Note: This is a slightly expanded version of the article in The Sunday Leader of 24.02.2013 that appeared at thesundayleader.lk.
Topping this week’s news was the heartrending photograph of 12 year old Balachandran, showing that he was in army custody before being murdered. The Sinhalese are rightly upset about the CJ’s impeachment and the Matale massacres. Yet the absence of an equally loud protest in the face of mounting evidence of Tamil genocide in Mullivaikal seems proof that we are two divided peoples. Yet there is hope for us in that it was Sinhalese who released the photo.
If genocide happened in 2009, then imagine the plight of Tamils living under the army. Seeing every soldier we wonder how many he killed and when he would turn on us – wonder as I do whether my wife and daughters are safe from rape when they travel in Jaffna. When Tamils are made to live under heartless, savage killers, can any Sri Lankan deny the importance of an inquiry to find out if these credible allegations are true? Nobody has the right to say that Tamils should live under a murderous army, and at the same time say that we should not ask for a separate state.
Command responsibility makes the President answerable. The mass graves in Matale implicating members of his family who are also accused of Tamil massacres necessitate an impartial inquiry. How can those who argue that Navaneetham Pillay is not neutral because she is Tamil, then proceed to argue that the Rajapaksas and the Sinhalese army can be objective? I shudder in fear when I see images of our Defence Secretary shouting at Channel 4 in unmitigated rage or our Deputy Permanent UN Rep whose mouth smiles while his glazed eyes betray fury – wondering how safe we are. If the Rajapaksas are innocent, international inquiries are in their interest.
As a preview of what a government inquiry would reveal, the Army recently announced its findings after looking into shelling in May 2009: “Evidence before the Court has conclusively established that the Humanitarian Operation was conducted strictly in accordance with [Rajapaksa’s] ‘Zero Civilian Casualty’ directive.” The army does not seem to know that the LLRC clearly rejected the President’s zero casualty claims, admitting to a large number of civilian casualties and calling for further investigations.
In measure of their untruthfulness, as Britain’s Independent and Guardian used their government’s database to show Colombo buying British weaponry worth at least £3m, Military Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya denied it.
Tissa Vitarana, Mahen Watson, Euroville
TNA leader Sampanthan has rightly said that the government brought this situation on itself and is now paying for its sins. He sees no reason to bail it out. Tissa Vitarana dragged the APRC process, giving the world the impression of progress. Claiming to work for the 13th Amendment and calling attempts to abolish it a foreign conspiracy he, according to Wikileaks, privately criticized it as an Indian creation.
Mahen Watson was Director-NSF under Vitarana. An accomplished Tamil gentleman scientist with a British MSc and perfect English language skills, NSF functioned smoothly in English under him. But Vitarana wanted his man to take over when Watson’s 5-year term ended. Vitarana’s stooges on the Board claimed Vitarana wanted an excellent candidate and called for new recruitment criteria. Their subcommittee proposed advertising for very high qualifications including a PhD. Watson, privy to our Board discussions as CEO, moved on in dignity. Then these fancy recruitment schemes were dispensed with and Vitarana simply appointed his friend Dr.M.C.N. Jayasuriya.
Vitharana went to Jaffna last week to publicly ask the TNA at a meeting in Euroville in Muthirai-chanthai to come for talks. Sensing he was staging another drama for Geneva, he was sarcastically told to come back in April after Geneva.
Euroville’s proprietor is Ramathasan, Devananda’s right-hand. Rs. 700 mn in World Bank road development funds was allocated to Ramathasan in 11-2011 with Rs. 90 mn as advance, but no work was begun. On WB insistence, RDA cancelled the award. Devananda wrote to the Governor and the project has been reawarded to Ramathasan. (Provincial Secretary Vijayalakshmi Ramesh has, violating regulations, returned the penalty cheque given to her through the defaulting Euroville’s bank guarantees!)
Ramathasan’s vote of thanks to Vitharana indicates the nexus built against proper management of public funds, threatening future WB funds for Jaffna. Ramathasan was the LTTE’s preferred contractor in the Vanni. Those of his ilk are always on the winning side. But Vitarana the Trotskyite?
Lawlessness and Deceit
Over 1500 persons demonstrated in Tellipallai on the 15th over the prime lands seized for High Security Zones. In 2004, TNA elder Mavai Senathirajah and farmer Yogeswaran filed fundamental rights applications, arguing no basis for including them in the Palaly HSZ, and were not contradicted. In 2006, after long delays, the SC ordered the lands to be vacated with conditions like the army verifying deeds. 7,456 families came forward accepting the terms. A committee, supposedly to study their claims, was used to delay resettlement.
Then the 2010 presidential elections came, the only time Sinhalese need Tamils. Sarath Fonseka announced that he would remove the HSZs and allow civilians back home, explaining that it could have been done earlier as the camps were not threatened. Rajapaksa countered that Jaffna peninsula HSZs will be dismantled and replaced by 300 metre buffer zones. Douglas Devananda promised immediate resettlement. Additional GA Rubini Varathalingam confirmed there would be no HSZs but only Defence Front Lines. Bulldozers and heavy equipment were said to be ready to remove bunds and bunkers. Alas, it was all election gimmickry! (A monument to election chicanery at the time was the Sangupitty Bridge opened by Rajapapaksa as his “Pongal Gift,” boasting at the ceremony in scripted Tamil “I do what I say and say what I will do,” and promising in The Daily News that “the people who had to make a six-hour journey to reach Jaffna from Mannar could now make it in three hours.” Unfortunately the road from Mannar to the bridge is so neglected that it still takes 6 hours. When my wife tried the journey this week, the road conditions made the bus break down and she took 9 hours. We risk the journey to make the point that if Tamils let fear stop us visiting home the communalists succeed in effecting genocide. Some, like British subject Arumugam Yogeswaran aged 37 who disappeared this week, pay a price for making this point. The Sinhalese must try to understand that we want devolution merely to feel safe.)
Friday’s fast-demonstration against the nonfulfilment of SC orders on the HSZ and government pledges to the court, were disrupted by 9 men believed to be secret intelligence operatives from the Ministry of Defence. Four were apprehended by the crowd and handed over to the police.
Police Media Spokesman Prasantha Jayakody immediately claimed that no one was arrested and, without time for analysis, labelled photos of the police walking with the arrestees fake Recall similar dismissal of genocide photos authenticated by UN experts.
Ranil Wikremasinghe who witnessed these incidents added that he believes Jaffna Commander Mahinda Hathurusinghe operates private armed militias.
When uneducated soldiers are placed over civilians, we have commanders without an appreciation of their role in a democracy. Most of them joined as Officer Cadet with merely 5 OL credits and were dressed up at Staff College. (This is why they hanker after honourary doctorates from stooge academics). It is no surprise that despite the court order, Hathurusinghe told the press on the 12th that the HSZs “belong to the forces” and lands within the permanent security fence are now seized.
This Hathurusinghe whom Rajapaksa has appointed to rule over Tamils is the Lt. Hathurusinghe who commanded the platoon guarding Welikada Prison during the 1983 massacre. He is described in Rajan Hoole’s Arrogance of Power as “preventing [prisons commissioner] Jansz from taking the injured to hospital and then doing nothing while [they were] attacked [and] just watching after preventing the Police from coming to the aid of the victims.”
Confusion before Geneva
After Sri Lanka compromised Britain’s Defence Secretary Liam Fox, one wonders who is being bought ahead of Geneva. Council of Jurists President Dr. Adish C Aggarwala, also India’s Bar Association President, issued a letter to Rajapaksa that the Council considered the CJ’s impeachment correct; only to be severely contradicted by others. Last week we saw Former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma lying about cancelling his visit on his own whereas Sri Lanka withdrew his visa.
Even today, as Sri Lanka brazenly prevaricates in its Indian diplomatic discussions and kills fishermen, India turns the other cheek instead of invoking the 1987 Accord and the Supreme Court decision that the 1974 and 1976 Katchaitheevu agreements lack validity without passage in India’s Houses of Parliament.
The US is insisting on the law in Geneva, even as The Island reports that it supplied intelligence for Sri Lanka to destroy 4 LTTE ships in 2008, and Sri Lanka and the CIA colluded in undermining the Rome Treaty and used fraudulent travel documents to violate the rights of third-country citizens. Britain is selling arms to Sri Lanka while fussing about genocide; and overlooking the BBC’s Charles Haviland and his crew being threatened this week in profanities while the Maharagama police “appeared to comply with the mob.”
Dayan Jayatilleka attributes Sri Lanka’s slide to “an ethno-religious fascist movement from the dark underside of Sinhala society.” Only strong action at Geneva and the Commonwealth can stop everything good in Sri Lanka turning savage.