Commons told 40,000 civilians, 60,000 fighters killed in 5 months of SL war

Defence Secy wants claim substantiated


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lankan government yesterday alleged that a recent debate in the House of Commons on ‘human rights in the Indian sub-continent’ had exposed some of those propagating lies in support of a move to set up an international war crimes inquiry targeting Sri Lanka.

Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa yesterday told The Island now that the British parliament had been told of 100,000 deaths during the last five months of the battle on the Vanni front, the UK should reveal how it reached that conclusion.

The British lawmaker had conveniently forgotten that the total number of deaths due to the eelam war IV was below 100,000, the Defence Secretary said alleging that a foolish attempt was now being made to exaggerate casualty figures in view of the on-going Geneva sessions of the Human Rights Council. According to him, it was part of a propaganda war against Sri Lanka ahead of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Long standing LTTE supporter Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Labour) told the House of Commons on Sept. 15 that Sri Lanka’s war, in its last five months alone, had claimed the lives of 100,000 people, 40,000 of them civilians.

Defence Secretary Rajapaksa said that those wanting to haul Sri Lanka up before an international war crimes tribunal on the basis of the controversial ‘Darusman report’ and ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ produced by Channel 4 News should go through the Commons debate on ‘human rights in the Indian sub continent.’’

UK based sources told The Island that about 70 per cent of the debate had been taken up by the Jammu and Kashmir issue with the number of participants being about 30 out of the 640 member House of Commons.

MP McDonagh had gone went on record saying that the Vanni battles in 2009 claimed the lives of 60,000 combatants. Responding to a query, the Defence Secretary said that security forces and police had lost about 6,000 officers and men during eelam war IV (June 2009 to May 19, 2009) and about 30,000 were wounded.

Rajapaksa pointed out that Amnesty International in its latest bulletin captioned ‘WHEN WILL THEY GET JUSTICE?’ estimated the number of civilians killed at 10,000 on the basis of information provided by eye witnesses and aid workers. The September 2011 report however didn’t make any reference to the number of combatants killed during eelam war IV or the final five months.

Rajapaksa said if the London headquartered Amnesty International had based its report on eyewitnesses and aid workers, it would be interesting to know who briefed British MPs regarding the ground situation.

MP McDonagh alleged that the Sri Lankan military continued to control civilian life in what she called the Tamil areas, including aid, and routinely stole Tamil property for use by military personnel and their families.

Rajapaksa said that the military had facilitated the launch of special banking services for those arriving in IDP facilities to deposit their money. "They brought in millions of rupees in cash and millions worth of jewellery. There hadn’t been any complaints of theft or robbery," Rajapaksa said.

MP McDonagh thanked the previous British government for terminating the GSP plus trade facility given to Sri Lanka, opposing Sri Lanka receiving IMF stand-by facility amounting to $ 2.6 billion and thwarting a move to host the Commonwealth summit in Colombo

She said: "Britain must take a brave and principled lead—just as we did in Kosovo and, with France, in Libya—and do all that it can to ensure that a full independent international investigation of war crimes takes place. Those of us who believe in justice want the people responsible to be held to account, just as all of us would agree about Colonel Gaddafi, Radovan Karadzic and Charles Taylor. Sri Lanka still wants to host the Commonwealth summit in 2013. We should be clearly saying "No, not until there is a fully independent, UN-led international inquiry. I hope that if one thing comes out of today’s debate, it will be that commitment."

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