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President’s Office denies ex-US Ambassador’s claim ‘Killing of LTTE leaders who surrendered’

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… recalls US Defence Advisor in Colombo contradicting battlefield executions

By Shamindra Ferdinando

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Office yesterday (15) strongly denied a claim by former US Ambassador for War Crimes and Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp (2009-2015) that wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had admitted to killing LTTE leaders followign their surrender to the Army in 2009. Rapp claimed Rajapaksa had told him so when he met the latter in Colombo.

There was absolutely no basis for Rapp’s claim, the President’s Office said when The Island sought President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s response to the former Ambassador’s accusation. The President’s Office questioned the former US official’s motive to make such a statement seven years after leaving office.

The allegation was made on Friday (12) at an online panel discussion organised by a group of organizations targeting Sri Lanka led by the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) on Justice and rule of law in the run-up to the 46th sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. Rapp recalled a conversation with the then Defence Secretary and now President Gotabaya Rajapaksa regarding LTTE leaders who surrendered to the army. Rapp said the government “hated the LTTE”.

“I remember raising this issue with defence secretary Gotabaya, now President Rajapaksa when I was there,” Rapp said at the webinar.

“I remember the defence secretary saying, “Oh, trials, trials, you know they go on so long and people get off”. And then he said, “I killed them, I killed them, I killed them,” Rapp recalled.

Stephen J. Rapp is a Senior Fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Centre for Prevention of Genocide and at Oxford University’s Centre for Ethics, Law & Armed Conflict.  He also serves as Chair of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA).

The former US Ambassador was responding to a question regarding Sri Lanka’s suspicions about the failure on the part of the UN to inquire into atrocities committed by the LTTE as well as others, including the Indian Army. Rapp noted that one way to have made the Tigers accountable for violations would have been to arrest leaders and put them on trial. Rapp added: “Of course, recalling, that many of the individuals (in the LTTE) that could have been charged were in fact, according to credible evidence, killed after surrender. The numbers are around 360 that were given out”.

The President’s Office while pointing out Rapp visited Sri Lanka in 2012 and 2015, emphasized that the dramatic present accusation was meant for the Geneva sessions. Obviously, Rapp’s claim was nothing but overall part of the campaign to discredit Sri Lanka, the President’s Office said, drawing the former Ambassador’s attention to a wartime US defence attaché Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith declaration in 2011 in Colombo that battlefield executions didn’t take place.

The President’s Office said that the Office of War Crimes and Global Criminal Justice owed an explanation whether Rapp during his tenure as the head of that Office reported such a conversation with the then Sri Lankan Defence Secretary or whether Rapp shared information with UNHRC in the run up to 2015 Geneva sessions. Rapp should peruse Lt. Col’s Smith’s response to retired IPKF Maj. Gen. Ashok Metha’s query, the President’s Office said. Pointing out one-time LTTE mouthpiece TNA was represented at the webinar by its Jaffna District MP M.A. Sumanthiran, PC, the President’s Office questioned how US and the TNA backed the then General Sarath Fonseka’s candidature at the presidential election less than year from the conclusion of the war after having accused him and his army of genocide.

The President’s Office said that Sri Lanka rehabilitated over 12,000 LTTE cadres. Hundreds of LTTE cadres now live abroad under assumed names and were holders of various foreign passports, the President’s Office said adding that leaked US diplomatic cables revealed the Army could have finished off the LTTE with less casualties of its own but suffered losses due to ground commanders taking the civilian factor into consideration.

The President’s Office said that human right campaigning is a lucrative industry where plenty of funds are disbursed among those groups and individuals following the Western agenda. The former Ambassador Rapp’s claim reminded Sri Lanka of US-British campaign on WMDs leading to invasion of Iraq. Rapp’s claim in a way could be compared with former Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran’s August 2016 high profile claim the Army poisoned 104 surrendered LTTE cadres. 



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‘Those who fear exposure making a din over Easter Sunday carnage PCoI report – PM

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Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that some of those who fear that they will be held accountable under the law for the Easter Sunday attacks are now making a big noise over the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the carnage.

“They know that they will be exposed. That’s why they are making a din in the belief they could escape being taken to task under the law”, the premier told The Sunday Island.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has declared March 7 as ‘Black Sunday’ to demand justice to the victims of the attacks by bringing before the law those responsible for the carnage.

Church leaders have their congregations to be attired in black when they attend mass on Sunday. Church bells will toll at 8.45 am, the time of the near-simultaneous attacks, and special prayers will be offered for justice for the victims.

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that the CID will begin investigations shortly to initiate the process of filing legal action against those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.

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Sri Lankan High Commission in India remains headless for 14 months

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BY S VENKAT NARAYAN

Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 5:

The Sri Lankan High Commission in India has remained without a Head of Mission for 14 months now.

Veteran civil servant Austin Fernando, who was posted here as the High Commissioner, went back home in January last year.

Former Minister Milinda Moragoda was appointed as the new High Commissioner with a Cabinet rank late last year, and India has accepted the appointment shortly thereafter.

But Moragoda is yet to take charge. It is not clear when he is planning to arrive in India.

Being a large neighbour and in view of excellent relations between the two countries, India is important for Sri Lanka.

Besides, as many as 92 New Delhi-based Ambassadors and High Commissioners are also concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka. Only 41 countries maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, direct flights between the two countries were suspended early last year. But Air India has been running special flights at regular intervals from Colombo to New Delhi and other cities to bring back Indian nationals stranded in Sri Lanka while on a holiday or a business trip.

India has also created air bubbles to allow flights to over 20 countries, including Bangladesh. But Sri Lanka is not one of them. Negotiations are said to be in progress to make this happen in due course of time.

Sources in Colombo said Moragoda is expected to leave later this month.

 

 

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WFP and Korea to Help Supply Thriposha to Children and Mothers

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COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are supporting the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha.

The funding will be used to produce Thriposha, a maize-based fortified food product, which will be provided to 1.1 million mothers and children. The grant from Korea helps ensure continuation of the Thriposha programme, which the Government of Sri Lanka has been conducting for almost 50 years to provide nutrition to undernourished children and pregnant and lactating women.

Thriposha, which means triple nutrients, is a locally produced supplementary food product, provided free of charge to children below 5 years of age who are underweight or with a slow rate of weight gain and pregnant and lactating women with a low body mass index (BMI), through the public health system.

“The world is facing unexpected circumstances while battling with the pandemic,” says Kang Youn Hwa, KOICA Sri Lanka Office Country Director. “The contribution from KOICA for the Thriposha National Programme was extended with the objective of improving the nutritional status of vulnerable people, especially children and pregnant/lactating women who are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. KOICA stands in solidarity with the Government of Sri Lanka during this difficult time.”

This latest contribution forms part of the activities carried out by KOICA — the Official Grants Division to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea — in response to Covid-19. KOICA has been present in Sri Lanka for over two decades, with programmes that support a variety of sectors including education, health, rural development, water management and transportation. One such intervention is the “R5n” programme, a joint project conducted with WFP since 2019. “R5n” aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers by strengthening their resilience to recurring climate shocks, especially drought. KOICA’s support for the procurement of maize to produce Thriposha complements its on-going assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Covid-19 has brought about fresh challenges in the country, including an estimated rise in unemployment and reduced incomes. This affects a family’s ability to access nutritious food and threatens to have long-lasting impacts on the health and nutrition standards in the country. The Thriposha programme provides a readily accessible source of nutrition to mothers and children when they need it the most.

The Ministry of Health requested WFP’s support in ensuring a continuous supply of Thriposha. In response to this, WFP together with KOICA, arranged to provide funding to bolster the Thriposha programme and help safeguard the health and nutrition of women and children.

“WFP has been supporting the Thriposha programme for over a decade, as part of its efforts to improve nutrition standards in the country,” says Andrea Berardo, Deputy Country Director of WFP Sri Lanka, highlighting that Sri Lanka ranks among the countries with the highest rates of wasting, known as thinness, among children under 5 years of age (15 percent). “This latest contribution reflects our long-standing support to the government to not just treat, but also prevent these high rates of malnutrition and importantly, safeguard development gains made within the country.”

In 2021 and beyond, WFP will continue to work with the government to enhance the national health system as part of its efforts in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 of enhancing food security and improving nutrition in the country.

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