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Norwegian ambassador - Hans Brattskar

In going through old files to find material to deal with the allegations of the Darusman Report, I came across a number of documents that surely merit wider publicity at this stage. I found for instance the record of the visit of the Norwegian ambassador  to Kilinochchi in 2006, when he reported with regard to Child Recruitment that  –

  

  • Mr Tamilselvan had insisted that the issue of child recruitment does not fall within the paramilitaries (sic) of the CFA, and should not be part of the agenda at the next round of talks. The LTTE feels that the government is only politicizing the issue.

 

  • Mr Bratskar has pointed out that the CFA does mention of the abduction. Since a child cannot voluntarily join the LTTE military force, all recruitment will have to be treated as abduction. He had also argued that looking at the history of the six rounds of talks, there is an acknowledgement that recruitment should not be continued, and that continued recruitment was extremely damaging to the image of the LTTE at the international level.

 

 I suspect that it was because Mr Bratskar made this point so clearly that the LTTE, having gone to Geneva, failed to appear at the next round of talks.  This suggests that, had Sri Lankan negotiators been firm on this point earlier, the LTTE might have withdrawn sooner, but given the indulgence displayed to them in six rounds of talks in 2002 and 2003, they kept pushing the envelope further and further away from negotiations to stalling while they built up their military strength.

 

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‘See No Good, Hear No Good, Speak No Good: the perversions of the Darusman Panel'

I have dealt at some length with the serious allegations made by the Darusman Panel, and my detailed responses have now been collected into a book. This will be available later this week at International Book House, 151 A Dharmapala Mawata Colombo 7. It is entitled ‘See No Good, Hear No Good, Speak No Good: the perversions of the Darusman Panel’.  However there still remains much to be said. I have rarely come across such a slipshod and vulgar piece of work. The manner in which all rules of language as well as evidence are traduced to put the Sri Lankan government in the dock is positively disgusting. Though in the end what happens will depend, not on facts or justice, but on the political predilections of more powerful nations, I hope anyone studying this exercise will realize that the Panelists should not be taken seriously. It will be a travesty of academic standards and integrity if they are used again for the lucrative political jobs that the international community throws up with predictable regularity.

A startling example of the manner in which prejudice trumps decency was apparent in the footnote to Para 98 of the report, which is all about the manner in which the LTTE tormented civilians during the last days. It records that the LTTE ‘continued to prevent civilians from leaving the area, ensuring their continued presence as a human buffer. It forced civilians to help build military installations and fortifications or undertake other forced labour. It also intensified its practice of forced recruitment, including of children, to swell their dwindling ranks. As LTTE recruitment increased, parents actively resisted, and families took increasingly desperate measures to protect their children from recruitment. They hid their children in secret locations or forced them into early arranged marriages.52 LTTE cadre would beat relatives or parents, sometimes severely, if they tried to resist the recruitment.’

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In the claims and counter-claims swirling around about what happened in the last days of the conflict, logic and intelligence seem to have gone by default. There is little effort to look at evidence, and to consider the wider implications of the few facts that can be discerned.

One assertion that there is no reasons to think false is the fact, as reported in Wikileaks, that the ‘Norwegian DCM told PolOff that a priest in Jaffna had called her to say that another priest in the conflict zone had called him on a satellite phone. He said he was with a group of 40 children, who were pinned down in bunkers in the conflict zone and dared not move because of intensive incoming shelling.’ Wikileaks does not tell us what happened afterwards, but the Norwegian DCM is now the ambassador and, when I asked her about this statement, she was able to tell me that the story had a happy ending. The pastor and the children were brought to safety. This happened, she said, after a message about their existence was conveyed to the Sri Lankan authorities, though it could not be affirmed that it was that information that had led to the children being kept safe.

Corroboration of this story comes from an article that appeared in the ‘New Yorker’ in January 2011. The author, Jon Lee Anderson, writes that A survivor of the final stand at Mullaittivu, a young pastor, described the scene to me. He and four other pastors and a group of sixty orphans in their care had been dug into shallow bunkers on the beach. “It was the first thing we did whenever we reached a new position—digging and making bags with cut- up women’s saris,” he said. “Only afterward would we go and look for food or water.” The Tamil fighters were in bunkers all around them. “Most of them were Black Tigers,” he said, referring to the Tamil suicide squad. “Prabhakaran was among us, too, but none of us saw him.”

He described a charnel ground, with artillery shells landing at random. “All we could see was dead people, people crying for food and for water, and burning vehicles everywhere.” On May 16th, Army troops took the last coastal positions, and, as they pursued the remaining Tigers, the Army commander, General Sarath Fonseka, declared victory. The next day, a Tiger spokesman posted a statement on the organization’s Web site: “This battle has reached its bitter end. . . . We have decided to silence our guns. Our only regrets are for the lives lost and that we could not hold out for longer.” In the bunker, the pastor’s group talked by cell phone with a brigadier general in the Sri Lankan Army who told them to stay there until they saw soldiers, then identify themselves with white flags. The group 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.

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'A view to a kill'

Amongst the plethora of photographs released after the killing of Osama bin Laden, there is a particularly telling one of President Obama and senior officials. In Time magazine it is captioned ‘A view to a kill’, which suggests that the group is looking at a screen on which the last moments of Osama are being displayed.

One feature stands out immediately in the picture. In a group of hard-faced men, Hillary Clinton sits with her hand over her mouth, her eyes seemingly displaying a sense of shock that no one else in the picture shares. The others are most of them involved in security activities, including military men, with the only other female amongst them, White House counter-terrorism chief Audrey Tornason, sharing in her eyes the steely determination of the rest.

9/11

To me it was an endearing photograph of Hillary Clinton, for it suggested the human dimension that should never be forgotten when hard decisions are made. I can quite understand the anxiety of the Americans to do away with Osama bin Laden, and after the appalling nature of the 9/11 attack, it would be churlish to claim that the force they used was excessive. But it is important that the occasion should not have been one of unrepressed aggression, and that a sense of decency was also maintained by at least one participant is salutary.

And not only one. The other face that stands out is that of Barack Obama himself. All the other faces are complacent, his is not. His face registers the enormity of what is happening, a determination to see it through, but also an understanding that the decision was not an easy one. The face no longer exudes youthful exuberance, and this is clearly a man who has aged in the last couple of years. But it is still a human face, with no trace of the easy sanctimoniousness that both George Bush and Tony Blair displayed when they justified selfish excesses.

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LTTE Child Soldiers

The manner in which the Darusman Panel dealt with the issue of child recruitment is symptomatic of its efforts to minimize the atrocities of the LTTE, as well as the failure of the international community to do anything to limit these.

Having introduced the LTTE as a disciplined group, it describes some of the things it did, and declares that ‘Its tactics led to the organization’s proscription in numerous countries, including Canada, the European Union, India, the United Kingdom and the United States; its proscription intensified after 11 September 2001’.  This is perhaps an oblique way of saying that the West was not concerned about terrorism till it struck at them, but that too is misleading. It was much more recently that the West proscribed the LTTE, after it had been permitted for years to raise funds at will and continue with its wicked tactics.

The Panel does grant that ‘The LTTE was also known for its forced recruitment and use of child soldiers, including boys and girls’, the additional verbiage being typical of how its Report has been padded out. I presume it is not a suggestion that there were also some androgynous child soldiers. What the Panel omits is that amongst those knowing this were the UN in Sri Lanka, which was well aware that the LTTE continued to recruit children right through what was supposed to be a peace process. This has been emphatically put on record by the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission, and one reason I have a high regard for the Norwegian Foreign Ministry (as opposed to Mr Solheim) is that Ambassador Brattskar made clear to the LTTE that it could not insist that the topic of child soldiers should be removed from the agenda at Peace Talks. Read the rest of this entry »

The bund built by the LTTE along the Chundikkulam lagoon - courtesy Army media

One of the most astonishing factors about the determination of the LTTE to keep the people of the Vanni hostage was how little opposition it encountered. I am not talking here of a lack of opposition from the people who were victimized. If the price of trying to get away is death, then obviously you would be inclined to give in and stay. In such a context indeed it is remarkable that so many people had the courage to try to get away, and that some at least succeeded without the assistance of the Sri Lankan forces.

To cite just two incidents mentioned in the December 2009 report of the Jaffna University Teachers for Human Rights, who are certainly not indulgent towards the government –

In describing something that seems to have taken place in January, UTHR writes that ‘A group of people from Jaffna was trying to escape towards army moving west from south of the A 35, lines when some LTTE cadres stopped them. A woman was with her grand daughter and the latter’s two younger brothers in their early teens. The grand daughter prostrated herself before an LTTE man and pleaded wi0th him to let them go. The LTTE man pushed her with his foot. Her grand mother then lay at his feet and repeated the same plea. The LTTE man then opened fire injuring the three children. The injured grand daughter and the two children were helped by others to the army line and were dispatched to Vavuniya Hospital. The boys recovered. The grand daughter was sent to Colombo Hospital where she succumbed. One of the young boys who survived says that he would recognise the LTTE man who shot them anywhere and he would kill him.

 

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I am writing in response to the article in your columns today by Dr Saravanamuttu. This is devoted entirely to me, as opposed to his previous practice of taking running pot shots. I shall reply in brief, since I am out of Colombo, but this is perhaps just as well, since it does not seem necessary to deal with each and every specific charge, passing innuendo and vigorous if imprecise self-defence in which he indulges.

With regard to the charges there seem to be just two of consequence. The first relates to his claim that I should have taken action on the note passed on to me at the British High Commission regarding Sarath Fonseka.  I have explained at length why it would have been inappropriate to take formal cognizance of something given to me in the course of a visit made for quite different purposes. Taking official action was the business of the British High Commission if they believed their source was serious and credible.

He may recall the manner in which Vijaya Kumaranatunga was arrested in 1982, and kept in jail during the 1982 referendum because, as the police report finally put it, someone had told someone else who mentioned it at a dinner party that Mr Kumaranatunga had claimed there would be blood in President’s House if Mr Kobbekaduwa won the 1982 Presidential election.

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Over the last few weeks, it has become clear that our international relations need improvement. Some elements in the West seem annoyed with us and determined to criticise us. Various reasons are offered for this, though one of the most preposterous that floated around in the past is now dead. This is that the West was really very fond of us but Dayan Jayatilleka engaged in megaphone diplomacy in Geneva and alienated them.

How that theory developed is well worth studying, and that may help us in working out what a sensible foreign policy should include. Equally important is the study of how exactly our Mission in Geneva dealt with the threat presented over several sessions of the Human Rights Council. The manner in which Dayan built up a coalition of principle, encompassing almost all countries in Asia, and most of those in the Middle East, Africa and South America, must be an example to all those involved in multilateral relations in the future.

One of the canards spread about Dayan was that he was hostile to the West. Compared to many individuals in the Foreign Ministry at the time, this was true, because he was not subservient to the West. In one sense one can understand, if not approve of, such subservience at a time when Western hegemony seemed assured. But, since that no longer obtains, the West is more nervous than it used to be, and is therefore inclined to engage in more adventurism than it thought essential a few years back.

What many of those who claim to understand foreign relations ignored completely is the fact that in foreign relations, self-interest is all. While pretences of morality are often proffered, these must necessarily be subordinated to national interest. Unfortunately, in the last couple of decades, that national interest also includes indulgence, as far as many Western countries are concerned, to the demands of an extremely sophisticated and well-endowed Tamil diaspora that had adopted the position that the LTTE was the only answer to Tamil problems.

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Every cloud, they say, has a silver lining, and the Darusman Report was no exception. It gave me a reason, if not exactly a good one, to re-read Enid Blyton, a pleasure that increases in value as one nears one’s sixties. Having discovered that Marzuki Darusman was also called Kiki, I remembered that the only other Kiki I knew was the parrot in the ‘Adventure’ series that Enid Blyton began just as the second world war was ending. It seemed a good idea then to see what light Enid Blyton shed on the character of a Kiki. Though she dealt in broad rather than subtle brush strokes, her characterization is vivid, and particularly in her descriptions of animals, such as the faithful but highly individualistic dogs, Timmy and Buster and Loony.

Kiki was no exception. I thought it would be self-indulgent to study more than one story, so I bowed to the recommendation of my niece, who said ‘The Circus of Adventure’ was her favourite. It was also particularly apposite, since it is all about regime change, the wicked Count Paritolen, and his sister Madame Tatiosa, wanting to replace the good king of Tauri-Hessia with a puppet.

The proposed puppet is a sweetie really, a boy called Gussy with long hair who bursts into tears at the drop of a hat. But Gussy becomes stronger as the book progresses, and I suspect there is hope for Ranil too, if authority is not conferred upon him too soon.

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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

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Rajiva Wijesinha

May 2011
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