Re: Article titled ‘Diplomats fear Australia will wreck UN probe into Sri Lankan war crimes

 84 Tambrook Drive
Toronto, Ontario
Canada M1W 3L9

February 25, 2014
The Editor
Sydney Morning Herald
Sydney, Australia

Dear Editor,

I refer to the above news report filed by Bianca Hall and David Wroe published in your newspaper on the
24th of February, 2014, and write to point out several misleading statements and errors of fact contained
therein. Both Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison who are leading members of the present Australian
government visited Sri Lanka on a fact finding mission where they toured the conflict affected areas and
spoke to members of the Tamil National Alliance, resident Tamil civilians, and a wide circle of representatives
of civil and religious groups in the region. They were satisfied with the work done by the Sri Lankan
authorities to resettle the 295,873 IDPs, rehabilitate nearly 11,800 Tamil Tiger cadres and child soldiers and
release them to society , and also see the development work done in the north of the island which helped
to attract new investment to the area. It is their considered view that others should not disrupt the ongoing
healing and reconciliation taking place, and if at all like Australia they should assist the country with the
demining and livelihood projects. It is in Australia’s interest to have provided two patrol boats to the Sri
Lankan authorities to beef up their naval operations in preventing potential illicit migrants from Sri Lanka
who were being misled by human smugglers to take risky sea voyages to enter Australia and seek asylum,
and it is in no way tied to upcoming discussions at the UNHRC. The international community should engage
with Sri Lanka which is an independent sovereign country and an equal member of the UN, and not try to
impose their agendas in respect of Sri Lanka’s internal matters.

The estimates of 40,000 and 70,000 civilian deaths in the period from January 1 to May 18, 2009 is nothing
but a wild guesstimate that has no bearing to facts on the ground. Gordon Weiss who was attached to the
UN Resident Representative’s office in Colombo was aware that the UN had counted a total 7,721 civilian
deaths in the last five months based on information gathered from their local Tamil staff of 240 who
remained in the conflict zone as they were prevented by the Tigers from leaving the area. Strangely, Gordon
Weiss published a book called the ‘Cage’ aimed at marketing it to the one million strong Tamil diaspora and with an
eye to personal profit, where he went on to state that the final number would run into tens of thousands of civilian
deaths, padding it up to the figure to at least 40,000 killed. We have to rely on numbers compiled by the UN
Resident Representative’s office in Colombo which is not being talked of by the media and the UNSG’s
Panel of Experts who preferred to conceal this number of 7,721 and instead invent numbers out of thin air
in the tens of thousands ranging up to 40,000. The Petrie report estimated as much as 70,000 civilian deaths
merely by reviewing the UNSG’s POE report. The UK Sunday Times reporter who overflew the final battle ground
estimated 20,000 civilian deaths and carried this number in his column. The post war census carried out by the
Government of Sri Lanka in 2012 using school teachers and public officials from the Tamil community
as enumerators arrived at a number of 7,432 deaths. The total number of deaths reported by the Tamilnet
which was a propaganda unit of the Tamil Tigers for the period January 1 to May 18, 2009 was 7,398, which is
slightly lower than both the UN’s local office and the Sri Lankan Government’s census figure. None of these
three reports distinguished between combatant and civilian deaths, which leaves one to conclude that these
casualty figures included Tiger combatants as well as civilians who were pressed into combat roles to replace
fallen cadres and genuine civilians caught in the crossfire.

None of the INGO/NGO or community groups, church bishops, or relatives if any of such hugely inflated
numbers of civilian dead have been able to produce names and verifiable evidence to support such bogus
claims. The census carried out in the region by Tamil enumerators revealed only a total of 7432 deaths in
the period from January 1 to May 18, 2009, which includes fallen LTTE cadres (that should at least equal the
army’s KIA of 3,600 in the same period) and others conscripted by the Tamil Tigers for battle in civilian attire,
yet others killed by the LTTE in their attempt to flee to government controlled areas, which leaves at most
about 2,500 genuine civilians who may have died in the crossfire.

The article also states that the US and British officials preparing a third resolution to be presented at the
upcoming UNHRC sessions in March 2014 criticising Sri Lanka and possibly calling for an international probe
into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the dying days of the conflict in 2009 are concerned
that they may not receive Australia’s backing. In such an event, they have said that Australia would be aligning
herself with international pariah states and working against her traditional western allies. If such were the case,
Australia can be reassured that her studied position will be respected for acting as a sovereign independent
country and fellow member of both the UN and the Commonwealth, instead of being dragged into supporting a
malicious resolution being authored by the worst human rights offender that has laid waste many a country
including the illegal invasion of Iraq.

Yours sincerely,

Mahinda Gunasekera

 

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