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‘UK suppressed wartime HC dispatches unfavorable to Western strategy at UNHRC’

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… 20-year UN ban on examination of accusations travesty of justice: ex-CJBy Shamindra Ferdinando

Former Chief Justice Sarath Nanda Silva (1999-2009), on Thursday (18), alleged that the British government had suppressed diplomatic cables sent by its wartime Defence Attaché Lt. Colonel Anthony Gash from the British High Commission, Colombo, because they ran counter to the claims made by the western bloc as regards Sri Lanka at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Appearing on ‘Get Real’ on Derana 24×7, anchored by Johnney Mahieash, the 41st CJ explained the British, in spite of being a member of the UNHRC in addition to spearheading the Core Group, had no option but to suppress credible information as part of the overall strategy to sustain the campaign against Sri Lanka.

The UNHRC consists of 47 countries divided into five zones with the UK categorised along with Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands (Western Europe and other States). A vote on the Core Group’s resolution, backed by the US, is expected early next week at the end of the 46th session of the UNHRC on March 23. The session commenced on Feb 22.

Displaying a set of highly censored British diplomatic cables that dealt with the situation on the Vanni front in 2009 (January-May) made available by Lord Naseby, who obtained them following a protracted legal procedure, the former CJ expressed shock and dismay at the British choosing to suppress information provided by a person who enjoyed diplomatic status.

Silva said Lt. Colonel Gash had been stationed in Colombo during that period to provide information sought by the British pertaining to the conflict. Having perused the documents and examined the context in which they were written, the former CJ asserted that the Gash papers gave an accurate picture.

In an exclusive interview with The Island, in Sept 2019, Lord Naseby said that he struggled for nearly three years to secure the dispatches from the UK government after making the first formal request in Nov 2014.

Responding to another query posed by Mahieash, the former CJ questioned the rationale in the UK depriving a House of Lords member material relevant to an issue the UK government was deeply concerned about. The outspoken former CJ explained that for the British the dispatches from Colombo couldn’t have posed any security concerns though their disclosure was certainly detrimental to their Geneva agenda.

Referring to Gash dispatches again, former CJ Silva said that in spite of blackening sections of the reports from Colombo, the person assigned the task carelessly left some crucial words intact one could comprehend what had been censored.

Lord Naseby told The Island that he personally handed over sets of Gash reports to the then President Maithripala Sirisena’s administration as well as the Joint Opposition (now SLPP) in 2017. The Conservative Party politician regretted the disclosure of the vital material hadn’t been properly utilized by Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby revealed the existence of the Gash papers on Oct 12, 2017 in the House of Lords.

Comparing the LTTE with the Irish Republican Army, the former CJ pointed out the wartime British Defence Attaché’s comment on the LTTE employing foreign mercenaries to mount air attacks in Colombo and the Katunayake airbase, where Sri Lanka’s precious fighter squadrons were based at. The former CJ referred to specific reference to the LTTE targeting the Israeli supplied Kfir aircraft based at Katunayake at a crucial time of the war against the LTTE. Reference was also made to the LTTE having seven airstrips in the northern theatre of operations and its failure to use a fourth aircraft in its arsenal in the absence of a mercenary.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009.

The former CJ said that another reason for the British to suppress Gash papers was that the British official officially assigned the task of keeping London informed of the developments here, presented a picture of the Sri Lankan military quite opposite to what they propagated. In the wake of Gash/Lord Naseby disclosure, the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) report based on unsubstantiated allegations was in tatters, the former CJ said.

The PoE issued its report on March 31, 2011.

The former CJ said that British diplomatic dispatches on the basis of UN reports explained how the LTTE deployed forcibly recruited ‘unwilling recruits’ in its desperate counter offensives as the fighting entered the final phase.

The former CJ stressed that the British should have disclosed all available information to ensure a free and fair inquiry. Sarath Nanda Silva was responding to the British declaration in February this year that they didn’t furnish Gash reports to the UNHRC nor did the Geneva body asked for them.

The former CJ alleged that the British were pursuing a politically motivated agenda. In the wake of his interview with Derana 24×7, The Island sought the former CJ’s opinion on measures that could be taken to ascertain the truth as regards the primary allegation namely the killing of 40,000 civilians (PoE, paragraph 137). The UK led Core Group which includes Germany and Canada could call for dispatches from Defence Advisors/Defence Attaches from other countries having diplomatic missions in Colombo. They could easily verify the Gash reports by comparing them with dispatches from other missions, the former CJ said, pointing out that the UN and ICRC, too, could furnish their reports.

The former CJ said that the British government actions had in fact embarrassed the ordinary people who believed in their supposed sense of justice and fair play.

The former CJ said that he was appalled by the PoE placed the number of dead at 40,000 in spite of UN report that dealt with the situation therein from August 2008 to May 13, 2009 having asserted only 7,721 perished on the Vanni front (both civilians and combatants/paragraph 134). He also pointed out the PoE declaration the unsubstantiated accusations that led to Geneva actions couldn’t be examined till 2031 (paragraph 23) revealed that due attention hadn’t been given to the high profile anti-Sri Lanka project. The PoE/UN prohibited the examination of accusations for a period of 20 years from 2011. Pointing out the discrepancy in varying figures quoted by interested parties, the former CJ said that wartime US Defence Advisor Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith’s revelation at the 2011 Colombo Defence Seminar could be utilized along with Gash reports to carefully re-examine the accusations.

The US official denied alleged war crimes, including battlefield executions, the former CJ said, pointing out that the US denial was made just a couple of months after the release of PoE report widely called the Darusman report. In fact, Geneva should have asked member states and other countries especially the US and India to provide their defence advisors’ dispatches to help its investigations. The Tamil Diaspora demanding justice never asked for those reports because all knew what would happen to politically motivated Geneva actions if the reports reached the public.

The former CJ also referred to a Wikileaks revelation that ICRC told the US in 2009 Sri Lanka military could have finished off the LTTE if the civilian factor was not taken into consideration. The bottom line is that the case against Sri Lanka had been exposed by the officials of the same countries, the former CJ said, urging the government to take a fresh look at all available information/evidence.

The former CJ told Derana 24/7 that cases shouldn’t be won by suppressing information/evidence. The former CJ further pointed out how a section of the media in early 2007 revealed the UN suppressing the LTTE detaining two UN Tamil employees for helping civilians to escape to the government controlled area. The UN acknowledged that New York was not briefed of the developments here, the former CJ said, urging those shedding crocodile tears to revisit Sri Lanka accountability issue.



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Facilities for infected pregnant women inadequate – SLCOG

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

The distribution and availability of high-flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant women were not adequate, President of the Sri Lanka College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (SLCOG,) Dr. Pradeep de Silva said yesterday.

Dr. de Silva said that while they had not yet faced any lack of oxygen in treating Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers, things could change rapidly given the limited availability of equipment. “Having an adequate supply of oxygen alone is not enough. You need high flow oxygen machines, and 50 litres of oxygen per minute is needed to operate a high flow oxygen machine. I do not know how many machines we have in this country but where I work, Castle Street Maternity Hospital has about four. We need to estimate the number of these machines we require and how much oxygen we want. From my understanding, the distribution and availability of high flow oxygen machines to treat Covid-19 infected pregnant mothers is not adequate.”

Dr de Silva said that Sri Lanka needed about 50–200 high-dependency unit (HDU) beds per district, based on the population, 10–50 high flow oxygen machines per district, four for ten ICU beds and two dedicated Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machines.

“If we get this, we will be able to deal with pregnant women who develop complications from COVID-19 for the next four to five years,” he said.

Dr de Silva said that currently one pregnant woman who has been infected with COVID-19 is receiving ECMO treatment. There is also a shortage of beds at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, which has the largest ward dedicated to COVID-19 infected pregnant women. On Thursday, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Dr Mayuramana Dewolage, who heads the ward that treats COVID-19 infected pregnant women at the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, said that they only had 37 beds were dedicated to pregnant women with COVID-19. They didn’t have any HDU or ICU beds dedicated for their use, he said.

“We share HDU and ICU beds with other patients at Mulleriyawa Base Hospital,” Dr Dewolage said.

The President of the SLCOG also urged all hospitals to find a separate space for pregnant women who were receiving treatment at their institutions. When COVID-19 pandemic started, the Health Ministry instructed all hospitals to do so but it was now obvious that those instructions had not been followed, he said.

“When the second wave started people got ready but later, they just stopped getting ready and now we are unprepared to meet the challenges of the third wave. We need to find a way to manage this. If the Ministry of Health has not prepared a plan, we are ready to help formulate one,” the President of the SLCOG said.

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Those who had AstraZeneca first jab, should take Sputnik V with adenovirus 26 – Specialist

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

If those who have taken the first dose of AstraZeneca are to receive a second jab of Sputnik V, they should take the first Sputnik V vaccine with adenovirus 26 (Ad26), Consultant Immunologist and head of the department of Immunology-MRI, Dr Nihan Rajiva de Silva says.

Dr. de Silva said that the first dose of Sputnik had Ad 26 and the second had adenovirus-5. “Adenovirus-5 is common. We may have been exposed to that and we may have developed antibodies. Adenovirus-26 is rarer and we will better respond to that. That is why the vaccine-maker has used adenovirus-26 in the first vaccine. So, if you had a first jab of AstraZeneca and you are to get the second dose from Sputnik-V remember to get the first jab,” Dr. de Silva said.

He added that any vaccine has the chance of reducing the severity of the virus and that the general public should get vaccinated when the opportunity is available.

Dr. de Silva said that there was a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccines because the Serum Institute of India could not deliver shipments as promised.

“However, we are now getting Sputnik V vaccines and we are looking at mixing them. There is a study in Russia about the efficiency of mixing Sputnik V with AstraZeneca and the results should be out soon. I can say that theoretically mixing the two vaccines should work,” he said.

Dr. de Silva added that the AstraZeneca vaccine should work against the new variant spreading in the country.

Consultant Cardiologist at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, Dr. Gotabaya Ranasinghe said that those with heart issues, non-communicable diseases and were obese must get vaccinated to minimise the complications of Covid-19.

Dr. Ranasinghe said that those in the above-mentioned categories were at risk of contracting, getting complications and dying of COVID-19 and research had proven that vaccination would reduce the chance of such eventualities.

“If you worry about getting vaccinated, talk to your doctor. Don’t seek advice from friends and family,” he said.

Dr. Ranasinghe added that they had limited the number of heart surgeries they do due to COVID-19. ICU beds used for heart patients too were being now allocated for COVID-19 patients. “We only do the most pressing cases. But this means that the waiting list keeps on growing. Now, the waiting list is over eight months. If we limit the surgeries more and keep taking away ICU beds available for those who have had heart surgeries, the waiting list will grow further,” he said.

The Consultant Cardiologist also advised the public to eat healthy food and engage in moderate exercises, at least five days a week. This will reduce the mental stress as well as boost the immune system. ‘We recommend moderate exercises like jogging and brisk walking, for 30 minutes, five days a week. Being healthy is as important as wearing masks or adhering to physical distancing,” he said.

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STF raids narcotics distribution centre close to Bloemendhal police station

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Acting on information received from the Organised Crime Fighting Unit of the elite Special Task Force (STF), police commandos, on Thursday (6), arrested a person running a narcotic distributing network, 1.5 km away from the Bloemendhal police station.

The STF identified the suspect as Thawasidevan Pradeep Kumar, 21, a key associate of one Suresh with links to a criminal outfit run by Kimbulaele Guna, now absconding in India.

DIG (Legal) Ajith Rohana said that the raiding party had recovered 2 kg, 22 g and 88mg of ‘ICE,’ with a street value of Rs 25 mn in addition to 4kg, 2 g and 527 mg of substance known as ‘hash,’ as well as Rs 400,000 in cash and a mobile phone.

Kimbulaele Guna is believed to have sought refuge following an LTTE attempt to assassinate President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga at the final PA presidential election rally at the Town Hall in December 1999.

DIG Rohana said that Guna’s brother Suresh was a major heroin distributor in Colombo. The STF later handed over the suspect, along with contraband and locally made ‘hash,’ and his phone to the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB). The raid on the heroin distribution centre situated in Aluth Mawatha, Colombo 15, followed specific information received as regards the ‘operation’ conducted with impunity (SF)

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