Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Accountability issues: Culpability of int’l community




By Shamindra Ferdinando

The previous government had been widely criticized for directing the UN and other INGOs, excluding the ICRC, to suspend operations in the Vanni in Sept. 2008. The government issued instructions in this regard amidst fierce fighting on multiple fronts in the region.

The government decision was announced on the morning of Sept. 16, 2008 by the then Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe at a special media briefing held at the Meteorology Department on Bauddhaloka Mawatha.

The government informed the UN and INGOs on Sept. 8, 2008 to suspend their operations by end of that month. Responding to a query by the writer, Minister Samarasinghe revealed that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had accepted UN Resident Representative Neil Bhune’s request for three weeks to complete the withdrawal.

Minister Samarasinghe declared that the decision wasn’t negotiable (Govt wants UN, INGO pull-out completed by Sept. 29-The Island, Sept, 17, 2008). At the onset of the briefing, Minister Samarasinghe said that he had received a message from Bhune that UN personnel were in the process of leaving Kilinochchi.

Subsequently, Sri Lanka was told UN and INGO expatriate staff quit Vanni on Sept.16, 2008. In other words, the UN had quit the region after having reached agreement on pull-out within three weeks. However, the LTTE prevented Tamil employees of UN and other NGOs from leaving the Vanni as part of its overall efforts to discourage offensive military action (Attempts to evacuate Tamil INGO, UN workers thwarted-The Island, Sept. 2008). The Colombo based international media agencies as well as other media ignored these developments. The mainstream Tamil media refrained from reporting anything inimical to the LTTE’s interests.

Report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (PoE) on Accountability in Sri Lanka confirmed The Island report which dealt with the UN and INGOs pulling out of Vanni well ahead of the date agreed with the government. Let me reproduce the relevant section from PoE report released on March 31, 2011: "The United Nations decided to suspend operations in the Vanni and move its offices from Kilinochchi to Vavuniya. Other international organizations withdrew their international staff as well. Nonetheless, the LTTE refused to grant permission to allow United Nations national staff to leave. A large number of national staff from several INGOs, around 320 in total, and their dependents also remained in the Vanni. As the United Nations international staff prepared to leave Kilinochchi, aerial attacks were staged in close proximity to the United Nations premises. On the day of their departure, on or about 15 Sept, 2009, a large crowd of civilians gathered around them, begging them not to leave, afraid of what their absence would mean."

The PoE comprised Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), Steven R. Ratner (US) and Yasmin Sooka (South Africa). The PoE inadvertently mentioned the UN-INGO pull-out as Sept. 15, 2009, though the actual withdrawal took place year before. Obviously, the PoE never bothered to re-check its report before its release.

The Sri Lankan military brought the war to a successful conclusion in May, 2009, several months before the date mentioned in POE report. Although, it was certainly a genuine mistake, it would be pertinent to reiterate the PoE never bothered to verify allegations before accommodating them in their much touted report.

The previous government has been repeatedly accused of compelling international workers to quit Vanni to enable the Sri Lankan military to engage in indiscriminate action. The PoE report alleged that Kilinochchi pull-out represented what it called a pivotal point in the final stages of the war. "From that moment on, there were virtually no international observers able to report to the wider world what was happening in the Vanni", the report claimed.

This was however contradicted by the POE, when it acknowledged that ICRC international staff had remained in the Vanni east until February 10, 2009. The PoE also admitted that ICRC international staff subsequently accompanied food ships to Puthumathalan until May 9, 2009.

The issue will certainly come up before proposed war crimes court. Did Sri Lanka order UN and INGO international except those with the ICRC to give a free hand to the military as a section of Western powers and human rights have activists alleged?

If Sri Lanka didn’t insist on pull-out, would they have remained there during intense fighting for Kilinochchi, the last LTTE stronghold along the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road in the wake of famed Task Force I/58 Division liberating Pooneryn in February 2008.

The situation in wartime Sri Lanka should be re-examined against the backdrop of recent controversy over the UK, Germany and Sweden withdrawing their nationals serving UN police deployed in violence-torn South Sudan. Based on an internal UN memo obtained by the AFP, the news agency recently revealed the circumstances under which those countries quit UN peacekeeping mission thereby causing ‘a serious blow to the morale’ of the force known as UNMISS. The UN memo severely condemned the British action.

Sri Lanka needs to examine various situations to ascertain and prove double standards applied by UN and Western powers in respect of accountability issues here. The Sri Lankan issue had generated interest among various segments of the society, including educational institutions. It would be pertinent to reproduce the thesis index of a student of Department of Political Science, University of LUIS Guido Carli, Rome.


* The Sri Lankan Civil War and the Inadequacy of the International Response

* Sri Lanka country profile

* Sri Lankan Civil War

* The outbreak of the War between the Sri Lankan Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)

* Description of the LTTE

* Main causes of the outbreak of the War

* Chronological description of the War from 1986 to 2009

* Behaviour of both the parties in the conflict

* Immediate effects of the War

* Intervention by foreign actors during the Sri Lankan war

* Indian role

* Limited role of the United States

* Special case of Norway

* International response to the Sri Lankan War:

* Actors on the stage and their interventions

* United Nations

* European Union

* Civil society organizations

* Proposed solutions to conclude the conflict

* International response: too little too late?

* Details

* Immediate consequences of the Sri Lankan Civil War

* On the institutional and political system

* On the economy

* On individuals

* Alleged commitment of war crimes and violations of human rights

* Categories of violated rights illustrated following the order of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL):

* Unlawful killings

* Violations related to the deprivation of liberty

* Enforced disappearances

* Torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

* Sexual and gender-based violence

* Abduction of adults and forced recruitment

* Recruitment and use of children in hostilities

* The impact of hostilities on civilians and civilian objects

* Controls on movement

* Denial of humanitarian assistance

* Screening and deprivation of liberty of internally displaced persons

* Flaws of the national legal system

* Process of Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka

* United Nations’ call for the establishment of a special hybrid court with international judges and lawyers to investigate on alleged war crimes and violations of human rights and to provide for justice

* How should the court operate in order to be effective How should the process of transitional justice take place in Sri Lanka (comparison with previous cases in other countries)


Could more have been done from the national and international fora?

Was the international response to the Sri Lankan Civil War immediate, effective and strong enough?

What should the international action be in the Sri Lankan post-war context?

How can international actors help in the reform and reconstruction of a post-war system?


Possibility of staying in Sri Lanka to do research and to interview political representatives, lawyers, civil society organizations’ spokespersons, victims of the war etc.


Harrison Frances, (2013), Still Counting The Dead, Survivors of Sri Lanka’s Hidden War, Portobello Books Ltd Subramanian Samanth, (2015), This Divided Island: Life, Death, and the Sri Lankan War, Thomas Dunne Books Peiris G. H., (2009), Twilight of the Tigers: Peace Efforts and Power Struggles in Sri Lanka, Oxford University Press India bWeiss Gordon, (2012), The Cage: The fight for Sri Lanka & the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers, Vintage


Bala Mytili, (2015), Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka: Rethinking Post- War Diaspora Advocacy for Accountability, International Human Rights Law Journal Centre for Policy Alternatives (2015), Transitional Justice in Sri Lanka and Ways Forward Gowing Richard, (2013), War by Other Means? An analysis of the contested terrain of transitional justice under the ‘Victor’s Peace’ in Sri Lanka", Working Paper No. 13-138, Development Studies

Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science Höglund Kristine, Orjuela Camilla, (2012) Transitional Justice, Globalization and Friction in Post-war Sri Lanka, Paper prepared to be presented at the National Conference in Peace and Conflict Research, University of Gothenburg Shubert Andi, (2013), Victorious Victims: An Analysis of Sri Lanka’s Post-War Reconciliation Discourse, Research Paper No: 6, International Centre for Ethnic Studies

Having being interviewed by the student, the writer felt that she had far superior understanding of Sri Lanka’s conflict as regards international aspects as well as domestic issues than some of our members of parliament. Even over eight years after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is yet to produce a comprehensive report on the events leading to the war, successful combined security forces campaign against the LTTE and post-conflict developments.

The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report cannot be consider under any circumstances a detailed account of the conflict. Due to Sri Lanka’s failure, various interested parties had interpreted events here to suit their agendas. Had war winning Rajapaksa administration commissioned a report immediately after the conclusion of the war in May, 2009, it could have explained the circumstances under which the then government in 2006 finally decided to go on the offensive.

The successful military campaign against the LTTE commenced in early September, 2006 with the seizure of Sampur. Combined security forces relentlessly conducted offensive action until troops finished off terrorist leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May 2009. Had Western powers succeeded in throwing a lifeline to the LTTE, Sri Lanka wouldn’t have been in the current predicament.

Having co-sponsored controversial Geneva Resolution 30/1 in Oct, 2015, at the behest of Western powers, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe regime is now looking for a way out. Can Sri Lanka persuade Western powers, four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the influential Tamil Diaspora to give up their demand for foreign judges, including from the Commonwealth to be part of the proposed war crimes court as envisaged in the Geneva Resolution?

Sri Lanka never bothered to examine the inadequacy of the international response and the culpability of the international community. The foreign student had quite rightly raised the contentious issue of the inadequacy of international response as well as several other crucial aspects such as the US role. Due to Sri

Lanka’s unforgivable failure to examine the war, the culpability of India and those countries which contributed to destabilization never had to address accountability issues.

Let me briefly highlight the inadequacy of international response beginning from early 80s when the then Indian Premier Indira Gandhi had intervened in Sri Lanka.

* UN and Western powers turned a blind eye to Indian intervention in Sri Lanka. Tamil terrorist groups wouldn’t have achieved the required expertise to challenge the military if not for the Indian intervention. India provided the expertise to mount coordinated attacks using explosives leading to death of 13 soldiers at Thinnaveli, Jaffna in July, 1983. The Thinnaveli killings caused July, 1983 violence. No less a person than former Indian Foreign Secretary

Jyotindra Nath Dixit blamed Gandhi for disastrous Indian intervention in Sri Lanka (Makers of India’s Foreign Policy: Raja Ram Mohun Roy to

Yashwant Sinha). Dixit launched his memoirs on January 1, 2004. The veteran diplomat however passed away at the age of 68 on January 03 the following year. He had been India’s National Security Advisor at the time of his death. Interestingly, Dixit revealed that Gandhi had ordered the destabilization project due to the then Sri Lankan government’s close relationship with the US, Israel and Pakistan against the backdrop of the long running East-West Cold War with India being in the then Soviet camp.

* Indian trained TELO cadres in early September 1985 assassinated two Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) members V. Dharmalingam and M. Alalasundaram in the Jaffna peninsula. Dharmalingham’s son, Siddarthan, currently a member of the Northern Provincial Council accused India’s premier intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of ordering the assassinations. Still Western powers and the UN turned a Nelsonian eye to what was happening in Sri Lanka.

* UN and Western powers ignored regional crisis caused in early November 1988 due to Indian intervention in Sri Lanka. Two boat loads of Indian trained Sri Lankan terrorists belonging to PLOTE (People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam) stormed the Maldives. Airborne Indian troops thwarted the PLOTE bid to overthrow the then Maldivian government at the behest of a Colombo-based Maldivian business. Western powers and international media praised swift Indian intervention in the Maldives. They conveniently refrained from mentioning that India had to intervene thwart those who had been trained to destabilize Sri Lanka. The Indian navy trapped a merchant vessel commandeered by PLOTE cadres fleeing the Maldives and sent it to the bottom of the Indian Ocean. The exact number of Sri Lankan terrorists killed in Indian action was never known. Some of them could be still listed among the missing persons.

*An unidentified gunman assassinated the then Indian trained PLOTE leader Kadirgamapillai (Kathirkamar) Nallainathan alias Uma Maheswaran on the night of July 16, 1989, in Colombo. The Colombo based diplomatic community never bothered to urge Sri Lanka to arrest the perpetrators of the high profile killing.

* India deployed her Army in Northern and Eastern Provinces to prevent the then JR Jayewardene government from eradicating the LTTE in 1987 through military means. The UN and Western powers allowed Indian military intervention to save the LTTE as the latter was facing defeat in Vadamaratchchy in the Jaffna peninsula.

* UN and Western powers looked the other way when the Indian Army intervened to help puppet ERPLF (another New Delhi trained terrorist group) to win the first ever provincial polls in the temporarily-merged North-Eastern Province in November 1988.

* UN and Western powers allowed India to set up an illegal Tamil National Army (TNA) in the North-Eastern Province in 1989.

* Following the Indian pull-out in March 1990, the LTTE gradually transformed itself to a conventional fighting force and received recognition as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people. They retained that title given by the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) until the Sri Lankan Army eradicated the menace in May 2009. Western powers went out of their way to save the LTTE until the very end. They brought the previous government under tremendous pressure in a bid to arrange an honourable surrender of LTTE’s fighting cadre. Thanks to the then leader President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka sustained the offensive until it was brought to a successful conclusion. Unfortunately, the former President and his government pathetically failed in defending Sri Lanka’s right to eliminate terrorism, thereby paving the way for Geneva led probe.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Charge of depriving Vanni population of food and medicine: fact and fiction

War crimes



By Shamindra Ferdinando

About three weeks before the Army had breached LTTE defences on the Vanni east front, to rescue over 100,000 Tamils, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (R/HC) in wartime Sri Lanka, Neil Bhune, estimated the maximum number of civilians trapped there at 180,000.

 Bhune made the revelation at a meeting of the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA) on March 30, 2009, at the Defence Ministry, chaired by the then Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, Mahinda Samarasinghe.

 The meeting took place in the wake of a series of severe setbacks experienced by the LTTE on the Vanni east front. (The Army inflicted the worst defeat on the LTTE a few days later.) The Defence Ministry discussion covered the situation in the Vanni as well as the Eastern Province. It was the 26th CCHA meeting. At the onset, Bhune explained the situation in the Vanni, with the focus on the area, east of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road. Let me reproduce the relevant section titled ‘humanitarian situation in the Vanni’ from the minutes of that particular meeting: "The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Neil Buhne, raised concerns of the safety and security of civilians in the No Fire Zone. The UN estimates approximately 120,000 to 180,000 civilians to be trapped, while many are trying to leave, they are leaving at own risk. Mr. Buhne mentioned of a staff member’s wife who had stepped on a landmine. Mr. Buhne informed that shelters have been damaged by floods and only 500 wells were functioning providing water covering 1/5 of needs. A shipment of food and other items is to leave tonight or on 01 April since the last shipment on 21st March. The R/HC reiterated that medical items, shelter materials and chlorine tablets are urgent requirements to be sent. These need to be cleared, including the hygiene kits. ICRC evacuations have brought over 7,000 patients and bystanders and have been received by the GoSL."

 Minister Samarasinghe told the gathering that there had been reports regarding shelters and food provided to the displaced being used by the LTTE. Basil Rajapaksa, M.P., Senior Advisor to the President, said that food would be provided continuously regardless of varying figures quoted by different parties.

 The minutes of the crucial meeting are available with The Island. In fact, the entire set of documents, pertaining to all CCHA meetings, are with the newspaper. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa set up CCHA in Oct. 2006.

 Among those who had been present at the meeting were the then US Ambassador in Colombo, Robert Blake, the then presidential advisor, Basil Rajapaksa, MP, and Philippe Duamelle, the then UNICEF Representative.

 There hadn’t been any reference to the possibility of the war being brought to a rapid conclusion due to failure on the part of Western powers to convince the LTTE to surrender.

 On April 21, 2009, the Army breached LTTE defences to pave the way for trapped civilians to escape in large numbers. In spite of having suffered a debilitating setback, at Anandapuram, during the first week of April, 2009, followed by breaching of its defences on April 21, 2009, the LTTE still sought to work out a deal to suit its future strategy.

 It would be pertinent to mention that the CCHA meeting on March 30, 2009, ended with the participants deciding to meet again on May 11, 2009, at 11.30 am. But that meeting never took place. The government never received a request from foreign members of the CCHA to call a special meeting. Perhaps, they didn’t feel the requirement to discuss the situation.

 Did UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s Panel of Experts (PoE) examine minutes of CCHA meetings?

 The PoE comprising Marzuki Darusman (Chairperson/Indonesia), Steven R. Ratner (US) and Yasmin Sooka (South Africa) accused the then GoSL of purposely depriving the Vanni population of humanitarian assistance during eelam war IV. Did Darusman’s panel purposely ignore the existence of CCHA consisted of GoSL representatives, Western powers and UN agencies. CCHA came into being in Oct. 2006, at the onset of large scale operations undertaken by the GoSL. Obviously, Darusman’s panel didn’t receive the CCHA minutes or they ignored it completely to do a hatchet job.

 The previous government’s foolish decision to boycott the UN panel obviously made things easier for those who had wanted to haul up Sri Lanka before a war crimes tribunal. Examination of CCHA minutes will surely prove that there had never been an attempt to starve the Vanni population during the entire northern campaign (Mar. 2007-May 2009).

 In spite of having irrefutable evidence to CONTRADICT one of the three major accusations, propagated by PoE, the previous government pursued a foolish course of action. Those who had been tasked with Sri Lanka’s defence didn’t bother to exploit available evidence to counter PoE. Although, the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security, in the Northern Province, during 2011, put out a comprehensive report, titled Sri Lanka’s Humanitarian Effort, the government did not used it at the correct forum.

 The minutes of March 30, 2009, meeting revealed that Ambassador Blake admitted that the LTTE was continuing to hold civilians against their will. Ambassador Blake stressed the urgent need to prepare additional places to accommodate the displaced, pressure the LTTE to release civilians and immediate de-militarisation of locations used to accommodate the displaced, as well as freedom of movement for them.

 A confidential note, sent by the then Norwegian Ambassador, Tore Hattrem, to MP and CCHA member, Basil Rajapaksa confirmed what Blake admitted on March 30, 2009. The following is the text of Hattrem’s Feb 16, 2009 note: "Offer/Proposal to the LTTE; I refer to our telephone conversation today. The proposal to the LTTE on how to release the civilian population, now trapped in the LTTE, controlled area, has been transmitted to the LTTE, through several channels. So far, there has regrettably been no response from the LTTE and it does not seem to be likely that the LTTE will agree to this in the near future."

 Basil Rajapaksa confirmed receiving the note from Hattrem.

 The minutes of the final meeting would surely prove efforts made by the previous government, over a period of time, to ensure maximum possible supplies to the Vanni even at the height of fighting. Whatever the lies propagated by the likes of Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, the government had never deprived the Tamil-speaking population of food and medicine as part of the military strategy. CM Wigneswaran has repeatedly accused the government of seeking to wipe out Tamils and went to the extent of taking it up with the UN.

 In fact, the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), or foreign funded NGOs, never pushed the then government and the LTTE to ensure food and medicine supplies to the Vanni. The TNA and the NGOs deliberately ignored the issue as they focused on efforts, somehow to compel the government to call off the offensive. The minutes of CCHA meetings proved that Government Agents, representing the Vanni administrative districts, namely Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu, never complained about shortage of essential food.

 According to records available with the government and international agencies, including the World Food Programme, there had sent 12 food convoys to the Vanni (Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts) from Oct. 2008, to January 2009.

These overland convoys delivered 7,694 metric tonnes of food. CCHA minutes revealed that the WFP had acquired a fleet of long trucks, in late 2008, to intensify food delivery operation. The ICRC and UN played a significant role in the project, implemented in accordance with decisions taken at the CCHA. Those foreigners who had participated in CCHA deliberations can confirm the efforts made by the then government to move food stocks.

 The Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) can obtain these documents if it is genuinely interested in knowing the truth.

 Those who had been preaching to Sri Lanka how to proceed with the post-war national reconciliation process never intervened on behalf of those held by the LTTE. They turned a blind eye to what was going on in the Vanni. They passionately believed in the LTTE’s conventional military invincibility and prowess to overwhelm the Army on the Vanni east front. For some strange reason, they strongly believed the LTTE could mount a successful large scale counter attack, on the advancing troops in Dec 2008-January 2009. Canada-based veteran journalist D.B.S. Jeyaraj further strengthened this belief (DBSJ had been with The Island when the writer joined the editorial in June 1987, as a trainee reporter).

 They obviously fashioned their policy on the basis of assessments made by those who propagated what some diplomatic missions wanted to hear. In an article titled War in Wanni: Why the Tigers are down but not out published by a section of the local press, on December 20, 2008, Jeyaraj asserted that as the armed forces found LTTE defences impregnable they gained territory mainly due to superior tactical manoeuvring. Having asserted that of some 4,000-4,500 cadres killed, in eelam war IV, 3,000-3,500 were inexperienced young fighters, Jeyaraj declared that Prabhakaran held in reserve the greater, or best part, of his fighting formations. The columnist declared that the ‘finest and fittest’ were being preserved for use at a later stage. Asserting that Prabhakaran had as many as 50,000 cadres to face troops, advancing on multiple fronts, Jeyaraj described 25,000 to 30,000 as ‘fighting fit.’ Those categorized as fighting fit included 12,000 to 15,000 well trained experienced cadres. Referring to severe damages caused by the Sri Lankan navy to the LTTE’s sea supply line, Jeyaraj indicated that the LTTE may have restored the supply line. "In recent times there seems to have been a marked improvement in procuring supplies. This in turn is reflected in the battlefield where Tigers are raining shells and firing off myriad rounds. This means that either the Tigers have streamlined their supply modes again or those agencies that were helping Sri Lanka to restrict Tiger supplies are letting the LTTE off the hook or a combination of both."

 At the onset of the Vanni offensive, Bloomberg news agency quoted defence and political analysts as having said that Sri Lanka’s war couldn’t be won by either side. The story was posted on March 22, 2007. 

A story captioned ‘Sri Lanka, Tamil Tiger Rebels Fight a War That Can’t be Won,’ by Colombo based Anusha Ondaatjie, quoted head of terrorism research at Singapore’s Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Rohan Gunaratna, as having asserted: "Continuing the current spate of violence is not going to bring about a different outcome or change the status quo. Both parties have developed significant support to be able to recover from losses, but this type of warfare is protracted." Gunaratna declared: "What is needed is a negotiated settlement to the conflict."

 The website also quoted Gunaratna as having claimed: "The two parties have decided to fight each other", hence conveniently forgotten the circumstances leading to eelam war IV, in Aug. 2006.

 Three months after Dr Gunaratne stressed the need for a negotiated settlement, the military liberated the entire Eastern Province.

 Dr Gunaratna changed his stance, subsequently. On the invitation of the government, Dr Gunaratna addressed the first three-day Defence Seminar titled "Defeating Terrorism: Sri Lankan Experience in May-June, 2011.

 But by Dec 2008-January 2009, the LTTE knew it couldn’t halt the combined security forces offensive hence the relentless effort to secure Western intervention in Sri Lanka. Those who had represented CCHA, too, firmly believed that the government could be persuaded to halt the offensive to pave the way for a negotiated settlement, believing they could bring the conflict to a negotiated settlement, Western governments and UN facilitated the high profile government operation to move supplies to the Vanni. Hence the decision to facilitate movement of food by ships, after closure of all land routes to the Vanni east region by the beginning of the last week of January, 2009. Sri Lanka arranged to ship 4,218 MT of food stocks from Trincomalee to Mullivaikkal-Puthumathalan area. But managed to ship only 3,150 MT, including vegetables, during Feb 19, 2009 to May 8, 2009, with the help of the ICRC and UN.

 The government allowed foreign ICRC representatives to go ashore at Puthumathalan every time food-carrying ships reached the destination. The same vessels evacuated wounded civilians. The LTTE didn’t allow wounded LTTE cadres to leave for medical treatment at makeshift India - managed medical facility, at Pulmoddai, before being transferred to government hospitals. India can provide information pertaining to the numbers treated and transferred from Pulmoddai.

 Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s legal team should prepare to face any eventuality. CCHA minutes and other records available with UN, ICRC and Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) can be used to effectively CONTRADICT the charge of purposely depriving Vanni population of food and medicine.

 Let me reproduce CCHA minutes in respect of important issues raised by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Bhune on March 30, 2009, to prove that shortage of food have never been an issue just seven weeks short of conclusion of the conflict.

 The following concerns and requests were highlighted by the R/HC

= UNHCR was present at Omanthai, more contact with the IDPs is required and requested access for UNHCR and ICRC to Kilinochchi transit points.

= A confidence building and stabilisation measure if older people and children can go and live with friends and host families.

=A request for UN staff members and their families to come out and assist in camps.

= A request for less military presence at the camps and for the Ministry of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services (R&DRS) to take on more of the management role.

= A request for the database of registered IDPs to be shared with the UN.

= More land has to be allocated in Vavuniya and additional sites may have to be identified in Trincomalee and Mannar in the light of preparedness for IDPs.

=Easing of restrictions at Medawachchiya for UN and INGOs staff travelling to Vavuniya to provide assistance.

=MOUs with the line Ministries – the UN can share agreements made in other countries.

=Demining tasks already allocated more to be allocated especially in Musali.

=Sharing of information, data and especially return plans for the North as national and international confidence building measures.

 Sri Lanka can certainly be proud of providing food and even paying those government servants based in areas under LTTE control throughout the war.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Denial of humanitarian assistance; LTTE strategy and Sri Lanka’s response



By Shamindra Ferdinando

The international media recently reported South Sudan calling off celebrations, scheduled for July 9, 2016, to mark its fifth anniversary of independence.

The decision was made in the wake of the South Sudanese government, and the UN, admitting nearly five million people faced starvation. The AFP quoted Agriculture Minister Lam Akol as having said that the risk of famine couldn’t be ruled out.

Sudan has been wrecked by conflict. The latest north-south war commenced in 1983, the year Sri Lanka erupted. For over two decades the government of Sudan fought armed groups, based in the South, leading to UN, backed division of the country.

The AFP also quoted UNICEF Chief in South Sudan Mahimbo Mdoe, as having declared the levels of malnutrition among children to be truly alarming. "The level of food insecurity this year is unprecedented," the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN Children’s Agency UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a joint statement issued last week.

Against the backdrop of this crisis, in South Sudan, as highlighted by the UN, it would be pertinent to thoroughly examine allegation that the previous government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) denied food and medicine to the Tamil population in the Vanni (2006-2009) during eelam war IV.

 Let me reproduce verbatim the relevant section from the Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (PoE) on Accountability in Sri Lanka, released on March 31, 2011: ‘Denial of Humanitarian Assistance: The Government systematically deprived persons in the conflict zone of humanitarian assistance, in the form of food and basic medical supplies, particularly supplies needed to treat injuries. To that end, it purposefully underestimated the number of civilians that remained in the conflict zone. Particularly the denial of surgical supplies greatly increased the suffering of the civilians and added to the large death toll."

It was one of three allegations directed at the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government in respect of the 2006-2009 (up to March) period.

A section of the international community castigated the previous government for denying the Vanni population essentials. Western powers ignored a comprehensive report put out by the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security, in the Northern Province, during 2011 in response to the PoE’s specific allegation. But, those who had been wanting to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal continued to propagate lies.

Sri Lanka can be proud of ensuring supplies to war-torn areas even at the height of fighting during eelam war IV. The political and military leaderships successfully faced the daunting task. The then five-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Colombo based foreign funded Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and those diplomatic missions hell-bent on pursuing war crimes probe, remained silent. The Tamil media turned a blind eye to a high profile LTTE project aimed at disrupting food and medical supplies to the Jaffna peninsula and the Vanni region. Western powers never felt the requirement to intervene on behalf of the civilian population. The LTTE operation was meant to discontinue essential supplies in order to strengthen its call for foreign intervention. The LTTE wanted to prove Sri Lanka’s inability to ensure supplies to the Jaffna peninsula at the onset of fighting, in August, 2006.

Those who had been demanding, since the conclusion of the war, in May, 2009, that the military ceased commercial activity, didn’t utter a word when the LTTE disrupted the private traders’ network, in the peninsula, at the onset of the fighting, in August 2006. The Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, during last week of June, 2016, reiterated the call for the military to cease commercial activity. Let the OCHR, TNA, Western diplomatic missions, or those well-funded Colombo based NGOs, produce a statement issued during that time requesting the LTTE not to disrupt the food supply network.

Having recognized the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, during Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga administration, the TNA silently backed the terrorist strategy.

Strategic bid to isolate Jaffna peninsula

 A massive LTTE attack, on the Muhamalai entry/exit, on August 11, 2006, forced the government to close down the overland Main supply Route (MSR). The LTTE overran the entry/exit point, while well-equipped fighting cadre attacked key fortifications along the Army’s northern forward defence line, extending from Kilali to Nagarkovil on the Vadamaratchchy east coast.

The closure of the MSR denied the Jaffna peninsula of essential supplies. The government faced the daunting task of moving supplies, needed by civilians, by sea and air. The new task had to be carried out in addition to ensuring all supplies, required by the military, deployed in the Jaffna peninsula and islands there. Obviously, the LTTE believed the government lacked the wherewithal to move supplies to the Jaffna peninsula.

At that time, the Vanni population didn’t experience difficulties in receiving food supplies through overland MSR via Omanthai, north of Vavuniya. As the entire Vanni region remained under the firm control of the LTTE, terrorists adopted different strategies in the Jaffna peninsula and the Vanni. At the onset of eelam war IV, the LTTE had seized the upper hand with its best fighting units deployed along the northern front, sizable conventional fighting units positioned in the Vanni and vast parts of the Eastern Province dominated by the group.

The LTTE believed that the government would have had no option but to utilize naval assets to sustain a continuous sea supply route to Kankesanthurai harbour in the Jaffna peninsula. The navy lacked ships to move essential supplies needed by civilians. Then Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda’s navy was struggling to meet growing demands. Having sunk an LTTE supply ship, off the East coast, in September, 2006, the navy was busy making preparations to hunt down LTTE supply vessels operating in international waters. The navy was also tasked with destroying supply boats operating across Indo-Lanka waters, defending vital harbours and a range of other responsibilities, including keeping the sea lanes and communications between Trincomalee and Kankesanthurai open.

Major challenges

Supplying Jaffna peninsula had been an extremely challenging task primarily due to the strong Sea Tiger presence in the Mullaitivu-Chalai waters. The navy continuously struggled to sustain the Trincomalee-Kankesanthurai sea route.

Private owners of ships had been reluctant to launch services due Sea Tiger attacks. Those ships deployed for missions were compelled to take lengthy diversionary routes to avoid Sea Tiger patrols. Things were further compounded by the absence of facilities at Kankesanthurai and Point Pedro harbours to undertake large scale unloading operations, the near collapse of private sector traders’ network as well as the supply of fertiliser and kerosene.

The Jaffna peninsula was under siege. A disastrous army assault beyond its forward defence lines at Muhamalai in Oct, 2006 further worsened the ground situation. The army lost several armoured fighting vehicles in addition to losing over 150 officers and men. Several hundred suffered injuries. (The Jaffna forces didn’t conduct large scale offensive operations until Nov/Dec 2008. Operations on the Muhamalai commenced only after then Brigadier Shavendra Silva’s Task I/58 Division achieved major success on the Vanni west front)

The SLAF lacked the required aircraft to move supplies both to the military and civilians. The SLAF faced severe difficulties at the onset of eelam war IV, in Aug. 2006. The armed forces strength in the Jaffna theatre stood at more than 50,000 at that time.

The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) declined to lend its flag to facilitate ship movements. The LTTE warned the ICRC not to engage in the operation. The UN and US can easily verify the events with the ICRC mission in Colombo.

The TNA leadership remained tight-lipped. The TNA surely believed the LTTE siege on the Jaffna peninsula could lead to a major crisis.

Against the backdrop of the ICRC refusal to participate in food transport project to the North, the then government explored the possibility of involving the UN. The government called for UN support as the administration lacked military capability to ensure such a large scale operation. However, the effort went awry due to strong opposition from the LTTE (UN team here to discuss food supply to Jaffna-The Island, Nov. 3, 2006).

The war effort could have collapsed for want of a tangible action plan to feed the civilian population in Jaffna.

In January, 2007, the LTTE attacked MV Liverpool, a civilian cargo ship off Point Pedro. Sea Tiger suicide boats rammed the vessel as it was unloading essential supplies. In spite of LTTE attacks, the government sustained a food supply route at a tremendous cost to the taxpayer until the re-opening of the MSR after the conclusion of the war, in May, 2009.

Then Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told the writer that the Kandy-Jaffna MSR wouldn’t be re-opened, under any circumstances, until the conclusion of the war. Defence Secretary Rajapaksa and the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera clashed over the issue. Samaraweera was of the opinion the Muhamalai gateway should be re-opened to facilitate overland supplies. The then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka, too, strongly opposed the re-opening of the MSR. The war veteran feared the LTTE would certainly take advantage of the situation.

Food supplies to Vanni

 Those who had been accusing Sri Lanka of depriving the Tamil speaking people of food and medicine had never really examined the efforts made by successive governments to provide essential items to the war affected.

Sri Lanka never deprived the northern population of food and medicine, regardless of the situation on the ground. Although restrictions on fishing had to be imposed to prevent the LTTE from exploiting the situation, yet Sri Lanka allowed restricted fishing.

Even during the Vanni offensive, (the largest ever military action launched in the Northern Province), those living in both west and east of the Kandy-Jaffna A 9 road received supplies.

Then President Mahinda Rajapaksa took tangible measures to ensure food supplies to the war-affected people. Soon after the government scored its first significant military victory, in eelam war IV, during the first week of September, 2006, the President authorized the setting up of Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA) under the leadership of the then Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. The grouping included ministers, senior officials, including Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa; top Colombo based diplomats and senior representatives of UN agencies.

All three UN agencies namely FAO, UNICEF and WFP which last week warned of food insecurity in South Sudan, had been included in CCHA.  The UNICEF in Sri Lanka had been represented by Ms Joanna Van Gerpen and Philippe Duamelle, WFP by Taft-Dick, Mohamed Salaheen and Adhnan Khan while Mare Bellemans represented the FAO.

Those wanting to verify food supplies sent to the Northern Province should get in touch with them. They should be able to explain whether the then government refused to allow adequate food supplies to the Northern Province. The CCHA met on Oct 14, 2006, for the first time. The grouping met once a month to discuss civilian requirements in the Northern Province. The last meeting took place on May 11, 2009. The war ended on the morning of May 19, 2009.

Now, the minutes of CCHA meetings are available with Jeevan Thiagarajah, executive director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA). Thiagarajah and Firzan Hashim, CHA’s Deputy Executive Director represented the organization at CCHA meetings.

The OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) can confirm supplies sent to the Northern Province with CHA officials. In case, OHCHR is suspicious about CHA, it can get in touch with US, EU, Japanese or UN Resident/Humanitarian coordinator as they too had been represented in CCHA deliberations.

In spite of heavy fighting in the Vanni, the government with the help of the international community managed to ensure overland food supplies and other essential until early January, 2009. It would be pertinent to mention that overland supplies continued though the Army launched Vanni offensive, in March, 2007, west of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road. Following the closure of all overland routes, to Vanni east, by January 23, 2009, due to intense fighting, the government, again with the assistance of the international community, launched food supplies by sea.

The government called a meeting on February 17, 2009, to decide on a tangible action plan to meet the challenging task. The ICRC participated in the discussion. The OHCHR can easily verify facts with the ICRC mission in Colombo.

However, even before the February 17, 2009, meeting, the government, with the assistance of the ICRC, had launched a special operation to move supplies and evacuate the wounded trapped in the Mullaitivu district. Ships operated under ICRC flag though the same organization earlier refused to lend support to previous attempt to move food and other essentials from Trincomalee to Kankesanthurai. Altogether, ICRC flagged ships evacuated 14,000 wounded civilians and helpers from February 10, 2009 to May 9, 2009. Same vessels delivered 2,350 metric tonnes of food to those held captive by the LTTE as a human shield.

The LTTE didn’t allow wounded cadres to be evacuated. The OHCHR is fully aware of the amount of food and other supplies sent to Puthumathalan-Wellamullivaikkal area during 2009.

FCID probe needed

 The Joint Opposition is yet to examine UN allegations directed at the previous Rajapaksa administration. In spite of having two media briefings, on a weekly basis, and numerous other press conference, Joint Opposition spokespersons are yet to properly explain the situation. The Joint Opposition continues to play politics with post-war national reconciliation process.  The Joint Opposition, without further delay, should call for a meeting to examine the entire gamut of issues, particularly UN allegations and possible response.  Sri Lanka is paying a very heavy price for the failure on the part of the previous government to address alleged accountability issues. Instead of a cohesive action plan, the previous government squandered millions of US dollars on a foolish project to influence the US. Although, the government was repeatedly told the US stand cannot be influenced by hiring expensive public relations firms, the former President continued with the project. The External Affairs Ministry and the Presidential Secretariat backed the idiotic plan. 

The Yahapalana government should launch an investigation to establish the full amount of taxpayers’ money wasted on public relations firms, both in the US and other countries. The Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) should be directed to investigate and prosecute all those responsible for criminal waste of money. The FCID should examine whether any politicians or officials had benefited from this foolish exercise. The previous government and some of those campaigning against the proposed setting up of a hybrid court, comprising foreign judges, is responsible for exposing Sri Lanka to such an investigation. They should be exposed and humiliated.

The previous government (political leadership) never bothered to address specific issues in spite of the Defence Ministry repeatedly pointing out what Sri Lanka’s defence should be. Geneva was never told of the correct ground situation because those responsible never bothered to study wartime situation.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

TNA’s revelation in Washington as regards foreign judges stuns govt



by Shamindra Ferdinando

The four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA) Friday (July 1) welcomed a hard-hitting statement, issued by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, in respect of war time and post-war accountability issues in Sri Lanka. The Human Rights HC reiterated the call for international participation in the proposed war crimes probe, on the basis of Resolution 30/1, adopted on Oct 1, 2015.

The TNA comprises the Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) and three former terrorist groups namely TELO, PLOTE and EPRLF formed by the government of India in the ‘80s. The TULF, too, had been part of the grouping at the onset of the LTTE-TNA relationship, though it subsequently quit. TULF, leader V. Anandasangaree, told the writer, some time back, that he quit the alliance as he didn’t want to contribute to the LTTE’s despicable strategy.

In a statement issued on the afternoon of July 1, TNA declared: "We reiterate that justice for crimes committed, in the past, by both sides, is a necessary precondition to meaningful reconciliation. In this regard, we reiterate the importance of the full implementation of operative paragraphs 6 and 7 to ensure trust and credibility."

The TNA didn’t include the two operative paragraphs in its statement.

Let me reproduce operative paragraphs in Resolution 30/1, titled ‘Promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka’, unanimously adopted by the 47-member Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Sri Lanka co-sponsored the resolution.

Operative paragraph 6: "Welcomes the proposal by the Government of Sri Lanka to establish a Commission for Truth, Justice, Reconciliation, and Non-Recurrence; an Office of Missing Persons; and an Office for Reparations; and stresses the need for these mechanisms to be independent, impartial, and transparent, as well as, led by individuals known for professionalism, integrity and impartiality."

Operative paragraph 7: "Welcomes also the commitment by the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that each transitional justice mechanism has the freedom to obtain assistance, including financial, material and technical assistance, from international partners, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights."

It would be pertinent to keep in mind the TNA’s actions are fully supported by the UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF) who spearheaded the overseas campaign, leading to Sri Lanka’s humiliation in Geneva.

The TNA also asserted that Resolution 30/1 represented the solemn commitment of Sri Lanka to its own citizens, and to the Tamil people, who, the grouping represented, and must be implemented.

The TNA has conveniently forgotten the circumstances under which the grouping regained the right to represent the Tamil-speaking people.

Until the Sri Lankan military, eradicated the LTTE leadership, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, in May, 2009, the group remained the sole representative of Tamil- speaking people.

In the run-up to eelam war IV, in August, 2006, the LTTE received the TNA’s recognition. The TNA worked closely with the LTTE during this period with some of its members of parliament attending passing out parades of child soldiers.

Having won the April 2, 2004, parliamentary polls, with the help of the LTTE, the TNA represented and promoted the interests of the group, in parliament. The European Union Elections Observation Mission alleged the LTTE-TNA relationship and explained how R. Sampanthan’s outfit benefited through terrorism. There had never been a previous instance of a recognized political party being accused of receiving the support of a terrorist group, in the country.

The EU report, released on June 17, 2004, described the LTTE as the primary source of violence, at the April 2 general election. The EU monitoring mission’s head, John Cushnahan, didn’t mince his words when he declared that the LTTE’s primary aim was to garner a huge majority for its proxy, the TNA, to project the group as the sole representative of Tamil speaking people. In fact, the EU endorsed what TULF chief V. Anandasangaree had been saying throughout the campaign. Unfortunately, the then government, the international community, and even the Nordic truce monitoring mission, didn’t take any notice. Anandasangaree was ignored. The UNP refused, at least, to condemn the LTTE for making an attempt on the life of T. Maheswaran, Jaffna District candidate. Anandasangaree urged the government and the Opposition not to accept the TNA. The LTTE proxy had no right to be in parliament (TULF leader applauds EU for unmasking LTTE proxy––The Island of June 23, 2004).

The EU said: "Firstly, the LTTE intended that no other rival Tamil party (or Tamil candidate from the mainstream political alliances), to the TNA, would be able to claim to represent Tamil interests. A chilling message, to this effect, was sent early in the campaign when a UNP candidate and an EPDP activist were murdered. Incidents, such as this, seriously restricted the right of the parties other than the TNA to campaign freely in the Northern and Eastern Districts. During the 2004 elections, the major incidences of violence were perpetrated by the LTTE, whereas at the earlier elections, the primary source of the violence (although not all), were the two largest political parties."

A statement issued by the TNA, in the run-up to the April 2 general election, highlighted its alliance with the LTTE. Unfortunately, the UPFA failed to exploit the environment to its political advantage. It simply ignored the rapidly developing situation. The TNA declared: "Accepting the LTTE’s leadership as the national leadership of ‘Tamil Eelam’ Tamils, and the Liberation Tigers, as the sole and authentic representative of the Tamil people, let us devote our full cooperation for the ideals of the Liberation Tigers’ struggle with honesty and steadfastness. Let us endeavour determinedly, collectively as one group, one nation, one country, transcending race and religious differences, under the leadership of the LTTE, for a life of liberty, honour and justice for the Tamil people."

TULF veteran Anandasangaree suggested that those who monitored the poll should have called the Elections Commissioner to annul the results. Anandasangaree said that all monitoring groups should have joined hands in exposing the LTTE/TNA alliance (Monitors should have called for fresh poll in North and East-TULF––The Island of June 24, 2004).

The TNA remained mum on the EU report. Senior TNA members refused to discuss the issue, though The Island sought their opinion on several occasions. However, they privately acknowledged that the report would never be taken up with the EU, though it caused severe embarrassment to the party. The TNA admitted that it wasn’t in a position to challenge the EU, hence its decision to remain mum (TNA mum on EU polls terror report––The Island of July 4, 2004).

Colombo – based Western diplomatic missions never raised the issue with the TNA.

During the second week of November, 2005, the TNA instructed Tamil speaking people to boycott the Nov. 17, 2005 presidential polls to facilitate the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa’s victory. The TNA issued instructions, in this regard, at the behest of the LTTE. No less a person than UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickrema told the writer of the TNA and the LTTE depriving UNP candidate Ranil Wickremesinghe of certain victory. Had that happened, the conflict wouldn’t have ended in annihilation of the LTTE’s conventional military capability.

The TNA remained firmly with the LTTE until the very end. At the behest of the LTTE, the TNA campaigned both here and abroad to force an end to the ground offensive. The TNA refrained from, at least, publicly urging the LTTE to give up human shields and halt forcible recruitment of children. The TNA leadership refrained from intervening, on behalf of those who had been wounded, fighting for the LTTE. The LTTE prevented wounded cadres from taking advantage of the ICRC run operation to evacuate them from Puthumathalan.

The TNA remained silent as the LTTE forced the entire population, living west of the Jaffna-Kandy A9 road, to accompany the retreating fighting units across the main overland supply route. The TNA had been part of the overall LTTE strategy. The TNA leadership suddenly remembered the suffering of those trapped in the Vanni after troops cleared the last pockets of resistance.

For some strange reason, the previous government never raised the issue of the TNA’s accountability and its relationship with the LTTE, when the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) intervened in Sri Lanka. The writer, on several occasions, sought an explanation from the previous administration in respect of TNA’s accountability. The Rajapaksa administration never inquired into the matter in spite of the TNA going all out against the war-winning government on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. The Rajapaksa administration had nearly seven years to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into the LTTE-TNA alliance and also efficiently counter unsubstantiated accusations. Unfortunately, the then government failed, pathetically.

The TNA subsequently established a solid partnership with the UK headquartered Global Tamil Forum (GTF) to pursue an efficient campaign. Their project culminated in January, 2015, with Western powers facilitating the ouster of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to pave the way for the Geneva Resolution meant to initiate war crimes probe.

Those loyal to former President Rajapaksa still remained thoroughly disorganized. They lacked a clear vision to counter accusations, as well as comprehend the on-going project to haul Sri Lanka before a hybrid court. The Island, in its June 28, issue reported TNA Jaffna District MP, M.A. Sumanthiran, declaring that the government of Sri Lanka, the US and the TNA reaching an agreement on foreign judges on a war crimes court. The story headlined ‘Constitution no bar to foreign judges in war crimes court-TNA’ was based on a statement issued by the TNA, on June 16. Although that statement had been on public domain, the Joint Opposition didn’t respond until The Island highlighted the issue.

Had the TNA remained silent, on the agreement, the country wouldn’t have heard about it. In fact, the TNA statement was meant to pressure the government, and to remind the Yahapalana leadership that it wouldn’t give up, or dilute arrangement, over foreign judges.

MP Sumanthiran declared that they had reached a tripartite consensus in respect of foreign judges, defence attorneys, investigators, etc., in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism before the UNHRC unanimously adopted Resolution 30/1.

Attorney-at-law Sumanthiran told a recent American ‘Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka’, in Washington, that the government of Sri Lanka, the TNA and the US had been involved in the negotiations leading to the agreement.

The declaration was made in the presence of Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Washington, Prasad Kariyawasam.

MP Sumanthiran stressed that the resolution was moved in Geneva following an understanding that the participation of foreigners wouldn’t be contrary to Sri Lanka’s Constitution. Declaring that he had been personally involved in the negotiations, with the United States of America also participating in that particular process, Sumanthiran said: "There were some doubts created, as to whether the Constitution of Sri Lanka would allow for foreign nationals to function as judges and we went into that question, clarified it, and said yes they can".

Sumanthiran told the Congressional Caucus that the resolution adopted in Geneva, had been negotiated and they settled for a hybrid model though they originally asked for an international inquiry.

The TNA didn’t find fault with The Island coverage of the issue. The government, too, didn’t dispute the reportage.

MP Sumanthiran’s revelation caused turmoil with attorney-at-law, Chrishmal Warnasuriya, strongly countering Prince Al-Hussein assertion that Sri Lanka’s judiciary lacked credibility to undertake war crimes inquiry. Warnasuriya, who had played a high profile role in the Opposition campaign to ouster the Rajapaksas, didn’t mince words when he rejected foreign judges, in a domestic judicial probe, under any circumstances.

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa wrote to President Maithripala Sirisena seeking a clarification regarding the TNA heavyweight’s declaration in Washington.

Dr Wasantha Bandara, on behalf of the Federation of National Organizations (FNO), too, sought a clarification from the government regarding MP Sumanthiran’s declaration. The Foreign Ministry has remained mum in spite of the TNA MP making unprecedented claim in the presence of Ambassador Kariyawasam.

Obviously, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government appeared to have misjudged the post-presidential poll situation in Geneva. UPFA General Secretary, Mahinda Amaraweera, a few months ago, declared that President Sirisena and the government had resolved the Geneva issue and, therefore, those who had been warning of an impending war crimes probe now need not be worried. President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, too, declared that foreign judges wouldn’t be included. Instead of confirming their public stand, Al-Hussein and Sumanthiran had clearly stated that the participation of foreign judges remained a key to a credible judicial process.

In the run-up to the presidential and parliamentary polls, in January and August, 2015, respectively, the country was told that the threat of war crimes probe would end with the ouster of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Yahapalana leaders proudly declared that as the faith in the judiciary had been restored, therefore the issue of foreign judges was irrelevant.

They have been proved wrong. Whatever the post-presidential election polls understanding between the UNP-led coalition and the TNA that helped bring Maithripala Sirisena into power, the LTTE ally remains committed to internationally discredit Sri Lanka and the Rajapaksas. The TNA underscored its readiness to do whatever necessary to oust the Rajapaksas when it backed war-winning Army Chief Gen (retd.) Sarath Fonseka’s presidential candidature at the January 2010 presidential polls. The TNA objectives at that election should be examined against the backdrop of engineering Ranil Wickremesinghe’s defeat at Nov, 2005 presidential.

None of those politicians, who had been fighting separatist sentiments, have so far bothered to study the TNA. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government shouldn’t forget that the TNA demands for international participation, in proposed war crimes probe, while being the recognised Opposition in parliament. The TNA has also forgotten that it wouldn’t be in this position today if not for the battlefield defeat of the LTTE and UNP machinations in parliament. In addition to the TNA, many have, for reasons best known to them, forgotten the difficult war fought for nearly 30 years.

One time Justice Ministry Secretary Dr Nihal Jayawickrama recently declared that the country lacked the experience and expertise to undertake such a task on its own, while castigating the judiciary, the military and law enforcement agencies. The outspoken former official, who played a controversial role in Mrs Bandaranaike’s United Front government, strongly justified calls for foreign judges to lead the inquiry. Dr Jayewickreme even lost his civic rights as a result of his role in that government after it was defeated soundly by the UNP in the July ’77 general election.

"Without accountability, there can be no reconciliation in any society. The hybrid court, which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recommended for Sri Lanka, is a unique element in the human rights based approach to transitional justice in a post-conflict situation. Comprising international judges, prosecutors, lawyers and investigators, a hybrid court is designed to deal with those who bear the greatest responsibility for series of crimes, arising from, or during the conflict, such as war crimes or crimes against humanity, including sexual crimes and crimes against children. President Maithripala Sirisena has repeatedly asserted that under no circumstances will he agree to the participation of foreigners in the accountability process in Sri Lanka. The President has claimed that Sri Lanka has an independent judiciary which is quite capable of addressing the issues of accountability without any foreign assistance. It is perhaps time for the President’s advisers to brief him on the real position."

Jayawickrama faulted successive governments for categorizing the conflict as a situation caused by terrorism. Alleging that successive governments had failed to restore good governance, Dr Jayawickrama declared: "On the other hand, there is the issue of justice, reparation and reconciliation, which has been brought to the fore through the actions of a succession of Presidents who set out to resolve a political and human rights problem, conveniently dubbed "the terrorist problem’, through the application of military power."