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How UN colluded with the Tigers



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By Shamindra Ferdinando


Sri Lanka received a controversial UN report on ‘war crimes’ committed during eelam war IV on the eve of the National Sinhala and Hindu New Year celebrations. Obviously the world body wanted to spoil the New Year celebrations in a nation now rapidly recovering following a bloody 30-year war caused by its powerful neighbour India.


As anticipated, Vijay Nambiar, Under Secretary General of the UN handed over a copy of the report to Sri Lanka’s No 2 at the UN, Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva. It was nothing but ironic that a serving Sri Lankan Army officer, who had spearheaded the war against the LTTE on one flank, received the report from Nambiar, formerly of the Indian Foreign Service.


A three-member panel responsible for the report, which held Sri Lanka responsible for ‘war crimes’ was led by Marzuki Darusaman, a former Attorney General of Indonesia. It comprised Yasmin Sooka and Stevan Ratner of South Africa and the US, respectively. The panel, according to agency reports, examined the modalities, applicable to international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka.


At the time of Nambiar’s UN appointment on Jan 1 2007 as Special Advisor to UNSG moon, he served as Deputy National Security Advisor to the Government of India and Head of the National Security Council Secretariat. As Nambiar had previously served as India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (May 2002-June 2004) he couldn’t have been unaware what the Norwegians did in Sri Lanka during the CFA.


The UNSG appointed the panel in June last year and it launched work in September in spite of strong protests by the government of Sri Lanka. There is no doubt that Nambiar had backed the appointment of Darusaman’s panel. Ban Ki-moon, former Foreign Minister of South Korea was named as Kofi Annan’s successor on Oct 13, 2006 a few months after the LTTE declared war and he took over the UN on Jan 1 2007.


Although UNSG had declared that the panel would advice him with regard to accountability issues, thereby indicating that the process was basically an internal arrangement, the UN now says that the report would be made public. Clearly an attempt is being made to harass Sri Lanka on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations made by those who couldn’t bear Sri Lanka’s triumph over the LTTE.


The SLA finished off the LTTE on the banks of Nanthikadal lagoon on May 19, 2009.


The UNSG announced the appointment of what he called an Advisory Panel after the defeated Opposition candidate Gen. Sarath Fonseka accused Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of ordering Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva not to take prisoners of war on the Vanni east front during mopping up operations, a charge vehemently denied by Rajapaksa. Fonseka’s allegation first made in an exclusive interview published in The Sunday Leader of Dec 13, 2009 facilitated the UNSG move backed by a section of the international community, upset over its failure to save the sinking Tigers.


Now that Darusaman has handed over the report, it would be pertinent to examine lapses on the part of the UN, peace facilitator Norway and the Sri Lankan Peace Co-Chairs, namely the US, EU, Norway and Japan that led to eelam war IV.


Had they acted swiftly and decisively a war could have been averted. Unfortunately they allowed the LTTE to pursue its eelam project in spite of the then Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe going out of his way to make peace with the LTTE. The LTTE quit the negotiating process in April 2003 during Wickremesinghe’s tenure as the Premier.


In spite of Norwegian pleas and heavy US pressure the LTTE refused to return to the negotiating table until it engineered the defeat of Wickremesinghe at the Nov 2005 presidential election paving the way for the then Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa to win the presidency. The LTTE launched claymore mine attacks the following month and in Jan 2006 blew up an SLN Fast Attack Craft (FAC) off Trincomalee. That smiling assassin S.P. Thamilselvan had the audacity to tell the foreign media that a Tamil civilian had carried out a suicide attack, targeting the FAC to protest against atrocities by the SLN.


But still President Mahinda Rajapaksa went ahead with his decision to meet the LTTE in Geneva under the auspices of the Norwegians in Feb 2006. The LTTE snubbed the President’s delegation and set the stage for all out war by making an attempt on the life of the then Army Chief Lt. Gen. Fonseka two months later. In May, the LTTE almost succeeded in sinking a passenger ferry carrying 700 security forces and police personnel to Kankesanthurai. In Aug. the LTTE targeted troop ship Jetliner carrying hundreds of servicemen as it approached the strategic Trincomalee harbor prompting the government to launch offensive action.


The government brought the Eastern Province under its control in mid 2007. The Vanni campaign launched in Mar 2007 ended in May 2009 on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.


Sri Lanka went out of its way to give peace a chance, though the LTTE pursued its eelam project with the support of those hell-bent on undermining post-war Sri Lanka. To the credit of UNP leader Wickremesinghe, he remained on the peace track in spite of the LTTE blatantly taking advantage of the peace process. In fact, Wickremesinghe is a victim of the Norwegian-led peace process due to shortcomings on the part of the facilitator. Had the Norwegians and Co-Chairs managed the peace process, the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga wouldn’t have had an opportunity to dissolve the UNP-led UNF government in Feb 2004 and call fresh parliamentary polls in early April, which returned the UPFA into power.


The LTTE could never have survived for so long without the backing of an influential section of the international community and foolish strategies of successive Sri Lankan governments. Had the LTTE waited a little longer it could have had its eelam dream with the support of those now trying to avenge its battle-field defeat by hauling the Sri Lankan political and military leadership before an international war crimes tribunal.


The UN went out of its way to shield the LTTE as early as Feb 2007 as fighting was raging in the East. The UN, which did absolutely nothing to thwart the LTTE, plans to use civilians as a bargaining chip, secretly supported Prabhakaran’s sordid operations. A case in point is the failure of the UN mission in Colombo to take punitive action against the LTTE in spite of two Tamil UN employees being detained on the orders of Prabhakaran. Those who accused the government of human rights violations at the drop of a hat turned a Nelsonian eye to what was going on. Their crime was helping Tamils trapped in the Vanni to seek refuge in government-held areas. Interestingly, the National Peace Council, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Transparency International and a plethora of NGOs and INGOs, which campaigned for human rights, good governance, peace and reconciliation at the behest of their donors never uttered a word about the high handed action of the LTTE. Those peace merchants could have spent just a fraction of the funds they had received to talk peace to secure the release of Tamil UN workers. Instead, they remained silent for obvious reasons. Raising such an issue was definitely not in the agenda of those supportive of the LTTE’s eelam project.


The NPC, one of the largest recipients of foreign funds, particularly from Norway, didn’t even bother to issue a statement, though it declared in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in Aug 2005 that "it was tragic but inevitable.’


The UN remained silent until the issue was raised at the UN by the media after The Island revealed secret negotiations between the UN and the LTTE for the release of UN workers in a front-page news item captioned ‘LTTE detains UN workers’ in its Apr 20, 2007 issue.


The Colombo-based UN big wigs and their colleagues in some diplomatic missions kept the seizure of UN workers under wraps believing that the LTTE would eventually free them. The UN brought the incident to the notice of the government after the LTTE refused to free them.


It would be relevant to re-produce what Michael Montas, the then spokesperson for UNSG moon told a UN briefing in late April in response to a media query regarding the abduction of UN workers. Montas acknowledged that the UN mission in Colombo hadn’t informed the world body of the abduction. He went onto suggest that almost two months after the abduction, the UN office in Colombo hadn’t reported the incident, in spite of newspaper reports. (We were the only national newspaper to publish the story)


The UN never investigated the lapse on the part of its mission in Colombo, which played ball with the LTTE throughout eelam war IV. Due to the UN’s inaction, the LTTE blatantly used the civilian community until government forces rescued them in stages beginning late 2008. Even after the fall of Kilinochchi in Jan 2009, the LTTE continued to oppose UN efforts to move its workers and their dependents trapped in the war zone to the government-held area. Those who ran well-funded projects to promote peace, democracy and national reconciliation never bothered even to issue a statement demanding that the LTTE free civilians.


The LTTE in late Jan 2009 dismissed a UN move to transfer13 Tamil workers and 78 dependents from the LTTE held area to the government-held area.


The LTTE also exploited the presence of the UN in areas under its control for clandestine operations, including assassinations. In late April 2008, the police arrested Thiyagarajah Prabhakaran, an employee of the World Food Programme (WFP) at Irratteperiyakulam as he was on his way to Batticaloa from Kilinochchi. The LTTE had used UN agencies and other NGOs/INGOs in support of their operations and the Irratteperiyakulam arrest revealed how the LTTE exploited its relationship with well paid foreign expatriates.


The arrested WFP worker had been attached to the UNDP office in Kilinochchi. The weapon and its magazine had been tucked away in the false bottoms of Prabhakaran’s shoes.


Defence Secretary Rajapaksa ordered all UN agencies out of the LTTE-held area by Sept. 2008, except the ICRC to facilitate the last stage of offensive military action.


 In spite of the then Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama urging the UN not to allow the LTTE to set up its military facilities near UN offices in the LTTE-held area, the UN ignored the plea.


 The LTTE never hesitated to exploit NGOs/INGOs in support of its war strategy. The military thwarted an LTTE attempt to move explosives across the Omanthai entry/exit point in to the government-held area in an ICRC vehicle revealed the LTTE’s appalling strategy. The military made the detection when an eighty four year old woman and her 32-year-old granddaughter arrived in an ICRC vehicle carrying 3.5 kilos of plastic explosives in Nov. 2008. But those who now shed crocodile tears for civilians never criticized the LTTE for using civilians to move explosives. Explosives smuggled in by LTTE agents and civilians were used to target public transport in the South. Even the clergy was used by the LTTE.


 It is no secret that some NGOs helped the LTTE build massive earth bunds to defend its major bases with the help of heavy vehicles obtained from foreign organizations, particularly the Norwegian People’s Aid. Although the UN acted as if the LTTE had forcibly removed vehicles, it never alerted the government regarding the LTTE action as in the case of the abduction of two Tamil workers in Feb 2007.


 Security forces and police during eelam war IV recovered life jackets belonging to Save the Children’s Fund (Sri Lanka), boats, tents, food items etc from the LTTE.  The LTTE would never have been able to carry on without the tacit support of a section of the international community. The LTTE remained confident even during the last few days of the battle that its leadership could be saved and moved to a foreign land from where it could launch transnational government for Tamil Eelam (TGTE). One of Prabhakaran’s disciples, Vishvanathan Rudrakumaran is now pursuing the TGTE though the Tamil Diaspora is sharply divided over the strategy.


 In spite of assuring the UN that it would stop recruitment of children way back in 1998 during President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s tenure, Prabhakaran forced thousands of children to fight for his macabre cause until Sri Lanka militarily defeated the LTTE in May 2009. Now Sri Lanka is being targeted by the UN, which has ignored the circumstances leading to eelam war IV and restoration of peace and stability. The UN’s decision to finalize the report on the eve of national Sinhala and Tamil New Year exposed its hostility towards the country and the Rajapaksas.


Sri Lankan forces paid a heavy price to defeat the LTTE. The UN move against Sri Lanka is nothing but a slur on militaries all over the world fighting terrorists. 


 


Some of The Island news items relating to sordid UN and LTTE operations during Eelam War IV


LTTE detains UN workers -Apr 20, 2007


UN HQ admits Colombo office kept in the dark-Apr 28, 2007


UN employee held with micro pistol-May 1, 2008


Lanka worried over ‘UN cover’ for LTTE assassins-May 3, 2008


Gota to UN: Check LTTE infiltration-May 5, 2008


FM on Tiger assets near UN, armed UNDP worker-May 14, 2008


UN confirms MoD charge on INGO vehicles in LTTE hands-July 31, 2008


LTTE bid to move explosives in ICRC vehicles thwarted-Nov 12, 2008


Fall of Kilinochchi imminent, Gota asks LTTE to surrender-Jan 2, 2009


Tigers thwart UN move to rescue workers, dependents-Jan 23, 2009.
 


A blatant UN lie


While turning a blind eye to LTTE atrocities, the UN has blatantly lied in support of those targeting Sri Lanka over unsubstantiated ‘war crimes’ allegations. A case in point is an attempt by the UN to blame Sri Lanka over the closure of UNDP Regional Office in Colombo after Minister Wimal Weerawansa launched a fast unto death opposite UN Office at Baudhaloka Mawatha. If not for The Island, the UN wouldn’t have been exposed as the government didn’t even know what was going on.


The Island revealed the UN move in a front-page story captioned "UNSG lies over relocation of Colombo UNDP office" on July 10, 2010.


Although the decision to shift the UNDP Regional centre at No 23, Independence Avenue to Bangkok as part of its cost cutting measures had been taken in late 2009, the UN said that the UNDP Regional Centre would be closed and UN Resident Coordinator, Neil Buhne was called to New York for urgent consultations in the wake of protests.


The UNDP Regional Office had been previously situated in Kathmandu and shifted to Colombo due to political unrest in Nepal. That move took place at the height of the war against the LTTE, amidst frequent terrorist attacks, including air raids in Colombo.


 


Solheim pushed for ‘war crimes’ probe


Disgraced Norwegian peace facilitator Erik Solheim pushed for a UN ‘war crimes’ probe. Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.no on Aug. 27, 2009 quoted Solheim as saying that he would discuss charges of ‘war crimes’ in Sri Lanka with UNSG Ban-Ki moon when the latter visited Oslo.


Aftenposten.no wrote Wednesday Aug 26th about a gruesome video that allegedly shows how government troops execute ten naked prisoners.


The recording could have been taken by a soldier in January, and was smuggled out of Sri Lanka this week by a group of human rights activists who have recently fled the country.


The authorities in this country deny that government troops were involved in war crimes, arguing that the recording may be a fake.


But Erik Solheim said he would no have been surprised if the footage is genuine.


- There are dozens of people who have been killed or have disappeared in Sri Lanka in recent years. And there is overwhelming evidence of structures within the state apparatus is behind many of these killings, "Solheim told Aftenposten.no.


Now he demands that the UN is on the path to investigate what happened in the last phase of the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka, a conflict that is believed to have claimed at least 80,000 lives.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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