Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A deeply divided community

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 157

 
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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran has claimed that the yahapalana government cooked up an assassination attempt on Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP M.A. Sumanthiran by the LTTE rump to justify on-going efforts to retain existing military presence in the Northern Province.

Since becoming the Chief Minister in Sept 2013, Wigneswaran has been demanding the withdrawal of the armed forces from the Northern Province.

Retired Supreme Court judge Wigneswaran refrained from accusing Inuvil born Jaffna District MP and attorney-at-law Sumanthiran of collaborating with the government project. However, Wigneswaran cannot be unaware of MP Sumanthiran calling for a thorough inquiry into the alleged attempt believed to be spearheaded by a section of Tamil Diaspora.

Having first entered parliament through the National List, Sumanthiran contested the last parliamentary polls in Aug 2015.The senior lawyer secured a place among those elected from the Jaffna peninsula at the expense of a TNA senior who had been a member of parliament before.

Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka is on record as having accused Norway based diaspora elements of being behind the assassination plot. In addition to the Norwegian factor, reports suggested that diaspora elements based in Malaysia, France and Australia might have had a hand in the assassination plot.

The police and the TNA bared the assassination plot in the wake of Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanism (CTFRM) handing over comprehensive set of proposals to the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe administration. Former President and Chairperson of the Office for National Unity and Reconciliation (ONUR) Chandrika Bandarnaike Kumaratunga received CTFRM report from senior attorney at law Manouri Muttetuwegama at the Presidential Secretariat on January 3, 2017.

The project undertaken by an 11-member team comprising the civil society headed by Muttetuwegama in line with the Geneva Resolution dealt with a range of issues. The alleged attempt to assassinate MP Sumanthiran should be examined against the backdrop of yahapalana leaders repeated assurances that post-war national reconciliation process would depend on truth, justice, reparations and non-recurrence.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, in his concluding remarks during the parliamentary debate on Geneva Resolution on Oct 23, 2015, declared that under that strategy, the government intended to create four separate institutions. Let me quote Minister Samaraweera verbatim: (A) A Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence to be evolved in consultation with the relevant authorities of South Africa. This mechanism is envisaged as having a dual structure. For many victims of human rights abuses, from whichever community, where the perpetrators are unclear for a judicial mechanism to handle, or where the practices of the state and society have resulted in discrimination, this Commission will allow them to discover the truth, understand what happened and help remedy any sense of injustice. A special feature of this will be a Compassionate Council, consisting of senior religious figures. (B) An Office on Missing Persons based on the principle of the families’ right to know, to be set up by Statute with expertise from the ICRC. (C) A Judicial Mechanism with a Special Counsel to be set up by Statute. This takes into account the right of victims to a fair remedy and aims to address the problem of impunity for human rights violations suffered by all communities. There have been previous instances as well in Sri Lanka when criminal justice mechanisms of different kinds have been set up. This, therefore, is not at all an alien concept. Neither is it aimed at a particular group of persons, but something that is essential in terms of upholding the rule of law, and creating a society that respects the rule of law. (D) An Office for Reparations to be set up by Statute to facilitate the implementation of recommendations relating to reparations made by the proposed Commission on Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Non-recurrence, the Office of the Missing Persons, the LLRC and any other entity; These bodies will be created after wide-ranging and deep consultations with all the stakeholders involved, including the victims, experts, political parties, the security forces and civil society.

Special reconciliation project

for Tamils needed

Does post-war Sri Lanka require a special mechanism to address issues involving Tamils? Muttetuwegama’s group hadn’t addressed the issue. In fact, Paranagama Commission as well as the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), too turned a blind eye to this aspect. All government and foreign funded projects are meant to resolve problems between the Sinhalese and Tamil speaking people. They conveniently have forgotten the requirement to settle differences among the Tamils, a deeply divided community that believed in LTTE triumphing over the military until the very end.

 Wigneswaran’s reaction to alleged attempt on MP Sumanthiran’s life again highlighted deep divisions among the Tamil speaking community. Obviously, Wigneswaran inferred that the Colombo-based lawyer had cooperated with the government to propagate a lie that former members of the LTTE at the behest of Tamil diaspora joined hands in first post-war assassination plot. A sharply divided TNA consisting of four parties is struggling to cope up with the Sumanthiran affair. Having accused the government and an influential section of the grouping of propagating lies, Wigneswaran led a protest march in the eastern Batticaloa district over the last weekend demanding the withdrawal of the military from ‘traditional Tamil homelands’ in the former war zone. Having won the confidence of the TNA leadership as well as Colombo-based diplomatic community, Wigneswaran secured the Chief Ministership with an overwhelming majority in Sept 2013. Since then he has adopted a strategy contrary to that of the TNA which nominated him as the Northern Province Chief Minister. Wigneswaran is no longer under TNA command. A TNA split is now inevitable at the next Northern Provincial Council poll. The writer raised the issue with Mrs Kumaratunga’s Office. 

The Island: Since the change of government in January 2015, ONUR has been spearheading post-war national reconciliation process. The projects undertaken by ONUR as well as other organizations, such as the National Peace Council and CPA (Centre for Policy Alternatives) are meant to reconcile the Sinhalese and Tamil speaking people. Against the backdrop of the alleged Sumanthiran assassination plot and views expressed by Wigneswaran and another TNA MP, don’t’ you think special projects are required to settle differences among Tamil speaking people, including diaspora.

Mrs Kumaratunga’s Office: The policies of the Government and programmes being carried out by ONUR are meant to restore Trust and promote Non-Recurrence of the conditions that led to the conflict. And these initiatives involve a wide range of stakeholders in this process. However, differences of opinion within any community, expressed in a respectful manner, are hallmark of a democracy and we have not identified a need to think of any special projects to intervene in cases of differences of opinion within elected officials. If a threat for national unity and reconciliation is perceived, we will address such with the respective stakeholders in a constructive manner.

The Island: Have you implemented projects to build friendship among Tamils and settle differences among various Tamil groups? If not, will you be considering special project meant for Tamils?

Mrs. Kumaratunga’s Office: "The ONUR respects people’s democratic right to expression and thus regardless of whether differences of opinions exist within Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims in general, we do not believe government intervention is a necessity,  provided such expressions of opinion are of a non-inflammatory nature and does not lead to hatred or violence. We do believe that reconciliation process needs to bring together as many Sri Lankans as possible across ethnic and religious lines to build a prosperous country for all of us.

The following response was received from Dr Jehan Perera on behalf of the National Peace Council (NPC): The government’s progress in meeting popular expectations has been limited in all sectors of society.  Many are disappointed and impatient.  This is also applicable to the Tamil polity.  This has eroded trust and threatens to damage the relationship with the government.  It also harms intra-Tamil relationships both local and diaspora.  It widens the rift between those Tamils who wish to work with the government in a spirit of partnership and those who seek a path of confrontation.

There are various theories about the assassination attempt.  This indicates we need to improve the level of trust in society.  Implementation of promises made by the government is of utmost importance in reducing the trust deficit and improving relations all round.  Among the most important of these is to ascertain the whereabouts of missing persons, restoration of military occupied lands to civilians, rebuilding of livelihoods and demilitarization of the North and East.  The use of violence to attain any of these objectives needs to be condemned.    

Organizations such as ONUR and NGOs can organize more dialogues and intellectual exchanges where problems are identified and mutually acceptable solutions are discussed.  These can feed into policy decisions.  At dialogues my organization conducts we discuss the contentious issues on which there is no single right answer.  We help the participants to understand the complexity of issues and the politics and competing visions that underlie them.  

We very much appreciate the space and freedom that has been opened up for us at this time to engage in public discussion of these issues.  This includes the media and The Island is a good example.  We find that most of those we engage with, from all ethnic and religious communities, are reasonable and show goodwill towards the others.  This includes the senior members of the security forces whom I teach at the University of Colombo’s post-graduate diploma and degree courses.  This gives me hope for the future."

Sangaree-Wigneswaran

consensus

The eradication of the LTTE in May 2009 automatically freed the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) led TNA. It would be pertinent to mention that V. Anandasangree’s TULF, too, had been constituent of the TNA at its inception in the run-up to eelam war IV (Aug 2006 to May 2009).

Interestingly, Anandasangaree has publicly backed Wigneswaran stand that the alleged attempt on MP Sumanthiran was nothing but a lie. Since he quit the TNA, Anandasangaree has been quite critical of the TNA. The veteran politician has been at logger heads with the TNA. For some reason, he has now taken a stand supportive of Wigneswaran vis-a-vis party leadership.

The likes of Wigneswaran and Anandasangaree will work overtime to discredit MP Sumanthiran, who has become the major TNA player in negotiations with the diplomatic community. Sumanthiran’s close relationship with the UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF); the most influential diaspora grouping has antagonized many.

The LTTE had been instrumental in setting up the TNA though its leaders are unlikely to discuss their sordid association with the Tigers. However, the TULF quit the outfit ahead of April 2004 general election and was routed in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The LTTE ensured the TNA secured the lion’s share of parliamentary seats in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The European Union polls observation mission in 2004 explained how the TNA benefited from the LTTE unleashed violence on political opponents. The TNA fully operated with the LTTE until the very end. In early Nov 2005, the top TNA leadership, having met senior LTTE representatives in Kilinochchi ordered Tamil speaking people not to exercise their franchise. The move was meant to deprive Tamil vote to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The LTTE-TNA combine helped UPFA candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa to win the presidency. Obviously, they believed a reckless Rakapaksa would be naive to take on the LTTE militarily. Their project went awry. Thanks to Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE which wouldn’t have been possible without the then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, the TNA regained legitimacy to engage in politics. Perhaps, TNA leader and veteran politician R. Sampanthan today cannot even remember today how he recognized Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of Tamil speaking people.

TNA manipulated

Having helped Rajapaksa to win presidency at Nov 2005 presidential poll, the TNA threw its weight behind the war winning Army Chief Fonseka at January 2010 presidential polls. The US embassy facilitated a clandestine project to bring all anti-Rajapaksa factions together to oust the war winning President. In spite of having accused Fonseka of committing war crimes by no less a person than then US ambassador in Colombo Patricia Butenis (Aug 2009-June 2012), the US worked overtime to help build a coalition against Rajapaksa. Butenis accused Rajapaksa brothers, Mahinda, Basil and Gotabhaya and Fonseka of war crimes in a classified diplomatic cable originating from Colombo in January 2010. But, secretly, US exerted pressure on political parties, including the TNA and the SLMC to back Fonseka. In fact, another leaked US diplomatic cable revealed how the TNA had changed its stance thereby helped Rajapaksa to win presidency. In other words, the TNA helped LTTE strategy to cause an all-out war finally leading to its own destruction.

Butenis’ predecessor Robert O Blake (Sept 2006-Aug 2009) pursued extremely hostile policy towards the then government since early 2009. The US drastically changed its stance in the wake of Rajapaksa’s refusal to call off the offensive to pave the way for the remaining LTTE forces trapped on the Vanni east front to surrender and the top leadership to secure refuge overseas.

The US project meant to deprive war winning president of a second term went awry in January 2010. The US adopted a similar strategy at January 2015 presidential poll. India, too, threw its weight behind the 2015 project to engineer the Rajapaksas ouster. Had they expected to end Sri Lanka’s relationship with Beijing through regime change? The current outcome has proved them wrong. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government has ended up with Chinese investments in the absence of any other tangible saviors. The much touted Volkswagen investment turned out to be a hoax with government leaders ending up with egg on their face.



India’s culpability

Those wanting proper post-war national reconciliation should also examine the atrocities committed by Tamil terrorists on their people. During 80s, the LTTE massacred rival Tamil groups formed by India to gain superiority while Delhi also used anti-LTTE groups to undermine the political set up here. Vanni District TNA MP MP Dharmalingjam Siddarthan can explain how Jaffna based TELO killed his father V. Dharmalingam at the behest of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). TELO assassins executed much respected Jaffna District MPs V. Dharmalingam and his colleague M. Alalasundaram on Sept 2/3, 1985. Siddarthan told the writer years ago, the RAW planned to get rid of two more Jaffna District MPs at that time as it felt urgent requirement to dilute TULF influence in Jaffna politics.

 The world cannot forget how Indian trained PLOTE almost succeeded in changing the Maldivian regime in early Nov 1988. India had to send in air borne troops to crush the attempt to overthrow the dictatorial Gayoom administration.

Those wanting genuine post-war national reconciliation should examine the culpability of the Tamil community. A costly post-war Norwegian study revealed the massive amounts of funds made available to various NGOs and individuals in the run-up to the eelam War IV (Aug 2006-May 2009) to influence the decision making process as well as the electorate. During a three-year period, Dr. Kumar Rupesinghe of the Anti-War Front alone received USD 6 mn to promote Norwegian-style peace at the expense of Sri Lanka’s national interests. The Norwegians wouldn’t have exposed Dr, Rupesinghe if he remained committed to their cause. Dr Rupesinghe earned the wrath of the Norwegians and other western donors for offering his services to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the onset of the eelam war IV. The issue here is that none of the Norwegian or various other foreign funded projects sought to convince the LTTE or the Tamil community the conflict couldn’t be resolved through military means. They pushed successive governments and the Sinhala community to believe the LTTE couldn’t be defeated. They believed in Prabhakaran’s invincibility even after the Army crushed the LTTE forces at Kilinochchi in the first week of January 2009. Current projects are meant to convince the people that Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE had made reconciliation further problematic. The Yahapalana rulers seemed to have accepted that when it cancelled Victory Day celebrations to appease those who had turned a blind eye to LTTE atrocities, including the widespread use of children as cannon fodder in high intensity battles and suicide missions.

The Tamil media cannot absolve itself of the responsibility for the present situation. An influential section of the Tamil media believed in the LTTE’s capacity to bring the war to a successful conclusion in the north and elimination of political leaders, both Sinhalese and Tamils standing in their way was an integral part of the overall strategy. The writer still remember what Anandasangaree told him in the wake of the assassination of Mrs Sarojini Yogeswaran in May 1998 in Jaffna. A shaken Anandasangaree said "do you want me killed" when he was asked to name the LTTE as the perpetrator of the crime.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

A move to assassinate Sumanthiran goes awry

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 156

 

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The possibility of a foreigner of Sri Lankan origin, coming back without any hindrance to cause mayhem can never be ruled out. Let me remind you of a suicide attack carried out by a Norwegian in Somalia in March 2014. The perpetrator was identified as Abdullahi Ahmed Abdulle, a Norwegian passport holder of Somali origin. The Norwegian caused heavy loss of life in an attack on a hotel at Buulo Burde, in southern Somalia.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

An abortive attempt to assassinate Jaffna District Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran in January this year sent shock waves through the Tamil community.

The exposure of the reprehensible conspiracy, by a former member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), just before Christmas last year, led to the arrest of five LTTE personnel in separate raids in January.

The Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) carried out the arrests, in mid-January soon after a reluctant yahapalana government authorized further investigations into destabilisation project.

However, the government refrained from utilising the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to take the suspects into custody. The decision should be examined against the backdrop of the government being in the process of abolishing the PTA. The government is seeking a consensus, as regards new national security mechanism, with those countries behind a spate of Geneva Resolutions directed at Sri Lanka since the conclusion of the conflict.

Police headquarters identified those who had been arrested in connection with the assassination attempt so far as rehabilitated LTTE cadres.

The Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) led TNA welcomed the investigation. Having repeatedly categorized those who had been rehabilitated, and released, as well, as still in government custody, as political prisoners, a deeply embarrassed TNA grudgingly acknowledged the danger posed by the LTTE rump as well as extremist elements overseas.

Sumanthiran entered parliament on the TNA Tamil List, following the April 2010 general election. Perhaps one of the top constitutional lawyers, Sumanthiran wouldn’t have been accommodated on the National List had the TNA nominations were subject to LTTE approval. Inuvil, Jaffna born, Sumanthiran successfully contested the Jaffna district at the last general election in August, 2015. It would be pertinent to mention that Sumanthiran hadn’t been deeply involved with the ITAK/TNA at the time it had been involved with the LTTE.

At the general election, in late 2001, the LTTE threw its weight behind the TNA enabling the outfit to secure the lion’s share of the electoral seats available in the northern and eastern districts. At the April 2004 general election, the TNA contested the election, on behalf of the LTTE, at that time recognized by the ITAK-led TNA as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. The European Union Election Observation Mission directly accused the TNA of capturing most parliamentary seats, in the northern and eastern provinces, with the LTTE’s help. The TNA secured 22 seats. The LTTE-TNA project extended further, at the Nov, 2005 presidential polls, when they ordered Tamils not to exercise their franchise in support of either Ranil Wickremesinghe or Mahinda Rajapaksa. The move was clearly meant to deprive Wickremesinghe of victory. Had the Tamils been given a free hand, they would have certainly ensured Wickremesinghe’s victory. Obviously, the LTTE-TNA grouping felt that having helped Rajapaksa to win, he could have been easily overwhelmed. The TNA subsequently backed war-winning Army Chief Sarath Fonseka against Rajapaksa, at the January 2010 presidential polls. Having failed in that endeavour, the TNA finally succeeded, at the January 2015 presidential polls, when it extended its support to Maithripala Sirisena.

The TNA comprised ITAK, TELO (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization), PLOTE (People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam) and EPRLF (Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front). Although, V. Anandasangaree’s Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), too, had been part of the outfit, at its beginning, the political veteran subsequently broke ranks. Today, Sangaree is the strongest critic of the TNA which once worked closely with the LTTE. In fact, they had been part of the LTTE until the combined armed forces brought the war to a successful conclusion, in May 2009 by crushing the Tigers militarily.

The alleged involvement of a section of extremist Tamil diaspora, in the assassination plot had made the situation worse. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe coalition, the TNA, as well as Colombo-based Western embassies, reacted cautiously to the alleged diaspora move.

The conspiracy couldn’t have come to light at a far worse time for those wanting accountability mechanisms to address the grievances of the war weary Tamil community. 

Vanni District TNA MP (PLOTE) Dharmlingham Siddarthan, whom the writer associated with since 1990, acknowledged that they kept quiet about the alleged attempt on MP Sumjanthiran’s life for about three weeks.

Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika, of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), alleged Norway-based Nediyawan faction of calling for attorney-at-law Sumanthiran’s assassination. Patali Champika quite rightly castigated war-winning President Malinda Rajapaksa of recklessly releasing nearly 12,000 LTTE personnel without conducting proper investigations. Patali Champika alleged that those who had been released by the then President Rajapaksa were responsible for the assassination bid. However, Patali Champika’s cabinet colleagues refrained from commenting on the assassination attempt. The media largely ignored the assassination attempt, and the last minute cancellation of last week’s post-cabinet media briefing denied the media an opportunity to raise the issue with cabinet spokesman Dr Rajitha Senaratne.

Lukewarm int’l reaction

British, US and Australian diplomatic missions declined to comment on the alleged involvement of Tamil diaspora in the assassination bid. The British asserted that the High Commission couldn’t comment on unsubstantiated media reports.

The British HC spokesperson told the writer "The British High Commission won’t be commenting on these unconfirmed reports."

The US embassy spokesperson told the writer that they didn’t have anything else to be added to recent reports regarding the alleged assassination attempt.

The Australian High Commission explained to the writer that the HC didn’t comment on legal matters.

The Norwegian embassy refrained from responding to the writer for five days regarding the direct accusation made by Minister Patali Champika over a week ago. Finally the Norwegian embassy in Colombo posted its response on its website. A Norwegian diplomat informed the writer of the Norwegian response soon after the issue was raised again last Friday morning. The following is the full text of the Norwegian statement: "With reference to recent newspaper articles on the alleged assassination attempt on parliamentarian Sumanthiran. The Norwegian embassy has no other information on this than what is mentioned in the Sri Lankan newspapers. We consider this a legal matter which is handled by the Sri Lankan police. In general, if the Sri Lankan police initiate or request international cooperation, there are established international procedures for such cooperation. The embassy has no further comments."

Most probably, the Norwegian embassy, or any other diplomatic mission in Colombo, wouldn’t have publicly commented on the assassination attempt. Had there been any threat on attorney-at-law Sumanthiran from any other party, Western diplomatic missions would have surely taken it up. The on-going TID investigation into the Tamil diaspora led assassination bid would place the Western diplomatic missions in an embarrassing position.

The five LTTE cadres are scheduled to be produced before the Kilinochchi District judge on Feb 13.

The assassination plot is widely believed to have the backing of extremist Tamil diaspora elements based in Malaysia, France, Australia and Norway.

In response to a query raised by the writer, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Colonne expressed the belief that the ministry could facilitate the investigation. Colonne assured her Ministry’s support for investigating agencies to reach foreign governments.

The TNA lawmaker was to be assassinated on the Soranpattu-Thaalayady road, on January 13. Had those who had been working at the behest of extremist elements within the diaspora, succeeded, the crime would have been certainly blamed on sections of the military hell-bent on reversing the January 2015 revolution. In fact, early last year, the government alleged those in the military (still loyal to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa) of trying to bring him back to power. The accusation was made close on the heels of the Chavakachcheri police recovering explosives, including suicide jacket following the arrest of an LTTE cadre. MP Sumanthiran confirmed to this writer the alleged involvement of suspended youth wing leader of ITAK with those implicated in the Chavakachcheri explosives haul. The Island reportage of the Chavakachcheri recovery and related matters prompted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to castigate the writer. Both the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Colombo Crime Division (CCD) recorded lengthy statements from the writer regarding his assumption that the former members of the LTTE could cause mayhem.

MP Sumanthiran told the writer that diaspora links, too, should be investigated in respect of those arrested in connection with the plot to assassinate him. Referring to the alleged involvement of Malaysia-based diaspora elements in the plot, Sumanthiran asserted that Malaysia had always cooperated with Sri Lanka. The Jaffna district MP was referring to the seizure and handing over of LTTE front liner Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP and other elements to the previous government. Malaysia handed over Pathmanathan to the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) in early Aug 2009.

The President of Yuthukama Forum and front-line member of the National Joint Committee, Gevindu Cumaratunga said that various interested parties, including Western diplomatic missions, so-called foreign funded civil society groups and INGOs would have flooded the media with statements on the alleged assassination attempts if not for the involvement of LTTE cadres and the diaspora. Cumaratunga, who had been battling anti-national elements at various forums, asserted that those who had been propagating constitutional reforms as panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills would have realized their folly. Cumaratunga urged the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to thoroughly examine the situation without being deceived by false assurances given by interested parties.

Foreign threats, Norwegian

example

India’s war against Sri Lanka, launched in the early 80s primarily due to Geo political reasons, wouldn’t have lasted so long had there been an effective plans to deprive massive Europe-US-Australia and Scandinavian countries based diaspora support. Indian project went awry, in Oct 1987, after New Delhi was forced to take on the LTTE. The LTTE assassinated wartime Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, in May, 1991, over a year after the Indian Army quit Sri Lanka.

In Aug 1998 the then British High Commissioner here, David Tatham, during a visit to Jaffna, urged the Tamil community to stop funding the on-going war. Tatham knew what was going on. The British diplomat had the strength to publicly appeal for an end to diaspora funding. The appeal was made at a time the British allowed a free hand for the LTTE on their territory. The diaspora received direct orders from the north. They worked at the behest of the LTTE. Now that the LTTE leadership had been eradicated, some sections of the diaspora were making an attempt to use the LTTE rump. The alleged assassination bid on Sumanthiran is a case in point. Perhaps, one day, the diaspora may succeed in choosing one among them to take a target in Colombo. The possibility of a foreigner of Sri Lankan origin, coming back without any hindrance to cause mayhem can never be ruled out. Let me remind you of a suicide attack carried out by a Norwegian in Somalia in March 2014. The perpetrator was identified as Abdullahi Ahmed Abdulle, a Norwegian passport holder of Somali origin. The Norwegian caused heavy loss of life in an attack on a hotel at Buulo Burde, in southern Somalia. The AFP, in a Mogadishu datelined March 19, 2014 story, quoted Shebab (terrorist group) military spokesman, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Abu Musab, as having said: "The attacker of Buulo Burde was a 60-year-old man who came from Norway to fight the enemies of Allah. He paid the sacrifice in order to be close to Allah by killing his enemies. The event is showing us that there is no age limit for Jihad."

Shebab mounted a car bomb attack in response to a large scale military operation launched by African Union forces. The Norwegian, of Somali origin, was perhaps the oldest person to carry out a suicide mission. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know the circumstances under which the Shebab terrorist had entered Norway, secured citizenship and subsequently returned to Somalia to launch a suicide mission on March 18, 2014. Did the Norwegian Foreign Service have had any hand in helping the Shebab terrorist leave Somalia clandestinely? Sri Lanka should study such cases. In fact, Sri Lanka should seek information from Somalia, through relevant agencies, as a country affected by terrorism. The government shouldn’t turn a blind eye to what was happening in other parts of the world. Had the Shebab killer received political asylum in Norway? Had he been involved in terrorism or engaged in activities against the state at the time he entered Norway? Commonwealth member state Kenya was another country badly threatened by foreign terrorists of Kenyan origin. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka had never realized the need to examine similar threats faced by other countries.

A post-war clandestine Norwegian project

Sri Lanka should take up with Norway the contentious issue of Norwegians, of Sri Lankan origin. Norway cannot remain mum especially in the wake of one of its citizens being accused of planning to assassinate TNA lawmaker Sumanthiran. A substantial number of Sri Lankans, including members of the LTTE, had received Norwegian citizenship – hence the freedom to travel in Europe, as well as the Scandinavian region, without any hassle. Had some of them been given new identities or in special cases changed ethnicity? Although Sri Lanka summoned the then Norwegian ambassador, Hilde Haraldstad, over a secret project to help Sri Lankans leave the country, the previous government never really pursued the case. The then Foreign Secretary, Karunathilake Amunugama, raised the issue on behalf of External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris (Helping 12 persons out of Sri Lanka: Government summons Norwegian envoy-The Island March 20, 2011). Denying any wrongdoing on Norway’s part, Haraldstad insisted she was not at liberty to discuss individual cases. The External Affairs Ministry never pursued the clandestine Norwegian project. 

The Norwegian envoy was summoned in the wake of Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten, in its May 12, 2011, edition revealing Norwegian diplomatic mission in Colombo buying air tickets for 12 would be Sri Lankan asylum seekers deemed to be at risk in Sri Lanka. Aftenposten quoted one-time Norwegian peace envoy in Sri Lanka, Erik Solheim, as having endorsed the project undertaken by the Norwegian diplomatic staff in Colombo. Solheim also accused Sri Lanka of extra-judicial measures, including killings during the last phase of the conflict. Haraldsrad said that she couldn’t confirm the figure given by Aftenposten with regard to the number of Sri Lankans given political asylum in Norway. Although the number of Norwegians, of Sri Lankan origin, is relatively smaller when compared with communities in Canada or the UK, the Norwegian grouping is one of the most influential among pro-separatist Diaspora.

Sumanthiran’s close relationship with the GTF, too, wouldn’t have been to the liking of some sections of the diaspora as well as politicians here.

Recent terrorist attacks in Europe revealed those who had received citizenship of various EU countries were the perpetrators of these unprecedented assaults. European countries had allowed undesirable elements, including known terrorists, to enter their countries. As far as Sri Lanka is concerned, several thousands of Sri Lankan terrorists live overseas. Those who had been trained by Indians in India in the early 80s, as well as in Sri Lanka, are among foreign nationals of Sri Lankan origin today. The diaspora wielded immense power due to organized vote bank that can be utilized handily at elections. Major British, Canadian and Norwegian political parties had been bending backwards over the years to appease the diaspora. Some political parties cannot forgo their relationship with Tamil diaspora. The British approach is a glaring example of playing politics at the expense of a smaller nation that had been part of the British Empire once. UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF) had its inauguration in the House of Commons several months after the then Labour Government failed in its highly publicized attempt to save the LTTE, in early 2009. Had the wartime President Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa given into Western demands and reached an understanding with the sinking LTTE, the likes of Sumanthiran wouldn’t have been in parliament. Sri Lanka would have been a different place. In fact, had Prabhakaran survived thanks to the Rajapaksas, twice president Mahinda Rajapaksa would have comfortably won a third term. In fact, the TNA would have urged Tamils to vote for Rajapaksa. The TNA, in January 2010, underscored its readiness to do anything to achieve political objectives when it backed General Sarath Fonseka’s candidature at the presidential polls. The much touted allegations pertaining to massacre of Tamils during the last phase of the offensive by Gen. Fonseka’s army didn’t discourage the TNA though it was initially sceptical. Wiki Leaks cables, originating from the US embassy in Colombo during the previous administration, revealed how the then US Ambassador here Patricia Butenis believed both Rajapaksa and Fonseka committed war crimes, though the world’s solitary superpower pushed the TNA to help in a regime change in Sri Lanka.

Sumanthiran hadn’t been dear to some sections of his own community, both here and overseas. They had set ablaze his effigy after the change of government, in January, 2015. They resented Sumanthiran’s rapid rise due to his ability to work with all stakeholders. The attempt to assassinate the top lawyer should prompt those genuinely interested in a lasting solution to the national issue to review every aspect of the process before it is too late.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The day Kumar Sangakkara felt humbled


Unpardonable failure to capitalize on ‘Spirit of Cricket’ lecture

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 155

 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Sri Lankan cricketer, Kumar Sangakkara earned the wrath of the war-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government for his hour long "Spirit of Cricket" lecture at the July, 2011, Sir Colin Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s.

Some politicians and officials depicted the lecture as a frontal attack on the then government. Those who had resented Sangakkara, for being critical of their conduct, cleverly deceived President Rajapaksa. They propagated the lie that the cricketer was challenging the government and was working with the Opposition.

Sangakkara received an invitation from the MCC to deliver the CC lecture, shortly after Sri Lanka lost to India, at the World Cup final, in early April, 2011. The stylish batsman had been the first Sri Lankan to receive an invitation from MCC at a time the Tamil Diaspora was working hard to isolate Sri Lanka. Had they knew of Sangakkara’s intention, they would have surely opposed. They had the strength to bring a couple of thousands of supporters, to any London venue, at short notice.

Having led his country to a runners-up finish, Sangakkara relinquished captaincy in the ODIs and T20 Internationals. However, Sangakkara represented the Test team, till August, 2015.

A section of the government reacted angrily to the devastating attack on Sri Lanka Cricket administration and the cricketer’s severe criticism of political interference.

The Sri Lankan became the first speaker to receive a standing ovation at Lords since Bishop Desmond Tutu in 2008. Both the UK-based, and Sri Lankan media focused on Sangakkara’s assault on the politically influential cricket administration and the criminal waste of funds, as well as resources belonging to Sri Lanka Cricket.

Sangakkara was accused of conspiring with Colombo-based Western diplomatic community and those opposed to the Rajapaksa administration. Some speculated about Sangakkara throwing his weight behind the UNP-led Opposition in the wake of war-winning Army Chief, the then Gen. Sarath Fonseka suffering huge defeat at the January 2010 presidential polls. Interested parties speculated that Sangakkara had been in secret talks with Colombo-based US diplomats.

Sanga earns govt. wrath

Although, Sangakkara refrained from naming anyone, many believed the criticism had been directed at the then Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, and controversial SLC administrator Nishantha Ranatunga. The government relentlessly pursued the national player, who could have easily led the country for two more years. Rex Clementine, the Sports Editor of The Island, and a senior colleague of the writer, asserted that due to factors beyond Sangakkara’s control, the great player was able to lead the country for only two years, "It’s a pity that the best cricketing brain we ever had captained the country for only two years."

It would be pertinent to examine Sangakkara’s speech against the backdrop of Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s address at the Chatham House, London. Minister Samaraweera discussed the on going post-war national reconciliation process.

Minister Samaraweera was speaking on behalf of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government wanting to bring in a brand new Constitution, in accordance with Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by the ruling coalition, in Oct, 2015.

Yahapalana leaders consider the proposed constitution as panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills, a view not acceptable to a large section of the population.

Had the Sri Lankan military failed to bring the war to a successful conclusion, with the elimination of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, in May 2009, national reconciliation wouldn’t have been a reality. That is the undeniable truth.

Those who had lashed out at Sangakkara, over the Lords lecture conveniently ignored some significant references made by the outspoken Trinitian. Sangakkara dealt with a range of issues, including some aspects of the ethnic conflict. Most importantly Sangakkara discussed, a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, on the morning of March 3, 2009, near the Gaddafi stadium, Lahore. Six Sri Lankan national players received injuries. Two Pakistani policemen died, defending the Sri Lankans.

Lahore attack

Having recollected the terrorist attack in Lahore, Sangakkara recounted an unforgettable experience he had with a Sri Lanka soldier back at home. Sangakkara told the audience: A week after our arrival in Colombo, from Pakistan, I was driving about town and was stopped at a checkpoint. A soldier politely inquired as to my health after the attack. I said I was fine and added that what they as soldiers experience every day we only experienced for a few minutes, but managed to grab all the news headlines. That soldier looked me in the eye and replied: "It is OK if I die because it is my job and I am ready for it. But you are a hero and if you were to die it would be a great loss for our country. I was taken aback. How can this man value his life less than mine? His sincerity was overwhelming. I felt humbled."

For them, avoiding bullets, shells, mines and grenades, was imperative for survival. This was an experience that I could not relate to. I had great sympathy and compassion for them, but had no real experience with which I could draw parallels. That was until we toured Pakistan in 2009."

"We all realized what some of our fellow Sri Lankans experienced every day for nearly 30 years. There was a new respect and awe for their courage and selflessness."

Sri Lanka received Pakistan support to fight terrorism since the 80s. Islamabad backed Sri Lanka’s military efforts, in numerous ways, and threw its weight behind Sri Lanka at various international forums, including Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Sinhala print and electronic media completely ignored Sangakkara’s comments on the Army. There had never been any other instance of internationally recognized sports personality commending the Army at any international event. There couldn’t have been a better opportunity than the gathering at Lord’s to present Sri Lanka’s case. Sangakkara spoke on behalf of Sri Lanka beautifully. Had Lakshman Kadirgamar being alive, the senior Trinitian would have certainly congratulated Sangakkara. The LTTE assassinated Kadirgamar, in Aug., 2005.

The military brought the war to a successful conclusion two months later. The nearly three-year combined security forces campaign resulted in the eradication of LTTE’s conventional military capability as well as its ability to resume hit and run attacks. Although some experts predicted that the LTTE would return to the jungles, their debilitating defeat made them fearful of a fresh attempt. Those who had escaped, and believed in the LTTE’s invincibility, feared to challenge the Army.

Sacrifices made by rural youth underscored

Sangakkara unreservedly acknowledged the sacrifices made by the military during the nearly three decades long war. The fourth phase of the conflict (Aug., 2006-May 2009) claimed the lives of nearly 6,000 officers and men.

Sangakkara also mentioned the Army and the LTTE working together in the wake of the Dec 2004 tsunami. Sangakkara said: "We visited shelter camps, run by the Army, and the LTTE, and even administered a partnership between them. Two bitter warring factions brought together to help people in a time of need."

Sangakkara dealt with the conflict. Sangakkara hadn’t been reluctant to call the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam a terrorist group and to assert the war dragged the development by decades. Sangakkara recognized the sacrifices made by rural Sinhala youth in the fight against terrorism. "This war affected the whole of our land in different ways. Families, usually from the lower economic classes, sacrificed their young men and women by the thousands in the service of Sri Lanka’s military.

"Even Colombo, a capital city that seemed far removed from the war’s front-line, was under siege by the terrorists using powerful vehicle and suicide bombs. Bombs in public places, targeting both civilians and political targets became an accepted risk of daily life in Sri Lanka. Parents, travelling to work by bus, would split up and travel separately so that if one of them died the other will return to tend to the family. Each and every Sri Lankan was touched by the brutality of that conflict."

The national cricketer also underscored how Sinhalese intervened to save Tamils, targeted by gangs, during the July 1983, riots, in some instances, backed by the then ruling party politicians. Sangakkara recollected how his father had accommodated 35 Tamils at their home as politically-motivated goon squads roamed the streets. The only omissions in his superb speech, which I believe had been made on behalf of Sri Lanka, was his failure to mention Indian intervention. Sangakkara must have had some valid reason. Still, the lecture could have made all Sri Lankans proud, immensely.

Instead of appreciating Sangakkara’s effort to paint a positive picture of Sri Lanka, particularly the military, the government pounced on the national player. Minister Aluthgamage called for a disciplinary inquiry and punitive action against the former skipper.

Had the UK, based Tamil Diaspora knew of Sangakkara remarks, they would have reacted violently. The Diaspora hated anyone calling the LTTE a terrorist organization. They couldn’t stomach the LTTE’s humiliating defeat hence their anger at anyone commending the Sri Lankan military. In fact, had they realized Sangakkara was to pay a glowing tribute to the military, they would have certainly objected to the MCC extending an invitation to the great Sri Lankan. The UK-based media, supportive of the Diaspora project ignored references which they felt would be advantageous to Sri Lanka. They probably felt embarrassed and were surprised by Sangakkara’s decision.

Sangakkara made his appearance at Lords, in the wake of the massive international propaganda campaign, directed at the Sri Lankan military. The then UN Secretary, General Ban ki moon’s Panel of Experts (PoE) in March, 2011, released its damning report. The PoE accused Sri Lanka of deliberately killing over 40,000 Tamil civilians during the final phase of the offensive. On the basis of unsubstantiated findings, the PoE recommended a controversial course of action ultimately leading to the incumbent government co-sponsoring Geneva Resolution 30/1 to pave the way for hybrid court address accountability issues. In June, 2011, a month before Sangakkara’s appearance at Lords, British media outfit, Channel 4, aired Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields dubbed as an investigative documentary on the final weeks of the war. Sangakkara threw his weight behind the military amidst mounting criticism in respect of alleged battlefield violations. A vast majority of local NGO community, especially those funded by foreign governments and INGOs, pushed for an external probe.

Dew and Gomin on Sanga

The majority of those who had backed the military throughout the campaign, as well as the post-war period, never uttered a word in defense of Sangakkara. They feared to antagonize the government. The writer brought the situation to the attention of the then Defence Secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, who appreciated positive references to the military, especially in the background of stepped up international campaign inimical to Sri Lanka. Top lawyer, Gomin Dayasiri, and General Secretary of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka Dew Gunasekera, declared that Sangakkara couldn’t have made that statement in the UK at a better time.

Strongly supporting Sangakkara’s demand to tackle waste, corruption and irregularities in the game, Dayasri said that a cohesive strategy was required to stamp out corruption in both public and private sectors. Sangakkara’s speech couldn’t have come at a better time, Dayasri said, adding: "The dashing batsman’s eloquent presentation was very pro-Sri Lanka as against the LTTE terrorism and cricket terrorism. If any politician, or the government, decides to take action against the player, there’ll be a public outcry because the sports personality has courageously exposed the insider dealings in Sri Lanka Cricket. More of Sangakkara’s kind should come to the forefront."

Sangakkara didn’t mince his words when he declared, before the commencement of the World Cup final, in April, 2011, in India, that Sri Lanka couldn’t have held a couple of qualifying matches in Sri Lanka if not for the Army’s triumph over the LTTE.

The previous government, for some strange reason, ignored Sangakkara’s comments, made in July, 2011, as well as declaration made by US Defence Advisor in Colombo Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith a month earlier. Smith dismissed unsubstantiated allegations, directed at the Army on the Vanni east front. The US Defence attache’s declaration couldn’t have been made at a better place as political and military leaderships struggled to come to terms with accusations. The Colombo-based official’s statement prompted the US State Department to issue a strong rebuttal. There had never been a similar instance during the war or after.

The previous government squandered millions of USD on US public relations firms, especially after the end of the conflict, to counter accusations directed at the country. An influential section of the previous government, with the blessings of President Rajapaksa, engaged in an utterly corrupt US project, though they knew such practices couldn’t influence the world’s solitary super power. They stepped up spending on futile projects in the wake of the US moving resolutions against Sri Lanka. But, they never bothered to prepare a proper strategy to counter international criticism and domestic propaganda. Sangakkara’s comments could have made a big impact both here and overseas. His opinion couldn’t have been ignored.

While Sangakkara appreciated those troops who had been deployed in the city and its suburbs, some resented their presence. Some of those who had been hurling abuse at the military are now promoting post-war national reconciliation. None of them had supported the previous government’s efforts to stamp out terrorism. In fact, some of them worked overtime to undermine the previous government.

Sangakkara emphasized the importance of children knowing the sacrifices made by the armed forces and the people to achieve peace. "The war is now over. Sri Lanka looks towards a new future of peace and prosperity. I am eternally grateful for this. It means that my children will grow up without war and violence being a daily part of our lives. They will learn of its horrors not first-hand but perhaps in history class or through conversations for it is important that they understand and appreciate the great and terrible price our country and our people paid for the freedom and security they now enjoy."

Unfortunately, the previous government pathetically failed to meet the aspirations of the people in spite of bringing the war to an end. And those who who had taken power at the January, 2015, presidential polls, caused chaos and the country is in turmoil today. The national economy is in severe crisis though the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe act as if the proposed constitution is panacea for all our problems.

UK Tamils disrupt Mahinda’ s plans

UK Tamils strongly opposed Sri Lankan politicians and security officials involved in the war against terrorism visiting London. In Dec., 2010, over 7,000 UK Tamils protested against the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit to London. The UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF) made an abortive bid to move court against Maj. Gen. Chagi Gallage, who had been in President Rajapaksa’s entourage.

In June, 2012, Mahinda Rajapaksa was let down badly by the London-based Commonwealth Business Council that had invited the Sri Lankan leader to deliver the keynote address in a symposium organized by it for the Diamond jubilee of accession to the throne by Queen Elizabeth II of Britain.

Intense political pressure, mounted by Tiger and pro-Tiger elements, in Britain and Europe, compelled the C’wealth Business Council to abruptly cancel the event in which Mahinda Rajapaksa was to participate, on June 6th, 2012.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A reference to Kadirgamar at Mangala’s Chatham House speech

SPECIAL REPORT : Part 154

 

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, MP, recently referred to several of his predecessors having the opportunity to speak at the Chatham House when he discussed ongoing post-war national reconciliation process.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion, in May, 2009.

Minister Samaraweera was speaking on behalf of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government wanting to bring in a brand new Constitution in accordance with Geneva Resolution 30/1, co-sponsored by the ruling coalition, in Oct, 2015.

Yahapalana leaders consider the proposed constitution as panacea for Sri Lanka’s ills, a view not acceptable to a large section of the population.

A Foreign Ministry statement quoted Minister Samaraweera as having said at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, on January 11, 2017: "Several of my predecessors, too, have spoken here at the Chatham House. This includes the late Lakshman Kadirgamar who spoke at length here, in 1998, about the danger faced by our nation at the time, and democratic societies everywhere, from terrorism."

In spite of having liberated the entire Jaffna peninsula, in early, 1996, the then Kumaratunga administration suffered a series of debilitating setbacks in the Vanni theater. By 1998, the LTTE, had gained the upper hand, in the northern theater, with the Army facing a massive conventional challenge. It would be pertinent to mention that Kumaratunga, in consultation with Kadirgamar, in May, 1999, requested Norway to facilitate secret negotiations with the LTTE. Kumaratunga revealed the Norwegian role soon after the LTTE made an abortive bid on her life, in Dec., 1999, at her final presidential polls campaign rally.

Assassination of a top leader

Minister Samaraweera discussed post-war reconciliation efforts with the focus on key challenges facing the government and how the country was moving forward in its endeavor to create a peaceful, unified, stable and prosperous country.

There hadn’t been any further reference to Kadirgamar, who was shot dead on the night of Aug. 12, 2005, at his private Bullers Lane residence in Colombo. Kadirgamar was the only member of parliament to be sniped to death during the entire conflict.

Having infiltrated Colombo, an LTTE hit squad shot Kadirgamar through his chest using a sniper rifle, in spite of being guarded by Sri Lanka’s elite Army Commandos. The LTTE carried out the assassination in spite of a Norway arranged truce being in place, since Feb., 2002. Norwegians struggled to save the CFA, with Co-Chairs to the so called Sri Lanka peace process, namely the US, Norway, Japan and EU, directing the then Kumaratunga government to continue with the initiative, regardless of the killing. Co-chairs interfered with Sri Lanka’s right to take on the LTTE.

Thanks to Wikileaks, the world is aware how Norway had talks, in London, with top LTTE representative, Anton Balasingham, to explore ways and means of tackling the issue. Having served the British High Commission, in Colombo, Balasingham received and retained British citizenship, though he represented the LTTE. The UK tuned a blind eye to Balasingham’s role, even after the UK proscribed the LTTE. The UK also allowed the LTTE to run its International Secretariat from there.

Those who had been demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lanka since the conclusion of the war in May, 2009, never bothered to take punitive action against the LTTE or its political wing the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi-led Tamil National National Alliance (TNA). At the time of Kadirgamar’s assassination, the TNA had declared the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. The LTTE retained that title until the Army finished off the LTTE on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

The Royal Institute of International Affairs should examine Sri Lanka’s case and the failure on the part of the international community to throw its weight behind tiny Sri Lanka fighting for its survival.

Forgotten India’s culpability

The well-funded outfit could also examine how Commonwealth giant India destabilized her southern neighbour, and Commonwealth member, for geo-political reasons, as acknowledged by no less a person than one-time Indian Foreign Secretary and National Security Advisor J.N. Dixit in his memoirs, "Makers of India’s Foreign Policy". India gave the wherewithal to several Sri Lankan terrorists to take on the military. India provided training to terrorists, both in India and Sri Lanka, while providing Sri Lankan military officers, training at establishments there.

Indian - trained terrorists made an attempt to seize the Maldives, in early November 1988. Air borne Indian troops intervened in the Maldives to prevent the People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) from assassinating the then Maldivian leader, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. Instead of being blamed for unprecedented Maldivian crisis, India received praise for swiftly coming to little Male’s rescue. International community, and the media, conveniently forgot that there wouldn’t have been sea borne raid on Male if India didn’t provide weapons training to Sri Lankan terrorists.

Today, the PLOTE is a constituent member of the TNA with Dharmalingham Siddarthan representing the former terrorist group in parliament. Jaffna District MP Dharmalingham Siddarthan headed the much discussed parliamentary group on Center-Periphery relations accused of a spate of recommendations inimical to Sri Lanka’s unitary status. Dharmalingham, himself, had accused India’s premier intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of ordering the assassination of his father Visvanather Dharmalingham (MP for Manipay) and K. Alalasundaram (MP for Kopay) in early September, 1985. Siddarthan, in an interview with this writer, early December, 1997 (carried by The Sunday Island on its December 7, 1997 issue), alleged that TELO assassinated the two MPs on the instructions of its Indian masters. Accusing India of playing a double game, Dharmalingham insisted that the TELO had received orders from India to assassinate four Jaffna-based TULF MPs. TELO, led by Sri Sabaratnam (Tall Sri), had no option but to assassinate them. A local TELO leader identified as Bobby had been identified as the leader of the killer squad. TELO leader Das had refused to assassinate the remaining two TULF MPs living in Vadamarachchy. According to him, the Indian Intelligence Services had felt that the presence of TULF MPs would give the party influence. The Indians wanted to undermine TULF leader Amirthalingam’s authority and one way of doing that was to assassinate his Mps.

Co-Chairs react to Kadir killing

Minister Samaraweera wouldn’t have had an opportunity to speak on ‘Reconciliation Process in Sri Lanka’, at the Chatham House, had western powers succeeded in throwing a lifeline to the LTTE, responsible for Kadirgamar’s assassination 13 years ago. Even after Kadirgamar’s assassination, Western powers refused to acknowledge that there couldn’t be a peaceful end to the conflict as long as the LTTE retained conventional military capability. Let me reproduce verbatim statements issued by key players in the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination to prove their determination to continue with the Norway-led process whatever the consequences. They never had Sri Lanka’s interests in mind.

The then US Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, on behalf of peace Co-Chair said: "We must honour Kadirgamar’s memory by re-dedicating ourselves to peace and ensuring the CFA remains in force."

The then European Union Commissioner, Ferrero-Waldner, said, on behalf of peace Co-Chair EU: "We must all honour the passing of Foreign Minister Kadirgamar by continuing his work for peace and maintaining the CFA."

Peace Co-Chair Japan issued the following statement through its Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura: "I strongly hope for calm response by all parties at this moment so that the move towards the peace process will not be hindered."

In the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination, peace facilitator and Co-Chair Norway declared: "... It is now of great importance that both parties to the conflict do their utmost to fully fulfill their obligations according to the CFA."

One of the largest recipients, if not the largest of Norwegian funds, the National Peace Council, in early Dec 2005, while referring to resumption of claymore mine attacks, in the northern theater, and killing of civilians, asserted that such incidents were tragic but inevitable due to of the stagnant peace process in which the Ceasefire Agreement hadn’t been fully complied with.

Heading for eelam war IV

Co-Chairs, as well as the NPC, et al, refused to blame the LTTE for resumption of claymore mine attacks in the wake of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory, at the Nov., 2005, presidential polls. The LTTE resumed attacks in spite of newly elected President assuring his commitment to the Norway-led peace talks. Rajapaksa also accepted Norwegian proposal for government-LTTE talks at overseas venue, though those who campaigned for his victory opposed the move. In fact, the LTTE-TNA deprived UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe of certain victory, at Nov., 2005, presidential poll, by ordering Tamils not to exercise their franchise. They operated on the premise inexperienced Rajapaksa could be easily overwhelmed and battlefield success swiftly achieved.

Having resumed large scale hostilities, in early Aug., 2006, the LTTE lost the war, in May, 2009. Sri Lanka sustained a nearly three-year combined forces campaign until Prabhakaran was killed by the Sri Lankan infantry.

Goodhand at Chatham

House event

Foreign Ministry released a set of photographs of Minister Samaraweera with Jonathan Goodhand, Professor in Conflict and Development Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, at the Chatham House event. The ministry wrongly identified Prof. Goodhand as Chairman of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, London.

Prof. Goodhand had been involved in the evaluation of the Norwegian peace initiatives, in Sri Lanka, with the focus on the disastrous project, launched in 2002. Norway-based Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) together with SOAS, University of London carried out the costly project (Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009).

Described as one of the first independent evaluations of ‘peace diplomacy’ involving a third party government facilitation, CMI-SOAS had collected data, beginning Sept., 2010, over a year after the LTTE’s defeat. They obtained the services of an experienced international team, including Sri Lankans to gather information. The joint team consisted of Norwegian social scientist Gunnar M. Sørbø (team leader), Jonathan Goodhand (deputy team leader) and other experts Bart Klem, Ada Elisabeth Nissen, Hilde Beate Selbervik. Goodhand, Klem and Sørbø released Pawns of Peace: Evaluation of Norwegian peace efforts in Sri Lanka, 1997-2009 in Sept 2011. Those who had been interviewed included twice President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and incumbent Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, ICRC, UN, journalists et al. They also examined Wikileaks cables.

Due to Norway making available all documents pertaining to its Sri Lanka project, the Sorbo-Goodhand team could establish wrong assessment made by the Norwegians at the onset of the Eelam war IV, in Aug 2006. Let me reproduce verbatim the relevant section: The Norwegian government realizes its role has become very difficult and limited. Against the background of discussions on whether or not to stay engaged and how, the mediation team develops a number of scenarios. On the military front they foresee either: 1) no war, no peace, 2) resumed peace talks, or 3) full-scale war. Politically, they expect the government to either remain dependent on its junior partner, or enter into a coalition with the UNP. If neither works, new elections may be the result. Indian and US pressure to stop the war may affect the scenarios. During an internal strategy session with Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, in May, 2007, the mediation team reiterates that: ‘All observers think that this is a conflict that cannot be won by military means and most believe that the government cannot beat the LTTE militarily.’ Moreover, the group concludes: ‘International pressure does not seem to have any positive influence, but rather to contribute to locking the military strategies of the parties. Strategic thinking thus tends to hinge on the premise that at some point a new stalemate may emerge, either because the LTTE rolls back the front-line (as it did several times in the past), or resorts to guerrilla style tactics to avert defeat. In hindsight, the Norwegian team underestimates the Sri Lankan government’s strength, both militarily and politically. The team considers a wide range of likely and less likely scenarios, but (like most observers at the time), it does not reckon with the sequence of events that is to follow: a strong SLFP-led coalition and a military victory."

Mangala’s warns LTTE

Having crushed large scale LTTE offensive action, in Aug, 2006, the military launched operations, targeting Sampur in early Sept, 2006. The LTTE abandoned Sampur on September 4, 2006. In the aftermath of the liberation of Sampur and the seizure of Tigers’ Jaffna front line, in Sep, 2006, the then Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera declared that in spite of LTTE aggression, the GoSL was committed to a negotiated settlement. Minister Samaraweera reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to the Oslo-led peace initiative, while emphasizing the need to face the LTTE’s military challenge. Addressing the Colombo-based diplomatic community, on Sept. 8, 2006, Minister Samaraweera didn’t mince his words when he warned the LTTE of grave consequences of its decision to resume hostilities. Samaraweera warned its military action would prove counterproductive. Samaraweera declared: "I must note here while the government would like to show the LTTE that any military aggression on their part would entail military costs to them, the government remains committed to the ceasefire agreement and is vigorously continuing with the constitutional reforms process. On behalf of President Rajapaksa, Minister Samaraweera declared the government’s readiness to consider proposals for a comprehensive and verifiable cessation of hostilities (Forces seize Tigers’ Jaffna front line with strap line...any military aggression on their part would entail military costs to them-Foreign Minister Samaraweera, The Island, Sept 11, 2006).

Obviously, Co-Chairs hadn’t taken Minister Samarawera’s warning and offer for talks on fresh truce seriously as they felt that in spite of the SLA’s superiority in numbers, the LTTE was able to overwhelm the military. Co-Chairs as well as others involved in Sri Lanka had been guided by experts and strategists who propagated the line of thinking that the LTTE couldn’t ever be defeated.

Having played a significant role in Rajapaksa’s victory at the Nov., 2005, presidential poll, Samaraweera received foreign, ports, shipping and aviation portfolios. President Rajapaksa picked Samaraweera, though his erstwhile friend the late Anura Bandaranaike begged for the post of foreign minister after having held that post in the wake of Kadirgamar’s assassination. Samaraweera functioned as foreign minister at a crucial period as the military fiercely responded to the LTTE threat.

Bandaranaike wanted to continue as foreign minister under Rajapaksa. Unfortunately for the SLFP, Minister Samaraweera later teamed up with Bandaranaike and Sripathy Sooriyaarachchi to challenge President Rajapaksa’s authority. President Rajapaksa replaced Samaraweera with UNPer Rohitha Bogollagama in late Jan., 2007. An irate Samaraweera quit the SLFP, formed a separate political outfit before switching his allegiance to the UNP. Bogollagama functioned as foreign minister until April 2010 before being replaced by Prof. G. L. Peiris.

Who could have envisaged Samaraweera’ s return as Sri Lanka’s foreign minister, under a UNP government, to pursue a political settlement, after the SLFP-led previous government in May 2009 removed the main obstacle to peace.