Although this past May marks two years since the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were routed on the battlefield, the propaganda war continues unabated, fueled by influential support within the Tamil Diaspora, which has persevered in its attempts to smear the reputation of Sri Lanka in the international community. First, the recently released Darusman Report, prepared by an unofficial advisory panel commissioned by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, alleges “war crimes” by the Sri Lankan forces during the last months of the conflict. Such a serious (and erroneous) assertion only finds support among second and third hand sources, whose identities the report classifies as “strictly confidential.” As a corollary to that, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the U.N., Dr. Palitha Kohona, is being targeted for his part in what has now become known as “The White Flag incident.”
The story, which broke in the Australian press, revolves around a text message that Kohona allegedly sent through a third party intermediary to two ranking LTTE leaders who wanted to surrender: “Just walk across to the troops, slowly! With a white flag and comply with instructions carefully. The soldiers are nervous about suicide bombers,” read the message, which was reprinted in The Sydney Morning Herald. When the bodies of Pulidevan, Head of the Tiger Peace Secretariat, and Nadesan, Head of the Tiger’s political wing, turned up dead, Kohona became the scapegoat.
Secretary of the Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry at the time, Kohona says, “The text is likely to have been in response to an inquiry, but not from anyone associated with the LTTE. This was not an effort to arrange a surrender, which I had no authority to do. In my understanding, this is how surrenders normally take place. This was all the advice I could give.”
He adds, “I have said categorically that as Foreign Secretary of Sri Lanka, I never had the authority to issue orders to troops or to discuss surrender terms of any terrorists, directly or indirectly.”
Despite these assertions, two influential organizations within the Diaspora, The Swiss Council of Eelam Tamils (SCET) and the US-based Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), have lead the effort to prosecute Kohona, filing a request with the International Criminal Court (ICC). A curious fact: Sri Lanka does not recognize the authority of the ICC and her citizens are exempt from its proceedings, but citizens of Australia are not. Dr. Kohona, as a dual citizen of Sri Lanka and Australia, therefore, would have to answer these charges if brought before the ICC–even though this body takes up only very few requests for prosecution each year.
The only other evidence in this case hinges on the testimony of an unnamed Tamil man, who says he saw the surrendering party approach the Sri Lankan army with a group of other Tamils. Also quoted in The Sydney Morning Herald, this unnamed source said, ”The soldiers had trucks. They took the people behind the trucks. Then we could just hear shooting and people yelling. The shooting was fast, like a machinegun.”
Backed by these “strictly confidential” and “unnamed” sources both the Darusman report and the Sydney Morning Herald present evidence that qualifies as both flimsy and circumstantial and suggests that the pro-LTTE lobby is grasping at straws in an attempt at revenge against the Sri Lankan government. Meanwhile, speaking on record in The Asian Tribune, a well-known Tamil politician gives his own account of the final days of the conflict, which lies in stark contrast to these other two reports.
Sathasivam Kanagaratnam, a former TNA Member of Parliament, who defied government orders and remained with his constituency in the Vanni during the last days of the conflict, said, “Innocent Tamils were treated as stray dogs, shot and killed mercilessly by the LTTE gunmen,” if they strayed out of bunkers or places where they were confined by LTTE. This revelation alone would be enough to question the veracity of many first-hand civilian accounts of the fighting.
Kanagaratnam added, “As far as I am aware, LTTE leader Prabhakaran never wanted any of his top lieutenants crossing into the government controlled areas. These leaders were always surrounded by Prabhakaran’s trusted armed men. They were instructed to shoot at any middle order or senior level leaders if and when suspected that these leaders were trying to betray him by crossing into government controlled area.” As for the two LTTE leaders in question, Nadesan and Pulidevan, Kanagaratnam said, “According to my information, they were shot and killed by the LTTE gunmen. This is what I learned.” The government of Sri Lanka echoes his claim.
A ‘war of words’ has characterized much of the press about Sri Lanka’s struggle against this ruthless terror organization with western powers tending to favor terrorist propaganda from the likes of sites like Tamilnet.com over the word of a democratically elected government of a sovereign nation. Much of this support can be traced directly back to money and the political influence it buys. Case in point: Top international lawyer Bruce Fein has been hired as an advocate by Tamils Against Genocide to push their cause. Genocide is defined as the killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation. But if Tigers were killing their own, and using Tamils as human shields is there a word for that?
The LTTE has not been proscribed as “The most notorious terrorist group in the world,” for nothing. Their documented involvement in extortion, racketeering, drug dealing, and money laundering is only the tip of the iceberg. Unlike their counterparts around the world, they were known for never claiming responsibility for any of their attacks. Even after the Sri Lankan Army dispatched their ruthless leader V. Prabhakaran, clearly photo-shopped images of him appeared the next day on websites like Tamilnet, showing him smiling and holding a copy of the newspaper that declared he was dead. In similar fashion, other photos and videos of so-called atrocities during the war have been faked.
The bottom line is that the LTTE and their supporters are willing to lie, cheat, steal, and stoop to whatever level to push their agenda. Uninterested in peace and reconciliation, they are agents of chaos, who would even attempt to discredit a U.N. ambassador to exact the smallest sliver of revenge. In a court of law, however, the accused has a right to face his accuser, and not simply a list of unsubstantiated claims on a page. While the media ascendancy of the LTTE continues along with their subversive influence on foreign governments and international bodies, Sri Lanka, which is in the process of rebuilding and moving forward, must remain on the defensive. After defeating the scourge of terrorism, how many more battles will we still have to face?