Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Missing persons: A cause for serious concern

UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances due ahead of Geneva confab




By Shamindra Ferdinando

In the wake of repeated calls, to investigate war-time disappearances, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances announced its decision to visit Sri Lanka this year.

A 10-day visit is now scheduled to commence on August 3, a month before the presentation of an external probe, that dealt with accountability issues in Sri Lanka, to the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The UN made its announcement on May 9, 2015. The announcement followed the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration inviting the UN Working Group to visit Sri Lanka. The five-member Working Group will primarily assists families in determining the fate, or whereabouts, of missing family members.

The previous government denied an opportunity for the Working Group to visit the country.

UN Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparations and Guarantees of Non-recurrence Pablo de Greiff in April, 2015 called for immediate action to clarify the fate of the disappeared. Greiff asserted that post-war national reconciliation would never be a reality unless the government tackled contentious issues such as disappearances. The declaration was made following a four-day visit here, commencing March 30, 2015.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, too, emphasized the pivotal importance of establishing the fate of those who disappeared during the conflict.

Sri Lanka needs the assistance of the international community to investigate disappearances because a sizable number of those, who had been categorized as missing here, are now living overseas, in some instances under new identities, courtesy of foreign governments.

The new government shouldn’t hesitate to seek international assistance to establish the truth. The proposed mechanism, to investigate accountability issues, should be mandated to work closely with the international community to explore ways and means of tracking down those who had been categorized as missing. How many of those who had been reported missing are living abroad? Have they obtained foreign citizenship? How many are seeking permanent residency? Can Sri Lanka continue to ignore the need at least to establish the probable number of Sri Lankan Tamils given citizenship abroad since the onset of Eelam War IV, in August, 2006? How many remain in Australian custody after being arrested for seeking illegal entry?

Recently, an overseas Tamil grouping declared that it represented over one million Tamil Diaspora forced out of Sri Lanka during the conflict. The claim was made in a joint letter, the grouping sent to Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The declaration was made last February by (1) Australian Tamil Congress (2) British Tamil Conservatives (3) British Tamil Forum (4) Center for War Victims and Human Rights (5) Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America (6) Global Tamil Forum (7) Ilankai Tamil Sangam (8) New Zealand Tamil Society (9) People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (10) South African Tamil Federation (11) Swedish Tamil Forum (12) Tamils Against Genocide (13) Tamils For Labour (14) United States Tamil Political Action Council and(15) World Thamil Organization.

"Our organizations, representing the one-million strong Tamil Diaspora, forced out of Sri Lanka, due to the conflict, and having lost tens of thousands of relatives, fully endorse the call by the Northern Provincial Council, and urge you to release the OISL report, in March 2015, as originally mandated. President Sirisena’s election and short tenure do not negate the need for a timely release. The UN stands as the standard bearer of human rights. Therefore, any recommendations, within the OISL report, should serve as the baseline, and driving force, to guide a credible accountability process."

On the strengthen of that claim, the grouping demanded that the external investigation report on Sri Lanka should be presented to the UNHRC last March. In spite of its demand, the UNHRC put off the presentation, for September this year. There’ll be no further postponement.

A thorough investigation is required to establish whether the one million Diaspora, included some of those categorized as missing. Sri Lanka needs the cooperation of the international community to carry out the investigation. Sri Lanka should take up this matter with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) whose expertise is essential to bring the project to a successful conclusion. The Diaspora exploited the previous government’s refusal to work with Western powers. The new administration has an opportunity to counter false propaganda by involving the international community in the proposed investigation.

In fact, the Diaspora should cooperate with the new government to establish the truth. Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, has cleared the way for close operation between the government and Diaspora groups by taking measures to do away with the ban imposed on them by the previous government. Perhaps, the ICRC can facilitate the process of smooth progress.

The ICRC office, in Colombo, in late March, this year, made a very important revelation with regard to disappearances. The ICRC spokesperson, Ms Sarasi Wijeratne, in a statement issued, following a five-day visit undertaken by ICRC Director of Operations, Dominik Stillhart to Colombo, placed the number of complaints received, regarding missing persons, since June, 1990 at 16,000. The ICRC issued the statement subsequent to Stillhart meeting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and FM Samaraweera.

The ICRC statement dealt with disappearances taken place, since the onset of Eelam War II. The ICRC list included 5,200 complaints received from families of those security forces and police personnel killed in action. Families had lodged complaints due to failure on the part of the army to hand over bodies of their loved ones. The army hadn’t been able to recover bodies on many occasions, though the ICRC facilitated transfer of bodies across front lines.

The ICRC mission in Colombo said that the organization had launched a countrywide assessment in October, 2014, using a representative sample from its own caseload to ascertain the needs of the missing persons families. The ICRC assured that at the end of the assessment, a report, with its findings, would be prepared and shared confidentially with the government of Sri Lanka to help it to draw up a response to what these families need. The ICRC also promised its assistance to government efforts. The ICRC initiative is in line with its overall proposals to establish an independent domestic mechanism to facilitate the process.

The ICRC quoted Stillhart as having said: "The ICRC’s experience, from its work with families of missing persons, in other countries, is that their needs are multifaceted. Their priority is the need to know the fate and whereabouts of a missing relative, without which they have no closure and a mechanism which is distinct from an accountability process is required to address this need. But they also have other needs such as psychosocial and economic support and administrative, or legal concerns, arising from having to resolve pension or property rights."

The ICRC has been present, in Sri Lanka, since 1989, responding, initially, to the humanitarian needs of persons affected by the uprising of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in the South and, thereafter, by the conflict between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the North and the East.

Western powers refused to cooperate with the previous government’s efforts to establish the whereabouts of those who had been categorized as missing since the conclusion of the war, in May 2009. Now that the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration is in power, Western powers can help Sri Lanka to establish the whereabouts of those who disappeared during Eelam war IV and after. In spite of the end of the conventional war, over six years ago, Sri Lankan Tamils continued to clandestinely leave the country, claiming harassment, under the Rajapaksa administration. Except Australia, all other countries encouraged those who had been seeking political asylum on false grounds. Many Sri Lankan Tamils, who had been living in India, Malaysia, and some other Asian countries after fleeing the country years ago, sought asylum in Western world since the conclusion of the conflict.

The then Canadian Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister, Jason Kenney, in January, 2013, asserted that genuine Sri Lankan asylum seekers should seek refuge in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, without risking their lives to reach Canada and Australia. Kenney said that he, too, believed asylum seekers could move across the Palk Straits, to Tamil Nadu, as they had been doing during the war. Minister Kenney suggested that those who had genuine concerns could take refuge within the region. The Canadian Minister was obviously rattled by this correspondent asking for a rational explanation as to why those allegedly being persecuted by the Rajapaksa government sought protection in nearby India without risking their lives to reach far away Canada and Australia. Minister Kenney categorized the issue of missing persons as a serious matter.

Some of those who had been categorized as disappeared can be living in Canada. In fact, some of those could have secured Canadian citizenship though Canada adopted a series of tough measures, in June, 2012, in accordance with a parliamentary act, titled Protecting Canada’s Immigration System. Minister Kenney also revealed that 25,000 Sri Lankans had been accepted as permanent residence during the period 2007-2012. Since then Kenney has taken over Multiculturalism and National Defence portfolios, whereas Chris Alexander is in charge of Citizenship and Immigration.

Sri Lanaka never received access to those who had entered Canada through illegal means. A case in point was an LTTE owned ship, MV Sun Sea, carrying 490 persons reaching Canadian waters, in August, 2010. Although Canada knew that LTTE cadres had been among the would be asylum seekers, the government never shared relevant information with Sri Lanka. Canadian policy has facilitated Canadians, of Sri Lankan Tamil origin, gradually expanding the voting population to enable direct parliamentary representation. Jaffna - born Rathika Sitsabaiesan, secured a seat in the Canadian Federal parliament at the 2011 general election. Sitsabaiesan contested on the New Democratic Party ticket. The Canadian, of Tamil origin, angered some of her parliamentary colleagues by comparing an annual commemoration of LTTE cadres killed in the hands of the Sri Lankan and Indian armed forces with the Canadian Remembrance Day. The MP put her foot in her mouth in Canadian parliament. But the growing Tamil electorate in Canada has compelled major political parties to address their concerns. Canada invariably takes decisions at the expense of Sri Lanka.

Whistle - blowing website, Wiki Leaks, has exposed one-time British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, playing politics with Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE. The diplomatic campaign by Miliband, to champion aid and human rights, during the final phase of the large scale military operations, on the Vanni east front, had been largely driven by domestic political calculations.

A leaked May, 2009, cable, from the US Embassy in London, quoted the Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka, Tim Waite, as having explained Miliband’s intense focus on Sri Lanka, in terms of the UK electoral geography.

"Waite said that much of [Her Majesty’s 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 April 6," Richard Mills, a political officer at the US Embassy, reported to Washington. David Miliband’s brother, Ed Miliband, who led the Labour at the recently concluded UK general election, too, played the Tamil card.

As those 15-member Diaspora grouping pointed out, in its letter to UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the West can not ignore the voting power of one million Sri Lankan Tamils living overseas.

TULF veteran V. Anandasangaree’s son, Gary, a lawyer, based in Scarborough, is contesting the forthcoming Canadian general election, on the Liberal ticket. Claiming that his parents, too, had migrated to Canada, Gary is promising to help those seeking to make Canada their home. Anandasangaree has declared that he sought Liberal party nomination to launch a political career to enable him to facilitate the process. The four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has assured support to Gary Anandasangaree much to the discomfort of the isolated TULF leader. Gary Anandasangaree has earned the admiration of the Canadian electorate, of Sri Lankan origin, by strongly backing external war crimes investigation the Sri Lankan government should seek Canadian assistance to verify war crimes accusations, contained in the UN Secretary General panel of experts’ report, issued in March, 2011. Some of those who had made submissions, to the panel of experts, are widely believed to be living in Canada. According to the panel of experts’ it had received over 4,000 submissions, from 2,300 persons, alleging war crimes with the accusation of 40,000 civilians killed during the final phase being the most serious. The UN should prove that those who had accused the Sri Lankan military of atrocities were in fact in Sri Lanka during the final phase of the assault (January-May 2009). For want of a cohesive thinking, the previous government never bothered to properly examine accountability issues and relevant matters. Instead of countering those propagating lies, the previous government engaged in futile exercises such as hiring expensive US public relations firms to win over US administration.

Sri Lanka cannot ignore the urgent need to re-examine the missing persons’ issue thoroughly. The new government, without further delay, should call for an international effort to verify war crimes allegations. The government should fully cooperate with the international community to help establish the truth. Verifying some 4,000 submissions made by 2,300 persons will be of pivotal importance. In fact, Sri Lanka’s defence, in Geneva, depends on the new government’s ability to convince the international community to verify still UNSUBSTANTIATED allegations.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The high-profile case of Thayaparajah

Re-appearance of a man missing for over four years




by Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, recently assured the Colombo-based diplomatic community of the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration’s determination to address contentious issues, especially missing persons, restoration of land to rightful owners and post-war national reconciliation.

Minister Samaraweera gave his assurance on May 12, in the wake of US Secretary of State John Kerry emphasizing the utmost importance in having the missing persons issue addressed without further delay. The briefing at the Foreign Ministry was attended by senior representatives of 24 diplomatic missions in Colombo. Kerry asserted that the resolution of missing persons issue was crucial to achieve post-war national reconciliation.

Those demanding accountability, on Sri Lanka’s part, for deaths, and destruction, as well as disappearances, cannot decline help to find the missing persons.

Sri Lanka should seek international assistance to investigate cases of missing persons. The project can be undertaken, under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to verify accusations, directed at the government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). In fact, a thorough investigation, jointly conducted by the GoSL and the international community, can establish the truth.

The high profile case of Kathiravel Thayapararajah reported in the wake of the LTTE’s battlefield defeat in May, six years ago, underscore the need for a comprehensive international investigation. The previous government pathetically failed to investigate the matter. Having perused ‘The Kerry visit: Points to ponder, irrelevance of Vietnam factor’ in Midweek last week, UPFA MP Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha suggested a detailed report on the disappearance and re-appearance of Thayapararaja.

India can facilitate investigations into Thayapararaja’s case.

The then 28-year-old Kathiravel Thayapararajah disappeared, in late September, 2009. Since the Sri Lankan military brought the war to a successful conclusion, in May 2009, there had been a spate of accusations regarding disappearances, both in the Northern Province, as well as Colombo. Thayapararaja’s disappearance attracted the attention of many, including the Colombo-based diplomatic community, due to him being the director of a US - funded project, in Kilinochchi, the nerve centre of LTTE operations.

In a report, dated September 24, 2009, Tamilnet alleged that Sri Lankan intelligence services (an obvious reference to the Directorate of Military Intelligence-DMI) had ‘extra judicially’ executed Thayaparajah during the second week of September, of the same year. The Tamilnet claimed Thayaparajah’s wife, Uthayakala, had taken refuge at an organization in Colombo, managed by the Church. Uthayakala had been also looking after the only child of her sister.

Tamilnet revealed that the then US Assistant Secretary of State, Robert Blake, has inquired about the missing person, through the US Embassy in Colombo, after having received a complaint from a human rights organization. The website didn’t identify the human rights organization.

A section of the social media alleged Thayapararajah had been killed by Sinhala Nazis.

No less a person than Ramu Manivannan, head of the Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras, in controversial ‘Sri Lanka- Hiding the Elephant,’ alleged that Thayapararaja had been picked up by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), and the Special Forces, and was killed by an assassin, working for the Sri Lankan military. Having declared that Thayapararaja had been killed, on September 15, 2009, Manivannan went to the extent of claiming that Thayapararajah’s wife, Uthayakala, and some close relatives, had identified the body. According to the author, the government had cremated the body and handed over the ashes to Uthayakala as she wasn’t prepared to accept the body. The book dealt with alleged genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Ilankai Tamil Sangam, an association of Tamils, of Sri Lankan origin, promoted the book, in a big way, with Prof. V. Suryanarayan, of ‘South Asia Analysis Group,’ reviewing it in August, 2014. Suryanarayan had been former Senior Professor, Centre for South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of Madras.

Prof. Suryanaarayan said: "In the introductory chapters, Prof. Ramu Manivannan has raised a very pertinent question – the contradiction between the principle of absolute sovereignty of the state and the global Responsibility to Protect (R2P). During recent years, R2P is rapidly gaining ground as an important axiom in International Humanitarian Law. It is a simple, but at the same time, a very powerful idea. At present, the primary responsibility of protecting the people against mass atrocities and genocide lies with the State. State sovereignty implies responsibility to protect, not to kill. But when the State is unable, or unwilling, to abide by this primary responsibility, it is the duty of the international community to step in and uphold this principle. The primary tools of the international community are persuasion and support. But when this fails, the international community must think in terms of international intervention to prevent catastrophe and genocide. R2P was unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly, in the world summit, at 2005. But much more remains to be done before it becomes a universal axiom. The brain behind the R2P is Gareth Evans, the former Australian Foreign Minister, who played a stellar role in bringing peace to war torn Cambodia

I would like to conclude the review with the famous lines of Pablo Neruda: "Perhaps this war will pass like others which divided us; leaving us dead, killing us along with the killers; but the shame of this time puts its burning fingers in our faces; who will erase the ruthlessness hidden in innocent blood?".

Having graduated from the University of Peradeniya, in 2000, Thayapararajah joined the Advanced Technological Institute, Vanni Institute of Technology (VanniTech), in Kilinochchi, as its director, two years after the inauguration of the Institute, in June, 2003. The Institute provided Information Technology education to youth, and was developing as a sought after institution of study in the North. Funded by Tamil expatriate technologists from Silicon Valley, VanniTech was registered as a US federal tax exempt. The International Tamil Technical Professionals’ Organization (ITTPO), a non-profit charitable organization, based in San Jose, California, provided the required funds to setup VanniTech meant to introduce and advance high-tech education in Northeast Sri Lanka, establishment of a technological research and development center for high-tech innovations, and the creation of a technically competent workforce for future enterprises.

The US - based group was taking advantage of the Norway - arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) to establish its presence in the LTTE-held Vanni region. The project had the backing of the LTTE, and some members of the VanniTech staff worked closely with the LTTE. Thayapararaja had closely associated with senior LTTE cadres, including intelligence wing personnel. In fact, VanniTech was to provide required expertise to enhance the LTTE’s domestic weapons manufacturing project.

The then UNP government turned a blind eye to what was happening. VanniTech had been nothing but prefect cover for clandestine LTTE project. The project paved the way for the LTTE to receive funds from Tamil Diaspora to further strengthen the VanniTech.

The Sunday Leader, in its May 18, 2015, edition dealt with Thayapararajah’s issue in an excellent piece, titled The ‘mystery’ of the missing LTTEer, by Camelia Nathaniel.

The Australian Government Refugee Review Tribunal, too, accused Sri Lankan of executing Thayapararajah. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights report, 2010, made unsubstantiated allegations as regards Thayapararajah’s case. Repetition of accusations revealed the readiness of those who had despised Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE to propagate unsubstantiated allegations.

University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR), in a special report, bearing No. 34, released on December 13, 2009, too, accused the government of executing Thayapararajah. However, UTHR acknowledged that by 2008, Thayapararaja had to work closely with senior LTTE cadres, including Charles Anthony, in the backdrop of the LTTE taking control of the institution. The LTTE move should be examined, taking into consideration the army gradually taking the upper hand in the Vanni west region. A relentless multi-pronged army advance east and west of Kandy-Jaffna A9 road caused chaos in the rapidly shrinking area, under LTTE control.

Having alleged that Thayapararajah had been arrested by the CID and Special Forces team, the UTHR report, bearing the number 34, said: "At some point some place Thayapararajah received gunshot injuries in circumstances unknown to the family and was taken to the Kalubovila Hospital Colombo, on 13th September. The family was informed the same day that they ought to come as he was in a serious condition. As Uthayakala was scared she sent her grandmother. He died on 15th September. His wife, her old grandmother and one of the children identified the body. As no one was prepared to arrange a funeral, the body was cremated and the ashes given to Udayakala. The lawyer, who represented Thayapararajah, says there are two engineers and a doctor still at the Avissavela camp."

"Thayapararajah had an injury in the chest area. Some felt that Thayapararajah was shot by an assassin, working under the security forces, privy to the information that Thayapararajah was to be escorted by the Police to a court in Colombo. Another possibility is misfire from a weapon carried by the escort or he was shot when he tried to escape. The escort had no intention of killing him is suggested by the fact that they warded the injured man in hospital and tried to save him – he was alive for two days".

Then, much to the embarrassment of those who had been accusing Sri Lanka of executing Thayapararajah, the VanniTech Director emerged in Tamil Nadu, in early May, 2014. Thayapararajah had been accompanied by Uthayakala and three children. The previous government never bothered to take up the Thayapararajah’s case with India. The External Affairs Ministry slept on it. The ministry never realized the need to examine the circumstances under which Thayapararajah had gone underground, since September, 2014, until he, along with wife and children, surfaced in Tamil Nadu, over five years later. Thayapararajah’s disappearence and re-appearance hadn’t been an isolated case. There could be thousands of ‘ Thayapararajahs’ in the world and every one of them categorized as ‘missing.’

The Tamil Nadu police arrested a group of Sri Lankans, including Thayapararajah, in Dhanuskodi, for illegally entering the country. There had been 10 persons, including five children in the group. Thayapararajah had been 28 years of age when he disappeared and was 33 when he reemerged. The Indian media identified the children, accompanying Thayapararajah, and Uthayakala, as Diyaroan 12, girls, Dilany 6, Dilshiya 4.

Thayapararajah told Tamil Nadu police that he had worked as an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya, in Kandy, after graduation from the same University, in 2005, as an engineer.

Sri Lanka is unaware of the whereabouts of Thayaparajah and his family. Are they still in Tamil Nadu or did they manage to find their way to Australia, or some other developed country. Thayapararajah’s whereabouts remains unknown. The Foreign Ministry should seek India’s help to track down Thayapararajah and seek a statement to establish the circumstances under which he went underground. The previous government made a serious effort to conduct investigations into alleged cases of disappearances. The government failed to realize that a thorough investigation would, in fact, help Sri Lanka’s defence in Geneva.

The US and its allies, including India, can furnish data in respect of those Sri Lankans who had received citizenship in their territories, accommodated in refugee camps, or in prison, at least over the past six years, to identify persons categorized as missing. Now that the Rajapaksas are no longer at the helm, Western powers shouldn’t hesitate to help Sri Lanka to establish the truth. It is not a secret that some of those who had secretly left Sri Lanka, over the years, received new identities, courtesy foreign governments, in some instances with Sinhala names for Tamils and vise versa. A case in point is one-time JVP heavyweight and Front line Socialist Party (FSP) leader, Kumar Gunaratnam, receiving Australian citizenship with a new identity. Australia issued a passport bearing the name of Noel Mudalige. The Island dealt with Thayapararajah’s case on several occasions. Let me reproduce a story, authored by the writer, and carried in the front-page of The Island, on May 14, 2004. The news item was headlined ‘Man whose ‘disappearance’ evoked Blake’s interest found with suspect’ with strap-line ‘Indian help sought to recover money from woman human smuggler’

The story: "Several Tamils have sought Indian intervention to help recover their money from a female human smuggler, Thayapararajah Uthayakala, now in the custody of Tamil Nadu authorities, for illegal, entry during the first week of May, 2014.

In a letter to the Indian Consulate in Jaffna, a group of Tamils has called for tangible action to enable the group to recover money collected by Uthayakala, formerly married to an LTTE cadre, promising employment in the UK. The victims alleged that Uthayakala had duped them by taking them to VFS Global UK Visa Application Centre in Colombo, where they handed over visa applications.

Having assured that they would be found employment in the UK, Uthayakala had collected millions of rupees from unsuspecting people, over a three-month period, before demanding additional US $ 2,000 each to prove authorities at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) that they were genuine travelers.

A senior Sri Lankan official, familiar with the ongoing investigation, told The Island that Uthayakala had no intention of at least accompanying them to BIA. Instead, after having taken them to Amala Guest House, in Negombo, Uthayakala had collected US $ 2000 each from would be travellers, to the UK, and left directing the victims to follow her to the BIA. They had no option but to leave the BIA disappointed as Uthayakala couldn’t be found there. Although they knew they had been duped nothing could be done as the whereabouts of Uthayakala wasn’t known.

The official said that Uthayakala would have easily disappeared to some Western country if she was not arrested by Tamil Nadu authorities for entering the country illegally. Still she could have escaped if she didn’t attract the attention of the media by alleging large scale atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan military. Had she simply claimed economic difficulties, the Indian media wouldn’t have bothered with her or others in her group. She was among ten Tamils, including five children who landed at Arichamunai off Dhanuskodi, in the early hours of May 5.

Asked whether the government would conduct an investigation into human smuggling racket, the official said that there was a need for a comprehensive investigation. He said: "Thanks to the Indian media, we are able to identify Uthayakala’s second husband, Kathiravel Thayapararajah (33), whose disappearance, in September, 2009, prompted a section of the media, as well as some international NGOs, to accuse Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI), of executing him. No less a person than the then US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and one-time US Ambassador in Colombo, Robert O. Blake, inquired about the missing person."

The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), the Australian Government Refugee Review Tribunal, Tamilnet and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, among others, blamed the Sri Lankan intelligence for the disappearance.

Well informed sources told The Island that Thayapararajah had been closely connected to the LTTE, though he wasn’t involved in actual fighting on the ground. Having graduated from the Peradeniya University, Thayapararajah had joined a project run by Vanni Tech in Kilinochchi with the financial backing of the US based Tamil Diaspora. The project launched in 2003, during the Ceasefire Agreement, brokered by Norway, was one of those operations, undertaken by the Diaspora, though Thayapararajah joined the organization in 2005.

Meanwhile, another person living in Colombo has written to the Indian High Commission requesting Uthayakala’s extradition to Colombo to face an inquiry over an alleged attempt to extort money from him."

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Kerry visit: Points to ponder, irrelevance of Vietnam factor




by Shamindra Ferdinando

Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, in a brief note, addressed to the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Jagath Jayasuriya emphasized the importance of some issues raised by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, during his two-day visit to Colombo.

The note to Gen. Jayasuriya, copied to Army Commander Lt. Gen. Crishanthe De Silva, Navy Commander, Vice Admiral Jayantha Perera, and Airforce Commander, Air Marshal Kolitha Gunatilleke, Premier Wickremesinghe highlighted some points, discussed by Kerry, in a public lecture delivered at the Taj Samudra.

Premier Wickremesinghe quoted US Secretary of State Kerry as having said: "None of us wants to live in a country where the military is stopping its own citizens at checkpoints. And Sri Lanka’s military has so much more to contribute, in defending this country, protecting vital sea lanes and taking part in UN peace keeping missions all over the world. And, as your armed forces make that transition, we are going to be very eager to work with you and to work with them and to tender help."

In a sense, the missive, dated May, 7 is unprecedented, as no previous Premier had resorted to such a strategy.

Having drawn the attention of the top brass, to Kerry’s views, Wickremesinghe stressed that the new administration stand, on the post-war role of the armed forces, was compatible with that of the US. The CDS, as well as the three service chiefs, were to ensure that the Premier’s message reached all levels of command, and control structure, including those deployed on the ground.

It would be pertinent to mention that twice - premier, Wickremesinghe, during his first tenure (Dec 2001-April 2004) succeeded in having the world’s solitary superpower to examine the status of the Sri Lankan military. Having studied Sri Lanka’s preparedness for war, in Sept-Oct 2002, the US made a series of recommendations to further enhance fighting capabilities. This was made possible by Premier Wickremesinghe meeting President George W. Bush, in July 2002. The US help was sought five months after Wickremesinghe entered into a Norwegian-arranged ceasefire Agreement with the LTTE. Undoubtedly, even Sr Lanka hadn’t conduct such a thorough examination of her armed forces during the three - decade long war. The bottom line is that Wickremesinghe wouldn’t have to depend on President Maithripala Sirisena to seek Western support.

To Wickremesinghe’s credit, during his first term, as the Premier, Sri Lanka concluded an agreement on the acquisition of US Coast Guard vessel Courageous, though the SLN took delivery of the vessel in 2005. It took part in the hunting of LTTE vessels.

Kerry’s record

Before discussing Kerry’s visit, and its implications, it would be relevant to mention that he had served the US military, during the Vietnam war. Having joined the US forces, in Vietnam, in November, 1968, the then Lieutenant Kerry, of the US Navy, had earned the respect of his colleagues for volunteering to go on, what the US media called, forward killing patrols. "Counter-punch," dubbed America’s best political newsletter explained the circumstances under which young Kerry had joined the battle in the wake of the Tet offensive. Jeffrey St Clair, in an article, titled What John Kerry really did in Vietnam, in the weekend edition of "Counter-punch," of July 26-28, 2013 discussed controversial military action, codenamed ‘Operation Sea Lords’, meant to terrorize the Vietnamese population to such an extent, they would turn against the Viet Cong or National Liberation Front (NLF). The operation was, in addition to what the writer called an assassination programme, called Phoenix, launched following the Tet offensive. "Counter-punch" quoted one of Kerry’s colleagues, fellow lieutenants, James R. Wasser, as having described him (Kerry) admiringly in these words: "Kerry was an extremely aggressive officer and so was I. I liked that he took the fight to the enemy, that he was tough and gutsy–not afraid to spill blood for his country."

Kerry, in his speech at the Taj Samudra, referred to his role as the Senator in charge of an investigation, established in the early 90s, to determine the fate of those missing US personnel, in Vietnam. The Vietnam veteran asserted that the US couldn’t have moved forward without having established the fate of those who fought for America in Vietnam. Kerry told his Colombo audience: "The families of those in America, whose loved ones had been lost, were desperately trying to get answers from the government and demanding answers, and they had every right to do so. And we knew that it was impossible for us to try to move forward if we didn’t try to provide those answers. So we did everything possible that there was to try to find out what happened to their loved ones. I traveled to Vietnam, something like 17 or 20 times, in the span of two years, working with the Vietnamese to let us into their history houses, to their museums, to their documents, even to interview with the generals that we had fought against to see if we could provide those answers."

Kerry went on to say: "So we experienced the same emotions and the same search for answers that are present in your country today. And that is why it is so critical for your government to work with the ICRC and the UN in order to investigate missing person cases and try, wherever you can – I can’t guarantee it; nobody can that you’ll find the answer for sure – but try to find wherever the truth may lead. No matter how painful that truth is. It’s the right and the humane thing to do – and it is, believe it or not, an essential part of the healing process."

Sri Lanka’s war winning Army Chief, the then Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, was on the front row of the audience. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera as well as one-time Foreign Secretary, H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, and Tamil National Alliance veteran, R. Sampanthan, who had recognized the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, were among the audience. Veteran Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader, V. Anandasangaree, sat a few rows behind.

The US government’s commitment to establish the fate of those who had fought for the country couldn’t be compared under any circumstances with Sri Lanka’s post-war responsibilities as well as accountability. There couldn’t be any comparison between the US war in Vietnam and Sri Lanka’s war against Tamil terrorists.

A comprehensive international investigation is required to establish the destabilization of Sri Lanka in the early 80s at the behest of the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, deployment of the Indian Army here (July 1987-March 1990), assassination of one-time Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in May, 1991, and years of bloody conflict leading to the annihilation of the LTTE, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, in May, 2009.

Perhaps the US war, in Vietnam, can be compared with India’s war against the LTTE, in Sri Lanka, on the basis that both the US and India were intervening in outside their territories. India lost over 1,500 officers and men and over 2,500 wounded. Although, many Indians, disappeared during the conflict, India never publicly acknowledged the number of missing.

Dixit on Indira

No less a person than one-time Indian Foreign Secretary, the late J.N. Dixit who had been the Indian High Commissioner in Colombo, during the deployment of the Indian Army here, in his memoirs "Makers of India’s Foreign Policy: Raja Ram Mohun Roy to Yashwant Sinha’, blamed Indira Gandhi for intervening in Sri Lanka. Dixit said: "The two foreign policy decisions on which she could be faulted are: "her ambiguous response to the Russian intrusion into Afghanistan and her giving active support to Sri Lankan Tamil militants. Whatever the criticisms about these decisions, it cannot be denied that she took them on the basis of her assessments about India’s national interests."

For some strange reason, Sri Lanka had never commissioned a comprehensive investigation into the country’s war against terrorism. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) wasn’t tasked for that purpose. A thorough investigation should examine the Indian trained People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) making an abortive bid, at regime change in the Maldives, in November, 1988. Today, the PLOTE is a key member of the TNA and both represented in parliament, and in control of the Northern Provincial Council.

Referring to his days in Vietnam, during the war, Kerry said: "Let me be very clear about this: It is sometimes necessary to go to war, despite the pain it brings. For all of my country’s disagreements with the previous government, in Sri Lanka, over how it fought the LTTE, we clearly understood the necessity of ridding this country of a murderous terrorist group and the fear that it sowed.

I believe that you learned in the final, bloody days of that struggle, what my country discovered to our own anguish during our civil war: There were no true victors – only victims. You saw, I trust, that it is obvious the value of ending wars in a way that builds a foundation for the peace to follow."

The previous government couldn’t have finished off the LTTE in two years and the ten-month long non-stop offensive action, on multiple fronts, without support provided by the US. The US helped sinking four, out of eight LTTE ships, loaded with arms, ammunition and equipment, on the high seas, during Eelam war IV (Aug 2006 to May 2009), by providing specific intelligence.

The US also thwarted an LTTE attempt in 2006, to procure anti-aircraft missiles to engage Israeli Kfirs and Ukrainian MiG 27s, in service with the Sri Lanka Air Force in addition to a range of other assistance, including 30mm Bushmaster cannon to strengthen the Fast Attack Craft squadron. In fact, the US assisted Sri Lanka, throughout its war against terrorists, by paving the way for a close relationship between Israel and Sri Lanka in the 80s. Sri Lanka should be always grateful to the US for ensuring Israeli assistance at the onset of the conflict created by India.

US hostility

After having helped the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to get rid of the LTTE, the US took an extremely hostile approach vis-a-vis the previous government. The Rajapaksas earned the wrath of the US for ignoring its call to halt the offensive to facilitate the evacuation of LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and his family, along with senior cadres. Had Sri Lanka gave in to US pressure, Prabhakaran would have survived and possibly now headed the so called Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) currently led by US - based V. Rudrakumaran, and the country would have been spared of a resolution at the Geneva-based UNHRC. A secret US diplomatic cable, authored by the then US ambassador in Colombo, Patricia Butenis, accused the Rajapaksa brothers (Mahinda, Gotabhaya and Basil) as well as General Sarath Fonseka of committing war crimes.

Thanks to Wiki leaks, we know about the Butenis’ cable, dated January 15, 2009, which accused Mahinda Rajapaksa and his main rival, war hero General (retd) Sarath Fonseka, of war crimes. Unfortunately, the previous government never bothered to closely examine Wiki leaks. Had the Rajapaksa administration realized the importance of the revelations, made by Wiki leaks pertaining to Eelam war IV, Sri Lanka would have had a better defence in Geneva.

While emphasizing the pivotal importance of Sri Lankans tackling the contentious national question, Kerry discussed four problems/issues the US was ready to assist and cooperate with the Maithripala-Wickremesinghe administration.

Kerry listed post-war national reconciliation as the most important issue the two countries could tackle, jointly. Asserting that reconciliation wasn’t possible unless Sri Lanka genuinely investigated the cases of disappeared, Kerry discussed ways and means of achieving post-war peace.

Missing persons

Unfortunately, Western powers have refused to cooperate with Sri Lanka’s efforts to track down missing persons. No less a person that Premier Wickremesinghe recently declared that those categorized as missing had been either killed during the war or now living overseas. However, Western powers have refused to cooperate with Sri Lanka’s efforts to establish the identities of those living abroad while their loved ones still alleged they are being held in secret detention camps. Recently, Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, and Justice Minister, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, PC strongly denied accusations as regards existence of secret detention camps. Some of those, still categorized as missing, live abroad, under new identities. The Island revelation of Sri Lankan Tamil Kumar Gunaratnam, leader of the Front-line Socialist Party (FSP), receiving a new identity (Noel Mudalige, Sinhala, Buddhist) courtesy the government of Australia, several years ago, is a case in point. But there couldn’t be a better example than the disappearance and re-appearance of engineer Kathiravelu Thayapararajah who had served as Director of the Vanni Tech Institute, run by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE). His disappearance was taken up by US Assistant Secretary of State, Robert O. Blake, after the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) was accused of killing him in September 2009. Much to the embarrassment of those propagating lies, Kathiravelu Thayapararajah appeared in Tamil Nadu, in early May, last year. The lie wouldn’t have been exposed if not for the Indian media publishing a photograph of Kathiravelu Thayapararajah, his wife Uthayakala, and three children and seeking asylum. The eldest was an orphaned child of Uthayakala’s sister who is now adopted by the couple.

According to Kerry, the second area of cooperation was on justice and accountability and the third being the advancement of human rights and, finally, strengthening of democratic institutions.

If the US is genuinely interested in establishing the truth and accountability, it should ensure proper examination of accusations made against the government of Sri Lanka as regards battlefield atrocities committed during Eelam War IV. In fact, the US moved a resolution against Sri Lanka, at the UNHRC, on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations contained in the report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, released in March, 2011. The UN had effectively prevented examination of unsubstantiated accusations by imposing a confidentiality clause for a period of 20 years. In other words, accusations cannot be verified, until March, 2031.

A new responsibility

It would be the responsibility of the new government to take tangible measures to clear Sri Lanka’s name at Geneva. The previous government failed, in its duty as well as responsibility, in defending Sri Lanka. The new government shouldn’t hesitate to fully cooperate with the international community to establish the truth. With the next Geneva session, scheduled for September, the Maithripala Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration should take meaningful measures, in spite of continuing political turmoil.

Kerry made a quite a mistake when he requested the government to release remaining POLITICAL PRISONERS while offering US expertise to bring the matter to a successful conclusion. Kerry wouldn’t have called, over 200 hardcore terrorists, in custody, political prisoners, without being advised by the US Embassy in Colombo. The Justice Ministry should brief the US Embassy as regards those still held in custody. The TNA, in spite of knowing the true identities of those still behind bars, continues to call them political prisoners.

With the new government having extremely close relations with Western powers, it has an opportunity to clear misconceptions and counter those propagating lies.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

War crimes, accountability and manipulation of int’l organizations




By Shamindra Ferdinando

Prof. Ashwani K. Sharma says powerful countries routinely influence international organizations to secure desired results. In an exclusive with The Island, Prof. Sharma said that powerful governments influence the decision-making process to achieve their objectives. Obviously, the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is no exception,

Sharma is currently with the Centre for Contemporary Indian Studies (CCIS), at the Colombo University.

The Indian funded CCIS came into being, during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency following an agreement between the University of Colombo and the Indian High Commission.

Part I of Prof. Sharma’s interview appeared in the Midweek Review last Wednesday.

Prof. Sharma said: "As an academic, I am sensitive to the debate on possible adverse impacts of accidents at nuclear plants on human lives and environment. In this debate, Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima Daiichi (2011) accidents are commonly cited as examples against nuclear energy. It is indeed important to point out that these nuclear energy plants were based on nuclear technology of the 1960s. In the last fifty years, nuclear technology has undergone revolutionary changes. Nuclear installations have become much safer. Safety mechanisms developed for nuclear plants have reduced the chances of accidents to minimal level. The nuclear waste disposal has also been made much safer. Nonetheless, there still remains a possibility of an accident, no matter how miniscule it is.

The western world, except Germany and Italy, still produces nuclear energy as part of the energy mix, and are going ahead with newer nuclear energy plants (Generation III reactors). Germany has decided to close all its reactors by 2022, and Italy has banned nuclear power. In China, India, and Pakistan, nuclear energy is an important part of the energy mix. Newer nuclear power plants are being established in these countries to cope up with the increasing demand for energy."

(Q) Since the conclusion of the conflict in May, 2009, various ‘experts’ tend to compare the Indian presence here with that of China. Many forget that Sri Lanka had no option but to depend on Chinese weapons, as well as Pakistani military training, though successive Sri Lankan governments also obtained armaments/equipments from Israel, China, US, Czech Republic et al. The then JRJ administration sought Chinese help consequent to New Delhi blocking Colombo from obtaining weapons from Western powers in the 80s. The bottom line is that India’s intervention resulted in the militarization of Sri Lanka. Strangely, India provided training to the Sri Lankan military while sponsoring terrorist groups during the 80s. During Eelam War IV, Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) provided by India joined some of the missions conducted on the high seas to destroy floating LTTE armories. Would you accept a particular country’s right to secure military support from any country, or an alliance, to face terrorism/war? Could China-Sri Lanka relations posed a threat to India/undermine India’s security?

(A) We live in a world of sovereign nation-states. Every country has the right to decide about its internal and external security concerns. Therefore, every country has the right to secure military support from any country or an alliance to eliminate terrorism.

I do not think China-Sri Lanka relations pose a threat to India or undermine its security concerns. In my view, India is capable of addressing its security concerns.

On the contrary, Sri Lanka has to take care of its security concerns in its relationship with China. As a student of international relations, I had read that Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean was leased to the United States of America in 1966 for establishing naval and military bases during the height of cold-war. This was indeed the first instance in the post-World War II era when sovereignty of a nation-state over part of its territory was transferred to another country.

Sri Lanka is also in the process of negotiating its sovereignty. Sri Lanka has agreed to give 20 acres of land with ownership rights to China in the ‘Port City Complex’ in Colombo. In addition, 88 acres of land have been given to China on 99 years lease. The 20 acres in Colombo will be part of China. China will have all the right to hoist its national flag, and even issue visa for visits to that part. The 99 acres could well be converted into a ‘Mini Hong Kong’.

China plans to develop its land in the Port City Complex as a commercial hub. But it would have all the right to convert into a naval and military base in case its geopolitical and geostrategic concerns warrant that. International conventions do not seem to work well in hard times.

(Q) One-time Liberian President, Charles Taylor, had been sentenced to 50 years in prison for causing mayhem in neighboring Sierra Leone. Taylor was found guilty by a UN tribunal. Having paid a very heavy price to eradicate terrorist groups, once sponsored by India the Sri Lankan military today faces accusations of war crimes. Chief Minister of the Northern Province, retired Supreme Court judge, C.V. Wigneswaran, has accused Sri Lanka of genocide of Tamils since 1948. Geneva is demanding accountability on the part of both Sri Lankan political and military leaderships. Would you justify India’s terrorist war in Sri Lanka? (India lost nearly 1,500 officers and men fighting her own creation). Could you explain India’s culpability for causing so much death and destruction in a neighboring country?

(A) There is copious academic literature on the issue of civil war in Sri Lanka. Considerable serious research has been carried out on the issue. My well informed opinion is that India was neither the cause of the civil war in Sri Lanka nor did it engage in terrorist war in Sri Lanka. We should wait for the report of the internal commission of inquiry set up by the Sri Lankan government, and that of the UNHRC in September, 2015, before we crystallize an informed view on who was guilty of human rights violation.

(Q) Indian trained Sri Lankan terrorists (members of the PLOTE) stormed Male in early Nov 1988. Their operation was meant to assassinate the then Maldivian leader. The operation went awry due to Maldivians resisting the raiders, until Indian forces landed. The rest is history. Would you give an Indian perspective to the Maldivian affair? Could India ignore her responsibility for the Maldivian mayhem? (In fact, a section of the international media praised India’s swift military intervention without making any reference to Indian trained terrorists carrying out the raid.

Prof. Sharma politely declined to comment.

(Q) India voted twice against Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009. Last year, India abstained at the Geneva vote on Sri Lanka. The interviewer is of the opinion that India’s role, too, should be inquired into as Sri Lanka wouldn’t have been in this predicament if not for New Delhi’s intervention. Would you accept accusations that Geneva adopted double standards when dealing with influential countries? Would you comment on the US forcing the UNHRC to drop the Goldstone war crimes report that dealt with atrocities committed by Israel during Dec 2008 -Jan 2009 Gaza assault?

(A) All international organizations have a political process and structure of influence within it. Decision-making process is the core of the political process. Powerful countries can influence the decision-making process by setting the agenda, directing the discussion, setting the tone and tenor of the negotiating and bargaining process, and rallying its allies along. The outcome of the political process, therefore, becomes predictable. Thus, it is not uncommon, for powerful countries to influence international organization to get the desired outcomes. It is also not uncommon for powerful countries to adopt double standards.

Israel is a classic example of where ‘Nation’ is thrice the size of ‘Nation-State’. There are five million Jews living in Israel, and ten million outside Israel. Out of these ten million, six million Jews live in the US. It is a common perception that Jews in the US jump higher than their weight. The reason is that Jews in the US are relatively better off than others, and also control media and the finance to a significant extent. This makes them an economically and politically influential community. In this scenario, it will be almost impossible for the US to support any action against Israel.

(Q) Would you identify areas India and Sri Lanka could work together?

(A) There are many areas where India and Sri Lanka can work together. I would like to highlight two areas in particular: economic sphere, and higher education. Trade between India and Sri Lanka in goods has increased manifold since the signing of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in 2000. Now, the logical step is to go in for Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) so that trade in investment can also flourish between the two countries. Currently, Sri Lankan exports (tea: 21%, rubber: 8%, garments: 50%, etc.) have low value added content, and therefore export earnings are not high. Value added content can be increased by engaging in intermediate processes of manufacturing of industrial products. For example, Mercedes Benz is manufactured in the town of Jamshedpur in India. The investment for the project was shared between India and Germany. The design and technology comes from Germany and parts are manufactured in many countries across the world, including India. These cars are then exported. India, thus, becomes a part of the manufacturing chain of a high quality/high value added product. Similarly, Sri Lanka can become part of manufacturing chain of high quality industrial products. The value added component of Sri Lankan exports would thus increase many fold. In this process, cooperation with India can be of immense utility. Indian investment in Sri Lanka can facilitate setting up of parts of manufacturing chain.

The chambers of commerce and industry in Sri Lanka have raised concerns about CEPA as it might affect the industry and commerce adversely. Some of the concerns are legitimate and can be taken care of by listing some of the areas in the negative list of CEPA so that investment in those areas is prohibited. Similar concerns were raised in India when India initiated liberalization of trade in goods and services. Ultimately, India as well Sri Lanka has to become competitive in the global economy. Sooner it happens better it would be.

It is important to emphasize that the literacy rate in Sri Lanka is almost 100%. The country also has a sizable technically trained manpower. This can provide Sri Lanka with a comparative advantage in a range of intermediate processes in manufacturing. Business leaders, economists, and policy makers have to pool in their minds and identify such areas in Indo-Sri Lankan economic cooperation.

The other major area of cooperation between India and Sri Lanka is higher education. Some of the educational institutions in India have achieved high international standards and are listed amongst the best 300 institutions by the surveys conducted in the UK and the US. These institutions are: Indian Institutes of Sciences (IISs), Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and Delhi University. There are many private universities also doing very well. It might be a good idea for the universities in Sri Lanka (fifteen) and India to enter into a permanent collaboration. The collaboration should be well institutionalized and there should be regular exchange of students, research scholars, and faculty. It will help the institutions in both the countries to grow competitively in the world.

(Q) China provided the required wherewithal to Sri Lanka fight the LTTE. China also backed Sri Lanka at international forums, including the Geneva rights sessions. Without China’s support, the previous government couldn’t have managed the Geneva crisis. Would you expect Sri Lanka to give up its close relationship with China to facilitate a better Indo-Sri Lanka relationship?

(A) I would not at all suggest that. Indo-Sri Lankan relationship should grow independently of the close relationship that Sri Lanka has with China. The two relationships can develop in parallel.

(Q) Would you prefer a defence agreement between India and Sri Lanka to ensure Sri Lanka acquired her defence needs/training from India?

(A) India is Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and is capable of fulfilling the defence requirements of Sri Lanka. I have limited knowledge of the defence agreements that India and Sri Lanka already have. But what I do know is that personnel of Sri Lankan armed forces have been undergoing training in India for a long time. Two Indian naval ships were at Colombo Port last month for a naval exercise.

(Q) Would you comment on the Islamic Terrorists organization?

Finally, I would like to discuss the failure on the part of the Commonwealth, as an organization, as regards the war in Sri Lanka. Could you explain the circumstances under which the Commonwealth turned a blind eye to a leading member of the Commonwealth destabilizing a smaller member in the 80s (interestingly, the Commonwealth declared support for military action against Afghanistan immediately, after the Al Qaeda attacks on the US)

Prof. Sharma declined to comment on the issue. (Concluded)