Monday, May 16, 2011

Lasantha, the President and Sarath Fonseka

By Frederica Jansz | The Sunday Leader

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has on numerous occasions with editors at closed door meetings said, “Everybody knows who killed Lasantha – yet, those very people who suffered as a result of his (Fonseka’s actions) later went and backed him.”

He added for good measure, “the two at the Nation and Lal.”

Referring to the incident in which The Nation’s defence correspondent Keith Noyahr was abducted and brutally attacked, Rajapaksa’s comments referred to former CEO of The Nation newspaper Krishantha Prasad Cooray and its former Editor-in-Chief Lalith Alahakoon.

Cooray, despite having publicly accused Sarath Fonseka of ordering the assault on Keith Noyahr nevertheless at the last presidential election was an active member of Fonseka’s media contingent. The President’s reference also included Chairman of this newspaper Lal Wickrematunge and the latter’s decision to also support Sarath Fonseka at the last presidential election. This despite the fact, according to the President, that it was Sarath Fonseka who murdered Wickrematunge’s brother and Founder Editor of this newspaper, Lasantha Wickrematunge.
A serious investigation into the attacks on journalists began only after General Fonseka contested the presidential election as the common opposition candidate. In the immediate aftermath of Wickrematunge’s murder, opposition leaders accused General Fonseka of responsibility. The government initially simply stymied any investigation into the killing while the police remained impotent.

Following the presidential election in January 2010, I was told that investigators were inquiring into the possible involvement of General Fonseka into the murder of Lasantha after a very senior official at the Defence Ministry revealed that the former Army Commander told him, “I did not intend to kill Lasantha – I only wanted him hurt – but they killed him”. This is according to senior police officers conducting the investigation.

If the government is convinced that it was Sarath Fonseka who was behind the murder of Lasantha, why is it that he has not been charged with murder? Why has the government waited for so long to name him? It is also reported that the President had said that Sarath Fonseka was behind Lasantha’s killing to a senior editor of a Sinhala weekly, over a year ago. He had said that he was the army commander who was prosecuting the war and so nothing could be done. This places the government in a pretty tight corner.

Is justice based on time or circumstances depending on who sits favourably with the powers? Do the investigating arms of the nation respond positively only when the politician gives the nod as and when it is politically opportune? Lasantha was murdered on January 8, 2009. Sarath Fonseka was taken into custody on February 8, last year on a vague charge of planning a military coup and later tried before a military court marshal for indulging in politics whilst being in the army and sentenced. The cries for the release of Sarath Fonseka being a political prisoner would not have been even a whimper, if he was charged with the more serious offences of the murder of Lasantha, and assaults on senior journalists.

This then is the question President Mahinda Rajapaksa must grapple with and answer before he pontificates and accuses his former army chief of carrying out a murder most foul.

On Thursday last week, May 12, a former army intelligence officer told the Mount Lavinia Magistrate Court that he was told by the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the Terrorist Investigations Department (TID) to claim that a top army official was involved in the killing of former Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge.

The intelligence officer, Kandegedera Priyawansa, who is now in remand told open court that he was told to say that a top army official, whose name he did not mention in court, was involved in the killing of Wickrematunge, as well as in the assault of two senior journalists, in return for a chance to go overseas and security for his house in Sri Lanka. Why Priyawansa chose not take the offer is not clear since he was not asked the question before being hurriedly led away. Will this revelation be investigated thoroughly or not, would be watched carefully.

Police have also arrested and remanded one Jesudason from Nuwara Eliya who apparently owns a garage.

All of the five telephones which according to sleuths were used in the attack on Lasantha were registered in the name of Jesudason. When quizzed by detectives Jesudason claimed he lost his Identity Card – which would have been required to purchase the SIM cards for the five mobile phones. Jesudason however never made a formal complaint to the police regarding the loss of his ID. He has however confessed to sharing a drink now and then with a soldier who he says identified himself as being a member of the Sinha Regiment of the Army. This soldier, Kandegedera Priyawansa at the time of his arrest was a member of the army’s Military Intelligence Directorate headed at the time by Major General Amal Karunasekera.

Last year, both Lal Wickrematunge and I met with SSP Chandra Wakishta, Director of the TID, when 17 army officers had been taken in and remanded for the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge. Seventeen army soldiers attached to the Army Military Intelligence Unit and also identified as having worked ‘closely’ with former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka were remanded and held by the TID/CID.

At this meeting Wakishta was confident they had narrowed the suspects down to six soldiers who he told us had carried out the chilling murder on Wickrematunge.

Showing us pictures of the 17 army men, he asked us if we could identify any. He did this on the hunch that one or more of the killers may have been present at a candle lit ceremony held at Lasantha’s graveside one month after the killing on February 8, 2009. But none of the 17 images were even vaguely familiar to either Lal or me. They have all since been released.

At this discussion, Lal told Wakishta of a strange meeting that took place in his office at Ratmalana. “It was mid February 2009 and barely over a month since Lasantha was killed, a small-made, dishevelled man turned up in office and said he wished to speak with me. He went on to relate an amazing story explaining how Lasantha was killed and who was behind it.”

“Mr. X as I would call him had been released from Welikada Prison on an amnesty granted to prisoners on Independence Day in 2009. He was sentenced for embezzlement of state funds. Whilst in prison he was sharing a cell with a few others. Amongst those incarcerated with him were convicted murderers. He heard an inmate convicted for murder talking to another about a contract undertaken by him to kill someone and that the job was done on that day and had bragged as to how the operation was conducted. He said that this murderer had organised a ‘hit’ on someone called Lasantha and a sharp instrument was used to carry out the task. At that point he did not know who this ‘Lasantha’ was, but learnt later when he was watching Sirasa news on TV that night. He said that he had met Lasantha together with Frederica once when he had a problem with higher authorities at the Buddha Sasana Ministry when he gave an interview to The Leader.”

Lal went on to recount that this man had said a politician had given the contract to underworld figures in the prison to carry out the murder of Lasantha.

A similar sentiment echoed by Sarath Fonseka when in an initial telephone interview I asked him who had killed Lasantha he replied, “kudu karayas working for a politician cum drug lord.” Pressed to identify the politician he said it was a politician from Kelaniya.

He once more articulated similar words when Lal and I met with Fonseka at his former Reid Avenue office on December 8, 2009, and Lal asked him the same question.
Lal brought Mr. ‘X’ to my office too since he had said he had met me together with Lasantha but I could not recall such a meeting nor having ever seen the man before.

I cautioned Lal against having any further dialogue or contact with the man, advising him to hand the man over to police officers investigating Lasantha’s murder. Which Lal did do, informing a police officer handling the murder investigation, but the man disappeared as a result.

Even as Wickrematunge related this story to Wakishta, the top cop was dismissive, displaying no enthusiasm to consider that this could be another possible lead, instead indicating that this was merely a red herring. Wickrematunge even handed over to Wakishta a letter written by this man to him together with a stamped envelope and gave him a mobile telephone number from which the man had subsequently made more than one telephone call to Lal.

Wakishta went through the motions and a statement was duly recorded from Lal. And there the matter ended. He now no longer takes our calls.

At The Sunday Leader, both myself and other senior staff including Lasantha’s wife and co-editor at the newspaper Sonali Samarasinghe were more than convinced that similarly as in the case of Keith Noyahr of The Nation newspaper, Namal Perera from the Sri Lanka Press Institute and Upali Tennakoon, former Editor of the Rivira Newspaper (all three senior journalists were attacked by goons believed to be soldiers working closely with Sarath Fonseka) Lasantha too, had been murdered by this same hit squad. Which is why when asked by the management to lend editorial support to Sarath Fonseka and his political campaign senior staff and editors loudly and vehemently protested finally falling in line only because we were compelled to accept that the government too had pushed us against the wall by bringing one debilitating court case after another in an attempt to cripple the The Sunday Leader, despite the newspaper having paid the ultimate price of Lasantha’s murder.

The issue is this — if President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself is so certain that it was indeed Sarath Fonseka that murdered Lasantha Wickrematunge as well as ordered the attacks on journalists Keith Noyahr, Upali Tennakoon and Namal Perera, why does he then not use his executive powers and literally kick butt to ensure investigators do their job. Over to you Mr. President.

© The Sunday Leader

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Sri Lanka: Peace a battle

By Ben Doherty | The Sydney Morning Herald

An uneasy peace holds in Sri Lanka. The civil war that afflicted the north of the country for more than a quarter of a century ended two years ago this week, but for many, it seems never to have gone away.

Aani Manuelpillai* lives with reminders every day. For a year, the Sri Lankan army fought over her village in the Mannar district as it pursued to extinction the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the separatist rebels known to the world as Tamil Tigers.

Aani fled the shelling of her home and gunfights in her street. Her life became one of being hounded from camp to camp, finding brief sanctuary in no-fire zones that became killing fields, then fleeing again. She has been back in her house for a year, but the anniversary is no cause for celebration. Her roof is a UN-supplied tarpaulin. The walls yawn with holes from government shells. Aani cooks and washes outside. With no money and ''too many family'' - almost all the men - lost in the fighting, she has little hope of rebuilding.

Village life generally is returning to normal. Mothers, babies strapped to their backs with old saris, walk along the red-dirt road between houses and children fill buckets at water pumps. But much has to be done. Barely a building hasn't been bombed and most people are living under canvas.

The Tigers landmined this area heavily. The village is now clear but the fields on which most families rely for a living are still dangerous. ''Life is hard here. We are much poorer now. The fighting is gone, but we don't have our lives back. We cannot work in our fields and many people cannot come back to their lands.''

The land Aani wants back for her people is Sri Lanka's northern mainland, known as the Vanni and regarded as the homeland of the country's Tamil ethnic minority, who make up about 17 per cent of the population. The Sinhalese majority, about three-quarters of Sri Lanka's 20 million, live predominantly in the south.

Many origins are claimed for the Tamil Tigers separatist movement. Some say Tamils came to the island from southern India and it is there their homeland should be; others that after independence, the new ruling Sinhalese began systematically discriminating against the Tamils. The watershed act of violence is generally accepted to have been in 1983, when Tigers killed 13 soldiers, and Sinhalese turned on Tamils in revenge. Up to 3000 Tamils were killed, many hacked and burned to death, and Tamil businesses were torched and looted. Tamils fled to the north-east, many to Tiger training camps. The war, which would cripple the country for a quarter of a century, had begun.

The Vanni isn't pretty country. The land is dry and scrubby and has always been sparsely populated, but in the aftermath of a war in which the UN estimates 40,000 civilians were killed and more than 300,000 displaced - out of a population of about 700,000 - a lack of people is now a very real problem.

Across much of the devastated Sri Lankan north, few people are left to rebuild, or to rebuild for. In some parts, there is progress but how much is hard to know. Sri Lanka's UN representative, Palitha Kohona, told the Security Council this week: ''Sri Lanka has succeeded in returning over 95 per cent of the internally displaced to their villages and towns in a short period of 18 months.'' But much of the Vanni remains in ruins.

Nearly 18,000 people still live in government-run camps for ''internally displaced persons'', as they wait for the land where they once lived to be cleared of mines or released from army control, or for promised houses to be built. The government says 300,000 people have been resettled since the end of the war. ''A lot needs to be done, [but] we believe by the end of 2011, we can complete the process,'' Resettlement Ministry secretary Uthpala Basnayakaye said in February.

More than 4000 suspected Tamil Tiger fighters remain locked up, incommunicado, in army ''rehabilitation'' camps. Their names have not been released. Thousands of parents and wives and children still don't know if their sons and husbands and fathers are alive. This secret detention has been brought back to world attention by a recent UN report into alleged atrocities committed by both sides during the conflict. At war's end, some 11,600 Tamil Tiger cadres who surrendered to the Sri Lanka's army were taken to army-run camps for ''rehabilitation''. More than 6000 have been released, but the government still runs 24 camps, housing 4343 suspected Tigers.

''These youth had gone through a horrific period in their lives and have lost the best days,'' the commissioner-general of rehabilitation, Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe, said recently. ''It is a great task for us to convert their negative thoughts into positive thinking but we have achieved this through various methods.''

Others make a less glowing assessment. Tamil National Alliance parliamentarian M. A. Sumanthiran says the brigadier has ''done very good work'' in helping rehabilitate some fighters but ongoing detention is dangerous and illegal. ''There is no detention order, nothing. Two years on, our request is for basic human decency. Parents must know whether their children are alive or not.'' Sumanthiran believes many of those still in detention were not Tamil Tiger fighters, or were teenagers forced to pick up weapons in the panicked final days of the war. He thinks the secrecy suggests some may have been killed, and the UN report is similarly condemnatory of the government's ''deliberate lack of transparency''.

''The fact that interrogations and investigations as well as 'rehabilitation' activities have been ongoing, without any external scrutiny for almost two years, rendered alleged LTTE cadres highly vulnerable to violations such as rape, torture or disappearance, which could be committed with impunity,'' says the report, prepared by a panel of experts for the UN Security Council. This 200-page report has exposed the deep divisions that still blight the country. There has been a savage backlash against it in the Sinhalese majority south, where it is seen as a Western plot to discredit the army, and the populist and popular President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

''We will present the world with our achievements on bringing normalcy and peace to Sri Lanka, bring to light the factual position about this country and thereby expose the falsity of the controversial … report,'' Rajapaksa said this week.

The report condemns both sides of the conflict, finding ''credible allegations'' of war crimes committed by both the Sri Lankan government and the Tigers. The army, it says, bombed hospitals, deliberately shelled civilians sheltering in no-fire zones, and attacked the UN and Red Cross. It says the President, his brother and other senior government officials were party to negotiations over the surrender of Tiger cadres and civilians who were later found shot dead.

But the report also recognises that the army was fighting a brutal, ruthless opposition. Fanatical yet disciplined, proscribed as terrorists in most countries, the Tamil Tigers pioneered suicide bombers, and for generations waged a campaign of terror. As their resistance disintegrated in 2009, the report said, Tigers forcibly recruited children, used civilians as human shields and shot anyone who tried to flee. Even as the battle was being inexorably lost, the Tigers launched suicide attacks outside the war zone.

Little is likely to come of the report internationally. A spokesman for the UN Secretary-General urged member states to take it ''seriously and act accordingly'', but China and Russia have indicated they would block any move for an international war-crimes investigation.

The war is over. The Tigers, rumours of tiny cells of still-committed cadres notwithstanding, are finished as a fighting force. But the army remains omnipresent in the north. The Vanni is heavily controlled by the military. Army checkpoints block all traffic. Every 200 or so metres, on almost every road, stands a fortified army post, manned by bored soldiers seemingly uncertain of what threat they are supposed to be guarding against. And every few kilometres stands a massive army cantonment, where those soldiers live. Almost all the building activity since the war has been the army's.

Less than 50 kilometres from Aani's bombed-out home sits a very different village, the City of War Heroes. In Ranajayapura, the government has built 1500 three-roomed homes for soldiers and their families, along with schools, hospitals, gyms and supermarkets. It is a gift, the government says, ''to show our gratitude and appreciation to the brave men and women of our armed forces''. These are the first of 50,000 homes the government has planned for soldiers, and those charged with securing the north will live there permanently.

Tamil leaders say this ''militarisation'' of the Vanni is less about security than it is about a non-violent, if less-than-subtle, overwhelming of the minority Tamils. Sumanthiran says the government plans will irrevocably change the Tamil homeland. ''There are about 100,000 soldiers in the north, and if their families also go with them, it will be close to half a million people. You will have a radical alteration of the demography overnight. We … do not say this is the exclusive domain of the Tamils. But it must happen naturally; it cannot be a state-sponsored program to marginalise the people already here.''

In the Mullaitivu district, in the north-east, the final and fiercest fighting took place. The army pushed the rebels and the civilians they held hostage into an increasingly narrow sliver of coastal land, between a lagoon and the sea, until there was nowhere left to run. The death toll in those final few days will probably never be known.

Huge areas in Mullaitivu are still under army control. Rumours of more mass graves persist. But some villages in the district are being resettled.

Nesamani Sukumar, 73, stands barefoot outside his lean-to shop. He was a farmer before the war. His land is ''gone'' and he is resigned to never getting it back. The plastic toys and bottles of soft drink he offers for sale grow dusty hanging from the shop's awning. Business is slow, for few people have come back, and fewer still have money to spend. His son and daughter were killed in the war he says, tapping his finger on his heart. His neighbours are missing; he doesn't know what happened to them. ''Before the war, I had a lot of money, I had a nice house, I had my family, everything I could need. But I lost everything and everyone too.''

*Some names have been changed to protect identities.

© The Sydney Morning Herald

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Monday, May 16, 2011

The message on internal accountability is clear

By Kishali Pinto Jayawardene | The Sunday Times

Many Sri Lankans may have missed, (or would not simply have bothered to see), the grainy but terribly agonizing photograph of an infant amputee in the second no-fire zone, pictured in the report of the Advisory Panel appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Mutilated children and emaciated adults weeping over dead bodies testify to the unimaginable horrors that civilians had to undergo during the last phrases of the war in the North in 2009. We do not, of course, need the United Nations to tell us this. One (or as cynics may argue, the single) positive result of the hearings before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) was similar such testimony.

Grievous stories from the North and South

But some predominant fallacies arising in the context of the above discussion need to be dealt with. One common assumption is that such brutal happenings were, in Sri Lanka’s literally blood soaked history, limited to the North and the East and to a particular minority.

Yet a reading of the Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Involuntary Removal or Disappearance of persons in the Western, Southern and Sabaragamuwa Provinces (Sessional paper No V-1997) would be instructive in this regard. Absent the photographs, the pages of this report tell us of equally grievous stories of Sinhalese children killed or maimed by Sinhalese soldiers.

As one Commissioner mused several months back in a different context; “we were told by weeping mothers of children being literally grabbed from their arms and dashed on the ground with remnants of their heads being scattered around by enraged soldiers who had come upon a suspected subversive or JVP infiltrated village in the deep South.’

Working on the commonality of justice

So through lack of awareness, lack of concern or simply because it suits a particular argument, it is sought to be maintained that brutality systematically directed at innocents has been an issue for the minorities alone, I strongly beg to disagree. It is true however that such brutality has been particularly pronounced in relation to the minorities and justified through a clearly racist mindset on the part of some. But that does not detract from specific historical truths that need to be acknowledged.

As an activist campaigner working in the South on these issues observed some years back, one of the main obstacles in their work was the refusal of other groups working on similar issues in the North and East to recognise the common issues inherent in their efforts. One rare example of a people’s movement which broke away from this pedestrian and shortsighted trend was the Mothers of the Disappeared which, in the eighties, brought suffering mothers from the South and the North (broadly speaking) together to enforce the accountability of the state for their loss.

It was, in that sense, quite different to the learning or interactive experiences, (as valuable as they are), currently seen where people from the majority and minority communities are encouraged to share and understand different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. However, this movement of the mothers thrived only in the eighties before it was politically infiltrated by politicians, including the incumbent President, for their own gain in bringing down the then United National Party administration. With a new government in place, the impetus was weakened and the cry for common justice was largely lost in the years thereafter.

Outside concern evidenced not only regarding the North

The second fallacy is the lament on the part of otherwise reasonably sane people here that the world and non governmental organizations, whether local or international, have only been concerned about human rights violations that occur in the North and East. This is far from the case. In the eighties, the struggle to have the enforced disappearances of largely Sinhalese youth recognised by the international community was led by Amnesty International (AI), a fact about which President Mahinda Rajapaksa is only too aware since he was one of the primary human rights campaigners at that time.

The role played by AI was acknowledged by government appointed Commissions which cite extensively from AI reports. This positive involvement was informed by the sensitive and highly cautious approaches followed by AI campaigners at that time.

The likelihood of a campaign being initiated which had the potential to be immensely counterproductive was quite slim. Admittedly this was not quite the case in later years as seen in 2007 when, coinciding with the World Cup games, people in Australia, Bahamas, Bermuda, India, Nepal and UK were urged to sign white cricket balls urging the Government and the LTTE to invite independent human rights monitors. Viewed as a move aimed at demoralizing the country’s multi-ethnic cricket team, this infuriated many who were far from being government supporters and achieved nothing in terms of advocacy. But apart from misjudgments of this nature, the sweeping assumption that concern regarding human rights violations has been evidenced from outside only in relation to the North and East is simply not correct.

Avoidance of being trapped in a victim mentality

These are matters about which we should remind ourselves from time to time, to avoid being trapped in a victim mentality which proceeds on the quite mistaken assumption that the developed world and its agents in the international and local non governmental sector, not to mention the United Nations and the European Union (EU), are out to get Sri Lanka. This may be a convenient myth for the government’s propagandists to perpetuate to cover up their own deficiencies and lack of skilful dealings with foreign governments. However, it does not happen to be the truth.

From what we have seen of the reactions to the Advisory Panel report from across the world, ranging from the EU to Japan, the Government of Sri Lanka has been passed a clear message. Look after your own people, not by words, by vainglorious rhetoric or by building roads and hotels but by concrete action focusing on the Rule of Law and by giving the people their legal and constitutional rights.

This is as much as many Sri Lankan citizens have been telling their Government after all. Why should we shy away from or be coy about in any way whatsoever in calling for accountability in this regard?

© The Sunday Times

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Two years after Mullivaikkal – "kiribath or paal soru?"?

Photo courtesy: Ross Tuttle | Foreign Policy

By Kusal Perera | The Sunday Leader

Sri Lanka was sent a very confidential message by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton through Assistant Secretary for Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert O’ Blake Jnr. and US Ambassador here in Colombo from 2006 till the war was concluded on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in Mullivaikkal, May 2009.

Blake met with the External Affairs Minister one to one in his hotel suite to convey Madam Clinton’s message to President Rajapaksa, say informed sources, after a formal meeting with the Minister and his senior staff.

That’s two years after the war when the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel Report is held out like a menacing hand. Two years, when most post war issues should have been managed and brought under control. That responsibility ignored with PR manipulations beyond the shores of Sri Lanka, professorial glib talk to satisfy the gullible middle class here, Sinhala heroes’ playing for local media and vernacular rhetoric aired for the poor and the innocent Sinhala majority, the world of the Rajapaksas revolve with increasing war crimes accusations. Taking umbrage against the UN and its SG instead of resolving issues at home, has only allowed piling of carefully sifted and documented evidence against this regime, during the past two years.

This is no more a ‘War Without Witnesses’. Satellite imagery provide evidence (though without witnesses) in this modern world. ‘WikiLeaks’ provides evidence too and the latest in Aftenposten in Norway, SITREP 74 speaks for Blake himself and implicates Gotabaya, Basil and Nambiar. Though taking time, documented stories surfaced as evidence through Tamil Diaspora sources, as well.

While government propaganda satisfied the Sinhala middle class here and abroad, international organisations had worked passionately in salvaging evidence they are after. A reputed, internationally recognised expert panel thus concluded the much talked of British ‘Channel 4’ aired video, as authentic. A subsequent programme on ‘Channel 4’ on Isaipriya claimed its new content was added proof on war crime charges against the Sri Lankan government.

Most such stories, videos and satellite imagery have gone into the UN Advisory Panel Report as substantial evidence that require independent investigations into war crimes, crimes against humanity and accountability, trashing government claims about “pro Tiger propaganda”.

With the report made public, international concerns on presumptive war crimes and accountability keep piling up. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, that fought a savage battle against apartheid rule and thereafter was part of the campaign for reconciliation through independent and open ‘Truth Commissions’, supports an independent investigation on Sri Lanka. This regime’s trusted friends, Russia and China, according to media reports had warned they would have to reconsider their support, if Sri Lanka does not behave well with UN and other international staff, stationed in the country.

Portugal though listed as a new found ally, is an economic wreck given a Euro 78 billion bailout by the EU. The EU that sent out a crisp statement defending the panel report, scheduled an emergency debate on Sri Lanka’s presumptive war crimes on Thursday and endorsed its statement requesting the Sri Lanka government to honour UN panel report recommendations.

India is clearly disturbed with this loaded report to the extent that President Rajapaksa himself has doubts on their backing, as reported in the media. Well, they have to be coaxed, but how is an issue with a confused External Affairs Minister who does not know whether to officially respond to the UN Panel Report, or not, or how. In Colombo, Anandasangaree from the ranks of Tamil affiliations with the Rajapaksas, wants the government to face up to these accusations and absolve itself from all charges.

Complications for the Rajapaksa government don’t seem to stop just there. Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN in NY, Palitha Kohona who was reported by Andrew Buncombe of The Independent a British daily, on May 20, 2009 as one who sent text messages from his mobile on how two LTTE seniors with a few others should surrender, is accused of complicity in war crimes in a case filed with the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. An adopted Aussie, he is a citizen of a country that had signed the Rome Statutes.

This case if taken up by the ICC, would drag Vijay Nambiar, Chief of Staff to UN SG Ban Ki-moon to serious complicity, who according to Marie Colvin of the British Sunday Times of May 24, 2009 had told her over the phone from Colombo on May 18 morning around 5.30 am local time, President Rajapaksa had assured him, the surrendering Tiger leaders would be safe and his presence therefore at the surrender was not necessary. Neither Kohona nor Nambiar had contradicted or corrected those news reports to date. And this case if taken up, would also implicate all others who were constitutionally and command-wise, on top of the war.

Completing that jigsaw, a group of Tamil people in Norway it is reported, has sought permission to indict President Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka for their role in the May 2009 concluded war. Filed under Norwegian national law for the Chief Prosecutor to accept submissions, the report says Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim, has also been cited as one in the know of the “white flag surrender” incident.

What is the game plan of the Rajapaksas in facing this slowly but gradually swelling tide against Sri Lanka, or do they have one at all ? The political reality is, there is nothing certain with the two super powers, Russia and China. Having already registered their dislike in how this regime treats UN and international agencies, they have also in the past proved their uncertainty on commitments. Sudan and Libya are paying for that. It would be unwise today to think, we are strangely more important than Gaddafi and petroleum. Russia and China dropped Libya and would they keep Rajapaksa? And for what?

Those in this regime doesn’t seem to know the difference between handling complex international relations and treating foreign tourists on the Tangalle beach. This regime, certainly runs around with no strategic plan as to how it could meet international pressure and an extremely committed and stubborn Tamil Diaspora that is not necessarily ‘pro LTTE’, but ‘anti Rajapaksa’ for sure. For the Tamil people, there is good reason to be angry and feel jilted. It is the very ordinary Tamil ‘non vote’ on Prabhakaran’s dictates that brought this Rajapaksa regime to power in 2005 November, while 4.7 million in the South voted against Rajapaksa.
That being a bloody political blunder by the LTTE, this regime has no other reason to believe it has all the luck to continue with its petty scheming. It is petty too to believe, the international community and other agencies, more so the Tamil Diaspora would take it that this government is hell bent on having the Northern people resettled and rehabilitated at break neck speed. That the international community would believe Prof. Peiris when he says, the Advisory Panel Report would hamper government’s “reconciliation and peace efforts”. Its naïve to think the international community is deaf, dumb and blind to all the security restrictions, to all militarisation and violation of rights on the ground.

Would they, the Diaspora included, not know that the Economic Development Ministry could construct what ever it has funds for, but would be put to good use, only if the Defence Ministry agrees ? Would they believe it is despite the sincerity of the Rajapaksa regime that 50,000 houses pledged by Delhi are still on paper, running close to an year ? Would not those international networks also know, how signatures for the government sponsored petition against the UN panel report were collected in the North ?

With such routine addictions, lets not feel ‘lion happy’ keeping the TNA guessing and the international community waiting for political answers. Information flow is not just two way, but four way and beyond, in this world of competitive politics. It is a fact known to all who want to know, that full implementation of the 13th Amendment with police and land powers, even if promised by the President, would not go beyond his own Defence Ministry. These issues cannot be swept under the carpet with contradictory statements by confused politicians.

There is a fundamental flaw, not in the UN panel report, but in how this government feels it could handle this report. There is no way, the ground truth could be subverted to suit the political fancies of this regime, any more. Loud screaming about Western conspiracies, about traitors, on new suicide squads to protect President Rajapaksa, fake claims on reconciliation and peace, full page, heavily paid media advertisements by quacks; well…… can they mute the cold truth on the ground ? That truth is very clearly heard by those who want to know the truth and not by those who don’t want to tell them. That truth demands justice and decency over biased administrative regulations, this regime tries to find answers from.

The Rajapaksa troika needs to accept this simple truth. They’ve got to be honest at least to themselves. President Rajapaksa needs to sideline political clowns, to have sensible and practical advice with accurate information. The two ministerial failures who suffocated the 2002 – 2003 peace negotiations, will not be any patch to this more serious and complicated issue with an international face and a local soul.
This Rajapaksa regime, even for their own selfish survival, needs to have just one single, honestly briefed political stand in reaching out to the requests of the international community and to answer democratic needs of the Lankan society. That is not what the world sees in this regime. This regime for now as the world outside sees it, is a confused pack of political ‘Jacks and Jokers’ with no answers for its own problems. And that may leave paal soru instead of kiribath on the table, when finally, celebrations are called for.

With racist politics, those who read obituaries loud with passion, do not linger long with those who did the killing for them.

© The Sunday Leader

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