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FeaturesNewsUN report: Govt. launches major counter-offensive

UN report: Govt. launches major counter-offensive

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Teams to visit Non-Aligned countries; White paper to explain justification for use of force to end terrorism
By Our Diplomatic Editor

Sri Lanka will launch a diplomatic offensive in “neutral” countries to meet the allegations made against the government in the report of the three-member experts’ panel that advised the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on civilian casualties during the last stages of the military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in early 2009.

Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the Sunday Times that the government would take the report “seriously” and send teams to India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the other Non-Aligned countries including those in Africa and Latin America to explain why Sri Lanka had no option but to use military force to liquidate the LTTE’s military capabilities.

He said a white paper would be prepared outlining the justification for military action; the civilian casualties caused by the LTTE; the benefits that have accrued to the people of Sri Lanka both in the north and south from the elimination of terrorism; and the humanitarian measures taken by the government during that final offensive against the LTTE and thereafter for the displaced civilians during the final stages, especially in the Vanni and Mullaitivu districts.

Already three retired Foreign Secretaries — Nihal Rodrigo, Bernard Gunatillake and H.M.G.S. Palihakkara — have been requested to assist the Attorney General in preparing a report to counter the allegations made in the UN panel report.

The UN panel that comprised Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), Yasmin Sooka (South Africa) and Stern Ratner (the United States) has made some strong recommendations to the UN Secretary General. It calls on the SG “to establish an independent international mechanism” to probe accountability in civilian casualties during that period in early 2009, and that the “Government of Sri Lanka should issue a public,
the people of Sri Lanka both in the north and south from the elimination of terrorism; and the humanitarian measures taken by the government during that final offensive against the LTTE and thereafter for the displaced civilians during the final stages, especially in the Vanni and Mullaitivu districts.

Already three retired Foreign Secretaries — Nihal Rodrigo, Bernard Gunatillake and H.M.G.S. Palihakkara — have been requested to assist the Attorney General in preparing a report to counter the allegations made in the UN panel report.

The UN panel that comprised Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), Yasmin Sooka (South Africa) and Stern Ratner (the United States) has made some strong recommendations to the UN Secretary General. It calls on the SG “to establish an independent international mechanism” to probe accountability in civilian casualties during that period in early 2009, and that the “Government of Sri Lanka should issue a public,formal acknowledgement for its role in and responsibility for extensive civilian casualties in the final stages of war”, which is interpreted by diplomatic analysts as being a call for a public apology by the government for what happened.

The report, a copy of which was sent to the Sri Lanka government by the UN Secretary General through the country’s permanent mission at the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday, rejects the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) established by the government to go into issues relating to the separatist insurgency and matters connected to it.

In a hard-hitting reference to the LLRC, the panel’s report says it “fails to satisfy key international standards of independence and impartiality, as it is compromised by its composition and deep seated conflicts on interests of some of its members”. It says the LLRC is “deeply flawed” and cannot be seen to satisfy the joint commitment of the Sri Lankan president and the UNSG to an accountability process.
The panel has also rejected the explanation given by the government delegation that it met secretly last month on measures adopted to “balance reconciliation with accountability”.

“The assertion of a choice between restorative and retributive justice presents a false dichotomy. Both are required,” says the panel. The panel confirms the meeting between the Sri Lankan government delegation comprising Attotney General Mohan Peiris, then Foreign Secretary Romesh Jayasinghe, Ambassador to the UN Palitha Kohona and his deputy Maj. Gen. Shavindra Silva.

The panel says, “The Government’s two-pronged notion of accountability as explained to the panel, focusing on the responsibility of past governments and of the LTTE, does not envisage a serious examination of the government’s decisions and conduct in prosecuting the final stages of the war or the aftermath, nor the violations of law that may have occurred as a result”.

The Sri Lanka government rejected the findings of the expert panel’s report saying it was “flawed” and “biased”.

“The report includes “unconfirmed and unsubstantiated details and figures on the final stages of the ethnic conflict. The report is entirely misleading and baseless. We are not ready to accept this report,” Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said.

Make May Day rally a show of strength against UN panel’s report: President

President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday urged SLFP organisers to turn the May Day rally into a massive show of strength that would send a strong message to the world that the people are with him in the wake of a UN report that accused his government of committing war crimes.

Addressing them at a Temple Trees meeting, the President said his government had been lenient towards LTTE detainees and had even released hardcore member after rehabilitating them.

Expressing surprise at the allegations contained in the UN Secretary General’s expert panel report, the president said that not even close relatives of the LTTE cadres had made such charges when they appeared before the government’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).
ST

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