Our lead story on our Avurudu eve edition of Monday, 13 April, carried some seemingly good news for the incumbent minority UNP Government which has to face the polls at the latest by next year.
The article titled “No immediate war crimes probe,” with a strap line called “Only report on modalities to UN in September,” it, quoting Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Ajith P. Perera said, “There will be no immediate domestic probe on war crimes as the government will only submit a report to the UNHRC in September on the modalities on how such a domestic inquiry would be conducted.
SL government achieved a ‘great’ diplomatic victory in March this year and stressed to the UN authorities that Colombo was confident of conducting an impartial internal inquiry in to alleged war crimes and human rights violations. We made it clear to the UN that there was no need for an international inquiry and said that we have an independent judiciary and independent public service.
The UN mechanism asked us to ensure the independence of the Judiciary, police and other institutions so that we carry out a credible domestic inquiry instead of an international inquiry…when we are ready to conduct an impartial internal inquiry the issue becomes a domestic problem and there will be no room for any international intervention. We are to hand over a report to the UNHRC as to how we will be conducting the domestic inquiry, after getting approval to that in September only the inquiry will be conducted,…”
If what Perera said is true and is not a political statement, then the UNP may face the 70% Sinhala Buddhist electorate with confidence at the forthcoming polls, an electorate which may be easily swayed over the LTTE Tamil terrorist bogey or over the plight of its ‘war heroes’ vis-à-vis such a probe.
But a rider here is, why is GoSL seeking approval from the international community in regard to the ‘modalities’? Isn’t seeking approval of the ‘modalities’ from the international community an affront to Sri Lanka’s independence?
A ‘card’ which may well be used against the UNP in the light of the UN’s call for a probe into alleged war crimes by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) during the closing stages of its war against the LTTE.
Meanwhile, the ‘LTTE card’ was played against the UNP successfully once before. This was at the April 2004 poll, when there was a Norwegian brokered ceasefire between the GoSL and the LTTE, then on. That was before the LTTE was decimated by the then UPFA Government five years later in May 2009.
But the picture in April 2004 was different. Two months earlier, the then PA/UPFA (PA is the predecessor of the UPFA) President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga using her presidential powers, prematurely dissolved the government which was led by the UNF/UNP coalition, with UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the helm of that Government as Prime Minister, apparently no different from what it’s today.
And, at the elections held two months later,Kumaratunga successfully played the LTTE/Tiger card among Sri Lanka’s overwhelmingly strong 70% Sinhala Buddhist majority to the detriment of Wickremesinghe’s UNP at that time.
One of the key successful messages by the UPFA to the Sinhala Buddhist voter then was: Vote for the UNP, you vote for the division of the country, ‘sealed’ by the UNP Government’s ceasefire pact with the LTTE then. At that time the LTTE had also submitted their proposal for the ceasefire to work. It contained a request by them to run the Northern and Eastern Provinces of the country for 10 years. The then UNP Government had however, not given their ‘nod of approval’ to the LTTE’s proposal.
But that was an excuse for Kumaratunga, using her presidential powers to seize four Cabinet portfolios from the UNP in November 2003 and to dissolve Parliament three months later.
With another election in the horizon, in the event the UNP Government, at the UN’s next human rights summit due in September at Geneva, where the Sri Lankan issue, i.e. of alleged human rights abuse in its war against the LTTE is expected to be taken up, had, other than the ‘modalities,’ also had to spell out, how they are going to identify the suspects of such abuse, that, however may not have gone well with Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhala-Buddhist electorate.
But if September’s probe is restricted only to ‘modalities’ as claimed by Perera, to be fair by the voter/taxpayer, Perera should also explain what those modalities are?
Are those modalities confined to the GoSL outlining how they are to set about going ahead with the probe? Who will comprise the modalities committee/commission? Already, taxpayers’ money has been spent on the LLRC, a Commission that was set-up by the previous regime to probe into those alleged war crimes.
What is the new government’s stance in regard to the LLRC report? Will it confirm to the UN that it will take steps to implement LLRC recommendations and if so under which timeframe? Are the so called ‘modalities’ to be laid out in September different to LLRC recommendations? Those are what the taxpayer would like to know.