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Monday, April 15, 2024

‘Have you ever addressed accountability issues in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan?’ Gotabhaya asks Ambassador Rapp:


Shamindra Ferdinando
Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday alleged that the US was undermining the post-war reconciliation process by strengthening the hands of those who had been propagating unsubstantiated war crimes allegations against Sri Lanka.

The US had made common cause with them for some strange reason at the expense of US-Sri Lanka relations, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said.

An irate Defence Secretary Rajapaksa told The Island that he really couldn’t understand the US interest in alleged accountability issues here when its own conduct in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya was under heavy fire.  

Even a decade after the illegal invasion of Iraq the US and its allies were yet to explain how their intelligence services had come with reports on non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the Defence Secretary added.

Asked whether he intended to raise those issues with the US, Defence  Secretary said that he had the opportunity to point out Western double standards in dealing with the issue when US Ambassador-at-Large at the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice Stephen J. Rapp met him on Monday (Jan. 6). Ambassador Rapp was accompanied by US Ambassador in Colombo Michele J. Sison. It was Ambassador Rapp’s first meeting after his arrival in Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Rapp is visiting Sri Lanka from January 6-11. It is his second visit since the conclusion of the conflict in May 2009.

Recollecting the circumstances under which former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had been captured, tortured and executed in Oct. 2011 at Sirte, Defence Secretary Rajapaksa asked Ambassador Rapp whether the US had conducted an investigation into that killing. The Defence Secretary urged Ambassador to peruse detailed accounts of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) during the final phase of the Vanni offensive. The Defence Secretary said that OCHA reports would give a clear picture of measures taken by the government to address humanitarian issues on the Vanni east front.

Responding to a query by The Island, Defence Secretary said the then US ambassador in Colombo Robert O. Blake, too, had been involved in the monitoring process and Ambassador Rapp could access all required information without any difficulty.

The Defence Secretary pointed out that those who had been pushing for an international war crimes probe here had conveniently forgotten the then US Defence Attaché here Lt. Colonel Lawrence Smith declaring in June 2011 in Colombo that there had never been organised surrender by the LTTE fighting cadre.  The Defence Secretary alleged that Ambassador Rapp could interview Lt. Col. Smith as no one else could have given a better briefing than he.

The Defence Secretary has told Ambassador Rapp that the government had received a huge mandate from the people and was fully capable of managing its affairs.

The Defence Secretary said that some US officials were blind to the ground situation here. The Gajaba Regiment veteran told The Island that Sri Lanka had cooperated with the US in its fight against terror. He recalled that a previous government had handed over a top Al Qaeda suspect arrested while hiding in Sri Lanka to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in accordance with what the US media called extraordinary rendition


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