Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Prez launches project to record ‘war history’ as pressure mounts on Geneva front




By Shamindra Ferdinando

A senior journalist covering a hastily arranged media conference at Sirikotha last Friday (Sept. 21) sought Public Administration and Management and Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara’s response to the predicament of Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage.

 The Gajaba veteran, designated as a war criminal by Australia, retired on Aug. 31, 2018. The Moneragala District MP expressed confidence that Gallage would be able to overcome difficulties soon. Deputy Law and Order Minister and Kurunegala District MP Nalin Bandara refrained from commenting.

 Obviously, the UNPers didn’t know the circumstances under which Australia, in 2016, denied Gallage a visa on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations that led to the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to co-sponsor Geneva Resolution 30/1. Australia has effectively prevented Gallage from receiving an Australian visa on an official capacity or otherwise.

 The journalist, too, didn’t know that Gallage had served the celebrated Gajaba Regiment as he called the retired soldier an officer of the Gemunu Watch when posing the query to Madduma Bandara.

Those at the Sirikotha press conference would have been surprised if they were told that Chagie’s mother, Daisy Rathnawalie Nanayakka, a long time faithful of the UNP bosses, retired after serving the country’s oldest political party as an accountant. In fact, she had served the UNP when its headquarters was on the Galle Road, where Chagie frequently visited. The retired soldier recently recalled him visiting his mother on his first ever leave as a Second Lieutenant where he ran to the then UNP Chairman N.G. Panditharatne. Gallage still vividly recalls Panditharatne inquiring from his mother whether the young man wearing a mustache was her brother. Subsequently, Mrs Nanayakkara had moved from the Galle Road UNP office to its present day main party office at Kotte.

The writer dealt with Gallage’s retirement in last week’s Midweek with the focus on his superlative farewell speech delivered at the Gajaba home at Saliyapura, Anuradhapura.

It would be pertinent to examine the stand taken by Army Headquarters in the wake of the Australian snub. The then Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Chishanthe de Silva (Feb 22, 2015-June 26, 2017), in early 2017, took up Gallage’s issue with Secretary to the Ministry of Defence Karunasena Hettiarachchi, a close confidant of President Maithripala Sirisena. Lt. Gen. De Silva, along with his missive, sent an Australian government report on Gallage.

Lt. Gen de Silva now serves as Sri Lanka’s top diplomat in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

It would be interesting to know whether Karunasena Hettiarachchi had consulted President Sirisena, or the Foreign Ministry, as regards the letter received from Lt. Gen. De Silva. The Island understands the National Unity Government did absolutely nothing. Instead of at least taking up the issue with the Australian High Commission, the government chose to remain silent. President Sirisena publicly referred to the crisis faced by some of those who gave leadership to the ground forces in the Eelam war IV. The President, in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief, expressed serious concern when he addressed senior commanders at the military hospital in mid - November last year. Gallage was among those seated in the front row. Those responsible for countering war crimes accusations refrained from at least officially briefing countries which accepted the UN allegations.

 Let me reproduce the letter addressed to Karunasena Hettiarachchi by Lt. Gen de Silva. AHQ/JAG/A/9/1/2 (253)

 April 5, 2017


Ministry of Defence

Denial of an Australian visa

Major General CP Gallage WWV RWP RSP USP USAWC


(A) An appeal made by Major General CP Gallage (enclosed)

(B) An Australian Government Report on Major General CP Gallage (enclosed)
Major General CP Gallage has been denied a visitor’s visa by the Australian High Commission in Colombo on the grounds that 59 Division troops, under Major General Gallage, were responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Australian decision is based on certain UN and Human Rights Watch Reports cited in the Australian Government Report (Reference B).

The aforesaid UN and Human Rights Watch Reports are primarily based on unsubstantiated and hearsay evidence planted by LTTE sympathizers and totally lack objectivity. Therefore en bloc categorization of officers who had served in certain formations during the humanitarian operations, to say the least, is totally unjustifiable.

At present the Ministry of Defence is closely cooperating with the Australian government and Sri Lanka Armed Forces have extended their fullest cooperation to Australian authorities in many defence and security related matters. In such circumstances, arbitrary denial of visas to members of Sri Lanka Armed Forces will not augur well for the bilateral relationships between the two countries.

Therefore, it is kindly requested that his Excellency the President be appraised of the situation in order to take effective remedial measures.

A W J C de Silva, RWP VSV USP

ndu psc

 Lieutenant General

Commander of the Army

Army headquarters response to war crimes

It would be pertinent to ask whether Lt. Gen de Silva’s predecessors officially took up with the Secretary to Ministry of Defence the contentious issue of officers, faulted on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations, being denied visas, both on official and unofficial capacities. Interestingly, Lt. Gen de Silva, obviously failed to point out to Secretary Ministry of Defence that Gallage had taken over the command of the 59 Division after the end of the war. In other words, at the time, Gallage received appointment as the General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the 59 Division, the LTTE was no more.

The 59 Division, a principal fighting division raised in 2007 was tasked with securing the coastal LTTE stronghold Mullaitivu. The 59 Division achieved its primary task in late January 2009 after having crossed dense Vanni jungles.

The LTTE, routed the Army at Mullaitivu on July 18, 1996, during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga presidency. The Mullaitivu debacle remained the worst single defeat experienced by the Army until the LTTE evicted the Army from the strategic Elephant Pass base in April 2001, also during Kumaratunga’s presidency. The LTTE overran a Brigade-size Mullaitivu deployment (though its actual strength was much less) within 24 hours, whereas fully fledged 54 Division plus deployment backed by overland supplies from Palaly-Kankesanthurai, crumbled, in the worst ever defeat. The loss of Elephant Pass stunned the entire nation. Unfortunately, the then military leadership made a silly bid to describe the humiliating defeat as a strategic withdrawal.

The Army lost precious artillery pieces, both at Mullaitivu and Elephant Pass, during the tenure of the late Rohan de S. Daluwatte (May 1, 1996-Dec 15, 1998) and L.P. Balagalle’s (Aug 25, 2000-June 30, 2004) tenures as the Commander of the Army, respectively. In spite of northern debacles, they received appointment as Chief of Defence Staff following retirement. However, Daluwatte and Balagalle had their moment of glory as well. Daluwatte, in his capacity as the Overall Operations Commander, gave leadership to Operation Riviresa in 1995-1996 that brought the Jaffna peninsula under government control, whereas Balagalle earned the appreciation for his role in Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI).

At the time the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe signed the Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) in the third week of Feb 2002, the security situation was in such a perilous state, perhaps Wickremesinghe had no alternative but to seek a negotiated settlement with the LTTE.

Just five years after the signing of the CFA, the Army transformed itself to a lethal fighting force that brought the war to an end within two years and 10 months. Unfortunately, those who gave leadership to that herculean task are now at the receiving end. Gallage’s predicament is a case in point. Sri Lanka will mark its glorious war victory in May next year with the likes of Gallage categorized as war criminals.

Over the years, many officers were denied the opportunity to join foreign military courses on the basis of such unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.

Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, the first GOC, of the celebrated 58 Division, Maj. Gen Prasanna Silva, the war time GOC of the 55 Division as well as Jaffna Security Forces Commander Maj. Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe had not been allowed to join US programmes over war crimes allegations. In the case of Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva, the then Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative in New York was denied entry into War College.

The US also refused to include Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jagath Dias and Military Secretary Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe in the September 2013 military programme in Auckland, New Zealand citing accountability issues.

They were among three Majors General nominated by Army Headquarters for the ‘Pacific Army Management seminar’. The US accepted the nomination of Boniface Perera, the then Security Forces Commander, Vanni.

While Majors Gen Jagath Dias and Prasanna Silva commanded troops during the period under UN investigation, Sudantha Ranasinhe hadn’t been involved in operations though he was denied visas twice on the basis of him receiving peacetime command of the 53 Division. Wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s personal efforts to convince the US embassy in Colombo to review its unfair policy didn’t succeed.

 Recently, some members of the international community told Sri Lanka that it should fully implement Geneva Resolution 30/1 by March next year or face the consequences. The government refrained from responding to the statement issued by those countries.

A challenging task

 Before discussing President Sirisena’s move to have the war complete history recorded close on the heels of the launch of the latest edition of the Mahawansa, let me reproduce what retired Gallage, in his farewell address at Saliyapura, said about two of his seniors. Due to an inadvertent error on the writer’s part, wrong impression may have been created as to their seniority.

Having referred to his contribution to the transformation of the army, Gallage named those who made that impossible task possible. Among them were… Maj Gen (rtd) Udaya Perea (Who was my debut Snr Subaltern; on whose foot prints I constantly trailed on)

 Then,…Maj Gen (rtd) Jagath Alwis (Who inspired me to join the Army when I was gallivanting after schooling and just recruited to Marines; not in the USA; but at CBO Dockyards to scrap rusted metal as a special apprentice).

Addressing editors and senior representatives of both print and electronic media at Janadhipathi Mandiraya on the morning of Sept. 17, 2018, President Sirisena emphasized the need to record Sri Lanka’s war history. The writer was among those present on that occasion. President Sirisena, discussed the high profile project towards the end of his speech in which he flayed the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over its handing of investigations into several key cases, including wartime disappearances involving the Navy.

President Sirisena revealed him having a meeting with retired security forces commanders over a month ago to discuss proposed project to record the war history. President Sirisena, however, didn’t say war winning Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka was among those present. Wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, too, wasn’t present though a successful project required Rajapaksa’s assistance. One-time Commanding Officer of the First Battalion of the Gajaba Regiment and Defence Secretary Rajapaksa played a significant role in the overall war strategy.

President Sirisena emphasized that he expected a comprehensive dossier which covered all aspects of the conflict and the circumstances leading to the conflict. President Sirisena pointed out that nearly a decade after the conclusion of the war Sri Lanka lacked an authentic report on the conflict. President Sirisena stressed that the proposed project should cover critical aspects such as the circumstances leading to the war, what was the background to the conflict, the formation of the LTTE, military operations conducted since 1980s, Operation Jayasikurui, battlefield victories and defeats and the arrival of the Indian Army. President Sirisena said that there was no official government record on the war. Turning towards Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne, President sought confirmation of the project which involved the Universities of Colombo and Sri Jayewardenapura. President Sirisena assured that an impartial and balanced report would be produced. The President said that the project would take two to three years to complete and such a project would be of pivotal importance.

Wijeyadasa’s task

Higher Education and Cultural Affairs Minister Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, is in charge of the President’s project. In addition to those responsible for the latest edition of the Mahawamsa, Dr. Rajapakse is expected to finalize the team soon. It would be interesting to know how the team tackled sensitive issues such as war crimes allegations leading to punitive international action against selected military officers. Chagie Gallage is in quandary today for no fault of his. It is a case in point. Gallage, who had kept low profile during the war didn’t mince his words when he addressed the war crimes issue in a way no one else had done before. In his farewell speech at Gajaba home at Saliyapura, Gallage dealt with a range of issues on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the Gajaba Regiment. There had never been a previous instance of an officer having the courage to declare at a farewell banquet him being categorized as a war criminal. "So, I’m happy to be retired being a tiny particle of that proud chapter of the history, though designated as a ‘War Criminal.’

Recording Sri Lanka’s war history will not be an easy task. It’ll be a challenging task for Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, elected to current parliament on the UNP ticket. A proper recording of the events leading to the war, the war and post-war developments will help the country to clear its name and expose those responsible for over three decades long war finally brought to an end in May 2009.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Chagie: I’m designated as a ‘war criminal’

Saliyapura farewell:



By Shamindra Ferdinando

"Gajaba was engraved in golden letters of the annals of the history of the Sri Lanka Army, if not in the history of Sri Lanka … and I’m certain it will never to be reversed by any.

"So, I’m happy to be retired being a tiny particle of that proud chapter of the history, though designated as a ‘War Criminal."

In a few lines, Major General Chagie Gallage (retired) delivered a devastating attack on all those who had shirked their responsibility for countering lies propagated by interested parties until sections of the Army were categorised criminal. Gallage’s was a case in point. The Gajaba veteran retired on Aug 31, 2018.

A week after retirement, Gallage delivered his farewell speech at Gajaba home in Saliyapura, Anuradhapura. Gallage dealt with a range of issues on the eve of the 35th anniversary of the Gajaba Regiment. There had never been a previous instance of an officer having the courage to declare at a farewell banquet, him being categorized as a war criminal. It would be pertinent to examine why Gallage declared: "So, I’m happy to be retired being a tiny particle of that proud chapter of the history, though designated as a ‘War Criminal.’

The writer revealed Gallage’s predicament in March 23, 2017 edition in a front-page lead story headlined Chagie denied Australian visa over ‘war crimes’ allegations with strap line Unsubstantiated UN claim cited as reason.

Australia found fault with Gallage commanding the 59 Division from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009.

The Australian High Commission responded to The Island revelation.

The following is the second The Island report on the Gallage issue:

Chagie’s visa application under consideration-AHC

Application submitted

in Sept. 2016

The Australian High Commission yesterday (March 23, 2017) said that no final decision had been taken in respect of Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage’s visa application.

Veteran Gajaba Regiment officer is Director General of Infantry.

The Australian High Commission was responding to The Island query whether any other Sri Lankan military officer had been denied visa over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.

A spokesperson for the HC said that Maj. Gen. Gallage’s application ‘remains under assessment.’

Asked whether current Australian stance on alleged war crimes/accountability issues remained until the outcome of the proposed UN supervised investigations into war crimes and crimes against humanity, the spokesperson said that the HC wouldn’t comment further on this or any other visa matter relating to Sri Lankan military officers.

Commenting on the latest Geneva Resolution on Sri Lanka, the spokesperson said: "The Australian Government is pleased to have joined the Sri Lankan Government and others this week in co-sponsoring UN Human Rights Commission resolution on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. Australia recognizes the progress made so far by Sri Lanka in these areas, but recognizes also the need for more work to implement Sri Lanka’s commitments on transitional justice."

However, well informed sources told The Island that Maj. Gen. Gallage’s applied for the visa last September to visit his brother from Dec. 2016 to January 2017. Sources said that Gallage’s brother, an Australian citizen of Sri Lankan origin, had visited Colombo especially to make representations to the Australian HC. Following that meeting the Australian department of Immigration and Border Protection issued a report titled ‘Potential Controversial Visitor’ citing war crimes and crimes against humanity as reason for denying Gallage a visa.

Australians found fault with the Maj. Gen. for commanding the 59 Division on the Vanni east front.

An ungrateful nation

Australia never allowed Gallage to visit his brother. In spite of him retiring from the Army, the Australian ban would remain. An ungrateful Sri Lanka never bothered to make representations on behalf of an officer who risked his life for his motherland on countless occasions as a frontline infantry officer. Gallage earned the appreciation of officers and men alike and for Australia to condemn an officer of his caliber merely on the basis of him having commanded a division after the conclusion of the war is nothing but an affront.

War time Special Forces Commander Major General Nirmal Dharmaratne in a superb piece on Gallage, published in The Island, called the brother officer a ‘meticulous man’. For Australia, Gallage was nothing but a potential controversial visitor. The Foreign Ministry turned a blind eye to Gallage’s plight. The Gallage issue was largely ignored by the media. Australian insult never received the coverage it deserved. Our parliamentarians were too busy to take up the issue. Parliament shirked its responsibility. The failure on the part of parliament to address accountability issues finally led to the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government co-sponsoring damning Geneva Resolution in Oct 2015 directed at the previous political leadership and the military. Gallage is among those denied visas and humiliated by a section of the international community on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. War-winning Army Chief, the then Gen. Sarath Fonseka, too, was denied US visa on more than one occasion. Although, President Maithripala Sirisena in September last year assured the military that his government would take up this issue, the Commander-in-Chief’s promise never materialized. The assurance was given at a meeting with the Army at the Military Hospital, Narahenpita.

In his address, President Sirisena referred to some Western powers refusing to issue visas to both retired and serving officers on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations. President Sirisena emphasized the pivotal importance of rectifying the situation. The Commander-in-Chief called for tangible measures to change Western governments’ decision.

President Sirisena’s message was transmitted live to Security Forces Headquarters, Divisions and other formations where approximately 30,000 officers and men received it. It would be pertinent to ask weather Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne and Army Commander Lt. Gen. Mahesh Senanayake who had been present at the time the assurance was given followed up on the matter.

Obviously, President Sirisena was reacting to recent reports pertaining to Western powers refusing to issue visas to both retired and serving officers. Although President Sirisena refrained from mentioning names, war-winning Army Chief, the then Gen. Sarath Fonseka, is among those who had been affected.

Field Marshal Fonseka, last September, alleged that he had been denied a visa to attend the UNGA 2017 because of unresolved war crime allegations against the Army. Sri Lanka’s most successful Army Commander, who is now Minister of Regional Development, said he was due to travel to New York but he was the only one in the Sri Lankan delegation not issued a visa by the US. Fonseka said he could not accompany President Sirisena to the UNGA.

Fonseka however in response to a query by the writer at a media briefing admitted that the cabinet never discussed ways and means to counter war crimes allegations. Fonseka cannot absolve himself of the responsibility for not taking up the matter as he was the Commander of the victorious army.

President Sirisena declaration at a meeting with editors and senior print and electronic media representatives last Friday (Sept 14) that he would explore ways and means of lessening the impact of Oct 2015 Geneva Resolution on the military underscored the failure on the part of his administration to properly counter war crimes accusations. The treacherous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government refrained from exploiting disclosed wartime British High Commission dispatches to counter such lies. President Sirisena’s decision to take up the issue at the UNGA next week should be examined against the backdrop of his government shocking refusal to act on British dispatches revealed in Oct last year.

Chagie’s Saliyapura talk

Battlefield inspiration, Gallage began his farewell speech by recalling the spearheading role played by the late Maj. Gen. Wijaya Wimalaratne in the shaping of the celebrated Gajaba Regiment in the ‘80s. Gallage declared Wimalaratne as the greatest infantryman in the Army. Then Gallage commented on Maj Gen Shavendra Silva, Colonel of the Gajaba regiment and the Adjutant General of the Army for organizing the event. Gallage said: "I’m certainly fortunate that, by desire or intent, my dear friend Shavendra, has turned this day to be celebrated alongside the week or month, that I shed my boots and beret… and graduate into the University of Civil Corp."

Had Gallage not been forced to leave the battlefield in late Aug 2007 due to medical emergency, he could have earned the commendation for giving leadership to the Task Force 1/subsequently upgraded to 58 Division. Gallage returned in early Oct same year. Shavendra Silva commanded the celebrated formation that killed the most number of terrorists, recovered the most number of weapons and brought the large parts of western and eastern Vanni under government control.

Gallage then went on to thank officers and men of the Gajaba Regiment calling battalion commanders and their men the most treasured.

"Dear Ladies & gentlemen,… Here, I’m closing my three decades of uniformed service for the country and the nation; happily and gracefully having my head and spine vertically without hanging onto the shoulders of any Tom Dick and Harry."

Having referred to the second JVP insurrection (1987-1990) and LTTE terrorism (1976-2009) and him joining the army as a second lieutenant, Gallage acknowledged the sufferings and challenges experienced by the institution until the war was brought to a successful conclusion.

Commenting on former Army Commanders, Gallage did not mince his words when he declared "...I have witnessed, the determined Commanders of this dignified force transformed what was described as "Exhausted and a Losing Army" into a ‘Wining and a Victorious Army’. Though, quite a few survived in a ‘NATO’ or no action, talk only techno."

"Nevertheless, our officers; Commanders at different level worked together, to develop the overwhelming capability of our Army,…Especially during the final phase of the conflict, that demonstrated such versatility and braveness all round.

Referring to the gigantic role played by the Gajaba Regiment and the Army as a whole, Gallage said: "However, it is best to leave aside one’s or individual’s own fairy tales."

Having referred to his contribution to the transformation of the army, Gallage named those who made that impossible task possible. "Men like… (Late) Maj Gen Vijaya Wimalarathne, (Late) Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwa, (Late) Maj Gen Janaka Perera, Col (rtd) Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maj Gen Sathis Jayasundara, (Late) Maj Gen Gamini Gunasekara, Col (rtd) Nimal Rathnayake, Maj Gen (rtd) G.V. Chandrasiri, Maj Gen (rtd) Gamini Hettiarchchi, Brig (rtd) Nimal Jayasuriya, Lt Gen (rtd) Jagath Jayasuriya, Gen (rtd) Seewali Wanigasekara, Lt Gen (rtd) Mendaka Samarasinge, Maj Gen (rtd) Jagath Ramubukpotha, Lt Gen (rtd) Jagath Dias, Brig (rtd) Hiran Halangoda, Col (rtd) Jayavi Fernando, Maj Gen (rtd) Srinath Rajapakse, Brig (rtd) Bahar Morsath, Maj Gen (rtd) Lalith Daulagala, Brig (rtd) Roshan Silva, Late Col Shantha Wijesinghe, Maj Gen (rtd) Kamal Gunarathne, Maj Gen (rtd) Amal Karunasekara and,…Maj Gen (rtd) Udaya Perea (Who was my deputy Snr Subaltern; on whose foot prints he constantly trailed on)

Then,…Maj Gen (rtd) Jagath Alwis (Who inspired me to join the Army when he was gallivanting after schooling and just recruited to Marines; not in USA; but at CBO Dockyards to scrap rusted metal as a special apprentice)

And last, but not the least, Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka (Who led our forces as the Commander of the Army, to end the menace of merciless and brutal battle against terror) are to name a few; if I’m to recall. Add to the list, that countless other great officers and experts’ embarked on the task of making a Healthy Army Healthy Nation….

(Consultant Dr) Maj Gen Sanjewa Munsinghe, (who was my mentor in medics, made me fit and furious all times with endless counseling);

Together with (Consultant Dr) Brig Maurine Wijegunawardaene,

(Consultant Dr) Brig Nimalka Ariryarathne

(Consultant Dr) Col Roshan Monaragala…….And all those who guided my services may not be here today; But indeed, all of them provided me vision, direction, energy and agility to drive; by means of genuine guidance and supervision; made me rise up in ranks and appointments "for me to be what I was;….and what I’m" until this day.

Though not here in this dome; I’m so pleased to express my gratefulness to Maj Gen Ralph Nugera, Maj Gen Aruna Wanniarcichi, Maj Gen Athula Kodippily and Col Mahendra Fernando and their magnificent ladies; they were my esteemed assets, as my deputies, facilitators and shadows; And at times, referees; in trendy and challenging tenures in combat and otherwise. I honestly return salute to every one of them; and you officers; and not forgetting our comrades in sister services; Air Force and Navy for risking their lives, in support of our determinations to crack the nation from ‘War to Peace’. And my highest regards to Special Task Force led by DIG (rtd) Chandrsiri Ranawana and DIG Ruwaiz Lathiff; for their unstinted support and assistance beyond the call of duty."

Gallage said: My experiences over the last many years taught me great many things.

* In that for my flabbergast,...I happened to be the hook, the line, and the sinker, for most Commanders, in different capacities in different encounters, and fierce battles. These Commanders were frequently holding the fishing rod or shafts………

* Yet, I was at times in bottomless water looking for sharks or piranhas out at turbulent weathers

* I did my utmost in the guise of various designations’ to ensure no Commander let lose the rod or falling nose-down into the flood or to hell bends

* Given the fact; I never sought to be a cowboy with a top hat!.. I remained as a rancher in a nomad; uniting all arms and services in brotherhood, until we eradicated terrorism to the dust.

* Nevertheless, in the aftermath of the victorious battle few successive Commanders (may be one or two to my considerate) attempted to use me as a bait or a maggot for the hook, from side to side with their own ‘Manoeuvrist Approaches’ (For better understanding of audience; Manoeuvrist Approach is to apply strength against identified vulnerabilities, including predominantly indirect ways and means of targeting the intellectuals’ and moral component of opponents’ power or strength)

* May be for absolute panic of their merry making or for their eagerness to hold vital grounds and continue in Command,

* It is therefore, one may have experimented to practice ‘Mission Command with ABANS or any other similar janitorial service with their lunatic academic maestros and few Cosmetic Scavengers who accumulated better flying hours than being in mud boots.

* Possibly these stool pigeon squad at that time, would have been busy drafting ‘Most Modern Asymmetric Throat Slitting Doctrine’ obviously titled ‘The Dog eats Dog!

* The finest and the fittest element of National Power in contrast to Nations security, Special Operation Forces, Air Mobile Forces, Special Infantry Operatives …

* These Elite Strategic Tools of the Commander of the Army in particular were rest to the level of ‘set of rats in mouse holes in dirt’. They were used for playlets’ and dramas’ in the name of mammoth FTX’s… and for guarding beloved bureaucrat’s spouses and their kith and kin with Armies Assets for petty gains.

 * What matters were excitements and colour filled stage performances and entertainments or leisure, or to showcase participants from friendly foreign nations and sister services utilizing our elite men...

 * Dear Comrades, The most important thing in the world is trust; it can take years to earn, and matter of seconds to lose. Mark my words, these Gentle lambs twisted the laws of Army Acts’ and Regulations’; case by case, at one’s own Whims and Fancies, not in simple, but in capital.

* Once, one shed the boots and hangs the coat.. He or she should not be a burden to barracks…

* Those in retreat should not be allowed to poke into ‘the Standing Army of our motherland’ whether it is regular or volunteer!

* Those in the midst of no words or deeds; and acclaimed of Unwinnable War; until we were victorious, to stay aside! Give them the best respect… but none should demand or command the Army of today or tomorrow!

* Do not let anyone overpower your capability and capacity! We have come a long way; wounded, injured many times, we crawled and rolled over the carcasses of our own men… and those without eyes, ears or limbs. We carried them; they carried us, until several bled to death. We bury most in their adolescence underneath this soil. Respect those sons of the soil first; and then the rest.

Having discussed qualities of leadership and stewardship before naming the late Gen Denzil Kobbekaduwa and the late Maj Gen Wijaya Wimalarathne as men who demonstrated stewardship, Gallage extended his heartfelt gratitude to Army Chief Lt Gen Mahesh Senanayke and Madam Chandrika Senanayaka for being part of the team during difficult and complex times in combat.

* My Commander was once a Planner, once Spy, once a Detective; He never let any of our gun or barrel go empty, for us to contest in combat … Furthermore, his continued guidance and advice to me as the Commander Security Forces, Jaffna, was an immense vigor to me as an individual…. And lastly for being so concerned of my wellbeing; ever since he assumed the office as the 22nd Comander of the SL Army.

* And, for the officers’ abide by the ‘Unity is Strength’ or the officers of ‘Keterian family’; not to forget fact, that you were the ‘Flag Bearers’ of Infantry, in combat; and you should remain to be the ‘Flag Bearers’ during hard earned peace, by providing fullest strength to the vision of the Col of the Regt; Maj Gen Shvendra Silva; it is a Whole New Ball Game!. Whatever it may be, implementation is in your hands.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Fonseka’s shocking disclosure



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka’s recent admission that the cabinet had never discussed Sri Lanka’s response to alleged war crimes allegations highlighted the culpability on the part of the National Unity Government for depriving the country of a proper defence.

Cabinet regularly meets on Tuesday morning with the participation of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe

The Sinha Regiment veteran and war-winning Army Chief said so at a media briefing at his ministry at Rajagiriya in response to a query posed by the writer. Fonseka’s disclosure was quite a shock. Fonseka claimed that since he joined the cabinet the issue had never been discussed with him. Fonseka explained that security matters had been discussed with him before the change of government in January 2015. Referring to Sri Lanka’s response to war crimes accusations, Fonseka said not a word had been spoken with him about it.

Obviously, Fonseka, too, hadn’t taken up the issue for obvious reasons. Fonseka’s Army brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

The UNP accommodated Fonseka in the cabinet in late February 2016 following the demise of National List MP M.K.D.S Gunawardena. The UNP rescued Fonseka after his Democratic Party failed to secure a single seat at the August 2015 parliamentary poll. Fonseka received the regional development portfolio.

Can the government justify its failure to explore ways and means of countering war crimes allegations especially against the backdrop of evidence contrary to the Geneva Resolution unanimously adopted in early October 2015?

Before discussing Fonseka’s revelation further, it would be pertinent to examine two other statements made by Fonseka’s colleagues in Nov 2017 (Dayasiri Jayasekera in his capacity as the Cabinet spokesperson) and Aug 2018 (Mahinda Samarasinghe in his capacity as the SLFP spokesperson).

Both Jayasekera and Samarasinghe acknowledged that cabinet of ministers had not discussed Sri Lanka’s defence nor examined the Geneva Resolution, respectively. The revelations made by Lord Naseby’s on the basis of wartime British High Commission dispatches (January-May 2009) exposed the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government deliberately depriving Sri Lanka a proper defence. Instead of utilizing Naseby disclosure in the House of Lords in mid Oct 2017, the government struggled to suppress UK dispatches. The following story was carried on Nov 16, 2017: War crimes: Cabinet spokesman provoked by query on govt. response to Naseby move

Cabinet spokesman and Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera yesterday (Nov 15, 2017) said that a statement made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords would be used by the government appropriately at the right time, though the Cabinet was yet to discuss it.

Jayasekera said that they wouldn’t take up issues pursued by The Island the way the newspaper wanted. It had not been taken up by the Cabinet on the basis it wasn’t considered so grave a matter, the minister said. The minister initially asserted that Lord Naseby’s statement wasn’t directly relevant to the Geneva issue.

The SLFPer said so when The Island asked him whether the Cabinet of Ministers had discussed Lord Naseby’s defence of the previous administration as well as the armed forces on Oct 12 pertaining to war crimes allegations before it was taken up in parliament on Nov 14.

The Island also sought their stand on President Maithripala Sirisena’s admission on Nov 9 that some retired and serving army officers had been refused visas by certain countries.

Having faulted The Island for raising a question on the same lines, the Minister alleged that his comments in respect of the Geneva issue two weeks back at the post-Cabinet media briefing hadn’t been properly reported by The Island. Jayasekera also said that The Island was there only to raise the Geneva issue.

The Island rejected the Minister’s accusations and pointed out that the government’s opinion on Naseby’s statement was sought as the British Lord had said that a maximum of 7,000-8,000 died on the Vanni front not 40,000 as alleged by a UN panel and Sri Lanka never purposely targeted the civilian population. Lord Naseby also pointed out that of them, one fourth were LTTE cadres.

Minister Gayantha Karunatilleke and Military Spokesman Maj. Gen. Roshan Seneviratne refrained from commenting on the issue.

Minister Jayasekera said they really appreciated Naseby’s defence and it was a victory for Sri Lanka."

The relevant section of the story carried on Aug 18, 2018: Cabinet never discussed 2009, 2015 Geneva Resolutions – MS

One-time presidential human rights envoy and the incumbent Ports and Shipping Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe on Thursday (Aug 16) acknowledged that Sri Lanka’s decision to co-sponsor the Geneva Resolution 30/1 in Oct 2015 hadn’t been discussed by the Cabinet of Ministers.

Vice President of the SLFP and party spokesman Samarasinghe said that the Foreign Ministry had handled the post-war process that led to the agreement on the Geneva Resolution. Samarasinghe asserted that there was no requirement to take it up at the Cabinet.

Samarasinghe said so when The Island asked him whether the Cabinet of Ministers had discussed the issue in the run up to the controversial decision to co-sponsor Geneva Resolution in Oct 2015 and acted on revelations that came from wartime British High Commission dispatches from Colombo that cleared Sri Lanka of killing 40,000 civilians on the Vanni east front in the final phase of the war.

Samarasinghe acknowledged that Lord Naseby’s revelations made to the British House of Lords, too, hadn’t been discussed at the Cabinet.

Samarasinghe explained that the previous Rajapaksa government adopted a similar strategy in respect of the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution passed in May 2009 celebrating the battlefield defeat of the LTTE.

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

The then minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights Samarasinghe emphasized that the procedure leading to the resolution had been handled by the mission there in consultation with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Defence Ministry.

Sri Lanka itself submitted the resolution stressing its sovereign right to act without outside interference, which received the approval of the Human Rights Council.

Samarasinghe said that neither the 2009 nor 2015 Resolutions had been discussed at the cabinet but following the second declaration President Maithripala Sirisena on several occasions categorically rejected foreign judges in a domestic judicial process.

President Rajapaksa headed the 2009 Cabinet while President Sirisena has chaired the Cabinet of the National Unity Government since January 2015.

Comparing the status of judiciary during the previous administration and post-2015, Samarasinghe said that the international community hadn’t pursued a hostile agenda following the change of government. Samarasinghe asserted that the international community realized the much improved judiciary and, therefore hardly put any pressure on the government to accept foreign judges.

Samarasinghe pointed out that the UNSG Panel of Experts (PoE) comprising former Indonesian Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, US attorney-at-law Stevan Ratner and South African human rights activist Yasmin Zooka in March 2011 accused Sri Lanka of massacring 40,000 civilians.

Samarasinghe recalled his role during the previous administration in defending Sri Lanka against unsubstantiated war crimes allegations directed at the military.

In an obvious reference to a leaked US diplomatic cable from Geneva a few months after the end of the war, Samarasinghe said that the LTTE could have been defeated much earlier if the then government and the military hadn’t taken the civilian factor into consideration.

Samarasinghe discussed the possibility of some of those categorized here as dead and missing living overseas. The Minister expressed serious concern over the refusal on the part of Western governments to cooperate with Sri Lanka to identify genuine cases of missing persons. Samarasinghe said that further difficulties had been caused by those Sri Lankan receiving citizenship in Western countries taking new identities.

Samarasinghe said that he had urged Western governments to assist Sri Lanka’s efforts to ascertain the truth."

Can there be an explanation for a government refusing to clear itself of responsibility for war crimes in spite of receiving an opportunity to do so?

Sarath Weerasekera on the offensive

One-time Navy Chief-of-Staff Sarath Weerasekra flayed the government over Fonseka’s disclosure.

A recent reply received by the writer from the Foreign Ministry in response to queries raised in accordance with the Right to Information law revealed the ministry is certainly not keen on pursuing the Naseby disclosure. Mangala Samaraweera functioned as the Foreign Minister in the National Unity Government before being replaced by Ravi Karunanayake in May 2017. Karunanayake quit the ministry in Aug 2017 in the wake of the revelation of him and his family’s damning relationship with Arjuna Aloysius, owner of disgraced primary dealer, Perpetual Treasuries implicated in treasury bond scams perpetrated in Feb 2015 and March 2016. Karunanayake’ resignation paved the way for one-time Attorney General and President’s Counsel Tilak Marapana. Unfortunately, Marapana and Defence Secretary Kapila Waidyaratne, a former Senior Additional Solicitor General in spite of their legal background steadfastly refrained from reviewing the situation.

Lanka having co-sponsored resolution against itself in Oct 2015, the Foreign Ministry seems hell bent on somehow keeping the Geneva project on track.

Weerasekera last week compared the UNP-led government handling of Geneva Resolution with the Feb 2002 signing of a Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) by then PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, at a public gathering at Godakawela, Ratnapura chaired by wartime Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. Weerasekera, who had served as an UPFA lawmaker representing the Digamadulla electorate for one term said that the UNP never bothered to consult the Cabinet or parliament before entering into the Oslo-arranged agreement that recognized an area under the LTTE control.

Displaying The Island front-page reportage of Fonseka’s media briefing, Weerasekera said that the government owed an explanation as to why such a vital issue was never taken up for discussion. The CFA strengthened the LTTE politically, socially, economically and militarily at the expense of the Sri Lankan state. Under cover of the CFA, the UNP ruined the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) on the pretext of investigating an alleged bid to assassinate the then UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. In the wake of the change of government, the government vigorously pursued the DMI, Weerasekera explained, urging the public to be cautious of the UNP strategy.

Weerasekera said that the parliament hadn’t addressed the war crimes issue though it discussed every other issue. The parliament discussed the relevance of British High Commission dispatches several weeks after Lord Naseby’s disclosure in the House of Lords. Foreign Minister Marapana assured parliament that British High Commission dispatches would be used as an ace at the appropriate place at the right time. Marapana said: "We are not saying that we will not use Lord Naseby’s statement. We certainly will use it at the proper time and at appropriate forums. There may be a time when the UNHRC will ask us to conduct investigations into the allegations of war crimes. We will use this statement when such a time comes. Otherwise, our opponents will find counter arguments so we must use it as an ace."

The Foreign Minister was responding to a question raised by Joint Opposition Leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena, as to why Lord Naseby’s statement was not used especially at the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The UNPer asserted that the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council in Geneva wasn’t the forum to take up Lord Naseby’s disclosure.

So far, the UNP-led government hasn’t taken up the matter with Geneva. Since Marapana gave an assurance to parliament to Naseby disclosure as an ace in late Nov 2017, Human Rights Council has met twice in March and June though Sri Lanka conveniently failed to make any reference to Naseby. It would be pertinent to ask the Foreign Minister whether he intended to raise the issue in the course of the ongoing Geneva sessions. The SLFP has done absolutely nothing to influence the UNP-run Foreign Ministry to make representations on behalf of Sri Lanka.

Surprisingly, both the UNP and the SLFP so far haven’t requested Western powers to remove the threat to pusue alleged war crimes, though Lord Naseby on the basis of British High Commission dispatches from Colombo asserted that no one in the then Sri Lankan Government ever wanted to kill Tamil civilians. Lord Naseby said: "Furthermore, the UK must now get the UN and the UNHCR in Geneva to accept a civilian casualty level of 7,000 to 8,000, not 40,000. On top of that, the UK must recognize that this was a war against terrorism, so the rules of engagement are based on international humanitarian law, not the European Convention on Human Rights."

Lord Naseby explained how the British government desperately tried to prevent the disclosure of wartime dispatches from Colombo. The Conservative politician revealed step-by-step how he sought official intervention in terms of the freedom of information submission following UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office suppressing Colombo dispatches. Don’t forget even the released dispatches were severely censored but the very little revealed was sufficient to challenge the main UN allegation.

The yahapalana government is obviously concerned about the growing challenge to unsubstantiated the charge of 40,000 civilians massacred in 2009. In fact, this is the main accusation among five allegations contained in the executive summary of the panel’s report. Let me reproduce the relevant section verbatim (point number 137 in the report): "In the limited surveys that have been carried out in the aftermath of the conflict, the percentage of people reporting dead relatives is high. A number of credible sources have estimated that it could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths."

Marapana declaration that Naseby’s disclosure would be used at the appropriate place should be examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka having to fulfill its obligations by March 2019 in terms of of the Oct 2015 co-sponsored resolution. Once the obligations are met Nasebys’ disclosure is irrelevant. The former AG is allowing the Geneva agenda to progress unhindered, while the Joint Opposition struggles to cope up with political developments.

The JO never really raised the Naseby issue though it was taken up in parliament in the last week of Nov 2017 by way of an adjournment question. The JO never sought an explanation from Marapana as regards his pledge to parliament that Naseby’s disclosure would be used at the appropriate place and at the right time. The parliament Sectoral Oversight Committees on international relations and national security, cabinet as well as political parties represented in parliament haven’t taken up accountability issues. Parliament owes the public an explanation as to why people’s representatives have allowed war crimes accusations to overwhelm the country by steadfastly refusing to present genuine evidence to debunk those accusations. Fonseka’s disclosure must have stunned the public. Imagine a government neglecting its own defence and shamelessly colluding with those foreign powers out to hang war crimes tag on Sri Lanka. For want of parliament intervention as well as the collective responsibility of the cabinet, a few individuals have taken charge of the Geneva project. If not for treasury bond scams perpetrated in Feb 2015 and March 2016, the UNP could have achieved much more progress and perhaps even managed to enact a new Constitution by now. The UNP never really recovered from the treasury bond scams that caused irreparable damage to its relationship with President Sirisena due to the latter launching devastating attacks on his partner in the run up to Feb 2018 Local Government poll. The Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna would never have achieved victory at the LG poll if not for both the UNP and the SLFP suffering due to treasury bond scams. They each suffered debilitating setback electorally, but the Geneva project seems still on track.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Lanka’s role in another ‘genocide report’ from ‘cesspool of political bias….’



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Two days before the inauguration of BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) in Kathmandu, the United Nations called for the immediate resignation of Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, for what the global body called genocide in the north of Rakhine State.

 The UN also called for the prosecution of six top Myanmar military officers, including Hlaing, in an international court. BIMSTEC member immediately dismissed the allegations.

 The UN also blamed one-time darling of Western powers, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, for the failure on her part to stand up for Rohingya minority.

The UN found that Suu Kyi had ‘not used her de facto position as head of government, nor her moral authority to stem or prevent the unfolding events’. However, the UN conveniently cleared Myanmar’s civilian leadership of responsibility/accountability in respect of military operations in Rakhine State.

The UN report, prepared by an international panel comprising Christopher Dominic Sidoti (Australia), Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia - head of fact-finding mission) and Radhika Coomaraswamy (Sri Lanka) was released in Geneva, Switzerland, on Aug 28, 2018.

 It would be pertinent to mention that Darusman hadn’t been in the original fact-finding mission, named by the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Joaquín Alexander Maza Martelli (El Salvador) on May 30, 2017. Martelli was acting in accordance with a decision taken on March 24th, 2017, at its 34th session of the Human Rights Council. Geneva decided to urgently dispatch an independent international fact-finding mission, to be appointed by the President of the Council, to "establish facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses, in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State".

 However, the original fact-finding mission included an Indian national. The following is the text of the UN statement on the Indian’s appointment to the Myanmar’s mission: "Ms. Indira Jaising (India) is an advocate of the Supreme Court of India, and former CEDAW member (2009-2012). She co-founded the Lawyers Collective in 1981, an NGO devoted to the defence of human rights and women’s rights. She was India’s first woman to be designated a Senior Advocate by the High Court of Bombay in 1986, and first female Additional Solicitor General of the country from 2009 until 2014. She drafted India’s first domestic violence act, allowing women to bring civil and criminal suits against attackers for the first time. She graduated in law with an LLB degree in 1964. Ms. Jaising holds a post graduate degree in law from the University of Bombay and received a fellowship from the Institute of Advanced Legal studies of the University of London in 1970. She has been a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University New York, and Bok Visiting International Professor at University of Pennsylvania (2015)."

Geneva replaced Jaising with Darusman, who headed the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) inquiry into accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

 Geneva indicated that Jaising was replaced amidst concerns of her perceived bias. Soon after her appointment, Jaising was quoted by broadcaster Al Jazeera as having said the Rohingyas’ situation in Myanmar "is especially deplorable because they face the risk of genocide". The UN found fault with Jaising statement. "If there’s any perceived bias...it undermines the credibility of the mission before it has started," said the U.N. official.

 But, at the conclusion of the investigation by the panel headed by Darusman, the team essentially alleged Myanmar was responsible for genocide.

 Perhaps, India felt uncomfortable in having Jaising as head of a panel that inquired into Myanmar, a member of BIMSTEC and key China ally. BIMSTEC consists of South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

War crimes, ‘genocide’ charges against Lanka, Myanmar

 Ports and Shipping Minister and SLFP spokesman Mahinda Samarasinghe explained the importance of the BIMSTEC to the media and President Sirisena receiving the leadership of the organization at its fourth summit in Kathmandu. Samarasinghe discussed varying responsibilities accepted by member states and the origins of the BIMSTEC. Samarasinghe took up BIMSTEC at regular SLFP briefings. However, Samarasinghe refrained from at least referring to the crisis caused by the damning UN report. Veteran politician, Samarasinghe, who had been wartime President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s human rights envoy and also responsible for dealing with Western powers in respect of relief measures during the war couldn’t have been unaware of the implications of the UN report. The Minister chose not to make any reference to the Myanmar issue. In the wake of President Sirisena receiving the BIMSTEC leadership, Sri Lanka cannot remain silent on the issue as it could come up at any forum.

The UN report, prepared by Marzuki Darusman, Christopher Dominic Sidoti and Radhika Coomaraswamy, a former UN Under Secretary General, as well as member of top Sri Lankan constitutional body, urged the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or create what they called an ad hoc international criminal court. The trio also recommended an immediate embargo on transfer of weapons to Myanmar and targeted individual sanctions against those responsible for violations.

 Myanmar denied access to the UN team. The report released in August 2018 confirmed that approximately 10,000 Rohingya had been killed in the 2017 crackdown and ‘large-scale gang rape’ of women took place. The international media quoted Darusman as having said: "The Rohingya are in a continuing situation of severe, systematic and institutionalized oppression from birth to death." The former Indonesian Attorney General was addressing the media on Monday, in Geneva, after the releasing of the report. "The scale, brutality and systematic nature of these violations indicate that rape and sexual violence are part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorize or punish a civilian population and are used as a tactic of war," Darusman, Sidoti and Coomaraswamy declared.

A similar three-member UN team blasted Sri Lanka, in March 2011. Darusman headed that team, too, and obviously received the appreciation of those Western powers to do another hatchet job. Obviously Darusman did it again. The Indonesian is certain to receive more such assignments. Darusman, teamed up with South African Yasmin Zooka and American Steven R. Ratner

 On the basis of unsubstantiated Darusman’s report, the current UNP-SLFP government, in October 2015, co-sponsored a resolution against the Sri Lankan military and the political leadership. Subsequently, the very basis of the Geneva Resolution was challenged in the House of Lords by Lord Naseby in Oct 2017. The incumbent government simply ignored evidence that could have been effectively used to call for a fresh review of accusations directed at Sri Lanka. In spite of repeatedly promising that Geneva no longer posed a threat to Sri Lanka, President Sirisena, the Commander-in-Chief of armed forces, did absolutely nothing so far to secure a fresh review. Instead, the UNP-led government is in the process of implementing the Geneva recommendations. In March 2017, Sri Lanka received two additional years to fulfill its obligations to the international community.

Lanka’s role in Myanmar probe

Deshamanya Radhika Coomaraswamy received praise for her role in Darusman’s UN team. Interestingly, Coomaraswamy, at the time of her latest UN assignment, also functioned as a member of Sri Lanka’s Constitutional Council chaired by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya. The 10-member CC comprised the Speaker, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan, Presidential nominee Patali Champika Ranawaka, Parliament’s nominee Vijitha Herath, Opposition Leader’s nominee John Seneviratne, Prime Minister’s nominee (vacant) and three representing the civil society, A.T. Ariyaratne, Shibly Aziz and Radhika Coomaraswamy. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s original nominee Wijeyadasa Rajapaksa no longer served the CC.

 Coomaraswamy joined Darusman and Sidoti in March this year in Geneva where they presented an interim report on the situation in Myanmar. "The body of information and materials we are collecting is concrete and overwhelming," they said in their interim, oral report to the 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

 "It points at human rights violations of the most serious kind, in all likelihood amounting to crimes under international law."

 According to international news agencies, the interim report was based on information gathered from a series of visits to Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand, where teams of investigators conducted over 600 in-depth interviews with alleged victims and witnesses of reported human rights violations and abuses. The teams have also collected and analyzed satellite imagery, photographs and video footage of events.

Did the UN team inquire into the circumstances leading to Myanmar military operations in Rakhine State?

 Rohingya terrorists attacked security posts in Rakhine on Aug 25, 2017, killing 12 Burmese security forces personnel. A group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for the August 25 attacks. The group emerged in October 2016, when it carried out a series of attacks on police posts, killing nine police personnel. The group is on record as having said that its primary aim was to protect the Rohingya Muslim minority from state oppression in Myanmar.

 The government has declared ARSA a terrorist group whose leaders had received military training overseas. Myanmar’s trouble started in 2012.

 The international community should be worried about the situation in Myanmar. Sri Lanka suffered untold hardships due to Indian intervention in the ‘80s. Western powers turned a blind eye to Indian intervention leading to a war that claimed the lives of thousands by the time Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009. Having neglected Sri Lanka’s crisis, Western powers responded through UN mechanism, led by Darusman. The UN set up its mechanism soon after Sri Lanka defeated the LTTE, about a decade ago. Darusman’s team achieved the UN objective with the help of the incumbent Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government. But thanks to revealing wartime British High Commission dispatches (Oct. 2017), Wiki leaks revelations (website launch 2006) and US military statement at the inaugural defence seminar (June, 2011) roundly contradicted Darusman findings. Now, we have another UN probe report, authored by Darusman with the contribution of an Australian and our own Radhika Coomaraswamy. The trio asserted that the Myanmar Army tactics have been ‘consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats. They demanded the immediate resignation of Myanmar Army Chief. They said: "The crimes in Rakhine State and the manner in which they were perpetrated are similar in nature, gravity and scope to those that have allowed genocidal intent to be established in other contexts."

Darusman targets Sri Lanka

 The Panel of Experts (PoE), headed by Darusman, in its executive summary alleged that tens of thousands lost their lives from January to May 2009, many of whom died anonymously in the carnage of the final few days on the Vanni east front. The panel categorized the following as the five main violations committed by President Rajapaksa’s government: (1) killing of civilians due to heavy shelling (2) systematic attacks on hospitals and other civilian targets (3) denial of food, medicine and other essential items to the Vanni population (4) violation of human rights of those who had survived the war, including LTTE cadres and (5) violations committed outside the war zone, including suppression of the media.

 The PoE endorsed ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’, a documentary produced by the UK media outfit, Channel 4 News. The panel referred to ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ on more than one instance, thereby giving credence to both Channel 4 News as well as its work.

 The PoE alleged the LTTE (1) using civilians as a human buffer between its cadres and the advancing army, (2) killing those attempting to flee the rapidly shrinking area under its control (3) deployment of military equipment in close proximity to civilians (4) deployment of children for combat operations (5) forced labour (6) launching suicide attacks on civilians fleeing the area under its control.

Those who had been in power as well as now in control never had a strategy to counter lies propagated by interested parties to justify external intervention. The present lot actually contributed to the UN project by co-sponsoring a resolution targeting Sri Lanka. Now, Sri Lanka continues to ignore evidence that could be used, efficiently to counter the primary allegation.

 Sri Lanka should realize that though it had rejected the Channel 4 News allegations, the UN panel accepted them, including the main accusation that as many as 40,000 civilians perished on the Vanni east front. In fact, this is the main accusation among five allegations contained in the executive summary of the panel’s report. Let me reproduce the relevant section verbatim (point number 137 in the report): "In the limited surveys that have been carried out in the aftermath of the conflict, the percentage of people reporting dead relatives is high. A number of credible sources have estimated that it could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths."

 The PoE panel has recommended that the identities of those who had provided information to the group shouldn’t be revealed for 20 years since the day of the release of the reports. Even after that, the release of such information is subject to declassification review.

 Sri Lanka failed at least to point out the discrepancy in various figures quoted by the UN panel and Channel 4 News (40,000 civilians), UK Labour Party MP Siobhan McDonagh (40,000 civilians and 60,000 LTTE cadres) and Amnesty International (10,000), all during 2011.

 Instead, the Rajapaksa government hired expensive foreign PR firms which did nothing to counter the lies. Tax payers’ money was squandered on foolish projects without undertaking a cohesive examination of all facts to pave the way for a robust defense. Sri Lanka never had a proper defence. For some strange reason, successive governments deprived the military of required defence. On the basis of unsubstantiated allegations, the UN and some countries targeted selected military personnel. Military strategist Chagi Gallage, who retired on Aug. 31, 2018 following an illustrious career spanning over three decades was denied Australian visa over a year ago on the basis of UN lies. Australia found fault with Gallage for being in command of the 59 Division, from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009. In response to inquiries made by Gallage, the Australian High Commission has stated that troops under his command certainly committed war crimes and crimes against humanity. Spineless Sri Lanka political leadership remained silent. Although President Sirisena publicly discussed the issue of various countries denying visas on the assumption war crimes were committed, absolutely nothing was done to rectify the situation.

 The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection has extensively cited Report of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) on Sri Lanka (OISL) to turn down Gallege’s visa. On the basis of OISL report, Geneva adopted Resolution 30/1 to pave the way for foreign judges in a domestic judicial mechanism.

 Australia also cited the UNSG Panel of Experts (PoE) report on accountability issues released on March 31, 2011. POE accused Sri Lanka of massacring over 40,000 civilians and depriving the Vanni population of their basic needs. The combined security forces brought the war to a successful conclusion on May 19, 2009.

 In fact, the UN is still holding back a confidential report, prepared by its mission during the conflict, for obvious reasons. The UN as well as Western powers wanted the Rajapaksa rule brought  to an end over the wartime President’s close relationship with China. They realize that the release of the UN report which dealt with the situation on the Vanni front August 2008 to May 13, 2009 can jeopardize its strategy. Interestingly, the UN panel refused to accept the report prepared by those who risked their lives on the front while accepting unsubstantiated allegations made by interested parties. The UN report estimated the number of dead and wounded at 7,721 killed and 18,479 wounded, respectively. The UN report said that it couldn’t counter the number of dead and wounded only after May 13, 2009. The war ended six days later.

 Nearly a decade after the restoration of peace, Sri Lanka is still unable to cope up with false accusations. Unfortunately, having suffered in the hands of UN ‘experts’, Sri Lanka has contributed to the Myanmar report. Let me stress there had been many killings during the conflict. The Sri Lankan military can never absolve itself of the responsibility for killing of Tamil civilians during the war. There had been certainly some deliberate killings as well and rape of women. But, such incidents had never been authorized by the political or military leadership as part of the government policy. No less a person than former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got caught lying about rape being used as tactic of war in Sri Lanka. A blatant lie indeed. But, the same US had no qualms about using the United Nations Human Rights Council to undermine Sri Lanka in spite of calling UNHRC a "cesspool of political bias" that targets Israel in particular while ignoring atrocities in other countries.

NGO warning

The National Peace Council (NPC ) last week warned Sri Lanka could have suffered the fate of Myanmar if the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government did not change Sri Lanka’s approach. The following is the text of statement issued by Dr. Jehan Perera on behalf of the NCC: "A report issued recently by a UN fact finding mission into human rights violations in Myanmar has recommended that its most senior military commanders should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in dealing with the Rohingya and other minority ethnic communities.  In response to the Myanmar government’s refusal to accept responsibility for what has happened, the UN mission called on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or for the creation of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal.  They also called for an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against individuals who appear to be more responsible.

 "Prior to the change of government in January 2015 Sri Lanka too was going down the road that Myanmar has taken of denying responsibility for what has happened in the past.  The National Peace Council notes that the international community’s pursuit of Myanmar on grounds of war crimes and human rights violations might have been the fate of Sri Lanka had it not co-sponsored the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council and taken charge of its reconciliation process in October 2015. 

 "The evolving situation in Myanmar suggests that the Sri Lankan government acted with prudence and foresight in agreeing to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council in October 2015. Due to the changed approach of the government in regard to dealing with the past, and ensuring human rights, Sri Lanka is now on a positive path of national reconciliation.  We also note that the international community has given Sri Lanka the time and space to implement its commitments. 

 The National Peace Council calls on the government to implement the commitments given to the UN Human Rights Council without being deterred by allegations that it is betraying the country and its security forces as alleged by opposition and nationalist groups.  It is the implementation of those commitments that will ensure the healing that will unify Sri Lanka in heart and mind as well as in territory and obtain the greater support of the international community."