2019 prez poll: War crimes allegations proved wrong, can’t be an issue in North-former NP Governor


By Shamindra Ferdinando

One-time Northern Province Governor, retired Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri, yesterday said that the Tamil vote at the Nov 16, 2019 presidential poll shouldn’t be influenced by war crimes accusations made a decade ago.

Chandrasiri, who served as Jaffna Security Forces Commander during the Wanni war, urged the Tamil citizens not to be deceived by unscrupulous elements still propagating lies at the expense of post-war reconciliation.

Chandrasiri served as the Chief of Staff of the Army before retirement.

Responding to The Island query, Chandrasiri, now with civil society grouping Viyathmaga, affiliated to Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidential polls campaign, said the much-touted UN accusations regarding the massacre of 40,000 civilians on the Vanni front had been successfully challenged in the House of Lords in the UK.

Sri Lanka should be eternally grateful to Lord Naseby for the revelation made in Oct 2017, Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri said, adding that the Conservative Party member had, late last month, requested the House of Commons for the full disclosure of wartime confidential dispatches from Colombo.

Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri acknowledged that the Tamil electorate could still be in the dark as regards unsubstantiated war crimes allegations brazenly exploited by some politicians to gain political mileage.

The war veteran said that in spite of bringing the Jaffna peninsula under government control in 1995/96, the military had not been able to liberate the Vanni mainland till May 2009. Thanks to Lord Naseby, who made use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to obtain heavily censored classified dispatches, the Tamil citizens should be aware that the then government never deliberately killed civilians.

UK records placed the number of dead at 7,000 with one fourth of them being LTTE cadres. However, UK held back some and censored even the released documents as they exposed the Geneva lie, Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri said. The former Armoured Corps officer said that in 2016 Geneva prescribed a new Constitution primarily on the basis of accusations now proved baseless.

Responding to another query, Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri pointed out that Illankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi (ITAK) led grouping backed Gen. Sarath Fonseka and Maithripala Sirisena at 2010 and 2015 presidential polls on the premise the wartime political leadership’s responsibility. Since then the lie had been exposed though the Tamil grouping followed a similar strategy, Chandrasiri said. For third time since the conclusion of the war, those who recognized the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people backed the candidate contesting under the ‘swan’ symbol

The UNP-led grouping fielded Sarath Fonseka, Maithripala Sirisena and Sajith Premadasa at 2010, 2015 and 2019 presidential polls, respectively.

Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri said that the ITAK-led grouping as well as the influential Diaspora were silent on Lord Naseby’s House of Lords disclosure. The continuing efforts to propagate unsubstantiated war crimes accusations would soon suffer a serious blow, the retired Maj. General asserted. The vast majority realized that 40,000 killings as a result of a systematic slaughter was nothing but a lie repeated by interested parties, both here and abroad.

Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri alleged that the government in spite repeatedly boasting of enacting Right to Information (RTI) law in June 2016, never bothered to properly use evidence obtained by Lord Naseby courtesy FOIA. Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri said: "Foreign funded groups preached Sri Lanka of the value in the RTI law. But, they never examined Lord Naseby’s untiring efforts on our behalf."

Lord Naseby, in an interview with The Island in Colombo in Sept 2019 explained his efforts to reveal the truth by way of exposing Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) documents pertaining to Vanni offensive. He alleged that the UK withheld documents as the disclosure could certainly jeopardize the Geneva project. Lord Naseby has asked Parliament whether dispatches would be released now.

Whatever the outcome of the Nov 16 presidential poll, the next President and the future government would have to deal with Geneva, Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri said. The March 2020 Geneva sessions would be of pivotal importance to Sri Lanka, the former Jaffna Commander said. "We cannot further delay bringing Lord Naseby’s disclosure to the attention of Geneva," the former Army Chief of Staff said.

Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri regretted that Lord Naseby’s disclosure hadn’t been used yet though Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC, made reference to the British politician at 2018 March sessions there.

The former Northern Governor said that Sri Lanka achieved tremendous success in post-war rehabilitation of ex-members of the LTTE, clearing the Northern and Eastern Provinces of mines, gradual releasing of state and private property, construction and implementation of large foreign funded projects. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka’s war effort had been discredited by those who were constantly propagating ‘white van’ abductions and the massacre of 40,000 in the Vanni, Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri said.

Did anyone bother to inquire why predominately Tamil speaking districts in the northern and eastern provinces overwhelmingly voted for General Fonseka at the 2010 presidential poll? Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri asked.

Asked whether Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s campaigners confident of securing a sizable vote from Tamil speaking people, the Viyathmaga Coordinator said that in addition to the EPDP represented in parliament and TNA Batticaloa District lawmaker S. Viyalendiran’s backing, many Tamil and Muslim politicians and civil society activists supported the former Defence Secretary’s candidature. Former Chief Minister of the then temporarily-merged North-East Province Varatharaja Perumal, former LTTE field commander Karuna Amman and many others backed the SLPP candidate, Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri said.

The former Jaffna Commander challenged those complaining of human rights violations today to prove whether they at least appealed to the LTTE to release 300,000 Tamil civilians held as a human shield on the Vanni east front. Did any one of them request that children be not forcibly thrown into the battle field?

Maj. Gen. Chandrasiri emphasized that Geneva remained a huge problem for want of cohesive strategy. The former senior officer pointed out that the UN restrictions imposed on overseas SLA deployments should be a matter that should be addressed promptly. The UN was still going by original accusations due to our failure to produce available information from ‘foreign sources’ before Geneva.

He underscored the urgent need for a fresh study on Darusman report taking into consideration UN report on Vanni offensive (2008-2009), ICRC documents, US Defence attache’s statement in Colombo in June 2011, Wiki Leaks, Naseby disclosure as well as Norway study on its intervention here.

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