GoSL-HRW powwow in US

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The government of Sri Lanka says those continuing to represent the LTTE abroad, in spite of the eradication of the group’s conventional fighting forces in May two years ago, should be held responsible for accountability issues. The government insists that the killing of the top LTTE leadership shouldn’t free those LTTE operatives living abroad, particularly in Europe and North America of accountability for three decades of violence.

Sri Lanka’s mission to the UN took up this position during a recent meeting with senior representatives of the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) to discuss the accountability issues in Sri Lanka.

The delegation comprised Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona and Deputy Ambassador Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva.

Ambassador Silva pointed out the absurdity in human rights watchdogs, including the HRW, being only concerned about the final phase, whereas the LTTE had been engaged in a campaign of death and destruction for almost three decades.

The former General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the celebrated 58 Division named Adele Balasingham and Visvanathan Rudrakumaran as two of those enjoying freedom in the West in spite of their involvement with the LTTE.

The Maj. Gen. was responding to HRW’s assertion that LTTE military leaders couldn’t be held accountable as they had perished during the war.

Adele lives in the UK, while US-based Rudrakumaran heads an LTTE faction spearheading a campaign for separate state in Northern and Eastern Provinces in Sri Lanka.

Ambassador Silva warned that there was no option but to question the credibility of rights organisations when they conveniently turned a blind eye to terrorism perpetrated by the LTTE.

The External Affairs Ministry told The Island that Adele had enticed girls to join the LTTE, while condoning forced conscription of children. The ministry pointed out Adele’s husband, former British High Commission employee, Anton, spearheaded the LTTE campaign from UK.

Sri Lanka urged the HRW to push foreign governments to prosecute top LTTE representatives living in their territories.

Sri Lanka reminded HRW that those who had quit the LTTE were brought to the democratic mainstream and given a fresh opportunity to start a new life. The HRW said that it had exposed LTTE fund raising operations in Canada and therefore it was wrong to say it was silent on group’s activities.

The discussion covered several issues, including resettlement of internally displaced persons, rehabilitation of ex-LTTE cadres and Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

Attacking the government over accountability issues, the HRW alleged that the government hadn’t implemented any of the interim recommendations made by the LLRC.

HRW joined the Amnesty International and International Crisis Group in condemning the LLRC. They went to the extent of jointly turning down a request to appear before the LLRC last year.

Denying HRW’s accusations, Dr. Kohona said that explained the changes made to the law to enable death certificates to be issued within one year and the appointment of the Inter Ministerial Committee to deal with the implementation of the recommendations, including land issues. The Ambassador also emphasised that when compared with other nations recovering from similar situations, Sri Lanka had acted far swifter in addressing a variety of issues arising from the conflict. Deputy Ambassador Silva added that the lifting of the Emergency Regulations was the most recent example of the government complying with the interim recommendations of the LLRC.

Ambassador Kohona asked for a reasonable acknowledgement of the efforts made by Sri Lanka to deal with the conflict related and post conflict issues, especially, the time taken for the purpose. He expressed his disappointment at the reluctance of certain sections of the international community to appreciate the successes of the Sri Lankan government in addressing the immediate humanitarian needs of close to 300,000 IDPs in less than 24 months with limited resources. The government had a monumental task in providing relief assistance, education facilities for children, rehabilitating LTTE cadres, returning child soldiers to their homes, demining and providing shelter for those affected by the conflict.

The HRW suggested that the Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts and the Channel 4 Documentary, ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ were sufficient to begin investigations. Deputy Ambassador Silva challenged the credibility of both. With regard to the Channel 4 documentary, Silva said that the documentary produced by the Sri Lankan government "Lies Agreed Upon" provided a comprehensive refutation of the claims made in the Channel 4 documentary which he suggested was a concoction of fabricated footage and unfounded allegations propagated by the LTTE media. As regards the Darusman Report, he pointed out that there were many factual inaccuracies which would compromise the credibility of the report in a court of law.

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