Another point of view ! Media and the suffering of the Tamil people-


True report from a Tamil Journalist for the UN & Tamil Diaspora
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 By Noel Nadesan – Courtesy Daily Mirror

 

 As a Tamil domiciled in Australia I served the Tamil community by editing the only Tamil community newspaper, UTHAYAM. I ran it for 14 years My experiences in dealing with the Tamil community, both in Australia and in Sri Lanka, make me feel sad about the callous way in which the media is exploiting the suffering of our Tamil people for self-serving ends. I think I could speak as an independent voice with no allegiances to the politics of either community or political parties. My main concern has been to help our Tamils in Sri Lanka who had to face the brunt of all attacks from the Indians soldiers, Sri Lankan forces and, above all, the so-called Tamil liberators, the LTTE. I have just completed building a small hospital in the island of Eluvaitivu, in which I grew up and, sooner or later, I plan to go back to serve our Tamil people who are desperately in need of help.

              It is against this background that I thought of forwarding my comments to you after viewing the re-broadcast of Channel 4 programme, The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka. I must confess I felt depressed and I could not sleep that night. I have recovered since then and I feel I must send you my comments for your consideration because I feel that you aired it to exploit the suffering of our people whose need of the hour is not to rake up the bloody past but to find a way out of the past.

       I fail to see how your programme could help the victims of the war – if that was your intention – when their immediate and long-term needs are to regain a future free from these. The sensationalism certainly may help the ratings of Channel 4 and BBC but how will it help our people? Our people who lived through the horrors of the futile war know that this is only one side of the story. Our Tamil leaders have informed the world that the LTTE has killed more Tamils than all the other forces – Indian, Sri Lankan and rival Tamil parties – put together. The moralizings of the media lacks credibility because our people who lived through the horrors of the war know who killed whom in what manner. Leaving aside the die-hard partisans, our people know that the LTTE was a cruel and beastly outfit they had never encountered in living memory – and do not want to encounter in all their lives to come.                         

           Undoubtedly, there are Tamils who are jubilant about this broadcast because they are aligned politically to the side (i.e., the LTTE) that perpetrated the worst crimes against the Tamils. If Channel 4 produced a film of the atrocities committed by the LTTE against their own people and the other communities throughout the 33-year-old war – the longest running in Asia – it would shock the world beyond belief. Then there is the documented story of Velupillai Prabhakaran herding nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians to serve as his human shield when he was retreating. In the last stages he shot the Tamils who were running away from him into the arms of the Sri Lankan forces who were commended or their humanitarian services by the Ban Ki-moon’s expert panel and even by Gordon Weiss. Any Tamil who was in Prabhakaran’s human shield will tell you that the Sri Lankan force treated them humanely than the LTTE cadres. 

                  The atrocities committed by the LTTE are numerous. Why didn’t Channel 4 balance their story with the other side? Yes, there were passing references to LTTE atrocities but you will agree that the blame was put entirely on the Sri Lankan government. Is this fair journalism?  It was a controversial document in which the best of experts disagreed on the authenticity and the accuracy of the contents. For instance, Channel 4 showed images of a young man who was tied to a tree, threatened with a knife and subsequently killed. I was told by sources in the Wanni that this was an LTTE operation and pictures were taken for propaganda purposes by LTTE.

               Have a close look and you will find among the so-called soldiers a man in slippers. Sri Lankan soldiers never go about in slippers when they go out on operations.  Those who know both sides of the story were appalled by your decision to air a partisan video. Despite occasional references to the LTTE the main thrust of the video was to blame the Sri Lankan government. You were aware of this gross distortion and you went ahead because it fitted into your biased political agenda. As stated by the London Sunday Times, it was shoddy journalism unworthy of a reputed media institution like the BBC. Take the case of Suthanthirapuram which was declared as the first No-Fire Zone for the civilians. The LTTE moved their radio station and artillery unit to fire at Army points from NFZ. They were also firing at the advancing army from close proximity to the hospital or make-shift hospital. The AGA Parthipan and Dr Shanmugaraja can confirm this. I will quote another incident. When former EROS leader Balakumar and his family , who worked with LTTE for many years, tried to flee in a boat in Mullaitivu in 29th April   2009, the LTTE, knowing very well who he was, fired at them. His young daughter was critically injured and the bullets tore her forearm. Her hand is yet to heal.  

                These are facts  How do I know all this? I travelled Sri Lanka seven times last two  years widely in war zones in Wanni and talked to the victims who were trapped in the war zones. They knew that they were targeted both sides and they could not comprehend why the LTTE should expose to retaliatory fire in the NFZ. They could not understand why the LTTE turned the NFZ into a war zone.  The agents of LTTE in the Tamil diaspora also shed a lot of crocodile tears about the 300,000 IDPs. They described the IDP camps as concentration camps. Knowing the general conditions under which Sri Lankans live I can assure you that the conditions of the Tamils, particularly in the  in the IDP camps, were far superior to the slums of Colombo or even the conditions of the Sinhala villagers and hill country Tamils in remote areas. Even the Tamil MPs of Tamil Nadu and Indian journalists who visited the camps were convinced that the Sri Lankan authorities had done a very good job under trying conditions.

             Besides a comparison with the manner in which the government treated the Sinhala JVP rebels who took up arms in 1971 will reveal that the LTTErs received far better treatment than the JVPers. Most of them were incarcerated for more than four years.  However, I wish to emphasize that at this stage the government has to accept responsibility for their share of the civilian casualties and apologise for that and compensate the next of kin. In calling for justice it is fair and just to hold the leaders in the Tamil expatriate groups who financed, lobbied, and gave moral and material support to the LTTE to prolong their futile war. They too are liable for aiding and abetting a banned terrorist group. Justice demands that these leaders, posing as human rights activists in Western bases, too should be tried  for the crimes committed by the LTTE against their own people. On balance, it must be conceded that the elimination of the ruthless LTTE outfit was commendable. What Prabhakaran did to Sri Lanka was 100 time worse that Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden did to America. Like America any democratic country had the right to eliminate threats to its sovereignty, peace and stability, transgressing, if necessary, international humanitarian law and international law. 

             India did it in Punjab and continues to do so in Kashmir. Russians did it in Chechnya. NATO allies are doing the same thing in Libya. America has done it in their war against Al Quaeda since 9/11. At the end of it all Sri Lankan Tamils now realise that their destiny is inextricably linked with Sri Lanka and Sinhala people. Violence is not the way out. It was the LTTE who sought the military solution and started the war- they have reaped the bloody harvest they sowed. Now we must genuinely commit themselves to the paths of peace, reconstruction and rehabilitation because violence will not lead anywhere except to the destruction of the remaining Tamils in the north and the east.

Dr. Noel Nadesan is Editor of the UTHAYAM.

 

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U.S. Senate Resolution: Sri Lanka’s Rare Display of Public Diplomacy

By Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune US National Correspondent
Washington, D.C. 08 March (Asiantribune.com):

At a time Sri Lanka is battling the rise of ‘Global Diplomatic Insurgency’, well replenished by the former acolytes of Prabhaharan’s terror-separatist group LTTE who are now covertly and overtly advocating a bifurcation of Sri Lanka within the Tamil Diaspora, Sri Lanka has displayed a rare public diplomacy victory in engaging in a fruitful dialogue with a group of U.S. Senators to move a resolution to bring the U.S. and Sri Lanka to the same page on ‘national issues’ concerning this South Asian nation.

The significance is that the Senate Republican Resolution moved and tabled on 27 February urges the Obama White House to recognize Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and maintain relations to safeguard it. The movers of the resolution expect the State Department to take note of what they have written in it.

The great Latin American revolutionary and Cuba’s most famous thinker Jose Marti in 1894 said: “Seeing afterwards is worthless. Foreseeing is what really counts…and being ready”.

The evidence is that the handlers of Sri Lanka’s external affairs and its Washington diplomatic facility seem to have done just that, to the delight of this Online Newspaper which has been advocating to use public affairs, public diplomacy and strategic communication in a more effective manner to ‘explain Sri Lanka’ to the rest of the world who have succumbed to misinformation, misrepresentation, half-truths and diabolical falsehood to haul the country all way to Geneva.

Unlike previous Senate Resolutions, one of which was on 6 February this year three weeks before the current one, Resolution 364 advocates a domestic mechanism rather than an international mechanism to ascertain the nature of the execution of the war during the final months in 2009.

Sri Lanka’s Washington diplomatic post moved forward in securing this language in the resolution, a rare triumph to this South Asian nation which has been battling the ‘Giants’ in the international community to safeguard her image in the globe.

Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Washington Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya has thanked the U.S. Senators who introduced Senate Resolution 364 recognizing Sri Lanka’s success in restoration of democracy , rebuilding and reconciliation after the dawn of peace since 2009.

In a letter addressed to the Senators, the Ambassador called the resolution a very a positive gesture of goodwill and understanding towards Sri Lanka from these senior representatives of the American people. He underscored the facts enumerated in the Resolution such as the continued peace in the entire country , restoration of democracy and the concrete steps taken towards reconciliation that represent the true situation in Sri Lanka.

” I wanted to express my gratitude to you for co-sponsoring Senate Resolution 364. This resolution is a fair and balanced and one that reflects the actual progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka”, Ambassador Wickramasuriya said in the letter.

The Ambassador is also of the view that adopting such a positive resolution on Sri Lanka by US Senators would certainly be seen in Sri Lanka as moral encouragement to continue the process of healing and reconciliation.

“I am appreciative that this resolution acknowledges the establishment of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the multitude of categories it addresses. This resolution is a historically significant piece of legislation that I believe will enhance the US – Sri Lanka relationship’.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya also thanks all Sri Lankan-Americans who have been tirelessly working to keep their legislators informed about the true story on Sri Lanka. He opines the Senate Resolution 364 is clear evidence that their endeavors have been successful.

Further, Ambassador Wickramasuriya requests the Sri Lankan community to continue updating their political representatives in the U.S. on the current positive developments in Sri Lanka and encourage them to visit the country and see the progress for themselves.

The Resolution Calls on President Obama to adopt balanced & comprehensive policy towards Sri Lanka.

Eleven senior Members of the United States Senate introduced a bipartisan Senate Resolution (S. Res. 364) on Thursday, Feb 27 expressing support for Sri Lanka’s internal reconciliation process and the significant overall progress the Country has made since the end of the civil war–some 5 years ago.

The Senators also called on the President of the United States to develop a “comprehensive and well balanced policy towards Sri Lanka”, supportive of promoting U.S. interests including respect for human rights, democracy the rule of law as well as taking onto account the United States economic and security interests.

Senate Resolution 364 recognizes the immense suffering of the Sri Lankan people caused by the 26-year conflict, and the genuine aspiration of the government to prevent any outside force from triggering a reemergence of similar situations that are now behind us; but instead look to the future through enhanced national unity and reconciliation . A special recognition has been given to the establishment of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and the significance of implementing its recommendations.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the LLRC in May 2010, following the end of the three decade long terrorist conflict. The Commission Report was released in November 2011 and tabled in the Parliament in December 2011. The Cabinet of Ministers approved the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC in July 2012.

Senate Resolution 364 underscores that the Government of Sri Lanka has made significant progress in implementing the LLRC recommendations within a limited time. With a special reference to the first ever elections held in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka in September 2013, the Resolution commends the reestablishment of representative democracy in the conflict-ridden areas through elections.

“ …the elections allowed the people of the North of Sri Lanka to exercise their political rights that had been withheld from them for more than 20 years by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and resulted in a clear victory for the provincial wing of the Tamil National Alliance”

The Resolution however remains concerned over possible restrictions to the media freedom and religious freedom of Sri Lanka. It highlights that a peaceful and just society reconciled through a political settlement addressing the needs of all ethnic group should be achieved by a process driven by the people of Sri Lanka themselves.

The Resolution calls on the United States Government and the International community to offer meaningful assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka to make its domestic endeavors toward reconciliation more effective, while respecting the country’s sovereignty, stability and security.

The Resolution encourages Sri Lanka to consider a mechanism similar to the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission to heal the wounds of war. The Government of Sri Lanka is further urged to take necessary steps to improve religious and media freedom in the country.

The Asian Tribune considers this a very positive development toward Sri Lanka undertaken by Washington’s Sri Lanka diplomatic mission and to the delight of this Online Daily Newspaper which has continually advocated the adoption of a sharp diplomatic reach to negate the maneuvers of activists/professionals within the Tamil Diaspora who were once supplying ‘Material Support’ to the lethal terrorist movement Tamil Tigers in the form of raising funds, providing expert advice, propagating the LTTE agenda and promoting the procurement of military weapons all of which were in violating United Stated Federal Laws.

– Asian Tribune –

The U.S. Capitol Building which houses the Senate and House
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diconary view

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Minister Peiris Rejects High Commissioner’s Report: “Those who exalt its virtues only seek to inflict harm on the reconciliation process”

Minister of External Affairs and Leader of the Sri Lanka delegation Prof. G.L. Peiris, delivering the National Statement at the High Level Segment of the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva today (5 March 2014), rejected the Report of the High Commissioner in its entirety, saying it was fundamentally flawed and disregarded the substantial progress made by the Government during the five years which have elapsed since the end of the thirty year conflict against terrorism.

He said it also pays scant regard to the complexities and local nuances of a sensitive reconciliation process, while eroding the confidence of the people of Sri Lanka by the constant changing of unjustifiable demands. Moreover, they persist in an attitude which is clearly disproportionate to the circumstances and inconsistent with the treatment of comparable situations. It is much to be regretted that the High Commissioner’s Report and those who exalt its virtues only seek to inflict harm on the reconciliation process by bringing about a polarisation of the Sri Lankan society.

The Minister said the few references made in the Council welcoming the High Commissioner’s Report on Sri Lanka, including at the highest level of the UN are regrettable, particularly considering that it is based on questionable and baseless material including what has been processed outside the UN framework. He noted that the Panel of Experts Report which was the culmination of a private consultation that the Secretary General sought for his own advice, and is not the product of any intergovernmental process, has been extensively resorted to by the High Commissioner in her Report to the Council, in a bid to legitimize it within the UN framework despite the lack of mandate in this regard. However, if the initiative taken on Sri Lanka at this juncture by the OHCHR is to be the basis on which the country is to be judged, it will clearly be a travesty of justice.

In this context, the Minister said Sri Lanka greatly valued the sentiments expressed in the Council by countries who have similar experiences with regard to reconciliation, that Sri Lanka be provided with the requisite time and space to address its own process domestically in a comprehensive manner as opposed to those who continue to pay disproportionate attention to Sri Lanka, based on agendas driven by political motives.

At the High Level Segment of the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council 05 March 2014, Geneva, while delivering the National Statement Prof. G.L. Peiris, Minister of External Affairs and Sri Lanka’s Leader of the delegation said as follows:

Mr. President,

Madam High Commissioner,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to deliver this statement on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka. May I at the outset congratulate you Mr. President, as well as Members of the Bureau on your election as office bearers of this Council. I pledge my delegation’s support to you at all times in the discharge of your office. Sri Lanka also reiterates its continued support to the High Commissioner in the discharge of her mandate as contained in GA Resolution 48/141, to the OHCHR, and to the work of this Council.

Mr. President,

It is imperative that the Human Rights Council remains a credible and independent arbiter in dealing with global human rights situations. All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and must be treated in a fair and equitable manner, without the privileging of one set of rights over another. It is for these reasons, that economic, social and cultural rights which are at the core of sustainable development need to gain the same level of emphasis and legitimacy as civil and political rights. As we celebrate the 28th anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of the Declaration on the Right to Development, there needs to be a more robust approach to promote effective international cooperation with regard to the right to development and the elimination of obstacles to its enjoyment.

Sri Lanka shares the concern of the High Commissioner as well as States on the challenges faced by her Office on account of resource constraints.

At the same time, we remain deeply concerned that the lack of financial independence of the OHCHR leads to the erosion of independence in its overall functioning. For example, the disproportionate attention being paid to country-specific action in the Council which selectively targets some countries, while situations, human rights violations and restrictive practices in other parts of the world that warrant more urgent and immediate attention and action remain conveniently ignored, is a matter of serious concern. The stark reality is that the continuation and proliferation of the practice of the selective adoption of country-specific resolutions in the Council is a tool that exploits human rights for political purposes. Regrettably, a similar pattern is evident in the case of continued action on Sri Lanka in this Council. We reiterate that such politicized action is contrary to the high purposes and principles of the Council and must be arrested. We believe that additional budgetary allocations from regular funding would lessen the OHCHR’s dependence on voluntary contributions and earmarked funding and thus would allow it to function in an independent manner.

Mr. President, notwithstanding Sri Lanka’s non-recognition of the country-specific action taken against our country at the behest of a few countries in this Council, without basis, and without the consent of the country concerned, Sri Lanka has continued its proactive engagement with the UN, this Council and the OHCHR, in a spirit of transparency, cooperation and dialogue. My delegation has consistently shared with this body continued progress in the reconciliation process, regrettably in a politicised environment due to vested interests of a few. There has been significant progress in the reconciliation process over the past 12 months and approximately 19 months since the National Plan of Action (NPoA) to implement the domestic reconciliation mechanism, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), became operational.

Mr. President, in July 2012, the Government accepted 91 recommendations of the LLRC for implementation within the framework of the NPoA. In July 2013, an additional 53 recommendations were accepted by the Government, making the total number of LLRC recommendations under implementation 144, out of the 285 Paragraphs contained in Chapter 9 of the LLRC Report titled ‘Summary of the Principal Observations and Recommendations’, the latter comprising the sum total of observations and recommendations of the LLRC.

The implementation of the LLRC recommendations clustered by the Government under five themes – {(IHL issues (07 recommendations), Human Rights (54 recommendations), Land Return & Resettlement (24 recommendations), Restitution/Compensatory relief (09 recommendations), Reconciliation (50 recommendations)} — is overseen by an Inter-Ministerial Task Force under the supervision of the Secretary to the President. The implementation of the LLRC NPoA is a dynamic process which continues to evolve over time to culminate in the accomplishment of the recommendations. This process is envisaged to incorporate additional measures and modifications of the activities as and when required to fulfill the respective recommendations.

When these achievements are juxtaposed with the nearly 30 long years of terrorist conflict, any objective observer would agree Sri Lanka’s achievements would indeed match, if not surpass those of any country emerging from similar conditions. This is no mean feat for a developing country.

Allow me to take this opportunity to elucidate the Council on the post-conflict developments in the country.

The Commission on Disappearances was appointed on 12 August 2013 for a term of six months to conduct inquiries and investigations as necessary, and to submit a report containing its findings and recommendations. The Commission requested an extension to its mandate and has been granted a further six months until 12 August 2014 in order to undertake a comprehensive inquiry and complete its work.

The hearings of the Commission commenced in January 2014, following two extensions granted to the public to make submissions (i.e., deadline of 31 October 2013 was extended to 30 November.2013 and 31 December2013, respectively). The extensions were granted, both to accommodate complaints received, and in response to (a) requests made by persons in the North and East.

Since the establishment of the Commission on Disappearances on August 12, 2013, it has issued Public Notices on three occasions (i.e., October, November and December 2013) in all three languages and in all major newspapers calling on relatives of missing persons to submit their complaints to the Commission. The final Public Notice for receiving complaints lapsed on December 31, 2013. However, the Commission continues to receive complaints, all of which are acknowledged, and will be investigated.

As per information obtained from the Commission, nearly 16,000 complaints have been received thus far. The Commission is scheduled to conduct public sittings in the Batticaloa District in the Eastern Province later in March 2014, covering 56 Grama Niladhari Divisions (Village level Administrative Units) in the district. Previously, the Commission conducted public sittings and heard oral evidence in the Kilinochchi District in the Northern Province in January 2014, and in Jaffna District in February 2014. All Commission hearings are open to public and they have always been facilitated full access to the hearings.

The Commission conducts public sittings on a regular basis in the Northern and Eastern provinces in order to hear evidence from relatives of missing persons. Once the Commission has sufficient material, it will submit a report to the Government.

It must be pointed out that on behalf of the Commission, the Government sought the assistance of countries host to Sri Lankan asylum seekers for their details in order to process the information on alleged disappearances. However, we have been informed by these countries that for reasons of privacy they are unable to accede to the request. Undoubtedly this position hampers the progress of the work by the Commission in reaching finality in regard to its investigations. With regard to the General Allegation letter dated 14th February 2014 by the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on the conduct and implementation of this Commission of Inquiry to investigate alleged abductions or disappearances, the Government has provided a detailed response on 1st March 2014, substantively refuting all unsubstantiated allegations contained therein. We have requested that our response be circulated as a UN document of this Council session, given its relevance and importance.

The ICRC which has been working in Sri Lanka since the 1990s, continues to be engaged in the country’s post-conflict phase on residual issues of relevance. The ICRC continues its engagement with Sri Lanka on matters relating to alleged disappearances and missing persons, including work with regard to enumeration of disappearances, support to people with disabilities and female-headed households, and issues related to detention. The collaboration with the ICRC on the issue of disappearances includes studying practical methodologies adopted by other countries in dealing with cases of alleged disappearances. Issues pertaining to families of persons identified as “missing” or “disappeared” are being addressed through a mechanism to implement the findings of a “Family Needs Assessment” conducted by the ICRC in 2013.

Sri Lanka also benefits from technical assistance from the ICRC in the said areas. The ICRC has met on two occasions with the Commission of Inquiry on Disappearances where, inter alia, their experience in comparable situations in other countries has been shared. The Government’s cooperation with the ICRC is also in fulfillment of the LLRC’s recommendations 9.48, 9.50 “that the law enforcement authorities, in cooperation with relevant agencies, especially the ICRC, to trace the whereabouts of missing persons and ensure reunification with their families”.

Processing of data of the Island-wide Census to gather information on deaths/injuries to persons and property damages that have occurred from 1982 to date as a direct or indirect result of the internal conflicts is in progress. The Preliminary Report, based on the enumerator summaries, is anticipated to be released in a few weeks’ time. An additional budgetary allocation of Rs 150 million was granted in January 2014 to the Department of Census and Statistics to complete the Census.

Non-Summary Inquiry commenced with regard to the Five Students of Trincomalee case on 9 September 2013. As at present, the evidence of 14 witnesses is concluded. The witnesses include members of the Police, Army, Navy and a relative of one of the deceased. Affidavits of 07 official witnesses have been tendered as evidence. Summons have been issued on 14 witnesses to appear on the next date of inquiry on 06 March 2014. In addition, as 07 persons listed as witnesses for the prosecution are at present living overseas, steps have been taken to locate their present whereabouts to serve summons. With regard to the Muttur (ACF) case, following instructions by the Attorney-General, action has been taken to identify and record statements of army commandos and civil society members. A further statement had been recorded from a Member of the Local Council and an employee of the council. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) has obtained copies of photographs and a report prepared by the Additional Director of the Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies (CHA) to clarify the issue of the number of bodies found at the crime scene. In addition, 12 employees of ACF have been interviewed and their statements recorded. Further investigations are being conducted under the guidance of the Attorney General.

The First Part of the Army Court of Inquiry (COI), investigating allegations on civilian casualties concluded in February 2013. The inquiry concluded that instances of shelling referred to in the LLRC Report were not caused by the Sri Lanka Army and that civilian casualties may have occurred due to unlawful acts by the LTTE. These acts include targeting civilians fleeing to the safety of Army-held areas and likely routes of escape, dropping of artillery rounds fired by ill-trained LTTE gunners on to civilian concentrations. The COI has indicated that further evidence, if presented, will be examined.

The Court of Inquiry appointed by the Army is now addressing the second part of their mandate, comprising the Channel 4 allegations, which commenced in March 2013. The identification of potential witnesses is currently in progress and, once identified, they would be formally called as witnesses. It may be noted that the LLRC, in its Observations/Recommendations on the Channel 4 video,inter alia expressed its regret at “the fact that the broadcaster did not respond positively to the request made by the Commission to provide more comprehensive information”, and noted that “greater cooperation by the organisation that provided to the television stations these video images and by the producers/broadcasters that aired this footage is essential to establish the facts of the case”.

Sri Lanka has initiated action to prepare legislation with regard to Witness and Victim Protection. Consequent to extensive consultation in this regard, including examination by the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Legislation and action being taken thereon by the Legal Draftsman, finalization of legislation is in progress. The need for legislation for the criminalization of disappearances is being examined by a Committee appointed by the Ministry of Justice, in consultation with the Attorney General.

A total area of 1,980 sqkm, which is 96 % of the areas identified for demining have been cleared as at the end of December 2013. 70 % of the demining was carried out by the Sri Lanka Army.

This paved the way for the expeditiousresettlement of internally displaced persons. 297,000 Internally Displaced Persons who were housed at Menik Farm Welfare Village immediately after the conflict in 2009 have now been fully resettled and this facility was closed in September 2012. Action is being taken to expedite resettlement of the remaining 7,094 IDP families in the North and the East. Of this, 5,585 are currently staying with host families. The Government is also working towards finding durable solutions to resettle approximately 75,000 Muslim who were forcibly evicted from the Northern Province by the LTTE in an ethnic cleansing exercise, over 20 years ago. Further, a study is underway with the collaboration of the UNHCR to establish whether there are any hitherto unreported displaced persons and the report is expected by end March 2014.

As recommended by the LLRC, the Government has mobilized funding for restitution and the provision of compensatory relief for those affected by the conflict. SLRs. 392 million has been provided for the payment of compensation from 2010 to 2012, and SLRs. 204 million in 2013. The 2014 budget has allocated SLRs. 475 million to continue the implementation of this recommendation. While the bulk of funding for these activities was provided by the Government, the support of international partners also needs to be acknowledged. Compensation schemes have also been implemented by the Rehabilitation Authority to provide relief for the next of kin affected by the death or injury of those involved with the LTTE. Such relief is also provided in cases of property damage due to the conflict, including religious places.

In line with the LLRC recommendations, persons with disabilities in conflict affected areas receive benefits from Government schemes providing housing and livelihood support. Under the “Housing Assistance Programme for persons with disabilities”, 152 families in the North and 502 families in the East have been provided Rs 250,000 each to construct houses with accessibility facilities. A sum of Rs 76 million has been incurred by the Government for this purpose.

With regard to livelihood support, nearly 4,000 families in the North and East having a disabled member receive a monthly cash allowance under the “Monthly Livelihood Assistance Programme”. Also, 209 persons in the Eastern Province and 539 disabled persons in the Northern Province have been assisted to set up self-employment ventures under the “Self Employment Assistance Programme for persons with disabilities”. Fifty disabled youth from Kilinochchi have been selected for training in job-oriented vocational disciplines by the Social Services Department.

Land is one of the most complex and sensitive residual issues of the conflict and continues to be addressed. In line with the LLRC recommendation, the Government is implementing the Land Commissioner General’s Special Land Circular which provides for the granting of legal ownership of land to those IDPs who have been resettled. In January 2014 alone, 3,623 land requests have been received in the Northern Province. Of this, 2,321 have been resolved, making a total of 24,389 resolutions of 147,504 land requests to date. In the Eastern Province, 490 land requests have been received in January (total 11,662 to date) and 83 have been resolved (total 1,260 to date).

The former High Security Zones (HSZ) have ceased to exist. Palaly cantonment is now the only area in which some security restrictions remain although civilians have unrestricted access to Palaly airport and KKS harbour. Similarly, former HSZ in the Eastern Province, located in the Sampoor area from 2007 has been reduced in extent by 65 per cent and declared a Licensed Zone under the Board of investment.

As at January 2014 the Government has released 19,322 acres of private land and 2,518 acres of State owned land in the Northern Province which were hitherto used by the military. In the East, the Government has released 689 acres of private land and 3,222 acres of State land. Therefore the total figure of lands released in the North and the East amounts to 20,011 acres of private land and 5,740 acres of State land.

The Terms of Reference for a Fourth Land Commission are under preparation. Amendment to the Prescription Ordinance will be presented in Parliament by April, 2014. Steps are being taken to Gazette the necessary Orders under the Special Mediation Boards Act, to establish relevant Boards in certain areas where the armed conflict prevailed, and address certain identified land disputes that have arisen in those areas. This amply demonstrates that allegations of ‘land grabbing’ taking place in the former conflict-affected areas are entirely unfounded.

Housing programmes to reconstruct and renovate houses have been implemented by the Government in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Some of these programme are being carried out with the assistance of bilateral partners.

The Northern Province has recorded a Provincial GDP (PDGP) growth rate of 23.6 per cent in 2013 contributing 4.3 per cent to the National Economy up from 3.7 per cent in 2011 while the Eastern Province registered the second growth of 26.6 per cent in the PGDP with an increase in its GDP share to 6.9 in 2013 from 5.8 per cent in 2011.

Unemployment rates have declined significantly in the Northern and Eastern provinces in the post-conflict phase. This is illustrated by the fact that the unemployment rate in the Northern Province has declined from 6.1 per cent to 5.2 per cent, and in the Eastern provinces from 15.5 per cent to 4.9 per cent in the period 2005 – 2012. Food ratio is one of the principle indicators used to measure living standards of a population. Food ratios for Northern and Eastern provinces have declined from 59 per cent to 44.8 per cent and 57 per cent to 55 per cent respectively.

Under the Urban Development Programme (Pura Neguma), 84 per cent of total investment in the North and 77 per cent of total investment in the East were channelled to create access to rural roads.

The reconstructed railway line from Omanthai to Kilinochchi was commissioned and dedicated to the public of Sri Lanka on 14 September 2013. The second segment, Kilinochchi – Pallai, of approximately 30 kilometres, was added to the rail network yesterday.

The Chunnakam Grid substation was opened connecting the Jaffna peninsula with the national grid after a lapse of two decades. Over 63 Mw of power is to be transmitted to the Jaffna peninsula through the substation for which the Government has spent SLRs. 1,800 million.

The new Oluvil Port Development project in the East, constructed at a cost of Rs. 7,000 million, was opened in September 2013.

A 10-year National Plan for a Trilingual Sri Lanka was launched in January 2012 for the implementation of the Trilingual Policy. In line with this Plan, the Government has initiated a program to make public sector workers bilingual, with the ability to converse in both Sinhala and Tamil. Civil servants and Police officers have been recruited and trained to serve the public in the North and the East in the language of their choice. Special focus is being placed on enabling police personnel serving in the North to have a sound knowledge of Tamil. The Police Department has deployed 900 Tamil police officers and 1,500 Sinhala police officers fluent in the Tamil language in police stations in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Preparations are also under way to recruit 150 Tamil speaking Women Police Officers in 2014 to augment all Units of the Women and Children Bureau at all Police Stations in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. In addition, Government officers are regularly encouraged, and participate in language competency training.

The National Department for Registration of Persons has taken measures to issue computerized bilingual identity cards in the two national languages, Sinhala and Tamil. While identity cards of minority communities are already being issued in two languages for their convenience, the new decision will be applicable to all identity cards, as a corrective measure and to ensure equity for all citizens.

There have been allegations on changing the demography of the Northern areas by resettling people other than Tamils. In the early 1980s, before the ethnic cleansing by the LTTE, over 75,000 Muslims and over 35,000 Sinhalese co-existed peacefully in the North of Sri Lanka. When the conflict escalated, almost all these civilians either left or were forcibly evicted by the LTTE. Today, 51 per cent of the population in Colombo city is non-Sinhalese which is testimony to the fact that the people of Sri Lanka can freely choose where they want to live, and there are no efforts to create mono-ethnic niches within the country. This is further substantiated by the fact that only 32 per cent of the Tamil population live in the North while the remainder live among other communities in the rest of the country.

Of the 12,288 former LTTE combatants that have surrendered or came under court order, 96.9 per cent have been rehabilitated and integrated into society as of 03 March 2014. Only 157 are currently undergoing rehabilitation and 85 remain under legal proceedings.

Following the termination of military operations against the LTTE in 2009, the Government has undertaken a gradual process of reduction of military presence in former conflict affected areas.It may be noted that the total strength of the military in the Northern Province has been reduced by approximately 30 per cent from 2009 to October 2013, a process which is continuing to take place. In addition, in the Eastern Province approximately 26 per cent reduction of troop presence has been undertaken.

There have been repeated attempts to draw a non-existent correlation between the presence of the military and vulnerability of women to sexual harassment and violence in the North. This position is not borne out by available statistics. It must be categorically stated that Sri Lanka has a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and abuse of women and children. The Government has taken concrete action in all reported cases where Sri Lankan security forces personnel have been involved and will continue to do so.

The military has no involvement in civilian administration. The civil administration system in the North and East is fully functional. The culmination of this process was the successful conclusion ofProvincial Council elections in the North in September 2013 and the establishment of the Northern Provincial Council. However, it is regrettable that external entities think it fit to pressurize the Government with regard to that Councils staffing, and even on the appointment of the Governor, which is the prerogative of the Executive. Such pressure on the conduct of governance are unacceptable and not in keeping with the conduct of international relations.

The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) was set up to arrive at a final political solution with participation by 21 political parties who are represented in Parliament. The terms of reference for the PSC were formulated jointly with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). It is unfortunate that the TNA persistently refuses to participate in this process. It should be recognized that this approach by the TNA is a hindrance to any settlement. However, despite the non-participation of the TNA, the PSC continues with its deliberations.

All people living in Sri Lanka enjoy freedom of religion, which is a constitutionally guaranteed right. The Government of Sri Lanka remains committed to ensuring that this right is protected. This is demonstrated by the action taken to address reported incidents of disturbances in the recent past.

The four major religions have co-existed side by side in Sri Lanka for centuries. Regrettably, there is an effort to project the sporadic incidents of attacks aimed at religious places, as a sign of religious hatred and intolerance. It should be noted that these incidents have targeted places of worship of all four religions. The Government does not condone any of those activities. With regard to reported attacks, 16 relate to Buddhist, 41 to Christian/Catholic and 20 Muslim places of worship during the period from June 2009 to December 2013. Judicial inquiries are in progress with regard to 62 per cent of the attacks, and 22 cases have been concluded. In all such instances where police complaints have been lodged, police have taken legal steps to produce suspects before Magistrates. Whenever credible information relating to incidents has been made available, the Government has taken appropriate action.

The recent incident in Hikkaduwa in southern Sri Lanka is a case in point. Police complaints were lodged regarding the incident which caused damage to buildings of the Assembly of God and Holy Calvary Sectors during a public protest. Police forthwith initiated legal proceedings and twenty one persons including Buddhist monks have surrendered responding to the Court Order. The case is scheduled to be called on 17 March 2014 for further hearings.

Additionally, in keeping with Sri Lanka’s societal, cultural and historical norms, regular dialogue continues to take place at various levels to ensure interfaith harmony and understanding amongst its diverse populace.

Administration of justice, inclusive of independence of the judiciary is constitutionally enjoined, and any infringement of these entrenched rights is visited with sanctions. Judges hold office during good behavior, and proven misbehavior or incapacity triggers constitutionally entrenched disciplinary proceedings. Any procedure adopted in this regard has been in accordance with the Constitution and such action in compliance with constitutional provisions cannot be regarded as undermining the independence of the judiciary.

The Government of Sri Lanka is fully committed to the protection of human rights defenders. The wide range of interactions that the High Commissioner had with civil society during her visit, as well as the active engagement of civil society from Sri Lanka in successive Council sessions is testimony to the vibrant nature of Sri Lanka’s civil society and the freedoms they enjoy.

Mr. President, during the period under review Sri Lanka has continued its proactive engagement with the Council, the OHCHR and the international community in a spirit of transparency, cooperation and dialogue. The past year has also witnessed the visit of High Commissioner Navi Pillay to Sri Lanka on a week-long, comprehensive visit which included travel to the former theatre of conflict in the North and the East, as well as the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs Dr. Chaloka Beyani whose visit too included travel to the North. Sri Lanka also hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo last November where 54 of the states in this august gathering participated. These comprehensive visits and exposure enabled Sri Lanka to demonstrate first hand the very tangible progress on the ground with regard to reconciliation.

Sri Lanka has consistently interacted with the United Nations system and the wider international community in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation. It is in this context that Sri Lanka remains committed to a positive engagement with the Council and its mechanisms, including special procedures.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador / Permanent Representative in Geneva has engaged in regular dialogue with special procedures mandate holders including, inter alia, the Special Rapporteur on Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence and the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions.

Sri Lanka has also conducted regular meetings with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), including with the participation of senior representation from the Attorney General’s Department. Since January 2012, the Government has transmitted responses on 1,042 cases to the WGEID. Additionally, an Inter-Agency Task Force established comprising the Ministries of External Affairs, Defence and the Attorney General’s Department continues to respond to the Working Group and provide clarification on cases. It is pertinent to note that 80 per cent of the caseload of the WGEID under consideration dates back over 20 years to the pre-1990 period.

Similarly, Sri Lanka has proactively engaged with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD). During the period from January 2012 to date, the Government has responded to 9 of the 11 communications transmitted by the Working Group with regard to issues of alleged detention. Additionally, Sri Lanka also responded by its communication dated 28 February 2014 to the Questionnaire transmitted to delegations by the Working Group on the ‘Right to anyone deprived of his or her liberty by arrest or detention’ inclusive of examples containing detailed information on cases applicable.

From January 2013 to date, Sri Lanka has responded to 20 communications from special procedures (both country specific and general) excluding communications by the WGEID and the WGAD, the latter having been collated separately as indicated earlier. From 2012 to date, Sri Lanka has responded to 71 per cent of the communications received from special procedures addressed to the Government on various issues with specific and detailed information, excluding communications from the WGEID and the WGAD. The Government continues to endeavor to respond to all communications by special procedures in a spirit of cooperation, transparency and dialogue.

The request for visit by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is under consideration as with other similar requests from special procedures, which will be processed as mutually convenient and taking into account national imperatives and initiatives. It is relevant to recall the continuation of the mandate of the Commission on Disappearances. This domestic mechanism needs to be given adequate time. As we have previously informed this august body, we will continue to schedule pending visits of special procedures mandate holders following the visit of the High Commissioner. In line with this commitment, the Government has, as of now, extended three invitations to special procedures since August 2013 including to the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs, the Special Rapporteur on Education, and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. The Special Rapporteur on Education has informed of his inability to undertake this visit this year.

In line with its treaty body commitments,Sri Lanka continues to engage and submit its periodic reports to the respective treaty bodies. Sri Lanka’s 3rd and 4th Report to the Committee Against Torture came under consideration in November 2011. Sri Lanka submitted its 5th report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in October 2012, and in September 2013, its response to the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Currently, the Government’s 5th report under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is under preparation. The Government is also engaged in initial preparations to submit its reports in 2015 under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention Against Torture (CAT).

As previously committed at its UPR second cycle in November 2012, the Government agreed to implement recommendations of the LLRC in line with the LLRC National Plan of Action (NPoA), and also to make available financial and other resources to meet this objective. Additionally, Sri Lanka made 19 voluntary commitments in relation to the UPR, of which 12 have direct relevance to the reconciliation process and implementation of the recommendations of the LLRC.

Sri Lanka remains open to consideration of technical cooperation from the OHCHR in some key areas in reconciliation, in line with the needs of the country, in the context of implementing the NPoA of the LLRC, as well as the accepted recommendations of Sri Lanka’s UPR 2nd cycle. In keeping with HRC Resolution 5/1, offers of technical assistance need to be made in consultation with and with the concurrence of the receiving State. Sri Lanka has also undertaken commitments on technical cooperation under the UN Development Assistance Framework 2013-2017.

Further, to identify the specific needs of those who have returned or resettled but are still having specific needs linked to their displacement and to reconcile the discrepancies in relation to the number of remaining IDPs to be resettled in the country, action has already been initiated to conduct a Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) by OCHA in consultation with the Presidential Task Force for Resettlement, Development and Security in the Northern Province. This issue was also referred to during the visit of the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs to Sri Lanka in December 2013. Consequent to a series of meetings, formal approval for the Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) has been communicated to the UNOCHA. A letter of Agreement is being prepared between the Government and the UN Country Team to give effect to the JNA. UNOCHA has already appointed consultants to plan out and monitor the whole process.

A key UNDP supported program, Strengthening Enforcement of Law, Access to Justice and Social Integration (SELAJSI) which is a joint initiative of the Ministries of National Languages and Social Integration; Justice; Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms; and Child Development and Women’s Affairs was launched by the UN Assistant Secretary-General, Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific of the UNDP in February 2014. The programme aims at ensuring that gains in the justice sector are institutionalized, systemized and scaled-up.

Ministry of Justice is implementing a programme in collaboration with UNICEF and relevant government stakeholders and civil societies to strengthen and enhance child protection by establishing special Child Friendly Children’s Courts.

Additionally, several international organizations are engaged by the Government to provide assistance to war-affected persons through focal line Ministries. Examples include World Bank collaboration with the Ministry of Social Services under “Diri Saviya Project” to provide financial assistance to the disabled; UNICEF assistance to implement the concept of Social Care Centers in the Northern and the Eastern provinces; UNICEF assistance to the Ministry of Education to implement the “Be Safe” awareness programme to protect children from abuse in schools in the Northern Province; UNICEF assistance for vocational training in Mannar and Mullaitivu Training Centres; GIZ assistance to the Ministry of Education to create awareness on psycho-social care for Education Directors, Principals and Teachers in Northern and Eastern Provinces; GIZ assistance to set up vocational training centres in Northern province; Canadian Government assistance to the National Languages Project; World University Services of Canada support to set up 03 Vocational Centres and 03 Recognition of Prior Learning Centres for re-settled people in Northern province; ICRC assistance to rehabilitated LTTE members under the ICRC livelihood assistance programme; INGO and NGO collaboration with the Ministry of Health to promote awareness on mental health and nutrition among women and children in conflict affected areas; and Government, UN agencies, INGOs, NGOs collaboration in constructing and renovating houses for returnees, etc.

Notwithstanding these achievements, judging by the persistent demands made on Sri Lanka, as well as the assertion that domestic mechanisms have failed, it is clear that there is no acknowledgement of this very tangible progress.

Regrettably, as much as Sri Lanka has endeavoured to cooperate with the OHCHR, there have been a series of actions, in particular the introduction of country specific action on Sri Lanka in this Council, that have shown lack of sensitivity in dealing with delicate situations and exposed the unfair and biased manner in which issues pertaining to Sri Lanka have been addressed.

Detailing of two of the most recent examples suffice.

– In September 2013, in contravention of HRC resolution 5/1, specifically Rule 14 (47) and Paragraph 117 which casts a duty on the OHCHR that acts as the Secretariat of the Council to prepare and circulate documents for consideration by the Council in a timely manner, the text of the Oral Update of the High Commissioner was made available to Sri Lanka for response as the state concerned, with less than 20 hours remaining for its consideration in the Council.

– In February 2014, the non-adherance by the OHCHR to the request by Sri Lanka to publish the Comments by the State on the Report of the High Commissioner (A/HRC/25/23) as an Addendum to the Report in the current session in spite of existence of clear precedent in this regard and no rule to the contrary governing Addenda and submission of comments by the State on HC / SG Country Reports, is again in contravention of the Methods of Work of the Council which clearly state at Paragraph 110 of the IB package that “The methods of work, pursuant to General Assembly resolution 60/251 should be transparent, impartial, equitable, fair, pragmatic; lead to clarity, predictability, and inclusiveness. They may also be updated and adjusted over time.”

Mr. President, regrettably, these are examples of patent bias demonstrated by the OHCHR in addressing issues in relation to Sri Lanka. The OHCHR’s most recent act of placing the Comments of the Government of Sri Lanka on the Report A/HRC/25/23 under ‘Communications from Governments’, has seriously impeded the visibility and integrity of between the Report and the Comments by the State. It not only reflects a lack of transparency, but also clearly denies Sri Lanka a level playing field to present its point of view. The unequal treatment meted out to Sri Lanka by the OHCHR in the above instance defeats the very principles upheld by the Council.

The procedural concerns that Sri Lanka has raised with the President of the Council with regard to the above anomalies have wider relevance to member and observer states of the Council. They also raise serious questions on politicization and collusion of interests against Sri Lanka.

Mr. President, the Government of Sri Lanka categorically rejects the High Commissioner’s Report (A/HRC/25/23) emanating from resolution 22/1. It may be recalled that from the adoption of resolution 22/1, we upheld its contravention of GA resolution 60/251 as well as the Council resolutions 5/1 and 5/2 which guide the work and method of engagement of the Council.

Sri Lanka will share its observations on the substantive content of the Report (A/HRC/25/23), including the considerable factual inaccuracies and misperceptions contained therein, during its consideration on 26 March. However, for purposes of record there are some aspects to which, I wish to draw your attention to at this juncture.

The High Commissioner’s Report has exceeded its mandate by making reference to and recommendations on numerous issues extraneous to the resolution. Additionally, the recommendations contained in the Report are arbitrary, intrusive and of a political nature, and are not placed within the ambit of the LLRC, as demonstrated by the call to establish an international inquiry mechanism. Further, this recommendation is in contravention of her mandate granted by GA Resolution 48/141, particularly Articles 3(a) and 4(g). In the Government’s detailed “Comments” on the Report, it has also regretted that the High Commissioner has raised concerns regarding a range of issues based on information of questionable veracity and conclusions arrived at in a selective and arbitrary manner. Sri Lanka’s Comments have attempted to address some of the errors and misperceptions contained in the Report.

The references made in the Council welcoming the High Commissioner’s Report on Sri Lanka, even at the highest level of the UN are regrettable particularly considering that it is based on questionable and baseless material including what has been processed outside the UN framework. The Council may recall in this regard that the Panel of Experts Report which was the culmination of a private consultation that the Secretary General sought for his own advice, and is not the product of any intergovernmental process, has been extensively resorted to by the High Commissioner in her Report to the Council, in a bid to legitimise it within the UN framework despite the lack of mandate in this regard.

It is universally accepted that the High Commissioner and the OHCHR must remain transparent, objective and be guided solely by the mandate given by the UN. However, if the initiatives taken on Sri Lanka at this juncture by the OHCHR is to be the basis on which the country is to be judged, it will clearly be a travesty of justice.

It is in this context that we greatly value the sentiments expressed in the Council by countries which have similar experiences with regard to reconciliation, that Sri Lanka be provided with the requisite time and space to address their own process domestically in a comprehensive manner as opposed to those who continue to pay disproportionate attention to Sri Lanka, based on agendas driven by political motives.

The Government of Sri Lanka therefore reiterates its rejection of resolution 22/1, as well as the High Commissioner’s Report in its entirety which are fundamentally flawed. These initiatives disregard the substantial progress made by the Government during the five years which have elapsed since the end of the thirty year war against terrorism. They also pay scant regard to the complexities and local nuances of a sensitive reconciliation process, while eroding confidence of the people of Sri Lanka by the constant changing of unjustifiable demands. Moreover, they persist in an attitude which is clearly disproportionate to the circumstances and inconsistent with the treatment of comparable situations. It is much to be regretted that the High Commissioner’s Report and those who exalt its virtues only seek to inflict harm on the reconciliation process by bringing about a polarisation of the Sri Lankan society.

In conclusion, Mr. President, Sri Lanka reiterates its continued cooperation and engagement with the work of the Council.

Thank You.

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Faultlines in Navi Pillay’s Report to UNHRC

The anti-Sri Lankan resolution moved by three prime movers – the USA, UK and India – is based primarily on the report presented by Navy Pillay, the High Commissioner of UNHRC. It is likely that most nations will be influenced by it. In the following analysis addressed to Pillay, the former Editor of ‘The Observer,’ H. L. D. Mahindapala, exposes the failure of Pillay to deal with the central issues fairly and comprehensively. It also exposes the partisan approach of Pillay which accuses only Sri Lanka and not the violations of human rights by India, one of the prime movers of the anti-Sri Lankan resolution.

Mahindapala told Ceylon Today that there isn’t a sari or a turban big enough to hide India’s hypocrisy. He added: “Navi Pillay too is playing an unacceptable role in focusing disproportionately on Sri Lanka. She is very quick to pick on Mahinda Rajapaksa from little Lanka but not Narendra Modi who is tipped to be the next Prime Minister of Himalayan India. If Modi becomes the next Prime Minister of India, will she take on Modi for massacreing the Muslims of Gujarat, Modi’s State?”

Here’s the full text of Mahindapala’s letter addressed to Navi Pillay:

Ms. Navi Pillay
High Commissioner for Human Rights
UNHRC
Geneva

Dear Madam,

Comments on the report of the UN High Commissioner, Navi Pillay, titled Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka

I read with interest, your report titled Promoting reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka, presented to the 25th session of Human Rights Council in Geneva (24 February 2014).
I welcome the detailed report and I wish to add that I agree with some of the critical parts which are accurate.
In particular, I wish to state that I agree with a central allegation enunciated in your report. You state: “The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has, however, failed to ensure independent and credible investigation into the past violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law.” This judgmental statement targeting Sri Lanka comes from the summary of your report. If there is one criterion by which the validity, morality and the legality of your report can be judged, it is in this critical standard which you have stated with clarity. I wish to underscore the phrase “the past violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law.” I shall deal with this aspect of ‘the past’ as I go along.

I wish also to state that the title which broadly covers the promotion of reconciliation and accountability without setting a time limit is also quite appropriate. I take it to mean that ‘reconciliation and accountability’ go hand in hand and a comprehensive accountability of the past violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law” is a sine qua non for reconciliation.

The prime movers

I consider your statement – namely, “The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) has, however, failed to ensure independent and credible investigation into the past violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law” – as a critical standard laid down by you to map the future course of action in Sri Lanka. The prime movers of this anti-Sri Lankan resolution – that is, the USA, UK and India – too have based their resolution for the third time on this standard laid down in your report. This makes it clear that the three prime movers and you work in tandem to enforce the common political objectives pursued by the prime movers in the name of achieving justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. In other words, your report has laid down the ground work for the three prime movers to pursue their objective of imposing an “independent international inquiry” into “the past violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law.”

As the chief guardian of human rights, I believe that this standard is to be applied universally without exception. I also believe that ‘the past’ referred to in your report is not confined to an arbitrary cut-off date which would automatically exonerate some violators of international humanitarian and human rights law who intervened militarily, to combat the Tamil Tiger terrorists. So it is imperative that ‘the past’ referred to you in the report should be defined unequivocally. This is also necessary because there seems to be a conflict of opinion on this issue between the GOSL and the prime movers of the resolution and, of course, UNHRC – that is, while the GOSL rejects the arbitrary cut-off date referred in the UNHRC resolution, the prime movers are determined to confine their ‘independent international inquiry’ only to the last few months. In the interests of peace, reconciliation and accountability, it is best to clarify whether there should be a cut-off date to determine ‘the past’ or not.

A realistic view of the relevant, historical past should begin from 14 May 1976 when the Tamil leadership, assembled in Vadukoddai, declared war against the nation, leading to crimes against peace and violations of human rights. It is classified as the longest running war in Asia because the declaration of war in Vadukoddai by the Tamil leadership on 14 May 1976, unleashed Tamil violence which ended after 33years on 18 May 2009. So, the past consists of the 33 years (give or take a few days), and any independent and credible investigation into the past violations must cover the entire 33 years without exception to achieve the goals of (1) justice for all victims of the war; (2) accountability that can hold all those responsible for the violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the 33-year-old war,

and (3) achieving comprehensive reconciliation and peace. Anything shorter than the 33 years would amount to a distortion of the meaning of the word ‘past’ as it chops off the body and head of the past, leaving only the tail end – and that too the hairy bits of the tail end. Your report, quite rightly, is focused on “the past violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law” which can mean by any rational deduction, the entire 33 years.
However, despite your statement in the summary quoted above, it is somewhat disconcerting to note that your report takes a very limited and unrealistic view of the past. It does not go beyond the last stages of the war, which at the most, does not stretch beyond the last eight months – that is, from September 2008 to May 2009 as seen in various other reports.

You would agree that the time-frame in your report has “failed to ensure independent and credible investigation into the past” beyond this limited period. I wish to argue that it would be impossible to “ensure independent and credible investigation into the past” if ‘the past’ is arbitrarily limited to just a few months in the last stages. As the past of this longest running war in Asia goes back to 33 years, any credible or independent report must necessarily cover the entire period, and not confine itself to an arbitrary cut-off date that cannot be justified by any rational yardstick.
To begin with, this limited time-frame is unfair by all the victims of this futile war. If, as implied in your report, the aim is to get justice for the victims of the war, then you automatically cut-off the claims and concerns of the other victims who suffered during the previous 32 years and four months,

by limiting the investigations to the last few months. The imbalance in this selective methodology will not contribute to either restore justice to all victims or help to advance reconciliation, as the direct and immediate impact of this move leads to exonerating key military actors who had violated international humanitarian and human rights law of any responsibility or accountability. Besides, there is no precedent to judge a long-drawn war only by the last stage. If the main purpose of the resolution initiated by the three prime movers was to bring to book those responsible for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, then natural justice demands that all those who violated the rules of engagement in the war in ‘the past,’ which goes as far back as 33 years, should also be held accountable. But if the period of investigation is confined to the last stage, then it would automatically exonerate some of the guilty actors whose political and military interventions – not to mention excesses – had led to serious violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law in the preceding 32 years and four months.

Consider, for instance, how this applies to the 33-year-old war in Sri Lanka. The facts of the case are simple: Two militaries fought the Tamil Tiger terrorists: 1. the Sri Lankan Forces, and 2. The Indian Forces. There is evidence to conclude that , both forces violated human rights law in combatting ‘the deadliest terrorist outfit of the world’ (FBI). However, ‘the past,’ as defined in your report, includes only the last phase in which the GOSL crushed the Tamil Tiger terrorists, and not the Indian Government Forces which fought the Tamil Tigers fiercely between 1987 – 1990, three years in all. This is the fundamental flaw in your report. The selected time-frame targets only the GOSL and not the Indian Forces. The massive campaign of INGOs, international media, Tamil Diaspora and Western Foreign Offices too have taken this narrow view of focusing only on the last phase as if the previous years were fought by India, for instance, with roses without thorns.

What is needed right now is to restore a balance to this one-sided view.
This requires a critical questioning primarily of the validity of the arbitrary time-frame:
1. Can the Commissioner of Human Rights “ensure independent and credible investigation into the past violations of the international humanitarian and human rights law” if the focus is only on the last sector of the past?

2. Can the Commissioner of Human Rights provide a rational explanation as to why the Indian atrocities committed during its military intervention in Sri Lanka (1987 – 1990) are excluded, and why only the actions of the Sri Lankan Military are included in the proposed independent investigations?

3. Can the Commissioner of Human Rights serving the global citizenry, without fear or favour, act selectively, to target only one set of violations of human rights, and not the other? Is this a deliberate strategy adopted by the High Commissioner, acting jointly with the prime movers of the anti-Sri Lankan resolution, the USA, UK and India, to divert attention from the documented role of India in violating international humanitarian and human rights law in order to target only Sri Lanka?

4. What moral or legal rights has the High Commissioner to exclude the Indian Forces in any independent and credible inquiry when they were the first foreign military interventionists who marched into Sri Lanka to defang and tame the Tamil Tiger terrorists – the very terrorist forces who were initially trained, financed and directed by India’s RAW (the equivalent of the CIA) and exported to destabilize Sri Lanka? The Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), operated from 1987 to 1990 on Sri Lankan soil. Their record of massacres, plunder, rape and other violations of international humanitarian and human rights law is well documented by I/NGOs and by Indian and Tamil eye-witnesses.

5. Shocked by the horrors of the Indian atrocities in Sri Lanka, the former Defence Minister, George Fernandez, condemned it as ‘India’s Vietnam’ and also as ‘India’s My Lai.’

6. The irony is that India, a violator of international humanitarian and human rights law on Sri Lankan territory, is now posing as a defender of humanitarian and human rights law by pointing an accusing finger at Sri Lanka. How genuine is India’s concern for human rights when she has had no compunction in violating human rights in Sri Lanka, Kashmir, Bangladesh, not to mention its own territory? For instance, Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate in the coming election, was denied a visa by the USA, one of the movers of the UNHRC Resolution, for his role in the massacre of Muslims in his State of Gujarat. Therefore, why should India be exonerated when her war crimes on Sri Lankan soil are rated on the same level as that of My Lai in Vietnam, by its own Defence Minister?

7. Besides, neither the Indian Army nor the Indian Government has held any inquiry into the criminal activities of its Forces on Sri Lankan territory. Here’s what the Head of the Intelligence Unit of the Indian Forces in Sri Lanka, Col. R. Hariharan, said recently on this issue: “There are a few issues involved in analyzing the allegations of atrocities by Indian troops after 25 years. In COIN (Counter Insurgent Operations) operations, there are always innocent civilians killed, usually described as collateral damage in the fire-fight between two sides. This happened in Sri Lanka also. But there were specific instances where serious allegations were levelled. I remember two of them: The massacre of patients and doctors by troops in the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and retributive killings in an ambush in Velvettithurai. I think both the Army leadership and Government (of India) failed to institute transparent investigations to get at the truth and disprove them or punish the culprits.

But in 1987-88, human rights were not a big issue worldwide as it is now. India was no exception to this. Bigger killings were taking place in Afghanistan where the US was fighting a proxy war against Soviets. India itself did not pay much attention to human rights accusations against it. But all this is hindsight wisdom.” (International Law Journal of London, Interviewer, Parasaran Rangarajan, Editor – 6 February 2014). Needless to say, that this is a damning statement of India’s role in Sri Lanka by its own Chief of Intelligence Officer. Doesn’t natural justice demand that India should first hold its own impartial inquiries before pointing an accusing finger at Sri Lanka? Why doesn’t India, the super power of the SAARC region, set the example for others like Sri Lanka to follow? (Please see attached document revealing Indian atrocities in Sri Lanka.)

8. Col. Hariharan’s statement cited (above) is by far the most authoritative eye-witness account of the atrocities committed by the Indian Forces. It is more than an eye-witness account. It is an official condemnation delivered by the highest ranking Intelligence Officer of the IPKF who was in Sri Lanka between the years 1987 – 1990. In the light of the available evidence, can the High Commissioner for the UNHRC selectively brush aside the authoritative accounts of the Indian war crimes and focus only on the Sri Lankan Forces? If so, on what grounds?

9. If “the Army leadership and the Government (of India) failed to institute transparent investigations to get at the truth and disprove them or punish the culprits” should not the international community and the Human Rights Commissioner move without any further delay, a resolution to hold an independent and credible investigations into the atrocities committed by the Indian Forces?

10. In the light of the evidence staring in the face of the UNHRC, can the delegates vote only for an independent investigation into the actions of the Sri Lankan Forces in the last phase, or should the Council members deal with the violations of international humanitarian and human rights law comprehensively, going into ‘the past’ that run into 33 years?

11. The war ended on 18 May 2009. On 26 May 2009, the UN High Commissioner addressed the UNHRC demanding action against the Sri Lanka. As shown in the evidence cited (above), India committed violations of international humanitarian and human rights law 25 years ago. Why has the High Commissioner who moved swiftly within eight days against Sri Lanka, failed to take up the issue of Indian atrocities committed on Sri Lankan soil even after 25 years? Or is justice at the UNHRC something like kissing that goes by favour?

12. Will the UNHRC, acting on the available evidence, withdraw the resolution against Sri Lanka and present a more comprehensive one which would include the atrocities committed by the Indian Forces too?

13. The High Commissioner accuses the GOSL of not having the ‘political will’ to achieve truth and justice. The current Presidential Commission in Sri Lanka inquiring into abduction and disappearances from 10 June 1990 to May 2009, have reported that witnesses are coming forward, ready to give evidence on the atrocities committed by the Indian Forces. But the mandated time period (10 June 1990 to May 2009) doesn’t go far enough to include the Indian atrocities highlighted by the Tamil victims in their petitions to the Presidential Commission. This poses a serious moral question to the UNHRC and the three prime movers of the anti-Sri Lankan resolution, which is: Is the UNHRC willing to either withdraw or amend the resolution to include the Indian atrocities committed during the three-year period of 1987 – 1990? Will it also advise the GOSL to extend the cut-off date to go beyond 1990 into the entire period of the war, going back to 1976, when the war was declared by the Tamil leadership?

14. A commitment by the UNHRC to comprehensively investigate all the violations committed during the entire period of 33 years will confirm the genuine commitment of the prime movers and the UNHRC High Commissioner to deliver ‘the truth and justice.’ Truth and justice cannot come out of a short period of a long war. Anything short of a comprehensive investigation, covering the entirety of the war, from beginning to end, will be a partisan move to accuse only Sri Lanka and exonerate India. In the absence of such a credible international process, should Sri Lanka alone be sacrificed on the altar of the high priests of morality consisting mainly of the prime movers – one of whom is India, also a perpetrator of crimes against the people of Sri Lanka?

15. Last but not the least is the demand by the UNHRC High Commissioner in her report to take action against the LTTE agents who were released by the GOSL and rehabilitated. Is this an act that is influenced by compassionate human rights or is it an act dictated by the barbaric doctrine of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? If this kind of vindictive politics is driving the CEO of human rights, should we be surprised by the Nobel Peace Prize winning President of America, sitting down every Tuesday with his deadly apparatchiks, to pick who should live and who should die without due process?

In the interest of promoting reconciliation and justice, I shall thank you to kindly respond to the e-mail dealing with what I consider to be the central issue confronting the UNHRC in the post-conflict era in Sri Lanka. I wish to assure you that your objective and dispassionate response will enhance not only your stature as a fair and independent judge and guardian of human rights issues but also that of UNHRC which is coming under critical fire from diverse sources.

Awaiting an early reply.
Yours sincerely,
H.L.D. Mahindapala

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URGENT! PLEASE VOTE!

Click on this link to vote — we are checking the number of votes as it builds up. Please help to meet the 100,000 target.

PETITION TO SUPPORT ALL SRI LANKANS

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/safeguard-sovereignty-sri-lanka-and-not-pass-resolution-against-sri-lanka-alleged-war-crimes/VvwB6LgR

 

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Petition to White House

PLEASE, SEND THIS TO ALL IN EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD WHERE SRI LANKANS LIVE.
Signatures needed by March 19, 2014 to reach goal of 100,000

You can help ensure that this petition will be reviewed by the White House and receive an official response by asking your friends and family to sign the petition as well.
Send an email to your friends and family or use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to help promote this petition.
Email this link to your friends and family: http://wh.gov/lUt3J

Or use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to help promote this petition.

Attn: First of all u have to log on to web site using above given link than u have to create a white house account. Its so easy just one step.

Pls help to protect our nation

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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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