By Shamindra Ferdinando
Member of House of Lords, Michael Naseby, has assured that he will try very hard to convince the UK to make public the sections of the Colombo British High Commission dispatches censored by London, pertaining to the last phase of the Vanni offensive.
Lord Naseby gave this assurance at the launch of his memoirs, ‘Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained’ at the BMICH on Tuesday (29).
Among those present on the occasion were Foreign Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Secretary to the Ministry of Defence General Kamal Gunaratne and Commander of the Army General Shavendra Silva.
Dismissing British justification for deleting large sections of the dispatches from Colombo, during the period January-May 2009, Lord Naseby emphasised that the incumbent government, or previous administrations, shouldn’t worry about the content of those dispatches.
The British politician declared that there was nothing in them to implicate Sri Lanka in alleged war crimes. Lord Naseby said that he had got an opportunity to meet the then British Defence Advisor Lt. Colonel Anthony Gash, the author of those dispatches, at the Colombo Hilton.
Lord Naseby stressed that the dispatches from Colombo didn’t collaborate the five main accusations levelled against Sri Lanka. The House of Lords member quoted Lt. Colonel Gash having denied accusations that the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the elimination of Tamil civilians, and there was no basis for claims that specific no-fire zones had been established by the military to kill those who gathered in them, and attempts had been made to starve the Vanni population. There was absolutely no justification of claims of genocide, and the dispatches had cleared Sri Lankan military of holding civilians in clandestine detention camps such as Menik Farm. Lord Naseby pointed out that the ICRC had been present at the Menik Farm from day one.
Lord Naseby stressed that it was the LTTE that compelled the civilians to move towards the eastern coastal areas as they retreated. He reiterated that it was a war not an uprising.
The present Defence Secretary Gunaratne commanded the 53 Division and the Army Commander served as the General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the much celebrated 58 Division that advanced from the Northwestern coast to Nanthikadal across the Kandy-Jaffna A- 09 road.
Lord Naseby asked how over 300,000 civilians would have survived if the Sri Lankan military had practised genocide. He also emphasised that in spite of the war, Sri Lanka’s civil service had functioned in both Northern and Eastern Provinces. That had ensured the supply of essential items, he pointed out.
Lord Naseby had fought for nearly three years to obtain dispatches from Colombo.
The UK, in spite of being leader of Sri Lanka Core Group at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), has declined to release the dispatches to assist the ongoing investigations for obvious sinister reasons.
Lord Naseby revealed the existence of dispatches in the House of Lords in Oct 2017.