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FeaturesNewsPanel report: Be realistic and have dialogue with UN

Panel report: Be realistic and have dialogue with UN

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  • Despite spin doctoring by envoys, EU resolution could have grave implications for Sri Lanka
  • India still undecided as crucial battle looms at UNHRC sessions
By Sunday Times Political Editor
On Thursday, Sri Lanka completes two years after the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas. In that span, the government has taken several measures to ensure the memories of a victory against the scourge of terrorism remained live in the minds of the public. In this backdrop, the annual Victory Day parade will take place at the Galle Face green on this day. A three-day international seminar on “Sri Lankan experiences in defeating terrorism” expected to be attended by representatives of some 55 countries will begin on May 31.

The events come during a holy month. Vesak, the most important event in the Buddhist calendar is on Tuesday and Wednesday. Its significance is enhanced by the Sambuddhathva Jayanthi that marks 2600 years after the Enlightenment of Gautama the Buddha.
The display of military might that will include troops and equipment that defeated the Tiger guerrillas amidst religious observances countrywide is a paradox. President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who gave political leadership to the military campaign, and his administration, have now become political targets. This is with the release of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Advisory Panel report on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka. It comprised Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), Yasmin Sooka (South Africa) and Steven Ratner (United States).
The man who led troops to victory, former General Sarath Fonseka, in the meantime, languishes in jail. The only glimpse of the first anniversary of the victory festivities for him came through a hole in his window. He faced different General Courts Martial whilst being detained at Navy Headquarters. He saw some Air Force planes fly past. His deposition in the ‘White Flag Case’ on Thursday had to be interrupted due to his physical inability to continue reading a statement. The one time celebrated war hero, now referred to by the United States as a “political prisoner,” coughed repeatedly — an indication that his health has taken a bad turn whilst being incarcerated in jail for more than one year.
This week, more countries were joining in with statements to add pressure on Sri Lanka over the UN Advisory Panel report. Joining United States, Britain, South Africa, Switzerland were France and other countries in the European Union. The Foreign Ministry in Paris issued a statement in French. The English translation states:
“The report of the Panel of Experts charged by the Secretary General of the United Nations inquiring into allegations of violations of the human rights and the humanitarian international law by all the parties to the conflict was made public. As of April 2009, France had called for setting up of a commission of impartial international inquiry in order to bring to light these allegations of violation. We had then actively supported the nomination by the Secretary General of the United Nations of this panel of experts.
“The authorities of Sri Lanka set up in 2010 a Commission on Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation with the aim of facilitating the national reconciliation. The work of this Commission and that of the experts named by the Secretary General of the United Nations must be complementary. We invite the authorities of Sri Lanka to collaborate in a constructive way with the international community. In the fight against impunity, it is crucial to follow a true policy of national reconciliation whatever the country. We encourage the authorities in Sri Lanka to implement their engagements in these two fields.”
The European Parliament
A statement by the European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton, said,”The EU considers that the publication of the report of the UN Secretary-General Panel of Experts on accountability in Sri Lanka is an important development. It will be recalled that EU had welcomed the appointment of the Panel by the UNSG in June 2010.
“The Panel has concluded that there are credible allegations that major violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by all sides in the conflict. The EU re-iterates its view that an independent process to address these extremely serious allegations should contribute to strengthening the process of reconciliation and ensuring lasting peace and security in Sri Lanka. As the report says, the issue of accountability should be seen as an essential part of the process of national reconciliation. The EU therefore hopes that the Government of Sri Lanka will recognise the constructive objectives of the report, and encourages it to engage with the UNSG on its contents.”
Violation of International HR
In the backdrop of this statement that sets out the EU’s position, the European Parliament debated the Sri Lankan issue. There were six different resolutions, five of them against Sri Lanka and one in favour. Marie Christine Vergiat of GUE/NGL the European United Left and the Nordic Green Left, (who formed the European Parliamentary Group)-submitted the first resolution in French. Others who opposed Sri Lanka with resolutions were:
Veronique De Keyser, Ana Gomes and Richard Howitt on behalf of the S&D Group or the Professional Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. Elmar Brook, Jose Ignacio, Slafranca Sanchez-Neyra, Thomas Mann, Cristian Dan Preda, Filip Kaesmarek, Mario Mauro, Michele Striffler, Bernd Posselt, Tunne Kelam, Eija-Ritta Korhola, Monica Luisa Macovei, Elena Basescu, Sari Essayah, Agnes Le Brun, Dominique Baudis and Buguslaw Sonik on behalf of the PPE Group or the European People’s Party.
Marietje Schaake, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Johannes Cornelis van Baalen, Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, Kristina Ojuland, Sara Ludford, Marielle De Sarnez and Norica Nicolai on behalf of ALDE Group or the alliance of liberals and democrats for Europe.
Heidi Hautala, Karima Delli, Raul Romeva i Rueda, Frieda Brepoels on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group or the European Free Alliance Greens.
The five different resolutions from those listed above expressed concerns over the “findings” of the UN Advisory Panel on alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka and called for an “international mechanism” to probe such allegations. They gave different reasons in their resolutions on why this was necessary.
However, a resolution signed by Geoffrey Van Orden, Charles Tannock, Nirj Deva (Sri Lankan born), Ryszard Antoni Legutko, Michael Tomasz Kaminski, Ryszard Czarnecki, Tomasz Piotr Poreba on behalf of the ECR Group or the European Conservatives and Reformists, was in favour of Lanka. The lengthiest among all the resolutions, it praised the Government of Sri Lanka for a series of actions and blamed the Tiger guerrillas for the reign of terror until they were militarily defeated. The resolution, among other matters, noted that that the Sri Lankan economy has been growing at an average of nine percent a year since the end of the conflict. It said that EU countries remain the biggest single market for Sri Lanka’s exports which play an important role in the continuing economic recovery. Here are some of the highlights in the resolution:
  • “Expresses its concern at the serious nature of the allegations in the UN’s Darusman report; underlines that these allegations, and the issue of accountability for them, must be properly addressed before lasting reconciliation can be achieved in Sri Lanka.
  • Recognises that the report was of a purely advisory nature, produced by a Panel which did not visit Sri Lanka, and by its own terms of reference, was neither a fact-finding nor an investigative body, and that the responsibility for action and accountability to deal with human rights abuse ultimately rests with the Sri Lankan government.
  • Notes that the report, while finding credible allegations that the military operations of the Sri Lankan army resulted in large numbers of civilian deaths, provides no evidence that such violations took place on a deliberate or systematic basis or that they were ordered or condoned at the highest levels.
  • Acknowledges that the Sri Lankan Government has established a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC); trusts that its work will meet international standards of independence and impartiality and in this regard strongly urges the Sri Lankan Government, even at this stage, to have an international input to the work of the LLRC; trusts that its work will be completed in a timely manner before the end of 2011 and will be made public; urges the LLRC to take serious account of the UN’s Darusman Report; notes that the LLRC is empowered to ask the Sri Lankan Attorney General to institute criminal proceedings, based on its findings.
  • Notes that Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists have recognized that the ‘dangers to journalists in Sri Lanka have eased with the end of the fighting’ and that there has been a ‘fall in the number of physical attacks and threats’ to journalists since the end of the conflict; urges the Sri Lankan Government to guarantee media freedom.
  • Notes that it is through trade rather than through aid that the Sri Lankan economy will fully recover from the lasting effects of the 25-year-long LTTE terrorist campaign and urges the EU and its Member States to restore Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status. “
The resolution backed by Nirj Deva, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and a business entrepreneur in Sri Lanka and his colleagues, where some of the highlights are listed above, clearly articulates the Sri Lanka Government’s official position vis-a-vis the UN Panel report. Whilst insisting that the LLRC is the mechanism to address accountability issues, it has gone further to state that the “LLRC is empowered to ask the Sri Lankan Attorney General to institute criminal proceedings, based on its findings.” Thus, it suggests of a softening of the government stance that “credible” allegations on which a probe is sought by some nations backing “an international mechanism” could be investigated under the direction of the Attorney General.
Some of the points listed above are also contained in a letter External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon early this month on matters related to the UN Panel report. It is the Sri Lanka government’s first response though it does not directly answer issues raised in the report. To the contrary, Peiris has declared the report is “unacceptable, biased” and based on “hearsay”. This letter is being kept a closely guarded secret. The second, a comprehensive response, listing what the government has done before, during and after the war in the north is still being formulated. Even this response will not specifically address issues raised in the Panel report though it is clearly one inspired by it.
Behind-the-scene
However, ahead of the sessions of the European Parliament (on Thursday night Sri Lankan time), behind-the-scene consultations went on between those wanting to back the five resolutions against Sri Lanka and others objecting to it. As a result, a compromise “Joint Resolution” was formulated. When that was put to vote, Claude Moraes MEP moved an oral amendment to the resolution. It called on the major organs of the EU to support the immediate establishment of an “international accountability mechanism,” a point that the Joint Resolution had omitted. Mainly the British Tories, despite pressure by the Tamil Diaspora, on the Conservative Party, blocked it. Thus, the resolution was adopted without reference to the three words — “international accountability mechanism.”
File photo: Sri Lankans showcase their national flags as they celebrate the military victory over Tamil Tiger rebels in Colombo, May 2009.
At the conclusion of the EU Parliament sessions, the Sri Lanka Embassy in Brussels issued a news release. It said, “The European Parliament today defeated an attempt by the Socialist group “to seek the immediate establishment of an international justice mechanism” on Sri Lanka, during an ‘urgency’ debate called by the Socialist and Green parties at the Strassbourg Plenary session to draw attention to the so called “UN Panel Report” on accountability issues in Sri Lanka.” (Note : The Embassy calls it the ”so-called” UN Panel Report whilst the government in Colombo has dubbed it the ”Darusman Report.”) Here is the full text of the modified joint resolution:
“The European Parliament, – having regard to the report of 31 March 2011 of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, – having regard to the UN Secretary-General’s statement of 25 April 2011 on the public release of the panel of experts’ report on Sri Lanka,
– having regard to the conventions to which Sri Lanka is a party, which require it to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and prosecute those responsible,
-having regard to the Declaration on the appointment of a UN Panel of Experts on Accountability Issues in Sri Lanka made on behalf of the European Union on 1 July 2010 by the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR),
– having regard to the Declaration made by the VP/HR on 10 May 2011 on the report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka,
– having regard to its resolutions of 5 February 2009, 12 March 2009 and 22 October 2009 on Sri Lanka,
– having regard to the Second Additional Protocol, relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, to the Fourth Geneva Convention,
– having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas in May 2009 the long-running conflict in Sri Lanka came to an end with the surrender of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the death of their leader; whereas the conflict ended with large numbers of Sri Lankans living as internally displaced persons, especially in the north of the country,
B. whereas in the final months of the conflict, intense fighting in civilian areas resulted in what are estimated to be thousands of civilian deaths and injuries,
C. whereas on 23 May 2009, during a visit by Ban Ki-moon to Sri Lanka shortly after the end of the conflict, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ban Ki-moon issued a joint statement in which the UN Secretary-General underlined the importance of an accountability process and the Government of Sri Lanka agreed that it would take measures to address allegations of
D. whereas on 15 May 2010 the Sri Lankan Government appointed an eight-member Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) to look into events in Sri Lanka between February 2002 and May 2009, with the aim of ensuring accountability, justice and reconciliation in the country,
E. whereas on 22 June 2010 the UN Secretary-General announced the appointment of a panel of experts to advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka,
F. whereas the UN report, published on 25 April 2011, found to be credible allegations that both government forces and the LTTE conducted military operations ‘with flagrant disregard for the protection, rights, welfare and lives of civilians and failed to respect the norms of international law’,
G. whereas the international community, in the final stages of the conflict, repeatedly called on the Government of Sri Lanka to allow international observers to enter the country in order to monitor the humanitarian situation of the civilian population affected by the fighting,
H. whereas the panel also concluded that ‘Sri Lanka’s efforts, nearly two years after the end of the war, fall dramatically short of international standards on accountability’,
1. Expresses its concern at the serious nature of the allegations in the UN report; stresses that those allegations, and the issue of accountability for them, must be properly addressed before lasting reconciliation can be achieved in Sri Lanka;
2. Acknowledges that the panel found to be ‘credible allegations which, if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law was committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity’;
3. Welcomes the initiative taken by the UN Secretary-General in appointing the panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka regarding alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law during the final stages of the armed conflict;
4. Applauds Ban Ki-moon’s decision to publish the report on 25 April 2011;
5. Stresses that a commitment on human rights and accountability was a key point of the joint statement issued by the President of Sri Lanka and the UN Secretary-General on 23 May 2009;
6. Welcomes the UN Secretary-General’s decision to respond positively to the panel’s recommendation for a review of the UN’s actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war in Sri Lanka, particularly in the final stages of the conflict; notes that the panel of experts has recommended that the UN Secretary-General should immediately proceed to establish an independent international mechanism, but that the latter has been advised that this will require host country consent or a decision by member states through an appropriate intergovernmental forum;
7. Takes the view that, in the interests of justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, the allegations contained in the UN panel of experts’ report warrant a full, impartial and transparent investigation; encourages the Government of Sri Lanka to respond constructively to the recommendations made by the panel of experts;
8. Is deeply concerned about the worrying lack of independence of the judiciary, which could play a complementary role to an independent investigation body; urges the Sri Lankan Government to ensure restorative and retributive justice;
9. Calls on the Government of Sri Lanka in compliance with its international obligations and with a view to improving its domestic accountability process, to contribute to the efforts with a view to improving its domestic accountability process, to contribute to the efforts already being made for a comprehensive reconciliation;
10. Recognises, in this respect, that the Sri Lankan Government has established a Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC); urges the LLRC to take serious account of the UN report; notes that the LLRC is empowered to ask the Sri Lankan Attorney-General to institute criminal proceedings, based on its findings;
11. Asks for accountability of both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan Government for alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law;
12. Urges the Sri Lankan Government to implement the panel’s recommendations, starting with the ‘immediate measures’, and immediately to commence genuine investigations into the violations of international humanitarian and human rights law allegedly committed by both sides involved in the armed conflict;
13. Calls on the VP/HR, the Council and the Commission to support further efforts to strengthen the accountability process in Sri Lanka and to support the UN report;
14. Urges the Government of Sri Lanka to be proactive in addressing the genuine political, economic and social concerns and interests of its Tamil citizens; urges the Sri Lankan Government accordingly to take active measures in terms of political devolution and to encourage Tamil recruitment to the government service and to the police and the armed forces, so that the Tamil peoples feel reassured and will recognise the defeat of the LTTE as a liberation (sic) and look forward to a bright and prosperous future, on equal terms with their Sinhalese fellow citizens;
15. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President, Government and Parliament of Sri Lanka.”
It is known that Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Brussels, Ravinatha Ariyasinha lobbied MEPs heavily with the help of Nirj Deva, who once described himself as”Sri Lanka’s Roving Ambassador” (whilst being an MEP) and thus averted a reference in the joint resolution to “to seek the immediate establishment of an international justice mechanism.” Nevertheless, neither Deva nor his MEP colleagues signed the joint resolution. Despite the spin in the Sri Lanka Embassy news release, there are some very serious implications in the EU Parliament’s joint resolution passed on Thursday. This is notwithstanding widely publicised claims in Sri Lanka that there is no reference to the “establishment of an international justice mechanism.” Here are some of them:
Lack of independence of the judiciary
The EU Parliament resolution says that it “is deeply concerned about the worrying lack of independence of the judiciary, which could play a complementary role to an independent investigation body; urges the Sri Lankan Government to ensure restorative and retributive justice.” This assertion gives muscle to claims that an “international mechanism” would become inevitable in the light of a purported “worrying lack of independence of the judiciary.”
The claims that there is no reference to the “establishment of an international justice mechanism” are therefore less than assuring, and at best a pyrrhic diplomatic victory.
Even more important is the concluding paragraph of the resolution. It says “Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the President, Government and Parliament of Sri Lanka.” It formally authorises the President of the European Parliament to empower Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, to lobby internationally for action. Similarly it also empowers member countries of the EU to take follow up action.
Ms. Ashton’s statement on the UN Panel’s report, reproduced above, says the EU “re-iterates its view that an independent process to address these extremely serious allegations should contribute to strengthening the process of reconciliation and ensuring lasting peace and security in Sri Lanka.”
The EU resolution gives her the official power to campaign for what she calls an “independent process”. She also becomes empowered to speak about the “worrying lack of independence of the judiciary.” Armed with that strong mandate from the European Parliament, Ms. Ashton will now deal with other western allies. This shifts the focus now to the upcoming sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on May 31.
The Sunday Times has learnt that views of western nations are varied on the timing of the issue of bringing up the UN Panel report before the UNHRC. Some are of the view that it should be taken up during the September sessions since the turmoil in West Asian and North African nations was pre-occupying the Council. Others, however, believe that since two other issues are due to come up, the UN Panel report could be timely. The two other issues before the Council are a resolution to rescind one on Sri Lanka that debarred a probe into alleged war crimes adopted by the UNHRC in September 2009 and a report by the UN Rapporteur on Extra Judicial Killings. This report calls for an ‘international probe’ into footage aired by UK’s Channel 4 video of alleged executions. The government insists that the footage is fake.
India’s support- a sine qua non
In the event issues surface at the upcoming Council sessions, the government believes India’s support would be a sine qua non. As exclusively revealed in the Sunday Times last week, a high-powered three-member delegation from India is due in Sri Lanka. It was to comprise National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar. They were originally expected on Friday. However, New Delhi has informed Colombo of a postponement. This is due to developing tensions between India and Pakistan over the killing of Osama bin Laden. India has accused Pakistan of harbouring terrorists most wanted by law enforcement agencies in New Delhi. The team is now likely to arrive on May 26 or even in early June as a final date is to be confirmed only after consultations with India’s High Commissioner Ashok Kanth. He left on Friday for New Delhi.
External Affairs Minister Peiris will go to New Delhi tomorrow for talks with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna. Sajin Vaas Gunawardena, MP, the monitor at the Ministry will accompany him.
The visit to New Delhi first is to demonstrate that Sri Lanka turned to its northern neighbour before it went to other world capitals to canvass support in the wake of the UN Panel report. It is only thereafter that Peiris will visit Beijing and Bali where the two-day ministerial meeting of Non-aligned Nations will be held.
Among matters Peiris is to discuss in New Delhi is the possibility of a statement by the Government of India countering the UN Panel’s claim that 40,000 civilians may have died during the final stages of the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas. Diplomatic sources, both in New Delhi and Colombo, strongly discounted the possibility of India heeding such a request. The perception in New Delhi is that India, which played a key role in helping Sri Lanka defeat the Tiger guerrillas, was ignored in many ways thereafter.
So far, the Indian government has remained neutral on the UN Panel issue except to say it was studying the report and would engage with Sri Lanka.
Further compulsions to maintain that stance may come from south India where Jeyaram Jeyalalitha’s Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazakham (ADMK) won a landslide victory at last month’s Tamil Nadu polls, the results of which were declared on Friday. She won 204 seats conceding a paltry 30 to Muthuvel Karunanidhi’s DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhakam) relegating it to third place in the Tamil Nadu State assembly. Karunanidhi, the outgoing chief minister will not even be the leader of the opposition in the assembly.
Peiris will also brief his counterpart in New Delhi on a proposal to set up a second chamber or a Senate under the existing Constitution. Our page one report today gives further details.
Just a week after the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas in 2009, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Sri Lanka on a one-day visit. At the end of his programme, he met with envoys of Sri Lanka’s donor co-chairs at the Bandaranaike International Airport. One of those who attended was James R. Moore, then Charge d’ Affaires of the US Embassy in Colombo. His report on Ban’s briefing is among the Wikileaks cables that were in the public domain this week. Here are excerpts of how he reported Ban’s meeting to Washington:
“In his messages to the government during a 24-hour visit to Sri Lanka on May 23, (2009), UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the key points of the need for a political process and reconciliation, better access by humanitarian workers to the IDP camps, early IDP returns, and greater accountability on human rights. In a briefing to Co-Chair Ambassadors just prior to his departure, he described conditions at Manik Farm as sobering and sad and said the no-fire zone was a scene of “complete destruction.” He felt no purpose would be served by continuing to press for international access to the no-fire zone, saying the priority instead must be expediting the return of IDPs to their homes. In his meeting with President Rajapaksa, the Secretary General pressed for greater accountability in addressing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, reference to which was retained in the joint statement despite GSL (Government of Sri Lanka) resistance.
“UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon briefed Co-Chair Ambassadors in Colombo at the airport on the night of May 23 at the end of his 24-hour visit to Sri Lanka, which included meetings with President Rajapaksa, Foreign Minister Bogollagama, and other senior government officials; a tour of IDP camps at & Manik Farm 8, near Vavuniya; and a fly over of the former “no-fire zone,” where the Army and LTTE fought their final battles and tens of thousands of civilians were kept against their will by the LTTE and trapped in the crossfire between the two sides………….
” ……Ban urged the President to reach out to minority groups, particularly Tamils and Muslims, and develop a comprehensive plan to devolve power. He called for implementation of the 13th Amendment. The President responded that the amendment is part of Sri Lanka´s constitution and he plans to implement the “13th Amendment plus one,” without elaborating. (Comment: Rajapaksa was likely referring to adding an upper house to Parliament, a plan the President previewed in Ambassador´s May 20 farewell call on him.) Ban cautioned the President that although the war may be over, if the reconciliation process is not properly handled there would be a danger of recurring LTTE violence…….”
Another Wikileaks cable, also now in the public domain, and is of significant interest is a note from the Charge d’ Affaires of the US Embassy in New Delhi, Peter Burleigh. After a meeting with Shiv Shankar Menon, then Foreign Secretary and now National Security Advisor, he sent a cable to Washington D.C. Here are excerpts of the cable dated May 15, 2009, just four days before the fighting between troops and Tiger guerrillas ended with the latter’s defeat: “Menon acknowledged the dire situation and said that the fighting was more intense in the conflict zone, with higher casualty figures and more use of heavy weaponry. Menon said the pressure needed to be put on the Sri Lankan government to limit the harm caused to civilians, but he cautioned that bilateral diplomacy would be more effective than highly public pressure in the UN Security Council or the Human Rights Council.
“Menon noted that within the past 24 hours, he had noticed in the Indian government’s contacts with Sri Lanka that the Indians were sometimes in possession of more up-to-date knowledge about conditions in the conflict zone than some of their Colombo interlocutors. He speculated that the Sri Lankan military may not be keeping the brothers Rajapaksa as fully informed about the military situation. Menon said that the military was clearly finding it tougher going than they may have expected.
“The GOI (Government of India) is providing substantial humanitarian assistance in Sri Lanka, he confirmed, with 50,000 family meal packets being delivered last week and 40,000 to be delivered in the coming weeks. Shelters, medical supplies and two demining teams were also on the way. Prompted by the CDA´s (Charge D’ Affaires) question, Menon said the next big humanitarian issue to be faced was the length of time Tamil IDPs would be kept in camps. India had already weighed in with the GSL, arguing that the six month period the GSL was considering was too long……….
“Menon said the Sri Lankan government had reassured India that the government would focus on implementation of the 13th Amendment Plus as soon as possible. Menon was skeptical. Noting that he would present the proposal to the next Foreign Minister after formation of the new Indian government, he suggested it would be useful for India to convoke an international conference — noting that India, the Co-Chairs and China should attend — to look at the post-conflict landscape. Menon characterized this as an opportunity for India; prohibitions on contacts with the LTTE had prevented useful engagement in the past, but now there would be space. Menon expressly included China in the grouping, arguing that best results from Sri Lanka could be expected when the West, India and China all worked together. Otherwise, Sri Lanka would find ways to play its international interlocutors off against each other.”
Diaspora targets SL politicians
In the wake of these developments, Tamil Diaspora groups are busy targeting Sri Lankan politicians and officials in countries where they reside. One is a pro LTTE group, according to the Norwegian media, has filed a complaint with that country’s prosecuting authority against Sri Lanka. It is against both political leaders and top officials. This is similar to the case against Israel made out two years ago and rejected later by the Norwegian prosecutors. The action is against leading Sri Lankan politicians, officials and military personnel.
The main LTTE lobby group, Norwegian Council of Eelam Tamils (NCET), is the organization behind this submission. Their claim incorporates the report of the UN Panel of Experts: “The allegation is strengthened by the panel with UN experts that newly published a comprehensive report on Sri Lanka. This gives the Tamils attention in their case.”
It is also reported that former UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has also advised on the matter. It is pertinent to note that Egeland will shortly take up the position of Executive Director of Europe and Central Asia at the New York based Human Rights Watch.
The lawyer who had filed the complaint is Harald Stabell, an active member of the Red Party of Norway. NCET and many of the dwindling number of LTTE sympathizers in Norway are closely associated with the Red Party, which accounts for a measly 1.5% of the national electorate with no parliamentary representation.
A similar complaint had been filed by a group of Norwegian lawyers, led by Harald Stabell, on April 23 2009 with the National Authority for Prosecution of Organised and Other Serious Crimes of Norway on “crimes of war and gross violation of international humanitarian law and is directed against Israel’s attack on Gaza in the period from 27th December 2008 till 25th January 2009.
Rodney Perera, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Norway, when asked for his comments in the Norwegian media, has dismissed the complaint. He is quoted, among other matters, as saying: “There are some extreme groups that want to create sensational stories. These individuals will never be satisfied. We totally reject allegations like these. We have more important things to think about. I see that many Norwegian Tamils are travelling back to Sri Lanka to help out with things like building houses, initiating projects and such.”
Another group has initiated action against Sri Lanka’s Deputy Ambassador to Germany, Major General Jagath Dias. Their claims are based on a report from a European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights.
This week’s events have shown that human rights issues over Sri Lanka will continue to resonate in world capitals in the months to come. That it is the result of the UN Advisory Panel report is now clear. It would be incumbent on the government to adopt a more realistic approach taking Sri Lankans into confidence and project a correct picture to them. That way, the government would gain more strength and stability. Otherwise, the dawn of reality would demoralise a nation, a turn of events it would find difficult to stem. 
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