“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” is a phrase describing the persuasive power of numbers, particularly the use of statistics to bolster weak arguments. It is also sometimes colloquially used to doubt statistics used to prove an opponent’s point.
It was popularized in the United States by Mark Twain and others.
There are also three other kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and politics. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is telling lies but vehemently denies. However, the former US Ambassador at Large for War Crimes and Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp recalled during a webinar held on February 12, 2021, that then-defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had admitted to killing LTTE leaders after they surrendered to the military in May 2009 instead of putting them on trial.
The webinar on Sri Lanka: Quest for Justice, Rule of Law & Democratic Rights was Co-hosted by The Global Tamil Forum, Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice – New York University, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice. and The Canadian Tamil Congress.
Participating in the discussion Stephen Rapp recalled that then Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had admitted to killing LTTE leaders who surrendered to the military in 2009 instead of putting them on trial.
Rapp said he remembered a conversation with the former Defence Secretary and now President Gotabaya Rajapaksa regarding LTTE leaders who surrendered to the army.
“I remember the defence secretary saying, “Oh, trials, trials, you know they go on so long and people get off”. And then he said, “I killed them, I killed them, I killed them,” Rapp recalled.
As expected, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Office on 15 February, 2021 strongly denied the claim by the former US Ambassador for War Crimes and Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp (2009-2015) that wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa had admitted to killing LTTE leaders following their surrender to the Army in May 2009. Rapp claimed Rajapaksa had told him so when he met the latter in Colombo.
There was absolutely no basis for Rapp’s claim, the President’s Office said when The Island sought President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s response to the former Ambassador’s accusation. The President’s Office questioned the former US official’s motive to make such a statement seven years after leaving office.
At a press conference during the presidential election campaign, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was asked as to what happened to the LTTE cadres who surrendered to the army on May 18, 2009, including those who surrendered carrying white flags.
Gotabaya answered saying that he is not the commander on the field, but anyway, those who surrendered were handed over to the Ministry of Rehabilitation. He then wanted the time, date, venue and names of those who are missing after the surrender.
Despite the continued denial by Gotabaya Rajapaksa, there is solid evidence that hundreds of LTTE cadres who surrendered to the army at Vadduvakal on 18 May, 2009 between 5.00 pm and 6.00 pm disappeared after they were taken away for a ‘short inquiry’.
The BBC London on 24 September 2010 quoted Ananthi’s evidence she gave before the LLRC. She said “My husband (Ezhilan) surrendered to the Sri Lankan army in front of my eyes on 18 May 2009 after the end of the war. I have not heard anything about him after that. Please help me find him.”
Ananthi Sasitharan told the commission that she witnessed her husband and hundreds of other cadres surrendering to the Sri Lankan army. She said that the rebels vacated the war zone with the civilian population and joined numerous top Tamil Tiger leaders who all ceased hostilities and gave themselves up at the same time.
BBC journalists were not allowed to attend the hearings but the BBC’s Tamil service spoke to Mrs Ananthi Sasitharan afterwards by telephone.
“An army official identified my husband. He was taken away and I was sent to the Vavuniya camp along with others. I have not heard anything about him since,” Mrs Ananthi Sasitharan said.
“They all surrendered under the leadership of one Father Francis Joseph [Roman Catholic] an English teacher. Nothing is known of his whereabouts either.”
Ananthi is not the only witness who saw her husband taken away. Mrs. R. Mironio, the wife of LTTE former Mannar commander Antony Rayappu said she has not heard from her husband or not told of the whereabouts of him after he surrendered in front of her in SLA controlled territory on 18 May 2009. The surrender was facilitated by Catholic Priest Rev. Fr. Francis Joseph, she said. The priest was also taken with her husband, but none have heard about them, she said.
On September 18 (Saturday) Mrs Ananthi Sasitharan was interviewed by BBC (Tamil Oosai) following her testimony before the LLRC. She told BBC (Tamil Oosai) that she and her three daughters witnessed her husband and hundreds of other LTTE members surrendering to the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) soldiers on 18th May 2009, after the war has come to an end. “I have been trying to trace my husband and have not been successful to locate his whereabouts. I have no doubt that Sri Lanka’s president knows where my husband and others who surrendered are being held,” she told the BBC.
“If my husband has disappeared during the war, then there will be a reason to think that he may have been killed during the heat of the battle, but having seen him surrender after the fighting has stopped, there is absolutely no reason for me to believe that he is dead,” Ananthi told the BBC.
Ananthi told Human Rights Watch that she has had no news about her husband since.
I have searched in all the camps. I went to the Defence Ministry. I filed a complaint with the police in January 2010. But I have received no information about my husband. The police only told me that it would be difficult for them to find him since the area where he went missing is under military control. I want the government to tell me what happened to him. Whether he is dead or alive, I want an answer.
The following is a partial list of LTTE cadres who surrendered to the army on 18, 2009 and not seen thereafter. The list includes prominent leaders like Thangan – the deputy leader of the LTTE’s political wing – administrative head Provenance Indianan, Jaffna political leader Illamparithi and Lawrance Tilakar, who was at one time in charge of the LTTE international secretariat and later the TRO.
(1) K.V. Balakumar and his son Sooriyatheepan
(2) V. Ilankumaran (alias Baby Subramanian) Head of the Thamil Eelam Education Department. His wife Vettrichchelvi and daughter Arivumathy.
(3) Yogaratnam Yogi in charge of ’Institute for Conflict Research’ in Vanni
(4) Poet Puthuvai Ratnadurai, Coordinator of LTTE Arts and Cultural Department
(5) K. Paappa, Coordinator LTTE Sports Department
(6) Rajah (Chempiyan) Assistant Coordinator LTTE Sports Department and his 3 children
(7) Ilanthirayan, LTTE Military spokesman
(8) Veerathevan, Coordinator LTTE Bank
(9) S. Thangan, Political Wing Deputy Chief
(10) Aruna, Thamil Eela Education Department
(11) S. Naren, Asst. Executive Head of TRO
(12) Kuddy, Head of the LTTE Transport Department
(12) Piriyan, Head of Administrative Service Department and his family
(13) V. Poovannan, Head of the Administrative Service Division of the LTTE
(14) Thangaiah, Administrative Service Department
(15) Malaravan, Administrative Service Department
(16) Pakirathan, Administrative Service Department
(17) Reha, Head of LTTE Medical Division
(18) Selvarajah, Commander Manal Aru Head Quarters
(19) Bhaskaran, Commander Manal Aru Head Quarters
(20) Major Lawrance
(21) Major Kumaran
(22) Prabha, Batticaloa District Commander
(24) Rupan, Coordinator of Supplies
(25) Babu, Coordinator of Jewellery Business
(26) Ilamparithy, Executive Head of Political Wing
(27) Elilan, Head of Trincomalee Political Wing
(28) Vijitharan, Executive Secretary, Political Wing
(29) Major Veeman
(30) Sakthy, Coordinator Forestry Division and his family
(31) E.Ravi, Charge of Houses
(32) Sanjai, Mulliyavalai Divisional Political Wing Coordinator
(33) Para Ratha, Coordinator Justice Department
(34) Kumaravel, Coordinator Air Force Security
(35) Chithrankan Malathy, Commander Manal Aru District
(36) Suhi, Commander
(37) Arunan, Major Sea Tigers
(38) Manoj – Medical Department
(39) Lawrance, Finance Department
(40) Lawrance Thilakar, Coordinator TRO Planning Department
(41) Karikalan, former Commander, Eastern Province
On the same day (May 18, 2009) B. Nadesan, Head of LTTE Political Wing and former LTTE Police Chief S. Pulithevan Head of LTTE Peace Secretariat and Col. Ramesh Head of LTTE Special Military Wing along with their families, some LTTE cadres and civilians surrendered to the 58 Division commanded by Shavendra Silva carrying White flags. The surrender was facilitated by none other than Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa. The intermediaries were Chandra Nehru, ex-MP and The Sunday Times (UK) reporter Marie Colvin. The surrenders were asked to hold the White flags high for the frontline soldiers to recognize them. But they were all shot to death and their bodies strewn all over the camp. The bullet-ridden bodies showed burnt marks which indicated they have been tortured before they were killed.
The ‘brave’ Sri Lankan Army after summarily executing the White flag surrenders issued a grotesque press release claiming “Head of LTTE Peace Secretariat S. PULIDEVAN, Head of LTTE Political Wing and former LTTE Police Chief P. NADESAN and Head of LTTE Special Military Wing RAMESH have been killed during Sunday’s clashes in the final battle for the liberation of the Tamil people, military intelligence confirmed a few minutes ago”.
Balachandran Prabhakaran 12-year-old the son of LTTE Chief was also killed after surrendering along with his bodyguards.
The army says they have a list of surrenders but is refusing to publish it. The list should reveal the names of LTTE cadres who surrendered and thereafter went missing.
The mothers and relatives of missing persons have been holding rallies and protest marches for the last 5 years. Two days ago, at Kilinochchi they took a massive procession carrying fire-pans on their head, a Hindu ritual in fulfillment of a vow.
After the story broke, the government began to portray Sarath Fonseka’s allegation as an act of treachery. The story of the massacre was irrelevant. What mattered was that by speaking out Fonseka was betraying Gotabaya, the army and the country.
A classified US diplomatic cable under the name of Patricia A. Butenis, the US Ambassador to Colombo showed, the Presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka stood by the controversial “White Flag” story published by the Sunday Leader.
The cable written on December 14, 2009, by Ambassador Butenis and classified as “Confidential” recount the details of a lunch meeting she had with UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya and Sarath Fonseka on December 14, 2009.
“After Fonseka arrived, the former general discussed his interview in the Sunday Leader newspaper on December 13, in which he had accused Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of ordering at the end of the war the shooting of any LTTE leaders who might try to surrender under flags of truce.” she wrote to Washington.
The Ambassador further wrote “Fonseka claimed he did not know until two days later about the flurry of phone calls between Gotabhaya, the Norwegian Ambassador and the LTTE leadership regarding surrender and said he had been told details by journalists. Nevertheless, he said he took full responsibility for the actions of the men in uniform.” The Colombo Telegraph published the full cable.
At a press conference before the elections, Gotabaya Rajapaksa was asked as to what happened to the LTTE cadres who surrendered to the army on May 18, 2009, including those who surrendered carrying white flags. Gotabaya answered saying that he is not the commander on the field, but anyway, those who surrendered were handed over to the Ministry of Rehabilitation. He then wanted the time, date, venue and names of those who are missing after the surrender. This was a clumsy attempt to deflect the question. He as the Defence Secretary was directing all operations and giving orders to the field commanders over the head of Army Commander Sarath Fonseka.
At the UNHRC 46th sessions commencing tomorrow in Geneva, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena will repeat all the lies and damn lies to the 47 member countries.