SPECIAL REPORT : Part 191November 7, 2017, 12:00 pm
April 5, 2012: Lord Naseby, PC, Baron of Sandy and Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group in UK meets wartime Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Temple Trees
Lord Naseby has challenged the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) findings pertaining to Sri Lanka’s war against terrorism soon after the head of that panel, former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, received another key appointment. In late July, 2017, Darusman received appointment as head of a fact-finding mission on Myanmar where violence caused thousands to flee. Darusman’s team includes Radhika Coomaraswamy and Australian Christopher Dominic Sidoti.
Their mission has received a mandate set out by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 34/22, adopted on 24 March 2017, to "establish facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by the military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in the Rakhine State".
The outcome of their investigation is not too difficult to comprehend.
By Shamindra Ferdinando
A brief but powerful WION exclusive with Lord Naseby (Michael Wolfgang Laurence Morris) couldn’t have been telecast at a better time for Sri Lanka.
The WION report dealt with Lord Naseby’s significant statement in the House of Lords, on Oct 12, 2017, made in respect of the Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby challenged the Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (PoE) on Accountability in Sri Lanka, the foundation for the Geneva Resolution.
The PoE comprised former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, South African civil society activist Yasmin Sooka and US attorney-at-law Stevan Ratner.
Responding to Mandy Clark, of Uttar Pradesh headquartered WION, Lord Naseby declared that one-fourth of the 7,000 Tamils killed, in military operations on the Vanni front, were members of the LTTE. The veteran Conservative politician based his claim on US and British wartime diplomatic dispatches from Colombo. Lord Naseby named the then US Ambassador Robert O. Blake and UK Defence Attaché Lt. Col. Anton Gash as the authors of those reports.
Blake and Gash hadn’t so far challenged Lord Naseby’s claims. In fact, the PoE should respond to Lord Naseby’s challenge as it cannot remain silent in the face of such a serious allegation.
Lord Naseby didn’t mince his words when he explained how the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) repeatedly denied his requests, since 2014, to secure the entire set of dispatches from Lt. Col. Gash.
The former CBS News war correspondent and the winner of the Richard R. Snell Award for investigative journalism, Mandy had covered the war in Afghanistan and was among those who entered Libya at the onset of the US caused conflict in Libya.
Having had dealt with the accountability issues, Lord Naseby criticized the UK for accommodating LTTE cadres and turning a blind eye to Tamil Diaspora still promoting the group, nine years after the conclusion of the war. Lord Naseby explained how the LTTE had eliminated the rival Tamil leadership to clear its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s path.
Against the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s pathetic failure to decisively and swiftly act on Lord Naseby’s Oct 12, 2017 statement, WION’s Special Report, titled ‘UN fudged Lanka casualties: Lord Naseby found 7,000, not 40,000 correct estimate of civilian casualties’, certainly embarrassed those hell-bent on forcing Sri Lanka to admit mass scale massacre during the final phase of the offensive on the Vanni east front.
In his Oct 12, 2017 statement, in the House of Lords, during debate on Sri Lanka, Lord Naseby urged the Theresa May government to request Geneva to lower casualty figure from 40,000 to 7,000 taking into consideration Sri Lanka never willfully targeted civilians.
A glaring omission, perhaps the only shortcoming in the Emmy-nominated Clark’s exclusive, was her failure to mention how New Delhi, in the early 80s, had caused terrorism here for geo-political reasons. Clark couldn’t have refrained from referring to New Delhi’s role, especially after Lord Naseby recalled the LTTE assassination of former Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1991.
No less a person than the late Indian Foreign Secretary J.N. Dixit, who had been New Delhi’s top envoy in Colombo at the time of the Indian Army deployment here, in July 1987, acknowledged in his memoirs ‘Makers of India’s Foreign Policy’, released in 2004, that India was responsible for causing terrorism here. Obviously, India’s decision to subvert Sri Lanka had been part of her overall security and political strategy in the wake of the growing threat posed by the US-Pakistan and Israel alliance. Although China hadn’t been aligned with the alliance, Dixit asserted that China worked closely with Pakistan to undermine India in response to Indians’ backing for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. India made the destabilization of Sri Lanka an integral part of a security project to safeguard Indian national interests.
UN responds to Lord Naseby
Lord Nasebys bombshell really undermined the despicable UN strategy here. The House of Lords statement obviously placed UN Special Rapporteur (on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees) Pablo de Greiff in a difficult position. Greiff, having concluded his two-week long visit to Sri Lanka, called a media briefing at the UN compound, in Colombo, on Oct 23, 2017, where the Colombian warned Sri Lanka of dire consequences unless Colombo fulfill its obligations to the international community.
The visit was Greiff’s second since the change of government, in January 2015.
However, the Colombian had no option but to refer to the situation that had been caused by Lord Naseby. Obviously, UN Colombo had been embarrassed. The Colombo briefing took place before Clark’s interview with Lord Naseby.
"As I write this statement, the debate continues in the newspapers concerning the number of victims, at the end of the conflict, whether it was 40,000 or ‘merely’ 8,000. While the final number may be impossible to determine, with absolute precision, there is of course a lot that has been learned in the last 30 years about forensics and other methods offering reliability that political opinions cannot," the Colombian told the Colombo media. The Island, however, didn’t receive an invitation from UN Colombo, though the writer was invited for a press conference given by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, in July this year.
Unfortunately, those who had been invited by UN Colombo didn’t raise Lord Naseby’s statement with Greiff even after he made reference to the debate in respect of the number of victims.
Wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, in an exclusive interview, headlined ‘War Crimes: GR highlights confusion over civilian death toll’ (The Island, Oct 21, 2017), with the writer, discussed the implications of Lord Naseby’s statement. The writer dealt with the government’s lukewarm response to Lord Naseby’s statement, in a front-page lead story, headlined ‘Govt yet to capitalize on Lord Naseby’s call to UK parliament’ (The Island, Oct 26, 2017). The writer also obtained Lord Naseby’s comment in respect of a meeting he had with Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Mark Field, following his statement (FCO to study Naseby’s proposals-The Island, Oct 26, 2017)
Had The Island received an invitation, the writer would have certainly asked Greiff whether any Sri Lankan government representative had sought an explanation in respect of Lord Naseby’s statement. The House of Lords revelation should be examined against the backdrop of those who had the opportunity, to take it up with the UN official, failing to do so. In addition to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, the UN Special Rapporteur is on record as having said that he had very productive discussions with other high level government officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister Marapana; the Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera; the Minister of Law and Order and Southern Development Sagala Ratnayake; the Minister of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganesan; the Minister of Prison Reforms, Rehabilitation, Resettlement and Hindu Religious Affairs D.M. Swaminathan; the Minister of Justice Thalatha Atukorale; the Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam; the Secretary to the President Austin Fernando; the Secretary of Defense Kapila Waidyaratne; Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya; the Sectoral Oversight Committees on Legal Affairs and Media, and on Reconciliation and North and East Reconstruction; the Chief Justice; the Attorney General; the Chief of Defense Staff, the Commander of the Army; the Commander of the Air Force and the Commander of the Navy; the Chief of National Intelligence; the Inspector General of Police; the Chairperson of the Victim and Witness Protection Authority; the Secretary-General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms; the Director-General of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation; the Human Rights Commission, the National Police Commission, members of religious communities, political parties, and representatives of the diplomatic community, academics, civil society organizations, victims groups and many others who have shared their insights. At the local level, the UN official had the opportunity to exchange views with the Governors of the Northern Province and the Eastern Province.
Strangely, The Island didn’t receive a response from Army headquarters as to what action they intended taking in respect of Lord Naseby’s statement. Unfortunately, the Army as an institution hadn’t sought to explore ways and means of using the only favourable statement made, on Sri Lanka’s behalf, in a key foreign parliament, to clear its name.
Repudiation of Gaza war report
Lord Naseby’s call to Geneva to revisit the Panel of Experts allegation, pertaining to the death toll, should be examined with the US reaction to South African justice Richard Goldstone contradicting his own report on Israeli invasion of Gaza (2008-2009) keeping in mind.
In July 2011 the US Senate voted unanimously in favour of calling the UN to revoke the Gaza war report, prepared by a four-member UN Panel, headed by Goldstone. The Obama administration made its move in the wake of Goldstone retracting the report’s findings.
The US went to the extent of calling on the Human Rights Council to repair the damage caused to the Jewish State.
The US, while stepping up pressure on Sri Lanka, to adhere with the Panel of Experts report, had sought to nullify Goldstone’s report.
Goldstone on Sept 15, 2009 declared both Israeli Defence Forces and Palestinian militants committed serious war crimes and breaches of humanitarian law, which may amount to crimes against humanity.
"We came to the conclusion, on the basis of the facts we found, that there was strong evidence to establish that numerous serious violations of international law, both humanitarian law and human rights law, were committed by Israel during the military operations in Gaza," international wire services quoted Goldstone as saying.
The US Senate vote was initiated by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator James Risch. While the decision has no legal binding, it is significant as the US is the UN’s largest contributor.
The US said that contrary to the report’s findings, Israel did not embrace a deliberate policy of hurting civilians in Gaza. It is also noted that Judge Goldstone himself admitted that the number of civilian casualties in Gaza was smaller than claimed in the report and recognized that Israel, like any other sovereign state, has the right to defend itself and its civilians.
In the wake of Goldstone’s move, followed by the US reaction, Geneva conveniently dropped the matter, quietly, though other members of the Goldstone panel firmly stood by the report.
An opportunity for Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka should now request Geneva to review unsubstantiated allegations directed against Sri Lanka by the Panel of Experts. On the basis of scurrilous claims, the UN triggered an investigation under the direction of Sandra Beidas, formerly of the Amnesty International. That led to Geneva Resolution 30/1 on Oct 2015, though Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative there, Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha, strongly objected to it, just over a week before.
The Panel of Experts, having had placed the number of civilian deaths at 40,000 on the basis of information provided by what the panel called credible sources, ruled they couldn’t be verified under any circumstances, until 2031.
Whatever the declarations made by the Panel of Experts, Geneva, as well as Theresa May’s government, cannot turn a blind eye to Lord Naseby’s statement. Having defended Sri Lanka, Lord Naseby should expect the UK-based Channel 4 that pushed for an international war crimes probe against Sri Lanka to pounce on him. Channel 4 cannot ignore Lord Naseby’s bid to clear Sri Lanka of unsubstantiated allegations, especially after Mandy Clark’s exclusive. In fact none of those who had contributed to the Geneva exercise, as well as the project to defeat President Mahinda Rajapaksa at two presidential polls in 2010 and 2015 too cannot remain silent.
Lord Naseby has challenged the VERY BASIS of political grouping formed by the US in the run up to the 2010 presidential poll. The US brought in the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) led by the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) into the UNP-led political grouping. The TNA threw its weight behind wartime Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka on the basis that President Rajapaksa gave political leadership to the war that annihilated the LTTE and caused massive loss of civilian life. They implemented, basically the same anti-Rajapaksa strategy at the 2015 presidential poll.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government’s reluctance to act on Lord Naseby’s statement is obvious. When the writer raised the issue with co-cabinet spokesman and Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, the Minister acknowledged that it hadn’t been discussed at the cabinet. Can there be anything as important as defeating trumped-up war crimes charges. In fact, the Foreign Ministry should have had brought the matter to the notice of the cabinet immediately after Sri Lanka High Commission in London alerted Colombo as to the House of Lords statement.
Unenthusiastic Foreign Ministry’s response
Did Sri Lanka High Commission bring Lord Naseby’s statement to the Foreign Ministry’s attention? For want of Foreign Ministry response to Lord Naseby’s very important statement, even a week after it was made, the writer, on Oct 20, 2017, sought an explanation from the Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry response really disappointed a vast majority of people, who expected the government to counter lies that had been propagated by various interested parties. Instead of taking advantage of Lord Naseby’s statement, issued on behalf of Sri Lanka, the Foreign Ministry declared: "The Government of Sri Lanka remains committed to the national processes, aimed at realizing the vision of a reconciled, stable, peaceful and prosperous nation. Engaging in arguments and debates in the international domain over the number of civilians who may have died at a particular time in the country will not help resolve any issues, in a meaningful manner, locally, except a feel good factor for a few individuals who may think that they have won a debate or scored points over someone or the other."
The Foreign Ministry, obviously, decided to ignore the fact that such debates in the international domain over a period of time led to Geneva Resolution 30/1. Those responsible for counter malicious propaganda directed against Sri Lanka had been exposed. Those in power remained silent as it is obviously detrimental for them to admit, in any way, Geneva forced Sri Lanka to accept massacre of over 40,000 Tamils during the last phase of the offensive. The failure on the part of the UK, Geneva as well as civil society groups to thwart Lord Naseby’s offensive must have shocked those who really believed in the UN claims.
Civil society responsibility
Those who had been engaged in costly exercises to promote post-war national reconciliation should realize the main obstacle to amity between the Sinhalese and the Tamils is the unsubstantiated allegation that the military massacred over 40,000 on the Vanni east front.
Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.
Civil society groups that had contributed to an expensive campaign meant to defeat Rajapaksa received substantial benefits. Now, their main allegation has been challenged on the basis of information that had been furnished during the war by UK and US diplomatic missions in Colombo. Civil society groups, such as the National Peace Council, perhaps the largest recipient of Norway undoing over the years, should request Indian, Japanese and other missions to furnish diplomatic cables pertaining to Sri Lanka casualties to Geneva. Their primary objective should be to establish the truth. The UN can release its own confidential report that placed the number of dead, between 2008 August to May 13, 2009, to be compared with dispatches from diplomatic missions.
On the basis of unproved allegations, Geneva has recommended change of Sri Lanka’s Constitution. Parliament last week debated recommendations made by PM Wickremesinghe-led Steering Committee in respect of constitutional reforms. Members of the government as well as the Joint Opposition refrained from commenting on Lord Naseby’s statement. Perhaps, some cannot comprehend the very basis for Western intervention in constitutional making process is unproved war crimes allegations that paved the way for Geneva Resolution 30/1. But, on the other hand, those, who had been spearheading the constitutional making process and aware of fraudulent means employed to ensure foreign intervention for regime change, are in a dilemma.
Unfortunately, those loyal to former President Rajapakse seemed a thoroughly disorganized lot not capable of exploiting the situation to Sri Lanka’s advantage.