See No Good, Hear No Good, Speak No Good


THE DARUSMAN PANEL

 

A review of the evidence

in the context of past realities and future plans

 

This collection of essays has been prepared to shed light on the Report of the Panel appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations.

It is divided into several sections. The first looks into the manner in which the Panel was set up and what it says. The critique both of purported facts and modalities adopted is followed by analysis of some of the personalities involved in what seems a well targeted plan. This is followed by letters that respond to questions as well as particular allegations.

 

The Report

 

1.   Assessing the Secretary General’s Panel

2.   Shoddy and Suspicious Details in the  Report

3.   The complicity of the international community in causing and exaggerating death

4.   The UN network of informers

5.   The brutal misuse of hospitals by the LTTE and the Darusman Panel

6.   Bad Faith

7.   Impunity for false allegations – Rape, Hillary Clinton and Gethin Chamberlain

8.   Using food as a weapon – the Tigers and the Darusman Panel

9.   The Panel’s two showpieces

10. Perverting conditions at Menik Farm

11. Continuing Victimization through Self-Righteousness

12. The tentative world of the Darusman Panelists

The Reporters and Other Actors

13. The many personalities of Kiki Darusman

14. Mr Sambandan’s Triumphalism

15. Bradman and his boys and UN funds

16. American Ambassador Patricia Butenis may have deliberately omitted forces dedicated to reconciliation from the consultation she organized

17. The involvement of UN officials in the programmes of either Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu or Patricia Butenis

18. Promoting Treachery – a new dimension to political affairs

Related Aspects

19.  Response to allegations made by Dr Saravanamuttu

20. Letter to the Editor, The Island

21.  Responses to Lakbima News

22. Responses sent to IRIN, the news agency of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance

23.  Asian Tribune: Q & A with Prof Rajiwa Wijesinhe

24.  Letter to the UN Secretary General


1. ASSESSING THE SECRETARY GENERAL’S PANEL

Sunday Observer, April 17th2011

I have now had an opportunity to read through what is supposed to be the Report of the Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to advise him on what were termed accountability issues. The report has been leaked by the indefatigable Sanjana Hattotuwa, who does however note that he cannot confirm if this is the actual text. He adds that the UN has regretted the leak.

In responding to the report, I believe there are four areas on which we should concentrate, with dignity but determination. The first is to look at the alleged facts, on the basis of which the Panel has made certain criticisms of our armed forces. The second is to deal with their suggestions as to how the country can ensure reconciliation, with appropriate remedial action. The third is to examine the methodology employed by the Panel. Finally, we should consider, on the evidence of the document, and not simply in terms of prior suspicious, though these may be used to substantiate internal evidence, the motivation behind this report.

To deal with the first question, if this is part of the report, it must be just a small part because, as with previous such attacks on the Sri Lankan government, it consists largely of generalizations and very few facts. The UN however cannot be so irresponsible, and I would certainly have expected more of Mr Darusman, who seemed a polished and decent chap when I met him at a Workshop organized by the Asian Liberals some years back. I suspect then that we will have details of supposed violations by the armed forces.

I do not suppose these will be difficult to deal with, since we have already looked at the basis on which these allegations were made. There are claims that we shelled hospitals, which was a principal component of an earlier report by Human Rights Watch, to which I conclusively gave the lie some time back. There is an assertion that tens of thousands died in the last few months of the conflict, which I have shown is absolute nonsense. There is an accusation that we shelled on a large scale in three No Fire Zones, when I have pointed out that the Head of the UN, who first accused us of this, retracted later the same day and noted that most of the shelling came from the LTTE.

Of course the Panel may bring out instances other than those we have dealt with, but I suspect the mixture will be more of the same. Even more alarmingly, there is a plethora of allegations about the Welfare Centres, whereas we actually did a fantastic job there, despite some incompetence on the part of a few international officials and aid agencies who nearly caused a cholera outbreak because of their total disregard for national standards with regard to the construction of toilets.

With regard to the second point, the Panel has put its cards on the table in making clear its belief that healing can only come through what it characterizes as retributive justice. It also harangues the Government by claiming that it is both triumphalist and exclusionary. This again is nonsensical, given the fervent attempts of government to promote equitable development for all, the rapid strides taken in making inclusive language policies more meaningful (after twenty years in which the provision that made Tamil an official language was largely ignored), the distinction made between satisfaction at having defeated terrorism and determination to make up to the Tamil people for what they have suffered.

As for the third point, it seems to me that the Panel has far exceeded its brief in that we were assured by the Secretary General that it was intended to advise him on Accountability issues, whereas it seems to have seen its role as that of cutting the Sri Lankan government down to size. We knew from the start that there was some uncertainty on the part of members of the Panel, given that they thought it essential to come to Sri Lanka, whereas the Secretary General accepted that this was not essential. We also have to remember that many of those who pushed for such a panel were anxious to try us for War Crimes, and indeed individuals who sought appointment to the Panel they anticipated made it clear that this is what they thought they would be doing. I have no evidence that the three members who were finally appointed had this view, but given their connections with what one might call the Human Rights establishment, it is possible they were led astray.

Connected with this is their total disregard for the Aristotelian principle of treating the same things in a different fashion being one of the principal causes of injustice. It is astonishing that a South African and an Indonesian cry out for retributive justice, given what happened in their own countries, and how much swifter the process of reconciliation has been when there were no calls for the blood of those who had been oppressive and then had to give up power to more enlightened dispensations. Of course in Sri Lanka it was the government which won out in the end, against a singularly brutal enemy, but it seems that this difference has contributed to an anxiety to do us down.

Even more astonishing is the sanctimoniousness of an American, who seems ignorant of the systemic abuse of Rights his government has engaged in, during what it terms its ongoing War on Terror. We make no criticism of this ourselves, because we realize how terrified and vulnerable America felt after the September 2011 attacks. Others may claim that those attacks have been used to justify appalling excesses, but it is not surprising that the UN cannot look into such matters.

At the same time we recognize that what might be termed the Democratic establishment did have genuine qualms about what was going on. Unfortunately, having come to power themselves, they cannot really take remedial action in areas where American interests run deep. I am reminded then of what a Republican said to me, that we needed to be careful, since what he described as the bleeding hearts would therefore concentrate their fire on countries like Sri Lanka – though he did add that, if we could keep the Americans happy, the actual decision makers could tell them to turn their fire on Djibouti.

This connects with perhaps the most worrying element in the whole exercise, the motivation behind the attacks. The repeated regrets about the defeat in 2009 of the Resolution brought by several European countries before the Human Rights Council make it clear that that rankles. It is not obviously the role of a small country to see off an attack by such powerful entities. When the report goes on to recommend strong Civil Society participation in looking at our recent history, we can see where the Panelists are coming from, given also what we now know about the selective manner in which the more forceful elements of such Civil Society are funded.

In short, we can see here again an effort to ensure continuing domination of a sovereign state, an exercise that the Jayewardene/Wickremesinghe tradition in the UNP has made seem the natural fate of Sri Lanka. We need to resist this firmly, but at the same time we need to learn from our mistakes that have once again laid us open to such an attempt. We need to move swiftly on reforms that will strengthen the rights, the potentialities and the opportunities available of all our people. We need to respond swiftly and forcefully to all allegations, instead of letting these lie unanswered until they are then accepted as gospel. We need to develop a solid constructive foreign policy, and make sure that we pursue it with intelligence and consistency, with proper training for all personnel serving abroad as well as those interacting with the international community in Sri Lanka.

I should note that I have been immensely heartened by the little I have noticed of our current Foreign Secretary in action. I am happy that we are proceeding apace now with the Human Rights Action Plan that we pledged three years ago, and I hope that we can move soon too on the Bill of Rights that the President pledged in his first election manifesto way back in 2005. We need to concentrate more on Human Resources in the North and East, as well as for youngsters in deprived areas. And we need greater understanding of the way the world works, instead of obsequiousness to the rich and powerful at times, combined with excessive reactions when we, suddenly as it seems, realize that they are interested neither in us nor in morality, but only in their own interests. We do not need to get angry with them about that, such behavior is natural, and has been the stuff of international relations for years – but we need to know, and learn from them, the importance of packaging. This should not be difficult, given that in comparison with anyone else who has dealt with terrorism, we have a good story to tell – but we should tell it, not wait to be threatened by default.


2.  SHODDY AND SUSPICIOUS DETAILS IN THE DARUSMAN PANEL REPORT

Daily News, April 22nd2011

I have not yet seen the full report issued by the panel appointed by Ban ki Moon, but the Sunday Island of the 17th carries a fascinating extract

“In the early morning hours of 24 January, hundreds of shells rained down on the NFZ. Those with access to the United Nations bunker dove into it for protection. But most IDPs did not have bunkers and nowhere to take cover. People were screaming and crying out for help. The United Nations security officer, a highly experienced military officer,  and others present discerned that the shelling was coming from the south from SLA positions…Heavy shelling continued overnight and shells continued to hit the United Nations hub and the distribution center killing numerous civilians…When United Nations Staff, emerged from the bunker at first morning light at the first opportunity, mangled bodies and body parts were strewn all around them, including those of many women and children.  Remains of babies had been blasted upwards into the trees. Among the dead were people who had helped dig the bunker the previous day…”

This particular attack on us is not unexpected. The security officer who is mentioned is Chris du Toit, from a very distinguished South African family that had been involved in military activity during the apartheid regime too. He was responsible for the initial claim of around I think 2000 civilian deaths, which some people in the UN system began to circulate in February 2009.

We found these figures excessive and called him in to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights and questioned him about the basis of the figure. Nishan Muthukrishna, adviser to the Minister, was with me, and we questioned him in detail. He said that there were three elements taken into consideration, first the dead bodies they had themselves seen by UN staff, secondly reports they received, and thirdly extrapolation. Pressed on the number of those seen by the UN, he said it was something like 39, over the previous month. Given what he then said about the numbers calculated on the other methods, I believe the figure that was being floated around was excessive. The implications of the methods he employed, for speculation that is now treated as gospel by the panel, need to be reviewed in greater detail, with I shall do shortly, along with a more realistic assessment of actual casualty figures.

Du Toit had been in Mullaitivu recently as the Report notes, staying on without the permission of the Sri Lankan government, which had caused considerable heartache to his boss Neil Buhne as well as us. Nishan, who had known him previously, had found him a suspicious character, with an agenda that went beyond simple security services to the UN. When he left, it was under a cloud, with audit queries about misuse of funds, though I do not think there was any suggestion that he was himself guilty of peculation. Unfortunately there is no transparency in the UN system about such skimming of funding that in theory was part of the Humanitarian Action Plan, and I fear that we simply do not question enough about such improprieties.

Nishan was of the view that Chris Du Toit was part of a group trying to build up a case againstSri Lanka, though the excuse offered for his staying on in Mullaitivu was that he was trying to negotiate the release of the local UN staff and their families whom the LTTE was holding hostage. Needless to say, he was not successful. Worse, his return was delayed day after day, with the LTTE seeming to agree to stop firing to let him and his colleague move, and then welshing on the agreement. This meant that, the Sri Lankan army having been asked to suspend hostilities, found that this had been in vain (and doubtless the LTTE had taken advantage of any lull to strengthen their own positions).

When this happened for the umpteenth time while he was with us (at a meeting at the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Disaster Relief Services, on January 28th), I asked Neil Buhne, the UNDP Head, whom I rather liked and trusted, though I felt he was in some awe of Du Toit, why they did not make public the double dealing of the LTTE. They would certainly make a song and dance if we did anything even remotely similar, to which his reply was, ‘But you guys wouldn’t…’ He paused, and I finished the sentence for him, ‘kill you’, which he seemed to grant though he did not say it himself.

Du Toit then, while ensuring that our progress was slowed down, was busy counting. However, under close questioning, he had to admit that, while there had been firing on areas near where he had been sleeping, he could not say with any certainty from which direction the firing had come. He had brought with him large pictures of craters caused by shells, and he took out one and said that was the only shot the direction of which they could be certain of, and that had come from the direction of the LTTE forces.

The passage cited in the Sunday Island then is utterly misleading and mischievous. There would obviously have been firing from Sri Lankan Army lines, since we were fighting a war with a strong enemy, but Du Toit did not at the time suggest he had any evidence for the impression the UN Report seeks to give. Indeed, a few days earlier, while Neil Buhne had initially called up my Minister, to say he had information that we were firing into the No Fire Zone, he ‘sent a text message at the end of the day to say that he believed most of the firing came from the LTTE’, as I wrote in a Peace Secretariat Press Release. Indeed I kept the message on my phone for some months, and showed it to those who had been taken in by propaganda from the LTTE (and I fear Du Toit behind our back, though he did not dare to make such allegations when we questioned him).

I should note too that there are strange discrepancies between the story told by Du Toit in the UN Report, the much more circumspect reports of allegations made in the US State Department Report of late 2009, and the allegations on Tamil Net made at the time of the supposed incident. The Sunday Island draws attention to discrepancies between the first two, Du Toit talking about deaths in Suthantirapuram because of hundreds of shells raining down in ‘the early morning hours of 24 January’, with no figures given though the language implies lots of casualties. He had also said that a shell had fallen the previous day on a food distribution point, ‘killing and wounding a large number of civilians’. The US report talks of 11 killed on January 24th, though it does not give the location. In addition it talks of 8 people killed on January 25th by ‘shelling in the area allocated for the United Nations’ with many people, including ’35 residents of an elders’ home’ being present ‘when the first shell hit at 8.30 pm’.

TamilNet on the contrary, which one knows would have presented the worst case scenario, claims 11 people were killed on January 22nd, but transfers an alleged incident near a supply centre to January 25th. It mentions no elders’ home, but rather an institution for disabled children at Val’llipunam which was ‘targeted’ on 22nd January. This discrepancy suggests good training in pressing the right buttons to attract sympathy, but a lack of coordination as to which particular button to press at which moment.

It could be argued that such discrepancies are minor, but it does raise questions about the method employed by the compilers of the UN Report. The Panellists seem to have succumbed to a mechanism that we were aware Chris Du Toit was setting in motion two years ago. It is a pity that we could not follow up on the questioning Nishan and I engaged in then, and that we did not reply promptly to the US State Department Report a few months later, since trawling back through documents and memory is more difficult now. But clearly we need to make the effort thoroughly.

3. THE COMPLICITY OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IN CAUSING AND EXAGGERATING DEATH

Island,  April 27th 2011

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.

Sadly we know that some of these conscripted youngsters fell victim to our forces. When storming a bunker from which the enemy is firing, soldiers cannot distinguish between those in uniform and well armed, and those who have also been dragooned into the frontline. We must regret the deaths of such youngsters, but there is no way they could have been avoided, once the international community decided to stay quiet about the conscription and about the determination of the LTTE to force everyone to go with them in their retreat.

Finally there are the civilians who died in collateral damage. Though the Report suggests that there was deliberate targeting of civilians, it is clear that this was not the policy of the armed forces. A very interesting detail in the Report by the Jaffna University Teachers for Human Rights, on the last stages of war, describes the manner in which the LTTE would fire from amidst civilians in an attempt to provoke the army into firing back. On some occasions this may have happened, but what is remarkable is a description of an instance in which soldiers refused to fire, even though this increased the danger this was in. Given that it is unlikely that soldiers disobeyed orders to fire in such a situation, one can see that the orders were that they should not fire when there was danger to civilians, though obviously soldiers feeling in danger of death themselves may not always have held back.

The failure of the Darusman Panel to look into such evidence is deplorable. It is as though they have decided to go with the highest conceivable numbers for deaths, and then attribute the bulk of them to the Sri Lankan forces, with no care for assessing the numbers of those killed by the LTTE, the numbers of those forced by the LTTE to sacrifice themselves, the numbers deliberately endangered by the LTTE by their practice of  firing ‘artillery in proximity to large groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs)’ and firing from or storing ‘military equipment near IDPs or civilian installations such as hospitals’.

What I can only describe as the Panel’s wickedness is apparent from the fact that this description is preceded by the statement that ‘From February 2009 onwards, the LTTE started point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly adding to the death toll in the final stages of the war.’ Not only does the Panel suggest that the LTTE did not do this before, it downplays the fact that the deliberate endangering of civilians in the lines that follow, cited above, also significantly added to the death toll. But no, the Panel has to hold the government responsible for that death toll.

What is also clear is that the Panel has made no serious effort to calculate the number of probable deaths based on clear, publicly available statistics. I refer to those of the ICRC, which during the last few months regularly brought down groups of sick and wounded to government hospitals. Regular bulletins of numbers were issued by the ICRC, and indicate that, between February and May, a total of 13, 826 persons were thus conveyed.

In addition to the sick and the wounded, this number included what are termed bystanders, ie accompanying persons. I remembered from last year that the number of bystanders was in fact more than that of the wounded and sick, which suggested that there could not have been quite as many urgent cases in need of better medical attention as was constantly being suggested.

Last year I had noticed that there were quite a few sick amongst the wounded, but half way through the distinction was not made in the figures that were published, and I was told that there had been some confusion after it was decided that patients should not be brought to Trincomalee, but should rather be taken to the hospital the Indians had helped to set up at Pulmoddai. The reasons for this change included, apart from protests from the people of Trincomalee that their access to medical facilities was being limited by the influx, was that government had realized that amongst the so-called bystanders were LTTE cadres who might create problems.

I was unable to obtain this year from the ICRC a breakdown of bystanders and patients, whether sick or wounded, but I knew that that distinction had been maintained, and I found on the ICRC website that there were 6.600 wounded and sick individuals amongst the more than 13,000 who had been brought down – ie, I was right in remembering that there were more bystanders than patients. I was later also able to find the figure of actual war wounded, which was 4,520, with the bystanders (including the sick it seemed by that calculation) being 9306.

Now anyone serious about assessing the number of those killed would have looked at these figures, and tried to extrapolate from standard ratios of dead to wounded, instead of engaging in the preposterous calculations of the Times and Chris du Toit, the South African intelligence expert with his experience of how apartheid worked.

If we assume a ratio of 1 to 3, which is far from conservative, we then have a death toll from war wounds of about 1,500. However, there is the possibility that the LTTE was actually preventing the wounded from getting to hospitals where they could be better looked after, so that they could send what were termed bystanders for whatever reason; and even if this is discounted, we know that the wounded would have been more than 4,500 since not all would have had access to the ICRC ships.

But, even if we double the figure, we get a figure of about 3,000 deaths in the period upto May 9th. The worst case scenario adduced by the Times adds on 1,000 a day for 10 days more, which gives 13,000, but given what we know of the propensity to exaggerate, as the ICRC figures makes clear, we can see that even half that figure, viz another 5,000, would be the maximum conceivable.

If we go back then to the fact that amongst these were not only hard core Tiger fighters but also those who had been conscripted with no one trying to save them, we realize that the number of civilians who died is far less than the tens of thousands adduced by the Panel.

 

4. THE UN NETWORK OF INFORMERS

Daily News,  April 30th 2011

The revelation by the Darusman Panel that the UN had networks of observers in ‘LTTE-controlled areas’ has not received the attention it requires. The propriety of the UN setting this up needs to be questioned, inasmuch as it indicates what seems to be a parallel source of authority without reference to the government of the country.

The extract that refers to this network also records how it was formed: ‘An internal “Crisis Operations Group” was formed to collect reliable information regarding civilian casualties and other humanitarian concerns. In order to calculate a total casualty figure, the Group took figures from RDHS as the baseline, using reports from national staff of the United Nations and NGOs, inside the Vanni, the ICRC, religious authorities and other sources to cross-check and verify the baseline. The methodology was quite conservative: if an incident could not be verified by three sources or could have been double-counted, it was dismissed. Figures emanating from sources that could be perceived as biased, such as Tamil Net, were dismissed, as were Government sources outside the Vanni’.

The sweeping manner in which Government sources outside the Vanni are put on par with Tamil Net requires consideration in a context in which the UN is supposed to be working together with Government. Unfortunately this type of loose talk was encouraged by a lack of precision of the part of various agencies in Government. I have written enough about the battle I had almost single handed to ensure accountability to Government, only to be criticized for this even by people in government who thought I was upsetting good helpmates of Sri Lanka. So here I will only point out the effrontery of the European Union which had prepared ‘Modes of Operation for Aid Agencies’ which asserted that such agencies held the balance between Government and the LTTE. I got rid of this nonsense the week after I took over as Secretary, after which the Europeans lost interest in the Modes of Operation.

The ‘internal “Crisis Operations Group”’ seems to have been on a par with what was termed the Coffee Club, a group of international NGOs that were led by shadowy figures who were very hostile to the Sri Lankan government, and who actively promoted a petition to the Secretary General sent in September 2008 that was deeply critical of the Sri Lankan government. It was in essence drafted by Alan Keenan of the International Crisis Group in Colombo and a man called Peter Bowling in London who I was informed by an official in our High Commission (who was very positive about the West in general) was close to the Tigers. Typically, they tried to have the petition submitted by Sri Lankan NGOs so that their own involvement would be concealed.

I drew attention to this, but unfortunately our systems could not deal with such instances of bad faith. It was also a pity that the NGO Secretariat at the time had neither the authority nor the understanding to deal firmly with such aberrations, but they would not cooperate with the very limited investigation that the President required be done by the Ministry of Human Rights. Naturally then the interim report the Committee that had been appointed prepared was not I think even read, and there was no follow up to this.

So the Coffee Club, and those elements in the UN who were planning allegations three years ago, continued on their merry way. In 2009 there were efforts to expand the operation, with the introduction of new staff with skills that were obviously to be used against us. The most blatant example of this came when the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Operations suddenly asked me for a visa for a former military man to be Senior Humanitarian Affairs / Civil Military Coordination Office to be deployed in Vavuniya.

This man, a Britisher with vast experience called Peter Holdsworth, was presented to us as a replacement for a man called Mark Cutts. The latter was intended to be a Senior Field Coordinator, doing much the same work as the person he himself replaced. Then, suddenly, when we had already had trouble with a couple of young ladies working to UNHCR who simply lied to me and to the head of UNHCR about the way in which they prepared reports that talked of sexual harassment, I got a request on June 17th 2009 from Zola Dowell, the head of OCHA, for a visa for Mr Holdsworth to replace Mr Cutts. Mr Holdsworth was at a more senior level but, alarmingly, his terms of reference included

Promote awareness and adherence to the IASC Guidelines on civil-military issues. Highlight and report on specific issues of concern.

I replied promptly to Zola expressing my concerns, and indicated that any such official had to work under the supervision of the Competent Authority. She sent a response in which she indicated some changes in the Terms of Reference, but these were purely cosmetic, the offending clause above simply being pushed down the list, perhaps in the hope that I would not read through carefully.

I had told Zola that I needed to consult the Ministry of Defence, which responded a month later to say that Mr Holdsworth’s visa was not recommended. I informed Zola accordingly, but then pressure came from another quarter, in the form of an email from a former student of mine working at our Mission in New York, who had previously sought to advise me that we should realize our strongest relationships should be with the West. He told me that OCHA  in New York had questioned the refusal of a visa, and that Holdsworth was in fact an employee of the Department for International Development (DFID) of the British government who had been released to OCHA.

I saw no reason to change the decision, but thought it important to keep the Ministry of Defence informed that OCHA had not previously told us about Mr Holdsworth’s principal allegiance. I pointed out to Zola that there had been some embarrassment in New York inasmuch as Mr Holdsworth, whom she had told me was an OCHA nominee, ‘had in fact been selected by DFID and was being funded by them’.

The British did not give up. A few months later we were asked for visa for two more Britishers, one of whom had been in Afghanistanand publicly attacked the Head of the UN in Afghanistan for being supportive of the government, when his immediate boss, Mr Galbraith, had been critical of the government and clashed with the Head.  In Afghanistan of course, given the Western underpinning then of the Karzai government, Mr Galbraith had had to go, but it was interesting that the British wanted to recycle Mr Horne in Sri Lanka. I had by then been told by media personnel, who had published highly critical reports of Sri Lanka which agency heads had disagreed with, that they were fed by junior members of staff ‘providing ammunition for unfair criticism because they disagree with their superiors’.

I noted too that the second Britisher recommended, a Ms Toscano, who seemed to be an independent consultant with experience in conflict analysis and security and crisis management, would not be appropriate, when what we wanted, and what taxpayers around the world were supposed to be funding, was humanitarian assistance, not advocacy.

I also asked, given what I was increasingly thinking of as the very suspicious role of DFID, for further information as to ‘how such secondees are processed. Does DFID seek concurrence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or is it simply an agreement between the British government and the UN, which the latter puts to us for approval?’ I got no reply to this, though I was requested to help Zola, and therefore approved a 3 month visa for Ms Toscano.

We stayed firm on Mr Horne, and it was either on this occasion, or with regard to Mr Holdsworth, that I told Zola, who came to see me in my office, that she had not responded to my concerns, and asked if she did not really understand them. She was an honest woman, and she simply looked down and nodded. That brought home to me how pressurized senior UN staff here were, trying to progress in their careers but subject to enormous political pressures. In this context I should record the admission of Zola’s previous deputy, a remarkably honest Britisher, who told me just before he left that the UN had got Sri Lanka all wrong, because most of them had worked previously in countries with no established government and regular provision of basic social services.

Sadly, though our government did much for those who needed humanitarian assistance, at all levels and in all circumstances, professionalism had declined at the top. Though I regularly copied my letters to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointing out infelicities in the manner in which the UN described the situation in Sri Lanka, in the manner in which IRIN (the media outlet of OCHA) operated, in the manner in which foreign governments provided OCHA with staff with no consultation of the Sri Lankan government, none of these issues were taken up.

Perhaps it was inevitable then that we should be hit hard now by members of the international Human Rights establishment masquerading as a UN panel, with support from individuals within the system who need the support of such for their advancement. I have noted previously the sharp comment of the former Indian Representative to the UN in Geneva about the changing character of UN officials. I am sorry that we in Sri Lanka have not organized a programme of training to deal with the slings and arrows of these careerists.

 

5. THE BRUTAL MISUSE OF HOSPITALS BY THE LTTE AND THE DARUSMAN PANEL

Sunday Observer April 24th, 2011

Over the last couple of years we have had repeated assertions that Sri Lankan forces attacked hospitals with heavy weaponry. This is taken up in a very strong statement by the Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General, which states that “The Government systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines. All hospitals in the Vanni were hit by mortars and artillery, some of them were hit repeatedly, despite the fact that their locations were well-known to the Government.” It goes on to claim that this is one of the five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the Government of Sri Lanka.

This exercise began in a big way in February 2009 with a report by a Dr Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch to the American Senate. At the time I wrote that the lady – who quoted only me by name in her report, everyone else she cited, good or bad by her standards, being anonymous tried to ‘to substantiate her claim regarding ‘clearly marked hospitals’ with a long list, dating only from December, which was after we had pointed out how careful the government had been in the preceding six months, since TamilNet had alleged hardly any collateral damage.’

It is outrageous therefore that the Panel should talk of systematic shelling of hospitals. Of course I have not read the whole report yet, but the one incident I have seen mentioned, that 16 patients were killed at Putumattalan hospital on February 09 because of falling shells, is exactly as was reported by Tamilnet two days later. Surprisingly, having failed to mention this incident on the 9th or 10th, they then cited an ICRC report on the 11th.  The US report simply said the ‘A source reported that the makeshift hospital was hit by shelling, killing 16 patients.

The next time that Tamilnet reported shelling with regard to the hospital, it was ‘targeting the environs of Maa’ththa’lan makeshift hospital’. This was on March 3rd, and the US also duly reports ‘shelling in the area of the Mattalan hospital’. On the next two days again there was firing in the vicinity of the hospital, and then we get shells hitting the area ‘close to the makeshift-hospital’, causing injuries to four already wounded patients on March 13th. It is almost two weeks later that Tamilnet next mentions the hospital, though the US report cites HRW for the hospital being hit by a shell on March 16th, killing two people.

The March 26th attack on the hospital alleged by Tamilnet is not mentioned by the US report, which instead mentioned that one of the entrances to the hospital was hit, and a child was killed by a shell which landed 10 metres in front of the hospital. The Panel however states baldly that RPGs were fired at the hospital around 27 March killing several civilians. In addition to civilian casualties, the operating theatre, makeshift ward and roof all sustained damage’. Tamilnet, which had put the number of deaths at five, all patients ‘who were being treated at the Intensive Care Unit’, dwells rather on the fact that the attackalso destroyed part of the medicines recently brought to the hospital’. The Panel does not refer to this, perhaps because it would take away from its claim that ‘The Government also systematically deprived people in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid, in the form of food and medical supplies’.

There were no further allegations that the hospital was attacked until 20th April, and in the interim Tamilnet reported large numbers of patients being admitted to the hospital. This was not reported in the US Report. On the 22nd Tamilnet reported that shelling killed a doctor and eight persons at a makeshift medical centre in the same area, but this does not seem to have been a hospital, and it was not mentioned in the US Report.

On May 2nd there was an allegation of attacks on the makeshift hospital at Mu’l’li-vaaykkaal, ‘the only remaining makeshift hospital’. This again was not mentioned in the US Report though on the 4th it was said that civilians were not being properly treated because of attacks and non-availability of essential medicines. Patients however continued to go to the hospital for the next ten days, but there were allegations of attacks on the hospital again on the 12th and the 13th.

Even supposing these allegations were true, it is a perversion of language to claim that the government systematically shelled hospitals. The insidious use of the word systematically twice in the same paragraph, usage not borne out at all by details supplied, indicates a determination to insinuate that war crimes were committed, when in fact all that the narrative substantiates with regard to hospitals is that some collateral damage probably occurred.

The Panel however insists that ‘All hospitals in the Vanni were hit by mortars and artillery’. This is a complete falsehood, though perhaps it can be explained by sheer ignorance rather than viciousness, the members of the Panel perhaps not understanding what the term Vanni means. For the fact is, the collation of Tamilnet complaints in the last six months of 2008 shows mention of hospitals on just four Occasions, once on October 2nd when ‘the building of the Ki’linochchi hospital was shaken’ due to blasts, another on the 25th when a shell destroyed the front wall of the hospital though there was no damage to the buildings, another on the 31st when shells exploded close ‘to the wall’ of the hospital. After that, on 21st December,Mullaiththeevu Hospital was claimed to have come under artillery fire, with two patients sustaining injuries and two medical staff wounded. On this occasion the building sustained damage, something that did not happen to any other hospital in the Vanni in 2008 according to Tamilnet.

It is possible that Tamilnet did not report damage that occurred, and it is possible that my staff failed to monitor Tamilnet properly. But we know that Tamilnet generally put forward the worst possible case scenario. I know that the Al-Jazeera journalists, looking at my records, said they accorded pretty well with their own. It is also possible that, in running my eye through my records to respond on the day it appeared to the allegation cited, I missed something – but the records are available for inspection by more precise and careful persons. Somehow, though, I do not think members of the Panel will be amongst them.

In looking at what happened in 2008, and what happened after the alleged shelling of February 9th, I have thus far omitted events in between. In this period there are more allegations, and indeed they form the bulk of the allegations recorded by the Panel, but the confusion is also more apparent. The US Report claims that a foreign government reported that civilians were killed because of heavy shelling at the Puthukkuiyiruppu Hospital on January 2nd, but Tamilnet only spoke of two persons accompanying an ambulance convey being wounded at a point en route.

There was no mention on Tamilnet of any hospital being hit over the next few days, though there was mention of shells hitting a settlement behind the PTK hospital and then exploding near it. But the US Report says that, according to a ‘source in the NFZ’ on the latter occasion, January 12th,  shells fell into the premises of the hospital. The Tamilnet statement of January 13th, that a woman was killed and six persons wounded when PTK ‘hospital premises and its environs came under artillery fire’, has changed in the US Report to HRW reporting that the Hospital was hit by shells. These shifts suggest that, by the time reporting was done with a view to systematic allegations of war crimes, stories were changed so as to suggest that hospitals were deliberately targeted and hit.

The Panelists have not mentioned these incidents as far as I can see, but they have dealt at length with what happened between January 19th2009 and February 4th2009.  The story now seems to have changed from what was mentioned in the summary, about all hospitals being hit, the allegation now being ‘Throughout the final stages of the war, virtually every hospital in the Vanni, whether permanent or makeshift, was hit by artillery’.

The account begins with the allegation that the VallipuramHospitalwas hit on or around 19 to 21 January. The US Report has shells landing in the yard of the hospital on January 19th and hitting the Hospital itself on the 21st with no reported casualties, both these statements provided to them by HRW.  HRW then added that on the 22nd the Hospital compound was hit, killing five people.  This, the only one of these incidents Tamilnet reports is transformed in their account into the hospital being damaged and five civilians killed.  Interestingly, the Tamil net report declares that the RDHS had confimed that the Sri Lankan military had been sent the coordinates of the hospital, which was a ‘makeshift’ one. It is interesting that Tamilnet stresses ‘civilians’ whereas the Panel claims that ‘Particularly those (hospitals) which contained wounded LTTE were hit repeatedly’.

The US Report notes an HRW allegartion on January 26th that the Udayarkattu Hospital was hit, killing 12 and injuring 40. Tamilnet also had 12 dead, but on January 24th, but mentioned only that shells had exploded inside the hospital premises, with the deaths evidently outside. On January 26th they claimed 10 patients were killed in the hospital, with four ambulances damaged.

The Panel ignores the HRW reports that the PTK hospital was hit earlier in January, sensibly so inasmuch as the US Report stated that ‘According to satellite imagery taken on January 28, the Puthukkuduyirippu Hospital did not appear to show visible damage and appeared to be functioning’.

The Panel however asserts that ‘in the week between 29 January and 4 February, PTK hospital was hit every day by MBRLs and other artillery, taking at least nine direct hits. Extraordinarily, this was not mentioned by Tamil net, which only claimed that ’10 civilians, including ICRC/SLRC staff stationed in the vicinity of PTK were wounded’ (though it claimed that a nurse was killed when 3 shells hit the Udaiyaarkadu makeshift hospital). Though it claimed that hospital authorities were unreachable to verify the details, it added later that both hospitals had been hit by the shelling.  Yet another Tamilnet report on the 2nd referred to the PTK hospital being shelled on the previous night, ‘killing nine civilians, including patients and their family members in the ward’.

What is fascinating about this is that the Panel indicates it understands what the LTTE was up to. After noting that ‘the LTTE had a sizable presence in the PTK area and maintained a separate ward for wounded cadres in PTK hospital, but they were not armed’, the Panel notes that ’The LTTE also fired mobile artillery from the vicinity of the hospital, but did not use the hospital for military purposes until after it was evacuated.’

This sounds a bit like the extraordinary assertion of HRW 18 months earlier concerning the episode which led them to declare in a sensationalistic press release that ‘Security forces have subjected civilians to indiscriminate attack’. The whole report, which was introduced by this release, had only one instance in which civilians died, and that was the episode at Kathiravelli school which the army took responsibility for, but said that they used ‘mortar locating radar’ to hit LTTE gun positions. HRW however claimed that ‘while the LTTE was frequently milling about the area, no LTTE fighters were located in or adjacent to the IDP camp at the time of the attack or directly before’.

I can only comment on this vicious irrationality by citing what I wrote in 2007, after which HRW failed to answer letters, and ran away from a meeting that was scheduled in London–

However, HRW also notes that ‘The LTTE had sentries in the area of the camp, ostensibly to monitor the movement of displaced persons’. A man in the camp added that ‘In the daytime, the LTTE didn’t carry weapons. When the LTTE has heavy weapons, they don’t show them because they’re afraid someone will inform.’ Another woman added ‘that about 15 LTTE fighters stayed in some huts about 6000 metres from the school. “They had rifles but no heavy guns,” she said.’ The report also notes the many bunkers in the school grounds but says that the displaced persons dug bunkers so as to ‘protect their families from government shelling’.

Whilst this last phenomenon may seem only strange, the conclusion is inescapable that there were at least at some times LTTE members with heavy weapons in the camp. This does not in any way justify the killing of civilians but, combined with the initiation of an artillery attack, and what would probably have been the radar discovery of weapons, the shelling of the camp is understandable. The consequent deaths of civilians was a tragedy that every Sri Lankan should mourn. It should also be noted however that no similar incident has occurred after that.

I suspect then that, given that much of the information about the PTK hospital was given to the US State Department by HRW, they are the source too of all this perversion with regard to PTK. The facts however are clear, that the LTTE used the area as a military base and ‘fired mobile artillery from the vicinity’. We are expected to believe the Panel’s assertion that the LTTE ‘did not use the hospital for military purposes until after it was evacuated’, just as we were expected to believe HRW’s assertion that ‘no LTTE fighters were located in or adjacent to the IDP camp at the time of the attack or directly before’ even though we are told that the LTTE were sometimes in the camp with heavy weapons which they did not show.

So what we are really told is that if an army has knowledge of heavy weapons being used in the vicinity of a hospital, they should continue to let them be used. Now, while it would be marvelous if Mr Darusman and his crew were sent to lecture to those fighting terror elsewhere, we know that this is unlikely to occur. What is the more remarkable is that they seem quite happy with denigrating our soldiers whose record is comparatively good, while recording that From February 2009 onwards, the LTTE started point-blank shooting of civilians who attempted to escape the conflict zone, significantly adding to the death toll in the final stages of the war. It also fired artillery in proximity to large groups of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and fired from, or stored military equipment near IDPs or civilian installations such as hospitals.’

What this means is that the LTTE deliberately killed civilians. Once you start on that road, obviously you do not worry about numbers. The Panel however does not engage in estimates of how many deaths the LTTE inflicted, though it is quite happy to do so in passages that criticize the Sri Lankan government.

Secondly, it knows that the LTTE deliberately endangerd IDPS and hospitals. Does the Panel not understand that this is a brilliant perversion of a win-win situation? If the enemy then withholds fire, you can continue to attack them with impunity. If they return fire, targeting your weapons, and civilians die, you can declare that this is not collateral damage, but deliberately inflicted – and then you can find people to pontificate about how appalling this is, people who say nothing about more careless activities if the perpetrators are powerful (though they may excuse themselves on the grounds that they are not paid for that, whereas the UN has hired them only to pronounce against Sri Lanka).

The extract I saw from the Panel report concludes with a description of truly upsetting scenes at the Mullivaikkal hospital, culminating in shelling of a second hospital at Vellamullivaikkal, which was set up because the first had been hit often. The Tamilnet reports of attacks on the first hospital claims they happened on May 2nd after the military was provided with exact coordinates of its premises, but six days later the hospital was still being used. On the next day it seems a new hospital was established at a junior school, which suffered attacks three days later.

All this was pretty awful, but it does not substantiate the claim of systematic shelling. Nor does it take into account the evidence recorded in the US Report – ‘the IDPs to whom the organization spoke were uniformly emphatic that the SLA shelled only in reply to the LTTE’s mortar and gun fire from among the civilians. Civilians also said that on May 15 the SLA stopped shelling when the LTTE began destroying its own equipment.’

It would be nice to think that the members of the Panel were simply gullible. After all, we too suffered from gullibility. I remember how worried we were on August 8th when Tamilnet reported that an artillery barrage killed an 18-month-old baby and caused injuries to 16 civilians, including the GA Ms Imelda Sukumar, who was at her official residence’. Ms Sukumar was GA at Mullaitivu, a difficult position to occupy given that the LTTE was in control of the District for many years. We called round frantically to find her, and be reassured that her condition was not serious, only to discover that she had gone to Vavuniya on official business.

Sadly, given the political agenda exuded by the Panel report, I do not think sober discussion of facts will cure, not their gullibility, but their determination to ensure that no small country dares to succeed against the wishes of the more powerful.

 

6. BAD FAITH

Sunday Leader 24 April 2011

Perhaps the most startling revelation of bad faith in the report of the Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General is its repeated call for a reversal of the motion regarding Sri Lanka carried at the Human Rights Council in May 2009. At one point the Report criticizes the UN team in Colombo, in saying that ‘the public use of casualty figures would have strengthened the call for the protection of civilians while those events in the Vanni were unfolding’. The rationale for this claim follows immediately, when the Panelists declare that following the end of war, the Human Rights Council may have been ‘acting on incomplete information when it passed its May 2009 resolution on Sri Lanka’.

In short, the main agenda of the Panelists is to overturn that resolutionwhich rankled deeply with some countries accustomed to always having their own way in United Nations bodies. When a vast majority votes against them, they must have been wrong, so now the case has to be reopened with information provided when it cannot properly be checked.

What is the more preposterous about this claim here is that the Report itself declares that ‘the High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly stated that 2,800 civilians may have been killed and more than 7,000 injured since 20 January’. What this means is that those with a particular mindset in the UN did use loaded information. Since this did not lead to the desired result, the UN in Colombo is blamed for not shouting louder. Those elements in the UN that were acting on a particular agenda did do their worst, and had a willing tool in Ms Pillay but, since her clarion call for blood was ignored at the Special Session, they now have to pretend that the member states were kept in ignorance.

I should add that I do not include Neil Buhne and several of his senior colleagues in the list of those with devious agendas, though we all understood the pressures they were under, as when I had to discuss frankly with the OCHA head the efforts of the British to smuggle in a British military man for a position for which terms of reference were hastily changed, on the assumption I suppose that I would not notice. She was delightfully entertaining in trying to respond to my various objections, but when I asked her frankly whether she did not realize what I meant, she simply nodded sadly.

I say loaded information advisedly about what had been supplied to Ms Pillay, since the UN made it clear to us that they had doubts about the figures. This was I believe publicly expressed in New York too. That diffidence was because of the possibility that the figure given was too high, but now the Panel brazenly claims that the calculation could have been too low because it only ‘accounts for the casualties that were actually observed by the networks of observers who were operational in LTTE-controlled areas’.

I am not sure the government was aware of these networks, reporting direct it seems to the shady South African Chris du Toit. It would be good it our Ministry of External Affairs now called in the UN in Colombo and asked about these networks, and indeed found out more about du Toit himself. Meanwhile we are aware that the Panel’s current position is belied by the methodology du Toit laid out to Nishan Muthukrishna and me when the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights called him in to explain the first extravagant figure that he began floating at the beginning of February.

He said then, with regard to the figure of I think 1000 in early February, doubled shortly afterwards, that he had put forward (and which was duly leaked), that there were three categories:

  • direct observation by UN staff (which he admitted had led to a count of about 39 if I recollect aright),
  • eyewitness reports by others, though there was uncertainty about whether these were reliable sources,
  • and finally what was described as extrapolation, which was assessments based on reports of incidents.

The methodology was never changed as far as we were informed, which is doubtless why the UN in Sri Lanka was wary about the figures. Given the financial improprieties discovered in the Security section of the UN, which swallowed up funds supposedly for Humanitarian Assistance, perhaps the UN in Colombo was wary of du Toit too.

Interestingly enough, after I had first identified du Toit as the source of the initial figures that had been so swiftly put into the public domain, I was sent some items from a website called the Banking Forum one of which stated

I am Looking for any information on the following Persons , who are linked to a fraud commited in 2000…..DR Maarten Adriaan Schalekamp.  Chris Du Toit.  Peter Filippinetti’ with a list of Directors and web sites to which they were linked..Web Sites:www.filippinetti.com

Another said Peter Wolfgang Filippinetti is a co-director along with Paul Fraefel, Stephan Frischknecht in a registerd company PETRALUS AG……In 1998 in South Africa AUSTRIAN Mr Peter Wolfgang Filippinetti operated in a similar International Scam / fraud with Mr J.H.LE ROUX an ex CCB Officer, Yunis Moosajee Mayet, Petrus Van Der Westhuizen and his known partners,NICO SHEFER, Dr Maarten Adriaan Schalekamp and ex RSA Diplomatic Intelligence officer Chris Du Toit a.k.a. Christoffel Petrus Du Toit, identified as a Current UNITED NATIONS EMPLOYEE as the UNDSS Country Advisor SRI LANKA.

In 1998 Filippinetti and their group used the fraud / SCAM structured as the HIDDEN FORTUNES in GOLD, GEMSTONES and CURRENCY…..

All this may well have been investigated by the UN before they offered him a job in Sri Lanka (though again not, depending on what they wanted from him), but I believe we certainly should have been wary of allowing an ex-RSA Diplomatic Intelligence Officer from the bad old days to take charge of security in Sri Lanka. But those alas were days in which the Ministry of External Affairs was not very careful, and subsequently too I found that queries I raised were not followed up.

Anyway, du Toit did what he was expected to here. It was suggested that he was part of a group trying to build up a case against Sri Lanka, and this seems confirmed by the strange use of the word ‘networks’ with regard to the observers who reported to him. However, the excuse offered for his staying on in Mullaitivu was that he was trying to negotiate the release of the local UN staff and their families whom the LTTE was holding hostage. Needless to say, he was not successful.

Worse, his return was delayed day after day, with the LTTE seeming to agree to stop firing to let him and his colleague move, and then welshing on the agreement. This meant that, the Sri Lankan army having been asked to suspend hostilities, found that this had been in vain (and doubtless the LTTE had taken advantage of any lull to strengthen their own positions).

When this happened for the umpteenth time while he was with us (at a meeting at the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Disaster Relief Services, on January 28th), I asked Neil Buhne, the UNDP Head, whom I rather liked and trusted, though I felt he was in some awe of Du Toit, why they did not make public the double dealing of the LTTE. They would certainly make a song and dance if we did anything even remotely similar, to which his reply was, ‘But you guys wouldn’t…’ He paused, and I finished the sentence for him, ‘kill you’, which he seemed to grant though he did not say it himself.

Du Toit then, while ensuring that our progress was slowed down, was busy counting. However, under close questioning, he had to admit that, while there had been firing on areas near where he had been sleeping, he could not say with any certainty from which direction the firing had come. He had brought with him large pictures of craters caused by shells, and he took out one and said that was the only shot the direction of which they could be certain of, and that had come from the direction of the LTTE forces.

I think our close questioning held him at bay during the crucial period. But now it seems he is, at a safe distance, fulfilling his original purpose, in making claims as to his calculations of a very different sort to those he placed before us, when he could be subjected to close questioning. Since obviously the figures were being conveyed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2009, as her statement that March makes clear, it is bizarre that the Panel, while revealing this, makes contrary claims in what purports to be an executive summary.

But such intellectual dishonesty for political purposes is what sadly we have to expect from persons seeking excuses for the inexcusable.

 

7.  IMPUNITY FOR FALSE ALLEGATIONS – RAPE, HILLARY CLINTON AND GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN

The last extract from the Report of the Darusman Panel that I read referred to rape. The Panel begins its discussion of this factor by stating that ‘Rape and sexual violence against Tamil women during the final stages of the armed conflict and, in its aftermath, are greatly under-reported’.

They go on to indicate that their Report is based on ‘indirect accounts’ and explains this by talking about many ‘photos and video footage, in particular the footage provided by Channel 4’.  If this is their principal evidence, one wonders about their standards, given the questions raised about the authenticity of what Channel 4 showed, the discrepancies in the dates Channel 4 put forward, the shifty segments (such as the shifting leg, which even Alston’s bunch of experts could not explain).

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence combined with objectivity would have thought about previous allegations with regard to sexual violence made against our forces. The most famous of these is the pronouncement by Hillary Clinton about our forces using rape as a weapon of war, for which Ambassador Butenis apologized. While I can see that we were correct to accept her apology graciously, it is astonishing that she herself did not see fit to examine and explain how Hillary Clinton was fooled into making that particular blunder.

Then there was the famous case of I think fourteen women found with their throats cut near Menik Farm, reported with complete fraudulence by the ‘Guardian’, though not I hasten to add by its regular correspondent. The article was written by a callow young man named Gethin Chamberlain, who later confessed to me that he realized later the story was false. He claimed that he had written it up because he thought he had a reliable source, which I think he indicated in response to a question from me, though never directly admitting it, was a UN official. He told me that after that he had realized he should not trust that particular source, but surely a good journalist would have tried to find out why such an outrageous lie was thrust upon him.

I do not think Mr Chamberlain was quite as innocent as he pretended to be, for in his article he claimed that he had tried to contact the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, but they did not respond. The day this happened was a holiday, but since he had the number of my mobile phone, it is clear he did not even try to get hold of me. It was typical however that he wanted to both have his cake and eat it, which is why he tried to suggest that we were avoiding him, when in fact, with the usual pusillanimity of such creatures when dealing with us, he did not dare to even try to talk to us, given the enormity of the whopper he was perpetrating.

By then I had a pretty shrewd idea of what was going on, confirmed indeed by Jeremy Paige of the Sunday Times, whom I also met in Delhi around the same time. When I asked him why he was perpetrating lies, having denied that he had anything to do with the massive figures as to deaths that his colleagues were advancing, he claimed that he had UN authority for some of the things he wrote. When I pointed out that the UN had refuted these, he claimed that there were junior people in the UN who disagreed with the position of their superiors, and were therefore leaking information to journalists.

What is sad is that the various UN Heads affected by this knew what was going on, but were too nervous to deal with this firmly. I had had a woeful instance of this just recently, when Amin Awad, the generally amiable head of UNHCR, responded aggressively when my Minister called him in to ask why UNHCR had released a report replete with falsehoods, without first discussing it with the Ministry as it was required to do.

Amin evidently decided that attack was the best form of defence, and claimed that details had been shared with government in Vavuniya. This was not enough, and we told him so, but I found out later that that claim was false, though doubtless Amin believed it was true. On my next visit to Vavuniya, I questioned the informants (clearly part of Chris du Toit’s ‘network’) who had been responsible for the lies. They claimed they had spoken to the military officials responsible, but when I brought the two groups together, they confessed that this had not been the case. It turned out indeed that they had made general requests for better protection, but had not mentioned what they had trumpeted to the world, about dead bodies of women being found near the river. The reality was that one old woman had died while near the river, but this had been turned into efforts to suggest systematic rape.

Unfortunately one of the women was called Pelosi. She looked like a witch and behaved like one, but I was told, I think by Amin, that she was connected with Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and therefore had to be treated with care. This may explain why she was allowed to get away with lies.

Pelosi’s belief was that protection was nothing to do with the Sri Lankan government, so nothing should be reported to us. This indicated that remedial action was not what she wanted, she saw her role rather as that of raising issues to embarrass the government, and doubtless contributing to the War Crimes Project that was being planned at the time.

It was with great difficulty that I changed this mindset, at least as far as the UN official responsible for protection issues went. This was Elizabeth Tan, who I thought was basically decent the first time I met her, and perhaps indeed her failure to work with government earlier was because we had no structures in place to deal with the problems she needed to raise. By 2009 however we had regular committees to investigate problems, and I had established very close relations with the Military Officers responsible for Civil Affairs in all the Districts. I should pay tribute in this regard to the Coordinator I was finally able to appoint for the Confidence Building and Stabilization Measures Project, which had been in abeyance until I took over.

I was also able to deal direct with the Special Forces Commander in the Vanni. I had promptly contacted him when the report Amin tried to defend came before us, to check on its allegations of harassment and sexual harassment of IDPs coming through checkpoints. He said there were strict instructions against both, but it was possible that there had been some rough handling, which he said he would look into and stop. With regard to sexual harassment, he said bluntly that it was impossible, because there were stringent measures to deal with this.

I realized he was right, and we had come a long way from what might be termed the Krishanthi Kumaraswamy days – which we must ensure are never repeated – when I read through the reports of all the agencies handling protection issues.  Previously UNHCR had simply kept these reports without sharing them with the Ministry.

I found that the problems they dealt with were not major ones, certainly not ones for which government could be faulted, though we needed better mechanisms to address them. With regard to sexual violence, almost all allegations referred to the IDPs taking advantage of each other in the crowded conditions in which they found themselves – a factor we had pointed out to UNHCR in January, in asking for better preparations.

With regard to the military, in the several months in which I monitored these reports, there was only one allegation. It concerned a soldier going into the tent of a female IDP at night, and not coming out for several hours. They were joined in between by another female IDP. I have no idea what Ms Pelosi’s fertile imagination made of that one, but as I told a journalist, they might well have been discussing Greek Philosophy.

Island 25 April 2011

 

8.  USING FOOD AS A WEAPON – THE TIGERS AND THE DARUSMAN PANEL

Exodus of tamil civilians held captive by the LTTE - May 2009

One area in which there is an element of truth in the report of the Panel is its accusation that Government underestimated the figures of IDPs in the Vanni towards the end of the conflict. This is correct, and I myself was under the impression that the figure was less than it finally turned out to be.

What is wrong is the claim that the Government used these figures to ‘deny humanitarian assistance’. The fact is that, from the very beginning,there was uncertainty about the figures. At my very first meeting with UNHCR, when I was actually impressed with the commitment of Elizabeth Tan and her immediate boss, I asked why the UN still maintained a distinction between what were termed Old IDPs and new ones. I could understand this in the case of those in static situations, for instance the Muslims chased out of the North by the LTTE in 1990, who had mainly stayed put in Puttalam since then. But in the Vanni it was clear that the IDP population had to be treated as a whole, and we needed to make sure that everyone there was adequately fed.

What was also crystal clear was that it was in the interests of the LTTE to deprive them of food, not out of wickedness, but for propaganda purposes. This had become clear to me way back in 2007, when I took over as Head of the Peace Secretariat, and found in my consultations with people living in those areas, in particular the Chambers of Commerce in the North, that this ‘was perhaps the single most important topic, rivalled only by the issue of restrictions on fishing’.

I quote from a press release I issued shortly after we succeeded in having the A9 opened six days a week, whereas previously it had been open just three days a week, because the LTTE refused to agree to more. Negotiations regarding this were conducted through the ICRC, and I can do no better than set down what I wrote at that time –

When the Peace Secretariat took up the issue of the opening of this road with the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, back in June, it was to find a markedly liberal approach to the issue. It was pointed out that opening the road southward from Jaffna would not be possible, given that the LTTE had taken advantage of such opening to launch its attacks at Muhumalai in August last year. Though the sequence of events is largely now forgotten, it should be noted that, after a series of guerilla attacks between November 2005 and July 2006, the LTTE then launched two concerted efforts, amounting practically to regular offensives, in both the Eastern and the Northen Provinces. These attacks, in Muttur first and then in Muhumalai, were successfully repulsed.

Though the armed forces have since then successfully eliminated the threat of further such attacks in the East, this has not happened in the North. It was therefore understandable that the road southward from Muhumalai could not be opened at this stage. However the Secretary made it clear that he had no objection whatsoever to opening the road northward from Omanthai, but at that stage the ICRC had not been able to sanction this.

The Peace Secretariat at this stage contacted the ICRC, also raising the issue of sea transport toJaffna. ICRC involvement in this had been stopped after what was reported in the press as LTTE warnings. These followed on a helpful relief operation by the ICRC, following an LTTE attack on a vessel carrying a member of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission.

E-mail correspondence with the ICRC suggested that indeed in both these cases the government of Sri Lanka was keen on greater mobility. Following further questions on the part of the Peace Secretariat, the ICRC discussed the matter confidentially and indicated its reasons for its approach, but agreed that the matter should be reconsidered. Though the ICRC complacence with three days a week was based on the indubitable fact that movement of personnel was limited, SCOPP pointed out the need, based on actual demand, for greater movement of goods, which the ICRC acknowledged.

Meanwhile our Economic Affairs Unit was concerned with the possibilities of a scanner that would help reduce delays at checkpoints, whether at Omanthai or at Medawachchiya. However the Secretariat felt that the costs involved were too high, given the threat of violence. The ICRC restriction had in fact been decided upon following an incident in which the LTTE had fired in close proximity to the checkpoint.

At the meeting of the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Affairs which was attended by Sir John Holmes, the Peace Secretariat had been asked to report on progress with regard to the scanner. We noted then that this seemed unnecessary if the road northward from Omanthai could be opened for more than the current three days a week. The Secretary of Defence then made it clear that he was happy to open it even seven days a week, but noted that it was the ICRC that was responsible for the restrictions.

Of course the ICRC only recommends and it is the government that makes decisions on such matters, but in the current situation it is desirable to act in consultation with the ICRC. At the CCHA meeting the ICRC response was cautious, but Secretary of Defence made clear the urgency of the situation and the ICRC promised to look into the request.

This took some time, because it was reported that the ICRC also needed to consult its Head Office in Geneva. This was finally done, and then the ICRC also approached the LTTE in Kilinochchi, since as had been mentioned earlier the ICRC needs guarantees from both parties. Finally the required guarantees were received. As mentioned before, the government of Sri Lanka had been ready for extended opening for a long time previously. The Peace Secretariat therefore welcomes the ICRC response to the request made at the insistence of the Secretary of Defence, and its success in getting the LTTE to respond positively.’

I should note here that in the North too, it was the LTTE that tried to restrict shipping so that food supplies would run low. Government asked the ICRC to escort food ships, when a crisis seemed imminent, but the LTTE pulled the plug on this after one voyage, so that the navy had to expend a lot of time and energy and money in providing escorts to commercial vessels. And it is now forgotten how the LTTE fired on a ship carrying members of the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission. They claimed then that they did not know these were on board but, at the farewell party for the SLMM, one of them told me that they knew perfectly well what they were doing.

4 May 2009 - Letter to Paul Castella (ICRC) from the Office of the Commissioner General of Essential Services - Sri Lanka

4 May 2009 – Letter to Paul Castella (ICRC) from the Office of the Commissioner General of Essential Services – Sri Lanka

Conversely government made it its business to feed its own people. It is often forgotten that, in addition to food supplied through the World Food Programme, the Commissioner General of Essential Services sent truckloads of food to the Vanni for general consumption. And when, given the problems they were causing, NGOs were asked to move out, Government specifically asked WFP and UNHCR to remain, and it was only because the UN Resident Coordinator was misled – I suspect by the Coffee Club which wanted to affirm that the UN’s first obligation was to NGOs, not the Sri Lankan people – that all UN agencies withdrew, leaving only the ICRC in place.

During this period Government provided facilities for the UN to take up the food that had been provided for when original estimates were made for the 2009 Common Humanitarian Action Plan. It was well known that the LTTE took first possession of the food trucks when they went up, and no one objected. I still remember the Head of USAID telling me when this was brought to her notice that the US might have reconsidered its support to WFP if they had known this was happening, and I could only express surprise at her ignorance of what the whole NGO community knew – though she was basically a decent sort, and they might well have concealed from her the level of their complicity with terrorists.

It is certainly true that towards the end supplies were short, and there were cases of malnutrition amongst those who were rescued, but we found that the majority of these were of long term malnutrition.  Within a few months, we had reduced malnutrition levels considerably, as was acknowledged by the UN Resident Representative.  Given the superb work of our Ministry of Health, which directed operations very systematically despite the massive demands on the system they set up, the number of deaths in the displaced population soon stabilized and was much lower than in comparable situations. By June it was below the 0.25 per 10,000 population per day for South East Asia in general.

The condition of those we had to look after showed that we had basically managed to provide basic rations over the years, though there certainly had been deprivation. But for the Darusman Panel to ignore the fact that it was the LTTE which, commandeering the bulk of rations themselves, kept the rest of the population in deprivation, is symptomatic of their venom.

The best comment on this was provided in the account by Jon Lee Anderson, who penned in the ‘New Yorker’ a forceful attack on the Sri Lankan government. But he was basically a journalist, anxious for sensation, and he did not omit a telling detail in his account of the suffering of the civilians. He describes a pastor looking after a group of sixty orphans ‘who had run out of food and went foraging in an abandoned bunker nearby. “We found food packets—meat, chocolates,” the pastor said, and they took as much as they could carry, dodging incoming fire.

It is possible the members of the Darusman Panel did not read the New Yorker article. But it is also probable that, given their particular political agenda, they would have suppressed such a telling detail, about how well supplied the Tigers were, in their determination to throw the whole book at the government of Sri Lanka.

Daily News 20 May 2011

9. THE PANEL’S TWO SHOWPIECES

In the almost two years that have passed since the LTTE was defeated, there have been numerous allegations about possible War Crimes, but in fact there have been only two major instances adduced. One was the Channel 4 video which was shown on August 25th 2009, the second was the White Flag allegation.

Before that Human Rights Watch had produced a Report which dealt with a few areas it considered the basis for War Crimes charges. One of these related to the episode in which foreign UN officials stayed behind in Kilinochchi, ostensibly to bring out the UN local employees and their families whom the LTTE was keeping behind forcibly. The Darusman Panel also mentions this episode, using it as the basis for allegations about the numbers killed and attributing responsibility for these deaths to government. I have dealt with this episode and those allegations, pointing out first the manner in which the advance of our forces was stopped during that time as we waited anxiously for these guys to be allowed to come out, second the insidious behavior of the leader of this little adventure, Chris du Toit, and third the admission of the UN that much of the firing was established as having come from the LTTE side, although they had first accused us of being responsible.

The second area on which the HRW report concentrated was attacks on hospitals. I pointed out at the time that the laws of war relate first to recognized hospitals, not buildings suddenly declared makeshift hospitals, and also that the LTTE used these buildings also for offensive weaponry. Trying to deal with attacks from such is not only acceptable, it is essential in a context in which delays would only increase the suffering of the people the LTTE was holding hostage. I also pointed out the exaggeration the LTTE engaged in with regard to what they presented as attacks on hospitals, one example being the report of the US State Department that the Puthukkudiyirippu Hospital did not seem ‘to show visible damaga and appeared to be functioning’ according to satellite imagery of January 28th, even though there were several reports of it being attacked earlier in the month. It is noteworthy too that the pictures attached to the Darusman report, while showing signs of shelling, suggest that the hospitals themselves were not targeted. Had they been targeted, there would have been little or nothing of them left.

I responded again at length with regard to this question of attacks on hospitals after reading the Darusman Panel Report, pointing out that, even if they believed everything they set down, without comparing it with what was cited in previous reports, they had no grounds at all for claiming that there was systematic shelling of hospitals. I also explored all allegations of attacks on hospitals made by Tamil Net during the entire period of hostilities in the North, and was able to show that there was obviously no policy of attacking hospitals, though hospitals did suffer damage as the LTTE began as a matter of policy to concentrate weapons near hospitals, as the Panel records, if not actually in them.

Unfortunately government failed to respond to the relatively sober manner in which the US State Department noted various allegations in a Report issued towards the end of 2009. The source for these allegations, several of which related to hospitals, was Human Rights Watch, and it would have been relatively easy to respond, as also to allegations with regard to later fighting, since by then we also had the harsh but unbiased report issued by the Jaffna University Teachers for Human Rights, which recorded some remarkably decent behavior of Sri Lankan troops even in the height of battle.

By then however the discourse had become more dramatic, and I fear the Americans may have contributed to suspicions that made us hesitant to treat their Report in good faith, given what seemed the flirtation of some of their number with Sarath Fonseka. Be that as it may, we were precluded then from responding even to what seemed the most serious allegation they recorded, namely that Sarath Fonseka ‘stated that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags’.

Astonishingly, assuming one did not know what their agenda was, the Darusman Panel does not cite this allegation. They have obviously done their homework, for they even cite, misleadingly, something I wrote early in 2009. I cannot then believe they were not aware of the State Department Report, and its reference here to an alleged claim by a senior Sri Lankan official that the military committed a war crime.

The Panel claims that ‘the Government gave several different accounts of the incident’. What it means by this is not clear. I cannot myself recollect any account by Government of what if anything happened, unless this statement by Sarath Fonseka while he was Chief of Defence Staff is considered. The web account of that statement also included the claim that it was people in air-conditioned rooms who wanted to accept the surrender, but he himself had put a stop to this. In December however he claimed the opposite, which was that it was people in air-conditioned rooms who had done the killing – though it should be noted that, if not quite cleanly, that allegation too was subsequently withdrawn.

If  Sarah Fonseka is considered a credible witness, then surely this must be the strongest evidence for an allegation of war crimes, a statement by someone with command responsibility. But given the political compulsions of the Panel, we can see why this particular bit of evidence had to be forgotten.

This element becomes the more worrying in the face of credible allegations that the current Political Affairs Officer of the American Embassy has been trying to persuade army officers to provide evidence against the Sri Lankan government, with inducements such as access to residence in America. This amounts to bribery, but we know perfectly well that moral scruples have never applied with regard to foreign relations, and this cynicism is not confined to America. Instead of getting indignant therefore about the potential criminality of such efforts (America being one of the few countries that is in theory strong on bribery and corruption with regard to overseas contracts), we should try to understand what makes characters like this tick.

Sheer hostility to Sri Lanka is not an answer we should be satisfied with, even with strong inferences that he is influenced by much stronger Sri Lankan personalities with dangerous axes to grind. Rather, we should consider why someone in theory concerned with human rights, in practice devoted to advancing American interests, should engage in what seems to us such sinister behavior.

The answer may lie in reports that, while he wants a war crimes trial, he believes that we can plead innocence given all the mitigatory factors. I was wondering then whether what has not got the proverbial American goat – or perhaps donkey, given that the Democratic Party is now in power, and feeling slightly diffident about the war in Iraq that it has inherited – is our claim that we conducted a more humane operation than others engaged in fighting terrorism.

This occurred to me when, several times, I was reproached by people who said that we had claimed there had been no civilian casualties. This is untrue, as would be the claim that our firing had caused no civilian casualties. I do not think anyone intended to give that impression, but I think the fear that we would be accused of causing civilian casualties deliberately led people to counter such claims more dogmatically than was credible. Given the massive civilian casualties American efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere have led to, albeit with few exceptions they claim that these were not intentional, it seems that, like the proverbial fox that lost its tail, they want us to get into the same boat.

Ironically, while I have no doubt that our policies were very clear, and utterly decent, it would seem that any exceptions would have been because of what might be termed the Sarath Fonseka mentality, as indicated in the speech the Americans referred to before they decided to use him for higher things. There is even an argument that the humane strategy the forces had decided on was changed, when he insisted on the techniques Daya Ratnayake had used so effectively in the East (which resulted in no civilian casualties except in one instance when the LTTE fired mortars from amongst civilians) being changed. The army which had become expert in moving in such a way as to cut off and thus rescue groups of civilians in small areas thus became a surrounding noose rather than a precise surgical tool.

To make matters worse, Sarath Fonseka seems also to have resented the sending up of supplies. Though government did its best, and managed to send adequate food and vast quantities of medical supplies, including emergency kits, he was reportedly very harsh on those who ensured that such arrangements were carried out. In this context government has not made enough of the fantastic work done not only by the Commissioner General of Essential Services, but also by the navy personnel who ensured that essential services could be maintained, despite difficult conditions.

With regard to the Channel 4 video, the Panel makes no reference to the arguments that the video was doctored. It is true that UN Special Rapporteur has tried to rebut these, but his Experts too grant that there are elements in the video that cannot be explained. The Panel also fails to note contradictions in the Channel 4 presentation of the video and what it claims is a continuation of the scene which was shown on December 2nd 2010, on which occasion the scene was dated differently from what had been put forward in August 2009.

The second paragraph in the Darusman Panel Report that seems also to relate to the Channel 4 video introduces someone described as ‘the boy’, a use of the definite article suggesting what much of the Report indicates, that it is a cut and paste job using information supplied by nameless and unreferenced sources. That paragraph ends with an account of a video that ‘shows a young man who has been tied to a tree and is covered in blood. He later appears dead, lying in a grave covered by a Tiger flag’.

I find it odd that, if this young man was indeed killed by the Sri Lankan military, they should then have placed him in a grave and covered him with a Tiger flag. I do not know if the Panel, which asserts elsewhere of insulting behavior to the dead, believes this was supposed to be an insult, of if they thought it necessary to record this touching instance of respect for the dead. It is also possible that by this stage they have ceased to believe in their own rhetoric.

Certainly Sri Lanka should recognize that in any army, as in any institution, there are individuals who behave badly. While I was not privy to the language Sarath Fonseka used while in the field – and we should not allow his defects to blind us to his capabilities as a commander – the language he used on political stages suggests a mindset that saw physical violence as the answer to all problems. Given his successes in the field, there may well have been soldiers who saw him as role models.

But these I believe were few and far between. Generally speaking, the army had made clear its position, and soldiers in general followed orders. To cite a simple but telling example from the report the Jaffna University Teachers for Human Rights issued on December 13th 2009, one of their witnesses describes how, on one occasion

Ganeshapillai was among civilians advancing towards the army line in Iruddumadu. Four LTTE cadres joined the civilians and kept firing, deliberately provoking the Army. A group that had gone ahead of them had told the Army that more civilians are following along the road. The Army kept shelling but was then careful not to shell the road. As they got close, the four cadres ran back and turned into snipers. As the Army was receiving the civilians, the snipers opened fire killing four soldiers. But the other soldiers betrayed no signs of reacting against the civilians. They calmly carried their dead, loaded the civilians into tractor trailers and sent them on. The LTTE seemed to pin their hopes on ensuring maximum civilian casualties, in the hope that Uncle Obama would intervene.

This makes it clear what the policy was. It is inconceivable that the army itself cared nothing about inflicting civilian casualties, and that soldiers disobeyed policy and spared civilians, at risk to themselves. However, obviously the converse could have happened, ie that civilians were not spared, not because they were deliberately targeted but because boys in fear of their lives will act in self defence instinctively.

Given the relentless animosity of the Darusman Panel, it is not surprising that they did not consider the findings of the UTHR Report. That is certainly not positive about the government, but as I have argued before, given the lack of bias of UTHR, we should engage with them and take their findings seriously, even if we do not agree with them, and think some of them erroneous. They are certainly amongst the few agencies willing to admit it when they get things wrong, and we should treat them with respect.

I will conclude then with some elements in the UTHR Report that indicate what a difficult job our forces had, in particular because the LTTE strategy included sacrificing civilians so as to promote anger against the government –

Such stories do not figure at all in the Report of the Panel, making it clear that the LTTE strategy on promoting civilian casualties is now proving useful to a host of other enemies of a pluralistic Sri Lankan state.

Sunday Observer 8 May 2011

10.  PERVERTING CONDITIONS AT MENIK FARM

Welfare Villages

Amongst the most ridiculous allegations in the Darusman Report are those that relate to the Welfare Villages, a title that the Panelists seem to resent. Astonishingly the Report takes no notice at all of the reports issued by Walter Kalin, the UN Special Representative of the Rights of the Displaced.

This is not surprising, because Prof Kalin of the UN Representatives with whom we had dealings. We had him over three times while we had to deal with the influx of the IDPs, and he was extremely helpful, firm about the adjustments he thought needed to be made, but always aware that we were dealing with a very difficult situation.

He made it very clear that it was not illegal to detain all the displaced, but he also pointed out that this could not go on for long, and that we should also endeavour to release those who were unlikely to be a threat. His report mentions various categories  of these, such as children, the elderly, pregnant mothers and the handicapped. I pointed out to him that in the ordinary world the assumption that these people were not dangerous might be correct, but we had had to deal recently with a pregnant suicide bomber who had nearly killed the army commander, and a handicapped one who had nearly killed the Minister for Social Services. Both had succeeded in killing others.

Kalin appreciated my point, but noted that we could not therefore hold all the pregnant and the displaced indefinitely. In fact government soon enough, having released the elderly and those children who were not with parents, also released these other categories.

Prof. Walter Kalin, the UN Special Representative of the Rights of the Displaced

I was also conscious of the timeframe Kalin had suggested, and in August in fact I wrote to Basil Rajapaksa to say that I thought we should move more quickly on releases. He called me up and gave me a earful, to say that he had promised to complete most of the process in six months, and he would do this, in seven at most, but that did not mean he could complete half the task in three months.

I believe Walter Kalin wrote shortly afterwards to remind us of the timeframe he had suggested, but by then government had begun the process of returns. We did however run into some difficulties, for I remember that the first large group to return were then held up in district centres. I was in Geneva at the time, but was reassured by those who had gone up to check on the situation that the Security Forces Commanders affirmed that they had been asked to again screen those who were returning, but they would treat this as a formality and ensure return within a couple of days.

I knew that the attitude of these Commanders was in general very liberal, because they appreciated the ground realities and understood that the vast majority of the displaced had simply been victims of the Tigers. I was myself present when the Vanni Special Forces Commander was told that instructions had been received that some pregnant women he had ordered released should be checked again, and he first said that it should be done quickly, and then said this was unnecessary and they should be released immediately.

I suspected what was going on, and confirmation of this was received when Sarath Fonseka complained in his letter of resignation to the President that the security considerations he had advanced had been ignored, and the President had released the displaced far too quickly.

I cannot expect the Panel to have understood all this, but the bizarre decision on the part of several groups to support Sarath Fonseka for the Presidency certainly confirmed my suspicion that a range of sanctimonious actors, including the TNA and several individuals in Western missions, cared not a whit for the Tamil people.

Where the Panel made clear its own agenda was in ignoring Walter Kalin’s clear recommendations with regard to the displaced, and his understanding that we were doing our best under difficult circumstances. The Panel instead seems to have regurgitated wholesale the complaints of various Non-Governmental Organizations that resented the fact that Government was in charge of the Welfare Villages and were not allowing them to rule the roost as

Poonthotam Camp, Vavuniya

had happened previously. Though they claimed that they ensured proper standards, this was nonsense, as I noted when I visited the Poonthottam Camp where old IDPs had been kept for years, in conditions that were appalling. I complained to Elizabeth Tan about this, and she claimed that the UN had been trying to find a remedy for this, but obviously it was with nothing like the intensity displayed by the suddenly awakened ‘international humanitarian community’ that was apparent in 2009 for obviously political motives.

One canard floated around at the time was that international agencies were denied access to Menik Farm. This was nonsense, and indeed government had to restrict the number of large vehicles that were chugging around and raising dust – which also stopped the smuggling out of some of the displaced. The Panel report puts the real reason for this canard when it declares that there were restrictions on ‘doing protection work or speaking to the IDPs in private’.  This made sense, because we knew the utter failure of agencies that had claimed to do protection work but had allowed the people of the Vanni to be ruthlessly abused in the past. The general view in which they were held became clear to me when I spoke to a couple of youngsters who had not gone back when universities had started, but had been hidden by their parents to avoid conscription. When I asked why they had not appealed to UN or NGO officials, they said that they did nothing to help.

I also saw the biased nature of the questioning of these officials when we were visiting with Kalin, and Anna Pelosi kept asking an old woman who had a problem to indicate that this was the fault of government, which she doggedly refused to do.  She also kept interrupting when I was discussing any problem, making it clear that she did not think government had any role to play in ensuring assistance with us. Given this not just confrontational but indeed malicious approach, it was quite understandable that government was not going to encourage the insidious fulfillment of a destructive agenda.

At the same time government ensured the provision of all sorts of medical facilities, including psycho-social assistance, though I am sorry that the programme of training I tried to initiate through the Peace Secretariat did not get off the ground. The Panel asserts that ‘psychological support was not allowed by the Ministry of Social Services, and some IDPs committed suicide’ as though they have made a case for neglect. This is nonsense, in that psycho-social services were provided by the Ministry of Health, and all the centres it established in the Camps, including those for primary care, had provision for psycho-social support.

With regard to the alleged suicides that it insidiously attributes to neglect by the Ministry of Social Services, it gives no statistics, which is a technique we have seen before, when occurrences are described as absolutes rather than in context. This was also the case with regard to allegations as to deaths, whereas the reality was that very soon the number of deaths was less than that usually found in refugee camps. It is true that there were a larger number in the first couple of weeks, but this was not surprising, given the appalling conditions to which, largely because of Tiger intransigence and greed, the people were subjected.  What is remarkable is how quickly we ensured recovery – but there is not a word about the sterling performance of the Ministry of Health, the practical NGOs that provided effective support services, the doctors and auxiliary staff who worked tirelessly.

Shelters in Zones 0 and 1

With regard to the conditions in the camps, certainly they were bad, but the UN also was responsible for the shoddy materials and support provided, at great expense.  It is true that the initial government plans were too grandiose, but that was no reason for turning to squalor instead, as the UN did in bringing down tiny white tents in which no one could stand. When I objected to these, I was assured by the UNHCR Head that they would be supplemented by covered leisure centres for people to relax during the day, but these took ages to come up, and when I complained the UNHCR Head said that these were the responsibility of UNICEF and they were much slower. These and learning centres for children were obviously not a priority, as compared with the government provided in Zones 0 and 1, which it had designed without UN input.

The Panel also claims, doubtless in accordance with its belief that everything good must have a Western origin, that ‘Conditions in Menik Farm did improve over time after much protest from the international community and threats from donors to cut off funding’.

Drainage for toilets in zones 0 and 1

This is nonsense. I cannot speak for everything, though I know that government was engaged in a constant battle to get better value for money. I do however know that the appalling sanitary conditions were due entirely to the UN and the agencies which it had hired at great expense completely ignoring Sri Lankan national standards in constructing toilets. They used plywood, whereas we required concrete or reinforced plastic. When it was pointed out that the gully suckers would suck out the bottom, the shelter consultant – who cost $11,000 a month, in a strange system whereby different UN agencies all made money by hiring through each other – declared that operators had been told to stop sucking half way.

The image of these operators judging the correct moment to stop, waiting as long as possible – since otherwise their machines would have to make even more journeys down narrow and vulnerable roads – and then cursing when they misjudged, as plywood and shit splayed out over the latrines, belongs in a novel by William Burroughs, not in the real world of suffering human beings. But the man in charge of all this lived in a strange world where, as the monsoon was about to come down, and humidity was increasing, he claimed that nothing could be done to improve conditions until the question of fire hazard was addressed.

 Sunday Leader 1 May 2011

11.  CONTINUING VICTIMIZATION THROUGH SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

LTTE torture chamber

The Darusman Panel  is grossly misleading about the way in which surrendees were handled. It sneers at Government figures for those in detention as former combatants, by claiming that ‘The tally includes people who did not take part in fighting or who were only recruited in the final weeks or days’. Since the Government has made it clear that it included all those who admitted to having been recruited, this is hardly surprising. It may also astonish the Panel to know that questioning these victims is also useful in recording the techniques used by the LTTE – a process totally ignored by UNICEF when it was in charge, and failed not only to stop child recruitment, but even sent children back to areas where they were promptly re-recruited.

The Panel claims that there has been no external scrutiny of what is going on. If it means supervision, it is absolutely correct, since we do not need those whose stupidity or worse encouraged terrorism to tell us how to treat our citizens. If it means no one has visited the site, this is complete nonsense, because on several occasions I have been there, representatives of the UN and of Civil Society have been present, usually to work on assistance for these youngsters. Unfortunately the Panel thinks assistance must be synonymous with the protection racket some of their informants had been running.

V Anandasangaree – had asked Erik Solheim whether on his many visits to Kilinochchi he had been able to go beyond the `iron curtain` and see the torture camps and detention centres.

The bitterness this has resulted in has led to highly tendentious statements such as claiming that the absence of ‘any external scrutiny for almost two years, rendered alleged LTTE cadre highly vulnerable to violations such as rape, torture or disappearance, which could be committed with impunity’.

This is both vicious as well as stupid. Occasional visits by agencies such as the ICRC do not prevent such occurrences, as we know full well from the torture chambers the LTTE maintained in the Vanni, which the ICRC seemed to have no notion of in spite of regular visits. On the contrary, the detailed figures we maintain makes it clear that Government knows it is accountable – but accountable to its own citizens, not those who ignored or were ignorant of violations against Tamils and Sinhalese and Muslims alike for years.

The Panel mocks the psycho-social work of the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, with paragraphs replete with inverted commas on the lines of a schoolboy essay seeking to be sardonic. In this regard I can testify to the commitment of the Commissioner, who used part of my decentralized budget for training of counselors including former cadres, in a highly professional manner. I had dedicated half my budget to these cadres, but thought of training young ladies to be primary English teachers. The CGR instead proposed this training programme, while also helping me implement high level entrepreneurship training, details of which are available on the Reconciliation Website, www.peaceinsrilanka.org

U.S. Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis (left) officially presented $3 million to Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Sri Lanka Chief of Mission, to support people returning to their homes in the North.

Incidentally, the Panel does not seem to have consulted those at the International Organization for Migration, which has been working together with government in this area. Though initially IOM too used to do its own thing, it began under its former Head, Mohamed Abdiker, to work more responsibly with government – something for which I too can take some credit, after IOM initially complained about me to the Foreign Ministry. The claim was that I wanted them to report to me, but I pointed out that my letter indicated that they should report to the relevant Line Ministry. The Foreign Ministry said this was them, but admitted that they had not received a single copy of project documents for the work IOM was doing, as was required. They promised that they would do better about this in the future, and Mohamed sensibly conformed, and became the favoured agent of government for many projects. It should be noted that, as the Foreign Ministry pointed out to me, IOM’s overheads are much lower than those of most agencies.

IOM is now working very well with government on Rehabilitation, and indeed is the recipient of much assistance which elements in the international community prefer to give to their own, rather than to the recipient government. This should not be a problem, so long as funds are not squandered, and that there is conformity with government programmes and full accountability. Unfortunately this is what many of the protection racketeers resist.

A heavily-fortified LTTE torture-chamber cum prison complex, run inside a three-room house behind the Mullaivaikkal sub-post office

The Panel Report also propagates allegations about torture in Menik Farm itself. It asserts that amongst individuals interrogated were ‘the doctors, the AGA and two United Nations staff members’, as though it has to be assumed that such Staff members should not be suspected of terrorist links. Obviously they did not ask the former UN Resident Coordinator about the weapon found on a staff member, which had quite properly led to investigation previously too.

Ignoring the fact that Sri Lanka had suffered from an insidious terrorist organization for years, the Panel goes on to declare of those interrogated that ‘Some of them were tortured as well. The sounds of beating and screams could be heard from the interrogation tents. The UNHCR recorded at least nine cases of torture in detention. Some detainees were taken away and not returned.’

It is very strange that UNHCR should have recorded such cases since none of these were shared with the Ministry to whom it was meant to be report. If the main intention of the network of informers the Panel has alluded to was to chargeSri Lankawith war crimes, it is obvious why they kept silent, but one would have assumed that the rationale of such monitoring was to nip any abuses in the bud.

Again, it is strange that, while none of this was discussed at the time, the Panel should take it as confirmed that the military using violence to interrogate people in the camps. There were enough Sri Lankan officials around who would have prevented this, in addition to the plethora of potential witnesses – or at least gossips – in the persons of aid workers as well as the displaced.

But the Panel necessarily assumes that we are both stupid and wicked. We must also be responsible collectively for everything that is amiss. I am happy though that the Panel has at least realized that some of those who disappeared from the camps were not boiled alive or otherwise disposed of, but simply made their way out surreptitiously. The claim is that they bribed ‘the military’, whereas the military as a body were worried about such disappearances, though individuals may have been complaisant – I should note that the military were convinced the bribes were being taken by NGOs and Civil officials, which is why they called a halt to the large numbers of vehicles going in and out.

I have no doubt that individuals from many different institutions were involved, perhaps not least the UN Security branch which had later to be investigated. But I certainly know that in one case the military, as represented by the official with whom I dealt, were guilty only of inefficiency, and were as upset as I was about the disappearance.

I refer to the case of a Mrs Malathy Naguleswaran, an elderly citizen of New Zealand, who had come to assist people in the Vanni, and then stayed on even when hostilities resumed. The New Zealand High Commissioner inDelhi got in touch with me about this, and I was able to trace her with the help of UNHCR. I wrote then to a senior officer to say that a TPN has been sent asking for her repatriation and asking him to ‘look into the matter and do whatever is feasible to expedite this’.

I also suggested that he ‘to talk to her to find out about conditions in the area controlled by the LTTE, and in particular their approach to the Safe Zone. She would be articulate in English, and is obviously committed to humanitarian work, so may be able to provide useful insights into current LTTE practices relating to this field’. Unfortunately none of this was done, though I should not be too irritated given the levels of work that were required, and the state of exhaustion in which I used to find my contacts each time I visited.

On one of these visits I said that I would like to see Mrs Naguleswaran myself, but then I was told that she had disappeared. I was worried initially, but was told that she had probably managed to get away. I told the High Commissioner that the chances were she was back inNew Zealand, but asked him to check. He said he would get back to me, but did not do so, so when I was inDelhinext I asked for a meeting. The splendidly named Rupert Holborrow was away, but his Deputy came to my hotel and essentially reassured me that no further action was required.

In one sense this was our fault, for we should have cleared the lady and sent her back toNew Zealandstraight away. But in terms of the larger picture, the care extended under difficult circumstances towards so many thousands, the rapid reintegration of youngsters trained to hate and kill us, the positive commitment of so many Sri Lankan officials, and in particular the military, I find there is much to be proud of. Sadly, the Darusman Panel is unaware of all of this in its determination to crucify us, if not quite boil us alive.

Sunday Observer 1 May 2011

12.  THE TENTATIVE WORLD OF THE DARUSMAN PANELISTS

The Darusman Panel

Having now seem more of the report, I am impressed by the skill with which the three Panelists have woven a highly emotive narrative out of hearsay. It is noteworthy that they rarely commit themselves, which suggests that they have not abandoned all understanding of basic principles of evidence. However they make up for this by repeatedly bringing up the same points, with variations on what they claim they know definitely, and what they grant is tentative.  Initially I thought this was subtle, based on a desire to sound as convincing as possible, but the more one reads, the more one gets the impression that they were haphazard about the whole business: having decided to crucify Sri Lankan officialdom, they suddenly remembered that they might be asked to justify their claims, so they threw in markers of uncertainty at regular intervals.

I explore here the allegations they make about rape and sexual violence, advanced relentlessly as though to push the right buttons with whoever it was supplied false information to Hillary Clinton, for which Patricia Butenis apologized, though without I suspect drawing the attention of her boss to this egregious blunder (or, rather, to the deceit practiced on the poor woman by her trusted speechwriters).

The following extracts make clear the haze of uncertainty in which the Darusman crew steered their unwieldy bark. I have juxtaposed with them an instance of another set of claims inimical toSri Lanka, in which there was bad faith of a more ludicrous but perhaps more honest sort.

Para 152 – there are many indirect accounts reported by women of sexual violence and rape by members of government forces.

Does this mean women reported indirect accounts, or that there are indirect accounts of reports by women? What is the difference between a direct account of a report, and an indirect account, and is this double distancing intended to deny responsibility for the accusation whilst still making it?

Para153 – Many photos and video footage, in particular the footage provided by Channel 4, depict dead female cadre. In these, women are reportedly shown naked or with underwear withdrawn to expose breasts and genitalia.

This is a strange use of the word reportedly, implying that the Panelists have not seen the footage that shows naked women, or women with withdrawn underwear, whatever that means. Was it the case that they were shy to look at the pictures, or did they look but find it difficult, given their doubtless innocent lives previously, to recognize a naked (or underwear withdrawn) woman, so that they had to rely on reports to interpret what they saw? Or is it simply that they did not bother to look at the pictures and video footage themselves, but relied on yet another network of informants?

The Channel 4 images, with accompanying commentary in Sinhala by SLA soldiers, raise a strong inference that rape or sexual violence may have occurred, either prior to or after execution

The Panelists have no doubt that the soldiers belong to the Sri Lankan army, but there is only an inference that rape or sexual violence may have occurred, another instance of double distancing.

Stomping on the leg of a woman who appears to be moving

It is not clear whether the woman appears to be moving, or only her leg, which is reminiscent of the moving leg of a supposed dead man in the Channel 4 video, a movement that led to one of Philip Alstons’s experts (whom he claimed established the authenticity of the video) declaring that ‘it remains uncertain as to what accounts for the movement of this individual’s left leg’ and (with regard to another person it seems), ‘Under normal circumstances and without something maintaining his leg in this position, I would not expect his leg to remain in this position if he were deceased’.

Incidentally, Alston’s casuistry led him to answer this by admitting that there were ‘a small number of characteristics which the experts were not able to explain’, but to claim that ‘Each of these characteristics can, however, be explained in a manner which is entirely consistent with the conclusion that the videotape appears to be authentic’

Jeff S. Spivac – it has not been definitively established whether this person was already deceased, or merely wounded, intoxicated, sleeping, or possibly even uninjured …

Even more entertainingly, Alston’s chief expert produced a completely dotty explanation. With regard to the rising leg, the imaginative Mr Spivack says ‘it has not been definitively established whether this person was already deceased, or merely wounded, intoxicated, sleeping, or possibly even uninjured and feigning death after being shot at and missed in order to evade actual injury or death at the hands of a more competent marksman’. (My stresses)

The idea of the wicked people who shot two victims through the head at close quarters having adopted a different approach which led to one of the victims feigning death is almost as bizarre as someone who is sleeping through this whole performance lifting up his leg and then letting it collapse. Clearly Philip Alston had found experts with similar thinking skills to his own.

Alston however was comparatively an honest man and, when he had to bite a bullet, he did so with grit and determination. The Darusman Panelists leave themselves an escape route by refusing to commit themselves, knowing full well that their cheerleaders will claim that they have established guilt without doubt.

To go on to a recycling of the same factors as were described in Paras 152 & 153 –

Para 214 – credible allegations point to a possible violation of this provision inasmuch as members of the SLA may have raped or committed sexual assault against or girls

The allegations are deemed credible by the Panel. But they realize that they only point to a possible violation, two usages that suggest uncertainty. This uncertainty is reinforced by the ‘may’ in the next clause.

The Panel notes in particular the Channel 4 photographs of what appear to be dead female cadre including video footage in which naked bodies of woman are deliberately exposed accompanied by lurid comments by SLA soldiers raising a strong inference that rape or sexual assault may have occurred prior to execution.

Earlier definitely dead female cadre were claimed to have been depicted, now what is seen only appear to be dead female cadre. Conversely, what were only reportedly shown naked women are now transposed into definitely naked bodies of women. Sri Lankan soldiers continue to be definitely identified, though again there is only a strong inference of rape or sexual assault. Now however it is confined to before execution, whereas previously the possibility of necrophilia was also floated.

There is a strong inference that the Panel swallowed wholesale the whoppers conveyed to them. They may have been bribed or otherwise influenced by former terrorists who have allegedly supplied them with much of their information.

The last paragraph above is totally true. Is there any reason to think it more nonsensical than the statements quoted above?

Sunday Observer 1 May 2011


13. THE MANY PERSONALITIES OF KIKI 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’ –

 

The UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva on Monday passed the EU-sponsored plan despite Indonesian opposition.

 

Indonesia has said it will not co-operate with the international investigation. It says its own inquiry led by the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas) is sufficient….Other Asian countries also opposed the plan, arguing that Jakarta had shown good faith in allowing international forces into the territory.

 

The head of Komnas and co-chairman of the ruling Golkar party, Marzuki Darusman, told the BBC that the vote was “a setback for the Indonesian Government”. But he said “we will just have to accept it.”

However, he added that the move could deepen nationalist sentiment amongst the Indonesian public “against the perceived intrusion of outside interests.”

Clearly Darusman’s worldview has changed since then. Perhaps he has been converted to a more expansive view of rights, or perhaps it is simply that, having no longer found it possible to hold on to office in Indonesia by changing parties or otherwise, he now serves less demanding taskmasters.

While he was Attorney General he was certainly challenged by his past. In 2000, the Delhibased ‘Human Rights Features’ wrote about a report the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission presented to President Wahid of ‘its special investigation into Tanjung Priok – one of the worst tragedies under Suharto’s reign.’

The article pointed out that ‘Recommending only further investigations, the report fails to call for trials to proceed against the senior military officials who had command responsibility over the armed forces involved. According to reliable sources, the official now charged with following up the investigation is Attorney General Mr. Marzuki Darusman, who, in his previous job as Chair of the KOMNAS HAM (the Indonesian Human Rights Commission), strongly resisted the Commission’s involvement in this case. Thus the question remains whether, as Attorney General, Mr. Darusman will now vigorously pursue those responsible for the Tanjung Priok murders and torture – no matter how far up the chain of command – or whether he will try to rely on the Commission’s initial inadequate inquiry to claim that insufficient evidence exists to bring the perpetrators to justice.’

I have no idea what Mr Darusman did then, or which particular principles he was following at that stage. That he changes his principles regularly is apparent from a report on another case investigated by KOMNAS when he was its chair.

That Report, written in 1997 by an Indonesian organization called ‘Analisa & Peristiwa’, was

quite cynical about Komnas’ conclusion that a ‘Third Party’ was involved in what was described as the ‘Taskmalaya Chaos’ – ‘For example, Komnas could not mention the exact number of victims. When the reporters asked why Komnas did not announce the number of victims and the total loss of the riot, Lopa answered, “Because on the PDI case, Komnas HAM needed one to six months to check the numbers. This time, we do not want to give unclear numbers. So, we are waiting for more accurate numbers.”

 

Marzuki Darusman also mentioned that there was a strong indication of a third party’s involvement. This Komnas leader expressed his wonder as Tasikmalayans were known as polite, obedience and patient people. How could such people suddenly go berserk. “In Tasikmalaya’s history, the people have never being so mad as they were in the riot,” said Kiki ( Marzuki’s nick name). Moreover, as mentioned by Lopa, Marzuki also stated the finding of street banners and leaflets which had been used to influence Tasikmalayans to become involved in the riot.

It is touching that Kiki’s Komnas was so careful then about dealing in precise numbers. Fourteen years later, transformed into a new man who serves new causes, Kiki flings vast numbers around with abandon.

I suppose it is possible that people’s ethics and values change with the years. But is must also be fun to enjoy a wonderful new career, looking into first Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, and then the Sri Lankan problem, for someone whose promising transitions in Indonesian politics had come to an end.

14.  MR SAMBANDAN’S TRIUMPHALISM

I was deeply saddened to see the statement issued earlier this week in the name of Mr Sambandan following the leaking of some of the report of the Darusman 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.

At the time I expressed my suspicions of a meeting I saw take place at the home of the Political Affairs Officer of the American Embassy, Paul Carter. While enjoying his hospitality and listening to accounts of interactions between his Office and the JVP, I saw Mr Sambandan come in, and thought I should pay my respects before I left. I found him in the garden with the European Union Representative and the American Ambassador, and they looked so bemused that I realized I was probably interrupting something confidential. I offered to leave, but Mr Savage recovered himself and was reasonably polite. The other two stayed silent, so I soon took myself off. I began to think then that I was going to be persona non grata with the Americans, which was a pity considering the regard I had had for Bob Blake, but indeed subsequently the new Ambassador has also proved charming.

But I felt then that the TNA was being encouraged to succumb to Sarath Fonseka’s charms, and I was not surprised thereafter when he received a string of endorsements from both the TNA and people like Jehan Perera, who did not deny it when I asked if that was what his paymasters wanted. And I felt that my view was endorsed also by several European envoys, who subsequently expressed surprise at the games that had been played with Fonseka, including Bernard Savage’s strange defence of military men in politics.

Be that as it may, I had the impression subsequently that most persons settled down to reality, after the elections proved conclusively thatColomboelite perceptions were absurd. So I was optimistic about recent talks with the TNA, as well as what seemed efforts by certainly the Americans to promote reconciliation. However the report of the Panel has again allowed old emotions to flourish, and it seems that the TNA is once again going to embark on a policy of confrontation, expecting  foreign friends to pull their chestnuts out of the fire.

Over a year ago I pointed out to the British, at a meeting in their Foreign Office, the damage they could cause to Tamils by continuing to support the leftover rump of the LTTE, and by urging discussions with elements like the Transnational Government. My point was that the government wanted to work positively with the Tamils, but it could not trust the LTTE or its by-blows, and that continuing support for these would only serve to polarize.

Unfortunately I begin to suspect that polarization is part of the agenda of some of those who wish to interfere inSri Lanka, though I had hoped that at least current envoys inSri Lankawere wiser. My advice to the British was to follow the example of the Indians, who had never swerved from support for the Tamil people, while consistently evincing strong hostility to the LTTE. My argument was that that was the position of the decision makers in government, and foreign friends should affirm and support this position without trying to satisfy their own electorates.

Now sadly yet another opportunity seems to have arisen for what seems triumphalism on the part of those fundamentally opposed to the Sri Lankan state. Some of them simply will not accept that we have an elected government which is moving forward under difficult circumstances, though conscious of possible threats. Surely it cannot be triumphalism that has led to much more concerted efforts to implement Tamil as an official language than before, to more recruitment of Tamil policemen than done by any previous government in decades, to swifter resettlement and rehabilitation than in any comparable situation.

But people believe what they want to believe. In the process they contribute to hostilities which pave the way for extremist reactions, and sanctimonious self-justification based on similar behavior by their opponents. And meanwhile those who do not want reconciliation are cynically laughing.

 

15.  BRADMAN AND HIS BOYS AND UN FUNDS

Bradman Weerakoon

I was vastly amused to read that the United National Party, under its present leadership, has set up a committee under Mr Bradman Weerakoon to report on the findings of the Darusman Panel.

I was reminded by this of Mr Weerakoon’s previous official involvement with the UN when, as Secretary to the Prime Minister, he approved a Project which provided a massive sum of money to the LTTE Peace Secretariat.

Much of this was used to develop its website, which was subsequently used to glorify suicide bombers. I must confess I was disappointed when the UNDP Resident Representative at the time – who was not responsible at all for the Project – refused to remonstrate with the LTTE about this. Conversely, the Norwegian Ambassador, Tore Hattrem, did so, and this contributed to my view that, whatever one thought of Mr Solheim’s relationship with the Tigers, there were Norwegians in their Foreign Ministry who would have liked to have had no truck with terror.

I append below extracts from my letter to Neil Buhne of November 24th 2007  regarding that preposterous project. Needless to say, he did not answer my questions, and it was clear that the UN had not monitored this Project at all, but had simply dished out money to the LTTE as well as to several Civil Society organizations. The Board that decided on who should get the money was one of the usual incestuous organizations, with staff from the CPA, which Bradman had helped set up, playing a prominent part. It should be noted that UN personnel were also paid through this project, which one must assume would have been in breach of some regulation (unless the UN is particularly lax) since the money was meant to promote the peace process, not subsidize UN staff.

Neil Buhne

Dear Mr Buhne

Thanks very much for your letter or 21st November regarding assistance provided by UNDP to the LTTE Peace Secretariat from 2004 onward…

I am glad that, as anticipated, you were able to confirm that the Project was with the approval of the Sri Lankan government, through Mr Bradman Weerakoon as Secretary to the Prime Minister at the time and Commissioner General for the Coordination of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation, and also External Resources. I have since been able to discuss the Project with my predecessor who held office during the main period in which the Project was in operation, and I gather he was aware of it, though was not involved in its implementation.

I will seek within SCOPP for further clarifications, but meanwhile I would be grateful if you could give me further information with regard to the following –

1.     You mention ‘equipment notionally agreed upon to SCOPP and the Muslim Peace Secretariat’. What was meant by ‘notionally’, since what was supplied to these two was much less than that given to the LTTE Secretariat? In this context, would you know who were meant to be the Muslim beneficiaries at the time the Project was signed? The project document notes there was only a ‘Muslim Peace Advisory Unit under the Prime Minister’s office’ in existence at that time (Page 9 of the document, which may have told us more about this Unit, is missing from the copy you sent me)….

2.     The combined review envisaged did not take place. At the bilateral review with SCOPP it was noted that the minutes of all reviews would be shared with all partners. Could I please have copies of the other minutes, since they do not seem to be available in this office?…

3.     Under what authority were UNDP personnel able to function in a coordinating capacity, and be paid as recorded, over the three year period?

4.     How was the steering committee (or committees) for the Small Grants (or Small Grunts, as endearingly described) component established, and how was SCOPP represented on this committee (it should after all have been set up in consultation with SCOPP, but there is no record whatsoever of such consultation) Who were the other members of this committee?…

5.     Even though the project document records that, at the time it was signed, there was ‘an impasse in the negotiations’, the review keeps saying that the LTTE withdrew from negotiations during the period of the project. Is there any reason for this obvious prevarication, given that the LTTE had categorically withdrawn from negotiations in the middle of 2003 and the project document seems to recognize this?

6.     What were the joint activities that took place between the three secretariats? $14,000 seems to have been spent on this in 2006, through grants to institutes and other beneficiaries, and $25,000 earlier through Svc Co-Social Svcs. Were there any joint learning experiences or joint workshops?

7.     Were any study tours arranged for the LTTE? What was their travel allocation spent on? And what was the need for a large sum for transportation of equipment?

8.  Who were the other beneficiaries of the sums disbursed for a ‘sub contract for street theatre production’ that was supposed to be a SCOPP responsibility? A total of $77,000 seems to have been disbursed for this, though your letter suggests that some of this may in fact have been used for ‘the training provided to the negotiations team of the incumbent Government’. Do you have detailed accounts of this last? A sum of $11,000 for sundries seems excessive.

9.     The document refers to ‘the project’s strategy in working with civil society’ but I presume it should have been the Peace Secretariats rather than UNDP doing this for the purposes of the Project. What involvement was there of the Secretariats with civil society through the project, and what were the partnerships that the review claims were built up? You will note that the section in the review on ‘Facilitating partnerships between the Peace Secretariats and Civil Society Organizations’ does not once mention the Secretariats…

10.  Has the UNDP monitored the work of the Communication and Media Unit of the LTTE Peace Secretariat? Is it aware that the website of this Secretariat, which UNDP funds have helped build up, glorifies suicide cadres? Will UNDP, as other donors to that Peace Secretariat have done, indicate to the LTTE Peace Secretariat that such an outcome based on international support for peace is inappropriate, and urge that such items be removed from the website?

11.    What records are there of the regular monitoring and evaluation that the UNDP country office undertook during the lifetime of the Project? Has there been a formal review at the end? Could you please make available to us, as indicated in the project document, the works plan as well as the progress report and evaluation if anything exists apart from what has been sent already?

12.   Why was the Steering Committee envisaged in the project document not set up? It was supposed to have quarterly meetings, facilitated by UNDP, but these do not seem to have occurred ever. What mechanism does UNDP have to ensure greater reliability and accountability with what after all are public funds, however distant they may be from their sources? It seems to have been replaced by a wholly unaccountable ‘project team’. Who was in this team, how was it set up, and to whom did it report?

13.     What is the ‘host country implementing agency…the government cooperating agency’ referred to in the first paragraph of Part IV of the project document? Were there any revisions made to the project document on the signature of the then UNDP Resident Representative? If so, please let me know what they were and how they were authorized. If not, how was funding provided, as you mention, for a SCOPP negotiating team?

14.    Who were the various consultants provided to the LTTE Peace Secretariat? Were they all under the TOKETN programme? For how long were they here, and why were such large sums required as sundries?

15.     Why were Medical products required for the LTTE web development component of the project? What was the office machinery obtained for that component in 2004, and what was the office machinery obtained for Activity 10 in 2005?

16.     Who was the beneficiary of the Individual Service Contract under Management in 2004. and why did the cost go up so much over the next two years despite the fall off in activity? Why was so much spent on subsistence, and are any reports available following local travel?

I hope this is not too much of a worry, but I am sure the staff who were responsible for the project will not have difficulty finding the required information in the files. I would be happy to look through the files with them if you thought it would be easier. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

c. Secretary to the President

     Secretary, MFA

     Sujatha Cooray, ERD

Since there was no reply, I wrote again in March – ‘I should note that of the funding for what were termed peace promotion activities.’ I did then finally received a reply in May, but basically to say my queries could not be answered and that we should have a joint meeting to find out more. My ready acceptance of this offer was then ignored.

Island 7 May 2011

    

16. AMERICAN AMBASSADOR PATRICIA BUTENIS MAY HAVE DELIBERATELY OMITTED FORCES DEDICATED TO RECONCILIATION FROM THE CONSULTATION SHE ORGANIZED

 

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 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.

To adopt the phraseology of Para 153 – Many photos and video footage depict Dr Saravamumuttu in close association with former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who have reportedly been agitating with foreign representatives for regime change in Sri Lanka

Locutions in the same passage suggest that the Daily Mirror report raises a strong inference that intervention of other violence may have been advocated. However, despite efforts by NGO activists to publicize the meeting to create the opinion that diplomats from several countries concurred with their agenda, it is reported that the vast majority of diplomats did not fall in with the aspirations of the initiator of the meeting.

In the context of efforts to stampede opinion, it should also be noted, following Para 214 of the Kiki Darusman Report that ‘credible allegations point to a possible violation of the assumption that members of political parties write their own statements, inasmuch as Dr Saravanamuttu and Bhavani Fonseka may have contributed to a contentious statement issued on publication of the Kiki Darusman report that may adversely affect the Peace Process.

It has also been suggested that input from the American ambassador may have occurred prior to publication of the statement, though this suggestion may have originated with Dr Saravanamuttu who wanted to ensure perceptions of total complicity with his agenda.

The Independent Sri Lankan Panel also notes that the Daily Mirror article indicates that only Non-Governmental Agendas that have been vehemently critical of the Sri Lankan Government were invited for the meeting. Ambassador Butenis may have done this deliberately.

Agencies that have provided Humanitarian Assistance or been involved in Human Rights advocacy without concentrating their fire on government were not invited according to the guest list supplied by Dr Jehan Perera, who seems to have been the principal source of the Mirror article. However it has also been suggested that Dr Vinya Ariyaratne was an exception to the rule. There is a strong inference that he achieved this special status by his message after the Kiki Darusman Panel was constituted, indicating his strong condemnation of a demonstration held outside UN offices, attributed to government by parties seeking to promote hostility between the government and those sections of the international community that have financed those parties.

The failure of Ambassador Butenis to invite anyone from government, or any NGOs not overtly hostile to government, for a meeting supposedly dedicated to reconciliation points to a possible violation of the responsibilities and obligations of diplomats.

17.   THE INVOLVEMENT OF UN OFFICIALS IN THE PROGRAMMES OF EITHER PAIKIASOTHY SARAVANAMUTTU OR PATRICIA BUTENIS

Yesterday I wrote a satirical account of a meeting held at the house of the American Ambassador, reportedly at the request of Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu of the Centre for Policy Alternatives. In noting some versions of stories in circulation about what had been going on there, and why, I had based my account on what Jehan Perera had said to the newspaper which had leaked the story, namely that the discussion was about how the Report of the Darusman Panel could be made use of for reconciliation, instead of for ‘division and polarization’.

I was naïve. I have since found out that there was a strong school of thought, reported as extremist or hardline, which had intended the discussion to be about how the Report could be used to precipitate an external War Crimes investigation. This view had been expressed forcefully, though I was assured that none of the Ambassadors present had taken that line.

I then asked whether that line had been pushed purely by the Non-Governmental Organizations present, which the newspaper report had indicated were purely Sri Lankan. This would not have surprised me given the divisive and polarizing agenda of many of those cited as present. In my take-off of the Darusman Report, I had noted earlier that ‘The failure of Ambassador Butenis to invite anyone from government, or any NGOs not overtly hostile to government, for a meeting supposedly dedicated to reconciliation points to a possible violation of the responsibilities and obligations of diplomats’.

But I was not only being naïve now, I was also being careless. The newspaper had mentioned that UN officials were also present, which had slipped my attention. It was reported that these officials had been amongst the hardliners, along with some junior officials from embassies, in addition to some of the Sri Lankan NGO representatives.

This highlights serious questions, which I should have raised previously. Who were the UN officials present? I have long known the Acting UN Resident Representative, Adnan Khan and, though I have not met him for a very long time, my recollection is that he is unlikely to have been present at such a meeting. I am sorry to say, since I would like to give Ambassador Patricia Butenis the doubt, that I suspect she would not have invited him, though I hope she thought of doing so and had simply been dissuaded by those who had been instrumental in getting her to have such a meeting (assuming that she had not been the moving spirit herself).

It is vital that our Ministry of External Affairs immediately call in Mr Khan, and find out whether he or any of the Heads of UN agencies had been present at the meeting. The Ministry should also find out who from the UN had attended the meeting, and whether they had done so officially, as representing the United Nations, with appropriate authorization from those to whom they report. I am assuming that these individuals report to UN Heads of Agencies, and the Resident Representative, inSri Lanka.

The Head of the UN should be told that it is not appropriate for anyone to have attended such a meeting, to discuss further action on a Report issued from the office of the Secretary General. Even if they might claim to have attended as individuals, the newspaper report makes it clear that they were seen as attending as UN officials.

It is vital that the Ministry of External Affairs find out about this because we are well aware that some individuals working for the UN were busily subverting the good work that the senior members of the organization were attempting to do in Sri Lanka. I have indeed frequently cited the information given me by journalists in explaining why they attributed to the UN statements that senior and responsible officials of the UN had denied. What I have written previously, in an article (available on my blog www.rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com) entitled ‘Aid Agency Abuse of the Media’, may be worth citing at length here –

What struck me most however in the discussions was that they justified stories I pointed out were false on the grounds that they had received the information from officials on the ground, in what seemed several cases from the United Nations. When I pointed out that the senior leadership of the UN had repudiated these stories, the response was that younger officials sometimes felt they had to speak out because their superiors were seen as too close to the government.

I told the UN when I was back in Colombothat this was an unexpected compliment from our point of view. I would still like to think it is true and – though an Indian journalist warned me that sometimes the leadership of the UN said different things to different people – in general I believe most of the leadership with which we have to deal has been quite positive, and certainly opposed to terrorism, unlike the situation that obtained some time back. But there is a problem in that they do not categorically refute the misleading information provided by their underlings, and thus contribute to the multiple suspicions that abound in what should be a straightforward situation.

Journalists of course have different perspectives and, since their primary obligation is not to the people of the country they are serving in, they can privilege their fraudulent sources. In one case, though I was told that a particular story had been subsequently recognized as untrue, and the source for that would not be trusted again, there was no inclination to provide a correction. And by and large my point that, unless they referred to ‘an employee of the UN’ rather than ‘the UN’, they were in danger of reducing the effectiveness of the UN, was not accepted. Such precision would obviously make the story less effective, so in essence those within the UN system who wish to subvert it have a free rein.

Given such a situation, it is vital that our Ministry of External Affairs work together with the UN leadership to stop this rot. It is also important that one or both of these questions the American Ambassador on why she had invited particular individuals, and whether had she done so in terms of their responsibilities to the UN or otherwise. Much as I love the lady, I believe she is now in danger of rousing the suspicions she created in her last posting, Bangladesh, where reportedly ‘Dr. Abdullah Dewan Professor of Economics at Eastern Michigan University and a Bangladeshi American said: “To judge objectively, there was no “misunderstanding” on our part and we find that she was not just “outspoken”- Ms. Butenis openly meddled, apparently beyond her mandated duty, in the internal affairs of a sovereign country and made it look like a client state of America.”

In Bangladesh the claim was that she was promoting advocates of terror. While she could claim she was advocating inclusivity, I begin to wonder whether she was not proceeding on the old fatal CIA line, that those who shared the particular interests of the Americans at any stage should be promoted, regardless of the consequences – a policy we have seen fulfilled with disastrous effect in Afghanistan, when the Taleban and even Al Qaeda were used to get rid of the Soviet backed regime.

I hope nothing so dramatic is happening here. But whereas yesterday I thought the meeting Ambassador Butenis had arranged was in response to Dr Saravanamuttu, the information I had missed out on, this information that suggests use of the UN as a body as a tool through encouragement of individuals in it with personal agendas, has led me to find out more about the lady, and what I discovered was worrying. She may not be Robert Blake, but certainly she is too bright and able to be simply a tool of Dr Saravanamuttu and the other hardliners at her meeting.

In case I seem too critical of the United States, I should add that there was one piece of good news. I had been worried about Dr Paul Carter, the head of the political section of the embassy, with its close contacts with the JVP, on the lines of those sketched out in the article onBangladeshwith bodies one might have thought the United States was wary of. I felt that, whether arising or not from his putative passionate commitment to human right, his bizarre sympathy for Sarath Fonseka and his continuing close association with Dr Saravanamuttu did not bode well for pluralism and peace inSri Lanka.

But reportedly Dr Carter was not amongst the hardliners, or rather, he said nothing, confining himself to taking down notes. Those notes I assume have now been sent toWashingtonand will form part of the briefing received by Robert Blake, and perhaps even conveyed to Hillary Clinton, if we are important enough for her at this stage.

It would be a great pity if those notes suggested that this was a representative gathering of Sri Lankans, and that the views of the UN were also presented. I had long wondered why Hillary Clinton was wrongly briefed about rape being used as a weapon of war in Sri Lanka, a mistake for which Ambassador Butenis apologized, though there was no evidence that Hillary Clinton’s mindset had been adjusted, nor or any inquiry into how such a gaffe had occurred.

The frequent references to rape in the Darusman Report, always described in very tentative terms as though to make clear that this is now simply a weapon of war in the conflict the Report seems to want to provoke rather than a serious concern, raise my worries again. Previously I had assumed that Mrs Clinton had been misled by old information lying in US State Department files, by those more idealistic souls who found it and cleansed their minds of the fact that in the old daysSri Lankawas seen by theUnited Statesas a compliant ally, and such information should not be used against us.

That was worrying enough. However I now fear that the purveyors of false information exist in the here and now, and that what they say may be being conveyed toWashingtonwith the use of designations that belie the absence of responsibility and accountability. Nothing can be done about the Sri Lankan organizations that seem responsible only to those who fund them, given the continuing incompetence of Sri Lankan agencies to ensure accountability. But I can only hope that Adnan Khan, if he has not changed from the old days when we worked well together, will make the position clear not only to Ambassador Butenis but also to the senior officials in the United Nations – and that he will make clear to those UN officials who attended the meeting at the Ambassador’s residence that they need to understand for which institution they work, and that it cannot continue to speak with a forked tongue.

18.  PROMOTING TREACHERY – A NEW DIMENSION TO POLITICAL AFFAIRS 

Daily News 4 May 2011

I was told yesterday by one of those NGO activists who had benefited hugely from foreign funding that several Embassies were furious with me because of an article I had written about a meeting at the house of the American Ambassador at which UN officials were present.

I was surprised, because I had not been negative about the Embassies in general, and had indeed made it clear that I thought most Embassy representatives were victims of an attempt to dragoon them into complicity in the agenda of others. Soon it was clarified that it was only the American Embassy that was angry. This too was surprising, because Patricia Butenis is a sensible sort, and would not have been angry with me, though she might have been cross at those of her guests who had leaked the story.

Sure enough, the anger was not hers, but Paul Carter’s. He is the Political Affairs Officer of the Embassy, given to bow ties and pride in his southern heritage, certainly not someone one would have thought part of the CIA, except perhaps in its very early days. But I was surprised at the expressed vehemence, and decided I needed to check things out a bit more.

After all it was at his house that I came across Mr Sambandan in close conclave with the Ambassador and the EU Representative, when only the latter managed to be polite, and the other two made it apparent that I was interrupting a serious private conversation. It was shortly after that that the TNA decided to support Sarath Fonseka actively, something I found bizarre, given that he had been against swift resettlement of the displaced,that he had wanted to expand the army by 100,000 men after the war had been won, given that he had taken credit for having prevented the surrender of some LTTE leaders that he claimed had been arranged in air conditioned rooms

( U.S. Department of State; 21 October 2009; “Report to Congress on Incidents During the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka” At p.46 

July 10 – A media outlet reported on July 18 that at a celebratory event in Ambalangoda, Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka stated that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags during the war against the LTTE.

The “media outlet” quoted is : http://www.lankanewsweb.com/news/EN_2009_07_18_005.html)

But that swipe at civilian officials had been made in August. By December the boot was well and truly on the other foot, with his claim that it was those in air conditioned rooms who had been responsible for the killing of surrendees. Though he subsequently denied the story, it seems he used it again, and certainly by January he was the darling of the advocates of Human Rights.

How had this happened? And could this apparent transformation convince anyone, unless they had other reasons for disliking the current government and the President? Certainly a number of European ambassadors told me afterwards that they had been astonished at the phenomenon. It was only Anglo-Saxons it seemed who had swallowed the line.

Paul Carter certainly seemed to me the strangest votary at the Sarath Fonseka shrine, reminding me of one of those characters in C S Lewis’ ‘That Hideous Strength’, who make a fetish of a machine that becomes increasingly bloodthirsty and demands its votaries too as sacrifice. I was told by someone I trusted that this phenomenon was due to Paul Carter’s passionate commitment to human rights, but mature reflection suggests that that is not entirely plausible.

The explanation struck me when I was told that there is a move at present to convince army officers to testify against their superiors (though not against Sarath Fonseka) in a War Crimes Trial, for which they would be offered a safe haven in the United States. Paul Carter would obviously be a superb proselytizer, earnestly explaining the joys of southern cooking to soldiers who were being subtly threatened too with prosecution if they did not comply.

And then I remembered that this was what I had been told was done to Sarath Fonseka all those many moons ago, when he went to the States and suddenly came back again, and announced his candidacy for the Presidency. It was claimed that he had been threatened while in the States with prosecution, and the evidence presented to him had made him nervous. Certainly the Americans at that time thought he was the principal suspect, and indeed brought to the notice of the Government the speech in which he seemed to have boasted of having stopped a surrender his superiors had arranged.And there are strong inferences that, if there was carelessness in the course of the advance of our forces, which led to more civilian casualties than our policies permitted, it was because such niceties did not mean much to the then army commander.

At the time I pointed out that that American demarche, which referred in particular to Sarath Fonseka, graciously brought to me by Paul Carter, should be answered because it was presented without prejudice. Because of my own concern with possible harm to civilians, I had monitored all allegations on TamilNet, so I could pretty much answer the questions raised myself, but the last question in the document, about Sarath Fonseka and his claim that he stopped a surrender, was beyond me.

However, we were slow as always. After Sarath Fonseka made his move, it would have seemed churlish to have investigated him further. Certainly the Anglo-Saxons seemed to lose or rather suppress their suspicions of him, which is apparent too in the manner in which the British have forgotten the note about Fonseka which they gave me on January 12th 2009, four days after the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunga.

What is happening now suggests that the technique used to turn Sarath Fonseka is being revived. Credible allegations point to Paul Carter as the main instrument of persuasion, to get army officers to break their oaths of loyalty. It is reported that he and Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu are thick as thieves and were responsible for organizing the meeting and for the guest list, which included UN officials with no reference to the Head of the UN in Sri Lanka.

If this is true, I can feel comfortable again with Pat Butenis, whom I had begun to wonder about after hearing what the UN officials and some of the NGOs and junior diplomats had advocated at her meeting. In a sense she too may be a victim of these machinations, because she had previously been developing a much more productive dialogue that included government too. It is understandable then that the good doctors, Saravanamuttu and Carter, would have wanted to subvert this.

I shall be sorry about Carter if all this is true, for I have enjoyed the man’s hospitality, but I would not be surprised. I would not even call him a hypocrite, for his commitment to human rights may be genuine, it is just that it is subordinate to his patriotism as an American. This explains the hysteria with which the death of Osama bin Laden was greeted, hysterical because of what he had done to them. It was not terrorism that was the problem, for they had made use of him against the Soviets, but terrorism against them. That is why they simply cannot understand similar feelings of relief at the death of other terrorists, for other terrorists cannot harm them.

If you are convinced that America is the best country in the world, then pursuing what you see as America’s foreign policy imperatives becomes the best possible course of action. If this involves promoting treachery, that can be seen as the lesser evil, because you are promoting human rights in accordance with American interests, and treachery in such a cause is a virtue.

Robert Blake, Patricia Butenis meeting President Mahinda Rajapaksa

I think you have to have a particular mindset to swallow all this, but perhaps it is not all that unusual. I hope Robert Blake and Pat Butenis are made of sterner stuff, but I have noticed that in diplomacy, as it affects countries that are not considered particularly important, the tail often wags the dog. It will be a pity if Pat Butenis’ more positive initiatives are ruined. Unfortuantely, though perhaps we could work harder at keeping her on the straight and narrow, I fear that dogged determination will prevail, even if it involves the encouragement of treachery.

Daily News 4 May 2011

19.   RESPONSE TO ALLEGATIONS MADE BY DR SARAVANAMUTTU

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.

In such a context, it seems to me inappropriate to have taken such action on an anonymous typewritten note. In any case rumours to that effect were in circulation, and Dr Saravanamuttu would doubtless have heard them and perhaps contributed to their dissemination. It would not have been correct for a Government official to have taken such rumours further – and indeed my own belief that the British High Commission official concerned thought the note worth passing on to me suggests that, if I had passed it on myself, I would have been assumed to have been in the same position.

Apart from this facile critique, understandable perhaps in someone who has exercised only power without responsibility all his life, Dr Saravanamuttu takes a number of characteristic swipes at me. He is harsh about my memory, whereas I knew only too well that I was Secretary to the Ministry when the incident occurred, and he could have found out more details had he bothered to call me, as the Leader and Irudina did. He obviously does not appreciate honesty in the face of uncertainty, though in this regard he was perhaps misled by the Leader failing to register what I told them, that I could confirm the date of the incident when I was back in Colombo. I did so on the very evening I returned, and it was in fact January 12th 2009, which confirms the memory I had, that the incident was connected with the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga – though again I should stress that the British did not claim they had hard evidence about this, as opposed to the anonymous note.

Typically, Dr Saravanamuttu, who evidently believes such notes should be acted on, does not criticize the British High Commission for not conveying the note to the police, or to the Foreign Ministry, which would have been the proper channels had they thought the note merited further action. But one cannot criticize one’s paymasters, especially given the enormous amounts from which he has benefited.

Finally, he engages in what can only be called triumphalism in asserting that ‘It is perhaps fortunate that the professor’s note- taking competence let him down in terms of further advancement within the regime and yet let him off from even being appointed monitor of the external affairs ministry. This singular honour has gone to Sajin Vaas Gunewardene.’ I am not sure what his strange use of two phrasal verbs implies, but there is no reason except perhaps his own predilections for him to assume that I should have been thought of with regard to an appointment to the foreign ministry. As I mentioned on Rupavahini, when I was asked before being appointed to Parliament, as to which area I thought I should work in, I mentioned that my preference would be for Reconciliation.

Contrariwise, it has been fondly assumed amongst some NGO activists that Dr Saravanamuttu had hopes of being appointed Foreign Minister if Ranil Wickremesinghe ever returned to power. With his reputation as a superb wordsmith strengthened by Rama Mani’s recommendation, a former Vice-President of the Liberal Party to boot, who better to have stepped into the footsteps of Lakshman Kadirgamar would surely have been the view of his associates and funders, if not himself as well.

But this little bout of acidity does make me wonder now about the source of a rumour which was conveyed to me early in 2010 I think (I hasten to that I can provide the exact date if he wishes, by consulting my diary of the time) by the then Swiss Ambassador, who said she had heard I was to be made Foreign Minister. I have no idea who suggested that to her, but I suspect it must have been someone on the NGO circuit which was close to her at the time. It could not have been a friend, for so absurd a supposition for a new entrant to Parliament could only have been calculated to attract resentment.

I wonder now, having noted Dr Saravanamuttu’s triumphant assumption that I have been let down in terms of advancement, whether he spread the rumour at the time. Many years ago my student, Nalanda Ellawala, wrote an essay for me which ended, ‘I am small and thin, but I am content with myself.’ Reading it I could see generations of large Ellawala rugger players breathing down his neck, but the boy knew what he wanted. Similarly, I can see hosts of my former colleagues in NGO work, in the days before it became fashionable and lucrative, now wondering why advancement as they understand the term has eluded me.

I am sad that they cannot understand that one can be quite content, though unfortunately not thin, doing a lot of writing. It is also useful to learn about Parliamentary procedures and committees and contribute to innovations that have already led to COPE looking at more institutions in the last year than ever before. I believe too that I can claim some credit for the Human Rights Action Plan now reaching finalization, though of course more credit goes to the Attorney General for reviving the work we had done, which lay in abeyance last year. Developing better policies with regard to accountability and responsibility, as well as promoting reconciliation in innovative ways, seems also well worth doing, and to seek positions as Dr Saravanamuttu thinks essential has always seemed to me vulgar.

20.  LETTER TO THE EDITOR, THE ISLAND

April 21st

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

The Panel has been selective in suggesting that my response dealt with its 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.

The full text of my statement of January 30th 2009 is given below. Any reader with a decent knowledge of English would see that the Panel has been deliberately misleading.

The naivete of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva

( Created date: 30-Jan-2009 )

SCOPP Secretary General Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, in his capacity as the Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, replied to a statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross inGenevayesterday. His remarks are carried in full below.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights regrets a recent statement made inGeneva by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which fails to note current ground realities inSri Lanka. The statement appeals ‘to both sides’ to allow and facilitate the safe and voluntary movement of civilians out of the combat zone’ and notes that ‘Hundreds of patients need emergency treatment and evacuation toVavuniyaHospital in the government-controlled area.’

The statement was issued on the very day that the LTTE refused passage to ambulances which were to leave the LTTE controlled area for the hospital in Vavuniya which has throughout the last few years provided treatment to all patients sent there by the government doctors who continued to man all hospitals in the LTTE controlled area. The statement was issued a few days after two UN agencies finally issued categorical requests that the LTTE permit the civilians it has been detaining for so long to move into government controlled areas.

The ICRC staff inColombo is well aware that it is the LTTE that has barred the movement of civilians, despite which, braving execution by the LTTE, several thousands have now found their way to government controlled territory. The ICRC staff inColombo are aware that the UN thought that it had painfully negotiated permission to leave for members of staff and their dependents, only to find them stopped, so that two international staff too felt obliged to stay behind for the safety of these hapless civilians. On the day the ICRC inGeneva issued its demarche, the LTTE refused permission for those two international staffers, along with the ambulances, to leave LTTE controlled territory.

The ICRC staff inColombo may not be aware that the LTTE have been firing from the area which the government had declared a safe zone. Initially the international community, which clearly never learned the philosophical skill of induction, was not sure who had fired. The Bishop of Jaffna, as befitted his training, was sharper. In asking the government to extend the safe zone, he declared that he and his colleagues ‘are urgently requesting the Tamil Tigers not to station themselves among the people in the safety zone and fire their artillery-shells and rockets at the army. This will only increase more and more the death of civilians thus endangering the safety of the people’.

Later that day the UN also realised the truth and asserted that ‘we believe that firing this morning most likely was from an LTTE position.’ The fact thatGeneva seems oblivious to all this suggests either wilful ignorance or naivete. It is true that the ICRC code of operation demands neutrality. Neutrality however demands objectivity in analysis and reporting, not generalizations that portray the government in a negative light.

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

Secretary
Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights

 

21.  RESPONSES TO LAKBIMA NEWS

1.       What is your opinion on the UN Panel Report? based on its Executive Summary which was leaked on the internet and the serialization of the report on the daily Island.

 

What we have seen makes it clear that the Panel has an agenda. This is essentially retribution, retribution against the current Sri Lankan government for having won its war against terror against the urgings of more powerful governments, and against us for having defeated those governments so resoundingly in Geneva, when a motion supportive of Sri Lanka was passed at a Special Session designed to impose a War Crimes Tribunal on us. This intention was indicated by Mr Miliband in the House of Commons.

This is apparent from the efforts to reopen the decision taken inGeneva. On the whole then it seems to me that the Panel has far exceeded its brief in that we were assured by the Secretary General that it was intended to advise him on Accountability issues, whereas it seems to have seen its role as that of cutting the Sri Lankan government down to size. We knew from the start that there was some uncertainty on the part of members of the Panel, given that they thought it essential to come toSri Lanka, whereas the Secretary General accepted that this was not essential. We also have to remember that many of those who pushed for such a panel were anxious to try us for War Crimes, and indeed one of the acolytes of Louise Arbour specifically asked the Canadian government to nominate him to the War Crimes tribunal. I have no evidence that the three members who were finally appointed had this view, but given their connections with what one might call the Human Rights establishment, another of them also being an Arbour associate, it is possible they were led astray.

2.       What do you think about the leaking of a report before it was formally made public? It is alleged that this was done by the government.

 I have no idea who leaked the report, but I believe many bodies critical of the government were keen that it be made public. Since it was clear the UN did intend the report to be public, I see no great harm in parts of it appearing beforehand, though I would like to see the whole.

3.       There are accusations of civilian casualties, shelling of hospitals etc, which i don’t think will be that difficult to counter, but what about the accountability issues highlighted in the report?


The section on accountability consists of platitudes with a purpose that is apparent, when you look at the language used. Firstly, ‘Sri Lanka Army commanders and senior Government officials, as well as military and civilian LTTE leaders, would bear criminal liability for international crimes’. The latter are dead, so essentially this first point means calling our leaders criminals.

Secondly, ‘accountability necessarily includes the achievement of truth, justice and reparations for victims’. Who is liable for reparations, and from whom? Will there ever be recompense for the victims of terrorism? Does this mean finding out the truth about the culpability of international actors who armed the LTTE too? Not at all, the next sentence makes clear whom the Panel wants to punish – ‘Accountability also requires an official acknowledgment by the State of its role and responsibility in violating the rights of its citizens, when that has occurred’.

Finally, the Panel says ‘The Government has stated that it is seeking to balance reconciliation and accountability, with an emphasis on restorative justice. The assertion of a choice between restorative and retributive justice presents a false dichotomy. Both are required.’ What this means is that the old Mosaic doctrine of ‘an eye for an eye’, the concept of retribution that is now considered Neanderthal in seeking justice, is privileged as much as the reconciliation we need.

It is ironic that these recommendations come from citizens of countries that avoided retribution, sensibly I think, when nasty dictatorships were replaced by democratic regimes. Darusman, who as a comparatively civilized member of President Suharto’s Golkar Party became Attorney General in the transitional government, understood the importance of avoiding retribution when a new democratic government took over. InSouth Africa, similarly, Nelson Mandela had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that avoided retribution. InAmericaof course, despite Barack Obama’s rhetoric about the reforms he would have to introduce on replacing George Bush, we have much of the mixture as before, with sanctimoniousness about killing others to stop terrorism being replaced by sanctimoniousness about other things, which could well involve killing too.

One must be impressed then at the sheer absurdity of insisting on retribution with regard to a democratically elected government that fulfilled the hopes of all its people by getting rid of terrorism, and calling this accountability.

 

4.       In an article to the Sunday Observer you have said that “We need to move swiftly on reforms that will strengthen the rights, the potentialities and the opportunities available of all our people. We need to respond swiftly and forcefully to all allegations, instead of letting these lie unanswered until they are then accepted as gospel. We need to develop a solid constructive foreign policy, and make sure that we pursue it with intelligence and consistency, with proper training for all personnel serving abroad as well as those interacting with the international community in Sri Lanka.”


The government has not done any of these in the last two years and we have not shown visible interest on strengthening our internal mechanisms.  So doesn’t a large chunk of responsibility for this lie within the government? 


We have been very slow, but that is a tendency of governments all over the world. We also had to go through an extended election process, which is a problem democracies have, though ours has been made worse by the different levels of elections we have, grafted on a system that allows them to be spaced out.

We also have a constitution that, though it is termed an Executive Presidential Constitution, ties down the President by creating alternative sources of power, whereas what you want is monitoring authority, not confusion.  But yes, I hope we move swiftly soon in a lot of areas, just as we have moved superbly on infrastructure development.

5.       The government has been dragging its feet on Human Rights Action Plan and the Bill of Rights, which have been promised years ago, now suddenly they are talking about these again, shouldn’t we have done this without outside pressure?


These were not revived because of outside pressure, the lapse occurred because, after the dedicated Human Rights Ministry was abolished, there was confusion about where responsibility lay. Our staff moved to the Ministry of External Affairs, but its Secretary told me they were not equipped to handle internal Human Rights matters, and I can understand his position. Fortunately the Attorney General took up the matter last year, and we proceeded then with the last levels of consultation required. Unfortunately the Attorney General had a lot of travel in the past few months, given his other obligations including the hedging deals etc, so we were slower than I would have liked, but the draft was entrusted to an editor at the beginning of this month, and we have now handed over the final adjustments, so I expect the final draft by the end of April.

The Bill of Rights was delayed even though it was pledged in the President’s 2005 manifesto again because of confusion as to which Ministry it belonged in. I took over the job when I became Secretary for Human Rights in 2009, and had really to keep pushing all the dedicated but busy people who worked on the draft, and I managed to get this by the end of 2009. But then the elections intervened, and when the Ministry was abolished this, and the Action Plan, and also the Action Plan we had prepared for ex-combatants, fell by the wayside. I am happy that the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation has proceeded without the formality of our original plan on excellent work in that area, and with the Human Rights Action Plan now finalized, I hope we can also move soon on the Bill of Rights, as the President originally envisaged.

One very real problem is the manner in which Ministries are created, with no provision for continuity. I don’t think this can be solved except by constitutional amendment, which is why I have time and time again regretted the failure of the government – and the JVP which put it on probation then – to effect changes in 2001 that would have been universally accepted then.

6.       What can we really do about these allegations and what is the worse possible scenario?

We need to show that the allegations are misguided and misleading. I have already prepared answers with regard to some aspects, including the very confused claims with regard to hospitals. I believe if we are logical and clear and cite the records we have, we can show that our forces in general behaved better than any forces in the world that have dealt with terrorists. There have obviously been instances of collateral damage, and unfortunately sometimes in pointing out that there was no deliberate targeting of civilians, we seem to suggest that no civilians were killed, which is pounced upon as evidence of bad faith. So we need to be clear about what we are saying, which will help us to defend our excellent record in the field. We should also do better about aberrations in other areas, which all countries suffer from, but which unfairly in Sri Lanka are tied to our struggle against terror – whereas for instance the US State Department Report makes it clear that most concrete instances relate to other things.

And we need, while continuing with the seminal infrastructural development that the whole country is enjoying, to move more quickly on Human Resources development in the North and East, as well as for youngsters in deprived areas. We have to make it clear that all our citizens are full partners in the development process, and for this purpose we need too to improve recruitment ratios for state employment, in particular into the security services. What we have done in this regard already also needs to be better known.

All this also indicates that we need greater understanding of the way the world works, instead of obsequiousness to the rich and powerful at times, combined with excessive reactions when we, suddenly as it seems, realize that they are interested neither in us nor in morality, but only in their own interests. We do not need to get angry with them about that, such behavior is natural, and has been the stuff of international relations for years – but we need to know, and learn from them, the importance of packaging. This should not be difficult, given that in comparison with anyone else who has dealt with terrorism, we have a good story to tell – but we should tell it, not wait to be threatened by default.

7.       Finally, in 2009 you as the Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights sent a response to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions Phillip Alston, who cited alleged charges made by former Army Chief Sarath Fonsenka against the Defence Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa about the sequence of events in the last phase of the Eelam War IV (May 16 to 19), in that letter you argued that the retired General Fonseka had distanced himself from the comments attributed to him. This letter was withdrawn by the government. Do you think that, in hindsight, this was very misguided?

 

There was a case for withdrawing the letter, since close reading of the manner in which the distancing took place suggested ambiguities which needed to be sorted out. However we should have stressed the fact that the evidence Alston was adducing for his claims was no longer valid, and I could easily have done that too, while making clear Fonseka’s bad faith. Unfortunately our Representative inGenevawas new, and did not I think understand the relationships we had developed under the guidance of the previous Representative Dayan Jayatilleka who understood the dynamics that were prevailing very well. He knew too that Alston was nervous of me, and indeed said that he had been told I would take advantage of responses he sent – a bit like Garath Evans telling me he knew that I was a dangerous person to deal with. Unfortunately, with my letter being summarily withdrawn – and there being no proper follow up although that was promised – my usefulness in dealing with Alston was over, which is why indeed there are still references to his claims that the Channel 4 video was genuine.

That too should have been refuted in writing promptly, which would have been easy given the problems his own experts cite. I think the practice of prompt replies to Geneva has stopped after that incident, and I hope the new Foreign Secretary makes sure that we reply promptly as we did right through 2009 to all queries.

22.  RESPONSES SENT TO IRIN, THE NEWS AGENCY OF THE UN OFFICE FOR THE COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

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.

I should note that he may have been responsible for the LTTE refusing to participate in talks with the government, because he had insisted against their objections that the question of child soldiers could form part of the agenda. Sadly, before the government of President Rajapaksa took office, it seemed this had been swept under the carpet.

Finally, the UN and the so-called international community kept quiet about the relentless effort of the LTTE to coerce civilians into retreating with it, so that they could use them as human shields. We made several requests, from which I will cite here a letter to the Head of OCHA Zola Dowell on May 5th 2009 –

‘there is no reference (in OCHA documentation) to the root cause of the problems we face, the sudden influxes, the threats to civilians still in the safe zone, the health hazards – namely the refusal of the LTTE to let these people go.

 

I have pointed out repeatedly the failure of the UN to have addressed this problem initially, when it was obvious – even without us pointing it out – that the LTTE was holding on to civilians for precisely this eventuality. It is shocking that even now the UN seems to ignore this in documents such as this, and does not categorically demand that these civilians be released.’

23.  ASIAN TRIBUNE: Q & A WITH PROF RAJIVA WIJESINHA

01. During this post war scenario Sri Lanka’s critical success factor is rebuilding the Countries image as a democratic nation. According to your personal opinion so far how we reach that target?

I don’t think there were ever any doubts about Sri Lanka being democratic (except in the period between 1980 and 1989, when Mrs Bandaranaike was prevented from standing in the Presidential election, when we had the now universally condemned referendum, and when you had murder and mayhem and extremely low turnouts in Provincial Council and Presidential and Parliamentary elections). Our problem was rather to establish ourselves again as a pluralistic nation with the full participation in the economic, social and political life of the country of all segments of the population. It is clear that we have succeeded well in this regard, with much infrastructural development in the North and East as well as elsewhere, and much more active participation in elections, from the low into which the LTTE plunged it. We can do more in Human Resources Development, but the base there was pretty good, and with the new initiatives of the Ministries of Higher Education and Youth Affairs, we will be able to move quickly.

02. The recent US state department report has strongly condemned the Rajapaksa family dominance and related large-scale human rights violations. What is your overall assessment about that report?

They have one sentence about the family in the introduction, which is not taken up elsewhere in the Report, which suggests that that is a political comment, not related to Human Rights. Similarly, though the introduction has lots of generalizations, some of which are repeated in the Report, actual citing of incidents and indeed some of the descriptions they use suggest things have improved. Of course we still have work to do, which is why Government hopes soon to ratify and implement the Human Rights Action Plan which we began preparing when I was Secretary of the Ministry. We need to adopt a holistic view of Rights, and ensure improvement of the situation of all our citizens, and not be sidetracked only by political agendas.

03. The Report also mentions that the main opposition presidential candidate General Fonseka is a most prominent political prisoner. But the government opinion is very much different? And you trying to say that the he is responsible for the assassination of the editor of Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickramathunga? What are the evidence do you have on this regard?

If you read carefully, you will see that they call him the ‘most prominent’ of a small number of political prisoners. Since they don’t define what they mean by ‘political prisoner’, and I think do not use the term properly, it is difficult to see what they mean. Even on their reckoning, which I do not accept, to be the most prominent of obscure persons does not mean much. Of course, while the comparisons are silly, he is certainly well known, and was obviously a capable soldier, but as a politicians I think he is no longer taken seriously even by the strange coalition that put him forward.

I was not attributing responsibility to him at all, my interview with the BBC was about the special agendas of some foreign countries, and I used what the British had brought to my attention as an example of the change in approach that has occurred, and how now the government would be decried if they pursued suspicions of him being involved.

To quote from the clarification I sent to the ‘Island’ this morning, ‘I did not hear the BBC version of what I said, though as always they seem to have highlighted what they wanted, which has led to a misconception. I have asked them to send me recordings of interviews, but this does not seem possible for the Sinhala service of the BBC, though other journalists oblige.

My emphasis was on the political angle of much criticism of the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka, and I pointed out that there would be howls of execration if investigations were pursued into any connection Sarath Fonseka might be suspected to have had with the killing. This is part of the current great concern for Mr Fonseka, whereas previously I had been shown, at the British High Commission, a note suggesting Fonseka had squads engaged in illicit activities reporting to him. This was not connected with the killing of Lasantha Wickramatunga, and my informant did not claim the note amounted to evidence, but at that stage it seemed clear to me that he thought it might be true.

I cannot comment, and the note itself is obviously not evidence…, but I am sure the British High Commission have studied the matter more carefully than I have. Individuals therein may have reached different conclusions, though we must accept as trustingly as they do our official statements, that the UK Government, with Mr Miliband still Foreign Secretary, ‘did not favour any candidate in the Presidential Elections in Sri Lanka in 2009’.

04. If he is responsible for Lasantha’s killing, Instead of following the legal procedures, why you disclosed it to the media right now?

I have no idea if he was responsible, so the question does not arise. As I mentioned, the note the British gave me is not evidence, and my point was the varying attitudes they seem to evince with regard to violation of Human Rights at different stages, depending on political considerations.

05. Your media statements against the UK government on this regard is very much controversy. UK authorities have denied having favoured Gen Fonseka at January 2010 presidential elections

The BBC does tend to be controversial as we know, and it is interesting that they have highlighted what I said as though it was condemnation of Mr Fonseka rather than a comment on changing attitudes. As I have said, with regard to the High Commission, ‘Individuals therein may have reached different conclusions, though we must accept as trustingly as they do our official statements, that the UK Government, with Mr Miliband still Foreign Secretary, ‘did not favour any candidate in the Presidential Elections in Sri Lanka in 2009’.

06. The US report also said “The police, under the authority of the Ministry of Defense, reportedly maintained a special unit to  monitor and control all references in the media to members of the Rajapaksa family.” Do you agree with this statement? If no is the answer then what are the progress of recent media attacks (such as Siyatha television, MTV/MBC studios, Lanka e news web site) disappearance of Journalist Prageeth Eknaliyagoda and the killing of Lasantha?

The statement sounds of a piece with the underlying hostility in whoever wrote the Report towards the present elected Government of Sri Lanka, though I do hope this is not the attitude of the current or the last Ambassador. I do not know about the progress of investigations (I assume you mean that, not progress of attacks), though I have throughout pointed out the need to proceed with them expeditiously, as you will note if you have studied my statements throughout the last year. However I have no executive position, so cannot contribute towards this myself, as I used to do when I was Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, and indeed before that, when as Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat I headed a Committee to develop more positive approaches in the Police with regard to possible violations of Human Rights. I should note that we had good cooperation from the Police officials who attended, and we had one excellent Trainer Training programme but, as those officials pointed out, they needed more courses in professional activities too, in addition to Rights awareness.

07. What is the reason for delaying the final report of Mahanama Tillekeratne commission which was investigated abductions, disappearances, killings, and unidentified bodies?

Again, I have no idea about this.

08. There are also some controversies about the Arbitrary Arrest or Detention. What is the government position regarding these criticisms?

I have not looked in detail at this section of the Report yet, though I have written detailed responses to two other sections. I will look at this section over the next day or so, but a quick glance suggests they have used the same formula, harsh generalizations designed to suggest that we still have ethnic problems, but then just a few concrete instances which suggest that their approach is wrong-headed. I think part of the problem is that they describe the taking in of people for questioning as arrests. I was also amused at the very loose use of the term ‘arrest’ to cover students detained for unruly behaviour. It will be terribly funny if the State Department helps students to stymie University Reforms, though I know that certainly the more enlightened people in the American Embassy in Colombo would not want this to happen. I suppose it’s a bit like the situation in the UNP, where the more sensible people support Reforms, but Ranil Wickremesinghe rejects the idea and may well try to make political capital out of any opposition to progress.

09. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) also another major issue. How is the progress up to now?

That section of the Report is actually less negative, and records the excellent progress we have made. They do note problems that persist with regard to what were termed ‘old IDPs’, some of whom were displaced so long that they prefer to settle down in the places they sought refuge in. What I miss is some credit for the superb work done by Government, so that there are very few still displaced, though we had hundreds of thousands suffering for so long. As I say in one of my responses, ‘Sadly no credit is given for the positive way in which we have dealt with ex-combatants, none for the speed with which we have resettled the Displaced. I remember a couple of years ago, when the British were spearheading the attempt to condemn us at a Special Session of the Human Rights Council, the claim (consummately hypocritical, which the British, certainly New Labour, never had qualms about) that they were concerned about the Displaced and the former Combatants in Custody. I told them then that, if they were sincere, they should behave as India did, drawing attention politely to problems that needed to be addressed, without promoting self-regarding interference through naming and shaming. I did point out that, when we dealt with such problems positively, as I had no doubt we would do, I was sure there would be no congratulations, but simply shouting about something else.’

Incidentally, in my clarification with regard to Sarath Fonseka, I noted my belief that ‘government policy, as laid down and directed by the President, is inclusive and pluralistic, but obviously there will be differences of opinion, as we had to grant when for instance the then Army Commander made what seemed inappropriate remarks about the status of minorities and about politicians in Tamilnadu. He was entitled to his views, but they should not have been confused with the views of the government.

I should note that my beliefs were vindicated absolutely by Sarath Fonseka’s letter of resignation, in which he berated the President for not having increased the size of the army, and for having released the Displaced too early. The policy of government on both these counts was admirable, and those who flocked to the Fonseka banner during the 2010 election completely ignored all this.

10. The International community also expecting the UN special commission report against the Sri Lanka’s Human rights violations. The International community also having a limited trust about the government LLRC .What is your opinion regarding these commissions and their reports?

I think the LLRC seems to doing a good job though, as I noted in my submissions, I would have liked more attention to future work and suggestions for Reconciliation. Unfortunately the insistence by a few members of what is termed the International Community led to lots of controversy about alleged War Crimes. This has also hijacked the discourse about the Secretary General’s Panel, which is supposed simply to advise him, and is not supposed to produce a report ‘against the Sri Lanka’s Human Rights violations’ as you put it. I would assume the Secretary General knows the parameters under which he operates, even though a few interested parties wish to pressurize him to attack  Sri Lanka.

Asian Tribune 13 April 2011


24.  LETTER TO THE UN SECRETARY GENERAL

2nd May 2011

Ban Ki-moon

Secretary General

United Nations Organization

Dear Mr Ban,

 I am writing to express my deep disappointment at the content and release of the Report of the Panel you appointed to advise you on certain particulars. There is much in the Report that is deplorable, and I have addressed some of these aspects at length in articles, which you and your interested colleagues may wish to look at on my blog, www.rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com, collected in the section called ‘Post-Colonial Practices’.

I am writing to you personally however with regard to misrepresentations in the area with which I was personally concerned, as Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, which had a mandate to coordinate humanitarian assistance. Your Report criticizes the work of Government in providing humanitarian aid in eighteen different paragraphs. Some paragraphs repeat the same allegations, in imitation perhaps of the Lewis Carroll like assertion that what is said three times is true, but I am sure you are familiar with such techniques and will make allowance for them.

Astonishing in this plethora of allegations is what seems complete ignorance of the attitude of the United Nations on the ground at the time, as represented by the Resident Representative. He and I had occasion to discuss the difficulties caused to him by junior staff with a different agenda, as was described to me by a reporter on the ‘Times’ who had misrepresented the actual position in Sri Lanka. I wrote about this including as follows. ‘What struck me most however in the discussions was that they justified stories I pointed out were false on the grounds that they had received the information from officials on the ground, in what seemed several cases from the United Nations. When I pointed out that the senior leadership of the UN had repudiated these stories, the response was that younger officials sometimes felt they had to speak out because their superiors were seen as too close to the government.’

A similar mistake was made later by Hillary Clinton, for which the American Ambassador in Colombo apologized. This was doubtless for similar reasons, though sadly the truth never came out, though we were happy to accept the Ambassador’s olive branch and be reconciled.

It would be preposterous however if the United Nations, or a Panel appointed by its Secretary General to advise him, similarly ignored senior United Nations staff. I am writing therefore to ask you whether your Panel did interview Neil Buhne, the Resident Representative throughout those difficult days, and looked into official UN documents. In this context I attach just one of the many letters we received which testifies to UN appreciation of the enormous amount of work done by Government on behalf of the displaced. I hope that perusal of this letter will convince you that your Panel has not done a serious or objective job.

I look forward to hearing from you, and to continuing interaction with the United Nations, under what I trust will be your knowledgeable and wise and independent leadership.

Yours sincerely

Prof Rajiva Wijesinha

Member of Parliament

 

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