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Midweek Review

Missed opportunities!



By Shamindra Ferdinando

UN Resident Coordinator in Colombo Hanna Singer-Hamdy paid a courtesy call on Defence Secretary (retd.) Gen. Kamal Gunaratne on Sept. 23 at the Defence Headquarters Complex, Sri Jayewardenepura, Kotte. The Egyptian was accompanied by the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Alan Cole, formerly of the British Royal Navy.

The discussion covered Sri Lanka’s high profile ongoing campaign against narcotics trade and the government’s response to the raging Covid-19 epidemic.

A brief press release issued by Lt. Col. Nalin Herath, Officiating Director, Army Media Centre, in Sinhala, Tamil and English didn’t make reference to any other issue. Therefore, the writer rationally ascertained that no other matter had been taken up at the discussion.

Against the backdrop of the 48th session of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the 76th session of the UNGA in New York, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government could have used the Sept. 23 meet to brief the UN Resident Coordinator Singer as regards the accountability process.

The Defence Secretary, on behalf of the government, could have handed over a comprehensive report to the top UN official in Sri Lanka, in response to one-sided and high-handed the war crimes agenda pursued by the UNHRC against the country. Unfortunately, the government didn’t. The failure on the part of the government to do so underscored the absence of a cohesive mechanism to counter the campaign targeting Sri Lanka. Shoddy handling of the accountability process is an affront to the war-winning military that sacrificed so much to fight and defeat, militarily, ‘the world’s worst terrorist outfit’. More than 12 years after the eradication of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka remains under the UNHRC microscope, while many other countries, that caused death and misery to millions by launching false pretext wars or through illegal regime change actions are allowed to go scot-free.

For some strange reason, most probably for lack of competence at the Foreign Ministry, the government is reluctant to properly present Sri Lanka’s case before the international community. Let us hope that with Prof. G.L. Peiris, the eminent former law academic at the helm of the Foreign Ministry, we can mount a relentless diplomatic campaign to have the country cleared from such blatant accusations. In the process, it could even go to the extent of exposing, particularly our main accusers, who despite having plenty of innocent blood in their hands are pursuing this vendetta against us due to geo-political agendas.

The wartime General Officer Commanding (GoC) the elite 53 Division, the then Maj. Gen. Gunaratne could have meticulously briefed the UN Chief here, who, too, has had the audacity to make public comments on the country’s internal affairs and get away with such behaviour.

The author of ‘Road to Nanthikadal’, Gunaratne commanded one of the two fighting Divisions, the other being the 58 Division commanded by the present Army Commander, General Shavendra Silva, involved in the final phase of the offensive. It would be pertinent to mention that a battalion (4 Vijayabahu Infantry Regiment) that had been under the overall command of the then Maj. Gen. Gunaratne killed Prabhakaran. The 53 Division had been involved in the unprecedented Anandapuram battle (late March-early April 2009) along with 58 Division and Task Force 8 that dealt a massive blow to the LTTE.

Why didn’t the government exploit the Sept. 23 meet that took place the day after President Rajapaksa addressed the 76th session of the UNGA in New York?

Sri Lanka’s continuing failure to set the record straight should be examined taking into consideration UNHRC Chief Michelle Bachelet’s latest oral update on the situation in Sri Lanka (on Sept. 13), Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris’ response by Zoom to the former twice Chilean President Bachelet on the following day, President Rajapaksa’s meet with UNSG Antonio Guterres (on Sept. 19), President Rajapaksa’s address to the UNGA (Sept. 20) and three meetings Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris had with Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Indian Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar also in New York.

The Defence Secretary is the ideal person to discuss the accountability issue. With Sri Lanka firmly on the UN agenda and the issue coming up for scrutiny once again at the 49th session in March 2022, the government cannot turn a blind eye to the developments taking place.

Vanni war compared with Ruwanda et al

Antonio Guterres’s predecessor, Ban Ki-moon once compared the Vanni offensive with that of Ruwanda and Serbia genocides in the 1990s. Gunaratne strongly disputed Ban Ki-moon’s comparison of Vanni offensive with clear cut cases of genocide in those two countries

South Korean Ki-moon played his part to facilitate the Western agenda in spite of his own mission in Colombo contradicting unsubstantiated accusations.

The government owed an explanation why absolutely no attempt was made in Geneva or New York to challenge the unsubstantiated war crimes allegations that paved the way for Western powers and other interested parties to place Sri Lanka on the Geneva agenda.

Instead of setting the record straight, President Rajapaksa assured his readiness to work with domestic stakeholders, international partners, UN, civil society and Tamil expatriate groups, whereas FM Peiris reiterated Sri Lanka’s commitment to some key provisions in the resolution co-sponsored by the then Yahapalana government in 2015 as fait accompli, while strongly rejecting external interventions.

In separate meetings with Aussie Foreign Minister Patricia, Scotland Marise Payne and Indian counterpart Dr. Jaishankar, Prof. Peiris explained ground realities and the hostile approach adopted by interested parties. Prof. Peiris also elucidated to Scotland the wrongness in replacing domestic accountability mechanisms with external bodies, particularly the ad-hoc mechanism approved at the 46th Geneva session.

 Bachelet declared in her Sept. 13 speech that the UNHRC was going ahead with the investigation. Sri Lanka shouldn’t expect Scotland to take a stand favourable to Sri Lanka, under any circumstances, as the organisation Bachelet leads conveniently turned a Nelsonian eye to Indian sponsored terrorism that ravaged Sri Lanka. Did Commonwealth ever take a stand on the destabilisation of the smaller neighbour by the Commonwealth giant?

Prof. G.L. Peiris told his Australian counterpart Marise Payne how Bachelet followed a policy extremely detrimental to Sri Lanka as regards the accountability process. A Foreign Ministry press release quoted Prof. Peiris as having told Payne: “….there is a need to allow local institutions the space and opportunity to carry out their mandates and the establishment of an ad-hoc external mechanism that overrides this work is unnecessary and detrimental. It is premature and inappropriate to have a mechanism selectively targeting Sri Lanka that goes against the very principles of the UN Charter.”

Australia is aware of the Geneva project meant to undermine Sri Lanka. Regardless of close bilateral relations between Australia and Sri Lanka, the former will abide by the US position vis-a-vis Sri Lanka. The Australian policy should be examined, keeping in mind its role in the US-led alliances against China and extremely close relationship between Sri Lanka and China, the emerging world power.

The surprise Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS) alliance struck recently, at the expense of France, on supplying a nuclear powered submarine fleet to their colonial cousin Australia should be an example of the old adage that blood is thicker than water.

The new three nation Anglo-Saxon alliance suddenly arrayed against China should also serve as a warning to New Delhi that it is already an odd partner, though one of the earliest to sign up for Quad, comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia ranged against China. If they could ditch long standing European ally France without batting an eye lid, Delhi can imagine how they will treat her if they suddenly see India too as a rival like China.

French Foreign Minister Jan-Yves Le Drian went to the extent of alleging US President Joe Biden of stabbing France in the back.

“It’s really a stab in the back. We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed”, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told France Info radio. “I’m very angry today, and bitter… this is not something allies do to each other”, he said, noting that Australia would now have to explain how it would exit the contract.

A lesson for France

So Sri Lanka should not depend on foreign powers, entirely. It would be Sri Lanka’s responsibility to present its case before the global community. Major Western powers will never take a stand in support of a smaller nation at the expense of their overall strategy and lucrative business interests, the only exception being the case of Israel. There cannot be a better example than Australia going back on an agreement with France for what it considered a much better arrangement for Canberra. Obviously, not only Biden but the British and Australian leaders, too, stabbed France in the back.

In his talks with Dr. Jaishankar, Prof. Peiris declared Sri Lanka couldn’t accept external mechanisms active on the ground whereas the Indian Minister underscored the need for a fair and just resolution of residual issues in the interest of both countries.

Sri Lanka seems trapped in the eneva machinations. India, too, should be wary as its much touted relationship with the US does not mean a thing if one examined the way the US, the British and Australians sprang quite a despicable surprise.

Hope the world hasn’t forgotten how the US discarded Pakistan after having used the country in its proxy war to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and to intimidate India when it was seen as being in Soviet camp. New Delhi remained noncommittal regarding the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In fact, Indian destabilisation of Sri Lanka, in the 80s, is in line with its overall strategy to counter domestic threats emanating from Tamil Nadu in the backdrop of perceived threat of Sri Lanka being a base for US-Israeli operations.

However, for want of cohesive policy Sri Lanka, at least after the end of the war hadn’t made a genuine effort to set the record straight.

Prof. Peiris during his interactions with foreign dignitaries, has quite clearly explained Sri Lanka’s refusal to accept external mechanisms. President Rajapaksa, too, stressed the importance of domestic mechanisms in achieving reconciliation. Both the President and the Foreign Minister declared Sri Lanka’s readiness to work with domestic stakeholders, including the civil society, Tamil expatriate groups, international partners and the UN to accomplish genuine peace.

Pompeo on Shavendra

However, the incumbent government has so far failed to question the very basis for domestic mechanisms set up by the previous government on the strength of unsubstantiated allegations. The government owed an urgent explanation. There cannot be any excuse for not presenting a proper defense on behalf of the war-winning armed forces. Commander of the Army Gen. Shavendra Silva remains blacklisted by the US on unsubstantiated allegations. Let me reproduce the former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaration on Feb 14, 2020: “I am designating Shavendra Silva making him ineligible for entry into the U.S. due to his involvement in extrajudicial killings during Sri Lanka’s Civil War. The U.S. will not waver in its pursuit of accountability for those who commit war crimes and violate human rights.”

The US made the announcement after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa named Silva the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS). Another Gajaba Regiment veteran Chagie Gallage highlighted Sri Lanka’s pathetic failure to defend the military when he retired on August 31, 2018.

There had never been a previous instance of a senior officer in his farewell speech questioning the overall failure to counter the foreign project. This happened at Saliyapura, the famed Gajaba Regimental Headquarters.

He said: “Gajaba is engraved in golden letters in the annals of the Sri Lanka Army’s history, if not in the history of Sri Lanka … and I’m certain it will never be reversed by any. So, I’m happy to be retired being a tiny particle of that proud chapter of the history, though designated as a ‘War Criminal”.

About 10 months before Gallage’s retirement, Lord Naseby made a stunning revelation in the House of Lords. On the basis of hitherto confidential dispatches from the British High Commission in Colombo, during January-May 2009, the Conservative politician contradicted the very basis of the three-member Darusman report. This report, released on March 31, 2011, had been the primary reason for the 2015 accountability resolution that faulted the Sri Lanka Army.

The World War 11 fighter pilot fought a near three-year battle with the British administration to secure the confidential dispatches and was finally able to obtain a highly redacted version to contradict the lies in the second week of Oct 2017. Although the then Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC, in his address to the UNHRC made a reference to Lord Naseby’s revelations, Sri Lanka has so far not requested Geneva to examine the British dispatches.

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

Sri Lanka earlier squandered a similar golden opportunity to make a strong case for a revisit of the Darusman report in June 2011. The then US Defence Advisor in Colombo Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith quite convincingly defended the Sri Lanka Army at the 2011 Colombo Defence Seminar. The American contradicted unsubstantiated allegations raised by a retired Indian Major General Ashok K. Metha, formerly of the IPKF. Lt. Col. Smith must have made that declaration, based on information available to the US Embassy in Colombo as well as other dispatches from our war zone. And most importantly, the American officer made the declaration within three months after the releasing of the Darusman report. Sri Lanka is yet to use British and American dispatches in her defence.

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

According to the Darusman report (paragraph 23: Confidentiality of the Panel’s records), the accusations cannot be examined till 2031. This strange stipulation has a further clause stating that the time bar could be extended for a further period. We must be the only country not allowed to see our accusers or the case against us for so long! But, successive governments never took the entire gamut of issues into consideration before making representations on behalf of the country. The incumbent SLPP is no exception. In spite of repeated vows to defend the armed forces, the SLPP had pathetically failed in its duty and responsibility.

Predicament of former SLAF Chief

As a result of sheer negligence, Sri Lanka has ended up being categorised as a perpetrator of war crimes, and those who had fought for the country are targeted. There cannot be a better example than Air Marshal Sumangala Dias who suffered due to Sri Lanka’s failure. Canada refused to accept Dias as Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner though the former Sri Lanka Air Force Commander is not under human rights scrutiny. Subsequently, the government proposed Dias as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to Italy. However, we are yet unaware of Italy’s position. Italy as a member state of the EU, pursuing war crimes accusations against Sri Lanka, may not accept the retired SLAF Chief.

Prominent civil society activist Harsha Kumara Navaratne has quit the Human Rights Commission to take over the country’s mission in Ottawa. The former head of the NGO Seva Lanka, with his experience with the HRC, hopefully would be able to improve Sri Lanka’s image in Canada. The decision to name former minister Mahinda Samarasinghe as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Washington, too, is an interesting development. Samarasinghe handled human rights and related matters during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidency and was part of Sri Lanka’s delegation to Geneva. Perhaps the government expects missions in Washington (non- career diplomat), Ottawa (non- career diplomat) and London manned by career diplomat Saroja Sirisena to improve the ground situation. New Delhi should be part of the operation. Milinda Moragoda, who had served Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government as a Cabinet minister before switching allegiance to Mahinda Rajapaksa, recently took over the New Delhi mission. So, we now have two former ministers as heads of missions in New Delhi and Washington and prominent civil society activist in Ottawa.

Samarasinghe last served as the Ports and Shipping Minister. Having succeeded Arjuna Ranatunga (UNP), Samarasinghe, who represented the SLFP at that time, signed the 99-year-lease on the Hambantota port. Navaratne quit Seva Lanka chairmanship last month having disengaged from the NGO’s activity, beginning January this year. Navaratne’s appointment is in line with the government entering into a dialogue with the local civil society as well as President Gotabaya Rakapaksa’s declaration in New York his readiness to talk with Tamil expatriate groups. Whatever, the SLPP government does, it should set up a mechanism, without further delay, to counter those propagating lies in support of the Geneva project.

A role for ex-CNI

Perhaps former Chief of National Intelligence (CNI), Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendavitharana can be engaged to work out a proper strategy. Intelligence veteran Hendavitharana can be part of a special team assigned to build a strong case on behalf of the country on the basis of available information.

The information unintentionally made available by those pursuing war crimes probe can be quite useful to Sri Lanka as they are astonishing. Let there be a meticulous study of statements, accusations, documents and reports pertaining to accountability issues. Bachelet rushing to accuse the Sri Lanka Army of being responsible for so-called mass graves in Mannar, discovered in 2019, exposed the irresponsible conduct of the Geneva body, when a reputed US lab determined that those remains belonged to the colonial era.

Bachelet obviously acted on information provided by some Colombo-based diplomatic missions. There is no doubt that the British HC and the German Embassy in Colombo (both members of the self-appointed Sri Lanka Core Group in Geneva) influenced Bachel’s decision.

Due to petty political backbiting, Sri Lanka then lacked the political will to expose the Geneva project. As the simmering controversy over Mannar mass graves erupted during the yahapalana administration, the Foreign Ministry conveniently remained silent. That was nothing but treacherous behaviour and the Ministry, as one of the most important institutions, should be ashamed.

Sri Lanka didn’t have the guts to use Bachelet’s irresponsible conduct to challenge the overall process. Had there been a proper review of facts, since the change of government in Nov 2019, Gen. Gunaratne could have exploited his meeting with Hanaa Singer-Hamdy.

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Midweek Review

Parliament reels as Easter Sunday accusations tarnish members’ credibility



The LTTE used to mark 'Lt. Col.' Thileepan and Vaithilingam Sornalingam aka Col Sankar remembrance event together. The founder of the Tamileelam Air Force (TAF). Col. Sankar was killed by the Army on September 26 in 2001. (Tamil Net pic taken on Sept 26, 2008)

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Parliament last week wasted two days on a much hyped debate on national security and the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage carried out by local Muslim extremists radicalized by ISIS ideology. The debate didn’t help political parties represented in Parliament to reach consensus on the post-Easter Sunday reconciliation plan.

But, the ruling ‘Pohottuwa’ party and the solitary UNP National List MP Wajira Abeywardena defended the handling of the Easter Sunday investigations, whereas those who were in the Yahapalana Cabinet, that ruled the country at the time, attacked the Wickremesinghe-Rajapaksa government over its alleged failure.

A careful consideration of speeches made on September 21 and 22 clearly reflected the fact that political parties remained committed to their original positions, though the political landscape has changed. The exchange between former President Maithripala Sirisena, MP, and war-winning Army Commander Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, MP, on the first day of the debate, underlined the pathetic state of affairs.

Polonnaruwa District ‘Pohottuwa’ lawmaker Sirisena’s claim that the war veteran wouldn’t have received the Field Marshal’s rank without his intervention proved again he didn’t have any sense of what he was talking about. If not for Fonseka’s strategic, courageous, ruthless and relentless leadership in pursuit of his goal to destroy the Tigers, the LTTE wouldn’t have collapsed in less than three years (Aug 2006-May 2009) though the successful war effort hinged on the combined forces commitment, and leadership in their respective fields.

MP Sirisena owes an explanation as to why wartime Navy and Air Force commanders, Wasantha Karannagoda and Roshan Gunathilake, respectively, were denied honorary ranks of Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Air Force when Fonseka was awarded the rank of Field Marshal in March 2015. Karannagoda and Gunathilake finally received their due honours in Sept. 2019, several months after the Easter Sunday carnage, the subject of the two-day debate that didn’t achieve anything.

Lawmaker Sirisena should be reminded that he held the public security portfolio as the then President and Commander in Chief at the time of the Easter attacks. Sirisena steadfastly refused to swear in an UNPer as Public Security Minister though he reluctantly swore in Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Premier after the Supreme Court thwarted his constitutional coup. In fact, an influential section of the Yahapalana setup wanted Fonseka appointed as the Public Security Minister, though the proposal didn’t find favour with Premier Wickremesinghe.

While Parliament debated the Easter Sunday carnage, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who served as the Premier at the time of the near simultaneous suicide attacks, was away in Washington to attend the 78th sessions of the UN General Assembly in New York. Let me reproduce verbatim the assessment made by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Easter Sunday carnage. “Upon consideration of the evidence, it is the view of the CoI that the lax approach of Mr. Wickremesinghe towards Islamic extremism, as the Prime Minister, was one of the primary reasons for the failure on the part of the then government to take proactive steps towards Islamic extremism. This facilitated the build-up of Islamic extremism to the point of the Easer Sunday attack.” (Final report, Vol

01, p 276-277).

Against the backdrop of lawmaker Sirisena seeking UN intervention following the Channel 4 allegations, based on Hanzeer Azad Maulana (ex-aide to State Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan aka Pilleyan) over claims of complicity of Maj. Gen. Suresh Sallay in the Easter Sunday plot, it would be pertinent to point out the CoI’s assessment on the then President Sirisena. “Upon consideration of evidence of facts before 4th April 2019, the CoI is of the view that President Sirisena has failed in his duties and responsibilities and that his failure transcends beyond mere civil negligence.” (Final report, Vol 01, p 263)

CoI suggested: “….based on the evidence, the CoI is of the view that there is criminal liability on his part for the acts or omissions explained above. The CoI recommends that the Attorney General consider instituting criminal proceedings against President Sirisena under any suitable provision in the Penal Code.” (Final report, Vol 01, p 265)

Supreme Court Justice Janak de Silva chaired the CoI. The other members of the CoI were Court of Appeal Judge Bandula Karunaratne, retired Court of Appeal Judge Sunil Rajapaksa, retired High Court Judge Bandula Atapattu and retired Justice Ministry Secretary W.M.M.R. Adikari. The CoI commenced its hearings on Oct. 31, 2019 and sat on 214 days in total, holding 640 sittings and interviewing 451 witnesses.

The ‘Pohottuwa’ caused suspicions among the Catholics by appointing a six-member team to study the report prepared by such an eminent group. The group, headed by Chamal Rajapaksa, and included Johnston Fernando, Udaya Gammanpila, Ramesh Pathirana, Prasanna Ranatunga and Rohitha Abeygunawardena, was named on Feb. 19, 2021. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa received the report on Feb 01, 2021.

The Catholic Church repeatedly pointed out that none of the recommendations made by the CoI had been implemented.

Retired AVM doubts C4 claims

Air Vice Marshal [retired] A.B. Sosa V S V, psc, emphasized the pivotal importance of what he called maximum possible legal punitive action against those responsible for the attacks and security failure at all levels.

The former coordinating Officer of the Hambantota District at the height of the JVP-inspired insurgency (1987/88) and Mahiyanganaya in 1989 where the JVP declared a curfew to sabotage President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s Gam Udawa project explained how various interested parties exploited the developing situation to their advantage.

Declaring that the Easter Sunday carnage is a crime against humanity, Sosa examined the sequence of events as presented by C4, based on Hanzeer Azad Maulana, ex-CID Officer Nishantha Silva, who sought political asylum in Switzerland a week after Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s election as the President in Nov. 2019, and an anonymous Sri Lankan Government Official.

C4 accusations pertained to the period about four years prior to the Easter bombings. They rely on the accusations of Maulana and Nishantha Silva. C4 dealt with circumstances Pilleyan’s involvement in the murder of a sitting Member of Parliament Joseph Pararajasingham while attending holy mass on Christmas day 2005. That killing took place in Batticaloa.

One-time LTTEer and sidekick of Karuna Amman who served Mahinda Rajapaksa’s parliamentary group had been entrusted with the task of eliminating those opposed to the Rajapaksas, according to Moulana, who lucidly explained the role played by his former boss over the years.

Sosa questioned Moulana’s claim that Pilleyan’s group had been accommodated at the former Tripoli market premises and was named the ‘Tripoli Platoon.’ The former Director of Operations and Training declared: “This is an outrageous claim. As there had been an Army detachment therein, a motley crowd of civilians couldn’t have been positioned there under any circumstances. Such a situation is not possible in any disciplined military organization.”

Reiterating his concerns over the failure on the part of successive governments to punish those responsible for the assassination of Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickrematunga in January 2009, the Air Force veteran said that Moulana’s claim that the wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa directed the so-called Tripoli ‘platoon’ to eliminate the eminent journalist is nothing but a blatant lie.

Sosa said that the ex-CID officer’s unsubstantiated claims regarding the Wickrematunga assassination and his removal from the investigation should be examined against the backdrop of his failure to produce any documents or incriminating tapes. The retired AVM emphasized decisions couldn’t be made or consensus reached merely on a statement. Reference was made to an unprecedented Swiss Embassy ‘drama’ that followed the CID officer leaving the country along with his family.

During his career, Sosa, who had received training in the UK and Pakistan, held several command appointments, including as the Commander of the Katunayake Air Force Base.

Commenting on the alleged meeting arranged by Moulana between Sallay and the would-be Easter Sunday suicide bombers in a coconut estate called Lactowatta in the Puttalam district in Feb. 2018, Sosa emphasized this allegation should be examined taking into consideration the officer concerned was based in Malaysia as Sri Lanka’s Minister Counsellor. Sallay is on record as having said that he never left Malaysia in 2018 to visit Sri Lanka or any other country. Sosa stressed that Sallay, who had served as head of the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) at the time of the 2015 presidential election, was removed and sent out of the country. Malaysia could help Sri Lanka and other interested parties to establish/ascertain the then Minister Counsellor’s movements. Sosa said: “Sallay could not have been simultaneously in two countries.”

The retired AVM also disputed C4 claim that Moulana had received instructions from Sallay on April 19, 2019, over the phone on the basis the officer was on a National Defence College, India, course. The government and other interested parties could easily verify this with Indian authorities, Sosa said, pointing out that both Malaysia and India must have examined claims.

The retired officer said: “In such circumstances, it is obvious that some ill-considered notions had been accepted by C4. Did C4 engage in a deliberate project to discredit Sri Lanka? I hold no brief for anyone. I have never met those who had been interviewed by C4 or persons mentioned, including Maj. Gen. Suresh Sallay. There is absolutely no doubt that the heinous Easter Sunday attacks and other allegations must be thoroughly investigated and perpetrators punished. However, it is necessary to sift out red herrings such as the farcical so-called C 4 hatchet job meant to discredit Sri Lanka. Perhaps, C4 is among those who pursued a different agenda as they couldn’t stomach our victory over terrorism.”

Sosa retired in Aug. 1990 on reaching the mandatory 55 years, several weeks after the eruption of Eelam War 11. Having successfully met the JVP challenge in the hotbed of subversive activities, where he served as CO for a year, Sosa received appointment as Base Commander, Karunayake, even though the Security Council wanted him appointed as CO, Kegalle. Sosa recalled how President Ranasinghe Premadasa, having succeeded JRJ, sent him to Mahiyangana to neutralise the JVP threat to facilitate the holding of Gam Udawa there. “Immediately after I took over security at Mahiyangana, President Premadasa met me there. We had a very cordial one-to-one meeting. The President told me to ensure that power supply was not interrupted and normalcy restored. The JVP had sabotaged the entire fleet of around 30 buses in the depot. I flew down motor fitters and mechanics from Katunayake air base who got the buses going by cleaning the sand spiked gear boxes and oil tanks. Army troops were placed on 24-hour patrols to ensure the power pylons were not destroyed by the JVP. These troops had to be maintained by helicopters as the area was not accessible by road. During the Gam Udawa period, President Premadasa met me every morning. The Gam Udawa drew a large crowd and everything went off well except for a minor incident after closing time on one occasion. When leaving in the morning after the final day the President said “Thank you, see me in Colombo.” Sosa said that he opted to get back to Katunayake air base and remained there until retirement.

The Thileepan affair

Amidst the ongoing controversy over the Easter Sunday carnage and ahead of the two-day debate in Parliament, a vehicle carrying a portrait of Thileepan was attacked by villagers at Shardhapura, Uppuveli.

Thileepan died of a hunger strike at Nallur Kandasamy Kovil on Sept. 26, 1987. His fast lasted 11 days. A section of the media reported that National List MP Selvarajah Kajendran (a member of the Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam led Ahila Illankai Thamil Congress) accompanying the vehicle was also attacked. It would be pertinent to mention that Kajendran first entered Parliament in 2004 on the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) ticket. The one-time President of the Jaffna University Students Union received the backing of the LTTE at that election in the wake of the TNA recognizing Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people, amidst the shocking split caused by then LTTE Eastern Commander Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan aka Karuna Amman defecting to the government.

The portrait-carrying vehicle began its journey at Pottuvil and was on its way to the Jaffna peninsula, where the final remembrance was to be held. A section of the media depicted Thileepan as a person who died for the rights of the Tamil speaking people.

Let us examine the circumstances 26-year-old Thileepan died following the 11-day fast after Velupillai Prabhakaran ‘deployed’ him as a suicide bomber. Actually, Thileepan’s fast unto death was meant to cause mayhem in the Jaffna peninsula. The LTTE mounted its first suicide attack on July 05, 1987, on the Nelliady Army detachment.

Former LTTE terrorist Niromi de Soyza (adopted pseudonym) dealt with Thileepan’s fast unto death, in her debut as a writer. ‘Tamil Tigress’ first published two years after the Sri Lankan military decimated the LTTE’s conventional military capability, the writer, who had been 17 at the time she joined the group in 1987, discussed Thileepan’s death against the backdrop of Velupillai Prabhakaran’s decision to take on the Indian Army. Sri Lanka was forced to accept the deployment of the Indian Army in late July 1987.

The writer ‘Niromi’ questioned Velupillai Prabhakaran’s choice as Thileepan was physically fragile and too intelligent to be sanctified. She had been one of those assigned for crowd controlling duties at Nallur Kandasamy Kovil where she witnessed Thileepan being welcomed onto the makeshift podium. The LTTE’s No. 02 at the time Mahattaya had been with Thileepan at the launch of his fast. ‘Niromi’ had been at the scene of the hunger strike on many days and experienced the LTTE propagating the lie that the dying man’s wish was for the LTTE to defeat the Indian Army. Recalling the opportunity she received to get onto the podium, the writer translated four lines of a Tamil song heard about a week after Thileepan launched his much advertised action.

A sweet-smelling flower is withering

It cannot speak, it cannot walk

Will Thileepan anna’s desire be satisfied?

Won’t the foreign army flee?

The writer named Thileepan as the person who conscripted her, handed her first assault rifle as well as a cyanide capsule which the writer called kuppie.

She had been present when a doctor who examined Thileepan on Sept. 26, 1987, pronounced him dead.

‘Niromi de Soyza’ wrote: With his life Thileepan had paved the way for war (Chapter 09: There’s still time to change your mind).

Less than 10 days after Thileepan’s death, the Sri Lanka Navy intercepted a trawler carrying a group of hardcore LTTE terrorists in the northern seas. Their detention and their subsequent mass suicide in Sri Lankan custody led to the resumption of war in the second week of Oct. 1987.

Niromi de Soyza quoted Velupillai Prabhakaran as having told a group of cadres, including herself, soon after the mass suicide at Palaly, “The Indian government engineered the so-called peace process as a plot to gradually eliminate us.”

Propaganda war will continue unabated until Sri Lanka countered lies. Fifteen years after the conclusion of the war, Sri Lanka is still struggling to counter various narratives. There cannot be a better example than the bid to exploit deliberately caused Thileepan’s death to launch a fresh rift between the Sinhalese and Tamil speaking people. The vehicle convoy that had been launched from Pottuvil was meant to cause maximum harm to these yet fragile relations. Unless the government takes tangible measures against such exploiting tactics to create fresh wounds between the two communities, the day the country erupts again is not far off.

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Midweek Review

The Masked Gentry



By Lynn Ockersz

In the Lil Isle’s survival saga,

Desperation, dark and subtle,

Is now starkly visible,

And ponder we must on this duality,

For, out of humans given to avarice,

The worst explodes to the surface,

Drive-by killings being a proof of this,

But elders walking the streets,

Teeming with bargain hunters,

Out of neglect and dire need,

Their Covid masks proving handy,

To hide their genteel identity,

Are a sound measure as well,

Of the nation’s state of health,

For, in their frail persons they carry,

An indictment on a society past caring.

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Midweek Review

How shoddy handling of accountability issues facilitated anti-Sri Lanka Geneva project



Sri Lanka’s failure on the Geneva front has facilitated a high profile project to undermine the country’s unitary status. The Geneva role in the controversial bid to introduce a brand new Constitution during the Yahapalana administration with the involvement of the rebel UPFA group (now SLPP) has been quietly forgotten. At one point, Wimal Weerawansa quit the process, warning the then Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa to leave the UNP-led operation or face the consequences.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In the absence of a cohesive and holistic effort on the part of Sri Lanka, till now, to counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations, the country remains enmeshed in the Geneva trap.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009 in spite of Western efforts at scuttling it, even at the eleventh hour, by dispatching a powerful team of foreign Ministers from the UK and France to prevail on the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to halt the war when we were on a certain winning path, proving many a pundit wrong.

With such a powerful Western delegation, comprising French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Dr. Bernard Kouchner and Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom David Miliband trailing President Rajapaksa he even conveniently fled to Embilipitiya to avoid them but they pursued him there and pleaded their case in late April 2009. The President simply rejected their plea. So, no wonder, the West left no stone unturned to destroy that government and the Rakapaksas! That is not to say that we consider the Rajapaksas’ to be lily white; they were far from it.

The basis for the continued harassment, and humiliation, of war-winning Sri Lanka, is the report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (PoE) on Accountability here, released on 31 March, 2011. It was authored by Marzuki Darusman (Indonesia), Yasmin Sooka (South Africa) and Steven Ratner (US).

On 01 October, 2015, Sri Lanka became the first country to betray her own armed forces by co-sponsoring UN Human Rights Council’s Resolution 30/1 that ostensibly promoted reconciliation, accountability and human rights. Since then Geneva has gleefully engaged in bashing Sri Lanka annually.

The ongoing 54th Geneva sessions (11 Sept. – 23 Oct., 2023) is no exception. Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Himalee Arunatilaka rejected the latest Geneva statement (written update). The career diplomat also strongly disputed the reference to the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage. That reference, obviously, was based on UK television station Channel 4 allegation that wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa engineered near simultaneous Easter Sunday suicide attacks which claimed the lives of 269 persons, including 45 foreigners, based on an allegation levelled by a sole individual, while trying to seek political asylum in Switzerland.

On the basis of Geneva claims, some of those who successfully spearheaded what was repeatedly dubbed an unwinnable war, have been harshly dealt with. Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Shavendra Silva is one. Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage, who retired in late 2018, is another. The list is long. When the writer raised the issue with Foreign Minister Ali Sabry, PC, a year ago, he didn’t mince his words when he declared that not only individuals but the entire fighting formations have been condemned.

Sri Lanka never made a genuine effort to address accountability issues. The Rajapaksas unashamedly exploited the Geneva threat to their advantage, whereas other political parties played politics with the issue. Defeated LTTE’s sidekick, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) threw its weight behind the Geneva project.

Arunatilaka who previously served as our Ambassador to Nepal (Oct. 2019 to Dec. 2022) succeeded C.A. Chandraprema in January this year following the election of Ranil Wickremesinghe as President. Parliament elected Wickremesinghe on July 20, 2022, a week after Gotabaya Rajapaksa, elected with a thumping 6.9 mn votes, was forced to flee the country, following an unprecedented public protest campaign over the disruption of basic services, with lavish funding from both local and foreign sources angry with the Rajapaksas. In the latter case they were angry at them for delivering a crushing defeat to the LTTE. The declaration of bankruptcy by the Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, during the tail end of Gotabaya Rajapaksa presidency, was long overdue. In January, this year, Dr. Weerasinghe said that Sri Lanka had been bankrupt much earlier but didn’t acknowledge the reality.

But the irony is Sri Lanka has gone bankrupt with a foreign debt of little over USD 50 billion, a sizeable amount out of it had been borrowed at high interest rates during the Yahapalana regime (2015-2019). The situation had been exacerbated by that regime loosening exchange controls by doing away with the time-tested Exchange Control Act that had been in place since the early 1950s. As a result, Sri Lanka has been made open to unscrupulous elements to steal valuable foreign exchange from the country. To make the situation worse, even according to Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, some unscrupulous exporters have parked export proceeds abroad to the tune of about USD100 billion that should have been legitimately brought back to Sri Lanka. So in actual fact our bankruptcy is entirely an artificial one created by interested parties! So the billion dollar question is why the government is not taking action to bring back the money that legitimately belongs to this country, or at least name the culprits in public.

At the time Sri Lanka co-sponsored resolution 30/1, career diplomat Ravinatha Aryasinha (currently Executive Director, Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute) served as Permanent Representative there (19 July, 2012 to 31 March, 2018), according to our mission website. The late Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera directed Aryasinha to go ahead, regardless of serious concerns raised by him. At the behest of the then Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe, Aryasinha was simply overruled.

Another career diplomat A.L. Azeez succeeded Aryasinha. Azeez and served there from 12 April, 2018 to 31 January, 2020, also according to the website. Therefore, at the time Sri Lanka declared its withdrawal from the Geneva process, on 26 February, 2020, the Geneva position remained vacant. That silly announcement was meant to deceive the gullible people as the ongoing Geneva session reminds Sri Lanka of the tightening noose laid by the West.

Veteran bilingual newspaper columnist Chadraprema served as our PR there 10 Nov., 2020 to 31 Dec., 2022, and was replaced by Arunatilaka, who joined the Foreign Service in 1998.

A pathetic response

Whoever had been at the helm, the Government of Sri Lanka was determined not to set the record straight, both locally and internationally. The war-winning Rajapaksa administration and the Wickremesinghe-Sirisena government, that co-sponsored the treacherous 30/1 US-led resolution in Oct. 2015 against one’s own country, refrained from addressing specific issues. The Gotabaya Rajapaksa government was definitely the worst. Instead of mounting a proper defence, it merely declared the country’s withdrawal from that resolution.

It would be pertinent to mention that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government hired US-based WR group and a private equity fund manager Imaad Zuberi at a cost of USD 6.5 mn (approximately Rs 1.31 bn) to influence US policy. The payments made over a period of five months, in 2014, were meant to divert US attention from Sri Lanka, ahead of the 2015 Geneva sessions. With the change of government, Sri Lanka joined the US in co-sponsoring a 30/1 resolution against her own armed forces.

In February 2021, Imaad Zuberi was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to tax evasion, foreign influence-peddling and campaign finance violations.

Five years before the endorsement of the 30/1 resolution, the Tamil speaking people, living in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, declared their faith in the warwinning Army Commander, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, for President. The US, too, affirmed her confidence in the SLA by throwing its weight behind Gen. Fonseka, who contested the first national election after the eradication of separatist Tamil terrorism. The Tamil electorate voted for Fonseka against the backdrop of the TNA’s endorsement of the General, whose ruthless tactics brought the LTTE down to its knees within three years. Then why did the Tamil electorate overwhelmingly vote for Fonseka? Had they really despised General Fonseka for Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE, the electorate could have boycotted the poll, regardless of the TNA’s intervention. Let me stress that all those Tamil speaking people, who voted for Fonseka and Commander-in-Chief of armed forces Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, did so because they appreciated the eradication of the LTTE. That is the truth.

Unfortunately, no government ever referred to this fact in Geneva. Sri Lanka should have taken up this matter with the Sri Lanka Core Group,comprising the US, the UK, Canada, Malawi, Montenegro and North Macedonia, at the UNHRC.

Having endorsed Fonseka at a national election, less than a year after his Army crushed the LTTE, it would be quite absurd for Tamil representatives in Parliament to press for an international inquiry. And those demanding for external intervention are silent on the origins of terrorism. The TNA, instead of demanding an international investigation, should make a public apology for its recognition of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil-speaking people, way back in 2001.

Sri Lanka shouldn’t hesitate to declare a sordid relationship between the TNA and the LTTE before the UNHRC as well as to bring it to the notice of the UN, officially. TNA lawmaker M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, attended meetings on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York. For some strange reason, successive governments refrained from placing all facts, officially, before the international community, thereby allowing all those interested in hounding Sri Lanka for defeating LTTE terrorism, especially in the West, along with their cronies like Malawi, exploit a hapless country.

In fact, there is no point in blaming the Western powers, and India, for Sri Lanka’s pathetic failure to set the record straight no doubt because of their international clout. In addition to the far reaching disclosure made by Lord Naseby in the House of Lords in Oct. 2017 that disputed the very basis of the Darusman report, there were a number of other instances/developments which could have been utilized to build Sri Lanka’s defence. But irresponsible political leadership ignored such developments. Sri Lanka’s first major mistake was its failure to use the overwhelming Tamils’ recognition of General Fonseka at the 2010 presidential election.

Key factors

Having faulted the SLA, on three major counts, the PoE (Panel of Experts) accused Sri Lanka of massacring at least 40,000 civilians. Let me reproduce the paragraph, bearing No. 137, verbatim: “In the limited surveys that have been carried out in the aftermath of the conflict, the percentage of people reporting dead relatives is high. A number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths. Two years after the end of the war, there is no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths.”

Those in authority should have paid attention to the following cases. The writer, on numerous occasions, underscored the responsibility on the part of the government to explore ways and means of exploring the following matters as part of overall strategy to build a solid defence (1) Dismissal of war crimes accusations by wartime US Defence Attaché Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith in Colombo. The then US official did so at the May-June 2011 first post-war defence seminar in Colombo, two months after the release of the PoE report. The State Department disputed the official’s right to represent the US at the forum though it refrained from challenging the statement. (2) Examination of the US statement along with Lord Naseby’s Oct. 2017 disclosure based on the then British Defence advisor Lt. Colonel Anthony Gash’s cables to London during the war (Jan.-May 2009). Sri Lanka never used Lord Naseby’s disclosure to her advantage. (3) WikiLeaks revelations that dealt with the Sri Lanka war. A high profile Norwegian study on its role in the Sri Lanka conflict examined some of these cables. However, the Norwegian process never strengthened Sri Lanka’s defence. Instead Norway merely sought to disown its culpability in the events leading to the annihilation of the LTTE. One of the most important WikiLeaks revelations disputed Sri Lanka deliberately targeting civilians. The cable proved that our ground forces took heavy losses by taking the civilian factor into consideration. (4) Wide discrepancies in loss of civilian lives claimed by the UN and various other interested parties. The UN estimated the figure at 40,000 (March 2011) whereas Amnesty International (Sept, 2011) placed the number at 10,000 and a member of the UK Parliament (Sept. 2011) estimated the death toll at 100,000. (5) Disgraceful attempt made by Geneva to exploit the so-called Mannar mass graves during the Yahapalana administration. The Foreign Ministry, under the Yahapalana rule, conveniently remained silent on the Mannar graves, while Western diplomats played politics, only to be proved utterly wrong. Acting at the interest of those hell-bent on blaming Sri Lanka, the then Geneva Chief Michelle Bachet faulted Sri Lanka before the conclusion of the investigation. The then Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran (Jaffna District MP now) rejected scientific findings of the Beta Analytic Institute of Florida, USA, in respect of samples of skeletal remains sent from the Mannar mass grave site. Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet went to the extent of commenting on the Mannar mass grave in her report that dealt with the period from Oct. 2015 to January 2019. We come to wonder whether she was actually a victim of Gen. Pinochet or a mere manufactured victim. Had the US lab issued a report to suit their strategy, would they have accepted fresh tests in case the government of Sri Lanka requested? The following is a relevant section bearing No. 23 from Bachelet’s report: “On May 29, 2018, human skeletal remains were discovered at a construction site in Mannar (Northern Province), Excavations conducted in support of the Office on Missing Persons, revealed a mass grave from which more than 300 skeletons were discovered. It was the second mass grave found in Mannar following the discovery of a site in 2014. Given that other mass graves might be expected to be found in the future, systematic access to grave sites by the Office as an observer is crucial for it to fully discharge its mandate, particularly with regard to the investigation and identification of remains, it is imperative that the proposed reforms on the law relating to inquests, and relevant protocols to operationalize the law be adopted. The capacity of the forensic sector must also be strengthened, including in areas of forensic anthropology, forensic archaeology and genetics, and its coordination with the Office of Missing Persons must be ensured.” (6) Wigneswaran, in his capacity as the then Northern Province Chief Minister in August 2016, accused the Army of killing over 100 LTTE cadres held in rehabilitation facilities. Wigneswaran claimed the detainees had been given poisonous injections resulting in the deaths of 104 persons. The unprecedented accusation made by the retired Supreme Court judge had been timed to attract international attention. Wignewaran is on record as having said a US medical team visiting Jaffna at that time would examine the former rehabilitated LTTE cadres, who he alleged had fallen sick because they were injected with poisonous substances at government detention or rehabilitation centres.

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