“Two senior PSNI officers were deployed as ‘critical friends’ of the Sri Lankan regime around the time of a civilian massacre by government forces in 2009. Documents reveal how the UK worked with Sri Lankan security forces during the final stages of the bloody civil war which devastated the country.” Belfast Telegraph reports.
British police secretly advised the Sri Lankans since the Thatcher era, with visits to the Royal Ulster Constabulary’s headquarters during the Troubles and early guidance from an ex-MI5 director on counter-insurgency strategy.
It was previously revealed how 3,500 Sri Lankan police officers – including some senior commanders – received training from the Scottish Police College since 2007.
The links to Northern Ireland were revealed following a Freedom of Information request to the PSNI by Corporate Watch, a not-for-profit research group.
Meanwhile the corporatewatch.org yesterday said; “In February 2009, Sri Lanka was an island at war. After nearly three decades of conflict, the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels were being cornered by government forces, in what has become known as the ‘killing fields’. 300,000 ethnic Tamil civilians fled the fighting, only to be rounded up and ‘screened’ for militant sympathies in squalid barbed-wire internment camps. By August 2009, Amnesty International warned that this system of indefinite and arbitrary detention included some 50,000 children.
“It may come as a surprise, then, that this was precisely the six-month period when White and McCausland were seconded from the PSNI and deployed to Sri Lanka by the FCO. The pair were ordered ‘to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the Sri Lankan Police” and provide ‘hands-on assistance’, Corporate Watch has discovered through a Freedom of Information request to the PSNI. The itinerary for their first visit included ‘high level meetings with [the] Inspector General of Police’ (IGP), Sri Lanka’s top cop Jayantha Wickramaratne, who incidentally had himself trained in Scotland and Northern Ireland during 2007. As IGP, Wickramaratne was part of the ‘Task Force’ responsible for the administration of the internment camps.
“Our previous investigation found that 3,500 Sri Lankan Police were trained by the Scottish Police College before and after 2009. Crucially, this new evidence reveals that senior UK police officers continued to advise their Sri Lankan counterparts even during the bloodiest months of the conflict. The FCO are refusing to disclose its documents relating to this liaison, citing national security exemptions. Ineqe, White and McCausland were unavailable for comment. However, does Ineqe’s CEO, Jim Gamble, know what advice these men gave in Sri Lanka? Gamble’s judgement matters – he is Independent Chair of the City and Hackney Safeguarding Children Board.
“Although the global outsourcing of UK policing is alarming, it is nothing new. For example, British police have secretly advised the Sri Lankans since Thatcher, with visits to the Royal Ulster Constabulary HQ during the Troubles and early guidance from an ex-MI5 director on counter-insurgency strategy.
“An FCO file from 1983, obtained by Corporate Watch, titled ‘UK Assistance to Sri Lankan Police’, shows that two senior police officers from Sri Lanka visited Trouble-stricken Belfast in June 1983 to observe RUC operations. Senior Deputy Inspector-General H W H Weerasinghe and assistant Superintendent K S Padiwita were ‘to visit Belfast to see at first hand the roles of the police and army in counter-terrorist operations’. This visit took place a month before the ‘Black July‘ pogrom of Tamils, which is widely regarded as a turning point in escalating the conflict and catalysed the creation of a para-military ‘Special Task Force’ within the Sri Lankan police.
“Notably, the Sri Lankan police had requested UK help with ‘para-military [training] for counter-insurgency operations’ and ‘commando operations training’ in 1983. The FCO replied ‘we should like to help the Sri Lankan Government (discreetly) as much as we can with these courses’. Parts of the file, marked ‘Secret – UK EYES’, reveal that an ex-MI5 Director Jack Morton had also visited Sri Lanka in 1979 and produced a report for Sri Lanka with ‘practical recommendations for the total reorganisation of the intelligence apparatus’ which was ‘at heart of any discussion on Special Branch’. Morton had been Director of Intelligence in Malaya during Britain’s brutal war against Maoist rebels, and helped re-organised the RUC Special Branch in 1973 to set up an MI5/Army database on terrorists, according to the Powerbase encyclopedia.”
To read the CorporateWatch’s Freedom of Information request to the PSNI click here