Showing posts with label War crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label War crime. Show all posts

Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa can stop war crime charges keep haunting

(May 30, Colombo - Lanka PolityIn a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa displayed how weary he is over the allegations against his government regarding the war crimes during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE).

The President perturbed by the repeated questioning by Al Jazeera correspondent Fouziah Ibrahim, lost his temper and asked why Al Jazeera repeatedly harassed Sri Lanka with war crimes charges just because the country defeated terrorism, while sparing countries like the USA and Britain.

On May 27, Sri Lanka's Minister of External Affairs, G.L. Peiris, who was on a public relations tour through the United States, left a scheduled meeting with journalists at the National Press Club Thursday morning without speaking.

It is learnt that he was advised not to meet media at the National Press Club that recently awarded the organization's 2009 International Freedom of the Press Award to slain Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of the Sunday Leader.

Meanwhile, Amnesty international website says, "One year after Sri Lanka's civil war came to a bloody end, the evidence that both parties to the conflict committed serious human rights violations, including war crimes, continues to pile up. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group and the US State Department have compiled extensive reports on the human rights violations that were committed by both the Sri Lankan army and the armed Tamil Tigers. To date, not one single individual has been held accountable for the crimes committed."

During a talk at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Minister Pieris stubbornly refused to answer a question of a representative of an Amnesty International that questioned about the human rights impact of the most recent presidential commission of inquiry (established in 2006) into several high level human rights cases, including the execution style murder of 17 aid workers of the French organization Action Contre la Faim (ACF). The question was on how many individuals were actually tried as a consequence of the work of the commission, or why the findings that were sent to the President have not been made public to this day.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has to understand that the pressure on his government over war crime charges will last until when or if he will change the sense of euphoria of his rule following war victory into a more down-to-earth policy especially towards Tamils.

Although he defeated the Tamil militancy in Sri Lankan soil, he is yet to apprehend the full potential of the powerful Tamil Diaspora which is far beyond his simplistic version of a people that want to extend their stay in green pastures of developed West as he suggested in the Al Jazeera interview.

The Tamil Diaspora is too well able to keep the fires of the campaigns on war crime charges against him burning within the framework of Western democracy subtly manipulating the numerous international human rights organizations and even the UN. No power has ever undermined the mandate of these organizations to appear for human rights and the Rajapaksa's are far inadequate to do so. The ability of the Tamil Diaspora to sustain the lobby is free from their internal divisions.

If he is unwilling to deal with the mighty Tamil Diaspora, what he can do to regain the due respect for his defeat of terrorism is to establish good relationship with at least the local Tamils whose lives are in complete disarray as a result of war. The President and his government are in the vision that rapid economic growth facilitated by infrastructure development and private sector engagement will demoralize the Tamil nationalist sentiments.

Even for this, he needs some kind of meaningful power sharing with the leaders of local Tamil community. The undeclared 'Give Nothing to Tamils' racist Sinhala chauvinist policy that is masterminded by the ultra nationalist elements in his government will not lead him anywhere.

Power sharing with Tamils is a taboo subject among many of the Sinhala nationalist elite. Rajapaksa is in a powerful position and he can break it, if the pragmatic leader, as identified by Velupillai Prabakaran in his Mahaviru speech in 2005, can see beyond his nose tip, the time is ripe for reforms since the Sinhala racists have lost to him.

Development plus power sharing will make him really closer with local Tamils, not in the superficialway of meeting and talking with them when he visits north and east, as he said to Al Jazeera.

This is the only way available for him to widen the gap between the local and Diaspora Tamils. Only then, he will be able to actually delegitimize the din of the war crime charges against him. Sheer rhetoric against Diaspora Tamils will lead him nowhere.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sri Lanka president to use the UN war crime charges to bank sympathetic votes

(December 22, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The interview given by opposition presidential candidate of Sri Lanka Sarath Fonseka to the Sunday Leader newspaper on December 13, 2009 wherein he alleges that three Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) leaders who came to surrender with white flags during the final stages of the battle were shot dead by ground troops that were following the orders of Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, has opened an UN probe into possible war crimes charges against the government.

However, the government ahead of an unexpected competition in the presidential on January 26 has decided to manipulate the scenario to rouse patriotism among masses and to bank the floating votes disregarding the risk factor. The government has assigned Sinhala nationalist ex-Marxist Wimal Weerawansa, the leader of the National Freedom Front (JNP), to run a campaign to grow hatred among security forces against Fonseka. He also begs to people to come to streets in defense of the Rajapaksas to show gratitude for the service they rendered in wiping out terrorism.

Weerawansa, who has begun to advise the government in legal affairs since recent times urged issuing a press statement, to bring Sarath Fonseka before the martial court and punish him under martial law.Weerawansa is delivering a series of fiery speeches in this regard and urges the government to forget the presidential and to take action to avoid further betrayals. 

However, the more responsible government politicians including arch Sinhala nationalist militant leader of the National Heritage (JHU) Champika Ranawaka have been instructed by the government to be prudential since the government has been advised to face the problem diplomatically.

United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston in a letter to President Mahinda Rajapaksa has demanded an explanation regarding the allegations made by Fonseka that the Defence Secretary has instructed the Commander of the 58th Brigade of the Sri Lanka Army to shoot those surrendering.

The United Nations is inquiring particularly “the circumstances of the death of three representatives of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Balasingham Nadeshan, Seevaratnam Pulidevan and Ramesh, as well as members of their families, in the night of 17 to 18 May, 2009.”

In his letter, Alston says that the information that he has received are based on the allegations made by Sarath Fonseka in the above mentioned interview. He also says “accounts of journalists embedded with the SLA 58th Brigade confirm some of the alleged circumstances of the deaths of Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh and their families.” Referring to “fundamental legal rules applicable to all armed conflicts under international humanitarian law and human rights law”, particularly Article 5 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the Special Rapporteur has inquired about the accuracy of the allegations and demanded information and documentary proof in the event that the accusations are inaccurate.The letter also seeks information on the family members of Nadeshan , Pulidevan and Ramesh.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Expert with ties to FBI and Vancouver Police authenticates “Sri Lanka War Crimes”-Channel 4 Video

Rhys Blakely in Mumbai

Video footage that appears to show Sri Lankan troops committing war crimes by summarily executing captured Tamil Tiger fighters on the battlefield was not fabricated, as claimed by the Sri Lankan Government, an investigation by The Times has found.

The findings come after General Sarath Fonseka, the former head of the army, alleged that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister, had ordered that surrendering Tiger leaders be killed rather than taken prisoner in the final days of the brutal 26-year civil war that ended in May.

The claims, vehemently denied by the Government, added to a lengthy list of war crimes allegations against it.
The video of the alleged battlefield executions, which was aired on Channel 4 in August, shows a naked man, bound and blindfolded, being made to kneel.

Another man, dressed in what appears to be Sri Lankan army uniform, approaches from behind and shoots him in the head at point-blank range. “It’s like he jumped,” the executor laughs. The camera then pans to show eight similarly bound corpses.

It is impossible to confirm when and where the filming occurred or the identities of the men shown. Pro-Tamil groups alleged that the video was filmed by troops on a mobile phone in January, when they overran the Tiger stronghold of Kilinochchi in the north of the country. Those claims were denied by government officials, who said they had “established beyond doubt” that the footage was fake.

An analysis for The Times by Grant Fredericks, an independent forensic video specialist who is also an instructor at the FBI National Academy, suggests otherwise. He found no evidence of digital manipulation, editing or any other special effects. However, subtle details consistent with a real shooting, such as a discharge of gas from the barrel of the weapon used, were visible.

“This level of subtle detail cannot be virtually reproduced. This is clearly an original recording,” said Mr Fredericks, who was previously the head of the Vancouver police forensic video unit in Canada.
There was also strong evidence to rule out the use of actors. “Even if the weapons fired blanks, the barrel is so close to the head of the ‘actors’ that the gas discharge alone leaves the weapon with such force it would likely cause serious injury or death,” Mr Fredericks said.

The reactions of those executed was consistent with reality, he added. “The victims do not lunge forward . . . [they] fall backward in a very realistic reaction, unlike what is normally depicted in the movies.”

In Mr Fredericks’s opinion “the injury to the head of the second victim and the oozing liquid from that injury cannot be reproduced realistically without editing cuts, camera angle changes and special effects. No [errors] exist anywhere in any of the images that support a technical fabrication of the events depicted,” he said.

The Sri Lankan Government said in a statement in September that the footage was “done with a sophisticated video camera, dubbed to give the gunshot effect and transferred to a mobile phone.”

Mr Fredericks’s research showed that code embedded in the footage appeared to match with software used in Nokia mobile phones.” He said: “The recording is completely consistent with a cell phone video recording and there are no signs of editing or alterations.”

The strong evidence that the footage does show real executions could reinforce international calls for an independent war crimes investigation — something that the Sri Lanka Government has resisted. A Sri Lankan army spokesman requested that a copy of Mr Fredericks’s report be sent to him yesterday, but did not reply when it was.

Mr Fonseka, who resigned from the army last month after being sidelined, is campaigning to unseat President Rajapaksa, the Defence Minister’s brother, at elections next month. [courtesy: Times.UK]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tigers begged me to broker surrender

by Marie Colvin (May 2009)

MCTC0324C.jpgMarie Colvin, recognized as Best Foreign Correspondent in many of the British Press Awards, was wounded when she was fired upon in Vavuniya by the Sri Lankan Army in April 2001.
IT was a desperate last phone call but it did not sound like a man who would be dead within hours. Balasingham Nadesan, political leader of the Tamil Tigers, had nowhere to turn, it seemed.

“We are putting down our arms,” he told me late last Sunday night by satellite phone from the tiny slip of jungle and beach on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka where the Tigers had been making their last stand.

I could hear machinegun fire in the background as he continued coolly: “We are looking for a guarantee of security from the Obama administration and the British government. Is there a guarantee of security?”

He was well aware that surrendering to the victorious Sri Lankan army would be the most dangerous moment in the 26-year civil war between the Tigers and Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.

I had known Nadesan and Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the head of the Tigers’ peace secretariat, since being smuggled into rebel territory eight years ago.

At that time the Tigers controlled a third of the island; now these two men were trying to save the lives of the remaining 300 fighters and their families, many of them injured. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped with them, hiding in hand-dug trenches, enduring near constant bombardment.

For several days I had been the intermediary between the Tiger leadership and the United Nations as the army pressed in on the last enclave at the end of a successful military campaign to defeat the rebellion.

Nadesan had asked me to relay three points to the UN: they would lay down their arms, they wanted a guarantee of safety from the Americans or British, and they wanted an assurance that the Sri Lankan government would agree to a political process that would guarantee the rights of the Tamil minority.
Through highly placed British and American officials I had established contact with the UN special envoy in Colombo, Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general. I had passed on the Tigers’ conditions for surrender, which he had said he would relay to the Sri Lankan government.

The conflict seemed set for a peaceful outcome. Puleedevan, a jolly, bespectacled figure, found time to text me a smiling photo of himself in a bunker.

By last Sunday night, however, as the army pressed in, there were no more political demands from the Tigers and no more photos. Nadesan refused to use the word “surrender” when he called me, but that is what he intended to do. He wanted Nambiar to be present to guarantee the Tigers’ safety.

Once more, the UN 24-hour control centre in New York patched me through to Nambiar in Colombo, where it was 5.30am on Monday. I woke him up.

I told him the Tigers had laid down their arms. He said he had been assured by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, that Nadesan and Puleedevan would be safe in surrendering. All they had to do was “hoist a white flag high”, he said.

I asked Nambiar if he should not go north to witness the surrender. He said no, that would not be necessary: the president’s assurances were enough.

It was still late Sunday night in London. I tried to get through to Nadesan’s satellite phone but failed, so I called a Tigers contact in South Africa to relay Nambiar’s message: wave a white flag high.

I was woken at 5am by a phone call from another Tigers contact in southeast Asia. He had been unable to get through to Nadesan. “I think it’s all over,” he said. “I think they’re all dead.”

That evening, the Sri Lankan army displayed their bodies. What had gone wrong with the surrender? I would soon find out.

I discovered that on Sunday night Nadesan had also called Rohan Chandra Nehru, a Tamil MP in the Sri Lankan parliament, who immediately contacted Rajapaksa.

The MP recounted the events of the next hours: “The president himself told me he would give full security to Nadesan and his family. Nadesan said he had 300 people with him, some injured.

“I said to the president, ‘I will go and take their surrender.’

“Rajapaksa said, ‘No, our army is very generous and very disciplined. There is no need for you to go to a warzone. You don’t need to put your life at risk’.”

Chandra Nehru said Basil, the president’s brother, called him. “He said, ‘They will be safe. They have to hoist a white flag.’ And he gave me the route they should follow.”

The MP got through to Nadesan at about 6.20am local time on Monday. The sound of gunfire was louder than ever.

“We are ready,” Nadesan told him. “I’m going to walk out and hoist the white flag.”

“I told him: ‘Hoist it high, brother – they need to see it. I will see you in the evening’,” said Chandra Nehru.

A Tamil who was in a group that managed to escape the killing zone described what happened. This source, who later spoke to an aid worker, said Nadesan and Puleedevan walked towards Sri Lankan army lines with a white flag in a group of about a dozen men and women. He said the army started firing machineguns at them.

Nadesan’s wife, a Sinhalese, yelled in Sinhala at the soldiers: “He is trying to surrender and you are shooting him.” She was also shot down.

The source said all in the group were killed. He is now in hiding, fearful for his life. Chandra Nehru has fled the country after being threatened, the MP says, by the president and his brother.

Over the past few days, Nambiar’s role as UN envoy has come into question. His brother, Satish, has been a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan army since 2002. Satish once wrote that General Sarath Fonseka, commander of the Sri Lankan armed forces, “displayed the qualities of a great military leader”.

Although the Tamil Tigers are internationally banned because of past acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings, Nadesan and Puleedevan favoured a political solution to the conflict. Had they lived, they would have been credible political leaders for the Tamil minority.

It was Velupillai Prabhakaran, their commander, who built the movement into a military machine. He was paranoid and ruthless, and he remained committed to military means even as the Tamil Tigers lost ground in the face of the Sri Lankan army onslaught.

Last week, although rumours circulated that Prabhakaran had survived, the organisation was in disarray. Surviving Tamil leaders spoke of turning to a political process, while more militant representatives threatened revenge attacks.

I am in a difficult position as a journalist reporting this story. I first went to Sri Lanka in 2001 to investigate reports that the government was blocking food and medical supplies to half a million Tamils. Journalists had been largely banned from the northern Tamil area for six years.

I found people living in squalor and doctors pleading for medicine. Leaders such as Nadesan and Puleedevan told me they had reduced their demands from independence to autonomy within Sri Lanka.

As I was being smuggled out of the area at night, we were ambushed by the Sri Lankan army. I was unhurt until I shouted, “Journalist, journalist.” Then they fired an RPG at me, severely wounding me.

After intermittent contact with the Tamils since then, I had a series of phone calls from the leadership in recent months as the Tigers fell back in the face of the army’s new offensive. In one call, Nadesan said the Tigers would abide by the result of any referendum and begged for a ceasefire. His plea was rejected by Colombo.

There was dancing on the capital’s streets last week after the defeat of the Tigers. Victory has come, however, at a shocking cost to Tamil civilians. The United Nations says that at least 7,000 died in the last onslaught, although the toll is believed to be much higher. Some 280,000 who had been trapped by the fighting have been herded into “welfare” camps surrounded by razor wire where conditions are said to be deteriorating fast.

Yesterday international aid agencies claimed up to three families were crowding into each tent and being forced to queue for hours for water and food. One aid worker said there was only one doctor in a camp holding 44,000 people.

Refugees reached by The Sunday Times through aid organisations vented their fury. “Look at how we live,” said one woman in a camp with her two children. “We have no space, no protection from the sun. We are prisoners with armed guards and barbed wire. What do they think I will do – a mother and her two children? Why are we here?”

Reports were circulating that members of paramilitary gangs were seizing young people from the camps, accusing them of being Tigers and holding them in secret facilities, although this could not be confirmed.
The president has talked of reaching out to the Tamil community, unifying the country and resettling 80% of the refugees by the end of the year.

“I do not think that is realistic,” said Anna Neistat, of Human Rights Watch. “There is no procedure to release anyone.”

Whatever the declared intentions of the government, there seems to be little prospect of uniting Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future unless the Tamil grievances that enabled the Tigers to flourish are dealt with.
Additional reporting: Heather Mark, Colombo
[London Times reporter Marie Colvin visitng Iraq mass graves, lost her eye in a grenade attack by Sri Lanka Army in Hot Docs.
[courtesy: Times, UK]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Spurning LTTE attempt to surrender during the final battle likely to be a key issue at coming presidential poll

The government yesterday said that a fresh attempt was being made to blame the Sri Lankan government for turning down an LTTE offer to surrender a few days before the army wiped out the last organised LTTE resistance on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.

A top government spokesman told The Island that this was an Opposition strategy to denigrate the Sri Lanka government before the international community. Responding to our queries, he said that the Opposition had fuelled speculation that the Norwegians had contacted Basil Rajapaksa, MP after the LTTE sought their help to facilitate an unconditional surrender. He said that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had been accused of dismissing the LTTE appeal when it was brought to his notice by his brother Basil before directing the 58 Division to finish off the Tigers.

This was likely to be a key opposition standpoint at the presidential election.
Shortly after the army had wiped out the remaining LTTE cadres, including Velupillai Prabhakaran in the third week of May during a series of battles, the Tamil Diaspora, too, accused the government of spurning an LTTE bid to surrender. Referring to a statement attributed to former Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka, at his inaugural press briefing at the JAIC Hilton, an aide to President Rajapaksa said that the Opposition presidential candidate had declared that the offensive could not have been halted even if the international community demanded it. The press quoted the war veteran as saying that they (the military) had reached a point of no return.

The government emphasised that the LTTE had ample time to surrender had it really wanted to before being cornered on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon. The government said that the top LTTE leadership could have easily negotiated its surrender through the ICRC as the international relief agency had a presence on the ground to facilitate the evacuation of the sick, wounded and the elderly.

"In fact, we expected them to make overtures through the ICRC but they never did," the aide to the President said. He regretted that the Opposition had sought to make political capital out of purely a security issue at a time even the harshest critics of the government had changed their approach. He was referring to the US position recently articulated by Ambassador Robert Blake that the defeat of the LTTE had created a tremendous opportunity for the people of Sri Lanka. "For the first time in over a generation, Sri Lankans live in a country that is not divided by war or marred by violence," he told the media last Wednesday after meeting President Rajapaksa.

The government had also conveniently forgotten that almost 300,000 held by the LTTE, too, escaped during the final stage of the battle and reached the army-held lines. Among them were Prabhakaran’s parents and over 11,000 LTTE cadres, including child combatants, the government said. Had they bothered to check what the army and the Justice and Law Reforms Ministry had accomplished over the past few months, they would know that the prisoners of war were well taken care of. In fact, Justice and Law Reforms Minister Milinda Moragoda went to the extent of moving some of the child soldiers to the Hindu College, Ratmalana, the government said.

War crime charges to haunt incessantly until Sri Lanka clears the doubts

(December 12, Colombo - Lanka Polity) The incident of alleged shooting at a group of cadres of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) political wing cadres is repeatedly haunting in political circles and on December 09 Sri Lankan ambassador to UN Paitha Kohona was queried about it by Australia Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Presenter Sarah Dingle. Kohona was the Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka by the time and  he is also a citizen of Australia.

DINGLE: In the last days of the civil war, two political leaders of the rebel Tamil Tiger fighters tried to lay down their arms and surrender. The incident is mentioned in a 2009 US State Department report to Congress, on possible violations of international humanitarian law in Sri Lanka, from January until the end of May this year.

The report says the leaders, Nadesan and Puleedevan spoke to international and domestic figures, who acted as intermediaries with the then Foreign Secretary Dr Palitha Kohona to negotiate a surrender. Nadesan requested a UN witness, but was told he had the Sri Lankan President's guarantee of safety.

On May the 18th, Nadesan and Puleedevan led about a dozen men and women under a white flag to waiting Sri Lankan army troops. A Tamil eyewitness said the soldiers fired on them with machine guns. Everyone in the group was killed.

Dr Palitha Kohona is now Sri Lanka's ambassador to the United Nations. He is also an Australian citizen, and according to Hansard, a former senior official with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The ABC asked him what his role was in arranging the surrender.

KOHONA: Absolutely none, because I was in foreign ministry I had nothing to do with the defence ministry or the defence forces, I had no role in arranging anything, and I don't think anything was arranged anyway.

DINGLE: So there was no surrender agreed to?

KOHONA: Actually not as far as I am concerned, I don't think anybody else was involved in such a surrender either.

DINGLE: So did anyone contact you regarding the surrender of those two figures?

KOHONA: Anybody from the defence establishment, no.

DINGLE: Did anyone at all contact you about the surrender of those two figures?

KOHONA: There was an attempt to wake me up in the middle of the night, and I told them that I was not the person to contact about those demands.
There was a general query about surrendering, and I told them that there I was the wrong person, that I had nothing to do with surrendering and asked them to go and deal with the matter in the way it ought to be dealt with.

DINGLE: And what was that way?

KOHONA: I'm sorry, I can't answer stupid questions of this nature.

DINGLE: Three weeks after the shooting, Sri Lanka's army chief General Sarath Fonseka was reported as saying that the military had to overlook traditional rules of war and kill LTTE rebels who had come under white flags to surrender.

Don Rothwell is a professor of international law at the Australian National University. He says as a diplomat Dr Kohona has immunity from prosecution, but recently international law courts have begun to question this principle in the case of possible war crimes.

ROTHWELL: There's nothing to suggest Dr Kohona was directly responsible for committing these alleged war crimes, though international law does recognise principles of what's called command responsibility, where if someone had direct command whether it's legal or political with respect to the commission of these types of offences.

DINGLE: Professor Rothwell says in this case, there is enough material to launch a preliminary investigation.

ROTHWELL: Dr Kohona is a dual Australian Sri Lankan citizen, the fact that he is an Australian citizen automatically activates obligations for Australia to investigate this matter at the legal level, but the fact that he was a former high profile official for the Australian Government representing Australia in international negotiations, I think perhaps places an even stronger responsibility on Australia to at least conduct the initial investigations into this matter.

DINGLE: Dr Palitha Kohona.

First and foremost, the allegations need to be substantiated, no country goes around investigating silly accusations based on innuendo and unsubstantiated facts.
DINGLE: It was reported that you once said only loser countries, countries that lose the war, get tried for war crimes. Is that true?

KOHONA: Historically that is a fact.

DINGLE: Both the federal government and the Australian Federal Police say they are aware of the US State Department's report. The AFP says it hasn't received any referral to investigate Dr Kohona for alleged war crimes. A spokesman for the Attorney General's Department says investigation and prosecution by the country in which criminal conduct occurred, is the most appropriate way to bring an alleged war criminal to justice.

London datelined PTI news report dated 23 May, under the title "Britain and Norway tried to save two top LTTE leaders: report" said, Britain and Norway made a last minute bid to save the lives of two Tamil Tiger leaders, but in vain, as Sri Lankan troops closed in, the media reported today.

It was further reported that the LTTE's political chief, B Nadesan, and 'peace secretariat' head, S Pulidevan, had attempted to surrender, The Daily Telegraph said, in a report quoting Vijay Nambiar.

According to a London datelined PTI news report David Miliband British foreign Minister and Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim and UN officials were all involved in trying to save the two proclaimed LTTE terrorists - B.Nadesan and Pulidevan.

The men were later found dead amid claims that they were shot while waving a white flag, and Western diplomats warned that the Sri Lankan government could face a war crimes investigation.

The World Socialist Website ran a detailed story about the incident and it is as follows:

British newspapers expose cold-blooded killing of LTTE leaders in Sri Lanka

By Robert Stevens
3 June 2009

The British press last week revealed that senior leaders of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were in negotiations with British and American diplomats to surrender, immediately prior to their killing by the Sri Lankan army on May 18. Also involved in the talks was the United Nations secretary general’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar.
The Guardian and the Sunday Times both published reports stating that Balasingham Nadesan, the leader of the LTTE’s political wing, and Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the head of its peace secretariat, held talks with Nambiar through a series of intermediaries, including a journalist and a delegation of British diplomats.

The Guardian states that the LTTE leaders also made further contact with Norwegian Environment and Development Cooperation Minister Erik Solheim prior to their deaths. Solheim had been involved as a special envoy in attempts to broker a peace agreement following the 2002 ceasefire in Sri Lanka’s protracted civil war.

The Sunday Times article by journalist Marie Colvin was headlined, “Tigers begged me to broker surrender.” She explained how the initial contact between the LTTE, British and United States officials, and the United Nations had been facilitated through her.

Colvin has covered the civil war in Sri Lanka since being “smuggled into territory eight years ago” in order “to investigate reports that the government was blocking food and medical supplies to half a million Tamils.” She had met and came to know Nadesan and Puleedevan since that time.

The Guardian details how the two leaders of the LTTE attempted to agree to a last minute deal with the Sri Lankan government just hours before they were killed by the army in the early hours of May 18—while in the process of surrendering.

A British official states that UK involvement was “at most indirect”, but the article includes a quote from Nambiar saying that he had had “direct contact” with British diplomats in New York and also with an unnamed British minister. Nambiar added, “There was a ministerial demarche [a formal diplomatic representation] to the secretary general from the UK office in New York.”

Nambiar passed on the information obtained by the Times journalist regarding the proposal of Nadesan and Puleedevan to surrender to the Sri Lankan government. He says that he also spoke to Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohona about the proposal.

The government had no intention of brokering a ceasefire or allowing any surrender by the LTTE leadership. Nambiar told the Guardian, “The Sri Lankan government did not say that they would accept the surrender. They said it may be too late.”

After being contacted by the LTTE regarding the surrender, Solheim “then contacted the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Sri Lankan government”.

A text message was then sent from Kohona to the Red Cross, which read, “Just walk across to the troops, slowly! With a white flag and comply with instructions carefully. The soldiers are nervous about suicide bombers.”

In Colvin’s Times article she described the harrowing conditions facing the LTTE fighters as they were cornered into a tiny strip of jungle and a beach area during the final army offensive: “Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped with them, hiding in hand-dug trenches, enduring near constant bombardment.”

“For several days I had been the intermediary between the Tiger leadership and the United Nations as the army pressed in on the last enclave at the end of a successful military campaign to defeat the rebellion,” she writes. “Nadesan had asked me to relay three points to the UN: they would lay down their arms, they wanted a guarantee of safety from the Americans or British, and they wanted an assurance that the Sri Lankan government would agree to a political process that would guarantee the rights of the Tamil minority.

“Through highly placed British and American officials I had established contact with the UN special envoy in Colombo, Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary-general. I had passed on the Tigers’ conditions for surrender, which he had said he would relay to the Sri Lankan government.”

Colvin corroborates the Guardian’s report. She states that in conversation with Nambiar during the morning of May 18, he told her that he had been told by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse that the two leaders would be able to surrender by hoisting “a white flag high”.
Colvin stated, “Once more, the UN 24-hour control centre in New York patched me through to Nambiar in Colombo, where it was 5.30 a.m. on Monday. I woke him up.

“I told him the Tigers had laid down their arms. He said he had been assured by Mahinda Rajapakse, the Sri Lankan president, that Nadesan and Puleedevan would be safe in surrendering. All they had to do was ‘hoist a white flag high,’ he said.”

Shortly after this Colvin lost contact with Nadesan’s satellite phone and spoke to an LTTE contact in South Africa, to whom she relayed the instructions to hoist the white flag.

Colvin reports, “A Tamil who was in a group that managed to escape the killing zone described what happened. This source, who later spoke to an aid worker, said Nadesan and Puleedevan walked towards Sri Lankan army lines with a white flag in a group of about a dozen men and women. He said the army started firing machineguns at them. Nadesan’s wife, a Sinhalese, yelled in Sinhala at the soldiers, ‘He is trying to surrender and you are shooting him.’ She was also shot down.”

The incident underscores the ruthlessness with which the Sri Lankan government and army slaughtered the LTTE leadership on the morning of May 18. Virtually all of the top LTTE leaders, including LTTE chief V. Prabhakaran, died in circumstances that have not been adequately explained. The Sri Lankan government claimed that Prabhakaran was killed in a gun battle trying to flee, but he may well have met the same fate as Nadesan and Puleedevan.

Certainly the army pursued the destruction of the last pocket of LTTE resistance with criminal indifference to the consequences of nearly a quarter of a million Tamil civilians trapped in the war zone. While Rajapakse’s government denies responsibility for any civilian deaths, the latest reports based on leaked UN estimates put the death toll at more than 20,000 since January.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sri Lanka rulers fight back the US move to frame war crime charges; coalition party vows to teach US an unforgettable lesson

(November 03, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka's ruling coalition party, arch Sinhala Buddhist Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) vows to teach US an unforgettable lesson in the country if it continues to take action to frame war crime charges against the country.

In a statement issued with the signature of the secretary of JHU Buddhist monk Rev. Omalpe Sobhitha Thero, the party declines a US attempt to manipulate former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka as a witness to frame charges against Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse. The statement further says that the attempt to detain the former Army Commander during his visit to US is in breach of the sovereignty of the nation.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka Minister of Foreign Affairs Rohitha Bogollagama said in a press conference today, " whatever General Fonseka may have become aware of during his service with the Government and in the course of his duties, has the status of privileged information. He has no authority to divulge or share this information with third parties, without the prior approval and consent of the Sri Lanka authorities.”  The government said it would strongly object to any move by the US Homeland Security Department to question Chief of Defense Staff General Sarath Fonsekaa saying the Government of Sri Lanka will under no circumstances, authorize such an illegal act.

Fonseka, a US Green Card holder, is now in Oklahoma and the Department of Homeland Security has asked him to avail himself for an interview on Wednesday and Sri Lankan politicians are in panic since they doubt that Washington is asserting its legal authority over the 'war crimes' report" released last month.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka media reported that Fonseka had written to the Sri Lankan Ambassador in US stating that US officials asked him to testify against the Defense Secretary over war crime charges.

The former Army Commander is slated by media as a probable contender for common opposition candidacy at an upcoming Presidential. He is an arch Sinhala nationalist that stated in an interview to Canada’s National Post in September 2008, he “strongly believed that Sri Lanka belongs to the Sinhalese, but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people”, and of the other communities “They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.”

The 68-page report from the US Department of State to the Congress on October 22 contains details of alleged “atrocities” by both the military and Tiger guerrillas during the final stages of the separatist war in May, this year. The report contains a reference to Gen. Fonseka. It says, “A media outlet reported on July 18 that at a celebrity event in Ambalangoda, Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka stated that the military had to overlook the traditional rules of war and even kill LTTE rebels who came to surrender carrying white flags during the war against the LTTE.”
(Photo: Ruling party MP Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thero)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sri Lanka in talks to avoid war-crimes quiz in US

(November 02, Colombo - Lanka Polity) Sri Lanka called on US authorities to drop plans to interview the island's military commander over allegations of war crimes against ethnic Tamil rebels, an official said Sunday.

The Colombo government held "very high-level" talks to prevent General Sarath Fonseka, currently visiting Oklahoma, from being quizzed over his conduct during the conflict against the Tamil Tigers, the official said.

The privately-run Sunday Times newspaper here said Fonseka had been asked to present himself for an interview with the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday.

The move "prompted fears in Colombo that Washington is asserting its legal authority over the 'war crimes' report" released last month, the paper said referring to a State Department dossier on alleged war crimes.

The report outlined excesses by security forces and Tiger rebels during the final stages of fighting earlier this year. The report, submitted to the US Congress, refers to Fonseka's having overstepped his brief.

The Sunday Times said the Sri Lankan diplomatic mission there was already providing legal assistance to Fonseka.

Fonseka is a US Green Card holder and travelled to the US last week to visit his two daughters. He also addressed a group of Sri Lankans in Washington last week and took credit for leading the battle to crush the Tigers.

The US embassy in Colombo declined comment.

The State Department report cited allegations that Tamil rebels recruited children and that government forces broke a ceasefire as well as killed rebels who surrendered.

It also cited reports in which it was claimed government troops or government-backed paramilitaries "abducted and in some instances then killed Tamil civilians, particularly children and young men."

The report covered the period from January -- when fighting intensified -- until the end of May, when Sri Lankan troops defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the end of a decades-old separatist conflict.

Sri Lanka last week announced it was appointing a panel to investigate the allegations after initially dismissing the report as "unsubstantiated."

The island's government managed to stave off a UN human rights council debate on alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity thanks to the backing of veto-holders China and Russia.

The UN has said that up to 7,000 civilians perished during the last four months of fighting and accused both the military and the Tigers of not doing enough to protect civilians.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sri Lanka President's tour in Vietnam utilized for anti-US propaganda

(October 20, Colombo - Lanka Polity) This photo published by Sri Lanka's state print media propaganda organ Sunday Observer is clear evidence that the President Mahinda Rajaakse's official tour to Vietnam is aimed at propagating his defying policy towards Western super powers that are questioning the human rights conduct of the country under him.

The caption went as "President Mahinda Rajapaksa observing the photographs of Western war crimes displayed at the Museum of War Remnants in Vietnam during an official visit to the country,"

A 68 page report prepared by the War Crimes office in the State Department and presented to Congress on Thursday lists 170 incidents in Sri Lanka between May 2 and 18. It is based mostly on internal reports to Washington from the US Embassy in Colombo, satellite imagery, international relief organizations and media outlets.The report alleges that thousands of Tamil civilians were gunned down by Tiger guerrillas seeking to use them as human shields or killed in what it calls “indiscriminate government shelling.” Stephen Rapp, the US Ambassador at large for war crimes issues has said that the Government of Sri Lanka should investigate the allegations.

Foreign Ministry Sri Lanka in a quick response said on Thursday that the report “appears to be unsubstantiated and devoid of corroborative evidence.” It accused vested interests of endeavouring to bring the Government of Sri Lanka into disrepute, through “fabricated allegations and concocted stories.”
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