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David Miliband with Bernard Kouchner

Last week, after a long silence, David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, former Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom and France, weighed in again to attack Sri Lanka. They had last hunted together in April 2009 when they came to Sri Lanka to try to save the terrorist Tigers from defeat at the hands of Sri Lankan forces.

Why did they do this? With regard to David Miliband, Wikileaks made it clear that he was doing this for electoral purposes. The explanation given to the Americans for his keeness  was that ‘with UK elections on the horizon and many families living in Labour constituencies with slim majorities, the government is paying particular attention to Sri Lanka’. In short, Mr Miliband was willing, in order to enhance his own political prospects, to stop Sri Lanka overcoming the terrorist forces that had caused such suffering in the country, and in India too, over such a long period.

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443 adults and 49 children are among the refugees who have travelled for 3 months in the cargo ship MV Sun Sea.

While various media outlets in Britain are enthusiastically attacking Sri Lanka, evidence is emerging in Canada which suggests that some of the monstrosities attributed to Sri Lankan soldiers may well have been perpetrated by the Tigers. I have cited previously a report of a trial in which a man admitted that he had been involved in the cold blooded killing of wounded Sri Lankan soldiers.

The migrant testified that at the end of a particular battle, there was a “call” for Tigers with AK-47 rifles to come forward. Under questioning from his lawyer Fiona Begg, he testified that he took the call as an invitation — not an order — to take part in the killing of wounded Sri Lankan soldiers, who were being held inside a house.

It seems this involvement stopped short of him actually shooting them himself, though it is a moot point whether he asked others to do the horrible deed instead –

Kevin Hatch, the representative for the Canada Border Services Agency seeking the man’s deportation, told the board that in an earlier interview, the man said that he had sent others around him to go — though there was a question of whether that statement had been accurately interpreted. Asked to clarify, the man testified Tuesday that he just mentioned to others around him that there had been a call for people with AK-47s to come forward.

It would seem that this man believes that ‘just mentioning’ to others that people with AK-47s were ‘invited’ to come forward did not make him culpable, and I have no doubt the brilliant intellects at Channel 4 would come to the same conclusion. After all the Canadian newspaper does rather hopefully say that ‘It was never made clear Tuesday whether the detained Sri Lankan soldiers were actually executed.’

The original - including giggling girl with a camera filming other girls supposedly running from a scene of battle

Perhaps indeed the whole exercise was simply a spoof to frighten the poor wounded Sri Lankan soldiers, before feeding them turtle soup and making them generally comfortable. For soon afterwards another Canadian newspaper described yet another occupation in which the Tigers engaged. An article in ‘Postmedia News’ of the ‘Vancouver Sun’ on May 31st 2011 describes how yet another migrant from ‘the MV Sun Sea’ was ordered to be deported after the Immigration and Refugee Board found that ‘his activities in Sri Lanka -including an appearance in a Tamil Tiger propaganda video -constituted membership in a terrorist organization.’

The spoof - dated 10/05/2009

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Starring

David Miliband as Peter Pettigrew

Navanethem Pillay as Dolores Umbridge

Gareth Evans as Gilderoy Lockhart

Jon Snow as Rita Skeeter

Alan Keenan as Nagini

Joan Ryan as Bellatrix

And

Ban Ki-Moon as Prof Severus Snape

In May 2009 we thought the Terrorist Tigers had been vanquished. Mr Prabhakaran was dead, along with many of his fighting cadres, and most of the rest had surrendered. It was true that some had got away in the preceding months, and a few more managed to escape, but these by and large made their way out of the country. Sri Lanka itself seemed free of terror and terrorist activities. Though the remnants of the LTTE abroad continued to stick to their original agenda, it seemed that resurrection of the movement that had wreaked so much damage was unlikely.

The evil Lord Voldemort divided up his soul and stored the parts in 7 horcruxes all over the world

Recently however there are signs that the movement feels it has got a new lease of life. Taking advantage of what it sees as the vulnerability of the Sri Lankan government to international pressure, it has also endeavoured to convince the majority of the Tamil people abroad that the LTTE agenda can be revived. Most worryingly, it is also trying to stir dissension amongst Tamils in Sri Lanka, who would much rather work together with the rest of the country to ensure rehabilitation and reconciliation.

The strength of the old LTTE identity in other countries struck me, watching the one but last Harry Potter film, as arising from the dividing up of the LTTE persona in the way in which the evil Lord Voldemort had divided up his soul and stored the parts in seven horcruxes all over the world. While the list may not be exhaustive, we can see then the way in which LTTE rumps, in Britain and France and Canada and the United States and Australia and South Africa and India, have tried hard to make sure that their destructive agenda dominates discourse in those countries.

Navanetham Pillay - a self-righteous Dolores Umbridge

Once one realized how similar the LTTE was to Voldemort, the parallels flowed thick and fast. We have for instance Navanethem Pillay, who behaves exactly as Dolores Umbridge did, who was supposed to teach students to defend against the Dark Arts in the fifth Harry Potter book. What she did instead was to bully the decent people in her class, making them for instance torture themselves by a gruesome form of self confession, carving an admission of guilt into their own palms. So too Navenethem Pillay, instead of worrying about terrorism and real evil, uses her position as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to humiliate those who provided the best defence against terror.

And, just in case it might seem that I am upset about Dolores Pillay because of her relentless attacks on Sri Lanka, let me quote what one of the brighter Australians I know said – ‘Any denunciation is welcome of the preposterous Pillay woman.  She’s just been in Australia denouncing us as a Syria-like human-rights abuser.  Her ignorance and lack of proportion is breath-taking, matched only by her arrogance and self-righteousness.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Having heard the various presentations at the Seminar about Defeating Terrorism, I think that second only to admiration for the systematic work of our forces was regret about the deficiencies Rohan Guneratne noted, with regard to presentation of the story. I hope government will swiftly take up his suggestion that we develop better information dissemination strategies, not only in the Foreign Service and the Information Ministry but also within the services themselves .

Several years back, when I was Academic Coordinator of the degree programme at the Sri Lanka Military Academy, I drew attention to the failure of our officers to set down their experiences in writing, and indeed to analyse defeats as well as victories. I recall being told then that it might be difficult to have instituted projects on say the loss of Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi and Pooneryn in the nineties, and Elephant Pass in 2000, since some of the officers responsible for those setbacks were still in the army.

That seemed to me an unsatisfactory answer, given for instance how thoroughly the Indian Army had tackled the story of the IPKF, which was also a setback, even though from the Sri Lankan point of view it had provided a great service to us, which we should have permitted to be concluded. I believe the Indian army learnt from its mistakes then, and certainly study of those several books taught us much about the techniques the Tigers used, not only in terms of guerilla warfare but also the use of civilians as human shields and propaganda tools.

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Heyns & Alston

In trying to understand the extraordinary performance with regard to Sri Lanka of the present and the last UN High Commissioners for Human Rights, I am reminded constantly of what I was told by the previous Indian Ambassador to the Human Rights Council. When we were discussing the excessive number of UN employees from the West, he noted that, apart from that community of interests, they most of them came from the same sort of background. Thinking in terms of the interests of the Non-Governmental Organizations in which most of their work experience lay, they were unable to understand the basic principles on which the United Nations were founded, which gave primacy to the sovereignty of its member states. Read the rest of this entry »

Christof Heyns & Philip Alston

While obviously opinions will differ on the professional skills as well as the intellectual and moral reliability of experts used for various purposes, the characters Philip Alston and Christof  Heyns have used in their interchangeable impersonations of each other seem particularly strange.

I have noted already that the Heyns Report records that ‘The Government of Sri Lanka has discovered that Mr Spivack in a technical representative for a brand of specialised proprietary software which was used to enhance the video (2009) and which was shared with two other experts. Hence the assertion of independence may be impugned on the basis of the prior collaboration between the experts. The recipient experts responsible for ballistics and forensic pathology  both based their conclusion on the conclusions on the enhanced video provided by Mr. Spivack. Furthermore he does not at any point acknowledge the usage of the specialised software which has had a profound impact on the analysis.

The consultants however, as previously admit to what the Special Rapporteurs suppress, and Diaczuk  seems to admit that all he looked at was what Spivack sent on to him when he writes, ‘The video in question was initially received by traditional mail from Mr Jeff Spivack on 26-January-2011 burned onto a DVD, along with stills and short segments that have been stabilized to facilitate critical review.’ While Mr Heyns declares that his experts, or at least these three, provided their comments free of charge, he should also indicate whether any charges were levied for the technical services required to provide what is presented as stabilization ‘to facilitate critical review’. Read the rest of this entry »

When I was asked by al-Jazeera Television to be interviewed with regard to an article in the Guardian about the latest Channel 4 film on Sri Lanka, they kindly sent me a link which showed previous stories on Sri Lanka. The most prominent below the current story was an article by Gethin Chamberlain entitled ‘Civilians held in Sri Lanka camps face disease threat’.

The name and the headline brought back many memories of the tremendous threats Sri Lanka faced back in 2009. The article was written by Gethin Chamberlain in Menik Farm on April 20th that year. This was part of an effort we made then to show journalists what was going on. Most of them reported honestly, in particular the Indian journalists, who were able thus to assuage the fears of many of those in Tamil Nadu who might have succumbed to negative propaganda.

In that sense those of us who wanted an open policy with regard to journalists were justified. But we were not helped by Gethin Chamberlain and a few others, who somehow seemed determined to denigrate Sri Lanka at every conceivable opportunity. The headline he used on April 20th exemplifies this approach, with its highlighting of a ‘disease threat’.

But we were used to this by then. For several months before this, we had read reports that noted that there had been no epidemics amongst those the Tigers had forcibly taken with them when they retreated, despite the crowded and unsanitary conditions in which they were forced to live. But most such articles predicted an epidemic soon, though when nothing of the sort occurred, there were no plaudits for our health services, which we kept going throughout the war. Similarly, there were constant warnings of possible outbreaks of disease at Menik Farm, with no appreciation by journalists of the fact that they were proved wrong. Not unsurprisingly, none of them picked up on the appreciation extended by the UN to the Sri Lankan government for having avoided the catastrophe that had been so confidently predicted.

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Now that Channel 4 had produced yet another video which it claims provides unquestionable evidence that Sri Lankan forces committed war crimes, it is perhaps worth just recording a few of the facts that have been established in this regard. It will also be useful to extrapolate some facts from a case now being heard in Canada, which has been reported as follows –

‘The migrant testified that at the end of a particular battle, there was a “call” for Tigers with AK-47 rifles to come forward.

Under questioning from his lawyer Fiona Begg, he testified that he took the call as an invitation — not an order — to take part in the killing of wounded Sri Lankan soldiers, who were being held inside a house.

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Ambassador Kshenuka Senewiratne, Sri Lanka.

I was pleased to read a vigorous denunciation by our ambassador in Geneva of the negative comments about Sri Lanka contained in the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanetham Pillay. I had feared earlier that our Ambassador was far too trusting about Ms Pillay, perhaps having been taken in by her presumed penchant for sari parties, the all-girls-together approach that is no substitute for proper diplomacy. Having been told by a distinguished Indian that, whereas in Dayan Jayatilleka’s time there were requests for cooperation, we now simply asked for votes, I could understand why we seemed to be slipping behind in a world in which self-interest is all, and Sri Lanka is well on the way to being a lucrative object of self-interest on all sides. The fact that we are no longer the loser, into which continuing terrorism was rapidly turning us earlier, has been noticed, but not to congratulate us on our achievement but simply to raise the stakes.

In this context it is important that we make it clear how Navi Pillay has been consistently out on a limb against us, and her present performance is nothing to be surprised about. I missed therefore, in our Ambassador’s speech, reference to the manner in which Ms Pillay had been gunning for us from the start. The most obvious example of this occurred in June 2009, when she virtually challenged the decision made the previous week by the Human Rights Council. She was very properly rebuked by the Indian Ambassador, and in a context in which unnecessary and unfair comments about India are being made, it would have been sensible for our Ambassador to once again place on record our appreciation of the support India extended to us without reserve when we were under a profound terrorist threat.

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One factor that emerged during the recent seminar on Defeating Terrorism were the very different interpretations of the concept of surrender. David Kilcullen declared at one stage that the strategy adopted by our forces ‘gave the Tigers no opening to surrender’. Rohan Guneratne pointed out that this was not the case, and indeed early on, in February, when the Co-Chairs of the Peace Process called on the Tigers to surrender, the Government would have certainly accepted this. What Government was insistent on, having repeatedly requested the LTTE to return to Peace Talks, was that any surrender be unconditional.

"I have no idea myself what understanding the Tigers thought they had reached with Mr Solheim"

This reality the Co-Chairs seemed to recognize, and it led to great anger on the part of the Tigers. The Norwegian ambassador noted that their fury was directed primarily at the Norwegians, whom they accused of betrayal. I have no idea myself what understanding the Tigers thought they had reached with Mr Solheim, but certainly the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, as represented by both Mr Hattrem and his predecessor Mr Bratskar, had no illusions about the brutality of the Tigers.  

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Rajiva Wijesinha

June 2011
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