| by Brian Senewiratne
( November 30, Brisbane – Australia, Sri Lanka Guardian) The Sri Lankan High Commissioner to Australia, ex-Admiral Thissara Samarasinghe, is visiting Brisbane on 1 December 2011. I will, of course, not be invited to attend, and even if I am, I will certainly not be ‘allowed’ to ask the necessary questions by the more ‘patriotic’ members of my ethnic group, the Sinhalese, whose prime responsibility is to see that awkward questions are not asked from the Rajapaksa junta, and it’s ex-military (and others) who have a case to answer, now being posted as ‘Ambassadors’. That is the ‘duty’ of a patriot’ – to stand close to the Sri Lankan flag, however soaked it is in the blood of innocent Tamils.
|Take us to New Zealand … Sri Lankan asylum seekers wave signs after Indonesian authorities intercepted their boat near Bintan Island.Image courtesy: Sydney Morning Herald|
As such, I have encouraged non-Sri Lankans, or at least non-Tamils, to ask the necessary questions. Since many of them have no idea what to ask, I have formulated some questions.
Given the possibility of the same thing happening in your country, I thought that to put these questions on the net would be helpful.
Time is the critical factor and to ramble on will not be allowed. Here are my suggested questions.
“Ambassador (High Commissioner),
I draw your attention to 6 Reports, all of them released this year, all, but one, from internationally credible groups. The exception is the Report tabled in the Sri Lankan parliament on 21 No 2011 by the elected representatives of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
I will take up these Reports and our concerns, but before I do so, can I ask you three questions.
If the war is over and the Tamil people have been ‘rehabilitated’ and are thrilled at being freed from ‘the terrorists’, why does your government still refuse to allow internationally credible groups such a Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group free access to the Tamil areas?. What is there for your Government to hide?
During the war there were 175,000 members of the Armed Forces. After the war was over, this has increased to 230,000. Why increase the Armed Forces after the ‘enemy’ has been crushed? Who is the ‘enemy’
The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) continues (in fact has been even expanded) after the ‘terrorists’ were crushed. May I ask why the PTA continues?
Let me turn to the disturbing Reports I have referred to:-
The UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka released 31 March 2011.
It repeatedly accuses the Sri Lankan government of lying. Let me quote: “The Panel’s determination of credible allegations reveals a very different version of the final stages of the war than that maintained to this day by the Government of Sri Lanka.” Is this not a serious indictment of your Government’s credibility?
It recommends an international independent inquiry. The Secretary General, “should immediately proceed to establish an independent international mechanism whose mandate should be to collect and safeguard for future use, information provided to it…”.
Is your Government prepared to do this, or is it your position that your Government has already set up its own Commission, the “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)?
If it is, are you aware of the response of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and International Crisis Group, when invited to appear before the Commission? Let me quote from a joint letter sent to your Govt. by Kenneth Roth, Executive Director, HRW, “There is little to be gained by appearing before such a fundamentally flawed commission. Accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka demands an independent international investigation. Thousands of civilians were killed in the last few months of the war as a result of gross violations of international law by both the government and the LTTE forces. The Commission is nothing more than a cynical attempt by Sri Lanka to avoid serious inquiry that would bring genuine accountability”.
Is it your position that all these internationally credible groups, one a Nobel Prize winner, are wrong and that your Government is right? Do you not agree that this will be hard to sell however expensive the PR company hired by your government? The problem is not with the PR company but with the product it has to sell – to deny the serious crimes against humanity committed by your Government troops and those in charge, including your President and his brother, the Defense Secretary?
There are many more questions that can be raised arising from this 200 page Report which is one of the most damning documents ever published on your country. However, because of the constraints of time, I will move on.
2. The International Crisis Group (ICG), “Sri Lanka: Post-War Progress Report” of 15 Sept 2011.
It states: “There are strong grounds to question the government’s claim of progress on crucial post-war issues such as the state of emergency and repressive anti-terrorism laws, militarisation and insecurity, resettlement of internally displaced persons (IDP), reintegration of alleged ex-combatants and a political settlement on devolution and minority rights”
Is it your position that the ICG does not know what it is talking about, or do you claim that the ICG are a bunch of Tamil Tigers? If so, do you seriously expect that this will be believed?
3. Let me turn to the Amnesty International Report “When will they get Justice?” September 2011
I will take up just two points in this extensive 67 page Report.
The Report is subtitled, “Failures of Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC”) and deals with the deeply flawed LLRC) and Sri Lanka’s abysmal track record of Commissions of Inquiry.
Let me quote, . “….in the face of domestic and international pressure, including from such allies as India, the Sri Lankan government has still refused to make a credible effort to seek accountability. Instead, as it has done often in the past two decades, the Sri Lankan government has established an ad hoc special commission, ostensibly to investigate and address wrongdoings, but in fact to deflect international pressure and silence internal critics”.
2, It goes on to draw attention to your country’s abysmal track record:, “Amnesty International urges the international community not to be deceived that the LLRC – the latest of a long line of failed domestic mechanisms in Sri Lanka – will deliver justice, truth and reparations”.
It calls for the UN to immediately establish an independent, international investigation and goes on to state why this is needed.
Is it your position that AI, a Nobel Prize winning organisation, has got it all wrong? If so, do you seriously expect this to be believed?
4. I will move on to yet another Amnesty International Report, “Sri Lanka: Briefing to Committee Against Torture. Amnesty International of October 2011
This was submitted to the “Convention against Torture, other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” in October 2011.
It documents the ongoing torture by Sri Lankan Government bodies (Police, and paramilitary groups working with the Government), the fabrication of evidence by the Police, and the complete failure of the Judicial system to address these.
Let me quote,: “Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the criminal justice system is the overwhelmingly large number of charges which are fabricated by the police on a daily basis”.
Ambassador, is this not a damnation of your criminal justice system?
5. I will turn to the UK Channel 4 News video.
This was a ground-breaking video that has established the war crimes committed by both sides, especially the Sri Lankan Armed Forces, in the closing stages of the war.
Your Government continues to claim that this was a fake. However, it was shown at a special screening in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meeting in June 2011. Is it your position that this internationally credible body (UNHRC) was airing a faked document? Do you expect that to be believed?
Are you aware of the internationally accepted ‘Command Responsibility’, that all those all the way to the top, be they military leaders or civilians (such as your President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and his brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Secretary of Defence,. and some of these military men including yourself, could be held responsible?
Are you aware that one of your former colleagues Major General Jagath Dias, Sri Lanka’s Deputy Ambassador to Germany, Switzerland and the Vatican, has had his diplomatic immunity withdrawn and sent back to your country?
Are you concerned that Channel 4 News is about to release another video, as more evidence of war crimes appears? Will it be your position that this too is fake? Your Government cannot seriously expect the world to believe its claim.
6. Finally, I will take up the most serious Report, the Situation Report. North and East (of Sri Lanka) tabled in the Sri Lankan Parliament on 21 October 2011 by the Tamil National Alliance
Ambassador, this 29 page Report, is the most comprehensive document that sets out the current (post-war) situation on the ground in the Tamil areas. It exposes what your Government is struggling to conceal by excluding international observers and human rights groups from the North and East. It is one of the most disturbing Reports on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, and explodes the myth propagated by your Government that the Tamil people have been ‘liberated’ from the ‘clutches of terrorists’ and have now been ‘rehabilitated’.
What have you to say about this Report? Is it your position that the elected representatives of the Tamil people in the North and East of your country are lying? If so, why do you not allow Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group, free access to the Tamil areas so that they can confirm or refute what has been tabled in your parliament by your parliamentarians? Is it the fear that these groups will confirm, and even document a worse situation that what has been tabled?
Accuracy / credibility.
I hope that the responses given by you are correct, unlike those of your Government in Colombo which are patently incorrect, and even absurd. I remind you again that the Report of the UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts has repeatedly pointed this out. I also draw your attention again to the Report of the International Crisis Group, “Sri Lanka: Post-War Progress Report”, which has refuted a number of claims made by your Government, and has convincingly shown that many, if not all, of them are completely false.
Your Government seems to be facing a range of crises – an unresolved ethnic crisis (yes, Ambassador, it is unresolved and even aggravated), a crisis of democracy and free speech, a crisis of law and order, a crisis of corruption now described as ‘mega-corruption’ going all the way to the top, a crisis in transparency, and above all, a crisis of deception and blatant dishonesty. While truth is the first casualty of war, it should not be in peacetime which your Government claims is the situation now in your country.
You might like to respond to these questions in writing so that I can out them on the net in the public domain so that the world will know the position of your Government which calls itself the “Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka”. ‘Democratic’ it certainly is not, ‘Socialist’ it is not, and has never been. From all the Repots coming out to date (25.11.2011), it would seem more like a Totalitarian State, with the Tamil areas in the North and East under permanent military/police control and repression”.
Thank you for the interview. More will follow because these questions will not go away – they never do.”.