Why did ‘genocidal’ GoSL save 300,000 civilians, 11,000 LTTE cadres

Ex-Foreign Minister asks:


By Shamindra Ferdinando


Responding to a US threat to examine ‘other options’ unless Sri Lanka quickly addressed war crime allegations, former Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama said that Sri Lankan military effort against the LTTE was definitely an integral part of the US-led global war on terror.

There couldn’t be any dispute over that, Bogollagama said in a brief interview with The Island yesterday. The ex-MP emphasised that it would be a huge mistake for the international community to decry Sri Lanka’s successful war against the LTTE on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations made in the controversial ‘Darusman Report’ and the Channel 4 film, ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’. Responding to a query, Bogollagama said that the US action targeting Sri Lanka hadn’t been prompted by domestic political issues like the case of the UK and some other European countries. "We never practised extra-judicial killings as a state policy, in spite of repeated LTTE provocations and target killings in the South, including high profile political assassinations," Bogollagama said.

The US support had, Bogollagama said, facilitated the Sri Lanka campaign. "We benefited immensely from their assistance ranging from the Offshore Patrol Vessel ‘Courageous’ to intelligence leading to some of the operations targeting LTTE ships on the high seas and measures to deny LTTE financial support. The US also thwarted attempts by the LTTE to acquire weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles," the former Foreign Minister said. "We need to discuss the war crimes issue with the US and bare the on-going attempt to discredit the country at the behest of the LTTE rump," he said.

Referring to ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ Bogollagama pointed out that the very basis of the charge that Sri Lanka had ordered UN staff out of Vanni in Sept. 2008 to conduct a war without witnesses had now been proved wrong. The ICRC had been present at Puthukudirippu on the Vanni east front until Jan. 2009, Bogollagama said adding that the international community couldn’t be unaware that the government had gone out of its way to ensure food supplies to

civilians trapped in the war zone until shortly before the LTTE collapsed.

Bogollagama said that the government of Sri Lanka had been accused of waging what the LTTE rump and a section of the media called a genocidal war against Tamil speaking people. But they had forgotten that even after the UN quit Kilinochchi at the behest of the government in Oct. 2008, the World Food Programme (WFP) continued to move overland food convoys until Jan. 23, 2009. Although overland food convoys had to be stopped, the government again with the support of the international community had moved 3,150 MT of food, including vegetables from Feb. 19, 2009 to May 8, 2009, Bogollagama said.

The ex--Foreign Minister said if the government had wanted to exterminate the entire Vanni community, it wouldn’t have sent them food and medicine and allowed the ICRC to carry out an operation to evacuate the sick and wounded from the war zone. The government had also allowed a group of Indian medical personnel to be stationed at Pulmoddai, north of Trincomalee to receive the sick and the wounded, Bogollagama said. Had there been deliberate artillery strikes by the Sri Lankan Army on makeshift medical facilities in the war zone as alleged by "Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields" the military wouldn’t have facilitated evacuation of the wounded, he said.

Bogollagama said those levelling war crimes allegations against SriLanka turned a blind eye to the fact the Sri Lanka military had acknowledged the detention of over 11,600 LTTE cadres following the conclusion of the war. "If the military didn’t want witnesses, it could have massacred them or held them in detention for many years. But within two years of the conclusion of the conflict, over 7,000 ex-LTTE personnel are now free and living with their families. There is a likelihood of the remaining personnel being released by end of this year. An army struggling to hide indiscriminate military action will never ever release thousands of detainees soon after the war," Bogollagama said.

The government had, through the Commissioner General of Rehabilitation, gone to the extent of involving the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in an unprecedented plan to help ex-LTTE cadres find employment, he said. "What all our critics have to realise is that the government throughout the offensive never sought to deny international organisations access to civilians. The UN and other foreign agencies employed hundreds of Tamil workers living in areas under LTTE control. In fact, the LTTE detained Tamils employed by the UN for helping civilians to reach government-held areas, at an early phase of the Vanni offensive," the former Kurunegala District MP said.

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