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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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Pakistan Navy ship arrives in Colombo

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Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Taimur arrived, at the port of Colombo, on a formal visit, yesterday morning (12). The visiting ship was welcomed by the Sri Lanka Navy, in compliance with naval traditions.The 134m-long ship is commanded by Captain M. Yasir Tahir and it is manned by 169 as the ship’s complement.

The Commanding Officer of PNS Taimur is scheduled to call on Commander Western Naval Area, at the Western Naval Command Headquarters, today. The ship is expected to remain in the island, until 15th August, and the crew of the ship will take part in several programmes, organized by the Sri Lanka Navy, to promote cooperation and goodwill between the two navies.

PNS Taimur is also expected to conduct a naval exercise with the Sri Lanka Navy in western seas on its departure on 15th August.

Meanwhile, PNS Tughril, an identical warship belonging to the Pakistan Navy, arrived in Sri Lanka on an official visit on 13th December 2021 and conducted a successful naval exercise with SLNS Sindurala off the western coast on 16th December. Naval exercises of this nature with regional navies will enable each partner to overcome common maritime challenges in the future, through enhanced cooperation.

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Stalin reads riot act to govt. over proposal to allow schoolchildren to work part time

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Alliance of Trade Unions and Mass Organisations yesterday warned that the government’s decision to allow schoolchildren, between the ages of 16 and 20, to work part time, would have disastrous consequences.Addressing the media on 11 Aug., General Secretary of the Ceylon Teachers’ Union, Joseph Stalin, said that the government was planning to amend laws, allowing schoolchildren to work in the private sector for 20 hours a week.

“Now, this may look like a progressive idea. A lot of families are

struggling and if another family member can chip in, it would be a great help. I am sure a lot of children feel the same way. It is also true that there may be children who will find great jobs and horn their skills,” he said.However, these proposals have come at a time when education is in crisis and the schools are on the verge of collapse.

“During the last two and a half years, most children have learnt nothing. But children who go to elite schools are doing better. These schools have systems in place, but most others don’t. Children who do not go to tier one schools have suffered and most children who do not go to such elite schools will not find part time work that will prepare them for the jobs of the future,” he said. “It’s not easy to balance school work with vocation training, especially physically intensive work. Most people will drop out and social mobility will further stagnate. Fix the education system first and create a more level playing field,” Stalin said.

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Harsha: Will RW use Emergency to steamroller his economic reforms?

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By Saman Indrajith

SJB MP Harsha de Silva yesterday asked President Ranil Wickremesinghe whether the latter was planning to use Emergency powers to suppress the people who might oppose his economic reform agenda.

“It is being asked why the government wants to continue the State of Emergency. The anti-government protesters have gone home. There is no unrest. There are those who say that the President wants to keep the Emergency laws to carry out economic reforms. Does that mean the President will use these laws to scare people into submission if they do not accept his economic reforms? I don’t think people can be intimidated. I want the President to answer this question,” he said.

MP de Silva said that the government did not have public support and that it was obvious that the spectre of the Rajapaksas was haunting the government.

“I agree that Wickremesinghe was appointed constitutionally. We have to work within the Constitution. However, the 134 votes he received on 20 July were not realistic. They have managed to manipulate the Constitution, but the government doesn’t have the support of the people. The problem is can the government win the support of the people,” he said.The SJB lawmaker added that Sri Lanka needed to restructure its debt. However, the country had not even started the process.

“One of the consultants we hired, Lazard, says that we have to start with China because it is new to debt restructuring. But we have not done so. Not only that, we have in fact started a diplomatic issue with China. What’s the front page news today? Can this government solve this sensitive international issue? Can it carry out the necessary economic reforms?” he asked.

MP de Silva said that the government had to work with the people and that it had to be honest with them. The government needed to present a common programme on which an all party government could be established.

“In 2020, we said that the government was on the wrong path and that we needed to seek IMF assistance. The government didn’t listen. We need an all-party programme to go before the IMF and get a decent deal. Today, I present to Parliament an economic recovery plan we have prepared. When we decided to throw our weight behind SLPP MP Dullas Alahapperuma, I was entrusted with the task of making an economic plan. We have run it through experts too. I ask the MPs to look at this and suggest improvements.”

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