25 June, 2022


Act Before The Next Geneva Sessions

By Sinha Ratnatunga*  –

Sinha Ratnatunga - Editor Sunday Times

It was a year ago that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report was submitted to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Commission was not without its share of ‘Doubting Thomases’, especially in the West who felt that it was merely going to ‘whitewash’ the Government of Sri Lanka of accountability, especially in regard to the allegations of violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) during the final military offensive against the LTTE in 2009.

To ward off international pressure for an impartial war crimes tribunal, the Government announced in 2009 that it would appoint its own inquiry. At the United Nations, Sri Lanka’s diplomats were successful in preventing the Sri Lanka situation getting on to the Security Council agenda. This permitted President Rajapaksa to stand firm against Western powers who wanted a stop to the fighting; it paved the way for the Security Forces to liquidate the LTTE and end the menace of terrorism that had bathed this country in blood and tears for nearly three decades.

But the Government prevaricated in appointing the LLRC for more than a year, giving ammunition for the seething Tamil Diaspora lobby to muster the slighted Western powers to gang up on Sri Lanka. At the UN, the diplomatic victory in ensuring the Sri Lanka situation escaped a Security Council watch was lost in the post-conflict situation of reconciliation and a UN Report commissioned by the Secretary General (the Darusman Report), highly critical of Sri Lanka’s war effort came to be published. In March this year, the US spearheaded a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC (Human Rights Council) sessions in Geneva. To the credit of the LLRC, its report won credibility in the eyes of the international community, especially the suspicious Western powers thereby easing the pressure on the demand for war crimes investigations. Without however grasping the opportunity, the LLRC afforded as an escape route from international interference, the Government pussy-footed on its implementation.

Three and a half years since the final battle was fought and won at Nandikadal, and a year after the LLRC report was submitted, the Government continues to prevaricate. The result, a new report by the UN critical of the UN Secretary General for not bringing the Sri Lanka situation before the Security Council in 2009 and a fresh call for an international probe on what happened on the battlefield.

Whether the UN SG will want to atone for his so-called ‘inaction’ by appointing a panel to inquire into civilian deaths in 2009 is left to be seen. That he will consult the Western powers that run the UN, and India is certain. He will only have to contend with Russia and China which are Sri Lanka’s international safety net in these matters.

Fortunately, the official Sri Lankan position on this report has been to contest it and not to bury its head in the sand, ostrich-like, claiming it is merely an internal document. That was exactly the approach it took initially with the Darusman Report, only to later go secretively and try and sort matters out, to no avail. The Government has challenged the contents of the report, but not the credibility and the chequered record of the report’s author, Charles Petrie, now involved with the Norwegians in Myanmar.

The report is already being quoted in an effort to bring about a resolution in the Canadian Parliament to boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka next year. The earlier prevarication by the Government to set in motion a post-conflict action plan saw the Darusman Report and then the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka. Now comes this Petrie Report which is further fodder for the anti-Lanka lobby worldwide.

The Government’s overall reaction to such international pressures has been wayward. Instead of doing what it should, i.e. agree upon and implement at least some of the least controversial recommendations of the LLRC, and thereby do what is best by the citizens of Sri Lanka, it decided to woo the voting member-states of the UNHRC. Thus began a new and skewered foreign policy campaign to open missions in Peru, Burkina Farso, Nauru with whom Sri Lanka has very little business– and a ‘Focus on Africa’ drive that has seen tin-pot monarchs and dictators who keep their people in abject poverty visit this country as our guests. The effort and emphasis is to win the next round in Geneva rather than give to the people of Sri Lanka what is their right.

The Government can still remedy the situation:

  • Insofar as the alleged disappearances are concerned, it can appoint a Special Commissioner under the Attorney General to handle some 4,000 pending cases. It can assign a DIG of Police in each province to announce deadlines for surrendering of arms held by illegal armed groups, or deploy the Police STF to enforce it if that does not happen. The rising instances of crime in general have been placed squarely at the increased number of illegal weaponry in the hands of unauthorised persons and the Government’s Nelsonian eye towards this problem.
  • Set up a Citizens Grievance redress mechanism to look into many situations of despair arising from citizens’ encounters with those in authority. Already, the AG has examined 200 cases of detainees and it is necessary to act on these, by either prosecuting them, or releasing them if there is no evidence.
  • In the case of the 13th Amendment, if the Government has shown an interest in dismantling this law, use the devolution language of the LLRC to get rid of the 13A label and discuss meaningful devolution alternatives at a lower level, plus for good measure, a Senate as a second chamber to Parliament.
  • Have a well-publicised programme of Land Kachcheris in the North and East on the lines recommended by the LLRC so that IDPs (internally Displaced People) will feel that their most precious asset — land — is being cared for by the Government without allowing land grabs by politicians and influential businessmen in Colombo. The LLRC outlined a detailed programme of land settlement issues and land policy formulation. The Land Commissioner’s Department is quite capable of handling this provided it is given the resources. A draft bill is ready to implement a National Land Commission along with a national land policy statement which will settle the ‘homeland theory’ once and for all and ensure that land policy will not be an instrument of demographic change exploited by either Sinhala or Tamil politicians.

There are many other recommendations of the LLRC report that the Government needs to urgently take up. To its credit goes the fact that the IDPs have been more or less resettled and the refugee camps closed down. The Government must know that the next round of Geneva is only a few months away and knives are being sharpened meanwhile on the sidelines. There are miles to go before it can sleep.

* the Sunday Times Editorial 

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Latest comments

  • 0

    Sinha, Are you not playing a violin to the Neros of Sri Lanka?

  • 0

    Govt policy ‘Promises are meant to be broken not kept’. So is the LRC as so many others.

  • 0

    To some extent, I agree with you. The government is simply blinded by its own arrogance. The complete impunity that India and China bestowed on it, won’t last forever, at least in this form. Small concessions, like the LLRC are a fair price to pay for the government, especially for the Rajapaksa. I suppose it is obvious for everybody now that in 2009 there has been a massacre of thousands of innocent civilians. Better to give something to justice and accountability. If Sri Lanka holds its position of “nothing happened”, sooner or later this farcical hypocrisis will be wiped out.And I’m speaking with a revengeful mind. Simply stating the obvious.

  • 0

    Depending on China and Russia to protect him from international action on war crimes and HR abuses is precarious. No action on the last UHHRC recommendations or its own LLRC report is likely to harden criticism of the regime. It shows how arrogant the regime is and that is not something even the Russians and the Chinese are going to be able to defend. Rajapaksa is playing with fire but he appears to be oblivious to the dangers of it.

  • 0

    Read this….

    “In the case of the 13th Amendment, if the Government has shown an interest in dismantling this law, use the devolution language of the LLRC to get rid of the 13A label and discuss meaningful devolution alternatives at a lower level, plus for good measure, a Senate as a second chamber to Parliament.”

    An editor of the news paper advocates for abolition of 13th amendment and use the language of LLRC report to get away with international criticism. What is a lower level of devolution?? Is it something at village level?

    This editor should understand devolution of power is required by minority (people who are treated as second class citizens by the majority) not for the majority. Therefore the opinion of minority is important in abolition of 13A.

    This editor advocates how to cheat international community by use of LLRC report. And also this newspaper has its own agenda on various matters.

    If anyone reads their newspaper, can notice continuous attack on External Affairs Ministry and External Affairs Minister GL Peiris (I’m not in love of EAM or its minister :)). On a series of attcaks on EAM, today’s publish had a laughable matter. This news paper accused EAM for not bringing or for not giving advice to bring winter clothes for the president on his visits to Kazakhstan. Is it EAM responsibility to advice/bring winter clothes for president when he visits abroad??? I thought it is presidential secretariat which looks after these matters.


  • 0

    The Arrogance of Authority

    A DEA officer stopped at a ranch in Texas, and talked with an old rancher.
    He told the rancher, “I need to inspect your ranch for illegally grown drugs.”

    The rancher said, “Okay, but don’t go in that field over there…..,”
    as he pointed out the location.

    The DEA officer verbally exploded saying, “Mister, I have the authority of the
    Federal Government with me!”

    Reaching into his rear pants pocket, the arrogant officer removed his badge
    and proudly displayed it to the rancher.

    “See this f***ing badge?! This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish….
    On any land!! No questions asked or answers given!! Have I made myself clear?

    The rancher nodded politely, apologized, and went about his chores.

    A short time later, the old rancher heard loud screams, looked up, and saw the DEA officer running for his life,
    being chased by the rancher’s big Santa Gertrudis bull……

    With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that
    he’d sure enough get gored before he reached safety. The officer was clearly terrified.

    The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs…..

    (I just love this part….)

    “Your badge! Show him your f***ing badge….!!”

  • 0

    I am amused at Kabi’s remarks about G.L. Peiris
    the legal wizard (who made the CJ mess) and EAM
    who fouled up foreign policy. He does not like
    him. Therefore, he feels other should like him.
    Is that what it is. Even to the blind it is clear
    he has been making colossal blunders. Who should
    expose them? Poor Kabi does not know that briefing
    for heads of states on foreign visits (even attire,
    procedures, protocol etc) come from the EAM. That
    is why they have envoys abroad. Do your home work
    Kabi Kabi.

    • 0

      The attire is something different from winter clothes I guess!! Is it only GL Peiris making blunders?? The entire MR family the entire Ministers making blunders. Why not expose others as well. So the work of the newspaper could be appreciated.

      What my point is some people in this news paper have their own agenda. They target only selected people not everyone.

  • 0

    Sinha and the Sunday Times maintain a degree of neutrality and journalistic objectivity. Some of his pronouncements here warrant
    early consideration viz:- the handing over of unauthorised weapons
    in the hands of army deserters/crime lords – that is of serious concern to the people. The tragedy here is most of these criminals are in tow with Govt Ministers or powerful politicians in their areas such as the Kahawatte killings show. Even the DIGs suggested will invariably have links to both politicians and criminals. Therefore, the end result will be far less than one would hope for. But at least that is better than nothing.

    As to Land matters in the North, the proposal for the Land Commissioners Dept to be tasked to handle matters should be acceptable. But for the formulae to be acceptable the officials should from communities that are in the majority in the areas concerned. But this is not to say the complaints of the Tamils will end immediately. Like in the case of Mayors in Jaffna being Tamil in the last 3 years have in no way been satisfactory – with the Sinhala-ex Military Governor making the whole exercise a mockery.

    Changes to the 13th amendment should be made in consultation with the TNA and with due courtesy paid to the Govt of India. This delicate matter should be handled with diplomatic finesse. There is no room here for rabble rousers and race-inciters merely because they have subverted their way into the Cabinet – more by intimidation rather than merit and ability.

    Matters in respect of IDPs, those missing, post 5/2009 should be entrusted to appropriate authorities of the UN and similar organissations. GoSL, by their conduct locally and overseas, in the eyes of the Tamils concerned has lost its credibility for impartial enquiries in respect of these.

    Early elections in the North for PCs can go a long way in satisfying the Tamil people they can look forward to some level of participation in the governance of their areas – free from the intimidation of the army and armed proxies of the Govt going as Tamils.


  • 0

    What a funny claim indeed. Kabi says “the attire is something different from winter clothes.” You are confusing it is stone age animal skin
    clothing of the past.Even winter clothing, ingnoramus like Kabi Kabi should know, are attire. Yes, of course all corrupt ministers must be
    exposed. Why not? What is wrong in exposing GL Kabi Saab? Do you share
    the same interests besides the same views? Achcha, Kabi Kabi

    • 0

      My point is that the attacks on EAM & not on other ministries clearly indicates the personal agenda of this newspaper. I would not waste time arguing winter clothes or attire. For me GL or any other minister same. All are with blood on their hands and corrupted. Everyone should be exposed without biased or personal agendas.

      Blunders of the MR family and other ministers are worst than EAM. But what prevents these newspapers from exposing them? Is it the weekly dinner at temple trees, laptops, interest free loan or anything else???

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