17 December, 2017

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War Crimes, War Heroes And Soldiers

By Tisaranee Gunasekara

“This insane regime, this tangle of cowardice, blindness, craftiness and stupidity…..” – Count Sergius Witte (Memoirs)

The UNP and the JVP have it right. The government must face the UN war crimes investigation. There is nothing to be achieved – and quite a bit to be lost – through non-participation.

Whether Colombo cooperates or not, the investigation will go ahead and a verdict will be given. Some of the extreme Diaspora elements will make the case for the LTTE. As the UNP pointed out, Colombo must use the investigation as an opportunity to make the case against the LTTE. And as JVP parliamentarian Vijitha Herath stated, “It would be the responsibility of the government to counter accusations made by UN Panel of Experts….(and) Channel 4 News”[i].

Gota MahindaThe UN investigation is unlikely to be anywhere as lopsided as a Rajapaksa investigation. The Rajapaksas are likely to receive a far greater degree of fairness and justice from the UN panel than CJ Shirani Bandaranayake did from the Rajapaksas.

But cooperation would mean allowing the panel into the country. Cooperation would mean letting the panel talk to both alleged victims and alleged perpetrators, including ordinary Lankan soldiers.

Such openness would harm neither Sri Lanka nor Lankan military, as an institution.

The real issue is something else. Can the Rajapaksas afford such openness?

Forget civilian Tamils. If the soldiers are allowed to talk freely, what will they say?

The Rajapaksas are in this predicament primarily because of their insistence on absolute impunity. Had President Rajapaksa not stymied his own Commission of Inquiry in 2009, the need for a UN investigation would not have arisen.

In November 2007, Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed an eight-member Presidential Commission, headed by Justice Nissanka Udalagama to investigate 16 cases of human rights violations. The Udalagama Commission, amidst many obstacles, managed to investigate seven of the cases. There was more work to be done and, as Justice Udalagama told the media, previously extensions were granted as a matter of course. But within a month of defeating the LTTE, the President allowed his own Commission to lapse into non-existence through the simple expedient of not extending its life. The Commission’s interim report never saw the light of day.

The Commission was appointed due to international pressure. As long as the war was on, the regime needed to maintain a façade of accountability and transparency. Once the war was over the Commission became redundant in Rajapaksa eyes.

It is also possible that the Ruling Siblings had misgivings about what the Commission would uncover and conclude. The comments made by Justice Udalagama to the media, after the Commission ceased to exist, are of relevance in this regard: “In the killing of the 17 aid workers, ‘we are unable to pinpoint and tell exactly who it is, but there are certain possibilities,’ he said. In the slaying of five young people in the eastern city of Trincomalee, he said, ‘What we think is that someone in uniform did it,’ implicating the security forces. Investigations into some of the cases were hampered because witnesses fled abroad and the government stopped allowing the commission to take testimony via videoconferencing, he said”[ii].

If the Udalagama Commission was allowed to do its work, there would not have been any need for a UN investigation. The international investigation became inevitable because the Rajapaksas hampered and throttled their own national investigation.

But if the Udalagama Commission had been allowed to fulfil its stated mandate, what the Rajapaksas wanted concealed, for their sakes, might have been revealed.

Desertions and Crimes

The Rajapaksas are absolute masters at equating Lankan, Sinhala-Buddhist and military interests with their own.

According to Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the calls for military demobilisation, post-war, are part of an international plot to ‘destabilize’ Sri Lanka. “An irate Rajapaksa said that large scale demobilization would cause a major social upheaval. ‘Can any sensible government send home those who risked their lives in the battlefield. Demobilization can cause uncertainty and political turmoil, thereby undermine social as well as economic stability. Perhaps, those working closely with the LTTE rump expected us to send men home believing such a course of action will lead to a major crisis.’”[iii]

Demobilisation need not mean throwing soldiers out of a job. A different type of demobilisation, which benefits both the soldiers and society, is possible.

Demobilisation need not be compulsory; it can be voluntary, like the early retirement schemes implemented by civilian state institutions. And if the high number of desertions, post-war, is anything to go by, a properly planned early retirement scheme will find many takers in the army.

Al Jazeera (‘Crime among Sri Lanka soldiers on rise’ by Dinouk Colombage) reports that there have been close to 30,000 military desertions since the war ended. Increasing crime rate is a related problem: “Police statistics suggest that in the first four months of 2014, nearly 18 percent of reported crimes were committed by the members of the armed forces – a large increase on the 5 percent reported for the whole of 2013”[iv]

According to Sri Lanka’s effortlessly Orwellian military spokesman, desertion is not really desertion: “Many of our soldiers are from rural areas. They are often absent during the harvest period because they are helping their families….. More often than not they return once the harvesting is complete.”[v]

So the Rajapaksa regime, which gave the world such peerless verbal-gems as ‘Humanitarian operation with zero-civilian casualties’ and ‘Welfare Villages’, has produced another marvel – Seasonal Desertions. Soldiers run away from the military during harvesting season; soldiers come back to the military after the harvesting season.

Wouldn’t it be much better to set up a ‘golden handshake’ type voluntary early retirement scheme for soldiers and officers who had served in the war? Those who want to use the option can be given full pension rights as well as opportunities to continue with their education or obtain some useful vocational training. There can even be a special ‘start-up’ loan scheme to provide financial assistance to soldiers who want to engage in small scale agricultural/industrial/commercial ventures.

And if, as the inimitable military spokesman says, soldiers desert during harvesting season, wouldn’t it be better to give such soldiers extended leave during the harvesting season? That way they can retain their jobs and help their families with harvesting, without becoming criminals. After all, it is not as if there is a war to be fought.

Instead of demobilising, the Rajapaksas are trying to expand the military even further.  ‘Api Army’ is the name given to the next step in the Rajapaksa effort to turn Sri Lanka into ‘a khaki- clad country’[vi]. The programme aims to recruit professionals into the military as volunteers.

Sri Lanka does not need a mammoth military. The Rajapaksas do – as the final guarantor of familial power and as a source of cheap, rightless almost bonded labour.

Little wonder soldiers desert in droves.

When the Rajapaksas say that they oppose an international inquiry for the sake of war-heroes they are insulting the absolute majority of ordinary soldiers who fought in the war, without committing any war-crimes. They – and the country – should not be used to provide a patriotic cover for Rajapaksa abominations.

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Latest comments

  • 13
    4

    The ruling regime should be also prosecuted for creating an organisation of radical Bhikkus and letting them loose on the minority communities. A crime repeated within a short span of 30 odd years.

  • 11
    5

    Governing given in the hands of the Sinhala-Buddhist ruling elite has become a comedy cum brutal tragedy since independence.

    Appe aanduwa has reached its pinnacle!

  • 10
    2

    thanks tisaranee,as always ur articles are so informative and relevant and sadly so true, it almost sounds like a plea to save sri lanka from the evil grip of MARA. just wish your writings could be translated to sinhala and made accessible to everybody (especially to the braindead morons who vote to keep MR in power).

    • 1
      0

      Agree 100% with Alpha Romeo.

    • 2
      0

      Agree with you.
      It is time for Sri Lankans who really love our motherland to unite
      to save Sri Lanka from the evil grip of ‘MARA and COMPANY ‘
      Need a People’s movement ” API WENUWEN API ” to engage and destroy
      this evil force and free our country.

  • 4
    0

    One part of your version – a gem – “effective mobilisation” can be expanded
    into signing-up for Technical Courses of 6 months/one year prior to signing-out permanently, counducted by the MoD itself – well versed in Leadership
    Training of even school Principals over a fortnight! This will give
    many a village recruit to engage in a life-time opportunity, as say an
    Agricultural Machine operator, Welder, Mason, Air Conditioner mechanic
    etc. etc. Over to you Gota – he might Thank Tissaranee?

    • 1
      3

      punchinilame,

      They already do-vegetable and rice selling, garbage and toilet cleaning! My toilet pit is full to the brim and I need the service of our brave war heroes to clean it, please help?

      • 4
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        Maggot

        “My toilet pit is full to the brim and I need the service of our brave war heroes to clean it, please help?”

        It is your family s**t why can’t you clean it yourself?

        You may have fundamental issues with how the was conducted, war crimes and crime against humanity, what is your problem with cleaning toilets?

        Without those millions of people who clean toilets bringing in invaluable foreign exchange for you to blow it on imported whisky so that you could sit in front of an imported computer and denigrate those hard working people day and night as if they have been condemned to life term untouchability.

        You have a misplaced value system in your head.

  • 6
    1

    The blame is on the whole system of governance, from top down, including the pathetically inadequate opposition, the maligned judiciary, the flawed media policy (unable to highlight and report on facts due to political harassment) and the weakened subservient police administration are all to be blamed for Sri Lanka’s woes. Absolutely everything is foul. Even to the ground drinking water – man made disasters. Creating racial tensions through provocations supported and promoted by ruling party politicians (worst of its kind,ever) in order to camouflage and smoke-screen its own outrageous and faulty agenda foisted on its citizens. Worst is that now we don’t even see a respite to this state-of-affairs even in the near future, as the regime rulers has embedded themselves (through illegal means – constitutional changes) and are now in for the long haul. Regime change through international support is our only hope now. So brace yourself for now, the worst is yet to come.

  • 6
    3

    The UN investigation is only one half of the equation and the other half is enforcing the recommendations and this time with a BJP Government in power MR is on a hiding to nothing. His fate is sealed and that of his subjects.
    There is no way back for him and he would pay dearly for his sins and justice would be meted out.

    • 1
      0

      Maggot

      “My toilet pit is full to the brim and I need the service of our brave war heroes to clean it, please help?”

      It is your family s**t why can’t you clean it yourself?

      You may have fundamental issues with how the was conducted, war crimes and crime against humanity, what is your problem with cleaning toilets?

      Without those millions of people who clean toilets bringing in invaluable foreign exchange for you to blow it on imported whisky so that you could sit in front of an imported computer and denigrate those hard working people day and night as if they have been condemned to life term untouchability.

      You have a misplaced value system in your head.

    • 2
      1

      kalistani

      Countdown: 64 days.

  • 4
    0

    TG,

    Thank you yet again for your excellent analysis, foresight, input and guidance. If you would accept, we would welcome your services for the next government established by UNP.

  • 4
    0

    Meeharaka (MARA) may be going through a set of torments dawn to dusks these days not knwoing the way outs of the current day problems.
    Listening to a program telecasted by Derana last night, I felt, there are still senior men among ready to call ” this country is sinahla buddhist nation” and the religious police units are of need of the hour etc.

    Prof. Nalin De Silva – went on saying that our people should have guts and courage to call that this country belongs to the sinhala buddhists. He further said, that christianity dominated western world do so… I really dont know that western countries made it very clear that they are predominantly christs. Having listened to the program, I felt, the good professor should have thought the kind of statements could only lead us to apart further.
    Besides, If European countries woudl have reactd as the the lankens in general have done sofar, not many of the foreigners would have gotten the chance to live onthe west.

    • 2
      0

      Sun,

      This Nalin de Silva bugger is a beggar living like a crow raking filth as a means of living. Don’t waste your time on this [Edited out].

  • 1
    0

    “If the Udalagama Commission was allowed to do its work, there would not have been any need for a UN investigation. The international investigation became inevitable because the Rajapaksas hampered and throttled their own national investigation.”

    UN recommended the three Eminent Persons under the Head of Chief Justice Bhahawati to oversee the internal investigation of previous murders. But, the Resolution are about the 2009 war. The resolutions held LTTE partly to war crime responsibility for not allowing peoples to leave war zone. This mainly came from NGOs’ witness. NGOs did accused, targeted shelling of refugees on the move, too. Vijey Nambiar’s UN refused to recognize that and purposefully pulled out the UN workers so there won’t be any impediment to the Royal Government to shell on the civilians and hospitals….. On the other side, LTTE never ever authorized anybody living in its’ territory to leave without its’ permission. But, in 2009 only, the Nambiar’s UN forcefully interpreted it as a war crime of using human shield. Nevertheless, as soon as LTTE started to negotiate for ending the war, the international community did not attempt another separate negotiation to send back the retrieved UN and NGO workers to reach the civilian. This was a setup by the Nambiar’s UN as if there were any time, an investigation stem from King’s government’s war crime, they wanted to balance it with LTTE’s war crime. But the end to LTTE was so complete, so the Nambiar-UN’s plan became fruitless even after convincing the UN expert panel to include LTTE as a party on the war crime. So, in total, now. disappointingly for Sonia’s Congress, the war crime investigation is only about King’s Royal Government. Because of this problem, Sonia’s Congress came out with a new plan in 2014 successfully staged by it on the last UN resolution. So the end of the resolution sounds like it is about human right violation only. This too will only affect Kings Government. It will, again, run on the same rails used by the LLRC. Only difference going to be is it will investigate the killing which LLRC did not. Basically, the LLRC was created to beat around the bush and at the end, exonerate the Royal Government. But LLRC declared that it did not had mandate to investigate war machine’s activities. So there was big whole left on the LLRC report. That was one blow to the Royal Government. Then it said that during its investigation it was given some allegations they need to be investigated. The blow two. This was the one brewing at the UNHRC all these time. But Sonia Congress successfully diverted it to as it is the way in the last resolution. Now, Sonia Congress is not in the UNHRC. So it is the Modi government will have to decide for how the Royal Government has to be investigated. Is it for War crimes or Human right violation. If its is going to 2014’s path, then Uadalagam Commission may have averted it. If it is going to be the follow up of 2014 resolution then the CJ Shiranee’s case, Weleweria, even Tangalle murder.. all may be dragged into that. But still King’s family has a chance of escaping and only some Senior police and Army official may get affected. So King’s family may not have to worry about previous Udalaga Commission. But if Modi government successfully revitalize the 2013’s draft resolution, then that was nothing to with a commission like Udalagama’s Commission. It will be a direct inquiry into the way Royal Government and LTTE fought the war.

    The second biggest killer of investigation is, i.e next to Sonia Congress is Ranil’s UNP. Ranil wanted claim that he was one won the war and he was the one saved the soldiers. To prove his second claim, he has been trumpeting his refusal to sign the ICC’s accord. To reinforce his claim he went New York and argued with Ban-ki-Moon that its investigation report should be thrown away. Ban-ki-Moon’s reply for that, as it was said in the media’s, that the reports is not going to disappear anywhere in the UN. Now the Chameleon UNP is changing it colors. Because the the investigation can not averted 100%. UNP’s claim is a fake one, so no use of stick on to it. Further the investigation is the only way to dethrone The King and Ranil become the president. Ranil does not aim at EP. He likes to a Chancellor. EP is good only for strong will person. Or otherwise parliament can keep the president as a prisoner like the American congress controlling the presidents like Obama. So Ranil prefer to have a free handed one like German Chancellor.

    • 1
      0

      For the information of Tisaranee and Mullaiyuran – the Udalagama Commission, that began hopefully, eventually strayed into what I would suspect as State-inspired skullduggery – although I have some respect for Justice Udalagama. Signs were clear from day one, when I was there at the BMICH in Colombo on the first day of the inquiry on the summary execution of the Trinco Five, when Ranjith Abeysuriya, PC was cross-examining the contradictory Muslim Policeman (from the South and could not speak fluent Tamil) This was the same Court where Devanesan Nesiah, a neutral Commissioner, was pressured out by the machinations in press attacks by men like the arch Sinhala racist lawyer Gomin Dayasiri. The latter cared tuppence his first duty is the preservation of the integrity of the legal profession. Dayasiri was out to maintain his notoriety as an unapologetic defender of all crimes by Sinhala uniformed men against Tamil civilians.

      I understand, in principle and quite rightly, Nesiah refused to resign. He was later tastelessly forced out.

      It was a clear cut and dry case where the army, with able assistance from the Police, went to the beach area where these youth – said to be University Entrants – had gathered for a friendly “chat” Suddenly they found the power switched off. Minutes later the young innocent men were shot to death in cold-blood point blank “to teach the Tamils a lesson” as some sections of the media reported then. When the lights went out Dr. Manoharan’s son Ragihar phoned his father on the Mobile in fear, stating he was frightened. By the time the doctor rushed in and reached the place the 5 young men were all corpses – done in clearly by men in the Army and the Police. It is common knowledge these uniformed beasts viewed all educated Tamil youth as “Tigers” who should be done away with. Dr. Manoharan is there in the UK to testify to any credible body as to what happened to his son Ragihar and friends. He was forced out from the country by threats from the Police and the Army because of the State’s fear he might create “problems” to the Rajapakse regime offering damaging evidence, if he was allowed to live in the country.

      Justice Udalagama was economic with the truth when he pronounced “What we think is that someone in uniform did it” He should have been more honest and forthright because he had sufficient evidence to be more specific at least in his service to justice in a contentious Case.
      The final say in the Udalagama Report confirms the fears of several
      foreign lawyers witnessing the Case on the first day that justice may not be done entirely. I wonder what Lawyer Javid Yusuf, who was one of the Commissioners, who pitched into these foreign legal witnesses on the first day, has to say now.

      Backlash

      • 1
        0

        Backlash,

        Thank you.

        • 1
          0

          Dear Mullaiyuran,

          You refer to the Hon. Justice Bhagwathi, whom I had the privilege of meeting with. He was a committed disciple of Bhagwan Satha Sai Baba. I don’t have to remind you Shri Bhagwathi came here with the noble hope of uniting a divided land and people. But as time passed, he realised the scheming and vain mind of the Rajapakses
          and that they have absolutely no plans to bring peace or unity to Sri Lanka. The learned man quickly decided to disassociate with the cesspit of trickery and deceit. The discerning public have seen the APRC, LLRC and others are all time serving devices to divide, rule, plunder and vanish. Sri Lankans have to save themselves and the country. The world watches and waits – not for long.

          Backlash

  • 0
    1

    When hatred is pathological it turns into such a brew of venom that regular human cognition can no longer make any sense of it at all. Driven by ultimate pathological hatred this writer is now embarking on a ride of fantasy. No country including India and China can afford to allow any kind of UN investigation against another country. Nor can Pakistan, Bangladesh or any Asian country where the so called war crimes of Lanka look like a game of darts compared to their cupboards full of skeletons. And the absolute monarchies of Saudi Arabia and rest of Wahhabi Arabian and the barbaric regimes of Africa will shudder at the possibility of allowing such an investigation to morph into similar efforts against them!

    So Lanka is safe, and whether some people like it or not, Rajapaksas, particularly the no-nonsense Gotabaya are here to stay for a very long time. However, those who cannot get over their hatred of Lanka who use Rajapaksas as a red herring will also have a long, long tenure as “thinkers” and “writers”. Hopefully some NGO is paying their bills so that they can get that cappuccino at a stylish café where they concoct their latest diatribe against Lanka and its resurgent Buddhist civilization.

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