Kiriella wants both ‘war crimes’ documentaries telecast

JVP, UNP respond to fresh C4 allegations against SF


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The JVP yesterday said that no one could be held accountable for war crimes or crimes against humanity on the basis of allegations made by a section of the media, a country or a group of countries.

JVP parliamentarian Vijitha Herath emphasised that allegations could be brought by any party at the conclusion of a conflict not only here but in any part of the world, though they couldn’t be accepted as the truth, without being investigated.

He was responding to the latest Channel 4 allegation that former Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka, too, had been directly implicated in deliberate heavy shelling of civilians during the final phase of the conflict. Channel 4 alleged that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and General Fonseka had been aware of sustained heavy artillery attacks on civilians, on the Vanni east front.

The JVP joined the UNP and the TNA to back Gen. Fonseka’s candidature at the Jan. 2010 presidential poll.

Jon Snow, who presented ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished’ cited a specific case involving the Defence Secretary and army chief to allege shelling of civilian population. Snow’s allegation was based on an Australian UN worker calling on the Australian High Commission to intervene on his behalf to have the artillery fire stopped. The presenter claimed the Australian HC got through to both Messrs Rajapaksa and Fonseka and was able to shift oncoming artillery fire.

The documentary blames President Mahinda Rajapaksa for crimes against humanity. Major General Shavendra Silva and Major General Prasanna Silva are the other Sri Lankans blamed for war crimes. The documentary faults Shavendra Silva for his role as the General Officer Commanding 58 Division, whereas Prasanna Silva is held accountable for atrocities committed by the 55 Division.

Asked whether the UNP was aware of Channel 4 making fresh allegations against General Fonseka, UNP spokesman Lakshman Kiriella, MP said that the former Army chief, too, had been categorised as a war criminal by a section of the media. ‘But the issue here is whether the Rajapaksa administration has missed an opportunity to avoid the Geneva confrontation with the US due to its reckless and irresponsible attitude," the Kandy District MP said.

"Those in power made several major mistakes. The first was the refusal to allow UNSG Ban Ki-moon’s Panel of Experts (PoE) to visit Sri Lanka. If those in power allowed the PoE to interview Gen. Fonseka, he could have cleared many allegations. Then they prevented Gen. Fonseka from appearing before the Lessons learnt and Reconciliation Commission. Whatever the criticism against General Fonseka, no one can deny his role in the war."

Parliamentarian Kiriella alleged that the government had made another foolish mistake by ignoring an invitation from the US to discuss the issue. Had the government accepted that invitation, the two parties could have come to some sort of understanding, he said. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the case, he said.

The UNP spokesman acknowledged that war crimes allegations directed against Sri Lanka were not an isolated case. Wars had never been fought in keeping with international laws, the attorney-at-law said, adding that all countries engaged in conflicts were responsible for atrocities.

The MP urged President Rajapaksa to take the people into his confidence and telecast both ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ and ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished." It would be ridiculous to deny the ordinary people an opportunity to view the documentaries and come to a conclusion, as the entire world and those with access to the internet had already seen both.

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