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.

And I think there is perhaps an attempt to put the same pressure on Sri Lanka by a few people in a few countries because I’m sure no government actually articulates such motives clearly…they tend to have an impetus towards interference that a more sober look at things would prevent.

What do you think of the report? There are serious allegations against both sides…

That’s absolutely nonsensical, it’s the standard thing to say it looks at both sides but as I’ve said, looking at the Human Rights Watch report, and we can see that much of this is influenced by HRW who refused to come before our own panel – I think they are a bit nervous. Perhaps of me because when they were supposed to debate me in the House of Commons they ran away – essentially, HRW had a 20 paragraph thing once in which 17 were about us and just 3 about the LTTE. It’s quite ridiculous to say the whole thing is even-handed because they’re now talking about retribution, and it’s a bit vulgar now in the 21st century to talk of retributive justice being equal to restorative justice, and indeed to the reconciliation that we want to promote. But these people are basically going back to the old tradition of an eye for an eye, and I think underlying it is they want to punish the Sri Lankan government which has dealt more successfully with terrorism than any other in the world, and also more humanely if you look at the actual figures.

Now going through the details of the allegations, you will find that a lot of them simply regurgitate things we have previously shown to be misleading, for instance the discussion on hospitals and so on and so forth, and I’ve done a detailed analysis of this which should be appearing in the newspapers and on the blog fairly soon, but unfortunately I did not get to show it to the panel.

What do the rest of the Parliament and government think of this report?
Parliament hasn’t met, there have been some descriptions in the paper of reactions of individuals. The opposition in Sri Lanka has come out very, very strongly against the report – or at least individuals have, I don’t think they’ve taken a common position – that’s the main opposition party. Rather sadly, the leader of the TNA has made a statement that I think is almost triumphalist. But he’s done this before – when, soon after the war, I tried very hard to talk to him, you know the President encouraged this so we could discuss how the TNA – which is the main Tamil parliamentarians – could move towards a reconciliation, he kept saying things like yes, but you know I’m too busy, I have to see the American Ambassador, the Norwegian Ambassador, the British Ambassador. So the line was almost:  we won’t talk to you, we will try and get the foreigners to do it and I think he has fallen into this trap again.

One thing I told the British Foreign Office some time last year was please don’t encourage the rump of the LTTE by telling us to talk to former terrorists, even if they have convinced you that they are no longer terrorists. Encourage the Sri Lankan government to work with Tamils in Sri Lanka towards reconciliation. This was the approach of the Indian government which was very civilised. They said the terrorist outfit has to be got rid of, but please work with the Tamils, this was a very sensible procedure. I am very sorry that this type of report encourages a few people to think that they don’t have to rely on the democratic process in Sri Lanka.

Is this a big report in Sri Lanka? Are people waiting for it, are they interested in it in Sri Lanka, or is it a different situation?

The short answer is, I really don’t know. There has been quite a lot of discussion in the newspapers but, as I said, the main opposition is not trying to jump on any sort of bandwagon which I think is a good thing and I think it displays very clearly that they too feel the bulk of the Sri Lankans will find this report a very vulgar exercise. I don’t think anyone’s got particularly excited about it at the moment, I think it is important that members of the Security Council have made it very, very clear that this is not an official document and I think this whole exercise has been rather regrettable.

As I told the British, if you want us to hark back to terrorism, we are not playing at all. If you want to encourage us to work with the Tamil population of Sri Lanka, well that’s what we want to do, that’s what the Indians, who have supported us admirably against terrorism without the double standards of some westerners – by the way I’ve just read Craig Murray, the Ambassador to Uzbekistan, the chap who was sacked for objecting to things he thought were wrong. I think that sort of double standard is so obnoxious – the Indians never do things like that and I’m happy to say that most of the countries who voted for us in 2009 have made their position very clear. I think it’s such a pity that the panel has been so naked in their grief for the defeat of many of the countries that they work for.

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