International donors were aware of artillery attacks on Tamil civilians by the Sri Lanka military in the last stages of the war against Tamil Tigers, according to recent Wikileaks revelations. However, donor nations have stopped short of making their knowledge public.
The international co-chairs in a meeting held on 05 March 2009 was told by the then US Ambassador in Colombo, Robert O’ Blake, that he raised the issue with Basil Rajapaksa, senior advisor to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“Rajapaksa was not as forthcoming to the Ambassador’s concerns about credible reports of shelling of the safe zone on several successive days recently,” the cable sent by the US embassy said.
The Sri Lanka government had repeatedly claimed that attacks using heavy weapons were ceased as a precaution to prevent civilian casualties.
It maintained that its policy was of ‘zero civilian casualties’.
The Govt maintained that its policy was of ‘zero civilian casualties’
However, “Rajapaksa lamely pointed out that GSL forces had come under fire from LTTE artillery within the safe zone and they had to defend themselves.”
“Ambassador pointed out such retaliatory shelling had killed many civilians and was a reversal of the government’s own commitment not to use heavy weapons,” the cable sent to Washington two months before Sri Lanka declared its military victory over Tamil Tigers said.
Wikileaks reveal that the donor nations were told by Sri Lanka authorities that heavy weapons were used contrary to public statements.
“The Norwegian Ambassador commented that in two recent meetings with Rajapkasa he acknowledged military forces were shelling into the safe zone, but was not comfortable discussing the subject,” it said.
Objection to statement
But the donors, namely Japan and Norway, have objected to a call by the EU to issue a statement on the “potential humanitarian catastrophe” saying that Sri Lanka is “making an effort” to respond to previously raised concerns “with the exception of its recent shelling of the safe zone”.
Basil Rajapkasa acknowledged military forces were shelling into the safe zone, says Wikileaks
“They argued that a critical public statement now might set back Basil’s efforts to provide more food,” says the US embassy cable.
Sri Lankan security forces declared a new safe zone for civilians on12 February 2009.
The Civilian Safety Zone (CSZ) was to “facilitate flow of humanitarian aid and medical supplies for the people stranded with LTTE,” said the military.
Norway that brokered a peace agreement between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lanka government in February 2002 has informed the co-chair ambassadors that it has been exerting pressure on the LTTE to release civilians trapped in the north.
The Norwegian Ambassador “reported several recent contacts with the LTTE in which he argued that under international humanitarian law they are required to allow civilians to leave the conflict area. He told the LTTE that Norway’s highest priority is saving as many lives as possible,” said the cable.
Tamil Tigers who “acknowledged that they face military defeat,” has refused to lay down their arms and did not see ‘”outright surrender as an option” according to the Norwegian ambassador quoted by the cable.