Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said that his government does not agree with civil war death toll figures published in a recent “UN report”, during his controversial interview with an Indian Television channel yesterday.
In his interview with Thanthi TV, the PM had however added the government is willing to verify and get back to the world body on the issue.
“The UN report talks of the last phase of the war, where large numbers of people were killed. The numbers are in dispute. UN report says 40,000…Some of the official reports say 5000… I don’t think it would come even up to 40,000… We are willing to verify it,” he had said.
Furthermore, the PM had stated that what needs to be inquired is the series of events that took place when the LTTE used the civilians as a shield. “Was it that they were used as a shield and you couldn’t avoid the casualties or, was it that you could avoid some casualties and you didn’t do so? We are not trying to cover any thing up. We are dealing with the UN,” he added.
Although Colombo Telegraph attempted to contact the PM in order to specify which UN report he was referring to, it was unsuccessful. However, PM Wickremesinghe’s close staff member said he is referring to the Darusman report of 2011 as no other UN reports on Sri Lanka’s conflict have been released so far since then.
Colombo Telegraph also reliably learns that when the PoE report was released in 2011, it was PM Wickremesinghe who advised Basil Rajapaksa, as the Opposition Leader then, to refrain from referring to it as a UN report and to describe it as the ‘Darusman report’.
Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka was a 2011 led by Marzuki Darusman states that as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed in the final months of the civil war. This was a figure that was being quoted by the UN even before the PoE was established. Former UN Spokesman to Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss suggested the figure actually might be much higher.
These claims however, were vehemently rejected by the former regime who claimed it was part of a Western conspiracy.
Meanwhile, commenting on the allegation that ‘genocide’ had taken place against Tamils in Sri Lanka, the PM said, “I would say that a large number of people of Sri Lanka, including a large number of Tamils were killed in the conflict. Some of them are casualties of war. Some are killed for no reason at all. Deaths have been partly due to the operations of the Sri Lankan Army, security forces, partly due to the operations of the IPKF; partly due to the operations of the LTTE . . . We are in no way denying it. We are not going to say that the actions of the Sri Lankan security forces did not result in deaths of Tamils, may be in large numbers – some in fighting and some in other circumstances, which we are willing to look at. But to say that it was only the Government of Sri Lanka?” he questioned.
Watch English interview after 30 seconds;