Lord Michael Naseby on Wednesday (19) questioned why wartime dispatches from Colombo-based UK Defence Attaché Lt. Col. Anthony Gash had been heavily censored, if both the Defence Ministry and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) believed reports were useless.
In a hard-hitting speech delivered in the House of Lords during the Queen’s Speech debate, which coincided with Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE, Lord Naseby said: “But just recently, Her Majesty’s Government stated in a letter sent to me from the MoD on 25 March, and in another from the FCO, that “dispatches written by Lieutenant Colonel Gash … reported on isolated information … from a number of different sources … without offering any independent verification of this information. As such, they cannot be considered an evidenced-based assessment.”
“One wonders why in heaven the dispatches I have—48 pages of what has been produced—are so heavily redacted if they are so useless. In my judgment, that redaction should be removed forthwith.”
Lord Naseby also pointed out how the UK had allowed British citizen of Sri Lankan origin, Anton Balasingham, to engage in terrorism and wage war from their International Secretariat in London.
The following is the full text of the statement released by Lord Naseby’s Office: “My Lords, I welcome the gracious speech. My comments will be on global Britain, specifically the Indo-Pacific tilt. My own background is that I have lived and worked in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and I know the rest of ASEAN quite well. I will specifically address Sri Lanka, and I declare an interest as joint chair of the All-Party Group (on Sri Lanka).
Today in Sri Lanka, there is huge tension over the UNHCR’s report on alleged war crimes by the Sri Lankan armed forces, and the UK in its role as chair of the Core Group—the USA having pulled out, as it sees no point in it. The war of 2009 was not some minor insurrection, so judgment must be made on the basis of the law of armed conflict, known as the international humanitarian law. It was a war between a democratically elected Government and probably the world’s most evil terrorists, who killed two presidents, Ministers, civilians in their thousands and the most moderate Tamil leaders. It was a war partially conducted from Camden in London, at the Tamil Tigers’ international HQ, led by Anton Balasingham—a UK citizen. Millions were raised illegally here on the ground in this country. His wife, Adele, was fighting in Sri Lanka and was closely involved in recruiting over 5,000 child soldiers, as stated by UNICEF. This is a war crime by any yardstick.
Charges by the UN start with the Darusman report, from three human rights lawyers who never visited Sri Lanka. Worse still, they claimed that at least 40,000 civilians were killed. But all the sources of evidence are to be hidden for 20 years. Is this robust evidence? Why the secrecy?
The second UN report, from OISL, is largely based on the first, Darusman. I spent three years looking at all the sources, which I have listed in my book, Sri Lanka: Paradise Lost; Paradise Regained. I have given a copy to my noble friend; I do not know whether he has received it, because he has not yet told me. The claim is of Tamil genocide, but my firm conclusion is that there were a maximum of 6,000 to 7,000 deaths. My evidence is verified—there was no genocide. My evidence comes from sources such as US Ambassador Blake, the UN in-country team, the census done after the war by the Tamils, University Teachers for Human Rights, the UK’s own expert military attaché in the field and many others, all of whom confirm the figure of 6,000 to 7,000. But just recently, Her Majesty’s Government stated in a letter sent to me from the MoD on 25 March, and in another from the FCO, that
“dispatches written by Lieutenant Colonel Gash … reported on isolated information … from a number of different sources … without offering any independent verification of this information. As such, they cannot be considered an evidenced-based assessment”.
One wonders why in heaven the dispatches I have—48 pages of what has been produced—are so heavily redacted if they are so useless. In my judgment, that redaction should be removed forthwith.
It is wonderful—not only is our military attaché cast aside and my evidence seemingly cast aside but it goes on. I say to my noble friend: read the Paranagama commission report, which had some of the UK’s finest human rights lawyers as advisers—namely Sir Desmond de Silva, Sir Geoffrey Nice and others. Their eminent view on Darusman was that it was of no value to a court seeking to establish the truth because the reports are based on anonymous sources. There are others on top of this; there is the US military attaché. All report that the Sri Lankan army behaved appropriately under the leadership of General Shavendra Silva. OISL’s view on the camp of 200,000 was that it was a quasi-concentration camp. How so, when the Red Cross was there from day one? Additionally, the Tamil MPs who visited it said a huge thank you to the Sri Lankan Government for the way the Tamils were looked after.
I turn briefly to the way forward. Truth and reconciliation are a huge challenge, but the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury visited in 2019 and said that Sri Lanka was making real progress. Our colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, says from the Legatum Institute that Sri Lanka has done extremely well over the last decade. I urge the Minister to work with Sri Lanka on implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the Paranagama report to establish a truth and reconciliation committee. If the UK chooses to dictate, then let me be clear: there is a clear risk to our Indo-Pacific strategy on Sri Lanka. It will be forced back to rely on China, thereby threatening the sea lanes and the dissident Tamils setting up an independent state. Is this really a way to say thank you to a country whose people helped us in two world wars and whose Government accepted and helped our Government over the Falklands vote in the United Nations?”
In his response to Lord Naseby, Lord Tariq Ahmad confirmed that his proposed visit to Sri Lanka had been cancelled. Lord Ahmad said: “”My noble friend Lord Naseby talked about the importance of reconciliation with Sri Lanka, which I was due to visit in the coming few days—unfortunately, the national lockdown there has prevented me from making that visit next week. Nevertheless, I am engaging directly with the new Government—but we stand by the strength of our resolution, passed at the Human Rights Council.”
MONLAR: Govt. has fallen for millers’ ruse
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Farmers would be harvesting their paddy by the time the government imports 100,000 tonnes of rice and it would lead to a decrease in prices they received from millers, Chinthaka Rajapakshe, Moderator of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) warned yesterday.
Addressing a post-Cabinet Press Conference on Monday, co-Cabinet spokesman and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella announced that the Cabinet had approved the import of 100,000 tonnes of rice to increase competition in the market.
Rajapakshe commented that successive governments had been importing large quantities of rice close to the harvesting period.
“Several large mill owners create an artificial shortage of rice when the harvesting season nears. The government responds by importing large quantities of rice, often of dubious quality. The paddy prices collapse, allowing mill owners to buy paddy from farmers at dirt cheap prices and then the mill owners release some of the stocks they have to the market. Given that Sri Lankans prefer to eat Sri Lankan varieties and that the imported rice is of poor quality; no one buys the imported rice,” Rajapakshe said.
The MONLAR moderator said that there was an assumption that the Yala harvest would be low because of the impact of fertiliser shortages on rice production. There had been reports that rice plants were yellowing and their growth was retarded due to a shortage of nitrogen.
Commenting on the allegations that there was a shortage of fertiliser, Minister of Plantation, Ramesh Pathirana told The Island that by the next paddy season the government would be able to provide adequate amounts of compost fertiliser. “There will be some difficulties in the next few months. We must work together to face them. Everyone agrees that organic agriculture is good, but some think the government’s decision was too hasty. However, by the time the Maha season starts we will have enough fertiliser stocks. We are also ready to compensate farmers if there are issues in the current season.”
In response, Rajapakshe said that it was not too late to address the issues that had arisen from nitrogen shortages and questioned how the government had decided that it needed to import 100,000 tonnes of rice, given that it had not studied the impact of fertiliser shortage on the paddy harvest.
“How on earth did they come up with this number? Obviously, this is a scheme to enrich a few businessmen, politicians and some officials. The government should empower farmers’ associations, cooperatives and small mill owners if it wants to find a permanent solution to annual rice shortages experienced by the people,” he said.
Wijeyadasa no longer considers himself govt. member
By Shamindra Ferdinando
SLPP lawmaker Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakse, PC, says he no longer considers himself as a member of the ruling party.
Asked to comment on his present status, the Justice Minister, in the previous UNP regime, said that he had stopped participating in SLPP group meetings since the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in Oct last year.
Dr. Rajapakse, who entered Parliament from the Colombo District on the SLPP ticket at the August 2020 general election, voted for 20th Amendment despite his criticism of it. In the previous Parliament, Dr. Rajapakse represented the UNP.
Responding to another query, Rajapakse said that the SLPP had refrained from appointing him to any committee though he had in the past served and in some instances headed important outfits, such as the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE).
The former minister alleged that the SLPP had caused so much turmoil that the country was now in a bind. Instead of taking the people into confidence the incumbent administration adopted strategies meant to suppress dissent.
Commenting on what he called a severe economic crisis against the backdrop of the worsening Covid-19 epidemic, Dr. Rajapakse alleged that those at the helm lacked basic understanding to rationally address issues.
The former minister said that the government appeared to have ignored the growing threat of the EU going the whole hog in the wake of its parliament adopting a resolution against Sri Lanka.
The resolution expressed the concern of the European Parliament regarding the PTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and related human rights issues in Sri Lanka. It highlighted that the GSP+ status is linked to the implementation of 27 international conventions by Sri Lanka. The GSP+ monitoring process is conducted on a regular basis by the European Commission and the European External Action Service, the EU mission in Colombo told The Island.
The following is the relevant section from the EU resolution: “…Underlines that the GSP+ scheme offered to Sri Lanka has made a significant contribution to the country’s economy, from which exports to the EU have increased to EUR 2.3 billion, making the EU Sri Lanka’s second-largest export market; highlights the ongoing monitoring of Sri Lanka’s eligibility for GSP+ status and stresses that the continuance of GSP+ trade preferences is not automatic; calls on the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to take into due account current events when assessing Sri Lanka’s eligibility for GSP+ status; further calls on the Commission and the EEAS to use the GSP+ as a leverage to push for advancement on Sri Lanka’s human rights obligations and demand the repeal or replacement of the PTA, to carefully assess whether there is sufficient reason, as a last resort, to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of Sri Lanka’s GSP+ status and the benefits that come with it, and to report to Parliament on this matter as soon as possible.”
For want of a cohesive strategy, the SLPP hadn’t been able at least to rationally assess external and internal threats and take remedial measures, the MP said.
Referring to the passage of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill, MP Rajapakse alleged that the government was on an extremely dangerous path. The EU resolution reflected the Western thinking and the current leadership acted as if China was our main buyers. How could they ignore the fact that the US and EU countries remain major contributors to the Sri Lanka economy though our decision-making process was aimed at satisfying China.
Geneva concerned about deaths in police custody, Shani’s safety
The Sri Lanka Core Group has joined the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) in calling for what it calls independent and impartial investigations into deaths in police custody. The six-member grouping led by the UK has also stressed the need to ensure security of former CID Director SSP Shani Abeysekera, who recently received bail.
Abeysekera had been interdicted. The ex-CID Director has also figured in taped conversations with former MP Ranjan Ramanayake now serving a jail sentence for contempt of the Supreme Court, discussing how to fix certain court cases then being heard, especially against political opponents.
The following is the text of statement issued by Canada, Germany, North Macedonia, Malawi,
Montenegro and the UK at the 47th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC): “Council resolution 46/1 called upon the Sri Lankan Government to address the harmful legacies of war and to protect human rights, including for those from religious minorities. We regret the lack of progress on these issues, with a number of further concerning developments.
The Sri Lankan Government has attempted to dismiss a number of emblematic cases and to initiate criminal proceedings against individuals pursuing some of these cases. This counters the Council’s call for prompt, thorough and impartial investigations. We call for former CID director Shani Abeysekera’s safety to be ensured.
We are deeply concerned about the ongoing use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the recent intention to introduce a rehabilitation process lacking adequate judicial oversight. Human rights lawyer Hejaaz Hizbullah, and poet and teacher Ahnaf Jazeem, remain detained without trial and further arrests under this Act have continued, including among minority communities and the political opposition.
We remain concerned about the restrictions on memorialization . We join the Bar Association of Sri Lanka in requesting independent and impartial investigations into recent deaths in police custody
We are concerned over appointments to the Office on Missing Persons and reiterate the importance of ensuring independent and credible institutions to achieve justice.
We encourage Sri Lanka to cooperate with the Council and OHCHR in relation to resolution 46/1 and stand ready to support this.”
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