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Foreign Affairs

Make All Men and women Component Of War Commemoration

Jehan Perera – colombo telegraph

Jehan Perera

The government’s decision to celebrate May 19 as a day of victory and the country’s second Independence is another one of its actions that has polarised the Sri Lankan people.  Whether by accident or design, it is ironic that through its continuing actions the government that reunified the territory of the country should also be the one that fosters the divisions between the people.  I was in Mannar on that day that marked a watershed in the modern history of the country, and saw that the Sri Lankan people were divided in their attitudes.  There was no collective remembrance of loss, but a reinforcement of the separation that has overshadowed the post-Independence era.

While the government was celebrating with military march pasts and air and sea shows in Colombo, in Mannar there was real action that was reminiscent of what happened during the war.  A group of people who had gathered to commemorate those who died in the last battle, were prevented from doing so by armed military personnel and police with guns pointing.  It is reported that 15 of them were arrested and only released on bail late at night.   Earlier the state media had reported that such commemorative meetings were illegal and warned anyone commemorating the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) was liable to be arrested.

However, the Tamil political parties in the opposition said they staged the remembrance for those who died in the final battle.  This was where the top LTTE leadership were killed.  In this charged context, the decision of the Catholic Church in Mannar to commemorate all victims of the war was pragmatic.  Whenever Tamils have tried to commemorate the death of their loved ones, the government has taken steps to prevent this.  The military in particular is sensitive to commemorations of the LTTE being held in the guise of commemorating the civilians who lost their lives.  However, the reality is that the two groups of LTTE and civilians were often mixed.  Especially in the last days  of the war, the LTTE forcibly recruited  children, some as young as 12, and this included the children of Mannar.

Contrasting Realities

Mannar is the only one of Sri Lanka’s 25 districts that has a Catholic majority.  With its unique cultural attributes, it is a celebration of the country’s cultural and religious diversity which must not be made into a weakness when it is a strength.  Unlike the Tamil political parties who had called on the people to commemorate the war dead amongst the Tamil population, the Bishop of Mannar requested the clergy in the area to commemorate all victims of the war, and not just those who were Tamil.  By implication, this would have included those of all three ethnic groups, the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims, and also the fighting personnel on the two sides, the government and LTTE. It is a testament to the strength of Sri Lanka’s diversity, that it was a minority group that decided to commemorate all who lost their lives as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the President.

This year’s victory celebration by the government was focused on the valour of the armed forces and the comprehensive defeat of the LTTE. President Mahinda Rajapakse viewed the military parade and pledged that there will be no room for those who tried to divide the country. He said, “We will not allow a single inch of the land that you won by the sacrifice of your life to be taken away.”  The past fortnight saw a build up in the mass media to remind the people of those days of blood and bombs and how it all has ended.  The contrast with the peaceful situation of the present will continue to bring in the votes of a grateful nation.

But the unfortunate reality is that the support of the Sinhalese majority for the war victory and the government’s celebrations has not been matched by any kind of equivalent support from the Tamil minority.  They too have been beneficiaries of the peaceful situation that has followed the end of the war.  They are now safe from the ravages of child recruitment and terror tactics that the LTTE brought to bear upon them.  But they also wish to mourn their loved ones who are no more with them, to find out what happened to them, and also to regain their dream of enjoying equal rights in which they also have the right to decide.  These are all matters on which the government appointed LLRC has made recommendations on but are not being followed by the government.

Way Forward

Four years after the war’s end the political solution that the leaders of government promised during the time of the war has yet to materialize.  The LTTE has been replaced by the Sri Lankan military who govern them in conjunction with the civilian administration. The Northern Province, where the first gunshots of the war were fired and where the last of the rebel fighters fell, has still to enjoy the right of elected provincial governance even to as limited an extent as the other eight provinces do.   A government ally has filed action in the Supreme Court calling on it to abolish the system of devolution of power for the entire country.  In this context, there is increasing skepticism whether the promised Northern Provincial Council elections in September this year will actually take place.

The civil war ended in 2009 but four years later the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation and to heal the wounds of war.  At the present time it also appears that Sri Lanka is moving backwards, and not forwards, in terms of securing the Rule of Law.  The impeachment of the Chief Justice process eroded the rule of law and usurped the pre-eminence of the Supreme Court in its role of interpreting the constitution.  This has impacted negatively on the rule of law and by extension the protection of human rights and political accountability.  There is also the rise of inter-religious tensions fanned by government allies.   A new dimension of inter-communal unrest is the rise of Buddhist extremism that has targeted the Muslim community and taken on an open and frontal confrontational approach.

Sri Lanka could have been a very different country today.  There is a need to recognize that although the civil war ended in 2009 the country has yet to find its path of reconciliation through an inclusive process of political negotiations and a sincere effort to heal the wounds of war.  If the recommendations of the LLRC appointed by the President had been followed, the government could have changed course last year.  Government leaders would have ceased to further engage in ethnic triumphalism and instead focused on commemorating all victims who lost their lives in the senseless conflict.  They could have utilized the occasion of May 19 to resolve that never again would such bloodletting be permitted to take place.  This would have been a commemoration that all Sri Lankans, respecting multi ethnicity, equal rights, and the safety and dignity of all, could have taken part in as a united Sri Lankan nation.

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Dawood aide probed for LTTE hyperlinks

Mirza Mohiddin Baig was arrested in Colombo last year
Mumbai’s Anti Terrorism Squad is questioning a essential member of Dawood Ibrahim gang for alleged links with the banned outfit Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to provide arms for terror activities in India.

ATS has sought a fresh remand for D-Business best lieutenant Mirza Mohiddin Baig, at present beneath Crime Branch’s custody, to query him in connection with terror links in the country.

Additional Director General of Police, Rakesh Maria, has confirmed to MiD DAY that Baig is becoming interrogated for terror links in India. He refused to give further details.

Baig, who was on the Interpol’s wanted list, had been arrested in Colombo on May possibly eight, 2009, following a long stint in Sri Lanka, and deported to India. The police had recovered 3 pistols and 18 live rounds from him.

Because then, the gangster had been in judicial custody until final week when the Crime Branch took more than, soon after his name cropped up once more after intelligence reports indicate that D-Business is procuring arms and ammunition from the remaining members of LTTE for operations in the nation.

Investigations by ATS and the Crime Branch give evidence that D-gang members have allied with the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba for spreading terror in the country. Reports indicate that beneath the ‘Karachi Project’, terrorist organisations have been utilizing Dawood’s network in India for logistic support.

A few hundred of the LTTE core cadre have gone underground with massive quantities of arms and deadly explosive RDX following the Sri Lankan army stormed their bastion killing their leader V Prabhakaran last year.

Baig was arrested quickly soon after the operations.

Sources informed that Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence operatives have covertly educated and armed members of LTTE to carry out attacks in India. Even far more so right after the Indian Peace Keeping Force was deployed in the Island because late 1980s.

Reports indicate that LTTE have also been selling sophisticated arms and explosives to the Maoist factions across the nation.

Baig’s questioning assumes significance in light of reports that LTTE is arranging to target the country’s Prime Minister and House Minister.

Police sources said that Baig could also be questioned for the alleged involvement of D-Firm, directly or indirectly, in the Varanasi bomb blast earlier this month.

Backgrounder

Baig climbed up the mafia ranks following he was operating illegal ISD facilities. Dawood’s second-in-command, Chhota Shakeel, soon created him the nodal person in Mumbai.
The gangster from Kortula in Karim Nagar district in Andhra Pradesh was assigned the task to deliver arms to D-Firm shooters in Mumbai, before he was arrested by the Crime Branch’s Criminal Intelligence Unit.

An AK-47 rifle and four imported revolvers were recovered from Baig for the duration of the raid on his hideout in 2000.

The gangster had then confessed of possessing links with gun suppliers in Bangkok, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, a former Crime Branch officer mentioned. Baig soon jumped bail and escaped to Dubai and later surfaced in Colombo.

Rashid Malbari, an additional ace shooter in Dawood’s gang, was carrying out underworld operations from Sri Lanka.
&gt&gt Complete Story

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General

Battle against LTTE components abroad will continue – President

‘We have already commenced the battle against them in the international sphere and are committed to continue it’. President Rajapaksa said so at the ceremonial passing out parade of Cadet officers at the Sri Lanka Military Academy (SLMA) in Diyatalawa
today (21 Dec).

We are now at a significant phase in the humanitarian operation. Our endeavour is to win hearts and minds after freeing the people and lands from terrorism. The humanitarian operation includes de-mining, resettlement and providing basic requirements among other tasks. All development programmes carried out in the North and East are part of the humanitarian operation, the President stated.

He stressed that this humanitarian operation will not stop until the painful memories of terrorism and all thoughts of separatism are
removed from people’s hearts.

‘You pass out today to contribute to this noble humanitarian operation’, the President told the Cadet officers.

A person does not excel through talent and knowledge alone. Instead, the most important element is the love for one’s country, he pointed out.
‘The government not only lined up the security forces for the humanitarian operation but also organized the people against terrorism.

The government received tremendous support from the people in eliminating terrorism’, he said.
‘The highest tribute to these people is to ensure that terrorism does not raise its ugly head’, he emphasized.>> Full Story

Categories
Foreign Affairs

‘Long War, Cold Peace’ – The Unfinished Story Of An Unfinished Conflict

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

Dayan Jayatilleka’s Long War, Cold Peace – Conflict and Crisis in Sri Lanka’ appears at a moment in history when Sri Lanka stands at a crossroads.The war is over but there is yet a crisis of reconciliation and a crisis of state to be resolved, and so a stable peace still eludes us. These are the issues that Jayatilleka primarily worries about in his new book. It runs into several sections and sub sections on the historical record of how we came to be where we are.

The first aspect of the crisis of reconciliation is located, as it has been by many others, in the need to forge an overarching national identity that includes all communities. A less obvious aspect of the crisis that the author identifies is what he calls “the crisis of post war consciousness and discourse.”

“Those who call for a just peace refuse to admit that it was a just war and therefore face a crisis of domestic legitimacy. Those who maintain that it was a just war fail to call for a just peace, a peace with justice for the Tamil community.

Long-War-Cold-Peace

The Tamils for their part have failed to make a clean break from their recent past of support or sympathy for secessionism and terrorism.There is no post war discourse which combines a strong position in defence of the war with a strong drive for a sustainable peace on a new basis of a fairly redrawn ethnic compact. This is the crisis of post war consciousness and discourse.”

It is in this important area that the book makes its main contribution — one of its objectives, by the author’s own admission in the preface, being to provoke the debate and discussion that is needed. ‘Long war, cold peace’goes headlong into the narrative without detaining the reader with the niceties of a foreword or intro written by some other scholar etc. If the book comes across as having been produced in a hurry, it is because it was.

The author and publisher (Vijitha Yapa) were keen to “send the manuscript to the press in time for the March 2013 session of the UN Human Rights Council and the discussion on the event.”

The book combines documentary, analysis and opinion (at times all rolled into one) drawing on the author’s multifaceted experience as a political scientist, academic and diplomat. He was also briefly a minister of the ill-fated North East Provincial Council (NEPC) formed in 1988 under EPRLF’s Varadharajah Perumal. Chapter three(‘Conflict and Negotiations’) that deals with the formation of the NEPC and the reasons for its failure is one of the book’s most detailed and nuanced sections. This is no doubt owing to the author’s degree of proximity to and involvement in the events chronicled.

Starting from the genesis of Tamil separatist violence this section traces the trajectory of the Eelam Left, the shifting balance of power between its constituents, the LTTE’s rise to pre eminence,the bloody serial massacres tha teliminated its rivals, the Indo Lanka Peace Accord of July 1987, the developments leading up to the outbreak of war between the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the LTTE in Oct 1987, the formation of the NEPC and the factors leading to its eventual collapse.

The seemingly intractable interplay of forces at different levels – inter-state as well as intra-state, is made comprehensible,aided by reference to the “unchronicled and undocumented processes that were going on at that time.”

‘Long war, cold peace’ does not pretend to be a complete historical account of the war, and its narrative does not proceed in a straight line. While it deals withthe important landmark events and issues(the Eelam wars, July 1983, the Indo Lanka Accord, the Ceasefire Agreement, the P-TOMs, the military victory over the Tigers, post war politics, the international dimension) the book’s interest lies more in the author’s analytical approach and ability to place things in perspective.

There is an ethical dimension to the discussion that runs through it like a sub text, and this is where the book’s appeal would lie for those with a philosophical turn of mind. The author’s encyclopedic familiarity with political theory,conflict situations and armed struggles elsewhere in the world allows him to make comparisons at every point (Columbia’s FARC, Central America’s FMLN and URNG, the MNLF in the Philippines, SPLA in Southern Sudan, the PLO and the IRA).This constant cross-referencing helps the reader to understand the particularities of Sri Lanka’s crisis and its manifestations. It also helps to separate criticisms that are valid from those that are not.

In the latter part of the book that deals with the international dimension, Jayatilleka refers to the ongoing discourse on war crimes and says “the assertion that the endgame that actually took place needs to be investigated as a war crime” is baseless.The reasons he gives, briefly are, firstly, the Tigers were a fascist force that had to be decimated. Secondly the Sri Lankan forces had to operate according to a tightening timetable not of their own choosing. Thirdly at no time were civilians wittingly targeted as a matter of policy, nor were they boxed in and deprived of an exit by the state.
In no way does this argument amount to a dismissal of human rights as “a Western invention or booby trap.” Though there are constant attempts to use human rights to undermine national sovereignty, Jayatilleka pleads that the answer is not to shun human rights but to protect them ourselves.

It is imperative to realise that the international pressures “are a symptom and byproduct of something that has gone wrong in our external relations and our ability to communicate with the world.” The only real antidote against these pressures he argues is to have “strong, credible, NATIONAL institutions and mechanisms.”The author offers pointers as to how, in his opinion, the crisis of reconciliation can be resolved. Central to that project is his belief in the 13th Amendment and the urgent need for devolution of power.

If this book has an ‘unfinished’ feel to it, this is probably not unrelated to the fact that the conflict itself remains ‘unfinished’. Having been rushed to press, the manuscript’s main weakness is an element of repetition, duly apologised for in a note by the author. Some sections have been drawn from his previous publications. This creates a certain unevenness in the text, as the reader has to constantly shift gear so to speak, adjusting to varying levels of intensity of analysis and slightly different stylistic approaches adopted in different sections.

However, consistency of philosophical approach is maintained throughout and this gives the work a binding coherence.’Long war, cold peace’ may be a bumpy ride, but worth it for the reader who, at the end of the journey,will arrive at a better understanding of the most urgent issues of our time.

*This article is first appeared in Sunday Times Sri Lanka

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Lessons from President Premadasa for Sri Lanka’s existing leadership

There are many lessons from the rule of President Premadasa that will help to avoid repetition of making the same mistakes if properly adhered to. The quality of governance has deteriorated over the years and it is unlikely to change unless the present culture of governance carried down by successive governments and politicians does not change. Let all politicians remember that all governments have ended up falling short of people’s expectations because they have removed themselves away from the people trusting in only their henchmen of advisors and no sooner governments moves away from the masses it becomes the beginning of the end.
The culture to depend on the underworld and goon squads have passed down from one government to the other resulting in unnecessary bloodshed and a spate of criminal activity that has brought the country into disrepute over the years. Until such time this trend to depend on thugs ceases to be we are unlikely to bring any semblance of good governance to Sri Lanka since the law of the country needs to apply to all equally and officials implementing laws should not have to bow their heads down to lowlife gangsters who thinks they can brandish a weapon and people have to worship them.
Sri Lanka’s mobsters
Gangster rule and good squads started with the UNP and its legacy has continued unabated. The Wikipedia has a separate of Sri Lankan mobsters starting out with Gonawala Sunil involved in a spate of activities including rape of a 14 year old girl for which he was given a presidential pardon by then President J R Jayawardena and ended up obtaining an all-island justice of peace and bodyguard to Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe then Minister of Education. Need we say more about the culture that was being slowly created. Then came Sothi Upali said to be a close ally of Sirisena C, then Minister of Housing under President Premadasa. Sri Lanka’s police had to address Sothththi Upali as “Sir”. Taking over from Soththi Upali was his arch rival Chintaka Amarasinghe who is said to have been aligned to the People’s Alliance. His brother Dhammika Amarasinghe is said to have had a hand in over 50 murders and countless bank robberies and as is always the case when their notoriety gets too linked to their patrons they end up being gunned down to conceal that links. Then comes Kalu Ajith who killed Chintaka Amarasinghe and was killed by Chintaka’s brother Dhammika. Next to enter is Kaduwela Wasantha who after a decade of terror was gunned down by another rival Karate Dhammika. We will all remember Baddegane Sanjeewa who was a police sergeant for President Kumaratunga. The other notorious underworld figures with fascinating names are Moratu Saman, Thoppi Chaminda,, Nawala Nihal, Kalu Ajit, Vambotta, Olcott, Thel Bala, Kimbulaela Guna, Dematagoda Kamal, Colum, Anamalu Imtiaz, Potta Naufer, Neluwa Priyantha, Kudu Lal and the latest to enter Julampitiye Amare.
The Good and Bad of Premadasa
If no human is perfect then no leader is perfect either. In the case of a President there are certainly good times and bad times though no leader can make the entire population happy with the decisions taken.
It is good to wonder how much of the legacy Premadasa had to deal with was of his own making. If we recall the late 1980s and early 1990s it is nothing but bloodshed and gruesome killings with a country torched from North to South. It was Ranjan Wijeratne who took on the task of eliminating the JVP which gave a sigh of relief to the people of the South though many innocent Sinhala youth perished as a result. No human rights organizations cried foul play not even the local NGO bandwagons or their mouthpieces.
It was J R Jayawardena who introduced neo-liberal economy to Sri Lanka which Premadasa continued while also carrying out his own program of bringing the villages to a reasonable level and managed to transform the UNP often described as the party of relatives into what he termed a people oriented party. He deregulated trade, financial services and privatization, he created massive zones of small industries giving employment to women in rural villages through garments, shoes, toys and revived tourism. He had started well over 15,000 small industry-based projects all over the island.
What no leader has been able to match was Premadasa’s passion for precision and his attention given to details. He work up at 4a.m. did his yoga, read the newspapers and would even call his staff and ask for updates and no one could say “later”! – he was behind every project personally monitoring and supervising them and never forgot a single project he started. During Premadasa’s presidency not a single Government office was spared unannounced visits and all offices were clean and staff always on alert not knowing when the President might walk in. After Premadasa, the Government offices have cared little to continue those good practices and most offices function in a don’t care attitude.
Where did Premadasa go wrong. Coming from humble beginnings and working his way up the political ladder it was natural that he would suffer internal complexities which were manipulated by the people he kept around him as his inner circle. However those economic advisors did not want to make real Premadasa’s vision of making the poor richer and instead the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and people started to develop hate for the man they hoped would change their future.
The lessons
A leader is brought down by his advisors and it is no different in the case of President Premadasa which reiterates the need for the present leadership to be wary of those they solicit advice from. It was the rumors the tales and lies fed into the ears of President Premadasa that turned an iconic figure into a demon distancing him from parliamentary colleagues, sane advice by surrounding him with henchmen who turned Premadasa into a dictator killing off all opposition. In a country as small as Sri Lanka once sealed as a dictator it is difficult to remove that name from people’s minds. The poster mania started with the UNP and there was never an empty wall without a picture of Premadasa, the culture of news reflecting only politicians and their daily openings is another factor that has been carried down by successive governments over the years. Street smart, Premadasa definitely was but it takes far more to lead in a world where leaders are led by greater leaders. It is for this reason that leaders need to have intellectuals who love the nation and its sovereignty advising them and certainly not intellectuals ready to hand over the nation to foreigners.
While we cannot forget the manner that President Premadasa stood up against India demanding that the IPKF pack their bags and leave forthwith was overshadowed by the manner he lavished arms to the LTTE which killed countless innocent civilians and troops. We will not forget the lives of 500 innocent policemen who had to give up their arms on instructions of the Premadasa Government and watch each comrade being shot by the LTTE. It is said that President Premadasa had even threatened India that he would abrogate the 1987 Indo-Lanka Agreement and we wonder why he did not. The public have had enough of threats made to only please the public. It is now time for action.
Premadasa’s tenure of leadership was certainly marked with highs and lows and the manner that people celebrated his death with crackers and fireworks does not project any of the good he did during his 5 years in office as President. It does convey perfectly to all future leaders that people forget the good and will judge only on the bad and this is a lesson that needs to be remembered and not ignored. Leaders who accept this fact with a don’t care attitude are in for greater shocks.
Premadasa led a country in one of the most violent phases of Sri Lanka’s history. His advisors manipulated his paranoia, his weaknesses were tapped turning him into a man hated by the masses. He compared himself with great Dutugemunu and his closest confidant became the second most powerful man in the country but a man whose connections to LTTE terrorism remains to be investigated to understand how terrorism was created in Sri Lanka and why it remains a threat to this day with his connections to the Tamil Nadu “Eelam factor”.
It is often the advisors that build up animosities amongst politicians creating political rivalries. We all remember the animosities that prevailed between Premadasa, Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake and their advisors will know how they played one against the other.
We may also like to remember President Premadasa’s plead of innocence “You can assassinate me…but don’t assassinate my character…” claiming he had nothing to do in the murder of Athulathmudali.
The view of most during Premadasa’s rule was that “you cannot rule a country by killing its people” though he chased out the Indian’s he did nothing about the Provincial Council system and judged the PCs as a means of generating a political base which is the same situation unfolding currently.
We are well aware that regime change is a top priority in the political scene prevalent in Sri Lanka. The strikes, the protests are all part of the ploys being used to test the type of change to be further manipulated. These are all testers before the real plan is set into motion and is meant to test how a government is able to handle situations. Governments do not help the situation by playing footsy with governance by setting different rules of laws to favored people and the malpractices building up over the years end up creating a mass of people unhappy with the type of governance not helped in the least by media which is often anti-government projecting situations far worse than what they are.
Devolving powers is not the answer
It is therefore upto the Government to face the situation realistically without functioning in a state of denial. No regime change operators will touch a country that has its masses behind its Government. This is why attempts are afoot to make the Government and the leadership to be projected as dictatorial and unsuited to lead. The reaction is not to make the situation worse but to take measures to address these properly.
What is evident is that advisors have managed to make Sri Lanka’s leadership think that by devolving powers the war crimes probe will be swept under the carpet. This is nothing but a carrot being dangled to get the President to agree to devolution. Agreeing to devolution is to destroy the sovereignty and unitary status of Sri Lanka and it is a quicker exit for the President from power and will leave him forgotten in history as a man who defeated terrorism but destroyed the nation – and it will be nothing he can ever be proud of. Therefore, it is good for the President to start to move closer to the people for they would never allow the country to ever fall into pieces for any peace that external forces are promising. In a country that has summers and springs we do not need further springs! 
by Shenali Waduge

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Only Gotabhaya considered a military victory was possible – Erik Solheim

By Colombo Telegraph – “No one particular, could be with the exception of Gothabaya Rajapaksa, but he’s the only particular person I can mention who considered a military victory was achievable. I was quite hard to say extremely close to Indian intelligence and an tremendous sum of time all through this process and never, ever did any Indian official hint that a military victory was achievable until mid 2008.

Then they started, I observed the change in Mr.M.K.Narayanan and others and gradually shift into the position that may be, state may be the government can wipe out the tigers military victory.”Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim said last week

“Sri Lankans try to manipulate every single day for whole this 10 years, for their business interest part of that they tried to manipulate all. We may be fool but no so foolish that we understand that they tried to manipulate.” Minster of the Environment and international Development Erik Solheim further said.

Sri Lankans try to manipulate every single day for whole this 10 years, for their business interest part of that they tried to manipulate all. We may be fool but no so foolish that we understand that they tried to manipulate.

Eric Solheim made this remarks last week in Oslo seminar followed by the launch of the evaluation report of the Norwegian Peace effort in Sri Lanka. Theevaluation has been performed by CMI in Bergen and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, and deals with the Norwegian peace effort in Sri Lanka between 1997 and 2009.

Following is the full text of the speech made by Erik Solheim

Let me start by thanking Mr.Gunnar and his team for a very valuable and interesting report.  I’ve not been able to study everything at this stage, we will go through it, all the big and small parts…the big and small issues which are covered by the report and see to what extent I can inform and to see what I can do to assist Sri Lanka in the future and more importantly how this can help Norwegian efforts in other peace processes.

Norway is involved in one way or other in may be 20 peace processes in world and very few of them, at the moment, not as a main actor as in Sri Lanka, but in supporting the parties and supporting other international actors in bringing peace so it’s very valuable to look into all these experiences which are experience, this may be the first time, certainly, it isn’t normal, that one involved in the peace process is commissioning a report in to all the positive and negatives of what happened.

Norway should have withdrawn from the peace process 

I broadly agree with most comments made and had one major reservation and let me start with that. I think indeed that Norway should have withdrawn from the peace process when it was clear to everyone that the government of Sri Lanka wanted a final military victory.

Every one knew that, was no doubt in Washington, or Beijing, or Colombo or Vanni about that. No one was in doubt of that. Indeed at this point we should have withdrawn. I think it is extreme arrogant why, because the Tamil Tigers asked us to continue, the government of Sri Lanka at least, in some extent, asked us to continue. A complete civil society and all the peace groups in Sri Lanka asked us to continue. The United States of America asked us to continue. India asked us to continue. The European Union asked us to continue. Neither I nor Vidar Helgesen, should sit in Oslo and make the decision that when everyone else in the world asked Norway to do best under the most difficult circumstances, even when its war, even so many people are killed, we should try to withdraw.

. If Pirapaharan had not forced Tamil voters to abstain from elections in 2005 everyone knows that Ranil Wickramasinghe would have been elected the president, not Mahinda Rajapaksa, Everyone knows that. That would at least have been a major change in everything what happened after that.

I cannot disagree, more. I think it’s very arrogant because it’s putting Norway far above everything else. It’s about our reputation, not about what we’re asked to do.  All those who are suffering from this war. Except for that major reservation, I agree a lot about what has been presented by Gunar hear.

If there is another, not major reservation, it is the following. We should be very cautious with determinism believing that the outcome of Sri Lankan events had to be what it actually was. Richard Armitage is at the first floor hear, I think he and myself agreed that the American Independence war by George Washington would have taken a completely different turn if George Washington had be hanged as a terrorist and the UK would have gone over at least 50 more years.

It was so close to a southern separation during the civil war in America in the 1860’s and was not far away. Very close. You can just make a few changes in a few of the battles or moving the election of 1860 away from the fall to the spring and the outcome would have been completely different.

If Pirapaharan had not forced Tamil voters to abstain from elections in 2005

This occurs in most important events in Earth’s history and the tendency by researchers by what actually is the end, had to be the end, I take a reservation with. Let’s mention a few of the “ifs” in the peace process of Sri Lanka. If Mr.Pirapaharan had not forced Tamil voters to abstain from elections in 2005 everyone knows that Ranil Wikremesinghe would have been elected as the president, not Mahinda Rajapaksa, Everyone knows that. That would at least have been a major change in everything what happened after that.

 

If Balasinham had not died of cancer, it may or may not have made a major difference; I think it would have made a major difference because after Balsinham’s death, the LTTE leadership made all the mistakes.

If Mr. Balasinham had not died of cancer, it may or may not have made a major difference; I think it would have made a major difference because after Mr. Balasinham’s death, the LTTE leadership made all the mistakes.

Prior to that they were quite clever both in the political and military field in the 3 years after Blasingam’s death, it was not one single meaningful political or military initiative from the Tamil Tigers.

Not one and there is no other way of explaining that influence of Balasingham’s disappear and Pirapaharan was alone to make decisions. So to say. If  Karuna was not split, it was not, I think, in the invertible,  it was basic from personal characteristics, not very nice, but it was what happened and it made an enormous change .

If Chandrika Kumaratunga or the other actors had to be able to move one or two months after the Tsunami, it was a completely new set up in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Tigers assisted the army. The army assisted Tamils. Was really a new beginning but it was drawn out, drawn out, the momentum was lost and basically nothing happened.

If we had been able to achieve a major change or development here I think everything would have been very different. Not necessarily, exactly what we had hoped for but it would have been very different.  And I can continue with a number of other such if, So I think we have to judge historical events on the basis of the available information at that time, not when we know what happened. But that’s hard when we don’t know exactly what happened because what happened was not necessarily what had to happen. Then, let me add one or two other aspects. No one believed there was a military victory possible.

Gothabaya Rajapaksa the only exception

No one. May be with the exception of Gothabaya Rajapaksa but he’s the only person I can mention who thought a military victory was possible.

No one in Colombo thought it was possible, I was very hard to say very close to Indian intelligence and an enormous amount of time throughout this process and never, ever did any Indian official hint that a military victory was possible until mid 2008. Then they started, I observed the change in Mr.M.K.Narayanan and others and gradually shift into the position that may be, still may be the government can wipe out the tigers military victory.

If Karuna was not split, it was not, I think, in the invertible, it was basic from personal characteristics, not very nice, but it was what happened and it made an enormous change .

Before that no one thought it was possible, the United States thought it was impossible, USA, India and Colombo thought it was impossible so again complete change from what we all based the peace process on until that point.

Then coming to what can be learned. Because there are a number of these issues which are reflected in the report and also by  Gunnar. Obviously have to be patient, that’s very obvious part of the peace process starting with the belief that this can be resolved in a few months time.

The Indians told us, please be patient, if you cannot be patient go away, get out of the way you will only complicate matters. This will take a decade at the minimum. So we learned to be patient and you need patience in any peace process.

Then you need to get the international context right, as was covered by Mr.Gunnar may be at the end the government won a military victory because it much better understood the international situation and tiger leadership. Mr.Rajapaksa understood it was basically possible to build up a coalition of China, Pakistan, Iran, and a number of new actors in the Sri Lankan context to get on one hand, military support from these new actors but on the other hand also using these new actors to put pressure on old actors in the sense that it would be very much more relaxing to see China coming in a more major way in Sri Lanka.

That was very clever international diplomacy by Rajapaksa out fuling that way the Tigers in … that way… so in the international context it’s very essential. Other issues the inclusiveness. Have to say that we were fighting throughout to particularly include the Muslim community in Sri Lanka in a much broader way in the peace process and to every one else that was not easy mainly because the Tamil Tigers were very reluctant to see a separate Muslim dimension to the struggle, but very very important in all peace processes to be as inclusive as possible.

The three main issues in my perspective in the peace process 

Then I would come to the three main issues in my perspective in the peace process which we have to contemplate for future situations. Number one, the peace priority list is weather are there other ways to influence the Tamil Tigers leadership in a more effective way than we did. You may please recall Norway was the only access to Pirapakran. background, I met Pirapakaran may be ten times and absolutely no tiger in

If Chandrika Kumaranathuga or the other actors had to be able to move one or two months after the Tsunami, it was a completely new setup in Sri Lanka.

that background, none. During the peace process, except for Norwegians, Mr.Krish Paten from EU meet him onece, and Akashai from Japan, may be once, or twice, except for that it was just Norwegians. Mr.Lars combined thirty hours with during this peace process. He spoke only Tamil and my Tamil is limited so it was a relatively limited time. I think it was completely wrong …. That other actors did not want to speak to him unless he behaved well. The more people that need to speak to Pirapakaran the better.

The government would have been reluctant to that because that would have been a recognition of  his role that I think the more the LTTE would have been opened up, the moel actors that would have been able to meet in a international community mole the more likely a success would have been.
That’s right what Gunnar said, when Balasingham negotiated to do so call Oslo declaration which they said LTTE will explore Federalism where Milinda and myself who wrote that document here in Oslo Balasingham accepted it and took it to Pirapakaran, he refused it. It was not public at that time but it is very clear he refused it. Because he was realizing to federalism. But still have been ……. or influence in LTTE Leadership. In reality that Mr.Pirapakaran, more that is the most, that is the number one crucial issue. Blasingham told me that please understand Mr.Pirapakaran is a war lord. he is not in a democratic society not understanding international community not understanding the base in Europe and USA.

Blasingham told me that please understand Mr.Pirapakaran is a war lord

He is ……. in a war load. May be studying the war lords, chins history in the early part of the …. the best parallel to study Pirapakaran, Balasingham hinted. Its not my idea. if that the case more have been done to open up their ice, their understanding of the world and should be have done that more on that matter I thing that was completely wrong that USA, Europe and anyone else ask me please you behave well very long period of time we will talk to you. So we should have talked to them all the time as much as possible 24 hours if possible. This is the number one status issues.

It may, People may thing that up on this from world assistant,  stutterers, tactical experience, it may seen as very personal oriented but the reality was Pirapakaran was the LTTE, without Pirapakaran LTTE will have existed and all major decisions whatever type will be made by Pirapakaran. No one else. he will of course speak with some of the military leaders definitely consulting with Balasingham but ultimately he will make decisions and it was very hard, I never heard any Tamils giving and wanted advice to Mr.Pirapakaran I thing that would be very difficult to any Tamils to knock at door to going to Pirapakaran and say that you are on a wrong path you shouldn’t do this and that.Only person should do that Balasingham. Because he was 10 years senior.

Second issue very much covered by Gunnar. There are two parties in Colombo. UNP and SLFP they had a long long history of not working together. During most of the peace process Chandraka was the President Ranil Wikremesinghe was the Prime Minister and they were not speaking … and they were both believing that they are whatever they do possible to do in their my or in their situations.

. Blasingham told that please understand Pirapakaran is a war lord. he is not in a democratic society not understanding international community not understanding the base in Europe and USA.

Should have been done more on that regards. We felt that it was outside Norway mandate. We felt other mandate was to negotiate that those in power in Colombo where ever they are and the Tamil tigers and that intervening on that would be intervening mean that domestic affairs in State of Sri Lanka.

Mr.Fox that UK’s Minister of Defence, he just left his post, made so called FOX agreement in late 1990s you should cover that. There was lots of efforts that Indian and others to bring by two parties together but should have been Norway should have forced to …. may be we should have done that more to ask both parties to do like India and UN to do it, would have been very very difficult.  Very critical issue I do not know what extend discuss it the peace agreement was in the beginning before the cease fire agreement should more effort have been done bring Chandrika into that. Because that was done right after Ranil Wikremesighe made political victory he was on the political assurance, very strong and very popular at that point. Chandrika was as you said sidelined.

Should more have been done to bring Chandrika in to that agreement 

That’s true, should more have been done to bring her in to that agreement at the beginning, mover mental that has been lost but it is a critical issue of course if there has been a two party agreement in Colombo with their LTTE that would have made enormous different that’s very clear. But I think that was outside to Norway to archive it. May be we should have been done more to try to convince others to act will be lots, possibly has been done more. The last issue like to bring that also coved the issue of communication. Its true that Norway became very unpopular at least that peace process has lasted long partially in …… Nationalists Sinhala groups, that’s very clear. I thing that main reason for that with optics whenever someone saw Mr.Pirapakaran or LTTE …. to Norwegians because no one else going there, so other, I will be there or Ambassador or Johan or someone else, I mean if Pirapakaran or Balasingham or Tamilselvan, whether it was on TV normally the Norwegian with his side, it gave important to Sri Lankans that Norway was very close to LTTE. Since no one else LTTE did this. This was optical reason was why this became an issue.. but still we should have discussed, may be better media strategy. However of course, that party not wanted Norway to have a high profile. they wanted to be a process between that LTTE and the government they wanted us to make comments particularly when they have agreed some things but did not want Norway to be seen as speaking behalf of its self… defending its own role on this on media and that.. that clearly told that was what the parties want to see and still I mean is an issue, definitely need more consideration whether it should have play that or done more on this. Other issue in commutation is their one group. I am very clear we should have done more to reach out to the Buddhist clergy in Colombo in Sri Lanka and Mahanayaka in Kandy and others, the very important spiritual leaders in Sri Lanka. We were clearly adviced by Chandrika Kumaratunga not to spend too much time on the Buddhist clergy.  So  this not our idea, she was telling not to do it,. We wanted to do, but told not to do.. …… itself and don’t interview in this … leave that to us. At least to that inside today we should have done more to reach out to the Buddhist clergy because of their loyalist on the Sinhala side was so so important. so these are some of the issues for discussion. There are many big and small at the end two big one that finding of the issues of the peace process was should more have been done to reach out to Pirapakaran to get him at end to accept a federal states. that other was should more have been done bring together UNP and SLFP, Ranil and Chandrika, if we have been able to do very different or one or other this too, that would have been a completely different process these are the two essential questions.

 If you want to receive support from USA will you kill any USA president? 

I don’t think that war on terror was a main problem here, On one hand LTTE made enormous mistakes, the reason why the war on terror became so important in Sri Lanka was that LTTE made high profile assassinations against Sri Lankan politicians, it gave them nothing on any political or military point of view. Why in hell killing Rajiv Gandhi. Animus blander, if you want to receive support from USA, will you kill any US president? India was the main source of support to Tamil Tigers, why then killed? Rajiv Gandhi was a outstanding Indian Prime Minister.This was animus mistake, Whenever Pirapakaran told us stop killing, he keep (strikes) his words, that’s more than I can say that Sri Lankan Sinhala politician,

I am very clear we should have done more to reach out to the Buddhist clergy in Colombo and Mahanayaka in Kandy and others. The very important spiritual leaders in Sri Lanka, we were clearly adviced by Chandrika Kumarathunga not to spend too much time on the Buddhist clergy

Pirapakan always did. One example right after Mahinda elected president, LTTE started huge number of killing against Sri Lankan army soldiers then we went to Pirapakaran he promised to stop it. He stopped it. There was no killing by LTTE then the Government started killing different Tamils. Then too LTTE responded. Government that point insisting the killing. LTTE did not start the peace process at the weak point. They started the peace process at the peak of power. LTTE was ever powerful at 2000 and 2001.

LTTE did not start the peace process at the weak point

LTTE was too close to capture Jaffna peninsula, LTTE distorted Bandaranayaka airport in Colombo, bringing the economics of Sri Lankan state to zero. There was a peak of the power they started peace process, We Norway had good relation with Government in Washington and Norway embassy in Oslo. Their is not one critical remarks what so ever on WikiLeaks on Norwegian role on peace process. There USA cannot do it, will not do it, its very common Norway doing it. We have been …… bringing ….. killing by Sri Lankan state, I will give you ample of examples, MP. Pararajasingham good friend of mine was killed in Xmas day in a Christian church, Obviously this was by Sri Lankan state.One of the main famous Editor in Colombo Lasantha Wickaramatunga, another friend of us through peace process known very well killed by state of Sri Lanka.

Absolutely there is no doubt about that, that should be condemned and who was responsible for this crime should be brought to courts.

It was absolutely right to regret the ban of LTTE the point of views of Norway, how could you play as a mediator if band one organization you should talk to that group is impossible, I thing that banning the LTTE is not a good idea, because I … to that …..that much …. that overwhelmed by LTTE to political come forward bringing them out in the light discussing with them and trying to convince top leadership that has to informs them self.That is the reason why took prevalence that in Europe very clear on so many occasion we not able to stop this kind of terrorist killing that provoke the EU.

Sri Lankans try to manipulate every single day for whole this 10 years

Sri Lankans try to manipulate every single day for whole this 10 years, for their business interest, part of that they tried to manipulate all. We may be fool but no so foolish that we understand that they tried to manipulate.

I still believe that this peace process should have taken a different cost… so I don’t think too high expectation may be from the beginning much more easy, but it was not right to do it, Expectations has gone very differently I thing it was right.

India though out had VETO power over the peace process, Milinda and myself went to Delhil many time but I don’t know how many times has been at the airport and New Delhi meetings whith Indian Intelligence and others, there was no major steps on the peace process what so ever taken without informing India same times they tacis excess may have disagreed India was throughout Informed.

That was very simple, they want that view, India for most important friend in Sri Lanka. USA is important also, for USA India and Sri Lanka is a co-Interest.

USA never ever realize their relationship with India, for example for Sri Lanka. If India on board, ultimately USA basically flow. Even what nation’s …… to SLMM they give a list of the national they will aspect we will respect from that.

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Categories
General

Whose problem is Sri Lanka to fix – Sri Lankan Tamils or All Tamils

A nation of 20m people, a bulk of close to 15m folks (the Sinhalese) is into its 3rdyear possessing militarily eradicated 30 years of LTTE terrorism. What has confused issues is the method in which elected Tamil leaders have claimed that the LTTE terrorist demands and those of the Tamil folks are one and the same on the grounds that the LTTE was the sole representative of the Tamil people –

Categories
Foreign Affairs

Sri Lanka ready to assist India in combating LTTE

Sri Lanka is to consider assisting India in combating the threat posed by LTTE elements said Minister of Media Keheliya Rambukwella.

Answering a query of a journalist at the Cabinet media briefing held in Colombo a short while ago (16), he said that Sri Lanka will consider on the issue if such a request is made and the country will share all its experiences in combating terrorism.

India is the neigbhouring country of Sri Lanka who has had strong ties for centuries mentioned the Minister.

The Minister mentioned this commenting on the very recent reports on LTTE attempts to take the lives of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and TamilNadu Chief Minister M Karunanidi. These details were revealed by the intelligence units of the country.

Categories
Military

Troops Capture Entire PTK. Theepan, Vidusha, Durga and More LTTE Leaders Killed

Categories
Foreign Affairs

The Fires Within

Dharisha B

Dharisha Bastians

Four years after the war ended, development and reconstruction showcases are eclipsed by raw human suffering during Navi Pillay’s visit to Sri Lanka

Rajeswari Ganesan, mother of a 28 year old Vavuniya prison inmate who died under suspicious circumstances in June last year, sobbed out her grief to visiting UN Human Rights Commissioner Navanethem Pillay in the North last Tuesday. This past year, Rajeswari’s grief over the death of her only son, who authorities claim died of a heart attack but she believes was killed in custody, has been a terrible thing to see. Navi Pillay may not have been able to understand Rajeswari’s representation made in Tamil, but overcome with empathy, the UN Envoy put her arms around the weeping mother and held her.

Navi Pillay was the most senior UN official to have visited Sri Lanka’s embattled north and east since the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon toured the region soon after the war ended in May 2009.  For hundreds of families living in the former war zone, whose personal tragedies have been ignored for years, the fact that a high ranking person of international influence was finally close enough to hear their cries for help, was undoubtedly an electrifying experience. “I have never experienced so many people weeping and crying. I have never seen this level of uncontrollable grief,” Pillay was to tell The Sunday Leader three days later in an interview.

Steps in the right direction

In anticipation of her visit, the Government made several strides in the right direction. Whether superficial attempts to pacify the visiting UN Envoy and temper her report ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled for November or not, the Rajapaksa Administration set up a Commission on Disappearances, appointed credible commissioners, returned military acquired land to the people, promised action on the Weliweriya killings and agreed to give Pillay “unfettered access” wherever she chose to go. It was the first time that the regime had opened up the final theatre of war beside the now legendary Nandikadal lagoon to any foreign visitor.

Yet in the end, none of the Government’s efforts to paint a positive picture of Sri Lanka’s leap forward after the end of the war could mitigate the stark reality of weeping women and children on the streets of Jaffna and Trincomalee. Shiny new roads and railway tracks could not hide fundamental issues in the former battle zones that were obstructing genuine post-conflict healing and reparation. Pillay was confronted with tales of livelihood and land loss, the search for missing family members and justice for senseless death everywhere she went in the north and east. And in the capital, journalists and marginalised groups like the country’s Muslim population made representations to her about the ongoing suppression of fundamental freedoms in post-war Sri Lanka.

When the High Commissioner issued a stinging report of her seven day fact finding mission hours before she left the island, it was clear the representations of ordinary Sri Lankans and civil society groups had made a deep impression. There was no mincing of words or attempt to pacify the host government. Pillay hit back hard at her critics – many of them Government ministers and warned she would report any reprisals against those who had spoken to her during the UN Human Rights Council mandated mission, back to the Council.

Extended boldness

If Pillay’s presence had given ordinary people extraordinary courage to publicly air their grievances even in the heavily garrisoned north and east, her parting words that the UN considered reprisals a very serious matter has only extended this boldness. One day after the UN High Commissioner left Colombo, Fr. Veerasan Yogeswaran who runs a human rights group in Trincomalee that works with families of the missing or detained, told the French Press Agency (AFP) that he had been visited at midnight and again at dawn by half a dozen plainclothes policemen last Wednesday, just hours after his discussions with Pillay. The Jesuit priest told reporters that his concern was that security forces personnel were entering homes at midnight or in the pre-dawn hours and questioning ordinary civilians. Met with complaints by Pillay about the reprisals against the priests, journalists and civil groups, the Government vehemently denied the claim and then demanded the High Commissioner provide proof to allow the administration to commence investigations. It has lapsed into familiar arguments, about vested interests intimidating people in order to cast the Government in a bad light and even claimed the UN Envoy had been misled by mischievous political elements. But in other ways, the Government has already commenced its own public criticism of those who made representations before the UN High Commissioner, calling them out as tale carriers to the international community. Minister Wimal Weerawansa has already accused the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress of “snitching’ to Pillay because the Party handed over a report about violence against the Muslim Community to the visiting Envoy. President Mahinda Rajapaksa has also reportedly had strong words for SLMC Chief and Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem, about the move.

For Government officials heavily involved with organising Pillay’s visit, her final remarks at the end of the week long tour proved a deep disappointment. The sections of the regime that are advocating greater engagement with the UN system, including Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha who heads the country’s Geneva mission to the UN,  genuinely believed that given the opportunity to witness the progress in Sri Lanka first hand, the UN High Commissioner’s perception of the human rights situation on the ground would change. Unfortunately these Government elements are at odds with other more powerful sections of the ruling regime, that are willing only to make superficial changes but have no real intention of meeting international obligations to devolve power to the island’s Tamil population or investigate alleged violations in the conflict’s final phase. Unfortunately for the Rajapaksa administration, Navi Pillay was not willing to merely scratch the surface during her visit.

Stinging goodbyes

As for Pillay’s last words in the island, no one is smarting more than President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The explosive statement at the end of her mission, included remarks about the authoritarian direction in which Sri Lanka was headed. Her words continue to rankle power centres in Colombo long after Pillay is gone.

“A dictator is a ruler who does not hold elections,” President Rajapaksa charged at the 62nd SLFP Convention in Kurunegala on Monday, one day after Pillay had left these shores. There had been 11 elections held under his watc, since 2005, he claimed. “What’s more democratic than that?” he asked the SLFP crowd. “What can I do if the Opposition Leader can’t win an election,” he quipped. Under the lighthearted tone however, the rancour is real, Government insiders say.

There is also the question of whether President Rajapaksa was deliberately perpetuating the grotesquely erroneous notion that elections are the sole test of a state’s democratic credentials. Deposed Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein, Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak, Zimbabwe’s President for life, Robert Mugabe and President Rajapaksa’s brand new best friend in Belarus, the self-proclaimed last dictator of Europe, Alexander Lukashenko all belong on a list of autocratic leaders who regularly take their nations to the polls. Elections held under such regimes are tragically flawed affairs. But even so, democracies are measured not merely by whether a country’s leaders are elected (however fairly or unfairly), but also by how a state and its leaders safeguard and uphold the liberties of individuals. In a state where civil liberties are suppressed, elections only impose majority tyranny on the rest of the populace.

The Government has issued rebuttal after rebuttal to Pillay’s statement. External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris even addressed the press in London on Monday evening, in order to reply the UN Envoy as soon as possible. Each rebuttal has dealt extensively with Pillay’s remark on increasing authoritarianism, claiming that the comment was a transgression of her mandate and a political statement. Peiris said her concluding remarks showed a “distressing lack of balance” and claimed her observations suggested that Pillay had “formed her views before reaching the shores of the country.”

The floral tribute

The rebuttal of Pillay’s closing remarks from the Department of Government Information went so far as to accuse the High Commissioner of having attempted to pay a floral tribute at Mullivaikal where the LTTE Leader met his death. The UN Delegation it is learnt was notified by the highest levels of Government in Colombo last Tuesday while Pillay was in the North, that the tribute would not be tolerated.

During her press briefing in Colombo, High Commissioner Pillay said she often lays flowers in commemoration of victims of conflict, in most countries she visits. The question of the floral commemoration has become a hot button issue, with Government insiders insisting Pillay had “shown her hand” in no uncertain terms with the attempted ‘commemoration’.

Given the southern political sensitivities regarding the final theatre of battle where the LTTE leadership perished, the UN`s choice of Mullivaikal for a tribute was perhaps a poor one. But as analysts point out, despite the ubiquitous war memorials bearing unmistakably militaristic symbols all over the country, the Sri Lankan Government is yet to construct a memorial for all victims of the war, despite such a conciliatory memorial being strongly advocated even in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.

Nevertheless, for the first time since the High Commissioner’s delegation left Sri Lanka, her Office clarified the issue yesterday.  Spokesman for the High Commissioner, Rupert Colville told Daily FT that the UN considered that the the general area where the war ended after nearly 30 years might be a suitable spot to commemorate all those who died during that conflict. Colville said that the Government had learned Pillay’s team was considering this and made it plain they viewed it in a different light. “We considered their point of view carefully and felt in the end that it might be misinterpreted — as indeed it has been — so decided not to proceed,” Colville said.

Gross misrepresentation

He said it was a gross misrepresentation to pretend that Pillay was planning to honour the LTTE. “She made her views on the LTTE  very clear indeed in her statement,” the High Commissioner’s Spokesman told Daily FT. Colville said that the words High Commissioner Pillay was due to speak in Mullaitivu had been included in her final statement, when she paid her respects to all Sri Lankans around the country who were killed during the three decades of conflict.

He said that the misrepresentation was “just the latest in the pattern of mendacious abuse” Pillay had referred to in her closing remarks.

Needless to say the slurs cast at the visiting High Commissioner became a large part of the narrative, especially after Pillay tackled the issue head on in her closing remarks. According to informed sources, two remarks particularly irked the visiting UN Envoy. Firstly the reference to her by JHU strongman Udaya Gammanpila as a terrorist sympathiser who saw “her husband in every terrorist”. Pillay’s husband was a lawyer and anti-Apartheid activist in South Africa, imprisoned with Nelson Mandela and others on Robben Island, where political prisoners were detained. The second was Minister Mervyn Silva’s offer to marry Pillay to show her what Sri Lanka ‘has to offer.’ The lewd remarks, made worse by allusions to Ravana-Sita folklore drew an apology to the visiting High Commissioner from President Rajapaksa no less, during his meeting with her last Friday. For the 72 year old judge, who has fought relentlessly for women’s rights throughout her career and especially in her present position, Silva’s remarks were not to be borne.

During a meeting with Leader of the House Nimal Siripala De Silva who was briefing Pillay on the recently constituted Parliamentary Select Committee on Devolution proposals, tried to lightheartedly brush off Mervyn Silva’s slurs. “Don’t worry about his remarks,” the congenial De Silva said during the meeting. Pillay was quick on the draw: “It is you that should be worried, Minister” she said.

Making it personal

There is great weight in that brief but powerful sentence. Rajapaksa administration officials repeatedly make a fundamental mistake in its dealings with international diplomats. They attempt, at their own peril, to individualise UN office bearers or diplomatic officials at local missions. Navi Pillay, as far as the Sri Lankan Government is concerned, can be whittled down to a South African Tamil, a sympathiser of the Tamil cause by virtue of her ethnicity and a convenient tool of the West. Similar mistakes were made with her predecessor, Louise Arbour, who was repeatedly vilified by Government officials. Navanethem Pillay, the Government must understand, even at this late stage, is not just one woman to be discredited and ascribed terrorist labels. Pillay is not just a South African or a Tamil, but the holder of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights at the UN, a fixed institution that will continue to advocate and criticise long after Pillay no longer holds the title. When she presents her reports on Sri Lanka following this fact finding mission, that report will not only remain relevant while Pillay remains in office, but even when her successor takes over the reins.

The UN Envoy said as much during her concluding press briefing last Saturday, when she explained that she and even the UN Secretary General were merely civil servants, bound to uphold the regulations and standards set by 193 member states of the UN. The rules, she said, were set by governments of the world, including Sri Lanka. “If the rules and regulations are violated, that is what the UN points out to Governments. You may call it criticism, but that is what the UN does. When there are gaps, we raise a critical voice, but always with the intention to help,” the High Commissioner told the Sri Lankan press corps. In essence, Navanethem Pillay does not make the rules, any more than Ban Ki Moon, Marzuki Darusman or Arbour does. This fundamental truth that the Sri Lankan Government fails to understand, despite the best efforts of saner counsel within the regime, gravely endangers the country’s international standing at forums such as the UN.

There is little doubt that High Commissioner Pillay’s report on Sri Lanka, to be presented orally in September and in full during the Human Rights Council’s March sessions, will be a bare-naked reading of the human rights situation on the ground. The Government has choices to make as it looks towards Council sessions in Geneva in March 2014, which foreign policy analysts repeatedly warn could herald the beginnings of a fully fledged international inquiry against Sri Lanka unless genuine steps are taken to address accountability issues between now and then.

Costing hearts and minds

Acknowledgement that the need to grant people freedom with dignity, protect human rights and the genuinely necessity to hold people to account for crimes committed against sections of the population not because the international community is demanding it, but for the sake of Sri Lanka’s own soul, could be a starting point, if the political leadership was so inclined. The lack of genuine commitment may have been where everything went wrong for the Government during the Pillay mission, despite all its best efforts to showcase progress. As human rights Chief, Pillay is less concerned with physical reconstruction and more focused on the human condition. The inability to understand that fundamental difference, is costing the Government hearts and minds in the former conflict zones and support in the international arena.

For Navi Pillay, the message came through loud and clear. Everywhere she went in the north and east and sometimes even in Colombo, ordinary people mobbed her with tales of their personal suffering. In the north, observers say, all focus has shifted from the Provincial Council election since Pillay’s visit, with ordinary people convinced again that the UN will successfully advocate on their behalf. Her presence inspired hope for civilians, families of the missing, journalists and human rights activists whose post-war reality has been far from peaceful.

“The fighting may be over, the suffering is not,” Pillay said, as she left Sri Lanka.

If it was paying attention to the more human factors of post-conflict rebuilding, the Government may not have had to endure the embarrassment of having Navi Pillay draw attention to the fact that the peace dividend will elude Sri Lanka as long as a section of its populace remains chained to the suffering wrought by brutal conflict. Sandhya Ekneligoda or Rajeswari Ganesan could have articulated the point with equal eloquence. It would have been apparent in the fear of thousands of ordinary Muslims, worrying that a violent day of reckoning may be in their future. Or in the prostate, uncontrollable grief of Sinnakutty Kanapathipillai from Mullaitivu, who lay on the streets outside the Jaffna Library, asking the UN High Commissioner to find her son who surrendered on 18 May 2009, never to be heard of again.

The compulsion to tell the world of their suffering is a direct consequence of the fact that at home, no one is listening.

Courtesy Daily FT

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