Colombo Telegraph

On Sri Lanka’s ‘War Criminals’ By An Officially Labelled ‘Terrorist’

By Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah –

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

Rajapaksas on Edge as UNHRC Votes to “Unmask” War Criminals Through International Probe

Sri Lanka War Crimes Investigation part 3

Let the UN Unmask the Criminals of Sri Lanka’s War” was a plea made by Louise Arbour, the former UN Human Rights High Commissioner and the President of International Crisis Group. Her concern and rightly so was the lack of accountability, an omission that needed to be rectified she said:

True to form the UNHRC has voted for an international probe that could lead to suspects being named and prosecuted, a prospect that has put the Rajapaksas on edge.

On edge they’re and the signs of desperation are all there to see as the Rajapaksa government moves to proscribe as foreign terrorist organisations all Diaspora groups involved in  campaigning for an international war crimes probe.

The word “Terrorism” for the Rajapaksas has lost its meaning, which is by one definition, “the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.”

It is plain to any fool that none of the organisations listed are involved in violence or have used the threat of violence, period. The Rajapaksas’ move blends well with what Bruce Hoffman noted:

“terrorism is a pejorative term. It is a word with intrinsically negative connotations that is generally applied to one’s enemies and opponents, or to those with whom one disagrees …Hence the decision to call someone or label some organization ‘terrorist’ becomes almost unavoidably subjective, depending largely on whether one …opposes the person/group/cause concerned.”

In other words it is a vindictive exercise directed at the Tamil Diaspora for winning the hard  fight for an international investigation and still holding on to achieving a just political solution in the NorthEast.

Wikipedia discusses the problem in finding a universally acceptable definition for “terrorism”. The author quotes Angus Martyn who recalls the UN’s attempt to define terrorism, “foundered due to differences of opinion about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self determination.”:

“Angus Martyn in a briefing paper for the Australian Parliament has stated that “The international community has never succeeded in developing an accepted comprehensive definition of terrorism. During the 1970s and 1980s, United Nation’s attempts to define the term foundered mainly due to differences of opinion between various members about the use of violence in the context of conflicts over national liberation and self determination.” 

Much of what human rights groups have said about the ban reveals the Rajapaksa government’s sinister move.

In sharply criticising the ban, human rights groups have said the ban was based on no verifiable evidence, effectively criminalizing Tamil groups, with Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives making the important point that, “the government’s objective was to prevent the flow of information” and to “de-legitimise the involvement of the groups with the investigation.”

However on another point, Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu was wrong to differentiate those with a “secessionist agenda”, implying that the so called “moderates’ should not have been lumped together with those with, “secessionist agenda” as though that was in itself enough to justify a ban:

Some of the groups have “sympathies and links to the LTTE and [are] openly secessionist in their goals,” he said. “There are others who are moderates and by no means supportive of a secessionist agenda…To lump them all together suggests either an ignorance of diaspora politics or a deliberate attempt to brand them all as LTTE and extremists. In any event, this is contrary to reconciliation and sends a message that the LTTE is actually alive and constitutes some sort of threat,” he said.

Alan Keenan, ICG’s Sri Lanka Project Director seemed to believe the ban, “was designed to punish Tamils who organised in support of the UNHRC resolution” and wanted to know why the government if it had any “credible evidence” that any of the banned groups were “financing or encouraging “terrorism” did not make it public or share that with law enforcement authorities in  the countries where the groups operate.”

“The ban is a very serious and negative development, effectively criminalizing legitimate democratic dissent within Sri Lanka and making it harder to challenge government policies from outside the island…It appears designed in part to punish those Tamils inside and outside Sri Lanka who organized in support of the UNHRC resolution…Since the end of the war a number of the banned groups have “made clear their commitment to non-violence….If the government has specific and credible evidence that any of the groups or their leaders were in any way involved in financing or encouraging political violence or terrorism, they should make that evidence public and share it with law enforcement authorities in those countries where the groups operate…The fact the Sri Lankan government hasn’t done this lends weight to the widespread belief that the ban is a political attack on the government’s Tamil critics, rather than a legitimate response to a genuine threat.. and simply meeting with these banned groups would be enough for Sri Lankan citizens to be arrested under PTA,” he said.

Fred Carver of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, thinks, “the LTTE no longer existed” and the ban was an attempt to stifle and isolate activist: “The LTTE no longer exists, the Government of Sri Lanka’s attempts to pretend otherwise are part of their attempts to stifle domestic dissent and isolate activists.”

In my three part series centering round the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council and the resolution against Sri Lanka calling for an international war crimes investigation, I was right in my predictions and gut feelings in parts 1 and 2.

And as I write part 3, I find myself deemed a foreign “terrorist” by the Rajapaksa government? To tell you frankly and you would have by now realized the stupidity of the Rajapaksas who are now jittery as hell, I haven’t lost one bit of sleep over it.

Although I have been called that before and a website even demoted me to “wanna be terrorist” I am now officially labelled a “terrorist” along with so many others, by virtue of the fact that I am a member of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), now proscribed as a foreign terrorist organisation by the Sri Lankan government of Rajapaksa.

For those who may not know, “the TGTE which held internationally supervised elections among Tamils around the world to elect over 120 Members of Parliament, is leading a campaign for a non-violent and democratic approach to solve Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict, including an internationally supervised Referendum. The Constitution of the TGTE mandates that it should realize its political objective only through peaceful means.”

I did say this before in my article the “Dream of Tamil Eelam” and I say it once again,” We can’t have the Sri Lankan government of Rajapaksa calling all those who ask for a “credible” international independent investigation into war crimes and all who hold the dream of Tamil Eelam, “terrorists”. In that article I reminded folks why insurgencies are born as if no one knew:

“Once when the Harvard Kennedy School was discussing “The Way Forward” after the war ended, I shared my comment that “insurgencies are born out of grievances not being addressed for decades: it stems from persecution and discrimination, marginalization and violence perpetrated against a community (changed to nation of people) that produces a need to fight back when all peaceful means are exhausted. The seeds are planted when ‘military might’ is used to quell freedom of expression and assembly; it grows when one community imposes its will over the other, where one community has a stranglehold on power and dominance over the other; where inequality prevails, where one community enjoys self-determination and the other doesn’t; where the need for self preservation of a nation’s identity and the defense of its homeland becomes the overwhelming priority of a nation of people and survival becomes its foremost pre-occupation.”


“For permanent peace and reconciliation in Sri Lanka there has to be a realization and an appreciation of the truths stated here. Sinhala politicians must come forward with courage, transcend the Sinhala Buddhist Supremacist ideology to address the issues head on with genuine interest and be magnanimous enough to accommodate the aspirations of the Tamil people for self-determination,” I wrote.

In part 1 of the series of articles: “Sri Lanka War Crimes Investigation”, titled: No Chance of Escape: Rajapaksa Surely Missed the Final Call, I did say I would be back with another part whatever the outcome but predicted in my first paragraph that we may indeed have “turned the corner in our quest for an international inquiry.”

“As we wait with bated breath as to the outcome of this very crucial UNHRC session, I can’t but help think that we may have finally turned the corner in our quest for an international inquiry. Rajapaksa has surely missed the final call for the establishment of any domestic inquiry mechanism, through lost opportunities and the culture of impunity. On this the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council one thing is obvious; the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has done nothing; naught; zero; practically zilch to fulfill the expectations arising from the UNHRC resolution at the 22nd session, the most important of which was “to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law,” I wrote.

And lo and behold, the resolution did pass giving the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights the mandate to conduct an international investigation.

In part 2, I wrote about Rajapaksa’s new game plan, as momentum towards an international investigation intensified and I was spot on there too: Gobi Reviving LTTE And The Rajapaksa Game Plan:

“As UNHRC Warms to International Investigation the Spurious Case of Gobi Appears and Rajapaksa’s ‘Game Plan’ is Revealed: The mysterious appearance of Gobi and Jeyakumari‘s incarceration in Boossa under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (and the fact her daughter Vibushika has been placed in the custody of Probation and Child Care Services ) is part of the Rajapaksa government’s game plan to once again use  the “terrorism” ploy, an escape mechanism, by which it thinks it could continue to enjoy impunity for Genocide…With UK’s position clear as crystal and the revised 2nd draft now for discussion warming to an international investigation (HRC25 draft op8),  the Sri Lankan government is playing out a drama that is typical of its deceitful behavior, introducing a red-herring with the appearance of the spurious case of Gobi to divert attention and even wriggle out, so it thinks, from international scrutiny that may lead to serious charges of mass atrocity crimes allegedly perpetrated by Sri Lanka’s political and military leaders and most surely the high-flying members of the  ruling Rajapaksa clan including its President,” I wrote.

The Rajapaksas didn’t stop at that, they even made it more dramatic to add an element of  threat to their lives, to justify impunity, alarm some gullible Sri Lankans and possibly gain some sympathy in the rush. And so in a dubious development supported no less by a dubious authority, the Sri Lanka Ministry of Defense, a story began to emerge that the “LTTE was regrouping” and their first mission, alleged by D B S Jeyaraj was the assassination of President Rajapaksa and his brother, the Secretary of Defence, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

DBS had three different headlines for the same story, and he was publishing it everywhere, like he was the “Town Crier’ for the Rajapaksa government.

I thought this story was made up, and called it BS and tweeted Alan Keenan so, in response to his question to DBS, a very pertinent tweet that read like this: “Interesting report”, said Keenen, “were you able to find anyone independent of Sri Lanka defence establishment to confirm this version of events?”

For calling him and the story “dubious” and “BS”, I got some angry tweets from his ardent fan that read like this: How can anyone take the TGTE seriously when its “Senator” mocks the parent given initial of another person.. Clearly there are the Mervyn Silva type “activists” using words such as “dubious””BS” to mock initials etc… Pseudo activists mocking a writer with 3 decades track record in public cannot be taken seriously….”

Previously I wrote an article, entitled,  A Response to D B S Jeyaraj: “Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: Past, Present and Future”, rebutting his flawed position on “Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism” and exposing him for his bluff  on the so called “federal idea”  :

“Jeyaraj’s article which has a cursory look at Tamil Nationalism is unashamedly biased in my view. When reading the article one has a sense that Jeyaraj’s recollection of the past, shows he suffers from selective amnesia; his evaluation of the present is a mixture of cynicism, criticism, pessimism, rancor and acrimony bundled in one, not to mention hopelessly misplaced in the apportion of blame; his prognosis for the future, ah! Is yet to come, suffice to say I will be curious to know if he has a solution to the vexed Tamil national question other than recommending a pragmatic approach. His sadness for the plight of the people after the war is real and is what we all share. But what I see as most unjust is that his criticism – all that he can muster – is heaped on the defenders and not the aggressors. Jeyaraj must himself know the contradictions of his own theories and approach so far. Although I do not wish to pre-empt Jeyaraj’s prognosis for the future, from what I know Jeyaraj has in his writings in the past, been experimenting with the “federal idea” and the most obvious question is how successful has Jeyaraj been in convincing the Sinhala nationalists or even the moderate Sinhala politicians or for that matter a fraction of the Sinhala polity on the virtues of federalism? Not so I believe, Jeyaraj’s “federal idea” I see is now confined to the section called ‘Archive by D B S Jeyaraj’. Does that mean his “federal idea” has been consigned to the dust-bin of history or is there a hope he would resurrect and promote it as his magic formula for peace and reconciliation; could that be the prognosis for ‘Jeyaraj’s Future Sri Lanka’?” I wrote.

Enough of DBS.

As to the threat on the lives of the Rajapaksas, I am wondering who is the idiot or idiots, I ask, unless they need their heads examined would, “revive the LTTE” when there is an international inquiry pending and Sri Lanka’s political and military leaders including its president will be closely scrutinised for war crimes and possibly be prosecuted and convicted and there is a better chance of remedial justice for the Tamil Nation?

The resolution itself passed without a hitch except for the abstention of India, the Congress led India more like it. Though it raised some eyebrows, it was nothing new, India has a lot of Mullivaikkal skeletons to hide along with Sri Lanka and was against an international investigation, there’s no surprise there. Furthermore analysts say by abstaining Congress had nothing to lose in the Lok Sabha elections as it had no contenders in Tamil Nadu. Whilst Chidambaram thought India should have voted for the resolution, another Minister remarked India abstained to keep China away from Sri Lanka. How clever is Rajapaksa I thought. “Congress led India needs it brain checked or Rajapaksa is clever hiding his illicit love affair with China,” I tweeted!

What next then, while we wait for the appointment of a commission of inquiry.

The Rajapaksas are losing popularity amongst the masses, as the PC elections show: They won 53% of the popular vote in the Western Provincial Council and 58% in the Southern, “in 2009 these numbers were 65% and 68%,” says Kumar David who asks, “has Rajapaksa taken a tumble?

The president of the Sri Lanka Bar Association Upul Jayasuriya’s words, the person who may be well placed to comment on the breakdown of the rule of law, ring true of the situation in Sri Lanka, “the ruin of the nation are on the cards” he says when he spoke at the funeral of Justice Sri-Skanda-Rajah: “When we recount the circumstances, time, and personages of this tragic background and the guiltless life of Justice Sri Skandarajah, we find that the wrongs of headless anarchic attitudes and the ruin of a nation are on the cards and on the heads of the people of this country.”

The Rajapaksa government has said it would not permit investigators to enter Sri Lanka even as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked for Sri Lanka’s cooperation. Will Rajapaksa start an investigation of his own as provided in the resolution.

As of now many unanswered questions remain as the UNHRC itself cannot enforce compliance. In the event of a face-off it would be up to Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council to resolve the problem I would think. Going by the previous two Panels’ impeccable credentials, a lot would be expected of the commission to be appointed by the Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay who is to retire in August 2014; who will she appoint and what will be its findings, the Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka and the Tamil Diaspora await, they’re equal stakeholders in the search for justice and in the determination of the destiny of Eelam.


The Dream Of Tamil Eelam – OpEd …


Has Rajapaksa Taken A Tumble?

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