Sri Lanka has thwarted an Israeli proposal to send a combined UN and WHO team to investigate the conduct of the Sri Lankan security forces during the recently concluded offensive against the LTTE. The Mahinda Rajapaksa government is expectd to take up this issue with Tel Aviv.
Health Minister Nimal Siripala Silva told The Island that the move was made on May 18, the first day of the five-day meeting of the World Health Assembly held in Geneva at the WHO headquarters.
He said that the Israeli delegation had called for an immediate investigation after Sri Lanka received overwhelming backing to chair the conference. The Jewish State has said that Sri Lanka, too, should be subjected to an inspection similar to the one carried out in the Gaza Strip.
The Chief Government Whip said that Israel had failed to receive the backing of at least one other country.
Health Ministry spokesperson Wanninayake told The Island that there had been delegations from 192 countries. Opposing the Sri Lankan Health Minister’s appointment as the Chairman of the World Health Assembly, the Israeli delegation had said that Sri Lanka should face an international investigation, he said.
He said that Israel went to the extent of accusing Sri Lanka of indiscriminate military action and violations of human rights in the guise of fighting LTTE terrorism.
Minister Silva told The Island that nothing could be as ridiculous as Israel’s accusations.
The surprising move came hours before the Sri Lankan Army finished off what was left of the LTTE’s conventional fighting forces killing almost the entire leadership including LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
Sri Lanka re-established diplomatic relations with Israel shortly after the LTTE overran the strategic Elephant Pass base in April 2000.
A senior official told The Island that the Israeli move in Geneva surprised them all. Israel is one of the key suppliers of military hardware including Fast Attack Craft (FACs), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), Kfir multi-role fighters and the recently introduced rockets which helped the Sri Lanka Navy to destroy many Sea Tiger craft in the northern waters. The rockets mounted on Inshore Patrol Craft (IPCs) helped the SLN to overwhelm Sea Tigers off the Mullaitivu coast. Sri Lankan security forces have been also benefited by Israeli expertise.
Wanninayake said that on the day Israeli government made its move hundreds of LTTE supporters had held a violent anti-Sri Lanka protest at the WHO premises.
A military official told The Island that Israel was always considered a friend. He said that successive Israeli governments had backed the military effort against the LTTE though Sri Lanka didn’t have diplomatic ties.
Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona recently dismissed a British call to haul Sri Lankan political and military leadership before an international war crimes tribunal.