Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Post-CBK victory at Nov 1995 presidential poll: Pooneryn factor



by Shamindra Ferdinando

Having assassinated UNP presidential candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, on the night of October 23, 1994, LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, and the then President, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga reached agreement on cessation of hostilities, on January 5, 1995.

Kumaratunga signed the document, in Colombo, whereas Prabhakaran signed it in Jaffna. Remember, Jaffna had been firmly under LTTE control with the military positioned at Palaly, Kankesanthurai and Elephant Pass. Jaffna islands, too, had been under military control.

The agreement was to be operational on January 8, 1995.

Two consecutive articles on Oct 15 and Oct 22, 2014, extensively dealt with the circumstances under which the then President DB Wijetunga had brought Dissanayake back to the UNP, depriving one-time Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe from an opportunity to contest the presidential election on November 9, 1995, the assassination of the popular politician, simmering crisis over Wickremesinghe being denied the opportunity to be at least Dissanayake’s substitute, Srima Dissanayake’s entry into politics, and the signing of the first formal agreement between an elected President and a leader of a terrorist group.

Although Kumaratunga’s predecessors, JRJ, Ranasinghe Premadasa, as well as DB Wijetunga, had reached agreements/understanding with the LTTE, there was never a formal written agreement between the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, until January 5, 1995.

Why did Prabhakaran order Dissanayake’s assassination? Did any external factors contribute to Prabhakaran’s decision? Who made the initial move to establish contact between Kumaratunga and the LTTE?

Interestingly, the seven point agreement, reached on January 5, 1995, conveniently refrained from making any reference to the LTTE demands. The omission was surprising in the backdrop of the LTTE asserting, during the second round of talks, held on January 2, 1995, in Jaffna, that Prabhakaran expected lifting of restrictions on movement between the Jaffna peninsula and the Vanni mainland. President Kumaratunga included two senior representatives from the military, namely Brigadier, Siri Peiris and Captain Rajaratne, in her delegation for the January 2 talks.

For want of a thorough examination of ground realities, the Kumaratunga administration never realized Prabhakaran’s strategy. Although the government and the LTTE had been engaged in a dialogue, courtesy the International Committee of Red Cross, and through mutual contacts, major differences surfaced at the third round of talks, held in Jaffna on January 14, 1995. The government pushed for discussions on substantive political issues, parallel to humanitarian issues, whereas the LTTE demanded an immediate end to restrictions placed by the military on the Jaffna peninsula. In other words, Prabhakaran wanted the military to pull out troops from Pooneryn and Nagatheranthurai pronto to facilitate the negotiating process. Prabhakaran’s move placed Kumaratunga in an unenviable position. The terrorist leader upped the ante by demanding a formal ceasefire in place of cessation of hostilities. Prabhakaran declared that political negotiations would be subjected to a formal ceasefire.

The LTTE demanded the unhindered access to and from the Jaffna peninsula and across the Jaffna peninsula. In fact, the LTTE assassinated Gamini Dissanayake to ensure Kumaratunga’s victory at the November 9, 1994, presidential poll as it realized that the UNP would never give up siege on the Jaffna peninsula. The LTTE obviously believed that Kumaratunga would succumb to its pressure. In spite of all major population centers, including Jaffna town and its suburbs, Chavakachcheri and Point Pedro-Valvettiturai, being under its control, the LTTE experienced severe difficulties due to the military controlling two major entry/exit points to and from the Jaffna peninsula.

Having failed to evict the army from the isolated Elephant Pass base, in mid 1991, the LTTE prohibited civilians from crossing the Elephant Pass causeway under any circumstances. Instead, the LTTE used the Jaffna lagoon as its main supply route. People, too, were ordered to use the same route. In accordance with the overall military strategy, the navy set up a base at Nagathevanthurai, on the Vanni mainland, to intercept boat movements. The architect of the naval strategy, Vice Admiral Clancy Fernando, received the wrath of the LTTE. The LTTE assassinated the navy chief on the morning of November 16, 1992, at Galle Face, opposite hotel Taj Samudra. Fernando was the first service commander to die in a terrorist attack.

The military threw a cordon around Jaffna peninsula, in late 1991, in accordance with its overall strategy to cut off LTTE entry/exit points, to and from the peninsula. Sea borne troops established a new army base at Pooneryn, while the navy moved to nearby Nagathevanthurai. The navy was tasked to intercept illegal boat movements across the Jaffna lagoon. Civilians, too, perished in the naval action. The Military action caused severe difficulties to both the LTTE and the civilian population.

Although the army couldn’t launch a major offensive, meant to bring the Jaffna peninsula under its control, in the wake of the LTTE killing war veterans, the then Northern Commander, Maj. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa and Brigadier Wijaya Wimalaratne on the morning of August 8, 1992, the military relentlessly targeted LTTE movements across, Jaffna lagoon.

A UN agency, deployed in Sri Lanka held a series of talks with the LTTE commencing late 1992, to explore ways and means of opening the Pooneryn-Sangupiddy route, across the Jaffna peninsula. Dr. Peter Nicholas, the then senior protection officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the agency’s regional legal advisor, Bo Schack, met LTTE representatives in Jaffna on Dec 9, 1992, to pursue the matter. In spite of several rounds of tripartite, talks involving the government, the LTTE and UNHCR, the much touted bid failed due to Prabhakaran demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Pooneryn and Nagathevanthurai.

The military strongly opposed the LTTE move. The then President Ranasinghe Premadasa acknowledged concerns expressed by the military leadership. Regardless of international pressure, Prabhakaran refused to cooperate with the UNHCR.

In late September/early October, 1993, the army launched ‘Operation Yal Devi’ to clear the LTTE/civilian boat launching point at Kilaly, in the Jaffna peninsula. Yal Devi was nothing but a disaster. Although the then army leadership portrayed Yal Devi as a resounding success, the poorly planned large scale offensive pathetically failed to make a dent in the LTTE. Within four weeks, after the army called off Yal Devi, the LTTE launched a devastating multi-pronged assault on Pooneryn and Nagathevanthurai, killing several hundred army and navy personnel. The then army chief Lt. Gen. Cecil Waidyaratne, quit after having accepted responsibility for the humiliating battlefield losses. The battlefield disaster shook the then President Dingiri Banda Wijetunga’s government.

Although the navy abandoned Nagathevanthurai, the army reinforced Pooneryn to ensure the siege on the Jaffna peninsula continued. The UNP ruled out vacating Pooneryn under any circumstances. The LTTE struggled to move supplies, across the Jaffna lagoon, in spite of the navy no longer having a base at Nagathevanthurai.

The CBK-Prabhakaran agreement, on cessation of hostilities, finalized on January 5, 1995, as well as the latter’s demand for the removal of the army base at Pooneryn, made at the third round of talks, on January 14, 1995, should be examined in the backdrop of the failed bid to re-open the Main Supply Route (MSR) through the Jaffna lagoon, during the 1992-1993 period. Prabhakaran had been so desperate to ensure a safe entry/exit point without compromising his deployment of units, Gamini Dissanayake was assassinated to pave the way for fresh round of negotiations. The LTTE obviously believed that the cessation of hostilities could facilitate its imitative to manoeuvre CBK to vacate Pooneryn. The LTTE offered to transform cessation of hostilities to a formal ceasefire to pave the way for political negotiations if CBK gave up Pooneryn. Although an influential section of the government wanted to accept the LTTE’s offer, the military strongly opposed. Prabhakaran indicated, in no uncertain terms, that he wouldn’t proceed with the peace initiative unless CBK sacrificed Pooneryn. Vacation of Pooneryn would have facilitated LTTE movements across the Jaffna lagoon, thereby increasing the threat on isolated military bases in the Jaffna peninsula. Prabhakaran needed unhindered access to and from the Vanni mainland to guarantee continuous MSR between the peninsula and the Vanni mainland. It was purely a military requirement.

The LTTE refused to allow special committees tasked to deal with the violations of cessation of hostilities. When an irate CBK accused Prabhakaran of blocking special committees, hence sabotaging the agreement on cessation of hostilities, the terrorist leader declared that the committees couldn’t be allowed to function unless their foreign heads briefed him. Prabhakaran wanted Audun Holm (Norway), Johan Gabrielson (Norway), Lt. Colonel Paul Henry Hosting (Holland) and Maj. Gen. C. Miller (Canada) to meet him in Jaffna. The air force flew them to Jaffna where they briefly met Prabhakaran, on February 5. Even after that, the LTTE didn’t allow monitoring committees to function. The LTTE called for modification of the agreement, on cessation of hostilities, to address several other issues, such as mobility of LTTE cadres in the Eastern Province, comprising the districts of Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee, LTTE movements in coastal waters as well as fishing rights. The LTTE insisted on the right of its cadres to carry weapons in the Eastern Province. The LTTE emphasized that monitoring committees wouldn’t be allowed to function unless the government met its additional demands. The LTTE ignored the government stand that the organization couldn’t put forward new demands after having agreed to set up monitoring committees in accordance with cessation of hostilities, finalized on January 5, 1995. These demands were made in addition to the primary condition that the Pooneryn base should be vacated.

January 5, 1995 agreement on
cessation of hostilities

The following is the text of the agreement for a specific period:

(A) There will be no offensive operations by either party during this period. An offensive operation will be considered a violation of the agreement.

(B) The security forces and the LTTE will maintain their present position on the ground, keeping a minimum of 600 metres between each other. However, each party would receive the right of movement within 100 metres from their own bunker lines, keeping a minimum of 400 metres in between. Any party moving in the restricted areas would be considered an offensive operation.

(C) The Navy and the Air Force will continue to perform their legitimate tasks for safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, from external aggression, without in anyway engaging in offensive operations against the LTTE, or causing any obstructions to legitimate and bonafide fishing activity in specified areas.

(D) Acts such as sabotage, bomb explosions, abductions, assassinations and intimidation directed at any political party, party or any individual will amount to an offensive operation.


* It is suggested that committees to deal with violations of this agreement be set up to inquire into any instances of violation of the above terms of agreement. These committees could be set up in areas of Jaffna, Mannar, Vavuniya, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara and any other areas deemed necessary.

* It will be the responsibility of these committees to take immediate action on complaints made by either party to this agreement to inquire into and resolve such disputes.

*These committees could comprise of representatives drawn from Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, ICRC and from among retired judges or public officers, religious heads and other leading citizens; all appointed by mutual agreement.

* Each committee could consist of five members, two from the government, two from the LTTE and a foreign country who will be chairman.

* Freedom of Movement for committees to perform their tasks will have to be ensured by both parties to this agreement.

* Facilities for the committees to act swiftly and impartially will have to be provided by mutual agreement.

(F) Recommend establishment of communication link between security forces and the LTTE military commanders which will enable them to sort out problems expeditiously, locally.

(G) Cessation of hostilities will continue until notice of termination is given by either party. Such notice should be given at least 72 hours before termination.

Could there be anything as ridiculous as agreeing to suspend sabotage, bomb explosions, abductions, assassinations and intimidation after the LTTE having massacred nearly 60 people, including Gamini Dissanayake. Kumaratunga or her advisers, were naive to believe that permanent peace was feasible with the LTTE, though it maintained a formidable conventional military capability. They never realized that Prabhakaran always utilized negotiations to consolidate his position on the ground or remove whatever impediments, which undermined his strategy. Prabhakaran’s initiative, in 1994, was meant to break the crippling siege on the Jaffna peninsula after having failed to dislodge the army base at Pooneryn in November, 1993. Had it not for the daring sea borne landings, carried out in the immediate aftermath of the assault on Pooneryn, the LTTE would have totally annihilated those deployed there. Although a Court of Inquiry exposed those guilty of negligence, leading to the worst debacle up to that time, the government didn’t take punitive action against top officers, though some disciplinary action was taken.

By mid March, 1995, the agreement on cessation of hostilities was on the verge of collapse. Kumaratunga struggled to cope up with the rapidly deteriorating situation. The government was reluctant to publicly accept that the much hyped peace initiative was about to unravel. A desperate President tried to end the stalemate by bringing in an external player into the process. The President, as well as her close circle of friends, obviously couldn’t comprehend the mindset of Prabhakaran

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Chaos leading to CBK-P'karan pact of January 5, 1995



by Shamindra Ferdinando

The assassination of UNP presidential candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, on the night of October 23, 1994, plunged, both the UNP and the SLFP-led People’s Alliance into unprecedented crisis.

Nearly 60 men and women died in the blast caused by an LTTE woman suicide cadre, at a UNP campaign rally, at Thotalanga, in the Kotahena police area.

The LTTE timed the blast to cause chaos in the country, in the wake of the PA forming a new government, under the leadership of newly elected Premier, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Having won the August 16, 1994, parliamentary poll, the PA needed to win the presidential election to consolidate its position. The UNP had to somehow retain the presidency to exploit the constitutional provisions to go for an early general election.

Dissanayake’s assassination threatened to undermine both major parties. It was a diabolical project of the LTTE, meant to cause political uncertainty.

UNP dilemma

Within hours after the Thotalanga massacre, the then Elections Commissioner, Chandrananda de Silva, requested the UNP to name a substitute for the slain candidate, by October 27 (1994). Dissanayake’s widow, Srima, as well as former First Lady, Hema Premadasa, were proposed as possible substitute, while many felt that one-time premier, Ranil Wickremesinghe shouldn’t be deprived of the opportunity to join the presidential fray. They reminded that Wickremesinghe should have been the presidential candidate, though the decision - making Working Committee of the party favoured Dissanayake. The simmering issue of substitute sharply divided the party (Srima’s surprise nomination: Shock-waves through UNP-The Island, October 27, 1994). In spite of this grave injustice, Wickremesinghe acted sensibly in a bid to avoid a further controversy in the run-up to the presidential poll. Those supporting Srima’s candidature harassed Wickremesinghe. A case in point was a violent protest organized outside Sirikotha on the late afternoon of November 1, 1994, to discourage Wickremesinghe from attending a crucial Working Committee meeting. Protests shouted Apita Srima madam ona (We want Madam Srima). Some of the protesters surrounded Wickremesinghe’s vehicle and acted in a threatening manner. The meeting was to be chaired by President Wijetunga. The then Wickremesinghe’s chief security officer, SP Dharmasiri Lawrence Vithana, lodged a complaint with the Mirihana police on the following day (Ranil threatened outside Siri Kotha, pro-Srima slogans shouted’ (The Island, November, 1994).

Soon after Srima received presidential nomination, she requested President Wijetunga to accommodate Hema on the National List. Srima expressed the opinion that Hema could fill one of the vacancies caused by the assassination of National List members - UNP General Secretary, Dr. Gamini Wijesekara, and G. M. Premachandran. They were among over 50 persons who perished along with Dissanayake on the night of October 23, 1994. President Wijetunga ignored Srima’s plea. It would be pertinent to recollect an attempt to swear in Hema as the president, before the Chief Justice immediately after the May Day 1993 assassination of President Ranasinghe Premadasa. But an influential section acted swiftly and decisively to pave the way for the then premier Wijetunga to succeed Premadasa and the Leader of the House, Wickremesinghe, to assume premiership.

Premadasa’s assassination caused turmoil in the party. The worst affected was the UNP power base, Colombo. Hema resented post-Premadasa changes. In the run-up to the parliamentary poll on August 16, 1994, Hema locked horns with those she felt were responsible for depriving her of an opportunity to enter active politics. The former First Lady ordered the cancellation of a meeting scheduled to take place at Sucharitha to discuss the campaign in the UNP stronghold, Colombo electorate. She reacted angrily to the then Colombo Central Organizer calling for Sucharitha meeting (UNP meeting to discuss campaign in Colombo Central cancelled-The Island, July 11, 1994). In spite of the crisis in Colombo Central, Wickremesinghe earned the support of the vast majority of UNPers in the Colombo electoral district.

The dispute led to the exit of Hema from the Colombo District. Hema found her name removed from the nomination list when she arrived at the Colombo kachcheri to hand over nominations. The then The Island staff photographer, Sri Lal Gomes, captured Hema bitterly complaining to Wickremesinghe. Seated next to Wickremesinghe was one-time Speaker, Stanley Tillekaratne. She queried the circumstances under which she was replaced with suspended Colombo Mayor, Ratnasiri Rajapaksa. Hema signed the nomination papers on Friday though she initially indicted she wasn’t keen to join the fray (UNP ditches Mrs. Premadasa-The Island, July 1994).

Despite trouble at Colombo Central, the UNP comfortably won the electorate with a majority of 8,076 at the August 16, 1994, parliamentary election. The vote reflected the confidence that the multi-ethnic electorate had in Wickremesinghe and its chief organiser, B. Sirisena Cooray. But the situation deteriorated over the next few months due to disputes among key players. The PA took advantage of the situation at the Colombo Central electorate to inflict a devastating blow on the UNP at the November 9, 1994, presidential election, just three months after losing the same to the UNP. Under Kumaratunga’s leadership, the PA secured the electorate with an overwhelming majority of 22,395 votes. Hema had been the Colombo Central organiser, successfully led by the late Premadasa, followed by Cooray and Wickremesinghe. In fact, Wickremesinghe had been in charge of the electorate at the August 16, 1994, parliamentary poll, though Hema stepped in between the August and November 1994 national level polls. In addition to the defeat, the UNP which polled 50, 136 at the August poll, obtained 33,824 in November, a sharp drop within a three-month period. The result at Colombo Central reflected the general mood in the country as Kumaratunga scored a stunning victory over Srima at the presidential election. The PA candidate polled a record 62.28 per cent of the vote and it remained the best performance by any candidate since the first presidential, on October, 1982. JRJ obtained 52.91, whereas the second best performance was recorded by incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the last presidential, when he secured 57.88 per cent of the vote.

The UNP’s defeat at the November 9, 1994, presidential poll permanently dashed Hema’s hopes of an active political career. Srima didn’t even bother to attend a meeting at the Election Secretariat to announce the final result.

CBK in quandary

After having led the PA to resounding victories at both parliamentary and presidential polls, in August and November, 1994, President Kumaratunga faced unenviable task in resuming the peace initiative. In the backdrop of Dissanayake’s assassination, some accused the PA of conspiring with the LTTE to eliminate the UNP candidate. Although nothing could have been further from the truth, some went to the extent in putting up posters, accusing Kumaratunga of teaming up with the LTTE. In spite of Kumaratunga calling off the second round of talks, scheduled for October 24, 1994, in the wake of Dissanayake’s assassination, the country knew of the PA-LTTE deliberations which commenced in the run-up to the parliamentary election in August, 1994. A desperate bid by the PA to secure the LTTE’s endorsement, in the run-up to the parliamentary poll didn’t materialize. But the PA remained supremely confident of securing the LTTE’s approval before the presidential poll. The PA’s confidence grew in the wake of the first round of talks, held in Jaffna on October, 13-14, 1994. Kumaratunga received a massive boost by way of an agreement on the second round of talks, on October 24, 1994, two weeks before the presidential. The LTTE wouldn’t have ordered Dissanayake’s assassination had it felt Kumaratunga could win. Although the LTTE never endorsed Kumaratunga’s candidature publicly, the assassination sent a strong message to the Tamil speaking people, not only in the then temporarily-merged Northern and Eastern Province, that Prabhakaran preferred a PA victory. Kumaratunga would never have received 62.88 per cent of the vote, if a substantial number of Tamils did not exercise their franchise in support of the PA candidate.

The LTTE facilitated Kumaratunga’s efforts by declaring a week-long unilateral truce with effect from November 12, 1994, to coincide with the newly elected president taking oaths. The PA reciprocated by proposing a two-week long cessation of hostilities. The proposal was made on November 19, 1994. The following day, the LTTE demanded an explanation from the government regarding the circumstances under which the army killed a senior LTTE cadre, holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, during the unilateral ceasefire declared by the group. The PA promptly assured the LTTE of initiating a Court of Inquiry process into the killing which occurred in the Kokkuthuduwai area. Regardless of the LTTE’s unilateral ceasefire, the army conducted routine operations in the NE Province.

The PA leadership didn’t, at least bother to raise Dissanayake’s assassination with the LTTE, though it was ready to inquire into the conduct of the army. The PA ignored concerns expressed by the Dissanayake family, as well as the UNP, over failure on the part of the government to conduct a proper investigation. In fact, on the day before the PA delivered the letter (November 19, 1994), The Island dealt with Srima and President’s Counsel, Daya Perera taking up the issue. Having expressed concern over the status of the local investigation, Srima called for Indian experts to join in the inquiry. Both Srima and the UNP firmly believed that New Delhi couldn’t turn a blind eye to what was happening in the wake of Dissanayake’s assassination. Perera lambasted the government for not taking tangible action to bring down Indian experts. Perera was representing the interests of the Dissanayakes (India unlikely to send experts for probe-The Island-November 18, 1994).

Having exchanged many letters, commencing the second week of November and December (1994), government and LTTE delegations met in Jaffna on the morning of January 2, 1995. The second round of talks effectively brought an end to the investigation. Kumaratunga upgraded her negotiating team by including two military personnel, Brigadier Siri Peiris and Captain Prasanna Rajaratne. The PA never realized the diabolical nature of the LTTE. The PA interpreted its victory at the parliamentary poll in August and the presidential in November, 1994 as double mandate for peace. Those surrounding Kumaratunga voiced that the government should go ahead with the peace process whatever the shortcomings and risks. PA members didn’t dare to caution Kumaratunga whose criticism of the military leadership received heavy media coverage. Former Air Force Commander, Harry Goonetilleke, was one of the few persons bold enough to caution Kumaratunga publicly. India Today in its November 30, 1994 edition quoted Gonnetilleke as having said: "I hope President Kumaratunga does not misread the presidential election result as a mandate from the Sinhalese people to talk peace with the LTTE at any cost. But there appeared to be no doubt that the overwhelming support she received from all communities reflected the desire of the majority of the people for an end to the war and restoration of peace."

The LTTE mounted several major attacks on the navy, between the parliamentary and presidential polls, in August and November, 1994, though it was engaged in negotiations with the government. Regardless of the embarrassment it had caused to the government, the LTTE wanted to resume negotiations from a position of strength. The easiest way to achieve supremacy, at the negotiating table, was to cause significant losses to the military. On the night of September 19, 1994, suicide cadres blasted SLNS Sagarawardene off Mannar. On October 9, 1994, less than a week before the first round of peace talks between the PA and the LTTE in Jaffna, the LTTE sank the Merchant Vessel Ocean Trader carrying supplies to the North. The LTTE mounted major attacks on the eve of parliamentary and presidential polls. In the early hours of August 16, 1994, the LTTE sank two vessels - a navy surveillance command ship and a tug belonging to Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). The LTTE made an abortive bid to blow up an SLN landing craft at Vettilaikerni, east of Elephant Pass, on the eve of the presidential poll (Navy blasts LTTE boats carrying suicide bombers-The Island, November 9, 1994).

Kumaratunga gave the go ahead with the signing of a formal declaration of cessation of hostilities. President Kumaratunga and LTTE leader Prabhakaran signed the agreement on behalf of the GoSL and the LTTE, respectively on January 5, 1995. They finalized the agreement within just three days after the conclusion of the second round of talks. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) functioned as an intermediary to facilitate the project. The cessation of hostilities was to come into operation on January 8, 1995.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

An assassination in the run-up to a presidential election



by Shamindra Ferdinando

In the run-up to presidential poll on Nov 09, 1994: People’s Alliance candidate Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and her rival Gamini Dissanayake at the Election Secretariat at Rajajiriya to hand over nominations

Having failed to convince the then Elections Commissioner, Chandrananda de Silva, not to hold the August 16, 1994, parliamentary election, in the Jaffna electoral district, the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) moved the Court of Appeal against the polls chief, Jaffna Government Agent, as well as the Attorney General.

Jaffna electoral district comprises Jaffna and Kilinochchi. While the military controlled a small part of the Jaffna district, Kilinochchi was under 100 per cent LTTE control. The then TULF President, M. Sivasiththamparam, petitioned the court on July 8, 1994. Attorney-at-law, A.W.D. Silva, annexed a report by the writer published in the July 5, 1994, issue of The Island, to back the TULF’s call for cancellation of the Jaffna poll. The exclusive front-page report headlined, LTTE refuses to allow Jaffna, GA to leave Jaffna dealt with the crisis.

It would be pertinent to examine how the LTTE influenced the electoral process during the conflict, particularly after the departure of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in March, 1990, amidst speculation the country is heading for an early presidential election early next year (2015). India deployed troops here, in accordance with Indo-Lanka peace accord, signed on July 29, 1987. Some have conveniently forgotten the circumstances under which national elections had to be conducted due to LTTE interventions.

In the run-up to the August 16, 1994, parliamentary poll, the then Premier, Ranil Wickremesinghe, requested Tamil political parties to submit a common list for the Jaffna electoral district as the LTTE controlled a large part of the electorate. Wickremesinghe made the appeal at a meeting held at Temple Trees. The then Defence Secretary, Hamilton Wanasinghe, was on hand to explain the ground situation in the Jaffna peninsula as well as in the Jaffna islands. Wickremesinghe’s proposal was meant to pave the way to elect members of parliament, uncontested. Among those who had been invited to attend the meetings were leaders of the TULF, All Ceylon Tamil Congress (ACTC), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), Eelam People’s Revolutionary Liberation Front (EPRLF), People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), Eelam Revolutionary Organization of Students (EROS) and the Eelam People’s Democratic People (EPDP). ACTC leader, Kumar Ponnambalam, strongly objected to Wickremesinghe’s proposal made on behalf of the government. Ponnambalam insisted that people shouldn’t be deprived of their right to elect members of parliament. If a free and fair election couldn’t be held in the Jaffna electorate, there was no point in electing members uncontested, Ponnambalam asserted. The TULF, too, opposed the proposal (Moves by government to get Tamil parties to submit common list for Jaffna district, ‘The Island’, July 5, 1994).

The government was compelled to shift the Jaffna election secretariat from Jaffna town to Tellippalai, an area under army control. The government also dispatched the then Director General of Combined Services, W. D.L. Perera, to Tellippalai, to run the election secretariat in the wake of the LTTE warning the then Jaffna GA, K. Manickavasagar, not to function as the chief returning officer of the Jaffna district. In fact, Manickavasagar couldn’t leave Jaffna for consultations with Elections Commissioner, Chandrananda de Silva, without LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran’s approval. The LTTE prevented Manickavasagar from attending a meeting chaired by the polls chief in Colombo, on June 29, 1994.

For want of overland transport, Manickavasagar had no option but to depend on a vessel chartered by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) to leave Jaffna via Point Pedro.

Special status received by the EPDP, particularly in some Jaffna islands, irked other Tamil political parties. The EPDP exploited its close relationship with the UNP to its advantage, much to the anger of rival political parties, particularly the EPRLF. The UNP simply ignored the EPRLF’s demand to either disarm the EPDP or relocate them during the parliamentary election campaign as the group was essentially an integral part of the government security set-up in the Jaffna sector. The deployment of the EPDP was in line with the overall security strategy, which involved the deployment of all Indian trained terrorist groups against the LTTE. The EPDP operated alongside the navy in the northern region. At the time of the August 16, 1994, parliamentary poll, the EPDP had armed contingents in all Jaffna islands, except Nainathivu. The EPDP moved into Jaffna islands in 1990, in a big way, shortly after the outbreak of Eelam War II, in June, 1990.

At the time, the then President Dingiri Banda Wijetunga, called for parliamentary election, there hadn’t been police presence, except in Kayts. The President dissolved parliament on June 24, 1994. Nominations were to be received from July 4 to 11, 1994. The TULF’s petition to the Court of Appeal revealed the pathetic situation on the ground. Having explained circumstances under which the party had secured representatives in the Jaffna electoral district, at the 1989 parliamentary poll, the TULF told court that the government controlled maximum 20 per cent of the land area in the Jaffna electoral district. The court was also told the judiciary didn’t function in the Jaffna electoral district. The TULF also pointed out that registered political parties hadn’t been able to engage in political activity in the area since the outbreak of Eelam War II. Political parties couldn’t exercise what the TULF called their statutory right for broadcasting facilities for want of electricity. The TULF pointed out the absurdity in having an election in the Jaffna electoral district as only about 10 per cent of the population lived in the area, under government control, whereas the rest lived with the LTTE. The TULF also brought to the notice of the court that communities lived in isolation due to ongoing hostilities, and that nominations couldn’t be accepted at the Jaffna kachcheri though it was the practice, Jaffna GA couldn’t function, recognized political parties couldn’t even conduct interviews in Jaffna to pick candidates and the election register of 1986 was to be used, thereby depriving all those who had attained 18 years of age, after 1986, the opportunity to exercise their franchise (TULF makes application in court to prohibit holding of polls in Jaffna, ‘The Island’, July 11, 1994).

A couple of weeks after the TULF petitioned the Court of Appeal, the LTTE allowed Jaffna GA Manickavasagar to leave for Colombo. After having arrived in Colombo, in ICRC chartered ship, Manickavasagar told the writer that he received explicit instructions that he shouldn’t participate in the electoral process under any circumstances. A visibly shaken official said that he was ordered not to return to Jaffna if he acted contrary to the instructions received in Jaffna (LTTE permits GA to leave with strict orders, with strap line, No dabbling in election work, he was told, The Island, July 23, 1994)

Manickavasagar briefed Defence Secretary, Gen. Wanasinghe and Public Administration Secretary Austin Fernando (held the post of Defence Secretary during Ranil Wickremesinghe’s premiership during the Norwegian arranged ceasefire), as regards the situation in the Jaffna peninsula.

The judiciary ignored the TULF’s concerns. The government was allowed to go ahead with the polls.

The EPDP, which fielded candidates, only in the Jaffna electoral district, secured nine seats by polling just 10,744 votes (1%).

Just ten days ahead of the August 16, 1994, election, Defence Secretary, General Wanasinghe, warned political parties of a possible LTTE assassination attempt. Addressing senior officials of political parties in the fray, at the Defence Ministry, Wanasinghe asserted that the LTTE would strike before the day of the election to cause chaos. Among those present were Dr. Gamini Wijesekera, (UNP), Dharmasiri Senanayake (SLFP) and Rauff Hakeem (SLMC). The then Army Commander, Lt. Gen. Gerry de Silva, army Chief of Staff, Major General Lucky Algama, and DIG Merril Gunaratne, attended the conference. Although a major LTTE operation didn’t materialize, in the run-up to the general election, the LTTE assassinated UNP presidential candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, on the night of October 23, 1994 at Thotalanga, in the Kotahena police area. Ironically, among the victims of the Thotalanga massacre, caused by a suicide cadre, was Dr. Gamini Wijesekera, who received General Wanasinghe’s warning. Close on the heels of Chandrika Bandaranaike assuming the premiership, a section of the media accused some senior army officers of a ‘plot’ on the day of the election. Among those, whose names transpired in unsubstantiated media reports, were the then Brigadier Sarath Fonseka, Colonel Gamini Gunasekera, and Lt. Col. Asoka Thoradeniya and Lt. Col. M. R. W. Soysa. Alleging that there was absolutely no basis for accusations against them, they requested President Wijetunga to initiate an inquiry.

Army Chief of Staff Lucky Algama, too, sought presidential intervention to clear his name consequent to media reports pertaining to his alleged involvement in the plot. Algama was responding to a report carried in a tabloid, Yukthiya, in its August 28, 1994, edition as regards the alleged coup. Algama forwarded a letter, dated August 27, 1994, to President Wijetunga, through Lt. Gen. Gerry de Silva. The media also linked one-time army Commander, Lt. General Cecil Waidyaratne with the plotters. (Alleged army conspiracy on election day with strap line Algama asks President for probe, ‘The Island’, August 30, 1994).

Even Colombo based international news agencies took unsubstantiated reports, as regards the alleged coup, seriously. Reuters, in a Colombo datelined report, declared that Deputy Defence Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte, had initiated an inquiry into the coup days before the August 16, 1994, general election. The agency quoted the then cabinet spokesman, Minister Dharmasiri Senanayake, as having said Ratwatte was looking into the coup.

Minister Senanayake was speaking in the wake of President Wijetunga directing the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to inquire into the alleged army plot.

In the wake of the People’s Alliance (PA) victory, achieved under Kumaratunga’s leadership, the LTTE obviously felt that it could reach an understanding with her in case she won the presidential election that was to follow the parliamentary poll. In accordance with the LTTE plan to facilitate Kumaratunga’s victory, it ordered the assassination of the UNP presidential candidate. It would be important to realize that the decision was meant to take out the UNP candidate whoever secured the party’s support to be the UNP presidential candidate. In hindsight, that particular decision was probably taken after Kumaratunga’s victory, in August, and in the run-up to the presidential election, on November 9, 1994.

What would have been Prabhakaran’s decision if the UNP picked Wickremesinghe as its presidential candidate? In spite of Wickremesinghes giving resolute leadership to the party, during the severe political crisis, caused by the rebel Lalith-Gamini group, President Wijetunga called for a secret vote, among the UNP parliamentary group, to pick the leader of the parliamentary group. The President, in his capacity as the party leader, decided on a secret vote as he felt it could be advantageous to Dissanayake. President Wijetunga declared Dissanayake as the winner after having held the secret ballot at the presidential secretariat, much to the opposition of some seniors, who felt that the process could be manipulated to the advantage of Dissanayake. Immediately after President Wijetunga declared that Dissanayake had polled more votes than Wickremesinghe, the latter, who was seated next to Wijetunga got up from his seat and offered it to his rival. Having consolidated his position as the UNP parliamentary group leader, Dissanayake, swiftly secured the UNP’s endorsement as its presidential candidate (Gamini tipped to be UNP presidential candidate, The Island, September 2, 1994). The President ignored Wickremesinghe, in spite of him being former Prime Minister and the fact that he never deserted the party during the crisis caused by the bid to impeach President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

The LTTE would have studied the clandestine project, conducted by President Wijetunga, at the behest of Dissanayake to clear the way for the one-time DUNF rebel to win the next presidential poll. The perception that Dissanayake would have had New Delhi’s support, too, prompted the LTTE to target Dissanayake. In early September, the UNP indicated that Dissanayake’s candidature could be officially announced at the first working committee meeting of the party since the defeat at the August 16, 1994, parliamentary poll (Gamini UNP presidential candidate, The Island, September 6, 1994).

Prabhakaran would have ordered a hit on Dissanayake soon after the UNP campaign got underway. The LTTE could have ensured a fresh round of negotiations with a new government leadership only if Dissanayake’s defeat could be guaranteed, hence the decision to do away with him. Wickremesinghe would have been in Prabhakaran’s gun-sight had he been allowed to assume his rightful place in the party at the correct time.

Having assured the LTTE, in the run-up to the parliamentary, poll that a new PA government would be ready for direct negotiations with the LTTE, the opposition grouping requested the LTTE not to interfere with the August, 1994, election. The PA was making overtures to the LTTE, while the TULF and other Tamil political parties, except the EPDP, pushed for the cancellation of Jaffna poll. In an obvious bid to secure the LTTE’s support, Kumaratunga told Wasantha Raja, the then producer and presenter of the BBC’s Sandeshaya: "I’m prepared to invite the LTTE for unconditional talks. I am willing to expand the Northern Province to include Tamils areas in the East and make a single unit. I will redefine the Eastern Province and devolve more power." Wasantha Raja received Kumaratunga’s assurance before he left for Jaffna, where he met LTTE leaders. But the LTTE refused to cooperate with the PA’s plan. Prabhakaran ordered people to boycott the electoral process. The LTTE, probably felt that throwing its weight behind Kumaratunga’s campaign could be disadvantageous to its overall strategy. In spite of that, Kumaratunga declared her intentions to go ahead with talks soon after taking the premiership. The new Premier chose the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) an an intermediary to proceed with negotiations. The PA never realized the LTTE strategy. As always, the LTTE wanted to deal with the government from a position of strength. It realized the simmering internal crisis in the UNP, over President Wijetunga’s move to deprive Wickremesinghe of an opportunity to contest the next presidential poll, as well as the rumblings in the PA over Kumaratunga’s rapid rise.

The LTTE knew whatever the shortcomings in the political strategy, the military remained a formidable force, capable of facing its conventional military challenge. In an obvious bid to underscore its prowess, the LTTE, on the night of September 19, 1994, blew up SLNS Sagarawardene in the Gulf of Mannar. On Oct 9, 1994, the LTTE sank cargo ship, Ocean Trader carrying supplies to Jaffna peninsula. In spite of grave provocations, Kumaratunga went ahead with the first round of talks on Oct 13, 14, 1994, in Jaffna. The ICRC quickly arranged the two parties to meet again in Jaffna, on Oct, 24, 1994. Although, President Wijetunga, remained Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, he didn’t intervene. Both the LTTE and the PA realized that Kumaratunga’s presidential election campaign received a massive boost due to the Jaffna talks. Kumaratunga went out of her way to appease the LTTE, as well as those who felt the LTTE conventional military capability was far superior to that of the military. In an interview with the BBC, in Colombo, Premier Kumaratunga lambasted the military leadership, which she said has ‘reigned supreme’ for 11 years. Kumaratunga accused the military leadership of trying to act as a ‘government unto themselves’ and seeking to sabotage her peace initiative.

Perhaps, the LTTE felt that UNP presidential candidate, Dissanayake, still could pull it off, in spite of Kumaratunga campaigning on a peace platform. Dissanayake was blown up on the night of October 23, 1994, about eight hours before Kumaratunga’s delegation was to leave for Jaffna. Dissanayake’s assassination compelled Kumaratunga to put off the second round of talks, but it ensured her victory at the Nov 9, 1994, presidential poll. Kumaratunga received a staggering 62 per cent of the vote, though the UNP fielded Gamini Dissanayake’s widow, Srimathi to attract the sympathy vote. The LTTE welcomed Kumaratunga’s victory in a statement issued on November 12, 1994. Prabhakaran also declared a one-week unilateral ceasefire with effect from November 12, the day Kumaratunga assumed presidency. Kumaratunga initiated talks on November 19, 1994, regardless of Dissanayake’s assassination.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Baffling post-war US policy towards SL



by Shamindra Ferdinando

After having helped the Sri Lankan government to finish off the LTTE once and for all, the US has been relentlessly pursuing Sri Lanka on the diplomatic front.

The LTTE fighting cadre collapsed in May 2009, following nearly a three-year battle dubbed Eelam War IV.

If not for the US intervention, the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) wouldn’t have adopted resolution 25/1 at its March, 2014, session, to pave the way for an inquiry under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Navaneetham Pillay’s successor, Jordan’s Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad is in overall charge of the investigation.

The US stepped in after its close allies, the UK and Canada failed to convince the international community to initiate an international probe into accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

A conclusive battlefield victory over the LTTE wouldn’t have been possible without US support.

The US provided both military muscle as well as diplomatic wherewithal to bring the LTTE down to its knees. Sustained supply of Israeli armaments was nothing but evidence of the tacit US support throughout the military campaign.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Jagath Jayasuriya last August raised a query as regards the post-war US policy towards Sri Lanka at an academic programme at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. There couldn’t have been a better venue to raise the issue.

Gen. Jayasuriya sought an explanation from Dr. Amin Tarzi, the Director of Middle East Studies at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia. Dr. Tarzi was addressing a group of foreign government representatives on a special programme titled Senior Executives in National and International Security.

The CDS expressed surprise at the US policy vis a vis Sri Lanka in spite of the country’s strategic positioning. The war-time Vanni Commander also referred to post-war developments consequent to shift in US policy and Sri Lanka increasingly looking to the east.

Gen. Jayasuriya was definitely not the only senior officer baffled by the US policy. Having listened attentively to Gen. Jayasuriya’s query, Dr. Tarzi politely declined to respond. But much to the amazement of Gen. Jayasuriya, the Marine Corps academician said that two senior Sri Lankan Navy officials had posed the same question to him during a programme in Pakistan.

Questions raised by the Sri Lankan Navy in Pakistan and CDS Jayasuriya in the US would have definitely placed Dr. Tarzi in an embarrassing position.

Dr. Tarzi couldn’t have been unaware of the US hand in Sri Lanka’s victory. In fact, Dr. Tarzi’s polite refusal to answer queries as regards post-war US policy vis a vis Sri Lanka meant that he realized the absurdity of the position adopted by the US. Obviously, even the experts found themselves in an uncomfortable position when the Sri Lankan military raised such pertinent questions.

In fact, war-time US Defence Advisor in Colombo, Lt. Colonel Lawrence Smith strongly disputed war crimes allegations, including the much publicized ‘white flag’ allegation. The statement made by Lt. Colonel Lawrence in June 2011, two years after the conclusion of the conflict, drew an angry response from the US State Department. The State Department disallowed the statement on the basis the Defence Advisor was not speaking on behalf of the US. The US official was responding to a query posed by a retired Indian army officer, who had served in Sri Lanka with the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), to Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative in New York, Major General Shavendra Silva, who holds ambassadorial rank. The Indian wouldn’t have probably raised that query if he knew the US official was going to respond.

Obviously, Dr. Tarzi, felt he couldn’t express an opinion contrary to the official line propagated by the State Department.

Even five years after the conclusion of the conflict, Sri Lanka is yet to effectively address accountability issues raised at international forums. The primary allegation that the Sri Lankan military killed at least 40,000 civilians during the final phase of the conflict had never been proved. In fact, there had never been a consensus among those who had accused Sri Lanka of genocide as regards the number of civilians who perished during the final phase.

The forthcoming South and South East Asian Nations (SASEAN) Defence Chiefs’ dialogue in Colombo will provide Sri Lanka with an opportunity to discuss Sri Lanka’s predicament, though SASEAN is meant to take up regional issues.

Perhaps, the situation here is bigger than a regional issue with many dimensions. SASEAN can be a useful forum to underscore Sri Lanka’s position during three-day event beginning Nov 27, 2014.

SASEAN comprises SAARC (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) and ASEAN (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) countries.

Russia and China will participate as observers. Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister, Anatoly Antonov as well as the Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), General Fang Fenghui will address the conclave. The Chinese General will speak on ‘ensuring stability in the region in facing up to air, land and maritime territorial disputes, military modernization and arms race.’ The Russian deputy Defence Minister will speak on ‘security issues in the region’ on the last day of the event. The Russian official will also address the gathering on the first day.

Gen. Jayasuriya recently explained that SASEAN’s agenda would be broad and flexible and cover range of related issues. The CDS discussed the circumstances under which he had received Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s endorsement for SASEAN project. "We’ll work closely with the External Affairs Ministry to promote SASEAN as a catalyst in promoting security and stability in the region."

Since the LTTE’s defeat, Sri Lanka has been having two security conferences, namely the annual defence seminar held in Colombo and the Galle Dialogue organized by the army and the navy, respectively. The forthcoming South and South East Asian Nations (SASEAN) Defence Chiefs’ dialogue will be the third, though the inaugural meet in Colombo is to be followed by annual meetings hosted by members. Although the Sri Lankan military has earned plaudits for defeating the LTTE, it cannot ignore that the country is the subject of an external investigation The military must be also be mindful of the fact that the investigation conducted by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is rapidly proceeding. The outcome of the inquiry will be made public at the next session of the UNHRC in Geneva next March.

The government has about six months to prepare to face any eventuality. In the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s decision not to assist the UN investigation as well as a harsh OHCHR statement that dealt with Sri Lanka, let me briefly examine the issues and possible lapses on the part of Sri Lanka.


* The Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka released in March 2011 accused the government of (A) killing of civilians through widespread shelling (B) shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects (C) denial of humanitarian assistance (D) human rights violations suffered by victims and survivours of the conflict, including both internally displaced persons and suspected LTTE cadre, and (E) human rights violations outside the conflict zone, including the targeting of the media and other critics of the government.

* The Secretary General’s Panel of Experts also accused the LTTE of (A) using human shields (B) massacre of those trying to escape (C) deployment of long range weapons in close proximity to civilians (D) forced recruitment of children (E) forced labour, and (F) killing of civilians through suicide attacks.

* The Secretary General’s Panel of Experts held the government/political leadership accountable for actions of the military, though it conveniently ignored the TNA’s role in the conflict. Unfortunately, the government hasn’t examined the TNA hand in terrorism, thereby weakening Sri Lanka’s defence in Geneva. Interestingly, TULF veteran V. Anandasangaree, in a detailed letter recently sent to Indian Premier Narendra Modi drew his attention to the close relationship the TNA/Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) had with the LTTE.

*The failure of the UN mission in Colombo to raise the LTTE holding those living in the Vanni against their will in early 2007 was investigated by the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts. Although the issue was raised in New York following revelation made by The Island, the UN failed to take remedial measures. In fact, the LTTE went to the extent of detaining Tamil employees of the UN for helping people to escape into government-held territory (LTTE detains UN workers-The Island, April 20, 2007; ‘UN had talks with Tigers on the sly with strap line UN workers in LTTE custody, The Island, April 23, 2007, Lanka urges UN not to shield Tigers, The Island, April 25, 2007 and UN HQ admits Colombo office kept it in the dark, The Island, April 28, 2007). For want of a clear understanding of ground realities, the government never took up this issue.

* The Secretary General’s Panel of Experts never made an attempt to clarify statements attributed to various interested parties as regards the number of civilians killed during the last phase of the conflict. The government, too, failed to vigorously take up the issue. The Secretary General’s Panel of Experts estimated civilian deaths at 40,000 on the basis of information provided by ‘a number of credible’ sources. Then they quoted ‘multiple sources of information as having said that deaths of 40,000 civilians couldn’t be ruled out (Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka: point no 137). The report was released on March 31, 2011.

* Up to now those credible sources as well as multiple sources of information remained classified through a decree issued by the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts. They ordered that the identities of over 2,300 persons who had accused Sri Lanka of war crimes wouldn’t be revealed until March 31, 2031. Even then the release should be subjected to a declassification review (Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka: point no 17 and 23).

* Six months later MP Siobhain McDonagh (Labour Party-Mitcham and Morden) told the House of Commons that Sri Lanka’s war, in its last five months alone, had claimed the lives of 100,000 people, 40,000 of them civilians. The same politician recently alleged that the Sri Lankan military dropped cluster bombs on areas designated as no fire zones. The MP declared that even now nearly 150,000 Tamils remain unaccounted for. She was addressing the Westminster Hall debate on March 25, 2014.

* However, the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts ignored a UN report based on information provided by the ICRC, national staff of the UN and NGOs based in the Vanni battle zone and clergy as the UN estimate was considered low. According to the report that dealt with the situation in the Vanni region from August 2008 to May 13, 2009, claimed the lives of 7,721 and wounded 18,479. The UN report acknowledged that it had a mechanism on ground to count dead and wounded until May 13, 2009. The was ended six days later (Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka: point no 134 and 135).

* Amnesty International, in a special report titled ‘When will they get justice?: Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission released in September, 2011 estimated the number of civilian deaths at 10,000. "Amnesty International’s conclusions, derived independently from eyewitness testimony and information from aid workers, are that at least 10,000 civilians were killed; that the LTTE used civilians as human shields and conscripted child soldiers; that the Sri Lankan army shelled areas it knew were densely populated by civilians; and that civilians trapped by fighting suffered severe and avoidable deprivation of food, water and medical care.

* The Secretary General’s Panel of Experts, Amnesty International and the likes of MP Siobhain McDonagh would never have envisaged the possibility of Wiki Leaks revealing scores of secret diplomatic cables which dealt with Sri Lanka.  Of them, cables written by the US Ambassador to Geneva Clint Williamson after having met Jacque de Maio, the then ICRC Head of Operations for South Asia on July 9, 2009, revealed in no uncertain terms that the Sri Lankan army never sought to wipe out civilians as alleged by interested parties.

If not for U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years in a military prison for turning over more than 700,000 classified files to Wiki Leaks in the biggest breach of secret data in the US history, Sri Lanka wouldn’t have known what was happening behind the scenes.

Ambassador Williamson wrote: "The army was determined not to let the LTTE escape from its shrinking territory, even though this meant that the civilians being kept hostage by the LTTE were at an increasing risk. So, de Maio said, while one could safely say that there were ‘serious, widespread violations of international humanitarian law,’ by the Sri Lankan forces, it didn’t amount to genocide. He could cite examples of where the army had stopped shelling when the ICRC informed them it was killing civilians. In fact, the army actually could have won the military battle faster with higher civilian casualties, yet they chose a slower approach which led to a greater number of Sri Lankan military deaths. He concluded however, by asserting that the GoSL failed to recognize its obligation to protect civilians, despite the approach leading to higher military casualties".

Let me reiterate how the international community and the international media manipulate figures to achieve political/military objectives.

*The five-nation Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) in March 2007 declared that the conflict claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 civilians during the past 15 months. The SLMM issued the statement to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Norwegian-arranged Ceasefire Agreement. When the writer pointed out that 4,000 people couldn’t have died due to the conflict/war during the said period and sought a clarification from the SLMM,the mission brought down the number of dead from 4,000 to 1,500. The SLMM refused to provide a breakdown of 1,500 people killed claiming that such a revelation wasn’t favourable to its role in Sri Lanka. The SLMM couldn’t give a breakdown because it was lying. It was part of the Norwegian project to undermine Sri Lanka’s war effort (SLMM backs down on breakdown with strap line Deaths due to conflict: Changes figure to 1,500 from 4,000-The Island, March 12, 2007). The military placed the number of civilian deaths during this period at 694. Although the Defence Ministry rejected the SLMM report, the Secretariat for Coordinating Peace Process (SCOPP) accepted the report (Military contradicts SLMM report on civilian killings-The Island, March 23, 2007).