Shamindra Ferdinando

Shamindra Ferdinando is a Deputy Editor of a Colombo-based daily newspaper, The Island.

Sri Lanka: Red Carpet for Schemer of War Crimes Agenda


Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, who engineered a high profile project that culminated with Sri Lanka betraying her armed forces, at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in early Oct, 2015, received a warm welcome here, recently.

The one-time South Korean Foreign Minister, served as the UNSG for two terms, from 2007-2016. Ban Ki-moon, who was here on the invitation of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, received an invitation, from Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, to visit the Parliament. The former UN chief was in Sri Lanka in his current capacity as Chairman of the Seoul headquartered Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Ban Ki-moon also met Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC.

Ban Ki-moon first visited Sri Lanka, a few days after the combined security forces delivered a crushing defeat to the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), considered by many a pundit, till then, to be invincible, and brought about a successful conclusion to the long dragging war, on the morning of May 19, 2009, on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

Sri Lanka never bothered to, at least, to examine the despicable UN project that forced Sri Lanka to co-sponsor the accountability resolution. As a result of Ban Ki-moon’s actions, various interested parties stepped-up attacks on Sri Lanka. The Canadian declaration of former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa – the latter for his wartime role as the Secretary Ministry of Defence – as war criminals, stunned Sri Lanka. Ban Ki-moon, who facilitated that despicable project, was here as a guest of the Sri Lankan government.

In his capacity as the UNSG, he visited Colombo, for a second time, from August 31 to Sept. 2, 2016, after the conclusion of the war.

UN-LTTE secret talks

During Ban Ki-moon’s tenure as the UN Chief, he encouraged his mission in Colombo to mollycoddle the LTTE.

Let me examine the UN having secret talks with the LTTE in a bid to secure the release of two local Tamil workers, detained by the most ruthless terrorist movement. Sri Lanka never really inquired into the matter. The Rajapaksa government was not bothered at all. The Island exposed the secret UN pow-wow with the LTTE, in early 2007, as the Army was battling the LTTE on the Vanni west. At that time, the LTTE remained in control of the Vanni east.

A UN Panel of Experts (PoE) report on Accountability in Sri Lanka called for a comprehensive review of actions by the UN, during the war in Sri Lanka. The probe was meant to examine the implementation of the UN’s humanitarian and protection mandates.

It was the final recommendation made by the three-member PoE (Panel of Experts), comprising former Attorney General of Indonesia Marzuki Darusman (Chairman), US lawyer Steven R. Ratner, and NGO activist Yasmin Sooka. The PoE released an essentially one-sided report, on March 31, 2011, with no chance for Sri Lanka to challenge the allegations, levelled against the country, at least for three decades, because of a strange time bar placed by it, which only a highly manipulative body, like the UN could hatch, with its hierarchy and institutions well and truly infiltrated by the West.

The UN behaviour here has been such that during the height of the war, a Norwegian, who was the then UN Resident Representative in Sri Lanka, tried to humiliate the country by unilaterally turning its compound, in Colombo, into a refugee camp for Tamils. But the quick thinking then Foreign Minister, the late Lakshman Kadirgamar, told the Norwegian where to get off. The UN plan was to show the world Tamils are not safe in Colombo.

For want of a cohesive strategy, Sri Lanka never exploited the PoE’s recommendation to push for a thorough inquiry into the conduct of the UN personnel here. Had there been a proper strategy, Sri Lanka could have exposed the sordid relationship between the UN mission, in Colombo, and the LTTE. Even 13 years after the conclusion of the conflict, Sri Lanka is yet to examine how the UN, and its agencies, as well as the NGO community, prolonged the war. Did the UN system, in Sri Lanka, facilitate Western strategy? Did they work closely together to save the LTTE?

The UN turned a blind eye to what was happening on the ground. The LTTE made a strong bid to prevent civilians from crossing the front lines, into government controlled areas, on the Western front, in early 2007.

The LTTE obviously needed a human shield, made up of civilians, primarily to discourage the military from using heavy weapons against it. Secondly, the LTTE leadership also needed the civil population to ensure a steady supply of fresh recruits. Remember, the forced recruitment of children, by the LTTE, continued until the very end. The PoE, too, confirmed this fact. Instead of taking tangible action to thwart the LTTE move, the UN propagated lies that the Sri Lankan military was recruiting child soldiers on behalf of the breakaway LTTE faction, led by one-time Tiger Batticaloa commander, Karuna, who had switched allegiance to the government.

Tamils started fleeing LTTE-held areas as the famed 57 Division gradually stepped up pressure on the Vanni west front. Although the UN knew of the LTTE bid to stop the exodus of people, the world body remained quiet for obvious reasons.

The UN mission, in Colombo, stayed silent, even after the LTTE detained two of its Tamil employees for helping civilians to flee the war zone. The LTTE refused to release them, in spite of the UN repeatedly appealing to the top LTTE leadership. The so-called human rights champions remained tight lipped. These ever-green peace merchants are still active, with no shame, even though the war is long gone, but are funded to their gills by the West to continue to do their bidding, like so many other NGOs.

No one dared to voice concern over the new development. The Co-chairs to Sri Lanka’s peace process, namely Norway, the US, EU and Japan, conveniently remained silent even after The Island revealed the unprecedented detention of UN workers.

In the case of Japan, despite the US committing the horrendous war crime of dropping the first two atom bombs on highly congested Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when Japan was virtually on its knees, Tokyo is yet ready to jump any number of times, even if the US asks it to jump just once. If the self–proclaimed champions of human rights, in Washington, had wanted to ‘shock and awe’ the Japanese into surrender, it could have easily dropped those bombs on an isolated beach there, without causing so much death and destruction, among so many innocent civilians.

While confirming the high handed LTTE action, the then Foreign Secretary, Dr. Palitha Kohona, alleged that those who accused the government of death and destruction, at the drop of a hat, ignored what was happening in the Vanni mainland (‘LTTE detains UN workers’ – The Island, April 20, 2007).

The UN mission, in Colombo, declined to respond to The Island report. Those Colombo-based foreign correspondents, as well as locals, working for the international media, ignored the incident. The Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) led Tamil National Alliance (TNA), too, disregarded The Island revelation. Obviously, they felt the story would be inimical to the LTTE’s interest, and none of them wanted to cause an uproar against their “innocent” people-eating pet Tiger.

Further inquiries, by The Island, revealed as to how the UN engaged in secret negotiations, with the LTTE, in a bid to secure the release of its employees. An influential section of the Colombo-based diplomatic community tried to resolve the issue, without bringing it to the notice of the then government. The UN alerted the government, only after the LTTE refused to release its workers. The LTTE went to the extent of warning the UN that anyone disregarding its authority would have to face the consequences (‘UN had talks with the Tigers on the sly’ with strapline ‘UN workers in LTTE custody’ – The Island, April 23, 2007). Human rights champions remained mum.

Then Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in a brief interview with the writer, strongly criticized the Colombo-based UN bigwigs for having secret talks with the LTTE, following the abduction of two UN workers, in February 2007. The issue took centre stage at a meeting, chaired by Human Rights Minister, Mahinda Samarasinghe, to discuss the situation in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Among those present were Colombo-based heads of diplomatic missions, including the then US Ambassador, Robert O. Blake, and senior officials representing the UN and its agencies. During the meeting, the UN acknowledged that it had decided against going public, believing the LTTE would eventually release them (‘Lanka urges UN not to shield Tigers’ – The Island, April 25, 2007).

Ban’s spokesperson sets the record straight

On the day The Island published Defence Secretary Rajapaksa’s criticism of UN action, the issue was raised at the daily UN media briefing, in New York. Responding to queries, UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson, Michele Montas, revealed that the UN mission in Colombo hadn’t informed New York about the abduction of its employees and holding them hostage by the LTTE. Montas was speaking about the despicable act over 10 weeks after the incident. Wouldn’t it be interesting to examine the accountability, on the part of the UN mission in Colombo? Referring to The Island exposure, Montas said: “We don’t have any confirmation of that newspaper report. We have heard them. As soon as we have confirmation, we’ll get something for you on that. I am checking with the UN presence in Sri Lanka”.

Stressing that the UN mission, in Colombo, hadn’t confirmed the newspaper reports, Montas said: “I don’t know. We don’t have any confirmation. They haven’t confirmed those reports. I heard them through the press. (‘UN HQ admits Colombo office kept it in the dark’, with strapline ‘SL government criticizes UN inaction’ – The Island, April 28, 2007).

The UN cannot absolve itself of the responsibility for the LTTE forcing the entire Vanni population to retreat towards the Mullaitivu coast, along with its fighting cadre, and the leadership, where the group finally collapsed, in May 2009, after much of the civilian shield, it forcefully held, escaped to military liberated areas, ending their nightmare.

The UN was careful not to interfere with the LTTE operations, though it knew the lives of UN workers, as well as their dependents, were in jeopardy. Still the UN decided to secretly negotiate with the LTTE, instead of demanding their immediate release. The plight of UN workers and their families came to light again, in late September 2009, when Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered UN international staff, as well as foreign representatives of other INGOs, to vacate the Vanni region. Having agreed to complete the withdrawal, within three weeks, the then Resident Representative, Neil Bhune, tried to evacuate families of local UN staff (‘Government wants UN, INGO pullout completed by September 29’ – The Island, September 17, 2008).

Although the LTTE rejected the UN’s move, its Colombo mission didn’t make a big fuss. Human rights defenders, too, turned a blind eye to the rapidly deteriorating situation on the Vanni front. In spite of the UN seeking three weeks to complete the withdrawal, except the project manager of INGO, called ZOA, all representatives quit the war zone, by September 16, 2008. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee, which represented all UN agencies and other INGOs active in Sri Lanka, acknowledged the LTTE’s refusal to allow over 500 local staffers of INGOs to leave (‘Attempt to evacuate Tamil INGO, UN workers thwarted’ – The Island, September 29, 2008).

Subsequently, the ZOA manager returned to Vavuniya, on September 26, 2008, over a week after all other foreign nationals quit the LTTE-held area. The then ZOA Country Director, Bernard Jaspers Faijer, made a desperate attempt to shield the ZOA employee accused of joining the LTTE (‘ZOA defends employee facing expulsion’ – The Island, September 29, 2008). The Island reportage included a front page lead story, headlined ‘INGO kingpin with Italian passport joins LTTE as a fighter’, with a strapline ‘ZOA informs Defence Ministry of its project Manager’s decision on September 27, 2008’.

The UN never objected to the LTTE strategy. The TNA, as well as NGOs, who were shedding crocodile tears for Tamil civilians, never asked the LTTE to release them. The LTTE knew it wouldn’t have lasted a week if it allowed the civilians to leave. By March/April 2009, the LTTE fighting cadre had been trapped in a coastal pocket, in the Mullaitivu district.

Let me reproduce what the PoE said in its report on the LTTE’s refusal to release civilians (Page 28/Point 98): “In spite of the futility of their military situation, the LTTE not only refused to surrender, but also continued to prevent civilians from leaving the area, ensuring their continued presence as a human buffer. It forced civilians to help build military installations and fortifications or undertake other forced labour. It also intensified its practice of forced recruitment, including children, to swell their dwindling ranks. As the LTTE recruitment increased, parents actively resisted, and families took increasingly desperate measures to protect their children from recruitment. (Page 28/Point 99) “…Beginning February 2009, the LTTE commenced a policy of shooting civilians who attempted to escape, and, to this end, cadres took up positions where they could spot civilians who might try to break out.”

One of Sri Lanka’s famed career diplomats, D.B. Dhanapala, succinctly discussed the issue of accountability when he addressed the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), headed by one-time Attorney General, the late C. R. de Silva, on Aug. 25, 2010. Dhanapala, in his submissions, said: “Now I think it is important for us to expand that concept to bring in the culpability of those members of the international community who have subscribed to the situation that has caused injury to the civilians of a nation. I talk about the way in which terrorist groups are given sanctuary; harboured; and supplied with arms and training by some countries with regard to their neighbours or with regard to other countries. We know that in our case this has happened, and I don’t want to name countries, but even countries which have allowed their financial procedures and systems to be abused in such a way that money can flow from their countries in order to buy arms and ammunition that cause deaths, maiming and destruction of property in Sri Lanka are to blame and there is therefore a responsibility to protect our civilians and the civilians of other nations from that kind of behaviour on the part of members of the international community. And I think this is something that will echo within many countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, where Sri Lanka has a much respected position and where I hope we will be able to raise this issue.”

Dhanapala also stressed on the accountability on the part of Western governments, which conveniently turned a blind eye to massive fundraising operations in their countries, in support of the LTTE operations. It is no secret that the LTTE would never have been able to emerge as a conventional fighting force without having the wherewithal abroad, mainly in the Western countries, to procure arms, ammunition and equipment.

Even Ban Ki-moon would have been surprised by the reception he received, in Colombo, recently. Ban Ki-moon’s PoE recommended that submissions/complaints received and used to determine that 40,000 civilians perished wouldn’t be subject to scrutiny till 2031. The ex-UNSG is actually the architect of a project to humiliate Sri Lanka. Yet he received an invitation to visit the Sri Lanka Parliament.

Our clueless politicians, and security set up, still reeling from the hiding they got from the mainly foreign-funded and directed “peaceful” Aragalaya, have yet to recover their bearings, let alone their senses. The unprecedented violence, unleashed on May 09, and, thereafter, against government politicians, though many of them may have deserved a hiding, was no spontaneous local eruption. It certainly had the markings of Western intelligence and their quislings here as was the case in what happened in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, etc. If Tokyo can continue to be such a blind worshipper of white man and is willingly heading to an Armageddon, which no one can win, our local bootlickers, now lording over us, will drag us all to a similar fate. Maybe the good book will be proved right: the meek shall inherit the earth.

Sri Lanka: Ramifications of Sheer Negligence


Liberal Democrats leader and MP for Surbiton, Edward Jonathan Davey, recently urged British Premier Rishi Sunak’s government to follow Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau on the Sri Lanka war crimes issue. Obviously, Davey was referring to the unprecedented unilateral Canadian sanctions, recently imposed on former Presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa (Nov. 2005-Jan. 2015) and Gotabaya Rajapaksa (2019 – Nov.-2022 July).

The occasion was what the Tamil Guardian called a night of festive celebration, musical performances and classical dance, in Central Hall, in Westminster, to celebrate Thai Pongal and Tamil heritage month. The event was described as a joint effort by the British Tamil community.

The Tamil Guardian quoted Ed Davey as having declared that the Canadian decision to impose sanctions on the Rajapaksa brothers was ‘absolutely right’ and that ‘the time for fine words has gone.’

The World Tamil Historic Society, Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, Tamils for Labour, Tamil Coordinating Committee, British Tamil Chamber of Commerce, and British Tamil Conservatives, contributed to the event.

As a result of sheer negligence, Sri Lanka has ended up being categorized as a perpetrator of war crimes, and those who had fought for the country are mercilessly targeted. There cannot be a better example than Air Marshal Sumangala Dias who suffered due to Sri Lanka’s failure. Canada refused to accept Dias as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner though the former Sri Lanka Air Force Commander has never been under human rights scrutiny. Subsequently, the government proposed Dias as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Italy. That move, too, failed. Italy, as a member state of the EU, pursuing war crimes accusations against Sri Lanka, declined to accept the retired SLAF Chief. The Foreign Ministry should accept responsibility for its failure to brief the inept political leadership of the stand taken by Canada and Italy on this issue. In spite of knowing what would be the outcome, the Foreign Ministry allowed the normal process to go ahead. At the end, both Canada and Italy declined to accept the retired Air Chief.

In fact, the Darusman report could have been used to counter lies. If acknowledged the discrepancy in the number of deaths caused during the final phase of the conflict. Darusman on the basis of unnamed sources alleged 40,000 deaths during Jan-May 2009 whereas the UN mission in Colombo on the basis of records made available by ICRC, hospitals et al reported between 7,000 and 8,000 deaths between August 2008 and May 2009.

There shouldn’t be any issue over the celebration of Thai Pongal, Tamil heritage month, as well as the contribution the Tamil community made to British society, with the participation of British politicians.

British politicians, at such events, reflected the importance of the British Tamils, of Sri Lankan origin, as a significant vote bank.

The Westminster event was attended by several senior representatives of political parties, including Chairman of the Conservative Party, Nadhim Zahawi. The event reiterated commitment of all stakeholders, for justice and accountability.

Labour MP for Eastham, Stephen Timms, too, urged the British government to impose sanctions on individuals who, the British knew, were responsible for war crimes. The MP underscored the need for an ‘independent, international investigation’ in the absence of a domestic reconciliation process in Sri Lanka.

Rishi Sunak and Labour Party leader, Keir Starmer, sent video messages, appreciating the contribution made by the British Tamil community.

In the wake of the UK MPs’ demand for sanctions on Sri Lanka, Foreign Secretary, Aruni Wijewardane, received UK’s Permanent Under Secretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Sir Philip Barton, at the Foreign Ministry, in Colombo, on January 17. A lengthy statement, issued by the Foreign Ministry, described the discussion as a constructive bilateral engagement in the 75th year of UK-SL diplomatic relations. The visiting official was accompanied by British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Sarah Hulton.

The media release didn’t indicate whether Sri Lanka will take up the contentious accountability issue, as the UK spearheads the high profile campaign against Sri Lanka. Therefore, the writer rationally ascertained that no other matter had been taken up at the discussion.

With the Canadian declaration that the Rajapaksa brothers, during Eelam War IV (2006-2009), perpetrated ‘gross and systematic violations of human rights,’ the campaign against Sri Lanka has entered a new phase.

The international media quoted Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, Mélanie Joly, as having said that they took decisive action to end international impunity against violators of international law. The Canadian measures, include travel bans and asset freezes.

The latest action should be examined against the backdrop of the Canadian Parliament recognizing Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka.

Over 14 years, after the successful conclusion of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka is yet to counter lies. The failure on the part of successive governments to defend wartime political and military leaderships has facilitated the Western agenda. Sri Lanka’s bankruptcy has accelerated their despicable agenda.

Successive inept and treacherous Sri Lankan governments, and its often much compromised diplomatic service, never made a genuine attempt to set the record straight in Geneva, New York or Washington. In fact, they cooperated with those who propagated lies by conveniently failing to properly address issues at hand. Sri Lanka seemed determined not to defend its war against the LTTE, one of the half a dozen terrorist groups, formed by India.

Canada and the UK are not interested in inquiring into the origins of terrorism here. They do not care about the Tamils, who died in the hands of the Indian Army, during its deployment in the then temporarily merged Northern and Eastern Provinces. The loss of 1,300 officers, and men, and injuries suffered by more than double that figure in combat, during the period, 1987-1990, revealed the ferocity of fighting between one-time guardians of Sri Lankan terrorists and their ‘students.’

There had been numerous excesses and reprisals but such strategies were definitely not Indian policy at that time, but what happens in most wars. These Western paragons of virtue, what did their forces do, across the world, during the colonial past, and how do their law enforcers behave to this day, especially against blacks, natives in Canada, Australia and America.

Post-war national reconciliation hindered

During the war, there had been many excesses. The Sri Lankan military cannot, under any circumstances deny that fact. However, that hadn’t been the government policy. Unfortunately, in the absence of a cohesive strategy, Sri Lanka remains accused of genocide, and the recent Canadian actions meant that the two Presidents were now categorized as war criminals.

But the billion dollar question is where is the justice for far greater war crimes, committed by the West, in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, etc. Easily, more than a million innocent civilians would have perished by now, in these countries, because of those endless wars, fermented by the West on trumped up, or purely frivolous excuses, like Saddam Hussein is having weapons of mass destruction, or Gaddafi is butchering his own people, while everyone knew that a man like Saddam should be given a prize for keeping a divided nation, like Iraq, in one piece, or that Gaddafi was one of the most benevolent leaders in the entire world.

Foreign Minister, Ali Sabry, PC, in response to a query raised by the writer, at a Foreign Ministry media briefing, last year, said that sanctions had been imposed on entire fighting divisions. That was months before the categorization of the two Presidents as war criminals.

It would be a grave mistake, on the part of the Western community, to believe humiliation of the military would help post-war national reconciliation. On one hand, the Western community wants the Prevention of Terrorism (PTA) abolished, the remaining terror suspects released, and a one-time political arm of the vanquished LTTE, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) political demands met. On the other hand, the grouping wants the military punished on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. Canadian measures are in line with that despicable strategy.

The Sri Lanka Parliament, as the supreme institution, should be ashamed of its pathetic response to the Western war crimes campaign. Sri Lanka has conveniently failed, at least to remind the Western community how R. Sampanthan’s TNA served the LTTE interests by declaring terrorist leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people.

The TNA bestowed that honour, on the LTTE, in 2001. The Sri Lankan military restored the TNA as the principal political group in the Northern and Eastern provinces, after the elimination of the LTTE, militarily, in May 2009.

Instead of recognizing Sri Lanka’s achievement, the Western community has targeted Sri Lanka, basically for two reasons, namely (1) Colombo’s relationship with China and (11) the Diaspora factor.

Actually, Sri Lanka never had a strategy to counter lies. That is the undeniable truth. Incumbent UN Chief Antonio Guterres’s predecessor, Ban Ki-moon, once compared the Vanni offensive with that of Ruwanda and Serbia genocides in the 1990s. Former UN Secretary General, South Korean Ki-moon played his part to facilitate the Western agenda, in spite of his own mission, in Colombo, contradicting unsubstantiated accusations.

How SL facilitated Western strategy

Sri Lanka never made use of a golden opportunity, given by British Lord Naseby, in Oct. 2017, to prepare a solid defence of the armed forces. His stunning revelation, in the House of Lords, two years after Sri Lanka, under the shameful Yahapalana regime, co-sponsored accountability resolution against our own country, at the Geneva Human Rights Council, exposed the British duplicity.

On the basis of hitherto confidential dispatches from the British High Commission, in Colombo, during the last phase of the war – January-May 2009, the Conservative politician contradicted the very basis of the three-member UN Darusman report. This report, released on March 31, 2011, had been the primary reason for the 2015 accountability resolution that faulted the Sri Lanka Army.

The World War II fighter pilot fought a near three-year battle with the British administration to secure the confidential dispatches and was finally able to obtain a highly redacted version, to contradict the lies, in the second week of Oct. 2017. Although the then Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC, in his address to the UNHRC, made a reference to Lord Naseby’s revelations, Sri Lanka never requested Geneva to examine the British dispatches.

The author of British dispatches, Lt. Col. Anthony Gash, has never challenged the authenticity of heavily censored dispatches, disclosed by Lord Naseby.

Sri Lanka, in June 2011, squandered a similar opportunity to make a strong case for a revisit of the one-sided Darusman report. The then US Defence Advisor, in Colombo, Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith, quite convincingly defended the Sri Lanka Army, at the 2011 Colombo Defence Seminar. The American contradicted unsubstantiated allegations, raised by a retired Indian Major General Ashok K. Metha, formerly of the infamous IPKF. Lt. Col. Smith must have made that declaration, based on information available to the US Embassy, in Colombo, as well as other dispatches from the war zone. And, most importantly, the American officer made the declaration within three months after the releasing of the Darusman report. Sri Lanka never used British and American dispatches in her defence.

Western powers continue to harass Sri Lanka on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes accusations Geneva moves to further investigate Sri Lanka should be challenged as the previous accusations, that led to the 2015 Geneva resolution, remained uninvestigated.

According to the Darusman report (paragraph 23: Confidentiality of the Panel’s records), the accusations cannot be examined till 2031. This strange stipulation has a further clause stating that the time bar could be extended for a further period. We must be the only country not allowed to examine specific accusations, directed at its armed forces. Successive governments never took the entire gamut of issues, into consideration, before making representations, on behalf of the country.

The incumbent Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa administration is no exception. In spite of repeated vows to defend the armed forces, the previous Gotabaya Rajapaksa-led government pathetically failed in its duty and responsibility.

Sri Lanka’s handling of accusations, relating to the Mannar mass graves, during the Yahapalana administration, revealed how the Foreign and Defence Ministries neglected their responsibilities. But even after the change of government, in the wake of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s victory at the 2019 presidential poll, Sri Lanka did nothing to change the strategy.

The Mannar mass grave lie was contradicted by a reputed Miami-based laboratory. It cleared the war-winning Sri Lanka Army of any responsibility for extra-judicial killings there. The independent carbon testing report, from the internationally recognized US laboratory, concluded that the victims likely died up to 615 years ago — predating even the first European colonization of the country by the Portuguese.

Sri Lanka’s Office on Missing Persons (OMP) funded the tests on the remains to determine whether the victims were killed, during the conflict.

But, by then, Geneva has directly blamed Sri Lanka for the Mannar Sathosa ground mass graves. The then Human Rights Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, audaciously went to the extent of referring to the Mannar mass grave site, in her annual report (section 23), submitted to the UNHRC. The following is the relevant section: “On May 29, 2018, human skeletal remains were discovered at a construction site in Mannar (Northern Province), Excavations conducted in support of the Office on Missing Persons, revealed a mass grave from which more than 300 skeletons were discovered. It was the second mass grave found in Mannar, following the discovery of a site, in 2014. Given that other mass graves might be expected to be found in the future, systematic access to grave sites by the Office, as an observer, is crucial for it to fully discharge its mandate, particularly with regard to the investigation and identification of remains, it is imperative that the proposed reforms on the law relating to inquests, and relevant protocols to operationalize the law be adopted. The capacity of the forensic sector must also be strengthened, including in areas of forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology and genetics, and its coordination with the Office of Missing Persons must be ensured.”

Geneva never expected the US report on Mannar mass graves to go against its strategy. The TNA, too, reacted as expected. The one-time LTTE ally never expected the US report to contradict high profile allegations. Colombo based diplomats, and foreign officials, visited the scene ,as interested parties propagated lies.

On behalf of the TNA, a lawmaker, representing the Vanni region, has called for a fresh testing in another lab in some other country. Our Vavuniya correspondent, Dinasena Ratugamage, quoted Mullaitivu District MP Nirmalanathan Sivamohan as having said: “This is not to say that we do not accept the reports sent by a lab in Florida, US, but given the importance of the Mannar grave site we need to get a second opinion.”

There were many other developments ranging from a spate of WikiLeaks revelations to political decisions that exposed the Western strategy. But, perhaps the irreversible defence of the military was provided by the Tamil community, living in the Northern and Eastern electoral districts, at the 2010 presidential election. The war-winning General Sarath Fonseka, in spite of suffering massive defeat in the hands of Mahinda Rajapaksa, comfortably won all predominately The Tamil speaking electoral districts, in those provinces, despite the TNA and the Tamil Diaspora, having accused him and his Army of committing war crimes. The Tamil community overwhelmingly responded to the TNA’s call to vote for Fonseka, who contested as the common candidate, fielded by the UNP-led alliance that included the JVP.

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka never bothered to officially take up this development to counter propaganda. Even if the TNA asked for the Tamil community to vote for Fonseka, the electorate wouldn’t have overwhelmingly done so unless it was convinced the eradication of the LTTE was a necessity.

Sri Lanka: Downsizing Army in Response to Economic Crisis


State Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon could have disclosed a decisive decision taken by the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government to reduce the approved cadre of Sri Lanka Army (SLA) at the launch of ‘STORY OF THE WORLD: Geopolitical Alliances and Rivalries Set in Stone’ authored by Col. Nalin Herath, at Rock House Army camp (Regimental Headquarters of the Armoured Corps), on January 12.

State Minister Tennakoon was the Chief Guest at the event, attended by Defence Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Shavendra Silva, both of the Gajaba Regiment, and several other senior serving, and retired officers.

The author, as an armoured corps officer, has served the 681 Brigade of the 53 Division. He has been the Brigade Major. The 681 Brigade, assigned to the 53 Division, commanded by the then Maj. Gen. Gunaratne, has been credited with the killing of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, on the morning of May 19, 2009.

The first such book, launched by a serving officer, would have been the ideal setting for the official declaration on the reduction of SLA’s approved cadre.

A press release, pertaining to the proposed reduction of the approved cadre of the SLA, was released by Col. Nalin Herath, on the following day (January 13). Interestingly, the statement was attributed to State Defence Minister Tennakoon, who received the elevated position, on Sept. 08, 2022. The Matale District MP was among 37 government parliamentary group members appointed as State Ministers, as per the understanding between President Wickremesinghe and his principal sponsor, the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). Pramitha Bandara is the son of Janaka Banadara Tennakoon, MP, one of the SLFP seniors who had even served the party during the tenure of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike as the SLFP leader. Incidentally Pramitha’s paternal grandfather, Tikiri Banda Tennakoon, was a founder member of the SLFP, along with its creator, SWRD Bandaranaike. T.B., having swept into Parliament, in 1956, like so many other first timers, with an essentially Sinhala ethos, he continuously retained his Dambulla electorate for five consecutive terms, thanks to his dedication to serve his people.

Perhaps, that high profile decision to trim the armed forces, that were deliberately expanded in the last phase of the then long-running war, from 2006, should have been announced by President Wickremesinghe, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and the Defence Minister, as well. The government owed an explanation whether the Cabinet-of-Ministers approved the far reaching move and when that decision was taken.

Following the perusal of statements, issued in Sinhala and English, there couldn’t be ambiguity regarding what really prompted the decision. Lawmaker Pramitha Tennakoon declared that the decision to reduce the current approved SLA cadre of 200,783 to 135,000, by end of next year, and further reduce that figure to 100,000, by 2030, has been taken after taking into consideration the current state of affairs. Obviously, the State Defence Minister was referring to Sri Lanka’s bankrupt status.

President Wickremesinghe’s decision to review the approved cadre of the SLA should be appreciated, as it was a long felt necessity, as maintaining an army of more than 200.000, under current circumstances, is no small burden for a country of the size of Sri Lanka, especially as it no longer faced any formidable enemy, militarily from within. This assertion shouldn’t be misconstrued as our wholehearted backing for the government decision. Let us hope some sections in the Opposition do not seek political advantage, thereby causing unnecessary friction amidst the continuing economic-political-social turmoil.

President Wickremesinghe indicated his desire to bring down the SLA’s strength, on Nov. 14, 2022. when he presented the 2023 Budget. Wickremesinghe proposed to allow armed forces personnel, other than special categories, to retire after 18 years of service. Wickremesinghe assured that tangible measures would be taken to provide them training, required to engage in productive economic activities.

On behalf of the government, State Minister Tennakoon asserted that a 100,000 strength as the right size for the SLA.

Change of SLA command

Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Vikum Liyanage, in his New Year message to his officers, and men, revealed the intended decrease in SLA’s approved cadre. Gajaba Regiment veteran Liyanage, who succeeded Gen. Shavendra Silva, on July 01, 2022, declared that preliminary measures had been taken in this regard. Army headquarters, in a statement issued on January 02, quoted Lt. Gen. Liyanage has having said the process was meant to streamline the organizational structure, operational deployment and concept of operations. The Army Chief emphasized the responsibility on the part of the SLA to be prepared to face any eventuality this year. Lt. Gen. Liyanage didn’t mince his words when he declared the need to keep their plans on track, regardless of the current crisis, which he described as a turbulent period.

If not for the massive public protest campaign that turned violent, after Temple Trees unleashed SLPP goons on the Galle Face ‘Go Gota Home’ protesters on May 09, morning, Liyanage probably wouldn’t have received an opportunity to command the war-winning SLA. The then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, himself a Gajaba founder veteran, brought in Liyanage to succeed celebrated ground combat commander Gen. Shavendra Silva. Liyanage received the appointment on June 01. Protesters overran President Rajapaksa’s official residence, in Fort, six weeks later. Wickremesinghe, having been picked as President, by a majority vote in Parliament, has chosen Liyanage to oversee the transformation by granting him a one-year extension.

Otherwise, Liyanage would have retired on Dec. 31, 2022. He received a one-year extension, amidst intense controversy over his successor.

Over a dozen officers would retire by Dec. 31, 2023.

Gen. Shavendra Silva continues to serve as the CDS, a position he held earlier in an Acting Capacity beginning January 01, 2020, while also being the then Army Commander. The celebrated General Officer, Commanding (GoC) the 58 Division (previously Task Force 1) received the SLA command, on August 19, 2019, during the tail end of Maithripala Sirisena’s presidency. Unfortunately, many top officers, who contributed much to that most unlikely victory, over terrorism, were overlooked during the Yahapalana regime that came to power in 2015, thanks to the political betrayal by Maithripala Sirisena.

Proposed gradual but significant reduction of approved SLA cadre, by half, within the next seven years, should be examined, taking into consideration two domestic factors, namely (1) Ranil Wickremesinghe’s election as President to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term, and (2) the worst ever post-independence economic crisis that has compelled utterly disorganized and reckless political party system ways and means to cut down both capital and recurrent expenditure.

Cash-strapped Sri Lanka can save a considerable amount of public funds by halving the SLA size. Retired Maj. Gen. Udaya Perera, Director of Operations, during the crucial period of the Eelam War (2006-2009) asserted: “It is not the numbers that matter, but the deterrence….” The one-time Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Malaysia, emphasized the responsibility, on the part of the decision-makers, to adopt, what he called, a pragmatic approach.

Contrary to numerous warnings, regarding the possibility of the LTTE launching a hit-and run-campaign, after the combined security forces decimated its conventional fighting capacity, by February-May 2009, the group was no longer in its previous suicide mode, due to the overbearing presence of the SLA. There had been one attempt to regroup and that was mercilessly and swiftly dealt with. Since then, ex-members of the group remained peaceful, though some expressed fears those who had been released after rehabilitation could take up arms again. Wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, having played a pivotal role in the eradication of terrorism. by May 2009, allowed the release of as many as 12,000 ex-LTTE cadres and the gradual decrease of the SLA presence, in the Jaffna peninsula. Accordingly, the SLA gave up both state and private land in the Jaffna peninsula, and other parts of the Vanni and the East, held over the years, to fight the war, to facilitate the return of civilians, in peace time.

Rapid SLA expansion

At the time Eelam War IV erupted, in the second week of August, 2006, with coordinated attacks in the East and across the Muhamalai front line, extending from Kilali, across Eluththumaduwal to Nagarkovil on the Vadamarachchy east coast,

The SLA had approximately 60 regular and volunteer infantry battalions. It, however, lacked the wherewithal to simultaneously conduct offensive operations, defend areas under control and deploy troops to hold newly recaptured areas.

The then President Mahinda Rajapaksa took an unprecedented political decision to rapidly expand the SLA to finish off the LTTE, once and for all. The then Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka got what he asked for. Fonseka never hesitated to push the political leadership on the urgent need to expand the SLA. The Army Chief had the backing of the Defence Secretary and the whole process was expedited, overnight.

A recruitment drive got underway, in the last quarter of 2006, as the SLA, at a great cost, thwarted the LTTE offensive on the Northern front, stabilized the situation there, and went on the offensive. A relentless SLA campaign brought the entire Eastern Province, under government control, with the recapture of the last Tiger stronghold, at Toppigala, in July 2007. As the name denotes, it was a rock outcrop, with a clear viewing advantage of the surroundings. But, that wouldn’t have been possible without operations, conducted by the Navy and the Air Force, both in support of ground forces, as well as to weaken the overall conventional capacity of the enemy. But, ironically, that fact was lost on our warwinning military genius, Sarath Fonseka, and, no doubt, a man with a sixth sense, but who ironically felt that all war trophies should go to the Army and him.

We will cite just one example as to why we say he had a sixth sense that helped to win the war. For a long time, we had heard from lower ranking officers that they were often reluctant to call in artillery support as often they themselves got whacked by such ‘friendly’ fire. But after the all-out war broke out, in 2006, and the Army was advancing on several fronts, we suddenly found that Fonseka had taken a rather unusual step of putting a stop to the discretionary power of our artillery and he had placed Special Forces operatives with all field artillery units and they couldn’t fire their big guns till those minders, clearly wearing T-shirts, emblazoned ‘Special Forces’, double checked their ranges. And, miraculously, that ended many a friendly artillery killing our own soldiers. This was something all previous commanders failed to do.

As many as 120,000 men were mobilized as the the SLA raised almost 100 infantry battalions. It would be pertinent to mention that new recruits were required for new fighting formations and also to replenish depleted battalions. The high intensity Vanni battles took a heavy toll on fighting formations. The incumbent Army Commander had served as the Commanding Officer of the 8th battalion of the Gajaba Regiment (Jan. 1, 2006 to June 06, 2006) attached to 56 and 57 Divisions during the Vanni campaign. The 56 Division played a defensive role whereas 57 Division played a critically important offensive role, though it ceased offensive operations, after capturing Kurivilkulam, in the second week of Feb. 2009.

The rapid recruitment, training and deployment of fresh recruits swamped the Vanni with infantry formations. During the last phase of the war, the SLA troop strength doubled, thereby allowing successive commanders after Fonseka, who relinquished command in mid-July 2009, amidst controversy of his decision to enter active politics. Fonseka contested the 2010 January presidential election but suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Having made an abortive bid to spearhead a party of his own, the war hero, who holds the rank of Field Marshal, has now ended up as an MP, representing the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB).

Since the end of the war, there has been a gradual decrease in the security forces’ strength, though the approved cadre remained unchanged.

Unprecedented challenge

In spite of President Wickremesinghe’s declaration Sri Lanka’s commitment to friendly ties with all countries, at regional and global level, his government is ensnared in a deadly US-China conflict against the backdrop of an equally lethal debt trap.

Having declared bankruptcy, in April last year, Sri Lanka is struggling to reach consensus with China and India, two major bilateral creditors whose backing is nothing but a pre-requisite for the finalization of the IMF USD 2.9 bn credit facility, spread over a period of four years. No less a person than President Wickremesinghe, during an informal chat with a group of journalists, representing Upali Newspapers Ltd., on January 06, acknowledged the difficult situation his government is in.

There is still no clear indication when China and India will reach final consensus on this matter, although Sri Lanka and the IMF reached a staff-level agreement, relating to it, on Sept. 01, 2022.

The response of some sections of the international community, to the developing economic crisis here, cannot be discussed without taking into consideration their alignment with the US-led grouping meant to counter, what they perceive, as a growing Chinese threat.

Once Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, declared that Sri Lanka faced a major security threat as long as the Hambantota Port remained in Chinese hands. The warning was given in the wake of the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage that claimed the lives of 269 men, women and children, including about 40 foreigners, and wounded about double that number. The then UNP lawmaker Wijeyedasa Rajapakse proposed the intervention of Parliament to take back the Hambantota Port, given to China, on a 99-year lease. Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Premier of the Yahapalana government that finalized the Hambantota Port deal, in 2017, is the President now.

Sri Lanka needs to carefully review the situation. Sri Lanka cannot afford to ignore geopolitical interests of individual countries, as well as various groupings, in addition to the Tamil Diaspora factor. The ‘Quad’ (Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral Dialogue) comprising the US, Australia, Japan and India. The grouping wants Sri Lanka, within its orbit, whereas China pursues its own strategy.

There cannot be any other reason than the Tamil Diaspora vote for Canada to recognize Tamil genocide, in May last year, and then imposed sanctions against former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa recently.

Canada’s treatment of indigenous people has exposed their human rights façade, while Ottawa pursue Sri Lanka over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.

Unfortunately, successive Sri Lankan governments, including the incumbent Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa administration, continues to fail the war-winning military.

Sanctions imposed on the Rajapaksa brothers must be examined, keeping in mind Sri Lanka’s pathetic failure to use Lord Naseby’s disclosure, in the House of Lords, in Oct. 2017. to clear the military. Following a lengthy legal battle, Lord Naseby forced the UK to release a section of highly censored confidential wartime dispatches (January 01, 2009- May 2009) from its High Commission in Colombo.

In conversations with this writer, in Colombo, last year, Lord Naseby expressed disappointment over Sri Lanka’s continuous failure to use available evidence, coupled with a very supportive assessment made by wartime US Defence Advisor Colonel Lawrence Smith, in Colombo, over two years, after the war ended, at the inaugural defence seminar, in Colombo. Sri Lanka simply ignored the US Colonel’s declaration that must have been made quite confidently in the presence of senior military representatives of about 40 countries.

Sri Lanka never recognized the growing threat until the US imposed a travel ban on Gen. Shavendra Silva, on Feb. 13, 2020. That was five years after Australia refused a visa to Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage, also over unsubstantiated war crimes allegations.

Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, too, has been denied a US visa after Washington quite conveniently forgot backing Fonseka at the 2010 presidential poll and the war-winning Army Chief receiving the backing of the Tamil National Alliance that ensured the General sweeping predominately Tamil speaking districts in the Northern and Eastern Province, at the 2010 presidential poll. But, Canadian sanctions on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, MP, are the first on a politician, whereas Gotabaya Rajapaksa was targeted over his role as the wartime Defence Secretary.

Parliament needs to ascertain the situation seriously, and take appropriate measures, at least now, to have accountability issues examined properly to pave the way for restoring public faith in the political party system.

Parliament, entrusted with financial responsibility, has achieved what the LTTE, one of the groups established by India, in the ’80s, to terrorize Sri Lanka, failed to do.

Parliament has overseen the ruination of the war-winning country. The declaration of bankruptcy is nothing but an indictment of successive governments. The debt servicing crisis should be studied, keeping in mind Sri Lanka obtained IMF’s bailout packages on 16 previous occasions. The next one depends on the response of Sri Lanka’s creditors, China and India.

Is Sri Lanka Sleepwalking in the Wake of Rishi Raj?


New UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s father, Yashvir Sunak, and mother, Usha Sunak, are Africans of Indian origin who migrated to the UK in the 60s. Rishi was born in Southampton, Hampshire, on May 12, 1980.

Sunak succeeded Liz Truss after having lost his first bid to secure the leadership, in September this year.

The appointment of Sunak, a Hindu of Panjabi lineage, as the UK’s Premier, at a time of a severe economic crisis, has attracted international media attention, particularly that of India. However, the fact that Rishi’s parents were east Africans, Kenya (Yashvir) and Tanzania (Usha) seemed to have been largely ignored, with a section of the Indian media claiming him as their own.

Sunak’s appointment, that was made amidst Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, prompted India’s largest Hindi-language newspaper, Dainik Bhaskar to go jingoistic. “Another Diwali gift to the country. The Indian origin Rishi to rule the whites.”

“Indian son rises over the empire. History comes full circle in Britain,” an NDTV telecast declared. “From Age of Empire to Rishi Raj as Sunak moves into No 10,” boasted The Times of India.

The BBC, in a report headlined ‘Rishi Sunak: A quick guide to the UK’s new Prime Minister,’ pointed out that the Conservative Party MP, for just seven years, had secured a US green card that granted him the right to live there while he served as the UK’s Finance Minister aka Chancellor, in February, 2020. In spite of entering government, Sunak remained a green card holder, though he was obliged to make the U.S. their permanent home.

Rishi Sunak had to defend his wife, Akshata Murthy, daughter of Indian billionaire, Narayana Murthy ,in the wake of shocking disclosure that she didn’t pay UK taxes on massive earnings overseas, though not illegal. Later, the lady agreed to pay British taxes. The issue at hand should be examined against the backdrop of the UK media assertions that the couple’s wealth amounted to as much as 730 mn Sterling Pounds. Against the backdrop of Sunak’s recent vow (a couple of months before his elevation to the top position), to pursue Sri Lanka on accountability issues, should be of grave concern to this country, though it could be mere election rhetoric. It would be pertinent to examine Sri Lanka’s triumph over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), in May 2009, the origins of terrorism here and post-war accountability issues.

Pro-Eelamists seem quite serious about holding the UK Premier to his promise. The Tamil Guardian, in a report titled ‘Rishi Sunak – Will Britain’s new Prime Minister deliver justice for Tamils?’ dated October 24, 2022, quoted the Conservative politician as having assured an online audience of Tamil Conservatives in August that he backs their struggle.

This assurance was given in the run-up to the 51st session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) where the UK, in its capacity as the leader of the Sri Lanka Core Group, voted for the resolution against Sri Lanka.

Sunak declared in August: “My heart goes out to all of you and all of those in Sri Lanka.” The politician went on to emphasize his vision for what he called a democratic country free from corruption and inappropriate military influence. To achieve this and overcome the crippling economic disaster, Sunak asserted the need for conditional assistance through the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The then Finance Minister commented on the ‘hurt and pain caused by the civil war and the events of 2009,’ while throwing his weight behind Tamils in their struggle for “justice and accountability for mass atrocities” claimed to have been committed during the final stages of the armed conflict. Sunak reiterated his support for Western powers taking a tougher stance on Sri Lanka.

“I am proud of the UK’s role, and the UK will continue to play a central role in bringing about justice and accountability,” The Tamil Guardian quoted Sunak as having said.

Sunak stressed his support for the latest UN resolution on Sri Lanka, which mandated the collection of evidence that may be used in a future war crimes tribunal.

Asked how Britain would ensure that Sri Lanka officials would not spend their “ill-gotten gains in the UK”, Sunak responded by stating that any future government, under him, would look at “how we’ve done this to Russian officials.” The Minister was referring to harsh sanctions ever against Russia in the wake of the war in Ukraine. “I helped put this together” Sunak boasted. “We’ve got a much better playbook and we know more about how to do it… It is a new tool in our toolkit.”

Commenting on the continuing demand to accept the Tamil genocide, Sunak stated that he would look into the matter and that different countries would have different standards but that for the UK this would be a legal matter, following a court proceeding.

Of course, no one among the audience raised India’s accountability in spite of thousands of deaths and disappearances in Sri Lanka’s Northern and Eastern regions, during the deployment of the Indian Army (July 1987-March 1990). India lost nearly 1,300 officers and men and double that figure wounded. The LTTE retaliated by assassinating wartime Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi, at Sriperumbudur, in May 1991. The new UK Premier cannot be unaware that at the time the LTTE assassinated Gandhi, the group maintained its International Secretariat in London. The UK turned a blind eye to the LTTE issuing statements from London about its terror attacks. Those statements primarily dealt with attacks in Sri Lanka.

Anton Balasingham, former employee at the British High Commission, Colombo, was among those who received British citizenship in spite of being members of the dreaded terrorist organization. At that time (Balasingham died in December 2006, in the UK,) he served as the LTTE’s theoretician. The late Balasingham’s wife, Adele, who adorned female LTTE cadres’ necks with cyanide capsules, still lives in the UK. Perhaps, the suicide bomber, who targeted Rajiv Gandhi at an election rally, received her cyanide capsule, too, from Adele. Tamil conservatives wouldn’t dare discuss that wretched past.

A hostile agenda

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion, seven years before Sunak entered Parliament, in 2015, the year the then yahapalana government co-sponsored the Geneva resolution against one’s own country, in Geneva.

Three years later, the UK succeeded the US as leader of Sri Lanka Core Group after the latter quit the Geneva Council alleging it was a cesspool of political bias for exposing crimes committed by Israel in occupied/illegally annexed Palestinian lands. (Don’t forget how Israeel ‘killed’ the Goldstone report on 2008 war crimes report).

The new Conservative party leader owed an explanation how the UK compared the ongoing war in Ukraine and eradication of Tamil terrorism in Sri Lanka. Obviously, the two situations cannot be compared, under any circumstances though Sunak felt comfortable in playing politics, with the issue at hand, for his benefit.

With Sunak moving to No 10, the ongoing war crimes allegations campaign against Sri Lanka is likely to be intensified. Over the past several years, the issue has been raised in the House of Commons, on many occasions, with some MPs targeting General Shavendra Silva, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).

Labour MP Virendra Sharma, of Indian origin, is one of those lawmakers seeking political benefit at Sri Lanka’s expense. Sharma has asked the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, the status of discussions with the US Administration, regarding the designation of Gen. Shavendra Silva, under the Global Human Rights (GHR) Sanctions regime. The US designated the CDS, in February, 2020, as a persona non grata.

Both President Ranil Wickremesinghe and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena congratulated the new British leader. They expressed confidence bilateral ties could be further strengthened. However, the incumbent leadership should take tangible measures to set the record straight. Fourteen years after Sri Lanka eradicated Tamil terrorism that at one point threatened to destabilize the region (Sunak was nine when Indian-trained Sri Lankan Tamil terrorists launched a sea borne raid on the Maldives. They nearly succeeded in assassinating the then Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. India intervened to save Gayoom. A vessel that had been commandeered by Sri Lankan terrorists, fleeing the aborted coup attempt in the Maldives, was sunk in international waters, by the Indian Navy. Those who demand accountability on the part of Sri Lanka are never bothered about the deaths caused by such confrontations.

As a person of Indian origin, though his parents were from East Africa, Sunak should be able to comprehend the daunting challenge countries face in defeating terrorism that received the backing of powerful international players, when it is in the interest of their global agenda. The LTTE couldn’t have waged nearly a 30-year war unless it had the wherewithal to raise funds in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and many other countries, over the years. The LTTE had unlimited funds to procure weapons, ranging from Chinese artillery to shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles. In spite of the group being proscribed in the US, the UK and India, its operatives continuously collected money required to procure weapons and transferred them to Sri Lanka. Thanks to specific intelligence, provided by the US, in the latter stages, intrepid SLN units hunted down the LTTE’s floating arsenals, on the high seas. The war couldn’t have been brought to a successful conclusion, in May, 2009, if Vice Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda’s Navy failed in its task.

The UK never interfered with the LTTE operations on its soil. In fact, successive governments there ensured law enforcement authorities refrained from taking action as they didn’t dare to upset voters of Sri Lankan Tamil origin. The UK granted special status to the LTTE, during the war. The LTTE continued to enjoy privileged status, even after the assassination of highly popular Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, during the Ceasefire Agreement worked out by the Norwegians. Anton Balasingham, who definitely knew of the planned assassinations of Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1991, moderate lawmaker Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam, in July 1999, and Kadirgamar, in August 2005, was allowed to continue his ‘work’ in the UK without hindrance. As the LTTE’s top Europe-based emissary, Balasingham, a British passport holder, received foreign delegates and other LTTE operatives.

Close on the heels of Kadirgamar’s assassination, Balasingham received the then Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen and Deputy Foreign Minister Vidar Helgessen, in London on August 17, 2005.

How UK tried to suppress wartime cables

The UK strenuously tried to thwart the disclosure of diplomatic cables, that originated from the British High Commission in Colombo. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) desperately tried to block the revelations as the UK realized the whole operation, meant to haul the Sri Lankan military before foreign judges, could go awry.

Lord Naseby, in terms of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), made his request to the FCO, on November 6, 2014, nearly a year before the yahapalana government betrayed the military, at the UNHRC, by co-sponsoring an accountability resolution, seven years after the successful conclusion of the war.

The FCO, on December 3, 2014, informed Lord Naseby that it had the required information though it needed time to consider his request. Clearly, Naseby’s request rattled the FCO. On January 5, 2015, the FCO told Lord Naseby that his request couldn’t be granted. Lord Naseby, on January 14, 2015, requested for an internal review of the FCO’s decision.

The FCO informed Lord Naseby, on February 19, 2015, that the decision couldn’t be changed. An irate Lord Naseby complained to the FCO, on March 16, 2015. The FCO, on May 7, 2015, reiterated its original decision to deprive Lord Naseby of the requested information.

Interestingly, the FCO, on December 21, 2015, offered to provide a section of the previously withheld documents, claiming that the move was made possible due to the releasing of Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) report on the investigation, on Sri Lanka, on September 15, 2015.

However, the FCO withheld a substantial section of the requested documents, on the basis of Sections 27 (1) (a), 31 and 41 of FOIA.

Having received a part of the requested documents, Lord Naseby had raised concerns with the Information Commissioner’s Office that the FCO could be still holding documents that could be released. Subsequently, the FCO released three more censored documents, on February 23, 2016. The three documents were dated April 7, 25 and 26, 2009.

The FCO wouldn’t have released any documents if not for Lord Naseby seeking the intervention of the Information Commissioner’s Office. Lord Naseby got in touch with the Information Commissioner’s Office, on June 10, 2015, five months after the presidential election here that brought an end to the unbroken Mahinda Rajapaksa rule, from 2005 to 2015. Following Rajapaksa’s defeat, President Maithripala Sirisena, as agreed in the run up to the presidential poll, invited UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to form a new government. Violating all parliamentary norms, Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the Prime Minister, in spite of having the backing of less than 50 members in the 225-member Parliament. The SLFP-led UPFA, in spite of having a staggering two-thirds majority in the House, with the SLFP group alone comprising 126 members, gave into the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe move. The Geneva betrayal should be examined against that political background.

The new UK Premier must be reminded that Northern Tamils, at the 2010 presidential election, voted overwhelmingly for the then General Sarath Fonseka though he lost the election by over 1.8 mn votes, though they had previously accused him and his Army of committing war crimes. The war-winning Army Chief fielded by a coalition of political parties, including the dominant Tamil party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), secured all eight predominately Tamil speaking electoral districts in the Northern and Eastern provinces less than a year after the LTTE’s defeat. The TNA’s backing for Fonseka should be examined taking into consideration its 2001 declaration that the LTTE was the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people and the role played by the US in forming that grouping.

Republished with permission from the writer. Click here to read the original article

Sri Lanka’s Blunder in Geneva Carnival


Referring to the 51st sessions (Sept. 12 to Oct 07, 2022) of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, last week bluntly declared that Sri Lanka wouldn’t accept any “external mechanism, external evidence gathering mechanism, charging citizens outside the country, getting hybrid judges to come and hear the cases, all these are against the Constitution. So we can’t agree to that.”

The SLPP National List lawmaker stressed “Sri Lankan citizens will not be allowed to be charged outside the country” and “foreign judges will not be permitted to sit in judgment over cases in Sri Lanka.”

Former People’s Alliance lawmaker M.M. Zuhair, PC, (1994-2000 during the CBK presidency) quite rightly challenged Sabry’s stand on an external evidence gathering mechanism against the backdrop of Sri Lanka allowing the US and Australian investigators probe the 2019 Easter Sunday suicide attacks no sooner they were carried out. Emphasizing such investigations, that had been undertaken by outsiders, weren’t subjected to approval by the relevant judicial authority here, the former Ambassador to Teheran (2006-2012 during MR presidency) questioned the rationale in Sri Lanka’s rejection. Zuhair asked for urgent review of Sri Lanka’s stand.

Minister Sabry addressed the media, with Foreign Secretary Aruni Wijewardane seated next to him, at the Foreign Ministry. Wijewardane was called back from retirement in May this year to succeed Admiral Jayanath Colombage whereas President Ranil Wickremesinghe brought in Sabry as the Foreign Minister in place of Prof. G.L. Peiris, the famed legal academic who joined the rebel SLPP group that made an abortive bid to elect MP Dullas Alahapperuma as the new President, while the party backed eventual successor Ranil Wickremesinghe to complete the remainder of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s five-year term.

Sabry had been the wartime Defence Secretary and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Counsel in several high profile cases, including the Ukrainian MiG-27 deal and a leading campaigner in the run-up to the 2019 presidential election, which GR won handsomely. When the writer sought a clarification from Sabry regarding the US snubbing President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s request for a visa against the backdrop of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka and Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage being denied visas based on unsubstantiated war crimes accusations, the President’s Counsel pointed out that Western powers had blacklisted not only individuals but entire fighting Divisions deployed on the Vanni front (2007-2009).

The US in Feb 2020 announced that Gen Shavendra Silva and his immediate family would not be permitted to enter the US though they never applied for visas.

This is unlike substantiated crimes committed by the US, the UK and Australian forces as was revealed by their own probes from Guantanamo Bay to Iraq, and Afghanistan, but were swept under the carpet.

With the Geneva sessions underway, it would be pertinent to discuss issues at hand pertaining to accountability issues as the government struggled to cope up with the developing political-economic-social crisis that had overwhelmed the country.

A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry recently disclosed the pathetic situation and its further deterioration. On a request made by Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Myanmar and Attorney-at-Law, J.M. Janaka Priyantha Bandara, the cash-strapped government recently received 1,000 metric tonnes of white rice worth SLR Rs 170 mn (USD 463,215) from that poor country also struggling with many woes. The Foreign Ministry stated: “The donation was granted in response to a request made by Ambassador Janaka Bandara when he presented credentials to the State Prime Minister of Myanmar Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during the credential ceremony on 7 June 2022 and also in commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The former SLFP National List MP received the diplomatic posting amidst the worst-ever economic turmoil and took over the mission there seven days before Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa quit following SLPP goons going on the rampage at Galle Face on May 09, which was used as a pretext to unleash pre-planned and well-coordinated attacks on mainly SLPP ministers and MPs, which left scores of homes and other properties of such politicians being attacked, looted and torched across the country and also several killings, including that of Polonnaruwa District SLPP Parliamentarian Amarakeerthi Athukorala and his police bodyguard at Nittambuwa, lynched by a mob.

Zuhair pointed out to Sabry the need to change the strategy. Let me reproduce that verbatim. “At a time when the country is increasingly dependent on the assistance of foreign countries to tackle the deepening economic crisis and the steeply rising cost of living, the government must objectively address the human rights concerns alleged against Sri Lanka in the UN Human Rights Council (UN HRC) commencing sittings in Geneva.”

Lanka’s assurance on foreign judges

At the time Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in May 2009, Rohitha Bogollagama served as the Foreign Minister (2007-2010). President Mahinda Rajapaksa brought in Bogollagama in early 2007 after sacking Mangala Samaraweera. Prof. G.L Peiris served as the Foreign Minister (2010-2015) and was replaced by Mangala Samaraweera in 2015 with the coming to power of the yahapalana (good governance) regime, which proved to be anything but that when its leading lights robbed the Central Bank twice.

The yahapalana administration thereupon moved Samaraweera to the Finance Ministry and brought in the then Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake as the Foreign Minister in the wake of shocking revelations at the Presidential Commission of Inquiry that probed the Treasury bond scams. In the same reshuffle one-time Attorney General Tilak Marapana received the Foreign Affairs portfolio (August 2017-Nov 2019). Dinesh Gunawardena received the Foreign Affairs portfolio after 2019 presidential election but was replaced by Prof. Peiris in August 2021.

Following a split in the SLPP in the wake of Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s resignation and UNP leader Wickremesinghe being elected the President in July by Parliament, Sabry was brought in as the Foreign Minister.

In spite of the much publicized Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from the Geneva Resolution 30/1, announced by Dinesh Gunawardena, at the 43rd session of UNHRC in March 2020, Sri Lanka firmly remained committed to the process. That is the undeniable truth. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha accepted the 30/1 on specific instructions issued by Mangala Samaraweera on the advice of then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe. President Maithripala Sirisena, though he made public statements contrary to the position taken by his government, however did absolutely nothing to alter the status quo.

The yahapalana government entered into the Geneva Resolution on Oct 01, 2015 regardless of the strong criticism of the US-led move by Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that strangely backed General Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena as the common candidates at the 2010 and 2015 presidential elections, respectively, declared its position on foreign judges in June 2016. On behalf of the TNA, the then National List lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, disclosed a tripartite agreement among the US, Sri Lanka and the TNA. The disclosure was made in the presence of the then Sri Lankan Ambassador to the US Prasad Kariyawasam, who subsequently returned to Colombo to receive appointment as Foreign Secretary at the time of Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana.

The TNA’s partner Global Tamil Forum (GTF) spokesperson Suren Surendiran at that time told the writer that this tripartite agreement had been the basis for the Geneva Resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka.

Sumanthiran didn’t mince his words when he insisted that foreign judges weren’t contrary to the country’s Constitution. Those who opposed Geneva interventions conveniently refrained from challenging Sumanthiran in Parliament. Actually, refusal to allow external evidence gathering mechanism is questionable as the country remains committed to the 2015 Resolution. That is the undeniable truth.

In response to The Island queries at the Foreign Ministry briefing, Sabry acknowledged that Western powers had already taken action against the findings made by the Panel of Experts (PoE) in 2011. Over a decade after the eradication of the LTTE, successive governments hadn’t been able to reach a consensus on a common stand on war against separatist terrorism.

Sumanthiran’s disclosure

The TNA made available Sumanthiran’s audacious statement, to The Island, soon after he delivered it at the ‘Congressional Caucus for Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka’ in Washington D.C. on June 14, 2016.

On behalf of the TNA, Sumanthiran claimed to have reached a tripartite consensus in respect of foreign judges, defence attorneys, investigators, etc., in a Sri Lankan judicial mechanism to probe war crimes.

Sumanthiran told the gathering that the government of Sri Lanka, the TNA and the US had been involved in the negotiations leading to the agreement.

In his brief remarks, Ambassador Kariyawasam provided an overview of the measures taken by Sri Lanka to promote its two-pronged policy of reconciliation and development since the January 2015 election of the yahapalana government and reiterated in detail, measures taken by that government to vindicate its commitment to these processes and explained the several challenges that militate against government efforts. A statement issued by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Washington didn’t make any reference to Sumanthiran’s shocking disclosure.

In another shameless and impudent act, the same yahapalana administration brought back ex-ambassador Kariyawasam as an advisor to then Speaker Karu Jayasuriya paid for by Washington.

Sumanthiran told the Washington gathering that the resolution was moved in Geneva following an understanding that the participation of foreigners wouldn’t be contrary to the Sri Lanka Constitution.

Declaring that he had been personally involved in the negotiations with the US and also participated in that particular process, Sumanthiran said there were some doubts created, as to whether the Constitution of Sri Lanka would allow for foreign nationals to function as judges and we went into that question, clarified it, and said yes they could.

Sumanthiran told the Congressional Caucus that the resolution accepted at Geneva had been negotiated and they settled for a hybrid model though they originally asked for an international inquiry.

When the writer raised this issue with Marapana immediately after he took over the Foreign Ministry, the former AG declared that the 1978 Constitution wouldn’t permit the inclusion of foreign judges in the proposed domestic Judicial Mechanism under any circumstances.

Marapana quite conveniently forgot that a government appointed body in January endorsed the Geneva Resolution. The Consultation Task Force on Reconciliation Mechanisms (CTFRM) called for full participation of foreign judges, and other personnel, including defence lawyers, prosecutors and investigators, in a transitional justice mechanism to address accountability issues. The CTFRM comprised Manouri Muttetuwegama, Dr Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, Gamini Viyangoda, Prof. Sitralega Maunaguru, Dr. Farzana Haniffa, Mirak Raheem, Prof. Gameela Samarasinghe, Visaka Dharmadasa, Shantha Abhimanasingham, PC, K.W. Janaranjana and Prof. Daya Somasundaram.

Perhaps, Sabry should receive a comprehensive briefing regarding Sri Lankan’s faltering process in response to the Geneva challenge. It would be pertinent to ask whether the Foreign Ministry submitted the relevant records pertaining to Geneva Resolution, including the entire set of declassified British diplomatic cables from its High Commission in Colombo to the UK Foreign Office (January-May 2009) and WikiLeaks revelations, as the new Foreign Minister.

On the basis of those dispatches, Lord Naseby has repeatedly stressed that the dispatches from Colombo didn’t collaborate the five main accusations levelled against Sri Lanka. The House of Lords member quoted Lt. Colonel Gash (wartime Colombo-based UK Defence Advisor) having denied accusations that the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the elimination of Tamil civilians, and there was no basis for claims that specific no-fire zones had been established by the military to kill those who gathered in them, and attempts had been made to starve the Vanni population.

There was absolutely no justification for claims of genocide, and the dispatches had cleared Sri Lankan military of holding civilians in clandestine detention camps such as Menik Farm. Lord Naseby pointed out that the ICRC had been present at the Menik Farm from day one. But, Sri Lanka never presented its case properly before Geneva. Sri Lanka lacked backbone at least to go on record how India caused a bloodbath here.

A dismal performance

Sri Lanka should set the record straight. The responsibility on the part of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice and Defence should be acknowledged. The Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, National Defence College and Kotelawela Defence University should at least now initiate thorough examinations of accountability issues and make recommendations to the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence. Perhaps the Parliament should seriously consider a Select Committee to examine the entire gamut of issues as part of the overall measures to meet the Geneva challenge.

The following are the issues that need attention: (1) Dismissal of war crimes accusations by war time US Defence Attaché Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith in Colombo. The then US official did so at the May-June 2011 first post-war defence seminar in Colombo, two months after the release of PoE report. The State Department disputed the official’s right to represent the US at the forum though it refrained from challenging the statement. (2) Examine the US defence attaché’s statement along with Lord Naseby’s Oct 2017 disclosure based on the then British Defence advisor Lt. Colonel Anthony Gash’s cables to London during the war. Sri Lanka never did so. (3) Wikileaks revelations that dealt with the Sri Lanka war. A high profile Norwegian study on its role in the Sri Lanka conflict examined some cables. However, the Norwegian process never strengthened Sri Lanka’s defence. Instead it merely sought to disown its own culpability in the events leading to the annihilation of the LTTE. One of the most important Wikileaks revelations that debunked the allegation Sri Lanka deliberately targeting civilians. The cable proved that our ground forces took heavy losses by taking the civilian factor into consideration. (4) Wide discrepancies in loss of civilian lives claimed by UN and various other interested parties. The UN estimated the figure at 40,000 (March 2011) The UN in a confidential report placed the total number of deaths at 7,721 whereas Amnesty International (Sept 2011) placed the number at 10,000 and a member of the UK Parliament (Sept 2011) estimated the death toll at 100,000. (5) Disgraceful attempt made by Geneva to exploit so called Mannar mass graves during the yahapalana administration. The Foreign Ministry remained silent on Mannar graves while Western diplomats played politics by quickly putting the onus on Sri Lanka only to be proved utterly wrong. Acting at the interest of those hell-bent on blaming Sri Lanka, Geneva faulted Sri Lanka before the conclusion of the investigation.

The then Northern Province Governor Wigneswaran rejected scientific findings of Beta Analytic Institute of Florida, USA, in respect of samples of skeletal remains sent from the Mannar mass grave site. The then Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet went to the extent of commenting on Mannar mass grave in her report that dealt with the period from Oct 2015 to January 2019. We come to wonder whether she was actually a victim of Gen. Pinochet or a mere manufactured victim.( UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently announced the appointment of Volker Turk of Austria as the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, following approval by the UN General Assembly.)

Had the US lab issued a report to suit their strategy, would they have accepted fresh tests in case the government of Sri Lanka requested? The following is relevant section bearing No 23 from Bachelet’s report: “On May 29, 2018, human skeletal remains were discovered at a construction site in Mannar (Northern Province), Excavations conducted in support of the Office on Missing Persons, revealed a mass grave from which more than 300 skeletons were discovered. It was the second mass grave found in Mannar following the discovery of a site in 2014. Given that other mass graves might be expected to be found in the future, systematic access to grave sites by the Office as an observer is crucial for it to fully discharge its mandate, particularly with regard to the investigation and identification of remains, it is imperative that the proposed reforms on the law relating to inquests, and relevant protocols to operationalize the law be adopted. The capacity of the forensic sector must also be strengthened, including in areas of forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology and genetics, and its coordination with the Office of Missing Persons must be ensured.” (6) Wigneswaran, in his capacity as the then Northern Province Chief Minister in August 2016 accused the Army of killing over 100 LTTE cadres held in rehabilitation facilities. Wigneswaran claimed the detainees had been given poisonous injections resulting in deaths of 104 persons. The unprecedented accusation made by the retired Supreme Court judge had been timed to attract international attention. Wignewaran is on record as having said a US medical team visiting Jaffna at that time would examine the former rehabilitated LTTE cadres, who he alleged had fallen sick because they were injected with poisonous substances at government detention or rehabilitation centres.

Sri Lanka paid a very heavy price for its pathetic failure to counter a web of lies fashioned by interested parties, both local and foreign mainly funded by the West to coerce the country to adopt a new Constitution. Unfortunately, the incumbent government, too, is yet to examine the Geneva issue taking into consideration all available evidence, information and data into consideration.

Views expressed are personal