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American Ambassador Patricia Butenis

Report of the One-Man Panel appointed by One Man to look into allegations of impropriety highlighted by the Daily Mirror which had reported that

Diplomats, representatives of diplomatic missions and Non-Governmental Organization representatives in Colombo met at the United States Ambassador’s residence to discuss the United Nations Secretary General’s Panel Report. 


The meeting was reported to have been held at the invitation of US Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis on Thursday but the US Embassy refused to deny or confirm the meeting. 


“As a matter of policy we don’t comment on the Ambassador’s meetings or what is discussed at these meetings,” a US Embassy Official told Daily Mirror. 


National Peace Council Executive Director Jehan Perera confirmed that such a meeting had taken place on the invitation of Ms. Butenis. 


“We discussed the Panel Report and how to make use of it as a constructive instrument for reconciliation instead of one of division and polarization,” he said.


Dr. Perera said those who attended included Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu (Centre for Policy Alternatives), Sherine Xavier (Home for Human Rights), J.C. Weliamuna (Transparency International), Sudarshana Gunawardena (Rights Now) and Sunila Abeysekera.


The diplomats were from India, Britain, the European Union, the Netherlands, France, Canada, Australia, UN Officials, Japan, Norway, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and Italy.  

 

In view of repercussions this meeting might have with regard to the ongoing peace process, and various allegations that have been raised about this meeting and other possible interference in Sri Lanka by those responsible to external bodies, the former Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat appointed himself as a one man Panel to advise the media on the possible scope of such a consultation and the motivations of those who had participated.

The Panel’s mandate does not extend to fact-finding or investigation. The Panel analysed information from a variety of sources in order to characterize the extent of the allegations, assess which of the allegations are credible, based on the information at hand, and appraise them in terms of possible consequences. The Panel determined an allegation to be credible if there was a reasonable basis to believe that the underlying act or event occurred.

The Panel followed the principles adopted by the Kiki Darusman Panel, and assumed that it was best to follow the language that has given rise to such excitement in the drawing rooms of Jefferson House. Following Para 152, it may safely be asserted that  – there are many indirect accounts reported that the meeting was organized at the report of Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, which is largely funded by countries represented at the meeting.

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Child soldiers recruited by the LTTE

The Report seems to have a strong political angle, and even blames the UN in Colombo for in effect not providing material that would have led to a resolution against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

If they really wanted to be critical of the UN, they should have dealt with the principal problem which is failure to deal firmly with three areas in which the LTTE got away with criminality

First, the failure to stop child recruitment.  As has been made clear, the then  UNICEF representative in Sri Lanka Joanna van Gerpenin connived at LTTE’s refusal to stop this. She told me in 2007 that the LTTE had finally agreed to release people under 17. When I said that they had promised this five years previously, she said they had had some difficulties, but would not really do it.

Worse, when I pointed out that 17 was too low, she claimed that the LTTE had explained to her that they had provision for this, and that to raise the limit would need a change in their legislation. It is outrageous that UNICEF should have thus connived with criminality. Neil Buhne, the new UN Resident Coordinator, to whom I complained did not take disciplinary action, but instead allowed her to write an apologetic letter.

 

Second, connivance in continuing recruitment. When I upbraided Neil about the stunning silence of the UN on this matter, he said that they had raised it. I challenged him to show me an instance, and he came back to say it had only been in internal documents. It was appalling that no effort was made to stop this brutal practice – though it should be noted that this silence was paralleled by that of NGOs woking in the area. It was only the Norwegian Ambassador, Mr Brattskar, who informed us of the reality after his last visit to Kilinochchi.

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Catherine Philp - foreign correspondent, The Times (of London)

The most serious canard advanced against Sri Lanka is of massive numbers of civilians having been killed. This was first floated in the London Times, which gave a figure of 20,000 and gave three separate reasons for this calculation. The first was that the UN had assessed the number of those who died by the end of April at around 7,000, and after that deaths were at the rate of about 1000 a day. Later the Times claimed that it had extrapolated a figure, which was based on I think quadrupling the number of actual dead bodies. Finally they claimed to have satellite imagery of graves in the area in which the LTTE made its last stand.

This last preposterous claim belied the initial assertion that it had included those who had died in earlier months, which would of course have been elsewhere. It also made clear the determination of the LTTE to distinguish as civilians all those who died.

I have noted elsewhere that those who died would fall into three categories. The first is that of LTTE fighters who were committed members of the organization, well trained in terrorism. The second is those who were forced by the LTTE to fight. We know that the number of these was enormous. The UN was aware, though they did nothing about it, not even publicizing the fact, that from 2007 onward if not before, the LTTE was insisting that all families in the Vanni provided one member for the LTTE fighting force.  Since the number of families in the Vanni turned out to be much larger than the UN had indicated, we have to assume that, even if the LTTE was only half successful, they would have added another 30,000 or so into their fighting ranks.

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Marzuki 'Ki Ki' Darusman

One of the more astonishing features of the Darusman Panel is the character of its chairman. I have in fact met him, for he has participated in workshops organized by the Council for Asian Liberals and Democrats, which I now chair. He was I think Attorney General of Indonesia in those days, serving in the government of President Abdurrahman Wahid, who subsequently became an individual member of CALD.

What I did not know then, and only found out recently was that Mr Darusman had previously been a member of the Golkar Party of President Suharto. In 1999 he was Co-Chairman of that Party and also Chairman of the Indonesian National Commission for Human Rights.

In that year the BBC wrote as follows about the fact that ‘alleged atrocities by pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor are set to be investigated by an international commission, after the United Nations’ main human rights body voted in favour of an inquiry’ ‘ –

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Transcript of an interview with Channel 4 News,  kindly provided by Channel 4 News who subsequently did not present any Sri Lankan viewpoint in their news coverage.

What will the reaction in Sri Lanka be to the UN report?

I can’t speak for general reaction. I think it is a mistake to call it the UN report as I think some members of the Security Council have pointed out. Essentially the Secretary General told us he was appointing a panel to advise him on what he should do on issues of accountability, and of course advise him personally, so it is something he can decide on. What we have seen so far of the report, I haven’t read the whole, suggests a political agenda and I have reacted to this on my blog which your listeners might be interested in https://rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com – pointing out the political aspects of this which seem inappropriate.

One thing that is very clear is that the panelists were deeply upset by the fact that the Human Rights council voted resoundingly against an attempt by some countries – I think Mr Miliband was behind this – to arraign Sri Lanka of war crimes in May 2009. There was a resounding vote in favour of Sri Lanka and during this panel report they keep saying that should be reversed, which I think shows the intentions of the panelists.

What do you think the political agenda is?

It does seem to me to raise questions about the Sri Lankan government’s actions which are designed to put pressure on the government, and there are several reasons for this that one can think of. One is that all the panelists come from a particular background that thinks a democratically elected government has to be subject to their predilections. The second of course harks back to some governments wanting to in a sense interfere with governments that perhaps don’t toe the line. We’ve seen some examples of this recently in the Middle East, where you have such inconsistency between how they treat one country and another that the political let’s say predilections are obvious.

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SB Dissanayake

I do not suppose it is essential to write much more about the 2010 US Report on Human Rights in Sri Lanka. I hope I have shown that, while details of particular cases are of interests, and these should be gone into by government, and redress provided where appropriate, the bulk of the report is emphatically political in nature. It seems designed mainly to throw suspicion onto government, primarily with regard to treatment of the Tamils.

There are however a few other areas which are particularly worrying, which I should mention. Most surprising to me was the implicit critique of S B Dissanayake, wrongly described as the Minister of Education. Only two Ministers are named, Wimal Weerawansa and Douglas Devananda (also wrongly described), obviously two individuals the Americans would love to hate, for very different reasons.

There seems no obvious reason to hate S B, but he is the only other Minister whose actions are criticized, inasmuch as there is a paragraph in the section on ‘Arbitrary Arrest or Detention’ of which he is the centerpiece – ‘Some arrests appeared arbitrary. In September several university students were detained for hooting at the Minister of Education during a public event. These arrests contributed to a wave of student protests in September and October, resulting in additional arrests and detentions of students. By year’s end 76 university students were banned from attending lectures because of participation in protests and related incidents. The government blamed the protests and incidents on left-wing opposition parties’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Director

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung

Dear Sir,

My attention was drawn yesterday by two people to the following news item which appeared in Lanka News Web.

Governing party parliamentarian Rajiva Wijesinghe has intervened and got a scholarship for UNP parliamentarian Buddhika Pathirana through the German NGO Ebert Stiftung.

Buddhika is scheduled to travel overseas on the 10th of May. However, several members of Sajith Premadasa’s group had asked Buddhika to postpone the visit since an article was published in the Lankadeepa newspaper stating that a German NGO had provided funds to Sajith against UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Buddhika received the support and financial support of German NGO Frederic Neumann, which stands for liberal democratic ideals, for several years. However, Buddhika has been introduced to the Ebert Stiftung NGO by Rajiva Wijesinghe.

I was astonished by this, since I have had almost no contact ever with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Indeed, except when recently I was invited to an event at the suggestion of my sister who was speaking, I believe I have never been invited to programmes you have.

I believe Lanka News Web was started by associates of Mr Mangala Samaraweera, who is currently in the United National Party, and it is likely that this news item is part of the ongoing struggle within that party. I believe Mr Buddhika Pathirana is seen as a supporter of Mr Sajith Premadasa for the leadership, which is understandable.

Mr Pathirana had a leading position in the Liberal Youth Leagues which were funded by the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung through the Institute for Democracy and Leadership which is headed by Mr Ravi Karunanayake. It is true that the FNS in Sri Lanka, having previously funded the Council for Liberal Democracy, which was associated with the Liberal Party, decided to plump for Mr Ravi Karunanayake a decade or so back.

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I was deeply saddened to see the statement issued this morning in the name of Mr Sambandan following the leaking of some of the report of the UN panel. The statement seems to hark back to the confrontational approach the TNA had repeatedly adopted when opportunities for reconciliation were available.

I was reminded then of my efforts, as Head of the Peace Secretariat, to meet Mr Sambandan, as discussed with His Excellency the President, shortly after the defeat of the LTTE. Mr Sambandan, while never refusing outright, kept saying he was too busy, because he had to meet with several foreign dignitaries. Clearly, he felt that peace was better achieved by requesting foreign pressure rather than by discussions with mandated Sri Lankans.

Subsequently, the TNA decided to support the candidature of Sarath Fonseka for the Presidency. Given the pronouncements of General Fonseka both before and after the victory over the LTTE, and his efforts to slow down resettlement of the displaced, I cannot believe that Mr Sambandan and his colleagues seriously felt that Mr Fonseka’s candidacy was the best option for the Tamil people.

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20 April 2011

The Editor – The Island

I write to exercise a right of reply to the statement you have quoted from the Report of the UN Panel which claims that the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights responded by accusing the ICRC of naiveté when I responded to a statement issued by the ICRC in Geneva.

The Panel has been selective in suggesting that my response dealt with the ICRC’s  reminder that ‘wounded and sick people, medical personnel and medical facilities are all protected by international humanitarian law. Under no circumstances may they be directly attacked’.

The Panel’s efforts to denigrate the Ministry are not naïve; they seem rather to be extremely cunning.  My statement dealt primarily with the appeal of the ICRC ‘to both sides’ to allow movement of civilians out of the combat zone and in noting that patients needed evacuation. Those who now try to achieve political ends through devious reports failed signally then to exert any pressure at all to make the LTTE let the civilians leave. Of course we wanted them to move out of the combat zone, because we knew the LTTE was planning to use them as human shields. But they were allowed to continue with this wicked plan, perhaps so that our advance could be stopped, perhaps because, when that effort failed, we could be punished for what the LTTE did.

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I am writing in response to criticism of me contained in Dr Saravanamuttu’s article in your newspaper this morning, arising from some reports in the Sunday Leader. His main criticism is that I took no action on the note about Sarath Fonseka I was given at the British High Commission, which he reports without adding the reasons I gave, which even the Leader was kind enough to mention.

I agree with Dr Saravanamuttu that the incident does raise moral issues, but taking action in such situations is never simple. Passing on such a note means that one takes on responsibility for the communication, and implies that one believes it should be acted upon. It was in this context that the Irudina for instance asked if I would be prepared to testify in a Court of Law once the matter was publicized, and I said that if asked to, unquestionably I would agree. I could of course only testify to what had happened, but any responsible authority would have asked my views on the contents of the note.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

April 2011
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