Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sri Lanka: International diplomacy is not about the truth

By Stephen Keim | ABC Net

International diplomacy is not about the truth. The truth can be ignored most of the time.

It is sometimes about who speaks the truth. If someone of sufficient importance states that the emperor is naked, the rest of us are forced to acknowledge what we already knew, namely, that the old fool had been parading in the nude for some time.

So it is with Sri Lanka and war crimes during the closing months of the civil war which formally concluded in May 2009. The evidence that the both the Sri Lankan government and its civil war opponents, the Liberation Tigers of Tiger Eelam (LTTE), engaged in war crimes has been known for some time. Britain’s Channel Four released on 25 August 2009 mobile phone footage (apparently taken by Sri Lanka soldiers) of extra-judicial killings of bound and naked captives by government soldiers and broadcast more footage of the same incident on 30 November 2010.

The following week, one of the bound victims of the execution was identified as a young female LTTE news broadcaster whom government sources had identified as having been killed on 18 May 2009. This fact linked the footage to government actions in the very final days of the civil war.

The highly respected International Crisis Group (ICG) published a report on 17 May 2010 calling for a full investigation into war crimes committed in the closing months of the civil war. The report concentrated on detailing evidence available to ICG in relation to a limited number of incidents (although the authors indicated that evidence was held with regard to numerous other such incidents).

One incident discussed in the report involved deliberate government shelling an area in a newly established No Fire Zone to which the United Nations and other aid agencies had relocated at the direction of the government. Government officials were fully aware of UN position and the fact that large numbers of civilians had camped nearby for safety. The location was just off the A35 highway near Suthanthirapuram Junction.

The ICJ report is very graphic, obviously based on eye-witness reports. In part, it reads as follows:

“At around 3:00am on 24 January the security forces shelled in and around the distribution centre. A shell landed between five metres and eight metres from the UN bunkers, in the middle of some IDP shelters. At least 11 civilians were killed and more wounded in this attack, including women and children. A WFP driver was hit in the back of the head with shrapnel. The decapitated body of a young woman landed in front of the UN bunker. A UN vehicle was damaged by shell fragments and covered with pieces of flesh and other debris from the explosion.”

In any domestic context, either the UK television station Channel 4's footage or the ICG eye witness accounts would have been sufficient for a proper investigation to be demanded by all and sundry.

Not in the world of international diplomacy.

Certainly not if one needs Sri Lanka’s support on any other issue. Certainly not if you want Sri Lanka to prevent its war victims from climbing into boats to travel to Australia claiming refugee status.

Australia’s response to the actions of the Sri Lankan government has been very muted as the 2009-10 DFAT annual report records. When Australia’s then foreign minister, Stephen Smith, visited Sri Lanka in December 2009, he had nothing to say about war crimes investigations. His mission was to seek Sri Lanka’s assistance to stem the flow of asylum seekers. Australia may have changed its foreign minister but its focus remains unchanged.

Now a new voice has drawn attention to the evidence of war crimes by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE. The combined voice belongs to a panel of experts appointed by the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, to advise him. The panel consisted of Marzuki Darusman (a former Attorney-General of Indonesia) as Chair, Steven Ratner (an academic international lawyer based at University of Michigan Law School) and Yasmin Sooka, a distinguished South African human rights worker.

The experts have used the phrase “credible allegations” of breaches of international humanitarian law; of war crimes; and of crimes against humanity. The panel has called for a genuine accountability process to be carried out by the Sri Lankan government and for a similar process to be conducted by the international community to monitor the government’s effort; to conduct its own independent investigations; and to collect and safeguard evidence.

The panel found five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the forces under the control of the government of Sri Lanka. The first such category is the killing of civilians by wide spread shelling of civilian areas. This included the use of heavy weapons to shell civilians in three consecutive no fire zones in which the Government had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate.

The forces shelled these areas despite knowledge gained from surveillance by unmanned aircraft that these were civilian areas and despite being told by NGOs, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The panel found that the majority of civilian casualties were caused by government shelling and that the government excluded international organisations from the conflict zone to limit external pressure and observations by those organisations.

The panel found that the government systematically shelled hospitals in the frontline area despite the location of such hospitals being well known to the government.

The government systematically deprived civilians in the conflict zone of food and basic medical supplies including supplies to treat wounds by deliberately underestimating the number of people behind the front lines and by preventing sufficient supplies from being delivered by humanitarian groups.

The panel found that the civilian survivors of the conflict were subjected to further human rights violations after the war ended. This included placing survivors in overcrowded camps; by screening for LTTE cadres in a non-transparent way by excluding the ICRC from such processes; and by executing and disappearing some suspects. Women survivors in particular have been exposed to various forms of sexual harassment and violation.

The panel also found that, outside the conflict zone, the government continued to attempt to silence media and other critics through a variety of actions including the use of white vans to make people disappear.

The panel also found six core categories of potential violations by the LTTE. These included using civilians as a human buffer; killing civilians who tried to flee LTTE control; using military equipment in the proximity of civilians; forced recruitment of children; use of forced labour to dig trenches; and killing civilians through suicide attacks.

The panel conducted a legal analysis of the conduct which comprised the credible allegations and found that such conduct if proven to occur was likely to amount to war crimes (breaches of international humanitarian law) and breaches of international human rights law.

It is not surprising that the panel found sufficient evidence to come the conclusions that it did. It is a little surprising that it was not waylaid by diplomatic pressure and prevented from being as forthright as it has been. One might well think that such strong findings by a group carrying the secretary-general’s authority might well change the selfish dynamics of denial by many in the international community and even of some within the Sri Lankan government.

The question remains, however, whether the panel’s conclusions will be acted upon. Will the international community realise that the game is up and everyone knows what it has been trying to ignore. Or will it sit on its hands and hope that the illusion of the emperor’s new clothes again get to cover the nakedness of those who committed serious crimes during the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Meanwhile Australia’s focus is on possibly reintroducing some form of temporary visa for refugees and finding off shore processing sites for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. There seems little interest in pressing for accountability for the crimes that led many people to seek asylum in Australia.

Stephen Keim has been a lawyer for over three decades and is a senior counsel for the state of Queensland. He is president of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights. Stephen won the Australian Human Rights Commission 2009 Human Rights Medal.

© ABC Net

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Will Sri Lanka Tamils get justice from the UN?

By Ron Ridenour | Dissident Voice

Forty-seven governments on the Untied Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) will discuss and decide, beginning at its May 30th session, what to do about an unusually truthful report in the world of international politics.

The “Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka” was delivered to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 31 concerning: 1) alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the last phases of the 26-year old civil war, September 2008 to May 19, 2009; 2) consequences for approximately 300,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) and, by extension, for 2.7 million Sri Lankan Tamils, 13% of the 21 million population.

After receiving the report, which calls for investigations into these allegations, Ban Ki-moon stated that he did not have the power alone but one of three UN bodies had to request such action, either the General Assembly or the Security Council or the Human Rights Council.

The panel—chairman Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), Steven Ratner (US), and Yasmin Sooka (South Africa)—was commissioned by the Secretary General, June 22, 2010, after Sri Lanka’s government had failed to rehabilitate or reconcile with the Tamils affected by the brutal war, which, according to the Panel, caused up to 40,000 civilian deaths in those eight months, plus several thousand combatants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and government soldiers.

The Panel began work in September 2010 but had to conduct its research outside Sri Lanka as the government refused this United Nations body permission to enter its country. The Panel could interview many eye witnesses, however, who were eventually released from military camps after months of detention—many of whom bribed their way out—or who were able to escape the war zone towards the end on boats provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Several ICRC workers and other humanitarian employees were killed by government military shelling.

Of the dozens of recommendations proposed by the panel, the last two concern the United Nations.

“A. The Human Rights Council should be invited to reconsider its May 2009 Special Session Resolution (A/HRC/8-11/L. 1/Rev. 2) regarding Sri Lanka, in light of this report.”

The above cited resolution had been proposed by the Sri Lankan government to praise its behavior in the war and condemn only the LTTE for war crimes and terrorism. Not a member of the HRC, Sri Lanka got Cuba, then the Non-Aligned Movement president, to introduce it. It passed with 29 voting in favor and 12 against with six abstentions.

The Panel determined that, “the Human Rights Council may have been acting on incomplete information”.

“B. The Secretary-General should conduct a comprehensive review of actions by the United Nations system during the war in Sri Lanka and the aftermath, regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates.”

The Panel criticized the UN’s role in this conflict. “During the final stages of the war, the United Nations political organs and bodies failed to take actions that might have protected civilians.”

The Panel recommended that the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) should “commence genuine investigations”, and an independent international mechanism established by the UN Secretary-General should also investigate what did occur.

The Panel recommended that GOSL should also “issue a public, formal acknowledgement of its role in and responsibility for extensive civilian casualties.”

In its summary, the Panel wrote:

The Panel’s determination of credible allegations reveals a very different version of the final stages of the war than that maintained to this day by the Government of Sri Lanka. The Government says it pursued a ‘humanitarian rescue operation’ with a policy of ‘zero civilian casualties’. In stark contrast, the Panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity (author emphasis). Indeed, the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace.

Especially the Panel found credible allegations associated with the final stages of the war. Between September 2008 and 19 May 2009, the Sri Lanka Army advanced its military campaign into the Vanni using large-scale and widespread shelling causing large numbers of civilian deaths. This campaign constituted persecution of the population of the Vanni. Around 330,000 civilians were trapped into an ever decreasing area, fleeing the shelling but kept hostage by the LTTE. The Government sought to intimidate and silence the media and other critics of the war through a variety of threats and actions, including the use of white vans to abduct and to make people disappear.

The Government shelled on a large scale in three consecutive No Fire Zones, where it had encouraged the civilian population to concentrate, even after indicating that it would cease the use of heavy weapons. It shelled the United Nations hub, food distribution lines and near the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ships that were coming to pick up the wounded and their relatives from the beaches. It shelled in spite of its knowledge of the impact, provided by its own intelligence systems and through notification by the United Nations, the ICRC and others. Most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by Government shelling.

The Government systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines. All hospitals in the Vanni were hit by mortars and artillery, some of them were hit repeatedly, despite the fact that their locations were well-known to the Government. The Government also systematically deprived people in the conflict zone of humanitarian aid, in the form of food and medical supplies, particularly surgical supplies, adding to their suffering.

The Panel’s full text of 214 pages lists details of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity on both sides in paragraphs 246-252:
The government is accused of: murder, extermination, mutilation, arbitrary imprisonment, rape, torture, persecution founded on race, religion or politics, and disappearances.

The LTTE is accused of: violence to life and person, torture, mutilation, forced labor and forced recruitment of children, and shooting civilians trying to flee the war zone.

The IDP Tamils were brutally confined and treated. Tamils in their traditional Northern and Eastern “High Security Zones” are militarized, denied normal rights, intimidated and made victims of violence.
The Panel therefore recommended that GOSL end all state violence, release all displaced persons and facilitate their return to their homes or provide for resettlement. [Thousands of Tamil homes have been taken over by soldiers and other Sinhalese.] It should also repeal the Emergency Laws that deny democratic and civil rights.

The Mahinda Rajapaksa family regime continues to deny any wrong-doing, contending that NO civilians were killed and were later well treated in IDP camps. It claims it only attacked the LTTE. If there were civilians killed, according to government logic, it is their own fault for being there. The Panel cites international law that “an attack remains unlawful if it is conducted simultaneously at a lawful military object and an unlawfully-targeted civilian population” (paragraph 199).

The GOSL says it has established a transparency process to address the past from the 2002 ceasefire agreement to the end of the conflict, the so-called Lessens Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

While the Panel views this as a “potentially useful opportunity to begin a national dialogue”, the “LLRC fails to satisfy key international standards of independence and impartiality, as it is compromised by its composition and deep-seated conflicts of interests of some of its members.”— Three were government officials; one an Attorney-General.

The Panel also points to the history of conflict between the government and Tamils seeking full rights. For decades the Tamils used Gandhian civil disobedience, non-violent tactics before many took up arms in several groups. The Tamils have suffered half-a-dozen pogroms, with government backing, in which thousands were brutally murdered, including mutilation and being burned alive.

In the few instances in which governments have set up commissions of inquiry to examine human rights abuses, they have “failed to produce a public report and recommendations have rarely been implemented”.

The fact is, states the report (paragraph 28):

After independence [from Great Britain in 1948], political elites tended to prioritize short-term political gains, appealing to communal and ethnic sentiments, over long-term policies, which could have built an inclusive state that adequately represented the multicultural nature of the citizenry. Because of these dynamics and divisions, the formation of a unifying national identity has been greatly hampered. Meanwhile, Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism gained traction, asserting a privileged place for the Sinhalese as protectors of Sri Lanka, as the sacred home of Buddhism. These factors resulted in devastating and enduring consequences for the nature of the state, governance and inter-ethnic relations in Sri Lanka.

The first pogrom took place in June 1956 as the new Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike (Sri Lanka Freedom Party/SLFP—the same party to which the Rajapaksas belong) backed the “Sinhala Only” bill, one of several discriminatory measures against the Tamil people. Because some Tamils conducted sit-ins, Buddhist monk-led mobs rampaged for ten days, murdering 150 Tamils and burning their homes and businesses. Ironically, because Bandaranaike was willing to engage in dialogue with Tamil leaders he was murdered by a “pacifist” Buddhist monk, September 29, 1959.

Bandaranaike’s widow, Sirimavo, became PM in July 1960 and continued discriminatory policies against Tamils. She sat as PM or President four terms spread over 40 years, for a total of 13 years. She was the world’s first female PM and brought Sri Lanka into the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) as a founding member, in 1961. NAM, now with118 state member, stands against imperialism, interference from foreign nations, bloc politics, and against racism. Cuba and other progressive governments, as well as reactionary ones in the “Third World”- based NAM have, therefore, backed Sri Lanka in international issues.

In 2004, Cuba and Venezuela launched ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) as an alternative to capitalist economic and political coalitions. Today there are eight Latin American government members, including Ecuador, which is now on the HRC along with Cuba. In 2009, Bolivia and Nicaragua, both in ALBA, were members of the HRW supporting Sri Lanka.

These socialist leaning governments have better human rights records than the previous capitalist governments of their countries, which were for many decades under the dictates of US imperialism and before that under European colonialism. ALBA partners now have a chance whether on the Council or not to help the Tamil people in some way, also by calling for an investigation.

This is the challenge that the countries of NAM on the HRC now face with the Panel’s recommendations for an international investigation into alleged war crimes. Will they resist criticizing a member for its racist and terrorist actions against an entire people, or will they take sides with a clearly oppressed people? The latter choice might place them voting alongside the rich, Western nations that will probably call for some sort of an investigation. (See my piece on this dilemma.)

As I view the possible thinking of socialist Cuba and other NAM countries, the dilemma is between supporting sovereignty for Third World countries confronted with interference from imperialist and former colonialist states, a legitimate issue, and conducting national policies in such a way that no section of the population is systematically discriminated against or subject to genocide.

Since the 2009 HRC resolution, there are 15 new countries on it, among them the US. One must ask: just what is the game plan of the US and its European allies, who make sounds of protest against Sri Lanka’s abuse of human rights while they are the worst offenders, constantly engaging in aggressive wars against NAM members and others: now warring against the sovereign government of Libya, the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Palestine.

One can also ask why one of the Panel members, Ratner, participated in such an elaborate, comprehensive and just report. As a legal expert of international law he advised the US State Department (1998-2008), which is the major political aggressor in the world and has backed Sinhalese nationalist governments against Tamil’s liberation efforts, providing armaments, intelligence, finances, military training, propaganda. (See my article.)

But then most governments of both “blocs” have done the same: China, Russia, India, the UK and other European states, even Iran and also and especially Israel.

Clearly victims of US permanent war aggression, such as Cuba, react against its hypocritical “support” for “human rights”, and side with the “victim” Sri Lanka. Not in all cases, however, is the “victim” innocent. There are more offenders of human lives and civil rights than the imperialists. And the Sinhalese majority has been whipped up by Buddhist supremacist clergy and Sinhalese nationalist chauvinism by all the governments in Sri Lanka since 1948.

Unfortunately, and without comprehension from my viewpoint, most of the Sinhalese-led Communist, Trotskyist, and Maoist parties have immorally allied themselves with the two major parties to keep the Tamils down.

The United Nations is comprised of 192 nations, only three in the world are not in it: Kosovo—a separatist state creation of the US-EU; Taiwan, a separated part of China; and 771 people in the state of the Vatican City. The member states of the HRC, with China and Russia and other large countries represent more than one-half the world’s citizens.

Third World countries comprise the majority on the HRC. They have many ethnic peoples long oppressed and brutalized by others. Let us remember Rwanda and how the UN failed to intervene and prevent genocide of one million people. The UN again failed in a similar debacle in Sri Lanka. Let us hope that the Human Rights Council will redeem these tragedies regardless of motives.

Ron Ridenour is an activist who has written many books on Cuba, including Cuba: Beyond the Crossroads (2006) and Cuba at Sea (2008).

© Dissident Voice

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sri Lanka: The denial syndrome

Dr.Kumar David | South Asia Analysis Group

"Society is in denial because the army is a microcosm of society. It is not that Americans don’t or can’t know about carpet bombing, a million dead in Vietnam and Laos, an ecology incinerated and war crimes. No, pardon the grammar, the syndrome is deeper; the collective American psyche can’t want to know. Similarly, Sri Lanka’s can’t want to know denial syndrome exemplifies an ubiquitous madness of all crowds."

There is outrage in Colombo and frenzy in the Sinhala diaspora about the Marzuki Darusman, Steven Ratner, Yasmin Sooka report to UNSG about war crimes in Sri Lanka. The law society, organisations of professionals and most Sinhalese political parties have thrown their weight behind the regime supporters mobilising on the streets. Conversely, Tamils and the outside world accept the reports veracity. GoSL’s friends Russia and China say raking up a fuss will “complicate” reconciliation but have not contested the report’s factuality. The Indian Government, GoSL’s principal champion, has kept a low profile, but Indian public opinion is outraged and even Rajapakse stalwart Hindu is less blasé than usual. Either the whole outside world is insane, or, appalling atrocities were perpetrated by both GoSL and the LTTE in the closing months of the war.

The Panel and GoSL version of events are diametrically opposed, as schizophrenic as black and white, hence the prima face truthfulness is paramount. Sri Lankans ask: “Is this true? Did these things happen? Or is the Panel falsifying and fabricating with squalid motives?” In Colombo’s supra-charged streets and media frenzy, calls for an international investigation are beyond people’s mental preparedness till the unvarnished truth is made stark.

Whether the findings of the Panel are factual but the Lankan State had no choice but to resort to brutality to root out a “ruthless enemy”, or conversely, whether the LTTE did behave as said but in the course of a “liberation war” it was pushed to terrorism, these are judgements after the facts; logically consequent to elucidation of prima face veracity. mordant

Veracity, bias, conspiracy

The government says the Panel’s findings of bombing and shelling civilian encampments, safe zones and hospitals, are false. It denies shooting combatants after surrender and withholding humanitarian assistance from civilians. If the report is flawed a credible item by item rebuttal has to be produced by GoSL (or the LTTE-remnant if it rebuts anything). This was a “war without witnesses” at GoSL’s insistence; hence the onus for dispelling a flurry of charges and disproving a mass of evidence falls squarely on its shoulders. The sheer volume of material the Panel has accessed is staggering. The technical content show-cases the prowess of modern analytical methods and image processing. The submissions are, in part, an outcome of the exertions of the Tamil diaspora. It is up to the diaspora to press its case with an information overkill if it so wishes. The crucial issue for the Panel is: “Are the submissions true or false?”

The enquiry also accessed other sources including UN ground teams, NGOs, religious and medical personnel in the Vannie, and satellite images from UNOSAT and other satellite services. The Chanel-4 videos had previously been authenticated by two laboratories in the US. A full reading of the report engenders confidence that the panellists have not been taken for a ride. A striking feature is clarity of content and unambiguous confidence of tenor. GoSL has made no detailed or itemised refutation of the report’s principal assertions. A rebuttal that is subsequently falsified will be disastrous, so any rebuttal has to be watertight.

Videos, photographs and aerial reconnaissance images were used as supports. Satellite imagery was reviewed by the UN Office for Military Affairs and the UN Institute for Training and Research. In respect of video and photographic evidence the Panel says it relied on “authenticated” evidence. Presumably it had access to UN funds to purchase expert and scientific services, so the use of the word ‘authenticated’ is significant. Authentication is also important since some written and oral evidence, for understandable reasons, was made available under conditions of strict confidentiality and therefore warranted cross-checking. Sections 49 to 52 explain the methodology of verification and I accept due diligence was exercised. It is implausible to suggest that the panellists were tricked or arrived at conclusions without attention to detail and method. The report makes 196 pages of dense reading and I am satisfied the panellists approached their task conscientiously. The prima face findings and the recommendations for a formal inquiry are compelling.

Another safeguard is the international standing of the Panel members. The call by the Global Elders - Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Desmond Tutu and Sung San Suu Kyi - for follow up action is a vote of confidence in the personal integrity of Darusman, Ratner and Sooka.

A feature, obscured by universally hostile comment in Sri Lanka, is that the report includes detailed and credible indictment of the LTTE in addition to its findings against GoSL. These accounts can be found in paragraphs 97 to 99 and 112 to 114 and elsewhere. The LTTE forced civilians to move out of their homes and villages, used civilians as human shields, forcibly recruited children, and cold bloodedly murdered people attempting to flee captivity. The criticisms of the LTTE for war crimes and crimes against humanity are so devastating that the charge made in some quarters in Sri Lanka and the Singhalese diaspora that the panellists were bribed and worked in cahoots with rump LTTE elements has to be dismissed as cranky.

Having dismissed these risible allegation of conspiracy, what about systematic bias? The underlying rationale for considering the possibility of bias is that most LTTE leaders are dead, while those now accountable are leaders of Sri Lanka’s state and military and surviving LTTE leaders now aligned with the regime. Therefore findings against the LTTE have little practical consequence while holding the government responsible for war crimes panics the leaders. I mulled the possibility of bias but eventually dropped it because of the weight and volume of evidence. Given the mass of written, oral, electronic and satellite data, it would not have been possible to reject it all and arrive at a different set of conclusions.

The LSSP’s telling slip

The statement of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka is no surprise; it is a restatement of GoSL positions. ‘The Report is false, a fabrication; the Panel is conspiring with an LTTE rump and global imperialism to scuttle Mahinda Rajapakse’s the anti-imperialist policies’. This summary is not a caricature. Indian Communists have taken an opposite position; CPI(M) State Secretary G. Ramakrishanan has demanded: “The party will demonstrate in the first week of May demanding a detailed enquiry into these human rights violations, punishment of war criminals, rehabilitation of the affected and provincial autonomy for the Tamils in the island nation”.

Still, the climax comes in the fascinating Lanka Sama Samaja Party analysis. Why this had to be so I can only guess; maybe the presence of a left-tendency in the LSSP made the leadership wary of making itself grotesquely silly. The significant bit consists of a few lines buried in repeats of GoSL positions.

QUOTE: “The Panel appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been presented with a large body of information, some of which may be accurate. However much of what has been included are clearly exaggerations, distortions or even complete fabrications by those wishing to discredit the Government. Unfortunately the sources include people who are expected to be neutral, such as members of United Nations and other international organizations, but over the years it has become evident that many of them are blatantly biased. Even if the three members preparing this report had been neutral, they were probably unaware of this and have taken the statements given to them to be factual.” END QUOTE.

This reluctant confession can be magnified several fold; the LSSP could not with impunity rubbish the force of evidence. The “may be” in the first sentence is a reluctant concession that the material is accurate. If only “much” is exaggeration, distortion and fabrication, then much else is truthful and accurate. The LSSP concedes that panel members are upright in their intentions, just taken for a ride! To say of the panellists, “they were probably unaware” of their primary responsibility, factual veracity, is gratuitous in the extreme. Grudgingly, the LSSP has endorsed my conclusion; by and large, and taken as a whole, the Darusman Report is credible.

It is not the Lankan left but India that will be decisive. The Indian left was decimated in West Bengal and lost narrowly in Kerala in state elections, but did quite well by clinging to Jayalalitha’s sari string (won 18 of the 22 seats it contested) in Tamil Nadu. The TN State CPI and CPI(M) have Lankan war crimes in their cross hairs, so how much longer can Delhi ignore TN? Jayalalitha in her first interview after winning the elections demand: “The Indian government must ensure Sri Lanka’s athipar (president) stands trial in international courts.” Internationally, Delhi has compromised itself in world HR forums to protect Colombo, so can it backtrack now, or has it painted itself too far into a corner? If you tell one lie, they say, you soon have to tell two more to conceal the first!

The ubiquity of denial

Japanese textbooks to this day conceal the unspeakable atrocities of its occupying forces in China in the 1930s and 1940s; society is in denial because the army is a microcosm of society. It is not that Americans don’t or can’t know about carpet bombing, a million dead in Vietnam and Laos, an ecology incinerated and war crimes. No, pardon the grammar, the syndrome is deeper; the collective American psyche can’t want to know.

Croatia was in shock when the International Criminal Court convicted two of its generals for war crimes in hostilities with Serbia in 1995. True it was a national liberation war, but crimes are crimes, irrespective of the greater national, class or political context. It is not easy for any community to digest such truths. Croats and Serbs are bitter about the other’s atrocities, but an impenetrable can’t-want-to-know blurs the collective psyche when faced with evidence that their side was no better. Sri Lanka’s can’t want to know denial syndrome exemplifies an ubiquitous madness of all crowds. I am not making excuses, perish the thought; just being hardnosed.


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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Military to provide "Leadership Training" for Sri Lankan university students

Colombo Page

Sri Lanka's Higher Education Ministry has said that leadership training for students who have qualified to enter the universities will commence next Monday (23).

The Higher Education Ministry has said that at least 10,000 students would participate in the programme.

Higher Education Ministry Secretary Dr. Sunil Jayantha Navaratne has told the media that the 10,000 students who had obtained the highest marks at this year's GCE Advanced Level examination have been called for the leadership programme.

The programme is to be held at 28 army camps around the country. The training programme would be conducted by the military under the supervision of university authorities.

According to Dr. Navaratne, 10,000 more students would join the programme once the university cut-off marks are released.

© Colombo Page

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Over hundred thousand IDPs waiting to return

BBC Sinhala

After two years since the Sri Lankan government has declared its military victory over the Tamil Tigers, over one hundred thousand displaced had not returned home says a new UN report.

"Between 1 April and 13 May 2011, 1,139 persons (366 families) departed the Menik Farm and Kodikamam Ramavil camps for their areas of origin in Mullaitivu (Maritimepattu and Odusuddan) and Kilinochchi (Pachchilaipallai and Karachchi) Districts, increasing the total population returned to the Northern Province to 373,593 persons (114,561 families).

Out of camps but not home

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), many war displaced who had left the camps have not reached their homes.

"The resettlement of Menik Farm IDPs of Kilinochchi origin is complete, and the vast majority of the remaining 16,401 persons (4,981 families) hail from Mullaitivu District. Apart from areas with ongoing mine clearance operations in this district, there are several Grama Niladhari Divisions (GNDs) still to be released for mine action interventions to pave the way for IDP returns".

With host families

It says that several families are still stranded in Transit.

"By 13 May 2011, a total of 1,758 persons (467 families) are stranded in transit locations in Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya Districts".

According to the report, many of the families had left the camps but are living with host families or welfare centres away from their homes and farmlands.

"By 13 May 2011, there was an approximate total of 117,888 IDPs, including from the protracted caseload, living with host families in Vavuniya (18,589 persons), Mannar (4,928 persons) and Jaffna (94,371 persons) Districts".

Released combatants

The report quotes the Commissioner-General for Rehabilitation (CGR) on the numbers detainees released by the government.

"Around 206 alleged former LTTE combatants on 1 April and an additional 480 cadre on 23 April to relatives, following rehabilitation. Moreover authorities have announced plans to release a further group of alleged LTTE fighters to mark the Vesak Poya Day".

The CGR states that so far approximately 6,500 former LTTE cadre have been released, with 4,380 remaining in 'protective custody and rehabilitation centres', where they receive vocational training and education to support their reintegration into the social mainstream.

© BBC Sinhala

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