Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Accountability issues: The UK factor



British High Commissioner in Colombo, John Rankin, and former Canadian High Commissioner, Bruce Levy, are pictured at the annual Cannon Ball Run in Colombo on April 5, 2012, three years after the conclusion of the conflict. The event is held to commemorate the occupying British army misfiring a cannon ball during a training session on Galle Face Green, in 1845. The ball crashed through the roof of the boarding house that was the predecessor to the Galle Face Hotel, and rolled under a chair in the drawing room. The mishap is commemorated with two invited guests racing against each other along the promenade to the hotel, with the first to touch the cannon ball being declared the winner.

The competitors in April, 2012 were John Rankin and Bruce Levy. Interestingly, the race was formerly flagged off by Lord Naseby, former Deputy Speaker of the British House of Commons, who was on a visit to Colombo at that time. Naseby is one of the few British members of parliament supportive of Sri Lanka’s cause against LTTE terrorism throughout the conflict.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

British High Commissioner, John Rankin, recently dismissed allegations that Western powers were seeking a regime change in Sri Lanka. The British envoy was commenting on accountability issues ahead of the forthcoming 25th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The declaration was made a few days before BHC Rankin, accompanied Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) staffer, Julie Scott, on a two-day fact-finding mission. For some reason, a statement issued by the British High Commission, at the conclusion of their visit, chose not to reveal the identity of the FCO official visiting Jaffna. The BHC also refrained from releasing a picture of the FCO official, though several photographs of HC Rankin, taken during the visit, were released.

The visit was meant to increase pressure on the government of Sri Lanka in the run-up to the vote on Sri Lanka at the UNHRC.

It would be pertinent to examine the circumstances under which successive British governments cooperated/facilitated the Eelam project, though the LTTE was listed as a proscribed organization, under the Terrorism Act of 2000. Sri Lanka shouldn’t hesitate to remind the UNHRC of the UK’s culpability and that of Canada in the terrorism project in Sri Lanka. Had the UK and Canada deprived the LTTE of required funds, it would never have been able to acquire a conventional military capability by early 1990s. Although the LTTE had raised funds, in about 20 countries, the UK and Canada the two leading Commonwealth nations - are widely believed to be the largest contributors. Although the US has now taken up cudgels for the LTTE rump, it never supported LTTE terrorism. In fact, the US supported the war against terrorism by not disrupting the Israeli weapons supply line during the conflict. (Obama administration moved two resolutions targeting Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2013. It will move another next month). However, successive British and Canadian governments played politics with the issue, enabling the LTTE to have a free hand.

Now that BHC Rankin has assured that the West wouldn’t seek a regime change here, let me recollect the position taken by the UK at the UNHRC session in March, 2012.

UK’s Foreign Office Minister, responsible for the human rights portfolio, Jeremy Browne, MP, emphasized the responsibility on the part of the global community to intervene in Sri Lanka unless the government addressed accountability issues. The Liberal Democrat member, Browne, called for UN intervention to support a change in Sri Lanka.

Browne said: "We, as UN member states, must take seriously our human rights obligations and, where states fail, the institutions of the UN should act and support change. Such actions are what make the Council an effective human rights body, able to scrutinize states’ compliance with their obligations and offer technical assistance" (UK for UN intervention to ‘support change’ in Sri Lanka with strap line UNHRC chief pushes for new mechanism to tackle uncooperative government - The Island Feb 28, 2012).

The British statement, in Geneva, made expensive propaganda campaigns undertaken by various Diaspora groups against Sri Lanka irrelevant. The UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF), as well as several other organizations, including the British Tamil Forum (BTF) and the LTTE rump in Canada, had been campaigning for tougher action in spite of the UK already calling for UN intervention here. Unfortunately, the Sri Lankan government seemed ignorant of the British strategy. In fact, the British wouldn’t have taken up such a strong position without consulting the US which moved the March, 2012, resolution as well as the EU. The UK was among 40 countries which co-sponsored the US resolution titled Promoting Accountability and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Twenty four countries backed the resolution (Austria, Belgium, Benin, Cameron, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Hungry, India, Italy, Libya, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Poland, Moldova, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, US and Uruguay). Fifteen countries voted against (Bangladesh, China, Congo, Cuba, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kuwait, the Maldives, Mauritania, the Philippines, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Uganda) while eight countries abstained (Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Dhijibothi, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan).

At the time Browne had called for UN intervention in Sri Lanka at the 19th session of the UNHRC, the UK hadn’t been a member of the UNHRC, though was elected to the grouping last November. The UK will address the forthcoming Geneva session as a member of the rights body consisting of 47 countries.

An unprecedented UK appeal to Diaspora

Although the then British government publicly admitted that funding, made available to the LTTE by the Diaspora in many countries, including the UK, caused death and destruction, the operation was allowed to continue. The British didn’t want to antagonize British voters of Sri Lankan origin. No less a person than former British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, is on record as having said that he spent time on the Sri Lankan issue for political reasons. Sri Lanka should be eternally grateful to the Wiki Leaks for releasing the relevant confidential diplomatic cable that dealt with views expressed by Miliband. The cable, originating from the US Embassy Highlighted the relationship between the UK based Diaspora and the political establishment. At the behest of the Diaspora, Miliband went to the extent of rushing to Sri Lanka during the last week of April, 2009, to pressure President Mahinda Rajapaksa to halt the offensive. Miliband involved his French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, in the unprecedented move.

The then BHC in Sri Lanka, David Tatham, in late August, 1998, made an important announcement in Jaffna. It was Tatham’s third visit to Jaffna since the liberation of the peninsula by the government of the then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. The entire Jaffna peninsula was brought under government control in early 1996 after having liberated Jaffna town during the first week of December, 1995. Undoubtedly, it was the former President’s biggest achievement. Much to the dismay of Tamil political parties, Tatham urged the Tamil Diaspora not to fund the war. The British envoy was responding to a plea by the Jaffna Municipal Council for the UK’s intervention to end the conflict.

The BHC issued a statement quoting Tatham as having told the Jaffna councilors: "What I would urge you to do is to appeal to the Tamil Diaspora - to your relatives and friends living abroad - to help, not in destroying this island, but in re-building it. I think you should be asking people living in England, Canada, Australia, wherever, to send money to help restore the library, to help restore life in this city. If they have property here they should repair it. They should come and they should try to restore life in Jaffna. Jaffna Mayor, Pon Sivapalan, was among those present at the meeting. Tatham went on to declare that "War was wished on the government." It was an obvious reference to the LTTE launching Eelam war III in April, 1995, following a 100-day ceasefire with the CBK administration (British High Commissioner urges Tamil Diaspora not to fund ongoing war with strap line Support government’s efforts to solve N-E crisis, says envoy in Jaffna - The Island August 27, 1998).

Canada proscribed the LTTE in April, 2006, six years after Britain. In June, 2008, Canada listed the World Tamil Movement (WTM) as a terrorist organization. The demise of WTM cleared the way for the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT) which came into being in July, 2010.

The Jaffna Municipal Council members, including Mayor Pon Sivapalan, earned the wrath of the LTTE for meeting BHC Tatham whose appeal to the Tamil Diaspora to cut off links with the LTTE sent shockwaves through the organization. The LTTE obviously believed that the TULF-led administration had cooperated with the military to pave the way for BHC Tatham’s visit to Jaffna.

The LTTE, on the morning of September 11, 1998, blew up the Kalyana Mandapam building, where BHC Tatham had met Jaffna Municipal Council members a few weeks before. The blast claimed the lives of several persons, including Mayor Pon Sivapalan. A genial Sivapalan succeeded Mrs Sarojini Yogeswaran immediately after the LTTE assassinated her in Jaffna. She was married to Vettivelu Yogeswaran, another TULF veteran, assassinated by the LTTE in Colombo, during the second week of July, 1989. The then senior Vice President of the TULF, V Anandasangaree who was flown to Jaffna to oversee Pon Sivapalan’s funeral arrangements, politely declined to comment when this writer queried him whether he held the LTTE responsible for the assassination.

The Colombo based diplomatic community largely remained silent. The UNP and the TULF even feared to condemn the heinous crime. They asserted that the September 11, 1998, attack meant that the government should resume talks with the LTTE without further delay (UNP, TULF reiterate call for talks with the LTTE with strap line Nallur bomb was a clear signal - The Island September 13, 1998).

Regardless of BHC Tatham’s appeal, the LTTE continued its fund raising projects without any hindrance. The Diaspora provided the funds required to secure armaments, ranging from assault rifles to 130 mm artillery pieces of Chinese origin. The LTTE never felt a shortage of funds due to a range of investments in Europe as well as the largest ever project undertaken by a terrorist group to extort money. Throughout the war, the UK and Canada remained the biggest sources of income. Although the conflict ended in May, 2009, the UK and Canada continue to be major sources of income to various Diaspora groupings. In the wake of the demise of the LTTE’s fighting cadre, the Diaspora groups emerged stronger with the blessings of some British and Canadian politicians. At the time the Diaspora had been under the direct supervision of the LTTE’s Vanni based leadership, British and Canadian political parties were somewhat apprehensive about keeping company with those who represented the LTTE. But that situation changed in May, 2009. Some of those who had been supportive of the Eelam project and those directly involved with the LTTE, with the blessings of British political parties, established the Global Tamil Forum in February, 2010. The inauguration of the GTF in the House of Commons was addressed by representatives from political parties, including the then Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. Miliband ignored Sri Lanka’s request for him not to attend the event as it would have given recognition to those who promoted separatism in Sri Lanka.

Former British Labour Party MP, Joan Ryan, received the appointment as GTF policy advisor when her electorate rejected her.

Although the GTF and the British Tamil Forum (BTF formed in 2006 at the onset of Eelam war IV) are at logger heads with the powerful NCCT as well Norway based LTTE rump throwing their weight behind the BTF, all groups remain committed for an international war crimes probe. Last week, The Island dealt with the continuation of the anti-Sri Lanka project in Canada though the LTTE no longer posed a conventional military challenge.

The Diaspora also elected the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) during the third week of May 2010. The inauguration events were held on May 17, 18 and 19, 2010 in Philadelphia, London and Geneva. US national, Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, a lawyer by profession, was appointed as the Interim Chief Executive of the IEC. Rudrakumaran had been involved with the LTTE for a long time and represented the group

William Ramsey Clark, a former US Attorney General, was one of the keynote speakers at the event held in Philadelphia. The TGTE had the wherewithal to involve Clark as its ‘Elections Commissioner’ in the US.

Many years before Canada proscribed the LTTE and WTM, the Canadian police revealed large scale operation meant to raise funds through extortion, fraud and drug dealings. The Toronto Star, in a lead story, headlined Tamils fund rebellion in its June 9, 1998, edition, quoted detective Paul Clark, of the Toronto’s Tamil Task Force, as having said: "The money is being used to buy arms and weapons to fight the Sinhalese government. Detective Clark didn’t rule out the possibility of the LTTE using Canadian funds to acquire explosives used in the suicide bombing of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka on January 31, 1996. The Toronto Star estimated that the Diaspora provided as much as $ 1 mn to the LTTE on a monthly basis.

Diaspora groups seem confident that they could achieve a regime change with the support of Western powers. They appear to have faith in the UNHCR process leading to UN sanctions on Sri Lanka thus causing chaos. Western powers and the Diaspora are hell bent on pushing the UNHRC to follow a course that would cause political turmoil in Sri Lanka, thereby giving the Opposition a chance to take the upper hand ahead of the next presidential or parliamentary poll.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Canada’s unholy alliance with LTTE rump




Canadian Conservative politician Patrick Brown addresses a Diaspora gathering opposite parliament last October. LTTE activists organized the meeting to appreciate Canadian Premier Stephen Harper’s decision to boycott Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo. Nehru Gunaratnam looks on

By Shamindra Ferdinando

LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, in consultation with his senior colleagues appointed two high level committees at the onset of the Norwegian arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) finalized in February 2002. The CFA was underwritten by the US, EU and Japan.

The committees were in accordance with Prabhakaran’s grand strategy to propagate the eelam concept overseas. The then UNP administration didn’t at least bother to check what was going on.

One committee represented Tamils living overseas, while the other was tasked with overseeing the same. The latter operated under the supervision of Castro, one of Prabhakaran’s trusted lieutenants. The LTTE picked persons loyal to its macabre eelam project to represent the two committees.

Canada based Nehru Gunaratnam had been among those who earned the admiration of the Vanni based LTTE leadership. Therefore he was named in both committees. Gunaratnam visited the Vanni twice in 2002 and 2003 to confer with the LTTE leadership. As the LTTE’s top man in Canada, Gunaratnam wielded immense power during the CFA and subsequent years (2006 to 2009), as the LTTE battled the Sri Lankan military. Gunaratnam played a pivotal role in the Canadian operation during the conflict, as well as the ongoing operation to humiliate Sri Lanka.

After LTTE fighting formations collapsed on the Vanni east front in May 2009, those who had been committed for a separate state changed the direction of their campaign. Instead of raising funds for the acquisition of armaments, the Diaspora now utilized all its attention to secure the support of Western powers, India and South Africa. The new project was meant to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal.

In the wake of Canada joining a US-led coalition to move a resolution at the 25th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) next month, it would be pertinent to discuss the Canadian factor in espousing the eelam project.

As the LTTE had lost its wherewithal to wage war, it no longer posed a conventional military threat, the LTTE rump remained a formidable foe with an uncanny power to move foreign governments as well as various organizations, including the UN.

Let me examine the Canadian factor with the focus on the growing power of those who propagated the eelam cause there. The Sri Lankan government seems ignorant of ground realities due to failures on its part. The government should realize that Western powers would move another resolution against Sri Lanka at the next Geneva session at the behest of the LTTE rump. The LTTE rump in Canada is playing a critically important role in the Geneva project. Although many perceive the US as the driving force behind the forthcoming Geneva resolution, it wouldn’t have been a reality without Canadian and British inputs.

Although Canada’s Conservative government listed the LTTE and its front organization, the World Tamil Movement (WTM) in April 2006 and June 2008, respectively, as terrorist entities, the group continued to flourish.

Although Canada declared in April 2006 that anyone knowingly providing financial support for the LTTE could be jailed up to 10 years and those who raised funds or facilitated the work of the banned organization faced 14 years imprisonment, the LTTE operations continued unabated. The then Public Security Minister, Stockwell Day warned that anti-terrorism laws would be utilized to imprison and deport LTTE operatives? Minister Day urged members of Canada’s large Sri Lankan Tamil community to denounce the LTTE activists.

In justifying the ban, Day claimed that LTTE activists have used threats of violence to coerce Canadian Tamils into making financial contributions.

Six years after the Conservatives banned the LTTE, those who represented the interests of the group have emerged as Diaspora leaders propagating eelam. Interestingly, some of those who had been earlier represented by the LTTE, and the WTM today, publicly work with Canadian politicians, particularly the Conservatives.

LTTE hail Conservatives

The Canadian media captured Nehru Gunaratnam with Conservative politician Patrick Brown opposite the Canadian parliament on October 28, 2013 at a meeting organized by the LTTE to thank Premier Stephen and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Human Rights, John Baird for their decision to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo last November. Gunaratnam was seen in animated conversation with Brown, a well known LTTE sympathizer . At least four Canadian ministers and over a dozen MPs joined about 300 LTTE activists, including Gunaratnam. It would be pertinent to mention that Gunaratnam had been the spokesperson for the WTM, at that time it was proscribed in Canada. Due to Brown’s involvement with the LTTE, the Sri Lankan government denied visas to him and a parliamentary colleague, Paul Canandra to visit the Vanni at the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009. Another LTTE sympathizer, Canadian MP Bob Rae (Liberal Party) too, was turned away at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). The presence of Canadian politicians at the gathering opposite the parliament made the Conservative government proscription of the LTTE as well as WTM nothing but a joke (CHOGM 2013: Low level Canadian delegation expected to visit Jaffna with strap line Premier Harper represented by Tanzanian of Indian origin, The Island , November 8, 2013).

Weapons training for Canadians

Canada has conveniently forgotten that some of those Canadians of Sri Lankan origin received weapons training under the guidance of LTTE instructors. In fact, Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Human Rights, John Baird, visited the Vanni at the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009 to see the ground situation, particularly to meet two Canadians in military custody. The Canadians were held for allegedly fighting for the LTTE. Tanzania born Obhrai, the senior most MP of Indian origin in the Canadian parliament represented Premier Harper at the CHOGM 2013. During Obhrai’s weeklong stay, he caused controversy by laying a wreath in Elephant Pass in memory of minorities who died in the conflict. Obhrai’s gesture was meant to placate the LTTE.

The listing of the WTM as a terrorist organization in June 2008 paved the way for the formation of the National Council of Canadian Tamils (NCCT), the premier Diaspora organization in that country, two years later. In spite of the NCCT propagating WTM’s ideals publicly, the Canadian political establishment works closely with it. MP Obhrai and MP Parm Gill are widely believed to be closely working with the NCCT, therefore responsible for facilitating its operations. According to well informed sources based in Canada, MP Gill had facilitated a meeting between Obhrai and Nehru Gunaratnam. Interestingly, some senior Canadian diplomats assigned for its mission in Colombo, are believed to have met top NCCT representatives in the presence of Canadian politicians. Canadian High Commissioner in Colombo, Shirley White is believed to have met NCCT representatives under the auspices of the Conservative government.

In January this year, the Canadian media reported that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaking with Nehru Gunaratnam, a key representative of federally listed terrorist organizations, while on a visit to a Toronto Kovil.

Wynne and Gunaratnam, along with city councillor, Michelle Berardinetti and Liberal MP Lorenzo Berardinetti, attended the event at the Kanthasamy Hindu Kovil to celebrate Thai Pongal, a Tamil festival that celebrates the end of the harvest season.

NCCT flexes muscles

Gunaratnam has emerged as one of the most influential NCCT representatives. Today, the NCCT is widely believed to be the most powerful Diaspora organization in Canada. The grouping is now pushing for parliamentary representation at the next general election in 2015. The grouping’s strategy is aimed at securing the support many Canadian MPs and also helping some Canadians of Sri Lankan origin to win seats at the next poll.

The ongoing campaign against Sri Lanka on the human rights front has helped the NCCT to consolidate its power and undermine those unwilling to accept its leadership. Jaffna born MP Rithika Sitsabaiesan (main Canadian Opposition New Democratic Party) is one of those who had earned the wrath of the NCCT for refusing to attend a conference on Tamil People’s Rights on March 2, 2013 on the sidelines of the UNHRC session in Geneva . A furious NCCT leadership directed Markham councillor Logan Kanapathy to take part in the event. The LTTE grouping is now promoting Kanapathy as a Liberal Party candidate for the newly created federal electorate, Scarborough North at next year’s polls. Kanapathy will battle Sitsabaiesan, who made an international media uproar by falsely claiming that the Sri Lankan government placed her under house arrest in Jaffna during a visit last January. Another Canadian of Sri Lankan origin contemplating a political carrier is Gary, son of TULF great V. Anandasangaree. Gary, who had been campaigning vigorously for an international war crimes probe is also eyeing a Liberal Party ticket (Canadian MP Rithika in hot water over Jaffna episode, The Island January 3, 2014).

Interestingly, Kanapathy was joined in Geneva by Conservative MP Patrick Brown and Liberal MP Jim Karrigiannis, to call for an international war crimes probe.

The NCCT went to the extent of preventing Sitsabaiesan from attending an event at the Queen’s Park, Toronto on May 18, 2013 to remember those who had been killed during the final phase of the conflict.

NDP MP Sitsabaiesan used her visit (late Dec 2013 to early Jan 2014), to lionize herself in the wake of the LTTE grouping back at home fielding a candidate of its own to sabotage her re-election bid. Sitsabaiesan first entered parliament in 2011. The Conservatives, the Liberals as well as the relatively young New Democratic Party will have no option but to go flat out against Sri Lanka to secure the support of Diaspora votes. Bashing Sri Lanka in the run-up to the Geneva vote on the US led resolution co sponsored by its allies will make Canadian political parties dear to Tamil voters.

Perhaps, Sri Lanka should expose ex-LTTE operatives now masquerading as human rights fighters and political activists in Canada. May be the government should bring their existence to the notice of Interpol, as well as taking the issue up with the Canadian High Commission in Colombo, and the Foreign Ministry.

The Paranchithy affair

Those who had been promoting separatist sentiments here have managed to infiltrate Canadian political parties at the highest level. There couldn’t be a better example than Canadian of Sri Lankan origin Gavan Paranchothy securing nomination from the Conservative Party to contest parliamentary polls in May, 2011. Paranchothy was among two Canadians of Sri Lankan origins to contest the polls. Although Paranchothy failed in his bid, Rithika Sitsabaiesan, who secured nomination from the New Democratic Party, succeeded in her first attempt.

But what made Paranchothy special was his relationship with Kumaran Pathmanathan aka ‘KP.’ In an exclusive interview with this writer in July 2011, KP said that Paranchothy was talking to him over the phone when Malaysian security agents swooped down on him on August 3, 2010. KP was at the First Tune Hotel on 316, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahaman Road, Kuala Lumpur. At that time of the Malaysian raid, KP was in charge of the LTTE in the wake of Prabhakaran’s killing on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on May 19, 2009. KP said that Paranchothy was the last to call him before his arrest (Canada polls: Last person to call ‘KP’ before his arrest now in the fray, The Island April 20, 2011).

Paranchothy had been in touch with many top Diaspora representatives, including Norway based Nediyawan, though he wasn’t definitely in the class of Nehru Gunaratnam. Gunaratnam is now a key leader in the consortium comprising the NCCT, the International Council of Tamil Eelam et al, spearheading the Canadian operation. The grouping is working closely with the British Tamil Forum (BTF) in the wake of the UK based group distancing itself from the Global Tamil Forum (GTF). The Sri Lankan government should realize that since the eradication of the LTTE in May 2009, the Diaspora groups have emerged stronger, primarily because they now have the freedom to work closely with whatever political party without being supervised by the LTTE military wing.

A Canadian attack on Sri Lanka at the UNGA on September 2012 revealed that the incumbent Conservative government’s relationship with the LTTE. Canadian Foreign Minister Baird went on the offensive at the UNGA, after an abortive bid to formalize an interactive dialogue on the LLRC process in Sri Lanka at the March 2012 session of the UNHRC in Geneva. In spite of promising External Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris that the Canadian move would be on hold for the time being, Minister Baird went on to refer to Sri Lanka at the UNGA. The Sri Lanka Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Palitha Kohana promptly accused Canada of appeasing the LTTE, back at home at Sri Lanka’s expense.

Sri Lanka needs to reexamine the Canadian project directed in Sri Lanka. With the Diaspora set to increase its influence in parliament at the next parliamentary polls, Sri Lanka needs to study ground realities without further delay.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Run the gauntlet in Geneva



Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga confers with TNA leader R. Sampanthan, MP, at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute. Deputy Indian High Commissioner P. Kumaran is seated between them. 

(Pic by Nishan S. Priyantha)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The presence of Deputy Indian High Commissioner, P. Kumaran at a recent political function attended by former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader, R. Sampanthan, MP, on the afternoon of January 28 at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute (SLFI), Colombo raised many an eyebrow.

When the writer sought a clarification from the Indian High Commission in Colombo, its spokesperson stressed that Kumaran was there as an invited guest. The government turned a blind eye to the Indian diplomatic presence at the launch of the recommendations for promoting religious harmony.

Kumaratunga used what the event organizer, Indian funded South Asia Policy and Research Institute (SAPRI) dubbed as a forum on inter-faith dialogue meant to build religious tolerance and an inclusive society to censure President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Kumaratunga lashed out at the Rajapaksas, accusing them of suppressing the people.

The former SLFP leader didn’t mince words when she declared that the public feared the authoritarian Rajapaksa government. Kumaratunga echoed Deepak Obhrai, Parliamentary Secretary to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird. Obhrai, having visited Jaffna ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) last November, accused Sri Lanka of depriving the Sinhalese and Tamil speaking people even the basic democratic rights.

Obhrai, an Indian of Tanzanian origin had been here as Canadian Premier Stephen Harper’s representative. He made highly demeaning remarks addressing LTTE activists after having returned home from CHOGM.

It would be pertinent to point out that in January 2009, the Government of India recognized Deepak for his contribution to strengthen Canada-India relations by awarding him the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award, which is the highest honour given to overseas Indians.  The year before, India Abroad newspaper named Deepak as one of 35 most influential Indo-Canadians in Canada.

India is most likely to honour an American of Indian, origin US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal, for her role in undermining Sri Lanka.

While Kumaratunga was addressing the gathering at the SLFI, UNP National Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Democratic Party Leader, General Sarath Fonseka led separate demonstrations elsewhere in Colombo, attacking war winning President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Kumaratunga continued her attack when she addressed the sixth international women’s conference organized by the Art of Living (AOL) in Bangalore last week. In spite of the presence of Sri Lanka’s First Lady, Shiranthi Rajapaksa, Kumaratunga lashed out at the Rajapaksas. Commenting on leadership, Kumaratunga said: "…when an individual in power begins thinking of himself, corruption begins. A leader begins to think that power is God’s gift and begins to do whatever he wants. In order to rock, he (the person in power) needs to consolidate power and to consolidate power he builds his family around him, this becomes terrible as he tries to eliminate opponents."

The ongoing Opposition project should be examined in the backdrop of the US-UK decision to move a resolution targeting Sri Lanka at the forthcoming United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva.

Having moved two successful resolutions in 2012 and 2013, the US and its allies are working overtime to work out a resolution acceptable to the majority of UNHRC members. But their primary objective would be to secure New Delhi’s backing as early as possible. India backed previous US led resolutions much to the anger of the Sri Lankan government. An early announcement by New Delhi in support of the US-UK move would simply bring the Sri Lankan government to its knees well ahead of the voting day. Therefore, it would be the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government to ensure that all relevant facts were presented before the international community.

Leaving aside diplomatic niceties, the government would have no option but to take up at the UNHRC, accountability on the part of India. Although Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga during a recent visit to Washington recollected the deployment of the Indian Army here (July 1987-March 1990) he stopped short of explaining the circumstances under which New Delhi subverted Sri Lanka under the very noses of the UN and Commonwealth, leading to the deployment of a 100,000 strong military and para-military contingent.

Sri Lanka shouldn’t hesitate to question New Delhi’s moral right to vote against Sri Lanka after having created the LTTE as well as several other terrorist groups.

The second US resolution received the backing of 25 countries, including India. Thirteen countries opposed the resolution, eight abstained, and was 1 absent. Under heavy Tamil Nadu pressure, India directed its permanent representative in Geneva, Dilip Sinha to issue a strong statement condemning Sri Lanka. Sinha declared: "We reiterate our call for an independent and credible investigation into allegations of human rights violations and loss of civilian lives."

India should be reminded that building houses for those displaced during the conflict and a range of other projects wouldn’t absolve itself of responsibility for the death and destruction caused by its intervention. It would be pertinent to mention that the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, ordered the destabilization of Sri Lanka in the early 80s as she felt Colombo was getting too close to Washington. But today, India is playing a different tune. Indian political parties have conveniently forgotten that India was responsible for thousands of deaths, including over 1,500 Indian security forces personnel during their deployment here. Perhaps India cannot stomach that Sri Lanka was able to crush the LTTE after having disarmed all other groups, namely the EPRLF, TELO, and PLOTE et al over the years. Perhaps India never felt Sri Lanka had the resolve to destroy the LTTE which considered it invincible on the battlefield.

India and Western powers remained confident of the LTTE having the muscle to halt the Sri Lankan advance until troops crossed the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road at Elephant Pass during the first week of January 2009. Veteran columnist D.B.S. Jeyaraj, as late as the last week of December, 2008, asserted that the LTTE had the wherewithal to halt the Sri Lankan offensive, encircle troops on the Vanni east front. But in April 2009, the army encircled a large group of terrorists, including the cream of fighting cadre killing about 600 persons.

Unlike the UK, both the US and India provided decisive support for Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE in eelam war IV. Sri Lanka should be grateful, particularly for their support which enabled the Sri Lanka Navy to hunt down floating arsenals belonging to the LTTE on the high seas. Sri Lanka’s ageing fleet of Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) included vessels acquired from India and US. But since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009, the US is taking an overtly hostile attitude towards Sri Lanka. In a way, US approach is very surprising as the Tamil Diaspora cannot manipulate US politicians as they do in some other countries, particularly in the UK and Canada. However, the Diaspora hasn’t been successful in Australia due t the excellent working relationship between the two countries to tackle illegal migration of Sri Lankans to Australia. The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) recently undertook a special mission in Australia to explore ways and means of undermining the relationship between the two countries.

Sri Lanka should realize that the success of the Geneva resolution would entirely depend on India’s stand in Geneva. Even if the resolution managed to secure 46 votes out of maximum 47 still it would still be useless if India voted against it or abstained. The bottom line is that the Indian position in Geneva will be crucial for both sides. Having said that, it would be interesting to examine the Indian position vis-a-vis the Northern Provincial Council, particularly after the NPC passed a controversial resolution demanding an international investigation into atrocities committed during the last phase of the conflict.

On 27 January 2014, Sri Lanka’s Northern Provincial Council passed a resolution calling for an international investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the country’s armed conflict. The administration came to power in a landmark election in September 2013.

Did the US influence the decision taken by the NPC? Did the Chief Minister of the NPC, C. V. Wigneswaran and Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi member, Ananthi Sashitharan discuss the resolution when they met US Ambassador in Colombo Michele J. Sisson at Hotel Margosa, Chundikuli, Jaffna? TNA National List MP M.A. Sumanthiran too, was among those invited by the US ambassador for dinner at the star class hotel. Did the NPC consult India before the decision was taken? Did both US and India endorse the NPC move or whether the resolution was proposed by them? These are some of the questions the government needs to examine thoroughly to ensure it remains aware of what is going on.

For want of a cohesive strategy, the government hasn’t been able to exploit various situations to Sri Lanka’s advantage. It is a pity.

Those pushing for an international war crimes investigation targeting Sri Lanka are working to a plan. Statements are issued in Sri Lanka and various world capitals to pressure the Sri Lankan government. The NPC resolution, calling for an international investigation was timed to attract the maximum possible attention. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India issued a statement supporting the NPC resolution while urging India to throw its weight behind the US led move. In fact, the Amnesty statement came the day after Kumaratunga, Wickremesinghe and Gen. Fonseka lambasted the Rajapaksa government.

India must support demands by civil society actors, UN officials and survivors of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka for an international investigation into alleged war crimes committed during the civil war, Amnesty International India said on January 29.

Amnesty noted that the elected administration of Sri Lanka’s Northern Province also reinforced such calls by seeking an impartial global probe. 

Amnesty issued the statement even as visiting Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Prof GL Peiris was meeting his Indian counterpart, Salman Khurshid, in New Delhi to discuss bilateral issues.

Last year, while supporting a UN Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution asking Sri Lanka to conduct an "independent and credible investigation", India had noted that such an investigation must be to the "satisfaction of the international community". Given the lack of progress from the Sri Lankan government’s side, it is now time for facilitating an international investigation, Amnesty said.        

"An elected body of representatives calling for an international probe shows how little faith some people in Sri Lanka have in any domestic mechanism," said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India.

"India must take note of this resolution, and press Sri Lanka at every opportunity to conduct an independent international investigation into all allegations of crimes under international law committed by Sri Lankan government forces as well as the LTTE.

Amnesty India conveniently forgot that the five-party alliance led by Sampanthan would never have had an opportunity to contest the Northern Provincial Council poll as long as the LTTE remained, even without its conventional military capability. Amnesty never voiced concerns when the TNA recognized the LTTE as the sole representative of Tamil speaking people in the run-up to Dec 2001 general election. Since then, the TNA had the authority to take a political decision on its own without clearing it with terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. The TNA plight came to light in November 2005 when the TNA at the behest of the LTTE ordered Tamil speaking people not to exercise their franchise at the presidential poll on Nov 17, 2005. The LTTE sabotaged the poll in spite of the then President Kumaratunga having requested Norway to help conduct the poll. Kumaratunga sought Norwegian assistance in September 2005 when she had an opportunity to meet the then Norwegian Premier Kjell Magne Bondvik, on the sidelines of the UNGA sessions in New York. Although Norway, in its capacity as the peace facilitator here took up the issue with London based LTTE theoretician Anton Balasingham as well as the LTTE leadership in Kilinochchi, the LTTE went ahead with its plan (Norway to facilitate presidential poll, The Island, Sept 26, 2005). The TNA had no option but to cooperate with terrorists. The TNA declared the poll boycott order on November 10, 2005 at Kilinochchi. Although the TNA leadership now pretends that there hadn’t been any secretive understanding with the LTTE, no less an organization that than EU in early 2002 exposed the LTTE-TNA nexus. Having monitored the parliamentary polls, in which the TNA had emerged as the dominant political force in the then temporarily merged North-Eastern Province, the EU declared that it was made possible by violence unleashed by the LTTE at TNA’s rivals.

For some strange reason, the government is yet to expose the TNA at the UNHRC, though it has been critical of the grouping here in Sri Lanka. The government should review its position ahead of the next Geneva sessions. Whatever the consequences, Sri Lanka should place before the international community the origins of the conflict and the circumstances leading to eelam war IV. Those who had created the LTTE as well as those benefited from the group shouldn’t be allowed to act as paragons of virtue. The government remained silent when India voted against Sri Lanka at the 2012 and 2013 Geneva sessions. With parliamentary polls likely weeks after the Geneva session, India is not in a position to side with Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka should be aware of ground realities as it prepares to face the Geneva gauntlet.