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Lanka points out flaws in Geneva process, disputes Canada’s genocide claim

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HC Navaratne responds to Ontario’s politico’s allegation 140,000 killed in Vanni war

Sri Lanka has pointed out flaws in the process adopted by the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to pursue unsubstantiated war crimes accusations, which paved the way for the 2015 accountability resolution. In spite of serious concerns expressed by the then Opposition and the armed forces, the yahapalana government co-sponsored the controversial resolution against Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner in Ottawa Harsha Kumara Navaratne has pointed out glaring inadequacies in the Geneva process exploited by interested parties, including those in Canada, to accuse Sri Lanka of causing genocide in the final phase of the conflict.

There hasn’t been a previous instance of Sri Lanka directly disputing the Geneva process since the adoption of the 2015 accountability resolution. The much-anticipated position has been taken ahead of the next Geneva sessions scheduled to begin later this month.

The following is the text of the statement titled ‘Refuting the allegation of ‘Tamil Genocide’ in the final phase of the conflict in Sri Lanka issued by the Sri Lankan mission in Ottawa requesting those interested in genuine post-war national reconciliation to initiate a dialogue with HC Navaratne: The term genocide is used to describe one of the gravest crimes against humanity, comprising of specific acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. Therefore, the Sri Lanka High Commission in Canada notes with serious concern attempts by certain parties in Canada trying to portray the final phase of the conflict in Sri Lanka which ended in 2009 as ‘genocide’ against the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka community in Canada is multi-ethnic and multi-religious. In this context, the Private Member Bill 104 on ‘Tamil Genocide Education Week’ passed in Canadian province of Ontario has caused strain in intercommunity relations among the Sri Lankan community by the depiction of a false narrative against one community.

In addition, while appreciating the various Canadian Government focused programs for Sri Lankan Tamil Canadians, we are disappointed to note that on January 31, 2022, at an event announcing funding for Tamil students with targeted mental health and wellness programs and resources, Mr. Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s Minister of Education made comments including “we are very deliberate in our choice of words that we recognize a genocide that transpired against the innocent Tamil people” and “in a genocide that has left over 140,000 innocents perished at the hands of the regime in Colombo”. Mr. Vijay Thanigasalam, MPP Scarborough – Rouge Park, who was also present, referred to “Tamil genocide’ in his remarks.

We are appreciative that the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development in a

Diplomatic Note dated 7 th April 2021 responding to a clarification stated “that the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development clarify Canada’s official position with regard to allegations of genocide in Sri Lanka, the department can officially confirm that the Government of Canada has not made a finding that there was genocide in Sri Lanka”. Further, the Government of Canada has proscribed the Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam Organisation (LTTE) as a Terrorist organization.

In this background, the repeated use of the word “Tamil Genocide” only generates dissention and prejudice amongst the children and community of Sri Lankan Canadians living in Ontario. Therefore, such allegations need to be refuted in the interest of social harmony and to prevent the spread of fallacies about Sri Lanka in the international community.

During the final phase of the conflict in Sri Lanka, the government forces confronted the internationally proscribed terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), one of the most brutal terror groups the world has witnessed. The aim of the LTTE was to divide Sri Lanka on ethnic lines and carve out a separate State. With this objective, they conducted a three decades long terrorist campaign which brought much suffering and destruction on all communities.

During the last stages of the military conflict in 2009, when the LTTE was facing inevitable defeat, it resorted to holding Tamil civilians hostage as a human shield and refused all efforts to move civilians away from conflict areas. The allegation of civilian casualties and the exaggeration of the numbers was the means by which the LTTE sought to force foreign intervention to halt the government advance.

Nevertheless, the government forces managed to rescue approximately 290,000 Tamil civilians from the clutches of the LTTE, cared for them and resettled them. In addition, over 12,000 armed LTTE cadres were rehabilitated and released, proving thereby that the Sri Lankan government had avoided causing unnecessary deaths even among enemy combatants, not to speak of noncombatant civilians.

Therefore, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest any act and/or intent of the spurious allegations of “genocide” during the military engagement with the LTTE. Neither was there a pattern of events even to suggest “genocide”. Military experts have noted that the tactical options were justifiable and proportionate given the situation in the last phase of the military conflict.

Some parties, including LTTE remnant groups and sympathizers, have seized on hypothetical figures of civilian casualties contained in certain seriously flawed Reports commissioned by the UN, to push a claim of genocide of Tamil people in Sri Lanka during the final stage of the military conflict. However, not even the much-disputed UN Secretary General’s Panel of Experts report (PoE) carry the accusation of “genocide” against the Government of Sri Lanka. The principal findings of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), in 2015 in to the alleged “war crimes” of Sri Lanka do not even suggest “genocide”.

Groups espousing the claim of genocide have seized the claim, made without any proof, in the PoE report “that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths” during the final months of the conflict. The PoE report came up with the hypothetical figure of 40,000 civilian deaths by setting off the actual number of people finally rescued by the Sri Lanka Army which was approximately 290,000 against the hypothetical figure of 330,000 which they deemed to be the number of civilians who had been in the area (Vanni) before military operations commenced in that region. This hypothetical number of 330,000 civilians used by the PoE is a purely arbitrary construct. Nobody, in Sri Lanka or outside, really knew exactly how many civilians the LTTE was holding in captivity during those months in 2009.

In addition, the PoE report mentions a lower figure of 7,721 deaths (up until 13 May 2009) reported by the United Nations Country Team in Sri Lanka. However, this figure is later disputed by the PoE report without explaining how it is that over 30,000 people could have been killed in the final days up until 18 May 2009 when the conflict ended, if the figure of 40,000 is ever to be correct and accurate.

It may be noted that in July 2011, the data collected by Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka in the Northern Province, found that in 2008 and 2009 when the final battles raged in the Northern Province, the total number of persons who died of causes other than natural causes, was 9,283. The field data collection required for the project, the first enumeration of its kind in that part of the country since the census of 1981, was carried out by the predominantly ethnic Tamil government employees serving in the Northern Province. The number of fatalities suffered by the Sri Lanka Army during the final war against the LTTE between July 2006 and May 2009 was 5,876. It would only be logical to assume that the LTTE would have suffered a greater number of fatalities than the armed forces of Sri Lanka, and that of those reported (9,283) to have died in the Northern Province due to other than natural causes in 2008 and 2009, the vast majority would have been LTTE cadres or those directly involved in hostilities.

Legal experts have identified that the use of the disputed figure, which is the central weakness in the PoE report, is exacerbated by the standard of proof that it professed to adopt. A non-legal analysis (‘I felt sure’, I felt reasonably confident’, I was absolutely convinced’, ‘I had my suspicions’ etc.) is used in a document dealing with alleged criminality on a major scale – that name those who may be responsible and who merit further judicial and other process. They note that international courts and tribunals have not placed reliance on reports of this nature as being probative evidence to prove allegations in trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Since the end of the conflict in 2009, Sri Lanka has pursued a policy of restoration, reparation, re –integration, rehabilitation and reconciliation within the overall concept of restorative justice. At a time when Sri Lanka is moving ahead with these processes, certain groups, including remnants of LTTE international network, have been trying to discredit and destabilize the efforts undertaken by Sri Lanka by pushing agendas such as ‘Tamil genocide’.

As seen in the comments made by Mr. Stephen Lecce, who cited a figure of 140,000 deaths, the contents of unverified reports have succeeded in misleading the international community and influencing opinion-formers and decision makers. If, with the passage of time, the dubious nature of the evidence on which the UN reports are based is forgotten, their accusations, which are in fact unproven, may become potent over repeated use.

The allegations of genocide impact on Sri Lanka’s relations with the international community, at a time when it is engaged in a long-standing cooperation with the UN human rights mechanisms and the UN Human Rights Council and is delivering on its commitment to address accountability and reconciliation through domestic processes and institutions.

Therefore, the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka extends an open invite to all those who are committed to the peace and reconciliation process of Sri Lanka to visit, meet and have a dialogue with him on this subject.”



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Delisting of Tamil Diaspora groups irks some; explanation sought

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Decision based on GoSL assurance given in Geneva last June

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera yesterday (14) said President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government should explain the rationale behind delisting several Tamil Diaspora groups and individuals.

“The timing of the government announcement really worries us,” Dr. Amarasekera said on behalf of the Federation of National Organizations (FNO). He said such moves couldn’t be simply justified on the basis of the forthcoming sessions of the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council. The next UNHRC sessions are scheduled for September.

Recalling that he too strongly backed the stand taken by President Wickremesinghe with regard to US Ambassador Julie Chung’s opposition to measures the government adopted to counter violent protests, Dr. Amarasekera emphasised national security couldn’t be jeopardised by politically-motivated decisions.  The Defence and Foreign Ministries owed the public an explanation as regards the procedure adopted in delisting some Tamil diaspora groups and individuals.

The UK-based Global Tamil Forum (GTF), the British Tamil Forum (BTF) and the Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC) had been among those delisted, through an Extraordinary Gazette issued by the Ministry of Defence.National Freedom Front (NFF) spokesperson Mohammed Muzammil, MP, too, echoed Dr. Amarasekera’s concerns. Addressing a hastily arranged media briefing at NFF’s Pita Kotte party office, lawmaker Muzammil asked whether the government had received an undertaking from those delisted groups, and individuals, whether they would abandon the separatist agenda. Lawmaker Muzammil said President Wickremesinghe, who holds the defence portfolio, should address the concerns of those who felt betrayed by the disputed de-listing of those who propagated separatist ideology though the armed forces eradicated the LTTE in 2009.

Both Dr. Amarasekera and MP Muzammil pointed out that Tamil Makkal Theshiya Kutani leader C.V. Vignewaran, following a recent meeting with President Wickremesinghe, had declared that he received an assurance with regard to several of their demands.  They asked whether the de-listing of these organizations, and individuals, had been part of the agreement between Tamil political parties and President Wickremesinghe.

The Island

sought the views of Suren Surendiran of the GTF, who is among those delisted. The UK-based GTF spokesperson alleged that the entire process of designation of groups and individuals was arbitrary, irrational, and an outright abuse of the United Nations Regulations – aimed at suppressing freedom of speech and dissent, not just within Sri Lanka but also across the borders.

 “GTF and I were listed in 2014, delisted in 2015, re-listed in 2021 and re-delisted in 2022,” Surendiran said, declaring they remained committed to their original ideals meant to achieve justifiable aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people, and implementation of the 2015 accountability resolution.

Surendiran has sent us the following response:   “Every time when a resolution is passed at the UNHRC, calling for Accountability and Reconciliation, the Rajapaksas, be it Mahinda or Gotabaya, will proscribe us as an angry reaction and then realise that no other government or international institution, including progressive Sri Lankans of all communities, and the wider media, recognise these proscriptions and just before another UNHRC session, the sitting government will de-proscribe us. This has been the case since 2014.”

“GTF is grateful that the international community and many Sri Lankan stakeholders (including the media) ignored this listing for what it truly was.

“We did an estimation on the loss of foreign currency inward flow into Sri Lanka directly related to these proscriptions of 2014 and 2021, at least per annum the loss has been USD 300 mn to   half a billion dollars.

Former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Secretary of Defence Kamal Gunaratne, Former Foreign Minister G L Peiris and the notorious so called “terrorism expert” Rohan Gunaratna must explain these losses to the Sri Lankan people and held accountable for their arbitrary decisions and explain what benefits these proscriptions achieved.”

Authoritative sources said that contrary to concerns expressed by various iparties as regards the delisting of organizations and certain individuals, the decision to do so was announced by the former Foreign Affairs Minister Prof GL Peiris in mid-June this year at the 50th Geneva sessions. The Foreign Ministry quoted Prof. Peiris as having said: “The list of designated individuals, groups and entities under the United Nations Regulation No. 1 of 2012 is being reviewed. As of now 318 individuals and 04 entitles are proposed to be delisted. This is a continuing exercise.”

Sources said that it wouldn’t be fair to seek explanation from the incumbent government for a decision taken by the previous administration.

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Govt. trying to impress UNHRC – Vigneswaran

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Tamil Peoples’ National Alliance (TPNA) leader MP C. V. Vigneswaran says President Ranil Wickremesinghe is in a hurry to rope in Tamil MPs w,ith an eye to the upcoming UNHRC session.

In a statement after meeting President Wickremesinghe the MP says: “He appeared to be in a hurry to rope in Jaffna MPs to be part of the Government, I suppose to showcase to Geneva! I don’t blame him. The Government has so far ignored its obligations to the UN as per Resolution 46/1. Although the President assured us that he will take action to implement our requests and invited us to join the Government, we felt the impending Geneva meeting was more important to him than solving the Tamils’ Problems.”

Full text of Wigneswaran’s statement: At the invitation of the President, I met his Excellency, along with our Party senior member Mr. S. Selvendra, at 4.30 PM, on 10th August 2022 at the Presidential Secretariat. The Prime Minister was also present.

The President explained to us at length his plan of governance which included a Parliamentary governance committee giving a greater role for the Provincial Governors. His idea was that all MPs from the Provinces must govern the respective Provinces under the Chairmanship of the Governors in terms of a National Agenda. He referred to Austria as an example. (His example was inappropriate. Austria is a Federal Country).

Further discussing grabbing of lands in Provinces by Central Government Ministries he agreed that there should be no forestry land that should be grabbed by Ministries and that we should focus on preserving the environment in each Province. He said, if need be a maximum of 2 acres could be taken over by the Government. I said no land should be appropriated by the Central Government in the Provinces except with the consent and concurrence of the respective Provincial Government. There was no response from His Excellency.

Regarding National Schools, he said 50 National Schools were enough for the Country not 1000 National Schools. I pointed out that no Provincial Schools could be taken over by the State and that our Alliance has already filed action in this regard.He appeared to be in a hurry to rope in Jaffna MPs to be part of the Government, I suppose to showcase to Geneva! I don’t blame him. The Government has so far ignored its obligations to the UN as per Resolution 46/1.

He wanted me to share a document which outlines the proposal on how money could be channeled into the Country from the Diaspora.It became apparent to us while discussing with him that his plan was to strengthen the central administrative control of the entire country, totally ignoring the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

I pointed out to the President that the Tamil people in this country expect the government to take speedy action to attend to their requests, submitted by all Tamil National party leaders which included the release of political prisoners; action to trace the missing persons; stop the activities of various government departments to grab Tamil lands and stop persons trying to build Buddhist temples in Tamil homeland with the help of the Military and so on.

It was also pointed out that in order to enable the Tamils to give political leadership and governance over their Provinces, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution should be implemented in full as a temporary measure until satisfactory constitutional reforms are made. We told the President that until this process is started in earnest satisfying the Tamil people, we will support the Government from the Opposition. There was no question of our becoming a part of the Government.

Although the President assured us that he will take action to implement our requests and invited us to join the Government, we felt the impending Geneva meeting was more important to him than solving the Tamils’ Problems.Nevertheless, we promised to forward the document he called for and took our leave to depart.

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 Arms, drug seizure from Lankan boat: Accused raised funds to revive LTTE, says NIA

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KOCHI: In a major revelation in a case pertaining to the seizure of a huge quantity of narcotic drugs along with five AK-47 rifles and 9mm ammunition numbering 1,000 from Sri Lankan fishing boats, the NIA has stated that an accused had been involved in activities of proscribed terrorist organisation LTTE within India and abroad.

The accused had also plotted to procure prohibited arms and ammunition, besides contraband articles. The NIA filed the report in the Kerala High Court in response to the bail plea filed by Ramesh, a Sri Lankan native and eighth accused in the case.

The Coast Guard intercepted the boat, ‘Ravihansi’, near Minicoy Island, Lakshadweep, on March 18, 2021. There were no proper documents and six Sri Lankan nationals found on board were arrested by the Kochi sub zone of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on their arrival at Vizhinjam port in Thiruvananthapuram.The Central government directed the NIA to take over the probe and later the seventh and his brother and eighth accused were taken into custody, allegedly for being members of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Ramesh revealed that he had stayed in India without a visa violating the provisions of the Foreigners Act.

According to NIA, Ramesh and the other accused, including his brother being a core cadre of the LTTE, held secret meetings and conspired to carry out illegal activities of trafficking in drugs and also arms and ammunition with the intention of raising funds to revive and further the activities of the LTTE, both in India and Sri Lanka, They formed a terrorist gang and transferred money through hawala channels for the procurement of drugs, arms and ammunition.

A witness in the case also spoke of the drug and hawala business carried out by the brothers and specifically referred to Ramesh having collected hawala money from a person named Faseel Bhai. While dismissing Ramesh’s bail plea, the court noted that the statements of the witnesses show not only his inextricable connection with the illegal activities but also his definite link with LTTE, with full knowledge and complicity in the attempt to smuggle heroin, arms and ammunition in the boat, intercepted before its entry into the port.

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