By S. V. Kirubaharan, France
Those who are in politics can continue on their path, through political means using diplomacy and those who are involved in the field of human rights should continue even though there is a change of regime. Those who are used to exchanging birthday greetings, meeting and taking photographs, maintaining personal friendships with Sri Lanka political leaders will continue their support for anyone of their choice. We respect their rights.
Any international affair concerning human rights, war crimes and crimes against humanity is always against a State rather than against a political party or parties, which form a government. This is a fundamental principle regarding international standards. International covenants and treaties are signed by a State leader or his/her representatives on behalf of a particular State, but not a political party or parties that he /she represent.
We have come a long way! We will not give up anything which we have been working on with the suffering victims and a burning Island nation! Each one of us has to continue our struggle.
After many decades, the international community has finally opened its eyes to the human rights and political issues facing the Tamils. If we are reluctant to pursue our international task, once again we will be cheated by political leaders in Sri Lanka.
Since 1990 we have been taking this matter to international forums while each Sri Lankan government and its media have tried persistently to tarnish our image as LTTE – Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, LTTE supporters, terrorists, etc. We ignored these attempts to vilify and silence us and continued our task internationally, seeking justice for the victims. A few non-Tamils locally and internationally stood with us. Using government media the Sri Lankan state wrote fictional news and articles about our activities. Some extreme individuals, both Singhalese and Tamil, attempted to sabotage our efforts. But we stood firm and worked hard. We will continue our efforts at any cost, until the victims find justice.
Of course, since May 2009 locally and internationally many organisations and individuals (including Tamils and UN member states) worked tirelessly in bringing three resolutions against Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council – UN HRC. This was achieved collectively. After all these decades of efforts, how can we give up?
Those who objected in the past, on behalf of the Sri Lankan state, are going to come back again in March to the UN HRC to demand “Time and space” yet again. Forgetting their history of violations over decades, the pretext will be that there is a new coalition government! This is a typical case of “old wine in new bottles”. There is no change in the actors but they start the new drama of a ‘new regime’. The main actors of this new regime consist of defectors from the old regime. These were the actors who named the report of the “UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts” as the “Darusman’s report” and ridiculed it!
Commissions and Omissions
Violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity are not recent in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon. They have been going on since 1956. It started with a few and ended up in thousands! Well documented records of incidents have been submitted to the appropriate institutions over the years. But each Sri Lankan government never took any action on any of the culprits because the victims were mainly Tamils.
Whenever there is international pressure, a Commission is appointed, but those Commissions ended in Omissions. Sri Lanka’s commissions, local investigations, never found justice for the people in the North and East. Reports of some commissions were never even published at all. This method of hushing up the results applies not only to a particular Sri Lankan government, but all governments in power since 1956.
As far as the Sri Lankan state is concerned the Tamils have never deserved any justice. During the war the LTTE’s violations were well documented by every government and circulated widely and systematically, locally and internationally. But when it comes to Tamils, the attitude is that Tamils do not deserve justice!
Below we give a list of Commissions appointed by various Sri Lankan governments. So far, no action has ever been taken! There are hundreds more incidents which just “disappear” even without a murmur of setting up an investigation or commission. In other words anyone can commit a crime against the Tamils and they are well protected by the government itself.
The horrendous violations of the Rajapaksa regime came to light because of the practice of nepotism, corruption and attacks on press freedoms. These were mainly violations on the Singhalese themselves.
SRI LANKA’S ESTABLISHED COMMISSIONS AND OMISSIONS
(SO FAR NO ACTION HAS BEEN TAKEN)
1- The Sansoni Commission – 9th November, 1977
Report published on – 2nd July, 1980
2 – The Presidential Truth Commission on Ethnic Violence (1981-84) Report published on –
3 – Inquiry into attack on MSF Vehicle (Palampiddi- Iranai Road Inquiry) 9th May, 1991
Report published on – 9th May, 1991
4 – The Kokkadicholai Commission of Inquiry – 18th June 1991
Report published on – 9th March 1992
5 – The 1991-93 Presidential Commissions (1991-1993) – persons are being involuntarily removed from their places of residence by persons unknown.” Report not published
6 – Commission Appointed by President D.B. Wijetunge 13th September 1993. Report not published
7 – The 1994 Commissions of Inquiry into Disappearances – 30th November 1994
Report published in – September 1997.
8 – The Batalanda Commission, Dec 1995 Report published on –
9 – The 1998 All Island Disappearances Commission – 30th April 1998
Report published on – March 2001
10 – The Presidential Truth Commission on Ethnic – 23 July 2001
Report published on – September 2002
11 – The Bindunuwewa Commission – March 2001. To inquire into the killing of 28 Tamil youth between 14 to 23 years old detained in Bindunuwewa Rehabilitation Centre. Another 14 were seriously injured. Incident took place on October 2000.
Report Not Published
12 – The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) – November 2006
Report Not Published. This ended-up in a disaster.
New President and UN investigation
According to the Media and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, it has been confirmed that President Maithiripala Sirisena won the elections with Tamil votes from the North, East and the Up-country. When I say Tamil votes this includes Muslims whose mother tongue is Tamil.
Sirisena and many in the new government are defectors from the former President and join the new coalition. Even though the United National Party – UNP has formed the cabinet it has no support to work independently. They fully depend on other Sinhala extreme parties whose policy is that ‘Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country’.
As far as the UN international investigation is concerned, as I mentioned before, the new government will be asking for ‘Time and space’ and will say that they will carry out a local investigation, based on their Magic baby – LLRC – Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.
It is too late for a local investigation, because the Sri Lanka state has already refused to conduct one. The UN has spent huge financial resources to carry out the present investigation.
Any serious person will understand that the UN cannot be a talk-show whenever a particular State comes out with their policy of convenience to fool the UN.
As far as the international investigation is concerned, nothing is going to change on the side of the Sri Lankan state. Excerpts given below from the media give a picture of the present President. .
In an interview with Colombo ”Daily Mirror” Maithripala Sirisena asserts that during the final two weeks of the war, he was the acting Defence minister and during this period a large number of LTTE leaders and cadres were killed. How they were killed is the question asked by everyone. There is enough evidence to prove that they were all killed in summary executions.
Even some ministers in the present government, in particular General Sarath Fonseka who was in charge of the Army during the war told Frederica Jansz, the editor of the Sunday Leader, who gave orders to carry out some of those killings. Now the same people have got power in their hands and are planning to justify or camouflage this accusation. This is a typical example of the way it is in Sri Lanka.
Question; There is a sense of fear among the masses after the TNA and the SLMC came on board regarding the sovereignty of the country. What is the guarantee that you would give regarding the unitary nature of the state?
Answer : I was a person who was targeted by the LTTE on more than five occasions, the LTTE cadres who tried to kill me destroyed themselves without any sort of harm happening to me. The last attack was in Boralesgamuwa before that they planned an attack in Polonnaruwa which also failed. I was the Minister in Charge of Defence during the last two weeks of the war in which most of the leaders of the LTTE were killed with General Fonseka at the helm of the Army.
Prior to that I have acted as the Minister of Defence five times during the height of the war. I want to assure the people of this country that the country would not be divided, that there would be no war and that I would not permit a resurgence of the LTTE. We will build this country with all our hearts and our minds. (Excerpt)
In a Press briefing on 28 November 2014, Maithiripala Sirisena said that he will stand against an international investigation into allegations of war crimes committed during the final phase of the war.
Sirisena, said that he would launch a domestic probe if he was successful in the January presidential election. “I will not allow President Rajapaksa or the security forces to be hauled before an international war crimes court,”.
His Government would act according to the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), Sirisena said. (Excerpt)
What is the LLRC? On the advice of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s international propagandists, it was formulated to eye-wash the international community. Some of these international propagandists are now Ministers in the present government. The recommendations of the LLRC were not fully accepted by the international community. In the LLRC there is no specific political solution to the ethnic issue or national issue. So what is there for Maithripala Sirisena to implement?
Let us see in brief what the international human rights organisations say about the LLRC:
Human Rights Watch has condemned the LLRC report for disregarding the worst abuses by government forces, rehashing long-standing recommendations and failing to advance accountability for victims of Sri Lanka’s civil armed conflict. HRW has stated that the serious shortcomings of the report highlighted the need for an international investigative mechanism into the conflict as recommended by the United Nations Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts.
Amnesty International noted that the LLRC report ignores the “serious evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of the laws of war by government forces.”
The International Crisis Group noted that the LLRC report failed in a crucial task: Providing the thorough and independent investigation of alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that the UN and other partners of Sri Lanka have been asking for. The ICG urged the international community to establish an independent international investigation in 2012.
New York Times, members of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka criticized the LLRC report for ignoring or playing down their report’s conclusions and for characterizing the civilian deaths as a consequence of the army’s response to Tamil Tiger shelling or cross-fire…..said in an opinion column in the New York Times (02 March 2012).
The new Foreign Minister
The new Foreign Minister, Mangala Samaraweera is also one of the defectors from Rajapaksa. However when he was removed from the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, he said the following in a letter written to President Rajapaksa on 14 February 2007:
“Under the executive powers vested in you as the President, three Ministers, including me, were removed from our respective ministerial portfolios with immediate effect on 9 February 2007. I was informed of this fact while I was on an overseas visit to Singapore. I was not surprised by this decision as I view it as the culmination of certain events that occurred during the past few months.
When I was the Foreign Minister, I urgently requested you and Secretary of Defence Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa that until individual countries within the European Union legislates laws banning the LTTE, we should take steps to avoid human rights violations, abductions, harassing the media, attacking places of worship, hospitals and schools even when we take defensive military action against the LTTE. As a true patriot, I was focused on creating a conducive environment to get the LTTE banned in 25 countries. Therefore it is indeed very disappointing when you attempt to portray me as an LTTE sympathizer.” (Excerpt)
Mangala Samaraweera’s letter to President Rajapaksa shows that the new Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka is for all sorts of human rights violations. According to him they had to stop temporarily until the European Union banned the LTTE. What a smart Foreign Minister, the new government has nominated. We will wait for his speech in the UN HRC in March.
Palihakkara the Governor
It is a joke for me to see newly appointed G. Palihakkara as a Civil Governor of the Northern Province. I have seen a lot of his prejudiced and dirty actions in the then UN Human Rights Commission. He was the most racist Sri Lankan Ambassador I have ever seen in Geneva.
He, with his colleagues in Geneva, including the present UN Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam and some others, justified all the human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan security forces in the North and East. These violations included the horrific rape and murder case of school-girl Krishanthy Coomaraswamy, the assassination of Kumar Ponnambalam, more than 600 disappearances in the Chemmani mass graves, etc.,etc.
When Kumar Ponnambalam, eminent lawyer who defended the rights of all regardless of ethnic origin, was assassinated on 5th January 2000, we the Tamil Centre for Human Rights, carried out a campaign in Geneva. Palihakkara and his colleagues were disturbed by this, and with the intention of putting me out of the UN, he made several false complaints against me to the UN Secretariat. On the basis of his complaint, I was investigated by the UN Security. But finding that Palihakkara’s complaints were false and based purely on political motives, they established no evidence against me, to take action. Also he made several complaints about my speeches and the international non-governmental organisations – NGOs who helped me.
In the UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights, a French UN independent expert Mr Louis Joinet, spoke about the assassination of Kumar Ponnambalam. For this reason Palihakkara took revenge on Louis Joinet and lobbied against him in one his elections in the Human Rights Commission. Louis Joinet is an internationally reputed independent expert, who always holds balanced views on every global issue.
Today a man with all the afore-mentioned record is appointed as the Civil Governor of the Northern Province! To our knowledge, he will do more damage to the Northern provincial council than the military governor Chandrasri did in the past.
We believe that, when the Tamil National Alliance – TNA was demanding that President Rajapaksa appoint a Civil Governor, he was planning to appoint Palihakkara. At that time, EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, pressurised Rajapaksa not to bend down to the demand of the TNA and he gave up his plan to appoint Palihakkara as the Governor of the North. Today the same person is appointed to that very position.
We wish good luck to the Chief-Minister and his colleagues!
Palihakkara is one of the members in the LLRC which ignores the serious evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of the laws of war by government forces.
This is a typical example to indicate what the future of the Tamils will be under this new President.
S. V. Kirubahran
19 January 2015