[Continued from 17 Dec. 2017]
“Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.” ― Mark Twain Casualty figure 146,679 – Evidentiary basis :
On 08 Jan. 2011 the Catholic Diocese of Mannar presented a comprehensive Submission to the LLRC. In their submission, Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph, Rev. Fr. Victor Soosai and Rev. Fr. Xavier Croos, had focused , inter alia, on the Vanni carnage and the casualties. They have said :
“Based on eyewitness testimonies, we believe thousands of people would have been killed in the last five months of war between January – May 2009……….”. “Based on information from the Kachcheris of Mullativu and Killinochi about the population in Vanni in early October 2008 and number of people who came to government controlled areas after that, 146,679 people seem to be unaccounted for. According to the Kachcheri, the population in Vanni was 429,059 in early part of October 2008 ……..According to UN- OCHA update as of 10th July 2009, the total number of people who came out of the Vanni to government controlled areas after this is estimated to be 282,380. ”Govt. tactics:
The government had used all possible tactics, including coercion, cajolery and manipulation, to get UN agencies and foreign missions in Sri Lanka to cut down on the war casualty figures. All of them had, willy nilly, complied with the government bidding and cooperated with the regime. How could the Rajapaksa regime, which had the gall and temerity to intimidate UN and such other agencies, tolerate the nasty noise from the Tamil clergy? After all, they are not members of the privileged Buddhist clergy!
Bishop faced threats
Pursuant to LLRC submission and seeking clarification on the 146,679 unaccounted persons, the Rev. Bishop Rayappu Joseph was interrogated by the TID-CID police. It was an attempt to intimidate him and the clergy into silence. Also, the Rev. Bishop faced threats of harm and harassment from Minister Mervyn Silva, the JHU party and the Sinhala media which called him a ‘Tiger’. During this time, Rajapaksas’ hitmen from the security sector were engaged in silencing voices of dissent with ghoulish relish.
Dr. Senewirante raised concerns
Dr. Brian Senewiratne of Australia, the doughty champion of the oppressed Tamils and other underdogs, had commended the Rev. Bishop’s LLRC presentation as “ the only document ever published that gives the actual number of people who are unaccounted for after the war – a staggering 146,679.” In the same vein, Dr. Senewiratne had raised concerns about the safety of the Rev. Bishop Rayappu and other priests. (Colombo Telegraph, 11 June 2012 – “Why Bishop Joseph andhis Roman Catholic Clergy have been targeted”)
In the face of menacing threats to the Rev. Bishop, the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM) comprising mostly of priests and nuns from the majority community had raised their voice in solidarity with the Rev. Bishop and defended his concerns for the Tamil people. Indeed, their courage is exemplary ! ( Sunday Leader , 29 Dec. 2012 – “ Christian Organization Condemns Grilling Of Bishop “ )
In response to the UNSG’s (PoE) Report, which was critical of the UN’s acts of omission and commission during the war, Ban Ki-moon appointed an ‘Internal Review Panel on UN Actions in Sri Lanka’. The Review Panel’s Report dated Nov. 2012 impliedly validates the claim that 146,679 people had remained missing and unaccounted for.
“46. ……..And, determination of the numbers of people in the Wanni was central to all of this humanitarian action. A Wanni local government official testified to the LLRC that during the final stages there had been 360,000 IDPs in her district alone. Others who submitted testimony to the Commission quoted estimates of local Government authorities that placed the total population number in October 2008 at 429,000. Yet national Government authorities in Colombo insisted that there were no more than about 70,000 people. The UN believed there were up to 350,000 civilians, ……………. and used an assistance-planning figure of 200,000. The reception and registration of almost 280,000 people in IDP internment camps when they left the Wanni is an indication of the scale of inaccuracy in the national Government’s figures. The Government’s denial of the real numbers buttressed arguments against increasing humanitarian convoys and was later used to rebut reports of high civilian casualties…..”(Vide – Para. 46 at Page 18 of the Review Panel’s Report)
Thus, the UN believed there were up to 350,000 civilians and yet used an assistance-planning figure of 200,000. What happened to the remaining 150,000 ? .
Journalist Mr.Kusal Perera had raised this query while urging Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe (then, Opposition Leader) and Mr. Sampanthan (TNA Leader), to demand details of war casualties from Ban Ki-moon. He had pointed out: “(T)his leaves a massive deficit of 150,000 human lives unaccounted for. It comes also close to the 146,679 people missing and unaccounted for, as submitted by Rt. Rev. Mannar Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph to the LLRC.” (Colombo Telegraph, 16 Nov.2012 –“Demand Details of War Casualties……..” )
Arrest and Detention of Doctors
Direct and circumstantial evidence would disclose that the government had a host of horrible crimes to hide and that they sought to terrorize and muzzle the witnesses and suppress material / forensic evidence. Five Tamil doctors, T. Varatharajah, T. Sathyamurthi, V. Shanmugarajah and two others were deeply embedded in the so-called NFZ with multitude of civilians, who were trapped and doomed to be cannon fodder. Risking their own lives amidst carnage and cannon fire, they treated hundreds of severely wounded civilians in understaffed, makeshift hospitals. A vile and vengeful government arrested and detained them, accusing them of giving “false information” about the casualties to the media.
The UTHR(J) Report has recounted the bizarre twists in the doctors’ case: (According to ) ” A report four days later ….the doctors were being suspended on the charge of making exaggerated statements to the international media. Ministry spokesman …….confirmed that the doctors are being questioned by Military Intelligence. …… And said that the ‘Health Secretary would take disciplinary action against the doctors ……”
“Comparing what the doctors said with the impressions conveyed by civilians, the figures of dead and injured given by the doctors sound fairly realistic and the forensic evidence from buried bodies should still be possible unless the evidence has been destroyed. …….” ( UTHR (J), Spl.Report No.34, 13 Dec. 2009 – vide 3.3 )
Diabolic designs exposed
The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that “the five doctors retracted their claims while in military detention. After recanting, eventually the doctors were reportedly released and given their jobs back “ (AFP- 5 Apr. 2010).
The circumstances of their arrest, captivity, retraction and release had caught global media attention and the diabolic designs of a ruthless regime stood nakedly exposed.
Balachandran et al committed suicide or hara-kiri ?
Lord Naseby wants the British Government to acknowledge “that no one in the Sri Lankan Government ever wanted to kill Tamil civilians.”
Does Lord Naseby suggest that Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son Balachandran, seen alive in army custody and was later found lying with five bullet holes in his chest, had committed suicide? How did his five bodyguards die? Who raped, ravished and killed Isaipriya and numerous other captive females ? What happened to host of other surrendees ? How did five Tamil students die on 2 Jan. 2006, at Trincomalee? How did the 17 Action contre La Faim Aid Workers die on 4 Aug. 2006 at Muthur? Who killed 13 civilians in May 2006 at Allaipiddy? Did they all commit hara-kiri ?. There are hundreds of such horrific incidents and scores of questions of similar import crying out for answers from you and the likes of you, Lord Naseby !
Why freeze in fear?
Lord Naseby further urges that the West, in particular the US and UK, “must remove the threat of war crimes and foreign judges that overhangs and overshadows all Sri Lankans, especially their leaders.”
If Sri Lanka had not committed any war crimes as Naseby asserts, his patrons can face a probe fairly and squarely and fight it out. Why do they call it a threat and why freeze in fear? If they are as white as lily, why flee from foreign judges?
Foreign Minister in dilemma!
The ‘patriotic’ politicians and media persons had fulminated against the Foreign Minister for his initial indifference to Naseby’s revelations. It is somewhat naïve of these people to expect Mr. Tilak Marapana, a veteran professional with 50-years-of legal training and experience, including his stellar stints as the Solicitor General and, later, Attorney-General of the country, to get excited and shout “Eureka !” at Lord Naseby’s gimmick.! Mr. Marapana would have instantly known the probative value of Nasby’s dud disclosure. Then, why did he later say that he wanted to use Naseby’s disclosure as an ace? What else can he do? Mr.Marapana, the politician, had to keep the ghosts in good humour.
According to the Island (11 Dec. 2017), Lord Naseby is determined to pursue the matter and ascertain the truth about the actual war casualty figures.
Let me recall what Voltaire said: “Cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it.”