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download (6)I have a great affection for General Chandrasiri, and indeed great admiration too. This began when, in 2008, he invited me to be the Chief Guest at the Future Minds Exhibition he had organized in Jaffna. The other principal invitee was to be the Bishop of Jaffna, someone else for whom I have both affection and admiration. Though he has always stood up for the rights and dignity of the Tamil people he serves, he has also spoken out against terrorism and the LTTE.

Indeed, it is a mark of his integrity that the strongest evidence against the spurious allegations made against us with regard to the first No Fire Zone comes in the letter the Bishop wrote on the day that Zone was subject to attacks. Contrary to what the Darusman report insinuates, and what an even less scrupulous report claims was our plan to corral civilians in places where the LTTE had weaponry, the Bishop said that he would ask the LTTE to refrain from transferring weapons into the No Fire Zone. Unfortunately neither the Ministry of Defence, nor the Foreign Ministry (the latter, as Dayan Jayatilleka graphically described it, now territory occupied by the MoD), have bothered to argue against the allegations on the basis of facts and evidence from independent sources.

Unfortunately the aim of General Chandrasiri in 2008, to avoid politicians, as he put it to me when asking me for the event, was countered by Douglas Devananda doggedly turning up and taking a prominent role. I could understand then why he could not be put off, but it is sad that he did not take up the idea suggested by the General’s assertion of the need to develop human resources. Instead, even in the local authorities his party won, he allowed personal predilections to come to the fore, and did nothing for development. There was no thinking of the type of partnership that could have been set up, to train youngsters and start businesses, through a synergy of talents, with civilians being in charge but accepting advice and assistance from the military.

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UAV footage of LTTE firing on fleeing civillians

I have looked previously at concerns about civilian casualties during the first part of the conflict. Since allegations of civilian casualties increased astronomically during 2009, it will be salutary to address these separately.

11. Concerns were expressed in January 2009 that civilians were falling victim on a large scale to army attacks. Whereas in the last seven months of 2008 only 78 civilian deaths were alleged by Tamilnet, in January 2009 alone there were allegations of 689 civilian deaths.

The largest allegation in this regard was on January 26th when there was an allegation that more than 300 people died. There was another allegation on the same day of more than 100 civilians killed. Both allegations refer to the safety zone, and it is possible that the references are to the same incident.

These allegations occurred a day after the Bishop of Jaffna said he would be ‘urgently requesting the 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.’ This was also the time when the UN Resident Coordinator, having first thought the army was firing into the safety zone, sent a text message to say that most of the firing came from the Tigers.

Letter from the Bishop of Jaffna - January 2009

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Rajiva Wijesinha

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