Speaker Rajapaksa admits need to counter lies

House of Commons statements on accountability issues


By Shamindra Ferdinando

Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa yesterday acknowledged the need to counter unsubstantiated claims as regards accountability issues during the conflict made against Sri Lanka in British House of Commons or any other parliament.

Speaker Rajapaksa said that he would explore ways and means of disputing such claims. The Hambantota District MP was responding to British Labour Party MP Siabhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) criticism of the conduct of the Sri Lankan government and its armed forces during eelam war IV.

The Speaker told The Island that the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) as well as the political party the MP belonged to could be informed of Sri Lanka’s position. The veteran politician admitted that Parliament hadn’t responded to various pronouncements inimical to Sri Lanka made in foreign parliaments during the conflict.

Responding to a query, the Speaker said that both local and foreign media had revealed how some members of the British parliament were influenced by pro-LTTE Tamil Diaspora.

The Wikileaks revelation of former British Foreign Secretary

David Miliband seeking political gains at the expense of Sri Lanka triggered a public debate in the country.

The Speaker said that it wasn’t a secret that those who spoke on behalf of the pro-LTTE lobby received the services of volunteers of Sri Lankan origin.

The British High Commission in Colombo declined to comment on statements attributed to British members of parliament.

Asked whether Sri Lanka could respond to allegations made in House of Commons, the Speaker said that the relevant Hansard had to be obtained before the issue could be taken up.

MP Siabhain alleged in Parliament in September 2011 that the Sri Lankan military killed 60,000 LTTE cadres and 40,000 civilians during the period January-May 2009. The claim was made during a debate on human rights situation in the Indian sub-continent in which British parliamentarians lambasted both India and Sri Lanka for human rights violations.

 In March, 2014 MP McDonagh enhanced those allegations and said that the Sri Lankan government had intentionally targeted ‘no fire zones’ with cluster bombs. She even claimed that nearly 150,000 Tamils remained unaccounted for nearly five years after the final battle.

The Labour Party MP didn’t respond to The Island queries about how she came by such highly exaggerated figures from time to time.

The Island took up the issue with the UK based Global Tamil Forum (GTF) which spearheads an expensive campaign for an international war crimes probe against Sri Lanka said that the grouping couldn’t ask MP McDonagh or any other person to respond to media queries.

The Defence Ministry said that since the conclusion of the conflict various interested parties had given different figures apparently plucked from air to justify a war crimes investigation targeting Sri Lanka. The ministry said that the Amnesty International in a special report titled ‘When will they get justice?’ published in 2011 estimated the number of civilian dead at 10,000, whereas the UK media outfit, Channel 4 News placed the number of civilians perished in the final phase of the conflict at 40,000. The ministry said: "Statements attributed to British MP McDonagh since the conclusion of the conflict underscores the pivotal importance of verifying various claims made by interested parties. Unfortunately none of those making allegations want to reveal their sources or explain the basis for their conclusions."

Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya asked whether anything could be as unfair as the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) recommendation that the identities of those who had provided information to the UN body shouldn’t be revealed for 20 years. The recommendation made in March 2011 meant that the very basis for proposed UNHRC probe on Sri Lanka couldn’t be verified until 2031, the Brigadier said.

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