Colombo Telegraph

Where Were UK Experts In Our Hour Of Need?

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

The British High Commission in Colombo has confirmed staff from Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in UK has been training members of CIABOC and FCID staff in “enhancing investigator’s capability to engage in international cases through legal advice, exchanges and English language training”.

Recent news reports indicate UK has offered a team of experts to work with Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) and specialized police training for those in the Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID). The offer has been confirmed by the spokesperson of the British High Commission. According to news reports, discussions are currently underway between the Head of the British Diplomatic Service and Secretary of the UK Department of International Development with CIABC Chief and Additional Solicitor General of Sri Lanka. The offer primarily concerns investigations involving the corrupt deals during the Rajapaksa administration and unearthing the billions of rupees supposedly siphoned off by members of the Rajapaksa family and their minions. GoUK has supposedly indicated its willingness to spend a princely sum of Rs 15 million over the next three years improving working methods of our detectives.

Sri Lankans no doubt must be grateful to our former colonial masters for coming forward in assisting the present government. Their offer no doubt is praise worthy. All it will now require is for members of the UNP who claimed to possess hundreds of files on corrupt deals of the Rajapaksa administration to hand them over to the ‘experts’ from UK and we should be able to get our money back.

That said, this writer is intrigued by the sudden desire of GoUK to assist Sri Lanka in recovering lost wealth of this country. Is it due to its magnanimity or does it entail an ulterior motive?

Sri Lanka endured an armed conflict with the LTTE, one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world, which lasted 26 years. Its objective was a separate state and hence must be classified not only as terrorists but also as a separatist group.

GoUK imposed an arms embargo against Sri Lanka along with many western governments, early in the armed conflict. Despite Sri Lanka being a member of the Commonwealth headed by UK’s sovereign, hardly any training opportunities were offered by GoUK for members of our armed forces. In fact, GoUK did absolutely nothing to assist Sri Lanka in its fight against terrorism. By way of its inaction, GoUK in fact offered what could be termed as passive assistance to the terrorist organization and its members living in UK. In short, GoUK adopted a ‘Nelsonian’ attitude in turning a blind eye to Sri Lanka’s fight against terrorism and the separatist group.

My mind goes back to one spring day in April 1997 (long before terrorism came knocking on the doors of UK) when the erstwhile Lakshman Kadirgamar, Sri Lanka’s one time renowned Foreign Minister, assassinated by the very same LTTE in 2005, delivered a speech at the London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House near Regent street. In his address, Kadirgamar stated “when I say that the terrorism in my country is financed to a very large extent by activities which take place by a certain organisation in the country where I am discussing this question, I met with the answer “well, we don’t have much evidence, if you can find the evidence we might be able to do something about it,” to which my reply has been, well how can I possibly find evidence of preparations to commit terrorist activities in my country which are taking place in your country which is thousands and thousands of miles away from my country.”

In the light of Kadirgamar’s assertion, this writer requests the Queen’s representative in Colombo to explain to us Sri Lankans, despite all the sophisticated technology and hundreds if not thousands of ‘experts’ in UK, it was not able to investigate and prevent LTTE from raising funds and its use for terrorist activities in Sri Lanka due to what it termed ‘lack of evidence’ in its own home turf. Under the circumstances, how would these ‘experts’ now find evidence in a country, in the words of Kadirgamar, ‘thousands and thousands of miles away’ from their home turf and bring back billions supposedly plundered by members of the Rajapaksa clan and their minions?

It is indeed ironical, Sri Lankan leaders who thought the separatists could not be defeated and were prepared to give away parts of the country in various forms to the terrorist leader now accept the offer of these ‘experts’ from UK to nail the one leader who believed the LTTE could be defeated and proceeded to do so. Nevertheless, defeating terrorism is not a reason to exempt him from investigation, prosecution and conviction in case his misdeeds are proved.

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