In November 2005, in recognition of her service to the country and the world, then-President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Kumaratunga conferred on Radhika Coomaraswamy the title of “Deshamanya” a prestigious national honour. She is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. In this capacity, she serves as a moral voice and independent advocate to build awareness and give prominence to the rights and protection of boys and girls affected by Armed Conflict.
In November 2011, President Mahinda Rajapaksa conferred the national title “Deshamanya” to a man call Iniyapaarathi alias Pushpa Kumara. An official working at the office of Inayapaarathi located in Ampara when contacted by The Sunday Leader, confirmed that the titled of Deshamanya had indeed been conferred on him at a ceremony held in Thirukovil on November 18.
Who is this Inayapaarathi?
Who is this Inayapaarathi? He is a man who has been accused of war crimes by the United Nations for forced arms training to children! Furthermore he is a man who is accused by the public for playing a key role in the abductions and disappearances of several people in Poththuvil, Akkaraippattu, Thirukkovil and Vinaayakapuram in the Ampara district of the Eastern Province. Iniyapaarathi is a lead operative of the paramilitary group led by Vinayagamoorthy Muralidharan alias Karuna who currently holds a Deputy Minister’s post in the Rajapaksa government. Iniyapaarathi is at present the Ampara District Coordinator for President Rajapaksa.
According to past news reports about ninety percent of affected families that gave evidence before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) at its sittings in Ampara on March 26, 2011 alleged that Iniyapaarathi was responsible for the abductions and disappearances of their husbands, wives and children.
Iniyapaarathi is also accused of intimidating voters, issuing death threats and of election fraud during the last presidential election, parliamentary election and during the recently held local government elections. The Kalmunai court had sentenced Iniyapaarathi to a ten year suspended jail term, when he was found guilty in some criminal cases.
White Van Abductions and Inayapaarathi
I had an opportunity to meet this man call Inayapaarathi on June 19, 2007 at his office in Thirukkovil. While representing the Free Media Movement and the Sri Lanka Press Institute, I was accompanied by the Director International Press Institute David Dadge, Sukumar Muralidharan from the International Frederation of Journalists, Athula Vithanage from the Sri Lanka Working Journalist Association and Javid Munavar from the Sri Lanka Muslim Media Forum. We went there to resolve the issues between the government backed paramilitary TMVP and the Ampara journalists. We had received a number of complaints that year from Ampara journalists regarding the threats they received from the TMVP. We met Amapara TMVP leader and the President’s Ampara district coordinator Inyapaarathi and his deputy Jeevendran at their office.
I saw a number of children with guns inside the office on my way to the washroom. Then Athula Vithange and myself secretly planned to photograph them. We saw a white van with a covered number plate. But when we examined it we realised there was no number plate and a piece of newspaper had been pasted on the place where the number plate should have been. I managed to take a photograph of the white van and the present “Deshamanya” Inayapaarathi, and a photograph with two children and their guns. This is the first time that those pictures are being published. Though I had been asked over the years by several news agencies to sell the photographs to them, I resisted because I thought it would jeopardise the lives of the Ampara journalists.
This photograph of a van without a number plate is clear evidence of paramilitary white van abductions. There were hundreds of complaints about “Whitevanning”. Still not a single case has been resolved.
Child Recruitments and Inayapaarathi
Under the sub-title “Sri Lanka’s missing children” UNICEF says; “Reports suggest 64 percent of those who have disappeared were recruited by the Tamil Tigers.” After the report was published a prominent child rights activist and an expert wrote to me; “How come only 64 percent was by LTTE? Was it government or the Tamil paramilitary forces? I doubt any government abductions? Why does the UNICEF leave such a big margin????” For me there was no doubt, of course government backed paramilitaries abducted children and used them in fighting the LTTE.
There is a leaked US Embassy cable in the WikiLeaks database which clearly shows that the US knew about this and even President Rajapaksa and his brother Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was aware of this fact. The confidential cable says, “In his meetings with the President and with Defense Secretary Gotabhya Rajapaksa, Ambassador emphasized that our military-to-military relations would benefit greatly if we could solve the problem of child soldiers serving with the paramilitaries. The Defense Secretary said that releasing the child soldiers was part of the process of disarming all the paramilitaries, which had now begun.” This cable was dated May 26, 2009 and it was related to Ambassador Robert O. Blake’s farewell meetings. So, why is UNICEF hiding this truth and only blaming the LTTE for child recruitment? Have they became a government propaganda mechanism too? The Island reported that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa told Liam Fox last July, “What Prabhakaran couldn’t have achieved with 100
rounds of heavy artillery he realized by using a brain-washed child suicide cadre. Had the international community brought enough pressure on the LTTE by taking punitive action against its overseas network, which raised funds for procurement of arms, ammunition and equipment, the LTTE would have been forced to scale down child recruitment, those shedding crocodile tears for their personal and political gain should throw their weight behind the UNICEF effort to track down missing children.”
“Defence Ministry and External Affairs Ministry sources told The Island that those demanding an international probe into accountability issues in Sri Lanka could not ignore the child combatants’ issue” The Island further reported.
So investigate both sides and not just the LTTE!
Deshamanya and Inayapaarathi
Deshamanya (Pride of the Nation) is the second highest Sri Lankan national honour (after the Sri Lankabhimanaya) awarded by the Government of Sri Lanka as a civil honour for distinguished service. It is conventionally used as a title or prefix to the awardee’s name. Military personnel might also be eligible for services of a non-military nature. Purely civilian decorations are relatively few; general purpose orders with a civilian division are more common. So far the awardees were really honourable citizens such as Geoffery Bawa – Architect, W. D. Amaradeva – Music Director, Vernon Mendis – Diplomat, Nissanaka Wijeyeratne – Politician, James Peter Obeyesekera III – Politician, Bradman Weerakoon – Civil Servant, Neville Kanakeratne – Diplomat, Mohammed Abdul Bakeer Markar – Politician, Dereen Young Wickremasinghe, H.L. de Silva – Diplomat, Mrs. Siva Obeysekera – Politician, V. Manicavasagar – Supreme Court Justice, Prof. Nandadasa Kodagoda, R. K. W Gunasekara – Lawyer, Ranjith Abesooriya – Lawyer , Chithrasena – Dancer, Charitha Prasanna de Silva – Business Sector and Radhika Coomaraswamy – Academic, Human Rights Activist, UN diplomat. Sadly under the Rajapaksas now it is for people like Inayapaarathi – Human Rights Violator – White Van Abductor – Child abductor.