SPECIAL REPORT : Part 220May 29, 2018, 8:54 pm
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Tamil Guardian posted a series of messages, from sitting British politicians and other schemers, issued to mark what they called ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day.’ The Island carried the Tamil Guardian report in its Saturday, May 27, 2018, printed edition. The full report can be accessed online.
The Global Sri Lanka Forum (GSLF), in a letter to The Island, alleged that the pro-LTTE Diaspora had paid a person in the editorial to publish the Tamil Guardian report. The grouping also called for an inquiry to establish how the report, without a byline, was carried. The writer, in his capacity as the News Editor of The Island, carried the Tamil Guardian report on page 4 of May 26 edition of our newspaper. Let me assure GSLF that the writer takes the full responsibility for carrying Tamil Guardian report and will continue to accommodate news reports which the GSLF may feel anti-Sri Lanka and also statements issued by UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF). In fact, by the time, the GSLF complained, the writer had almost finished the Wednesday piece that dealt with ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day.’
Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion on the morning of May 19, 2009, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.
The spineless current administration gave up Sri Lanka’s right to celebrate its triumph over terrorism, with a Victory Day Parade, immediately after the change of government, in January 2015. War-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa inaugurated the Victory Day Parade in May, 2009. It was last held in May, 2014, in Matara.
British MPs right to call the commemoration ‘Tamil Genocide Remembrance Day’ shouldn’t be disputed under any circumstances. In fact, it would be unfair on Sri Lanka’s part to oppose the British playing politics with the Sri Lanka conflict for their advantage. When our present and former members of Parliament had exploited/continue to exploit the conflict and pursued agendas of their own, it would be foolish to expect others to be mindful of Sri Lanka’s plight.
The UK never expected the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to lose the war, though the Sri Lankan military made steady battlefield progress on the Vanni front, after having liberated the Eastern Province, by mid 2007. The war commenced in August 2006 with devastating simultaneous LTTE attacks, both in the northern and eastern theaters of operations. The British believed the LTTE could mount a massive counter offensive and reverse the ground situation in late 2008 as fighting formations converged on the Vanni east theatre.
As long as the UK believed the LTTE could somehow overwhelm the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) on the Vanni east front, British politicians never bothered to push the LTTE to give up arms. Those MPs, shedding crocodile tears today, never demanded the LTTE to give up holding its own civilian population as human shields or surrender. It would be pertinent to mention that MPs remained silent because the UK-based Tamil Diaspora really believed the LTTE was on the verge of defeating the Sri Lanka Army (SLA). Had the Tamil Diaspora realized by Dec 2008/Feb 2009, the LTTE was cornered by several fighting formations and counter attack wasn’t realistic, interested Britishers would have called for their government intervention. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t the case.
Ryan’s relationship with GTF
And some British politicians benefited by the LTTE’s defeat. Let me briefly examine the case of British Labour Party politician for Enfield North.
Among those who had been quoted in the Tamil Guardian report headlined ‘British MPs release messages to commemorate Mullivaikkal Genocide’ was Labour Party MP Joan Ryan, former Chief Executive and Policy Advisor of UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF).
Ryan is the Vice Chair of All Party Parliamentary Group for Tamils (APPGT). The APPGT came into being years before the conclusion of the war, whereas the GTF was established in Feb, 2010, less than a year after the LTTE’s demise.
Tamil Guardian quoted Joan Ryan, MP for Enfield North, Vice Chair of APPGT, as having said: "My thoughts and best wishes are with you all as we commemorate the tragic events of Mullivaikal. 9 years on from the end of Sri Lanka’s armed conflict, I share your deep concerns that the Sri Lankan Government has made no meaningful progress on truth, justice and reconciliation. Justice delayed is justice denied.
"Unless the culture of impunity on the island is tackled, and there is a genuine reckoning with the country’s past, Sri Lanka will be unable to lay the foundations for a sustainable peace.
"I can assure you that I will continue to support all efforts to ensure an enduring peace in Sri Lanka and the recognition of the Tamil people’s fundamental rights and freedoms."
Having represented Enfield North from 1997, Ryan was rejected by the electorate at the 2010 parliamentary polls and soon joined the GTF as its Chief Executive and Policy Advisor. Ryan gave up the assignment in 2015 when she regained Enfield North.
The Labour Party politician had been also embroiled in parliamentary expenses scandal and was one of those beneficiaries of highly controversial claims and was directed to repay.
Another Labour Party MP, Siobhain McDonagh, who declared in the UK parliament, in Sept. 2011, that the Sri Lankan military killed 100,000 Tamils, including 60,000 civilians, in the final phase of the war, too, issued a statement to the Tamil Guardian.
The Tamil Guardian quoted Siobhain McDonagh MP for Mitcham and Morden, Senior Vice Chair of APPGT, as having said: "Dear All, today we pause to mark the 9th anniversary of the massacre at Mullivaikal. We reflect and remember all those who died during Sri Lanka’s civil war. And we reaffirm our strong belief that only truth, justice and accountability will set Sri Lanka on a path to lasting peace. Each of you will be fully aware of the failure of the Sri Lankan Government to live up to its promises on justice and reconciliation. The Tamil community has valiantly brought the damning evidence of the Sri Lankan Government’s war crimes to the attention of the world. And yet, the overwhelming majority of the commitments made by the Sri Lankan Government remain unachieved. None of the four key transitional justice mechanisms pledged have even been operationalised." McDonagh, too, has been embroiled in parliamentary expenses scandal.
Those, who had been quoted in the Tamil Guardian report, conveniently refrained from mentioning the accountability on the part of the LTTE whose British theoretician, of Sri Lankan origin, Anton Balasingham, was allowed to operate freely in the UK in spite of the massive death and destruction caused by the group. The British turned a blind eye to the LTTE assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1991. Soon after the LTTE assassinated Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, in Aug. 2005, UK-based Balasingham was allowed to receive top Norwegian representatives to discuss ways and means to overcome the latest high profile killing. The Independent newspaper, in a piece titled ‘negotiator for Tamil Tigers’ posted on Dec. 18, 2006, described how Britisher Balasingham received international recognition. The Independent obituary referred to how the Norwegian Prime Minister addressed Balasingham as ‘Excellency.’ Let me reproduce the first paragraph of that obituary: "Anton Balasingham was the international face of the militant group that pioneered suicide bombing, yet he was welcomed in the drawing rooms of Europe. The Prime Minister of Norway addressed him as "Excellency", as if he were an ambassador for an internationally recognized state, instead of chief negotiator for the Tamil Tigers, banned as a terrorist organization in the European Union and the United States".
Balasingham died, in London, on Dec. 14, 2006, four months after the LTTE launched Eelam war IV expecting swift and decisive battlefield victories, especially in the northern theatre. The UK turned a Nelsonian eye. On the basis of British High Commission diplomatic cables from Colombo, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office believed the LTTE was right on top of the situation. The British remained confident, even after the SLA regained Pooneryn, on the Vanni mainland, in Nov. 2008, and swiftly turned east and rapidly advanced across the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road to seize Paranthan, and then moved northwards and southwards to liberate Elephant Pass and Kilinochchi, respectively.
The fall of Kilinochchi, in early January 2009, sealed the LTTE’s fate.
UK diplomats visit The Island
The writer received New Delhi-based British diplomat at The Island editorial a few months before the fall of Kilinochchi. The visitor was accompanied by a British diplomat, based in Colombo (not the defence attache). They inquired about the ground situation on the Vanni front where the Army was making progress. But when the writer, having showed them the latest battlefield map and explained that the LTTE couldn’t hold Kilinochchi much longer and the re-opening of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road was on the cards, the Britishers looked amused. Obviously, The Island assertion certainly was contrary to that of other media as well as political party spokesmen who knowingly or unknowingly propagated the lie the LTTE had strong conventional forces deployed on the Vanni east front. They continued to believe the propaganda, even after the SLA had Kilinochchi partially cut off, thereby leaving demoralized defenders with no option but withdrawing eastwards.
The likes of Ryan and McDonagh remained mum throughout this period. They never felt the need to discourage the LTTE from continuing the unwinnable war. They never called for punitive measures against Balasingham, who obviously abused his British citizenship and exploited the coveted British passport to promote and justify terrorism, along with his wife Adele. They readily accepted all those terrorists who had obtained British citizenship after having entered the UK over the years. But, the duo demanded immediate expulsion of Sri Lanka’s defence attache Brig. Priyankara Fernando whose throat cutting gesture in response to unruly protest outside the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission in London on Feb. 4, 2018, drew condemnation. The UK forced the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to recall Fernando of the Gemunu Watch (GW), one of the infantry formations engaged in anti-terrorist operations.
Ryan and McDonagh found Brigadier Fernando’s gesture unacceptable especially as he was there as a guest of the UK. The writer is of the opinion that whatever the provocation, Brigadier Fernando shouldn’t have run a finger across his throat.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to know whether the British at least sought an explanation from Balasingham in the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination in Aug 2005? Did the UK warn Prabhakaran, through Balasingham, that war shouldn’t be resumed under any circumstances? The abortive bid to assassinate Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, in April 2006, made it clear the LTTE was ready for final war. Obviously, the UK didn’t care or felt the need to pressure the LTTE to return to the negotiating table which it quit in April 2003.
The UK government accepted the stand taken by the two Labour Party MPs. If Brigadier Fernando was found fault with running a finger across his throat, could the UK explain a British citizen allowed to represent a terrorist organization responsible for massive death and destruction and at least three dozen of political assassinations, including one President (Ranasinghe Premadasa, May 1993) and one former Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi, May 1991) and presidential candidate (Gamini Dissanayake Oct.,1994). Balasingham not only represented the LTTE but actually advised the LTTE on strategy.
Did the UK ever threaten to deprive Balasingham of its citizenship if he did not dissociate from the LTTE at least after the NATO power proscribed the organization in Feb 2001? Had they been comfortable with a British citizen being a key member of a proscribed international organization?
Those who had been upset of the LTTE’s defeat remained mum on atrocities committed by the LTTE on the Tamil community. Mangaiyarkkarasi Amirthalingam moved to the UK soon after the LTTE assassinated her husband, Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi stalwart, Appapillai Amirthalingham, on July 13, 1989. Mrs Amirthalingham, too, received British citizenship. Before the LTTE assassinated Appapillai, his sons had moved to the UK, where a substantial number of Tamils, who fled the LTTE, lived. However, British political parties realized the importance of developing relationship with those who took extremely anti-Sri Lankan stand for their advantage. They needed continuation of anti-Sri Lanka sentiments for political purposes as some of those who had fled Sri Lanka, fearing the LTTE as well as other Tamil terrorist groups sponsored by India, propagated lies primarily to ensure British acceptance of bogus political refugees.
Mrs. Amrthalingham passed away in the UK a few years after the end of the war.
Over nine years after the end of the conflict, British politicians continued to talk of abductions and disappearances, in Sri Lanka, for obvious reasons.
Thanks to Wiki Leaks, the world knows how one-time British Foreign Secretary David Miliband intervened on behalf of the LTTE in a bid to win over British voters of Lankan Tamil origin.
Miliband’s strategy to win the support of expatriate Tamils living in key Labour marginal seats came to light when US diplomatic cable, quoting one of his own Foreign Office staff, was posted in Dec. 2010.
Tim Waite, a Foreign Office team leader on Sri Lanka, was quoted, in a leaked cable, explaining why Miliband gave so much attention to the war in Sri Lanka.
"Waite said that much of (the government) and ministerial attention to Sri Lanka is due to the ‘very vocal’ Tamil diaspora in the UK, numbering over 300,000, who have been protesting in front of parliament since 6 April," wrote Richard Mills, a political officer at the US Embassy in London.
"He said that with UK elections on the horizon and many Tamils living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka, with Miliband recently remarking to Waite that he was spending 60 per cent of his time at the moment on Sri Lanka."
Had there been over 300,000 Tamils there, by early 2009, one could imagine their strength nearly 10 years after the war. British political parties, especially Labour politicians, will continue to exploit the Tamil community there for their advantage. Politicians world over are the same. They cannot be faulted for seeking to enter parliament, or retain their seats, under any circumstances.
The bottom line is that as the group of British of citizens of Sri Lankan Tamil origin grow, major political parties will bash Sri Lanka to secure their votes.