The United Nation’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) meets for its regular sessions today (22) in Geneva. At the month long sessions, the UNHRC is scheduled to discuss Sri Lanka on its alleged human rights violations during the last phase of the humanitarian operation.
The Daily Mirror met one of the most ardent defenders of Sri Lanka - in and out of the country, Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (Retired), Dr. Sarath Weerasekara on the final outcome of the world body’s dialogue on our country.
Q The Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam, Tamil Eelam lobbyists, LTTE sympathisers and a section of Northern Tamil politicians are gunning for a new resolution against Sri Lanka at the 46th regular sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) scheduled to begin today in Geneva. What is the preparation of the Sri Lanka government to face this challenge?
The report of the UN High Commissioner of human rights Michelle Bachelet on Sri Lanka issued even before the start of the 46th session of the UNHRC, which is unusual is full of obfuscation, contradictions and on a false track based mainly on Marzuqui Darusman report released in April 2011.
There was no any credible mechanism to obtain correct and truth seeking information on exactly what happened during the humanitarian operation in this disparaging report. The main source of information to the narrative of Darusman led three member panel appointed by former Secretary General of the UN, Ban ki Moon was expatriate Tamil Diaspora.
The so-called allegations of Human Right violations, the Violation of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and crime against humanity leveled against Sri Lanka armed forces are all hearsays and obtained from third party sources. The panel’s main source of information was the expatriate Tamil diaspora that compromises the UN principles. It is sad to note that we have a reasonable belief that the UNHRC is being used as an instrument by certain global powers instigated by the Tamil diaspora to vilify and harass Sri Lanka. We have openly rejected all charges against our country because our armed forces fought a lawful battle against a separatist terrorist outfit that had been branded as the most ruthless terrorist group of the day. The LTTE had waged a war against a democratically elected government and challenging the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of a nation. But the UNHRC continues to stick to their vituperative stance on Sri Lanka with no attention to Sri Lanka’s explanation or the steps taken towards promoting reconciliation in the country. We would like to tell the UNHRC in the light of the current global pandemic – the Covid 19 – please let us to do our own business and not to interfere with Sri Lanka’s internal affairs. Besides, it will not be a wise move to pass a resolution criticising or dictating to Sri Lanka on what to do. At the current UNHRC session, there is no doubt that a resolution against Sri Lanka will definitely split the 47 member countries participating in the sessions at a time when the world is going through one of the most dreaded and unprecedented health challenge.
Q Why all these western countries, the UNHRC and sympathisers of the LTTE want to probe only the atrocities allegedly committed by the Sri Lanka armed forces during the humanitarian operation while mentioning as passing remarks the extremely sadistic and inhumane crimes committed by the LTTE that had been labeled as the ‘most ruthless and abhorrent terrorist outfit’ of the day?
Mainly because we have defeated the LTTE without paying heed to their request for a ceasefire and let the LTTE off the hook. A couple of weeks before the conclusion of the humanitarian operation on May 19, 2009, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arrived in Sri Lanka in haste in April and met President Mahinda Rajapaksa at his residence in Madamulana. They made a plea to declare a ceasefire giving an opportunity to the cream of the LTTE leadership to leave the battle front for a safe heaven. Before that, there was another request by the West to permit to take Prabhakaran and top LTTE leaders to the safety in a ship that had been anchored mid sea off eastern Sri Lanka. Both requests were rejected outright. That was why the West and the Tamil diaspora have a grudge against Sri Lanka. The ousting of President Rajapaksa and his government in 2015 was a direct consequence of this antipathy.
Q Are they above the law, international treaties, and conventions and protocol to get away with these crimes and to single out Sri Lanka to point the finger at our armed forces that fought a legitimate war?
The systemic and brutal plundering of weaker communities and nations in Asia, Africa, North and Latin America was one of the darkest chapters of the human history. The invasion, killing of millions of innocent native people, devastation and plundering of wealth of countries overrun by them were carried out by these powerful countries while taking law into their hands. Almost all of these ostensibly called first world or new world countries have been built on the blood of inhabitants of countries they robbed for centuries. There is no difference in today’s geo political scenario to these horrors. They maintained a policy of law unto themselves when those strong and wealthy countries invade another country. No UN charter, the global conventions, agreements or protocol are respected. In recent times, this has happened in Vietnam, Afghanistan, in the Middle East, Iraq and in many other hotspots in the five continents.
Q When armed forces take on a separatist terrorist outfit to save a country from disintegration and to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation, a duly elected government has every right to wage an all-out war against the terrorists. In that case, it is quite possible that many who are not directly involved to get killed which is unavoidable in an armed conflict. In military parlance it is termed as collateral damage or accidental deaths. From Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great or Dharmasoka to J.R.Jayewardene, R. Premadasa or Mahinda Rajapaksa, there is no difference in this scenario. Besides, Sri Lanka waged a legitimate war in its own territory and not to overrun another’s land? In this context, why does Sri Lanka state maintain a ‘zero casualties’ stance at the humanitarian operation? Why can’t we say, ‘Yes, there may be civilian casualties whom are impossible to prevent in a domestic armed conflict?
During the war, the armed forces had been strictly advised not to open fire if there was possibility of civilian casualties. They had also been instructed on how to arrest and round up terrorists. If and when people get killed while in combat, they are not considered civilians only because they are not in uniform. The armed forces in the war front during the final phase of the war had witnessed the LTTE had given weapons to civilians and deployed them to fight the war. This may be because the LTTE’s ground forces had been depleting sharply and they did not have enough cadres.
During the last few days of the humanitarian operation, the LTTE not only opened fire indiscriminately at fleeing civilians but had erected a human shield round Nandikadal lagoon where Prabhakaran and other top LTTE leaders had been trapped. Our troops were well aware where the terrorists were, did not open fire on them as it could have led to make hundreds of civilian casualties. The LTTE had also set land mines all over the place and in trenches dug by them to delay the forward march of the advancing troops. The instructions given to foot soldiers at Nandikadal was not to shoot but to penetrate the human shield to grab Prabhakaran that resulted hundreds of our heroic soldiers losing their lives and many others disabled to firing by the LTTE and from booby traps. It is absurd that the UNHRC and our detractors put the blame on these heroic soldiers who took every step possible to prevent civilian casualties. Besides, what about the killing of our soldiers when they had halted firing to save civilians?
Q Why did Sri Lanka withdraw from the UNHRC joint resolution 30/1 passed in 2015?
The UNHRC is doing nothing on human rights but entirely entangled with politics. That is why the US withdrew from the world body in June 2018 charging that it was a pool of cesspit with politics.
When the US quit the UNHRC, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley said UNHRC was a “cesspool of political bias” that targets Israel in particular while ignoring atrocities in other countries and added that the UNHRC was the world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape scrutiny. “The council continues politicising and scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in their ranks. For too long the human rights council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” she charged.
Should I say anymore to justify our decision to withdraw from the 30/1 UNHRC resolution when its co-sponsor, the US quit the UNHRC. The departing comments that have been made by the US run along with the assessment of Sri Lanka on the UNHRC. It also gives a legitimate right to Sri Lanka to withdraw from the world body. The 30/1 resolution is an affront to our sovereignty, dignity and co-existence of communities. The recommendations of the 30/1 resolution contravene our Constitution, if we carried out them.
Q A major campaign is building up against the conducting of much delayed Provincial Council elections. Buddhist clergy, civil society organizations and the political divide say the cost to run PCs is a waste of billions of rupees of public funds. They also charge that the PCs are only a second tier of power to unsuccessful Parliamentary election candidates or a political kindergarten prior to enter mainstream politics, what are your comments on this?
No one including the Tamils or Muslims in Sri Lanka demanded Provincial Councils until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was thrust upon us under the Indo – Sri Lanka accord in 1987. As you rightly said, my personal opinion is that the PCs are a waste of public funds and a kindergarten to political aspirants to ride the political ladder at the cost of public funds. Our basic law or the Constitution must be applied to the entire country under the concept of ‘One Country – One Law’. If the 13th Amendment enacted in full, there will be 9 separate laws to 9 provinces in addition to Police, land and monetary power. This not only violates Sri Lanka’s Constitution but compromises the territorial integrity, national security and affects the economy.
Q The PCs were thrusted upon Sri Lanka in a war situation. Only the North-East politicians wanted it and created as a solution to power devolution under the Indo-Sri Lanka accord signed in 1987. For more than three years, the provincial administration has run smoothly in the absence of PCs and successfully attended to health, education, public administration, law and order issues and almost all other state functions. Do you have in mind any other administrative cum political structure more suitable for power sharing than PCs?
India is our closest friend. Our cultural, religious and traditional links run to early history. India has helped Sri Lanka in many ways - domestically and in global fora. Therefore, we have no reason to believe that India will poke into our domestic affairs in anyway. I have no doubt that India would under no circumstances ignore to take into account that Sri Lanka is a sovereign country and capable of taking care of its domestic affairs. The proposed new Constitution will address the issue of power devolution in a rather meaningful and beneficial manner.
Q Is this because President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave an undertaking to former UN General Secretary Ban ki Moon in 2009 and to Indian Premier Narendra Modi in 2015 that he would go beyond the 13th Amendment to share power?
Not indeed. President Rajapaksa did not give any such undertaking to premier Modi or Ban ki Moon when they visited Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the war but he indicated Sri Lanka’s willingness to look into any grievances exclusively affect the Northern Tamils if there is any. There is no MoU or a pledge as such given to any party by Sri Lanka to go beyond the 13th Amendment but GoSL is more than willing to address any grievances that affect only the Tamils or any other community for that matter.
Q Many historians and political analysts have pointed out that Velupillai Prabhakaran took to terrorism not because alleged discrimination against the Tamils from the south but because of the ill treatment and harsh discrimination on his clan by so called elite class of Tamils in the north and his low education. He launched his terror campaign by killing SLFP’s Jaffna Mayor late Alfred Duraiappa, who was a high caste Tamil. How do you view this?
Definitely! The so-called elite or high caste Tamils in the North must take the full responsibility for the sorry state of affairs among the low caste Tamils. The discriminatory treatment by high caste Tamils on low caste families have very negative ramifications on all social, religious, educational and family affairs of low caste Tamils. The low caste Tamils are barred from entering temples, schools and weddings of the high caste. The elite Tamils send their offspring to the South or abroad for education. Prabhakaran was a megalomaniac with a mindset distorted by vengeance, hate and cruelty. What the Tamils in Sri Lanka have achieved from his 30 years of terror campaign? The North and East provinces are the most devastated provinces as a result of the civil war started by the LTTE. Therefore, Prabhakaran will have a place in Sri Lanka’s history as a mass murderer who brought untold misery to millions of Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burger families, destroyed the national economy and took the country backward for several decades.
Q We are still to hear a cry from average northern Tamils for power devolution and independent homelands but only from certain racist Tamil politicians like C. V. Wigneshwaran, Gajendrakumar Ponnamabalam and M. K. Sivajilingam who use these outdated slogans for their political survival. Do you agree?
The action of these people is treacherous indeed. Most of them are educated and found employment in Sinhala dominated south. Wigneswaran went to Royal College, qualified as a lawyer from Sri Lanka Law College, secured employment as a Magistrate and climbed the judicial ladder step by step to the top and became a judge of the Supreme Court and resigned to the North with a hefty retirement plan. He achieved success in his life while enjoying for 65 years the hospitality of Sinhalese and attending to Sinhalese dominated seats of education.
Q Well, Wigneswaran and his fellow travellers have started an extremely racist hate campaign against the country. In other countries this kind of vituperative and racist politics are banned and those resorted to promote division in the country are put in jail. Don’t you think relevant constitutional safeguards should be incorporated in the proposed new Constitution to stop separatist elements in their tracks?
I think so. The law makers in Parliament and those experts who have been tasked to draft the proposed new Constitution must draw their attention to this perfidious and dangerous trend. Any Sri Lankan citizen or organization is free to propose a clause to the expert committee that is responsible to draft the new Constitution to this effect.
Kumara Monday, 22 February 2021 03:58 AM
If Tamil Politicians are racist what is Minister Sarath Weesekara? UN is partly responsible for the loss of innocent Tamil lives in 2009.
Legal Advisor Monday, 22 February 2021 05:26 AM
You have blamed everyone else but not yourself. Start with building the credibility of the judiciary. 90% of the accusations made against our motherland in all the international forums will disappear overnight
Krishnakumar Monday, 22 February 2021 06:29 AM
You are absolutely right the Western grudge against Sri Lanka was borne out of Sri Lanka not paying heed to their repeated requests for a ceasefire. But at the same time you have to admit hundreds of Tamil civilians were killed by the Sri Lankan forces, primarily by indiscriminate bombing of the areas where the Tamil civilians were being held as human shield by the LTTE Madmen and also by using military ”snatch squads “ to take into custody able bodied innocent Tamil civilian men who were returning from the LTTE control, who were then made to disappear without any trace.
Antony Jude Monday, 22 February 2021 06:46 AM
Mr.Weerasekara, it is not because of defeating LTTE. It is purely because of war crime activities of the armed forces during and after last phase of the war and human rights violations against minority communities in Srilanka. To avoid this situation, you need to stop your racism and respect human rights.
Sangaralingham Monday, 22 February 2021 10:35 AM
Be honest nothing went right in SriLanka politically socially economically in the country for over 30 years and even now all politicians elected reelected does not know how to handle a normal problem of unity civility dignity equality Social cultural identification wll written spoken by lord Buddha in his sermons years ago respect each other.share peace harmony follow
Sangaralingham Monday, 22 February 2021 10:40 AM
Prabhakaran is the wrong one but did he make his appearance at the right time to the dismay of the whole society or certain segment of some society. Blame everything on him but the beleive he appeared for the wrong reasons due to political forces that was created by the politicians. End result no one benefitted but his name will be used for years to come
Martin Milton Tuesday, 23 February 2021 05:12 PM
The unmentioned aspect is...It is all a matter of $$ and more $$!. MM
Lasith Tuesday, 23 February 2021 10:55 PM
Nobody seems to mention remember or mention that LTTE killed civilians, including their own community!
Em Wednesday, 24 February 2021 12:21 PM
If Sri Lankan govt hangs an extremist Sinhala group leaders like Gnanasara or Madhuadhawa then can accept you are a non biased non racist country
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