The event at Palais de Naciones in Geneva clearly showed that the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is sharply divided. Two of its parliamentarians and a Provincial Councillor used the good offices of UNHRC-recognised organisations to make speeches during the debate. M.K. Shivajilingam spoke as a representative of the League of Persons with Disabilities. “The Tamil people,” he said, “are disappointed that the OISL Report did not fully refer the issue to the ICC (International Criminal Court) or a full international mechanism.” Suresh Kandiah Premachandran who represented the Association des jeurnes pour P’Agriculture au Mali declared that “as long as military occupation and Sinhala settlements remain in the North and East, it is very difficult to work on genuine reconciliation and accountability.” Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam (Tamil National People’s Front) who represented the Alliance Creative Community Project said, “Criminal investigations must make sure that the current ‘distorted and corrupted’ Sri Lankan judicial structures be excluded till such time comprehensive reforms have been undertaken, or at the very least, … kept to a bare minimum in what should be UN controlled and run criminal justice system.”
Ananthi Sashitharan who spoke as a representative of the Association Mauritanienne pour La Promotion du droit declared that the Northern Provincial Council “has demanded an independent international investigation on all crimes including genocide. She claimed that “the unitary state system in the island denies Tamils nationhood, sovereignty and the right to self-determination. Without these being addressed, there can be no political solution, no justice, no security, and no reconciliation for the Tamil people.” However, there was embarrassment for her after the ‘overarching’ 261 page report of the Human Rights Commissioner, released with the OISL report, made some strong indictments on her late husband Elilan reported missing after the military arrested him. Here is one such reference: “One of the most serious incidents of forced recruitment reported during the last few months of the conflict was the alleged abduction of several hundred adults and children who had sought refuge at Valayarmadam church towards the end of March 2009 by LTTE cadres led by Elilan and Ilamparithy….”
Ananthi is a staunch supporter of Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran. The NPC has adopted a string of resolutions including ones alleging “genocide” during the separatist war – an allegation that has not been established even during the OISL probe.
Wigneswaran in Trouble
It was only weeks earlier that the UN Resident Co-ordinator in Sri Lanka snubbed Wigneswaran after he tried to establish direct links with the world body bypassing the Government, his own Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the NPC ministers . That was by appointing a Special Advisor (he named his own nephew to the position), seeking a UN Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) team and millions of dollars from the Peacebuilding Programme. This was with the military defeat of Tiger guerrillas.
A Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) was established by the UN to assist and support the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) with strategic advice and policy guidance, administer the Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) and to serve the Secretary-General in coordinating United Nations agencies in their peacebuilding efforts. Wigneswaran had named Nimalan Karthikeyan, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, to work with him and the NPC ministers. He was previously an employee of the Tamil Refugees Rehabilitation Organisation (TRRO) which was later banned.
Chief Minister Wigneswaran in a letter addressed to the UN Resident Co-ordinator in Sri Lanka Subinay Nandy dated August 15 said, “With regard to your reference to briefing TNA Representatives, as Chief Minister of Northern Province (CM-NP), I have stated the nature and type of approach UN Resident Co-ordinator’s Office should have adopted in his interactions with CM-NP and Northern Provincial Council bearing in mind UN values, good governance principles and protocols that need to be adhered to by UN without interference in the Government aspects of NPC.
“Needless to say that it should have been borne in mind that NPC came into being as a new governance structure within the framework of the Thirteenth Amendment after the absence of democratic governance for more than a quarter of a century. It should also have been borne in mind that since the dissolution of the North-East Provincial Council by the President in March 1990, the Northern Province was directly under the Governor’s rule mainly spearheaded by military commanders….”
“….. I wish to re-iterate that it is important that UN Sri Lanka adopts a conflict sensitive, lessons learned approach based on UN Values and Good Governance Principles with NPC to establish future co-operation to serve the needs and priorities of the post war communities in Northern Province. What happened at the closing stages of the war and the part played by the UN at that time is fresh in the minds of the people.”
Nandy replied in a letter to Wigneswaran dated August 28 that the “UN on numerous occasions advised you that there was no donor willing to fund a standalone advisory position for a pre-selected candidate without following standard competitive process for recruitment.” The Sunday Times learnt that a monthly fee of US$ 5,000 had been sought in addition to expenses. “….the excessive canvassing by the proposed Special Advisor made it even more untenable for the UN to consider such an appointment,” Nandy said.
Here are other significant points made in Nandy’s letter: “You are noting that “…. You urged my office to advocate with the Government of Sri Lanka to enable equal partnership of NPC in the JNA process….” perhaps aptly describes the misperception that you convey about the role of the UN. What you do not know in your response is that we advise you to directly communicate with the Central Government – like you did while pursuing central government approval for the proposed Special Advisor. I offered to arrange for you and your board of ministers a comprehensive briefing on the JNA (Joint Needs Assessment), including elaborating on the scope, purpose and key outcomes. Unfortunately you never responded to the request. This offer of the UN stands to-date.
“We therefore were surprised that after your meetings in New York in July, different media channels were presenting the draft concept note that we shared with you as something that was “leaked.” Given that the draft concept note was shared with stakeholders including yourself in addition to me making a public statement setting out the peacebuilding framework on 4 June, there was nothing to be leaked. This, in our view, does not meet the standards of transparency that is expected of any high office. The Peacebuilding Fund concept note setting out the initial thinking of the Government of Sri Lanka and the UN has been discussed extensively with Government stakeholders and civil society organisations.
“Henceforth, I strongly encourage you to convey all your concerns and comments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, given that the ministry represents the Government of Sri Lanka to formally seek support from the Peacebuilding Fund. I would also like to clarify that there is no direct connection between the JNA and the Peacebuilding Programme as you allude to in your letter to other UN officials.” Nandy has told Chief Minister Wigneswaran that “the UN, in its operations, will continue to be guided by its core mandate in all its programmes and will not be subordinate to any specific political agenda.” He has also made clear that the “overall concept and framework of Peacebuilding Fund the UN will liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will co-ordinate inputs from different implementing agencies, including the Northern Provincial Administration.” He has added that Wigneswaran’s nominated representative should undertake “future interactions with the UN” with the Assistant Representative, Governance Empowerment and Social Inclusion Team at the UNDP.
Wigneswaran’s efforts to obtain funds directly from the UN for peace building and other efforts have now assumed a new dimension. This is with the passage of the US sponsored resolution at the Human Rights Council where matters related to development activity, reconciliation and reconstruction would fall on the Central Government. With the Northern Province Chief Minister showing signs of non-co-operation with either the Government or with his own party, the TNA, the issue will be a dilemma. That adds to the Government’s responsibilities in the wake of the UNHRC resolution.
Excerpts form Sunday Times Political column