Lord Ahmad reveals constructive meeting with Mangala in London
SPECIAL REPORT : Part 257
Jan 2019 in London: Lord Ahmad received a commitment from Samaraweera as regards Sri Lanka’s commitment to Geneva process.
Oct 2018 in Colombo: Mark Field received an assurance from Marapana as regards Sri Lanka’s commitment to Geneva process. The meeting took place a few weeks before Oct 26, 2018 constitutional change.
By Shamindra Ferdinando
Thanks to UK Human Rights Minister Tariq Mahmood Ahmad (Baron Ahmad of Wimbledon- Conservative) we now know, instead of using Lord Naseby’s disclosure in Oct. 2017 in the House of Lords to defend Sri Lanka on the Geneva ‘front’, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government, in Oct. 2018, and the UNP, in January 2019, reassured Sri Lanka’s commitment to those controversial punitive UNHRC Resolutions.
On the basis of UK military dispatches from Colombo, in 2009 (January-May), Lord Naseby, in Oct 2017, revealed the maximum number of Tamil civilians killed was about 6,000 and not 40,000, as alleged by the UN Panel of Experts, and that the Mahinda Rajapaksa government never deliberately targeted the civilian community.
Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC, in late Nov. 2017, assured Parliament that Lord Naseby’s revelations would be used at the appropriate time to defend Sri Lanka. Marapana is yet to carry through his promise.
Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, on Feb. 05, 2019, made the revelation, regarding Sri Lanka’s unwavering commitment to the Geneva Resolutions, in his response to Lord Naseby’s call made during the House of Commons debate on UNHRC Resolutions - 30/1 in Oct. 2015 and 34/1 in March 2017. Lord Naseby initiated the debate, in his capacity as the President of the All Party British Sri Lanka Parliamentary Group.
Let me reproduce, verbatim, the section that dealt with the UK Ministers’ discussions with the Sri Lankan ministers. Declaring that the UK repeatedly urged Sri Lanka to go further and faster, Lord Ahmad, of Wimbledon, who is also a key member of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, founded in Punjab, said: "On 21 January, I met the Minister of Finance and Mass Media, Mangala Samaraweera, in London. He has been a strong supporter of Sri Lanka’s commitments to Resolution 30/1. It was a pleasant and constructive meeting, during which he took the opportunity to engage directly with representatives of the diaspora in the UK, including members of the Tamil community. My honourable friend, the Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Mark Field, did the same when he met Foreign Minister Marapana and a number of other Sri Lankan Ministers and officials, in Colombo, last October. Last September, the UK led a statement on behalf of the core group at the 39th session of the Human Rights Council, urging Sri Lanka to prioritize and drive forward the implementation of its commitments."
Lord Ahmad’s declaration is evidence that Geneva process is firmly on track, ahead of reviewing of UN Resolutions, titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights, in Sri Lanka.’
Did Mangala Samaraweera represent Marapana in London? Samaraweera served as Foreign Minister (Nov 2005-early 2007) at the onset of the Eelam War, under President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Samaraweera received the same portfolio, in January 2015. President Sirisena replaced Samaraweera in May 2017 following media furore over Samaraweera, in his capacity as the Foreign Minister co-sponsoring the first Geneva Resolution in Oct 2015.
During Samaraweera’s tenure, as the Foreign Minister, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration cancelled the annual ‘Victory Parade’, in May, to celebrate Sri Lanka’s triumph over terrorism. The cancellation followed the then Canadian High Commissioner, Shelly Whiting, demanding Sri Lanka does away with the parade as it hurt the sentiments of the Tamil community. Canada shamelessly played politics with the Sri Lankan issue for domestic political reasons.
The Foreign Ministry lacked political direction, at national level, to counter foreign propaganda operations.
The writer examined the role of the Foreign Ministry in three articles - ‘Sri Lanka at the mercy of a treacherous setup’ (23.01.2019) ‘A still valid tripartite agreement on foreign judges: Foreign Ministry’s role’ (30.01.2019), and ‘A war crimes dossier on ‘arguably the most important ground commander with the strap line Foreign Ministry debacle on Geneva Front (06.02.2019)
The Island examined the Foreign Ministry’s role close on the heels of Marapana’s recent advice to the Sri Lanka Foreign Service (SLFS) to enhance the country’s image overseas through efficient and effective execution of public diplomacy, utilizing its intrinsic brands such as Buddhism, gems, tea, spices, high-end export products and the warmth of traditional Sri Lankan hospitality.
The Feb. 05, 2019 debate on the Sri Lanka Resolutions, in the House of Lords, disclosed the failure, on the part of Sri Lanka Parliament, to take up the most important foreign policy issue at all. Since the Joint Opposition raised Lord Naseby’s disclosure in Parliament, in Nov 2017, those politicians, represented in Parliament, never bothered to discuss the matter. One-time LTTE’s mouthpiece and political arm, the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) hell-bent on hauling Sri Lanka political and military leaderships before the hybrid accountability mechanism, cannot be expected to take up Lord Naseby’s disclosure. The TNA parliamentary group comprises 16, including two National List members.
Silence of the TNA
The TNA never responded to the writer’s queries regarding Lord Naseby’s call to amend the Geneva Resolution 30/1 (This was before key co-sponsor, the US, quit Geneva). The Island submitted the following questions to TNA and the then Opposition Leader R. Sampanthan on Nov. 27, 2017 and repeatedly reminded his Office of the delay on its part to answer questions: Have you (TNA) studied Lord Naseby’s statement made in the House of Lords on Oct. 12, 2017? What is TNA’s position on Naseby’s claims?, Did the TNA leaders discuss Naseby’s claim among themselves? Did the TNA respond to MP Dinesh Gunawardena’s statements in parliament on Naseby’s statement? And did the TNA take up this issue with UK High Commissioner, James Dauris?
Lord Naseby’s appeal to the annual UN Resolutions was unceremoniously dismissed by Lord Ahmad on behalf of the UK Government. Lord Naseby, in spite of knowing that the UK will never, under any circumstances, give up Geneva Resolutions-tools in the hands of Western powers to manipulate Sri Lanka, highlighted why Sri Lanka shouldn’t subject to constant monitoring by them. Lord Naseby again highlighted the relevance of wartime UK military dispatches from Colombo which questioned the authenticity of UN Resolutions based on unsubstantiated allegations.
Lord Naseby directly blamed the UN Resolutions on the Tamils Diaspora particularly those based in the UK, Canada and the USA et al. The Conservative veteran reminded the UK of its failure to take action whatsoever in respect of UK-based Adele Balasingham, the Australian born wife of British citizen Anton Stanislaus Balasingham, wartime ideologue of the LTTE. Balasingham passed away in the UK, in Dec 2006, at the onset of the war. Lord Naseby presented a spate of indisputable facts to underscore the responsibility on the part of the UK to bring closure to UN Resolutions - the first one moved in Oct 2015 primarily on the basis five major allegations - (a) Killing of civilians through widespread shelling (b) Shelling of hospitals and other humanitarian objects (c) Denial of humanitarian assistance (d) Human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict) and (e) Human Rights violations outside the conflict zone.
Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, on the morning of May 19, 2009. The following six primary allegations were directed at the LTTE - (a) Using civilians as a human buffer (b) Killing civilians attempting to escape LTTE control (c) Using military equipment in the close proximity of civilians (d) forced recruitment of children (e) Forced labor and (f) Killing of civilians through suicide attacks.
Having faulted the government/military on five major counts, the UN accused Sri Lanka of massacring at least 40,000 civilians. Let me reproduce the paragraph, bearing no 137, in the UN report released in March 2011, verbatim: "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 there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is 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."
Lord Naseby also discussed the reappearing of Sri Lankan Tamils overseas, categorized as disappeared or missing during and after the war.
UK mum on issues raised by Naseby
Lord Ahmad, of Wimbledon, refrained from commenting on issues raised by Lord Naseby. Shame on Lord Ahmad who chose not to respond to contentious issues other than the US pull out from the Geneva body. The US quit UNHRC, in June 2018, calling the vital UN body a cesspool of political bias.
Lord Ahmad conveniently refrained from commenting on wartime military dispatches from Colombo. Those vital documents, obtained by Lord Naseby, in 2017, thanks to the UK’s Freedom of Information Act, exposed the blatant British lie. Having tried its best to prevent the disclosure of dispatches from Resident Defence Attache (RDA), UK, in Colombo, the UK reluctantly released some pages. Now, they are in the public domain. For how long can the UK remain silent on its own evidence, furnished by Lt. Colonel Gash, the wartime RDA?
Lord Naseby told the House of Lords, on Feb. 05, 2019: "I have done a great deal of research. Nearly three years ago I made a request under the Freedom of Information Act and secured the publication of Colonel Gash’s dispatches to the United Kingdom. I have 40 pages of them here, some of which have been totally redacted, and I shall quote from one this evening. It is the dispatch of 16 February 2009 and concerns 400 IDPs being transferred from the fighting area to Trincomalee. Colonel Gash writes:
"The operation was efficient and effective, but most importantly was carried out with compassion, respect and concern. I am entirely certain that this was genuine — my presence was not planned and was based on a sudden opportunity".
There are many more references in the dispatches to the fact that it was never a policy of the Sri Lankan Government to kill civilians.
I have one other reference that I think is useful. It comes from the University Teachers for Human Rights, which is essentially a Tamil organization. It says:
"From what has happened we cannot say that the purpose of bombing or shelling by the government forces was to kill civilians … ground troops took care not to harm civilians".
There is a host of other references but I shall quote one more:
"Soldiers who entered the No Fire Zone on 19th April 2009 and again on the 9th and 15th May acted with considerable credit when they reached … civilians. They took risks to protect civilians and helped … the elderly who could not walk. Those who escaped have readily acknowledged this".
Why did the UK refuse to release its RDA’s missives in the first place? Why did some of the pages, released by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to Lord Naseby, were heavily redacted? What did they really contain? And most importantly, why didn’t the UK make them available to the Marzuki Darusman-led UN panel to help the investigation process? Nothing can be further from the truth than the FCO claim that the full disclosure would have undermined relations with Sri Lanka.
Had the UK dispatches contained information which could have helped anti-Sri Lanka project, such missives would have been released years ago. The UK is obviously in a dilemma. They never expected one of their own to seek the intervention of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to secure RDA’s dispatches. Lord Naseby sought ICO’s intervention in the wake of the FCO turning down Lord Naseby’s request, made on Nov 04, 2014.
In fact, the truth is quite opposite. The full disclosure of the UK military dispatches would have exposed the British lie, and thereby undermined the Geneva process meant to hold Sri Lanka accountable for war crimes. The whole despicable project was meant to create an environment necessary to achieve two major objectives (a) Build a political alliance involving the UNP-JVP-SLMC and the TNA, a political arm of the LTTE. No person less than US Secretary of State John Kerry is on record, in 2016, as having discussed their role in funding changes of administrations in Nigeria, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. (b) The second aim was to bring about a new Constitution to appease the TNA and the Diaspora. Sri Lanka never challenged the claim that the proposed new Constitution was required to address the grievances of the Tamil community.
The writer on a number of occasions, raised the UK’s refusal to release Gash dispatches with the UK High Commission in Colombo.
The UK facilitated LTTE operations throughout the war by turning a blind eye to its activities. British citizen Balasingham, of Sri Lankan origin, was allowed to function as the ideologue of the group, even after it was categorized as a prohibited organization in the UK. Balasingham received privilege status even after his organization assassinated Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in Aug 2005. UK didn’t find fault with Balasingham for being a key member of the LTTE. Instead of taking punitive action against Balasingham, the UK allowed the terrorist access to the top Norwegian diplomatic delegation. Thanks to Wiki Leaks, the world knows the secret LTTE-Norway pow-vow in the UK in the immediate aftermath of the Kadirgamar assassination.
The UK stood solidly behind the Tamil separatist movement for political reasons. All major political parties played ball with the separatist lobby to secure their support at elections. Disclosure of a particular US diplomatic cable from London by Wiki Leaks underscored the relationship between the British political setup and the Tamil Diaspora. Wiki Leaks exposed one-time British Foreign Secretary David Miliband who sought to appease the LTTE and the Tamil Diaspora at Sri Lanka’s expense. A year after the successful conclusion of the war, the House of Commons allowed the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) to hold its inaugural meeting much to the dismay of Sri Lanka.
The relationship between those who are now in power, in Sri Lanka, and the GTF is known. The writer himself keeps in touch with the GTF and readily accepts the group’s right to pursue an agenda of its own. The TNA and the GTF take a common stand on post-war ‘situations’ and essentially insist on full implementation of the Geneva Resolutions. Jaffna District MP, M. A. Sumanthiran and Suren Surendiran, on behalf of the TNA and the GTF, respectively, declared that they agreed for hybrid accountability mechanism, initially having demanded an international war crimes tribunal.
The writer is of the view that the hybrid mechanism, involving foreign judges and other personnel, should be acceptable to all though some are of the view that the current Constitution doesn’t allow such an arrangement. However, MP Sumanthiran is on record as having said that our Constitution is no obstacle to the hybrid mechanism. But the issue at hand is why all available information, including Gash reports, cannot be released to assist the judicial inquiry. Similarly, the US and India can do the same along with the UN which still continues to hold the confidential report on the Vanni war (Aug 2008-May 2009).
The Panel of Experts (PoE), in its report, released in March 2011, referred to this dossier which placed the number of dead at 7,721 till May 13, 2009. The war was brought to an end on May 19, 2009.
With the 40th Geneva session just weeks away, the UNP government is still struggling to secure a simple majority in Parliament. The UNP is preoccupied with its daunting political project to secure the support of a section of the SLFP-led UPFA before the next budget. The group loyal to war-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa, too, lacked a proper strategy to counter lies. In spite of grandiose projects, they hadn’t been able to address the accountability issues and efficiently counter Western lies though presented with plenty of extremely useful counter arguments. Our parliament hasn’t been able to achieve what Lord Naseby did on his own. Shame on those lawmakers who neglected their responsibilities. However, the TNA is excluded as its responsibilities since its inception in 2001 were different from those of the other political parties. It was the TNA that declared the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people.