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.