Tuesday, 16 August 2016

A secret Norwegian missive to ‘Dear Mr Prabhakaran’ in the wake of Kadirgamar assassination



By Shamindra Ferdinando
Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga during a two-day visit to Jaffna beginning Aug. 11, 2016 took credit for scoring impressive battlefield victories during her tenure as the President (Nov.1994 to Nov.2005).

Addressing the media, the former President who had been the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces declared that she finished off 75 per cent of the war.

Mrs Kumaratunga played down her successor Mahinda Rajapaksa’s role (Nov 2005 to Jan. 2015) while accusing former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of misappropriating funds in the acquisition of six MiG 27s. The former President claimed that of the six MiGs ordered by the then Defence Secretary one went down on its way to Sri Lanka.

The former SLFP leader declared that as arms, ammunition and equipment required to wage war had been acquired during her presidency in addition to impressive battlefield victories, the Rajapaksas couldn’t claim credit for defeating the LTTE.

Mrs. Kumaratunga also mentioned successful offensives undertaken by the UNP before she led the then People’s Alliance to victory in Aug.16, 1994, also, contributed to the LTTE’s ultimate defeat. The former President asserted that the Rajapaksas’ contribution to the defeat of terrorism was negligible though they took credit.

Former Defence Secretary contradicted Mrs Kumaratunga’s claims while explaining the circumstances under which MiGs had been acquired during her tenure as the President and subsequently. The former Defence Secretary issued a detailed statement on Monday (Aug. 15) in this regard.

Troops of Operation Riviresa brought the entire Jaffna peninsula under government control, in early 1996. Combined security forces launched Riviresa in August 1995 after the LTTE resumed hostilities in April 1995. The armed forces thwarted several LTTE attempts to regain Jaffna peninsula over the years.

Mrs Kumaratunga flew to Palaly air base in a 16 seater Chinese Y 12 transport aircraft. Incidentally, after having taken off from the Katunayake SLAF base last Thursday the plane carrying Mrs Kumaratunga had to return to the base due to engine trouble. The former President had been compelled to take another Y 12 hence the late arrival in the peninsula. The Y 12 touched down at Palaly around 10.20 am.

The passage of the controversial Office on Missing Persons (Establishment, Administration and Discharge of Functions) Bill took place in parliament on the same day during Mrs Kumaratunga’s visit to Jaffna.

Skills Development and Vocational Training Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe on the following day declared that the OMP Bill had the backing of a staggering two-thirds majority in Parliament, though the Joint Opposition (JO) behaved as if it could have thwarted that important piece of legislation.

The Bill needed only to be passed with a simple majority.

Mrs Kumaratunga declaration in Jaffna should be examined against the backdrop of the passage of the OMP Bill in accordance with Geneva Resolution 30/1 co-sponsored by the government of Sri Lanka (GoSL). Now that former President Kumaratunga had claimed credit for eradicating terrorism to a larger extent, it would be pertinent to examine the accountability on the part of her administration as regards alleged war crimes.

In fact, Rev Dr S.J. Emmanuel had castigated the then President Kumaratunga for waging a bloody offensive against Tamil speaking people. The Rev. called Mrs Kumaratunga ‘mother of all wars’ while blaming her for the breakdown of talks between her government and the LTTE. The accusation was made long before the formation of the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) in Feb. 2010 at the House of Commons with the patronage of major British political parties. Had the GoSL failed to bring the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009, the GTF wouldn’t have been probably set up to pursue an international war crime investigation.

Had former President Rajapaksa handled just 25 per cent of the overall war against the LTTE, contentious issue of accountability should be shared by Mrs Kumaratunga and UNP leaders as well.

Rev. Dr Emmanuel discussed the events, leading to the outbreak of eelam war III, in April, 1995, at a conference held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July, 1997. Let me examine some critical points raised by Rev. Dr Emmanuel (The writer is grateful to the GTF leader for making his submissions at Lausanne conference available to The Island).

Rev. Dr Emmanuel condemned Mrs Kumaratunga for conducting a brutal war, consequent to the breakdown of talks. The priest declared: "The war, as conducted by the Kumaratunga regime, added a new horror element to the ethnic war – internationalizing her efforts of war through a powerful propaganda machinery to make it appear as a justified ‘war for peace’, as a war against terrorism, and at the same time conducting it on the ground as a war behind closed doors to all local or international media, amounts nothing less than a genocide with an international license."

Rev. Emmanuel went on to allege: "While retaining the old international credential, and accolade, which she received as she came to power with promises to end the war and create peace, she has turned 180 degrees to conduct the mother of all wars in the name of peace."

"Mrs Kumaratunga’s government did not understand the LTTE as the representatives of an aggrieved and oppressed people. Nor did they recognize the LTTE demands as the demands of the people."

Rev. Dr Emmanuel explained events leading to the LTTE withdrawing from the negotiating process on April 19, 1995. The priest recalled Thamilselvam, who led the LTTE delegation for the fourth round of talks with Mrs Kumaratunga’s representatives, in Jaffna, on April 10, 1995, reiterating Prabhakaran’s decision to quit the negotiating process unless all its demands were met.

Rev. Emmanuel said: "The LTTE announcement of its withdrawal from the peace process was not unexpected as is being made out. As early as March 16, 1995, in releasing 14 prisoners of war, LTTE leader, Prabhakaran, sent a letter to President Kumaratunga, specifically stating that if the outstanding issues, between the two parties, were not resolved before March 28, 1995, they would be compelled to take a decision to withdraw from the peace process. The government chose to ignore the deadline. Realizing that the time frame might be too short and, particularly, because of what the LTTE noted to be a positive response from the President indicating the lifting of the ban on fuel and fishing rights, the LTTE put off the deadline, by three weeks, for April 19, 1995."

Rev. Dr Emmanuel conveniently forgot at least, to mention the LTTE taking the upper hand in eelam war III at the onset with some devastating attacks. The LTTE blew up two Chinese built gunboats, anchored at the Trincomalee harbour, on the night of April 19, 1995. On April 27, 1995, the LTTE mounted a sea borne attack on the army, based at the Kayts Island, killing 18 soldiers. The LTTE also opened a new phase in the conflict with a heat seeking missile attack on an SLAF transport aircraft, taking off from the isolated Palaly air base. Within 24 hours, the LTTE brought down another SLAF transport aircraft, coming to land at Palaly. Nearly 100 security forces officers and men died in the twin missile strikes.

Mrs Kumaratunga courageously faced the LTTE’s military challenge. President Kumaratunga gave the political leadership to bring the peninsula under government control though her subsequent plans went awry due to failures on the part of the military. To Mrs Kumaratunga’s credit, she substantially enhanced the firepower of the security forces. The Kumaratunga government acquired Kfirs, MiG 27s, multi barrel rocket launchers, unmanned aerial vehicles, Mi 24 attack helicopters and a range of other weapons, though the military lacked an efficient strategy. Having liberated the Jaffna peninsula, Mrs Kumaratunga suffered a spate of devastating battlefield defeats since 1996. In December, 2001, the LTTE almost succeeded in assassinating her in Colombo to pave the way for a UNP administration. The attempt on her life was made at a time she was having secret talks with the LTTE. Her Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar had been one of the few who had been involved in the Norwegian-led peace process. Although, the LTTE failed to assassinate Mrs Kumaratunga, the People’s Alliance (PA) lost the Dec 2001 general election to pave the way for Norwegian arranged Ceasefire Agreement between the LTTE and the newly elected UNP-led UNF government.

During Mrs Kumaratunga’s visit to Jaffna, on the invitation of the GoSL Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg delivered the Lakshman Kadirgamar memorial lecture 2016, ‘Sustainable Development Goals: Working together for our Common Good’ at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic Studies (LKIIRSS) on Aug. 12. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs & Chairman of the Board of Management of the LKIIRSS in his introductory referred to Kadirgamar’s assassination during CFA supervised by a group of Scandinavian countries led by Norway. In addition to being the facilitator of the peace process, Norway functioned as one of the Co-Chairs to the Sri Lanka peace process.

Referring to Kadirgamar as one of Sri Lanka’s finest sons, Minister Samaraweera said that he was lost to a sniper’s bullet 11 years ago. "Lakshman Kadirgamar dreamt of a prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka, united in its diversity and he sacrificed his life in search of durable peace."

Minister Samaraweera declared that the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration was in the process of winning the peace, restoring democracy and securing the bright and prosperous future for all Sri Lankans. The foundation of a new Sri Lanka has been laid on the three pillars of democratisation, reconciliation and development.

The Norwegian Premier told the gathering that "Lakshman Kadirgamar, who gave his name to this institute, lost his life in search of a path to peace. This tragedy tells us how costly and difficult achieving peace can be.

"Foreign Minister Kadirgamar recognized that significant change was needed to enable Sri Lanka’s communities to live together peacefully. His vision for Sri Lanka was a national identity based on pluralism. He has said that – and I quote: ‘People who live in Sri Lanka are first and foremost Sri Lankans, then we have our race and religion, which is something given to us at birth’.

"This institute is keeping Kadirgamar’s vision for Sri Lanka alive by providing valuable analysis of the country’s strategic interests in a context of changing global realities."

The Norwegian Premier’s visit followed Foreign Minister Børge Brende and Norway’s State Secretary Tore Hattrem visits to Sri Lanka in January and May-June 2016 respectively, and Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s visit to Oslo in June 2016. Hattrem had been Norway’s ambassador in Colombo during the Vanni offensive and is in a position to explain the ground situation, particularly their failure to convince the LTTE to give up human shields.

Obviously, the world should be reminded of the circumstances under which the LTTE assassinated Kadirgamar as well as the secret Norwegian – LTTE talks regarding the killing. The world wouldn’t have known about the Norway-LTTE contacts at the highest level if not for whistle blower website Wikileaks. Those demanding accountability on the part of the previous government shouldn’t forget peace wouldn’t have been a reality as long as Prabhakaran survived. The former President Rajapaksa had the strength to keep the offensive on track in spite of heavy Western pressure until troops crushed the LTTE resistance on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May 2009.

Let me reproduce a US diplomatic cable which dealt with Norway–LTTE talks in the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination. Even after the LTTE assassinated, Norway continued to mollycoddle terrorists while Western powers demanded that the peace process remained on track regardless of the provocation. Norway refrained from criticizing the LTTE. The TNA remained silent. The civil society looked the other way. The Norwegian funded National Peace Council (NPC) declared the Kadirgamar assassination was tragic but inevitable. A section of the international community felt that Kadirgamar had been an obstacle to the Norway-led peace process, particularly in the wake of him taking up a large scale LTTE built up in close proximity to the strategic Trincomalee naval base in the run up to eelam war IV. The US diplomatic cable posted by Wikileaks dealt with a meeting between Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen and his deputy, Vidar Helgessen and LTTE theoretician and British passport holder of Sri Lankan origin Anton Balasingham.

The cable revealed Norway’s dilemma and the LTTE’s culpability in the Kadirgamar assassination. Had Norway made its position clear immediately after Kadirgamar’s killing, the LTTE would have come under international pressure to adhere to the CFA. By the time WikiLeaks exposed those diplomatic cables, the LTTE had been annihilated. The Norwegian delegation met Balasingham while on their way back to Oslo after paying their last respects to Kadirgamar. The delegation also met President Kumaratunga before leaving for London. On behalf of the Norwegian government, Petersen handed over a letter to Balasingham requesting its immediate translation and transfer to Balasingham.

The letter sent by the Norwegian Foreign Minister to Prabhakaran is of crucial importance. The following is the full text:

Dear Mr Prabhakaran,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours sincerely,

Jan Petersen

Norway never publicly commented on the Wikileaks revelation. Norway shared a copy of the letter sent to Prabhakaran with the US subject to an understanding the GoSL wouldn’t be briefed in this regard. Clandestine Norwegian project remained secret until the Wikileaks exposure. Kadirgamar played a pivotal role in the proscription of the LTTE by the EU. In fact, the US diplomatic cable which dealt with the secret Norwegian letter to Prabhakaran also discussed Sri Lanka’s push in Brussels against the LTTE. In hindsight, Kadirgamar obviously earned the wrath of the LTTE for pushing for EU ban and the JVP bid to promote him as the Prime Minister of the government elected following the April 2004 general election may have contributed to Prabhakaran’s directive. The Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) too refrained from blaming the LTTE. Instead, head of the mission Hagrup Haukland urged the government and the LTTE to maintain the CFA and to implement confidence building measures.

Top LTTE women’s cadre Lt. Colonel Thamilini in her posthumously launched memoirs ‘Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil’ confirmed Prabhakaran ordering Kadirgamar’s assassination. Thamilini quoted Prabhakaran as having confirmed the LTTE carrying out the assassination. Interestingly, the Sinhala translation of ‘Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil’ was launched two days after former Justice Ministry Secretary Dr Nihal Jayawickrama raised the issue of Kadirgamar’s assassination. Delivering Dr P.R. Anthonis memorial lecture, titled ‘Healing the nation: A question of leadership’, at the Sasakawa Hall auditorium, Dr Jayawickrama said Kadirgamar’s killing had been still classified and shrouded in mystery.

Dr Jayawickrama made the statement in respect of the former Foreign Minister’s assassination immediately after accusing the previous government of carrying out 300 political killings in 2005, and 700 extra-judicial killings in 2006 and 2007.

 Both Prabhakaran and Thamilchelvn believed that Kadirgamar’s assassination proved their ability to strike deep within the enemy territory, according to Thamilini. They also asserted that the EU proscribing of the group in the immediate aftermath of Kadirgamar’s assassination reflected the international community recognizing the group military power.

According to Thamilini, the LTTE had been blinded by its perceived military capability, hence provoked the military. The top LTTE leadership strongly believed in a swift and decisive war could lead to their victory. (In his first interview with the media after his capture in August 2009 in Malaysia, Kumaran Pathmanathan told the writer the LTTE believed that the Army could be overwhelmed in two years. The Directorate of Military Intelligence allowed the interview in July, 2010)

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

How govt co-sponsored Geneva Resolution inimical to Sri Lanka

Shocking change of position soon after first informal session on US document



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Against the backdrop of President Maithripala Sirisena’s repeated declarations that the government of Sri Lanka hadn’t accepted foreign judges to inquire into accountability issues, it would be pertinent to examine the stand taken-up by the GoSL, on September 21, 2015, in respect of the draft resolution on Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka rejected the draft resolution, on September 21, 2015, at the first informal session called by the Core Group pursuing the matter. The group comprised the US, the UK, Montenegro and Macedonia.

The US team, at the first informal session, included US Ambassador in Geneva, Keith M. Harper, who had been a partner at the law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, and newly appointed US Ambassador in Colombo, Atul Keshap. Keshap had presented his credentials to President Maithripala Sirisena exactly a month before the first informal session in Geneva.

In the wake of Sri Lanka’s strong objections, the ‘Core Group’, on the draft resolution, submitted an amended resolution, on September 24, 2015. Sri Lanka accepted the amended resolution though it was essentially the same.

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.

Some made a foolish attempt to deceive the public that following intervention by the GoSL, the US and UK had modified the draft resolution.

The GoSL co-sponsored the Geneva Resolution a few days after the UNHRC proposed the setting up of hybrid court to inquire into war crimes allegations.

The resolution called upon Sri Lanka to establish a credible judicial process, with the participation of Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers and authorized prosecutors and investigators, to go into the alleged rights abuses.

The judicial mechanism "should include independent judicial and prosecutorial institutions led by individuals known for their integrity and impartiality," according to the resolution.

After the resolution was adopted, India’s envoy, Ajit Kumar, said: "We reiterate our firm belief that the meaningful devolution of political authority, through the implementation of the 13th Amendment of the Constitution of Sri Lanka [adopted in 1987 as a sequel to an agreement between India and Sri Lanka] and building upon it would greatly help the process of national reconciliation."

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 last year 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 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.

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

Former President and Kurunegala District MP, Mahinda Rajapaksa, as well as those organizations opposed to international intervention, by way of the Geneva resolution, never bothered to forcefully take up the GoSL changing its September 21, 2015, stance. In fact, the former President, and the Joint Opposition loyal to him, didn’t, at least, comment on this. The government conveniently refrained from mentioning the circumstances under which the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe accepted the resolution which it rejected on September 21, 2015.

Who decided to co-sponsor Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka? Did the UNP leadership discuss the September 21, 2015, draft resolution as well as the draft resolution presented on September 24, 2015? Did the political leadership consult the Attorney General’s Department or was the issue taken up at the cabinet?

Nearly a year after the UNHRC adopted resolution on Sri Lanka; President Maithripala Sirisena continues to insist that he never accepted foreign judges. It would be interesting to know whether the Foreign Ministry had briefed President Maithripala Sirisena regarding the two draft resolutions.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, strongly criticised the draft resolution when it was taken up at the first informal session in Geneva (Geneva draft resolution counterproductive - The Island, September 23, 2015).

The government never challenged the front-page story based on a three-page statement issued by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN, Geneva. Having rejected the draft resolution, the government co-sponsored the same in spite it being severely inimical to Sri Lanka. Obviously, Western powers ordered Sri Lanka to accept the draft resolution or face the consequences.

The Joint Opposition didn’t even realize what was happening though a section of the media, including The Island, extensively reported Ambassador Aryasinha’s statement at the first informal session. One-time Foreign Secretary, Bernard Goonetilleke, strongly criticized the draft of the proposed Geneva resolution in a live interview on Sirasa (Pathikada) and MTV (now TV 1) on September 24, 2015.

Pointing out that the draft resolution contained 24 preamble paragraphs and 26 operative paragraphs, Goonetilleke said, "It looks like a novel to me."

The veteran career diplomat basically echoed Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha that sections of the current draft were counter-productive to reconciliation efforts.

Responding to a query, Goonetilleke asserted that the outcome of the Geneva resolution would largely depend on how the government managed the situation.

Having commenced his career in 1970, Goonetilleke held postings in Kuala Lumpur, New York, Bangkok, Washington D.C., Geneva and Beijing. He has held several positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ending as Director General (Multilateral Affairs) - (1997-2000), and Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2003-2004). Goonetilleke served as Director General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP) and functioned as a member of the government’s negotiating team during the Norwegian-led peace process.

Expressing confidence in Aryasinha’s capacity to handle the situation, Goonetilleke said that he expected the government would take the correct path.

The retired top diplomat emphasized the responsibility on the part of the decision makers to comprehend the ground realities.

In spite of the formation of United Nations Human Rights Council in place of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, that instrument remained a political tool, Goonetilleke alleged, asserting that the Geneva UN body’s real intention wasn’t actually promoting human rights. The veteran pointed out that the resolutions had never been brought against the US, the UK, Canada or Australia.

Goonetilleke said that unless both parties could reach a consensus on the draft resolution, there was the option to go for a vote.

Goonetilleke said that influential countries pursued agendas beneficial to them. Some claimed credit for introducing certain sections, to a particular resolution, whereas others sought commendation for deleting parts. Goonetilleke emphasized that Sri Lanka couldn’t expect an overnight change in such international opinion.

Goonetilleke briefly explained the dilemma of the developing countries in taking a position on the Geneva issue due to Sri Lanka’s new friendship with the US. Commenting on Sri Lanka’s relationship with China, Goonetilleke stressed that Beijing was strongly committed to the principle that there shouldn’t be external interference in domestic affairs of member states. Goonetilleke said that China was most likely to remain an all-weather friend.

India’s position on the Geneva resolution would be largely dependent on the Centre’s stand, though Tamil Nadu factor couldn’t be ignored, he said (Ex-Foreign Secretary frowns on Geneva draft resolution-The Island, September 25, 2015).

Former President Rajapaksa’s office didn’t take notice of Ambassador Goonetilleke’s remarks. The government, too, never felt a need to consult experts, hence the decision to co-sponsor previously rejected resolution.

A statement made by Tamil National Alliance (TNA) spokesperson and Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran at a congressional hearing, on June 14, 2016, should be considered together with GoSL’s September 21, 2015 stand. In a lengthy statement made in the presence of Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Washington, Prasad Kariyawasam, attorney-at-law Sumanthiran dealt with international involvement in the accountability process. Declaring that the Geneva Resolution had been accepted following negotiations, MP Sumanthiran declared that they had agreed for a hybrid court with foreign judges, prosecutors, defence attorneys and investigators consequent to tripartite talks involving the GoSL, the US and the TNA. 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 government nor the TNA never challenged The Island reportage on MP Sumanthiran’s bombshell statement. Sri Lanka’s embassy in Washington issued a press release regarding Ambassador Kariyawasam and MP Sumanthiran at the congressional hearing though there was no reference to the TNA heavyweight’s controversial remarks.

Ambassador Aryasinha, in his presentation on September 21, 2015, called for drastic changes in the draft resolution (the one the GoSL, the US and the TNA agreed on).

Having explained measures taken by the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration to address accountability issues through the formation of (A) A Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence (B) An Office on missing persons based on the families right to know, designed and implemented with the support of the ICRC (C) A Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel that aims to address the problem of impunity for human rights violations suffered by all communities, and (D) An Office for Reparations, Ambassador Aryasinha regretted that the draft resolution didn’t take into consideration the new government taking an entirely different path.

Ambassador Aryasinha said: "At a time when we have a new Government that is adopting a calmly different path to that which was followed in the era, before 8 January, the expectation is, naturally, that there would be a similar change in tone, tenor, and even strategy on the part of the Council as well."

"In this context, my delegation is of the view that a lengthy resolution of the nature of the current draft before us which contains 24 preambular paras and 26 operative paras, which is repetitive, judgemental and prescriptive is not in keeping with the spirit of the process of reconciliation and reform that is underway in my country under the National Unity Government. Neither is it helpful in adopting a collaborative approach to reaching consensus. Many paragraphs in the current draft are in fact counter-productive to the reconciliation efforts of the government, and have the tendency to polarize communities, vitiate the atmosphere on the ground that is being carefully nurtured towards reconciliation and peace building and restrict the space required for consultations. There is a real danger that the current approach will leave room for negative interpretation, thus, only helping ‘spoilers’ in this process."

"Further, given that both the HCHR’s report (A/HRC/30/61) and the Report on the OHCHR investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) (A/HRC/30/SRP.2) recognizes that the report represents a ‘human rights investigation’ and not a ‘criminal investigation’, emphasizing excessively on the criminal justice aspects, makes the resolution imbalanced. It would be more helpful to have a holistic approach when making recommendations in this resolution on promoting reconciliation in Sri Lanka."

"We also remain concerned regarding the formulations provided in several of the Operative paragraphs. Certain terminology used such as ‘verification’, is new and intrusive language to be presented in a human rights resolution, especially when the country concerned is engaging with the international community including with the OHCHR."

"I therefore urge, that in order to enable consensus, this resolution be sensitive to the constitutional and institutional difficulties that will have to be overcome in implementing its recommendations as well as political realities. It must also observe clear, cogent language that the people of Sri Lanka find respectful."

Obviously, those who had been demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lanka on the basis of unverified allegations simply ignored Ambassador Aryasinha’s statement at the first informal session on the draft resolution. Having succumbed to Western pressure and co-sponsored controversial resolution, the government is struggling to explain it did nothing inimical to Sri Lanka’s interest. Those who had boasted in the run up to January 2015 presidential polls that a defeat for war winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa would certainly save Sri Lanka from war crimes court are silent today. The Geneva resolution has proved them wrong. The previous government woefully failed to address accountability issues. The Rajapaksa administration pitiful strategies, in fact, helped Western powers, particularly the UK in coordination with the Tamil Diaspora to move Geneva against Sri Lanka. Their project remains on track. The government, as well as former President Rajapaksa, seem unable to face the Geneva accusations. They should carefully revisit the inquiry process leading to the adoption of Geneva resolution on Oct 1, 2015.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

How LTTE inspired Oslo massacre influenced mass murder in Munich



By Shamindra Ferdinando

European Union member state Germany believes that an18-year-old gunman who had massacred nine people on July 22, 2016 at the Olympia shopping mall in Munich was inspired by Norwegian Andres Breivik responsible for July 22,2011 massacre of 77 persons, mostly teenagers in two consecutive attacks in Norway.

At the time of the Norway massacre, Breivik had been 32 year old far right extremist.

International media quoted a distraught Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae as having said that there was an "obvious" link between the shopping mall massacre and fifth anniversary of Breivik’s attacks. The media said seven of the dead were teenagers. from Kosovo (3), Turkey (3) and one from Greece.

The gunman, who had dual German-Iranian nationality, later shot himself. The police identified the killer as David Ali Sonboly aka David S. The Munich massacre is the latest in a series of terrorist attacks, including what are dubbed as lone wolf attacks inspired by terrorism elsewhere.

Denying a link between the teenage killer, the Munich police declared that the youth had been obsessed with mass shootings. The police found written material on such attacks in his room prompting Munich’s police chief to speak of links to the Breivik’s massacre.

Sonboly also wounded 27 persons, ten of them critically.

While Germany had acknowledged the Norwegian inspired Sonboly, there was absolutely no reference to Breivik being inspired by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), one of the Indian sponsored terrorist groups proscribed by the US as well as India. International media couldn’t have been unaware of Breivik’s public declaration of being inspired by LTTE tactics to carry out attacks. Breivik exploded a car bomb near Norwegian Prime Minister’s Office killing eight persons and causing injuries to 209. Then, Breivik having dressed as a police officer had reached Utoya island where he shot dead 69 persons (One of them succumbed to injuries two days later at a hospital). Among the dead were the then Norwegian Premier Jens Stoltenberg’s personal friends as well as the stepbrother of Norwegian crown princess Mette-Marit.

Breivik carried out the massacre over two years after the Sri Lankan military wiped out the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. A few hours before, Breivik went on the rampage, the Norwegian made reference to the LTTE’s eviction of the Muslim community from the Northern Province in Oct/Nov 1990, in his so-called manifesto released online.

Did Breivik associate with ex-LTTE cadres living in Norway?

The then Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Oslo Rodney Perera aggressively pursued the Breivik’s case. Perera is Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union. The veteran career diplomat in an interviews with the writer and The Sunday Observer staffer Manjula Fernando, explained his efforts on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka to convince Norway to examine Breivik’s case. Ambassador Perera said that the international community couldn’t ignore the threat posed by various extremists being inspired by terrorists. Ambassador Perera went out of his way to draw the attention of the then Norwegian government to to the two extracts that refer to Sri Lanka; (1) Pro-Sri Lanka (supports the deportation of all Muslims from Sri Lanka) (Page 1235) and (2) Fourth Generation War is normally characterized by a "stateless" entity fighting a state or regime (the EUSSR). Fighting can be physically such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to use a modern example." (Page 1479)

Sri Lanka pointed out to Norway that the government of Sri Lanka or people demanded the expulsion of the Muslims. Norway was told of the circumstances under which the LTTE had forced the entire Muslim population to quit the Northern Province in Oct/Nov 1990 during Ranasinghe Premadasa’s tenure as the President. The Sinhalese fled the Jaffna peninsula during early 80s. Breivik had misinterpreted the LTTE’s strategy as that of the then government of Sri Lanka. President Premadasa struggled to meet the LTTE challenge on the Northern front. Having resumed war in June 1990, by Nov, same year, the LTTE had wiped out all army bases along the Kandy -Jaffna A9 road to bring the vanni region under its control. Isolated army and navy bases situated along coastal areas didn’t pose a threat to the LTTE.

The LTTE cleared the Northern Province comprising Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Mannar and Vavuniya of Muslims against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) fleeing the Vanni. The LTTE inflicted a humiliating defeat on the SLA much to the embarrassment of the then political and military leaderships.

Breivik obviously had received LTTE propaganda material over a period of time and strongly believed the murderous campaign directed against the Muslims living in Sri Lanka’s North. Wouldn’t it pertinent to examine whether the Munich killer had accessed Breivik’s manifesto?

In response to a query by Manjula Fernando, Ambassador Perera said: "The second reference in the Breivik ‘manifesto’ is a clear indication of him astutely following on the modus operandi of the LTTE whereby the State was drawn into a conflict which was pursued vigorously by bombing State property, killing democratically elected leaders, public officials and the civilian population from all ethnic and religious denominations." (Norway should change its stance on LTTE-SL’s Ambassador in Oslo, August 7, 2011,The Sunday Observer)

Manjula Fernando further quoted Ambassador Perere as having said: "Therefore, it is possible that Breivik may have had contacts with some of the LTTE activists either in Norway or elsewhere. I have raised this very pertinent issue with the senior political and security authorities in Oslo who have assured me that they are pursuing all such queries and we have agreed to follow this up in our regular interactions."

Norway appointed a ten-member committee headed by Alexandra Bech Gjorv (lawyer and businesswoman) to inquire into the massacre. On the basis of the report handed over to Norwegian Prime Minister, international media said that the police could have thwarted the bombing in Oslo and reached Utoya island. The media also reported that prevented from carrying out the massacre on the island. However, there hadn’t been any reference to Breivik relationship with LTTE violence. The then government never bothered to obtain copy of the full report.

The writer pursued the Breivik matter with the then External Affairs Ministry. The following is a front-page story titled Norway urged to probe  LTTE-Breivik ‘relationship’ on September 7, 2011 issue: The government of Sri Lanka is quietly pushing Norway to investigate the circumstances that led to Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik, 32, adopting tactics used by the LTTE, an organization proscribed in 32 countries.

Authoritative diplomatic sources told The Island that Sri Lanka expected the July 22 Commission, headed by lawyer Alexandra Bech Gjørv, to delve into a possible LTTE link to the killer. Referring to a statement attributed to Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, sources said that Sri Lanka believed that the commission would look into all aspects of the massacre which claimed the lives of 76 men, women and children.

PM Stoltenberg wants the commission to finalize its report by Aug. 10, 2012.

The Norwegian PM declared that the commission could secure external expertise to facilitate its work.

Breivik is in custody for carrying out the bombing that killed eight persons in Oslo and shooting 68 persons on Utoya.

Sri Lanka’s top diplomat in Oslo Rodney Perera is in the process of discussing the issue with Norwegian politicians, officials and the media as part of ongoing efforts to highlight the dangers posed by the LTTE, though it no longer retained a conventional military capability.

Responding to a query by The Island, Ambassador Perera said that Gjørv’s commission would delve into what he called the Sri Lankan angle.

Recently Ambassador Perera wrote to members of the Norwegian parliament, key officials and the media pointing out the references made by Breivik to the LTTE/Sri Lanka, namely forcible eviction of Muslims from Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka (page1235 of Breivik’s manifesto) and ‘fourth generation war’(page 1479) characterized by a stateless entity fighting a state or regime such as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to use a modern example.

The Ambassador’s letter is expected to be taken up at the July 22 Commission.

While explaining Sri Lanka’s position on Breivik’s references to the LTTE’s strategy, Ambassador Perera asserted the assassin may have had contacts with some of the LTTE activists either in Norway or elsewhere.

There were two other important facts in the Breivik case, Ambassador Perera said. "It is known that Breivik wore a ‘police’ uniform so that he could execute his innocent victims at will. This was all too similar to what the LTTE did on numerous occasions, i. e. to carry out premeditated attacks on civilians from all walks of life, posing as Sri Lankan military personnel in order to draw unsuspecting civilians to them and later pin the blame on the armed forces as could be seen from the fabricated photographs and videos being circulated to discredit Sri Lanka’s democratically elected leaders and the heroic military forces. Then it is reported that Breivik has said in his manifesto that he intended to film the attacks for propaganda purposes. This is once again very similar to what the LTTE had done in the past."

The commission comprises:

* Former Chief of Police in Hordaland, Ragnar Line Auglend, Bergen

* Former Police Commissioner in Copenhagen, Hanne Bech Hansen, Hillerup, Denmark

* Researcher Laila Bokhari, Oslo

* Former CEO of NSB Einar Enger, Rakkestad

* Lt General Torgeir Hagen, former head of the Norwegian armed forces’ intelligence services, Hamar

* Professor Guri Hjeltnes, Oslo.

* Vice President of the Norwegian Red Cross, Linda Motrøen Paulsen, Stavanger

* Chief County Medical Officer, Karin Straume, Vadsø

These nine members will be supplemented by a tenth, who will be a man with police or rescue services expertise from one of Norway’s closest neighboring countries."

The previous government pathetically failed at least to make any reference to the Breivik factor at any of the international forums where Western powers routinely harassed and humiliated the country. In fact, the previous government turned a blind eye to the Breivik factor though Ambassador Perera relentlessly pursued the issue.

Former New Delhi-based Israeli ambassador to Sri Lanka, Mark Sofer, during an interview with this writer, in early 2011 said that his country was a victim of suicide bombing, pioneered by the LTTE. Sofer said that many Israeli civilians had been killed and wounded due to human bombs and Sri Lanka should be proud of achieving military victory over the LTTE.

Sofer said that the LTTE had influenced those causing mayhem in the Middle East. He alleged that LTTE suicide attacks had inspired those targeting Jewish targets.

Western powers allowed the LTTE a free hand though the organization was proscribed in US, UK, Canada and EU territory.

The al Qaeda attack on USS Cole in the port of Aden, on Oct 12, 2000, prompted the LTTE to proudly declare the operation had been inspired by its own tactics. The mission killed 17 US personnel and injured 39 others.

Western powers never bothered to examine the LTTE influence in grooming international terrorism. Instead, they encouraged LTTE cadres to seek refuge in Europe and Canada at the expense of Sri Lanka.

The state-of-the-art Destroyer was rammed by a small craft, laden with explosives, which blew a 40 foot hole in the side of the guided missile ship.

The operation was very much similar to the Black Sea Tiger attack on surveillance command ship, ‘Edithara’, in the Kankesanthurai harbour, in the mid 90s.

Sea Tigers employed similar tactics in another successful attack on another SLN vessel, ‘Abeetha’, off Point Pedro, on May 4, 1991.

Thillaiyampalam Sivanesan, aka Soosai, in an exclusive interview with BBC’s Francis Harrison, during the Oslo-managed Ceasefire Agreement, boasted Al Qaeda copied tactics from the LTTE. Soosai is quoted as having said that other terrorist groups should learn from the LTTE as the Al Qaeda had already copied them.

The interview, with Soosai, recorded during the LTTE celebrations of Heroes’ Day (during November), and broadcast over BBC Television, was posted on the BBC Website’s South Asia section, under the heading, "Tamil Tigers Reveal Suicide Secrets" as a video clip. The news feature introduced the Black Tigers as "the Original Suicide Bombers of the World."

Referring to the attack on USS Cole, Soosai said "They are using our tactics. I think in Yemen they used our strategy of suicide attack to blow up an American ship. That is exactly what we used to do."

Soosai is believed to have been killed, in May 2009, while crossing the Nanthikadal lagoon with LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and his family. The Navy captured Soosai’s wife, Satyadevi as she was fleeing to Tamil Nadu in a boat in the early hours of May 15, 2009. Over a dozen others, including Soosai’s son and daughter were captured.

The LTTE, obviously, exploited Frances Harrison’s BBC programme to influence those hell-bent on causing death and destruction in the world. Germany wouldn’t have expected a massacre in far away Norway to inspire a German-Italian youth to carry out a massacre. Germany shouldn’t ignore that the Munich killer carried out the massacre to coincide with the fifth anniversary of Norway killings. The LTTE received a considerable positive media coverage in the West during the war with the British leading the way. The BBC went to the extent in glorifying LTTE suicide cadres and Sea Tiger tactics.

Until the very end the an influential section of Western, Indian and local media portrayed the LTTE as a conventional force that cannot be militarily defeated. Unfortunately, Breivik proved that LTTE ideology can influence death and destruction even years after eradication of India’s monstrous creation.

Those demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lanka for eradicating the LTTE through military means never called for investigation into Indian intervention here which caused terrorism. For want of a cohesive strategy, previous government failed to counter false propaganda directed at Sri Lanka by various interested parties leading to the passage of Geneva Resolution 30/1 in last October.

Breivik’s massacre should be examined against the backdrop of Norway arranging a Ceasefire Agreement between Sri Lanka and the LTTE in February, 2002. The Norwegian project went awry much to the relief of the vast majority of Sri Lankans and a three year war finally eradicated the group leaving its political wing the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) to pursue a high profile campaign leading to the passage of Geneva Resolution 30/1 inimical to Sri Lanka.