders. PM Wickremesinghe was very conspicuous by his absence. War-winning Army Chief and Sri Lanka’s only five-star General Sarath Fonseka, at the center of a recent controversy over publicly flaying President Sirisena, attended the event.  

BUT THE GOVERNMENT REFRAINED FROM RESUMING THE VICTORY DAY PARADE, SUSPENDED IN 2015, AFTER THE CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT. UPFA General Secretary and Sirisena loyalist Mahinda Amaraweera declared, on May 19, that as the costly event wasn’t held, funds could be utilized for the welfare of the military.

Mullivaikkal Genocide Day 

Northern Province Chief Minister and former Supreme Court judge, Canagasabapathy Visuvalingam Wigneswaran, took part in a commemorative event organized at the Mullivaikkal memorial ground on May 18 to mark what the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) stalwart called the 9th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Genocide Day.

The Tamil Guardian quoted Wigneswaran as having said: "Even in this situation where we are not in a position to deliver any sort of justice to our people who have been affected; our people are protesting continuously on the streets for justice and their fundamental securities; and our land is becoming colonized by Buddhism by the many thousands of military officers deployed across the North-East today, we gather together to remember the 9th anniversary of Mullivaikkal Genocide Day."

The Mullivaikkal event underscored the sharp split in the four-party TNA with Wigneswaran asserting leadership in a movement that could challenge the current TNA leadership.

 Addressing the crowd, Wigneswaran urged the international community (read as Western powers) to establish what the Tamil Guardian called an international strategic mechanism to ensure justice.

Alleging that the Tamil community had been subjected to ‘institutional genocide’, Wigneswaran sought an assurance from the international community (read as Western powers) as regards a sustainable political settlement based on their sovereignty, their homelands and their individuality.

"Sri Lanka consented to install a hybrid Inquiry Panel before the world body. Now they refuse to abide by their promise and undertaking. This would point out to the world the manner in which our successive governments, for 70 years, have deceived and fooled our Tamil people.

 "Still steadfast in their Mahawansa-oriented perception, the Sinhalese politicians consider the Mullivaikal debacle as the end of a Tamil – Sinhala war. That is why commemorative victory festivals are held in the South during this period."

Calling on the military to withdraw completely from the North-East, Wigneswaran said, "The Vanni area has become the citadel for Sinhala colonization. Especially in this Mullaitivu District both land and sea have been seized by force by the Armed Forces.

 "Next year, it would be the 10th anniversary since the brutal massacre at Mullivaikal. Let us dedicate the 18th of May, every year, as a day of mourning and as a symbol of our unity. Let us resolve that in the coming years we would bring all interest groups among us together, appoint an appropriate committee, devoid of political party affiliations and regional considerations, to organize an appropriate Day of Remembrance on 18th May in the coming years. Let us pray for peace to the souls of all those who died in Mullivaikal nine years ago."

 Those leaving the commemorative event at Mullivaikkal were offered cool drinks by the Army. Troops of the 68 Division, deployed in the Mullivaikkal area, provided the cool drinks. Those returning to the Jaffna peninsula, after having participated in the Mullivaikkal commemoration, were also provided refreshments by troops deployed at Iyyakachchi. The 55.2 Brigade is deployed in the Iyyakachchi area, a former LTTE stronghold, north of Elephant Pass.

Those at the Mullivaikkal commemoration had forgotten the origins of Tamil terrorism, fighting between various Tamil terrorist groups and Indian trained groups ‘exporting’ terrorism.

Institutional genocide

 It would be pertinent to mention that Wigneswaran broke ranks with the State about two years before the change of the Rajapaksa government. Mullivaikkal accusation that his community had been subjected to ‘institutional genocide’ must be examined against the backdrop of his long standing association with the State as a member of the judiciary, especially being a member of the Supreme Court for four years, beginning 2001. When did Wigneswaran realize institutional genocide was taking place? Did the Northern CM at least discuss his fears with Vasudeva Nanayakkara, whose daughter is married to one of his sons. Having served the judiciary for over three decades, Wigneswaran couldn’t have served successive administrations if institutional genocide took place as alleged. Or, did institutional genocide begin only after Wigneswaran retired as a member of the Supreme Court in late 2004? If that was the case, twice President Mahinda Rajapaksa could be accused of institutional genocide? Wigneswaran should explain institutional genocide undertaken by the Rajapaksa administration. It would be interesting to know whether the likes of Wigneswaran felt institutional genocide still continued even after the change of government, in January 2015.

Having launched a political career, in 2013, thanks to the TNA, Colombo-born Wigneswaran is now stepping up pressure on his original sponsors. Wigneswaran’s strategy is obvious. As the most prominent leader of the Tamil People’s Council (TPC), Wigneswaran is seeking to undermine the incumbent TNA leadership in the wake of those opposed to R. Sampanthan’s outfit making progress at the Feb. 10 Local Government polls. Wigneswaran has no option but to take a very strong anti-establishment stand to strengthen his campaign, both here and abroad.

As long as the government didn’t counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations, propagated by interested parties, Sri Lanka will continue to be mauled at local political platforms and abroad. For want of a cohesive strategy, the armed forces had been flayed with Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) recommending far reaching security sector reforms in response to wild war crimes allegations.

Responsibility of the media

 The Sri Lanka Press Council (SLPC), in collaboration with the Information Department, organized a workshop on May 18 for the Colombo District print and electronic media provincial journalists. The workshop dealt with post-war national reconciliation process nine years after the war was brought to a successful conclusion on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. The writer was invited to speak on the responsibility on the part of the media in national reconciliation process whereas Director General, Government Information Department attorney-at-law Sudarshana Gunawardena, former Irida Divaina editor now on the Presidential Secretariat staff Gamini Sumanasekera, Chairman of SLPC attorney-at-law Koggala Wellala Bandula and Senior Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, University of Kelaniya Aruna Lokuliyana tackled related issues.

 The writer took advantage of the opportunity to stress that reconciliation wouldn’t have been a reality if the armed forces offensive against the LTTE failed on the Vanni front. Obviously, the incumbent government is reluctant to acknowledge that eradication militarily of the LTTE, consisted of Tamils, paved the way for national reconciliation. The TNA that had regained its legitimate right to represent the Tamil community in the wake of the LTTE’s defeat, too, is reluctant to accept the reality. Both the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government and the TNA still remain committed to the Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, in Oct. 2015.

Jaffna District TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran is on record as having said that the Geneva Resolution had been adopted on Oct 1, 2015, following tripartite negotiations, involving the Sri Lankan government, the US and the TNA. The MP declared that they had agreed for a hybrid court with foreign judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys and investigators.

The TNA, in a statement, issued on June 16, 2016, quoted MP Sumanthiran as having told the congressional hearing: "I was personally involved in the negotiations, with the United States of America also participating in that particular process. There were some doubts created, as to whether the Constitution of Sri Lanka would allow for foreign nationals to function as judges and we went into that question, clarified it, and said yes they can and that is how that phraseology was agreed upon. And so, to us having negotiated and compromised and agreed that there would be a hybrid tribunal to try these mass atrocities, it is not open for the government now to shift its stance and say "well, international involvement yes, but it’s in a different form, now...’. That is not acceptable to us all."

The writer raised the following matters with the gathering:

(1) National reconciliation not possible as long as the LTTE retained conventional military power

(2) Battlefield defeat of the LTTE paved the way for national reconciliation

(3) Eradication of the LTTE allowed the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi led TNA to recommence normal political activity

(4) The TNA had no option but to recognize the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil people

(5) Having backed the LTTE, until the very end of the war, in May 2009, the TNA switched its allegiance to war-winning Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the January 2010 presidential poll. Can there be a better example to prove the TNA never really believed Fonseka’s Army massacred civilians

(6) None of those shedding crocodile tears today for the Tamil people ever pleaded with the LTTE to release over 300,000 civilians held hostage on the Vanni east front as a human shield to protect the cornered rump of the LTTE

(7) Sri Lanka is the only country to co-sponsor in Geneva a Resolution against its own armed forces and wartime leadership on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations

(8) The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government deliberately avoided an opportunity to effectively disapprove war crimes accusations on the basis of wartime British High Commission dispatches (Jan-May 2009) revealed in the UK House of Lords in mid Oct 2017

(9) Failure on the part of lawmakers representing the government and the Opposition to use the late Subramanium Sivakamy aka ‘Colonel’ Thamilini’s memoirs ‘Thiyuni Asipathaka Sevana Yata’ to expose lies propagated by interested parties. The writer stressed the fact that civil society activists Dharmasiri Bandaranayake and Gamini Viyangoda together with Thamilini’s husband, a British national of Sri Lankan origin, launched memoirs after her demise. She succumbed to cancer while receiving treatment from Sinhala doctors. The writer suggested that SLPC and the Information Department make arrangements to provide the late Thamilini’s memoirs to journalists.

(10) The TNA and the LTTE facilitated the then PM Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory at the Nov. 2005 presidential polls by ordering the Tamil electorate not to exercise their franchise under any circumstances. Their move ensured Rajapaksa’s victory at the expense of UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe, who lost by less than 200,000 votes

(11) The LTTE felt confident dealing with Rajapaksa whom the LTTE and Tamil Diaspora believed lacked experience and international support to face the LTTE

(12) The LTTE believed that Jaffna could be regained and the Army pushed southwards to Anuradhapura within two years. The writer based this assessment on what Kumaran Pathmanathan told him in Colombo several months after he was captured in Malaysia and brought down to Sri Lanka

The gathering was also told that the media couldn’t be expected to reconcile communities at a time major political parties were at logger heads over post-war reconciliation process. Recent verbal exchange between Health Minister Cabinet Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne and two journalists at the post-cabinet press briefing highlighted the lack of understanding of the contentious issue of Mullaivaikkal commemoration. Dr. Senaratne earned the wrath of the Joint Opposition and was vilified in social media for comparing the JVP with the LTTE and recognizing the Tamils’ right to commemorate those who fought for the LTTE.

The writer told the Information Department gathering that the right of the Tamil people to commemorate fallen LTTE cadres should not be challenged. In fact, interference and sabotaging such commemorative events can be counterproductive and those in power should be mindful of the loss of sentiments. But the contentious issue is not Mullivaikkal commemoration but the cancellation of the annual Victory Day parade at the behest of Western powers. There cannot be any other instance of a country depriving itself of its right to celebrate victory over terrorism. Shame on those politicians who suspended the Victory Day celebrations.

Finally, it was also brought to the notice of the journalists and the panel comprising Sudarshana Gunawardena, Gamini Sumanasekera and Aruna Lokuliyana European Union launching post-war reconciliation project on March 21, 2018 worth Rs 2.7 bn. It was pointed out that the European Union, since 2017, had funded various reconciliation projects to the tune of a staggering Rs. 3.7 bn. Strangely, the EU as well as all those trying to facilitate reconciliation seemed to be determined not to use wartime British High Commission dispatches to prove that (1) 40,000 civilians hadn’t been killed as alleged in UN Panel of Experts’ report released on March 31, 2011 (2) political and military leaderships hadn’t instructed the fighting forces to deliberately target civilians trapped on the Vanni east front and (3) the Army willingly suffered losses as it took civilian factor into consideration as revealed by classified US diplomatic cable originating from its Geneva mission a few months after the conclusion of the war.

Although President Sirisena reiterated at the Armed Forces Commemoration, at Battaramulla, that the military hadn’t been accused of war crimes by the UN, his government co-sponsored the Geneva Resolution on Oct. 1, 2015, on the basis that such atrocities took place on the Vanni front, particularly after the fall of Kilinochchi. President Sirisena maintained that war crimes allegations were propagated by those connected to the LTTE living overseas. Obviously, the government seemed to have conveniently ignored the UN stand on the issue of accountability and pronouncements that the country faced the prospect of Universal Jurisdiction unless Sirisena-Wickremesinghe fulfilled the four key Geneva recommendations, in addition to a brand new Constitution subjected to a referendum. The four specific measures meant to address accountability issues are (1) a judicial mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international human rights law (2) A Commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence (3) An Office for Missing Persons (OMP) and (4) An Office for reparations.