26 September, 2020

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WikiLeaks: Tamils In SL And Tamil Diaspora Split Over War Crimes Accountability – US

By Colombo Telegraph

“There have been a few tentative steps on accountability for crimes allegedly committed by Sri Lankan troops and civilian officials during the war with the LTTE. President Rajapaksa named a committee to make recommendations to him on the U.S. incidents report by April, and candidate Fonseka has discussed privately the formation of some form of ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission. Otherwise, accountability has not been a high-profile issue — including for Tamils in Sri Lanka. While Tamils have told us they would like to see some form of accountability, they have been pragmatic in what they can expect and have focused instead on securing greater rights and freedoms, resolving the IDP question, and improving economic prospects in the war-ravaged and former LTTE-occupied areas. Indeed, while they wanted to keep the issue alive for possible future action, Tamil politicians with whom we spoke in Colombo, Jaffna, and elsewhere said now was not time and that pushing hard on the issue would make them ‘vulnerable.'” the US Embassy Colombo informed Washington.

The Colombo Telegraph found the related leaked cable from the WikiLeaks database. The cable is classified as “SECRET” and analysed the issues relates to accountability and the Tamil perspective.  The cable was written on January 15, 2010 by the US Ambassador to Colombo, Patricia A. Butenis.

Placing a comment Butenis wrote; “Accountability is clearly an issue of importance for the ultimate political and moral health of Sri Lankan society. There is an obvious split, however, between the Tamil diaspora and Tamils in Sri Lanka on how and when to address the issue. While we understand the former would like to see the issue as an immediate top-priority issue, most Tamils in Sri Lanka appear to think it is both unrealistic and counter-productive to push the issue too aggressively now. While Tamil leaders are very vocal and committed to national reconciliation and creating a political system more equitable to all ethnic communities, they believe themselves vulnerable to political or even physical attack if they raise the issue of accountability publicly, and common Tamils appear focused on more immediate economic and social concerns. A few have suggested to us that while they cannot address the issue, they would like to see the international community push it. Such an approach, however, would seem to play into the super-heated campaign rhetoric of Rajapaksa and his allies that there is an international conspiracy against Sri Lanka and its ‘war heroes.'”

Read the cable below for further details;

Related posts to this cable;

WikiLeaks: Sampanthan Doesn’t Discuss ‘War Crimes’ Out Of Fear

WikiLeaks: ‘GoSL War Crimes Is The Most Difficult Issue On Our Bilateral Agenda’ – US

VZCZCXRO9281
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHLM #0032/01 0151223
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
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FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1120
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2264
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RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 7136
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RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0001
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 000032 

SIPDIS 

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/15/2020
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: SRI LANKA WAR-CRIMES ACCOUNTABILITY: THE TAMIL
PERSPECTIVE 

REF: A. 09 COLOMBO 1180
     ¶B. COLOMBO 8 

COLOMBO 00000032  001.2 OF 003 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS.  REASONS: 1.4 (B, D) 

¶1. (S) SUMMARY: There have been a few tentative steps on
accountability for crimes allegedly committed by Sri Lankan
troops and civilian officials during the war with the LTTE.
President Rajapaksa named a committee to make recommendations
to him on the U.S. incidents report by April, and candidate
Fonseka has discussed privately the formation of some form of
"truth and reconciliation" commission.  Otherwise,
accountability has not been a high-profile issue -- including
for Tamils in Sri Lanka.  While Tamils have told us they
would like to see some form of accountability, they have been
pragmatic in what they can expect and have focused instead on
securing greater rights and freedoms, resolving the IDP
question, and improving economic prospects in the war-ravaged
and former LTTE-occupied areas.  Indeed, while they wanted to
keep the issue alive for possible future action, Tamil
politicians with whom we spoke in Colombo, Jaffna, and
elsewhere said now was not time and that pushing hard on the
issue would make them "vulnerable."  END SUMMARY. 

ACCOUNTABILITY AS A POLITICAL ISSUE
----------------------------------- 

¶2. (S) Accountability for alleged crimes committed by GSL
troops and officials during the war is the most difficult
issue on our bilateral agenda.  (NOTE: Both the State
Department Report to Congress on Incidents during the
Conflict and the widely read report by the University
Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) also detailed many
incidents of alleged crimes perpetrated by the LTTE.  Most of
the LTTE leadership was killed at the end of the war, leaving
few to be held responsible for those crimes.  The Government
of Sri Lanka (GSL) is holding thousands of mid- and
lower-level ex-LTTE combatants for future rehabilitation
and/or criminal prosecution.  It is unclear whether any such
prosecutions will meet international standards.  END NOTE.)
There have been some tentative steps on accountability on the
GSL side.  Soon after the appearance of the State Department
report, President Rajapaksa announced the formation of an
experts' committee to examine the report and to provide him
with recommendations on dealing with the allegations.  At the
end of the year, the president extended the deadline for the
committee's recommendations from December 31 until April.
For his part, General Fonseka has spoken publicly of the need
for a new deal with the Tamils and other minorities.
Privately, his campaign manager told the Ambassador that
Fonseka had ordered the opposition campaign to begin work
planning a "truth and reconciliation" commission (ref B). 

¶3. (S) These tentative steps notwithstanding, accountability
has not been a high-profile issue in the presidential
election -- other than President Rajapaksa's promises
personally to stand up to any international power or body
that would try to prosecute Sri Lankan war heroes.  While
regrettable, the lack of attention to accountability is not
surprising.  There are no examples we know of a regime
undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or
senior officials for war crimes while that regime or
government remained in power.  In Sri Lanka this is further
complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the
alleged crimes rests with the country's senior civilian and
military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his
brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka. 

THE TAMIL PERSPECTIVE
--------------------- 

COLOMBO 00000032  002.2 OF 003 

¶4. (S) For different reasons, of course, accountability also
has not been a top priority for most Tamils in Sri Lanka.
While Tamils have told us they would like to see some form of
accountability, they have been pragmatic in what they can
expect and have focused instead on securing greater rights
and freedoms, resolving the IDP question, and improving
economic prospects in the war-ravaged and former
LTTE-occupied areas.  Indeed, while they wanted to keep the
issue alive for possible future action, Tamil leaders with
whom we spoke in Colombo, Jaffna, and elsewhere said now was
not time and that pushing hard on the issue would make them
"vulnerable." 

¶5. (S) The one prominent Tamil who has spoken publicly on the
issue is Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP, self-proclaimed
presidential candidate, and Prabhakaran relative M.K.
Sivajilingam.  Breaking from both the TNA mainstream and the
pro-government Tamil groups, he launched his campaign because
he believed neither the government nor the opposition was
adequately addressing Tamil issues.  Sivajilingam has focused
on creating a de-centralized federal structure in Sri Lanka
with separate prime ministers for the Sinhalese and Tamils,
but he also has spoken about accountability, demanding an
international inquiry to get justice for the deaths and
suffering of the Tamil people. 

¶6. (S) Other Tamil politicians have not made public
statements on accountability and are generally more pragmatic
in their thinking.  In our multiple recent discussions with
TNA leader R. Sampanthan, he said he believed accountability
was important and he welcomed the international community's
-- especially the diaspora's -- interest in the issue.  But
Sampanthan was realistic about the dim prospects for any Sri
Lankan government to take up the issue.  Granting that
governments in power do not investigate their own, Sampanthan
nevertheless said it was important to the health of the
nation to get the truth out.  While he believed the Tamil
community was "vulnerable" on the issue and said he would not
discuss "war crimes" per se in parliament for fear of
retaliation, Sampanthan would emphasize the importance of
people knowing the truth about what happened during the war.
We also have asked Sampanthan repeatedly for his ideas on an
accountability mechanism that would be credible to Tamils and
possible within the current political context, but he has not
been able to provide such a model. 

¶7. (S) Mano Ganesan, MP and leader of the ethnic Tamil
Democratic People's Front (DPF), is a Colombo-based Tamil who
counts as supporters many of the well-educated, long-term
Colombo and Western Province resident Tamils, and was an
early supporter of Fonseka.  The general made promises that
convinced him that if Fonseka were to win, ethnic
reconciliation issues would then be decided by parliament,
not the Executive President.  On accountability, Ganesan told
us that while the issue was significant -- and Fonseka could
even end up implicated -- accountability was a divisive issue
and the focus now had to be on uniting to rid the country of
the Rajapaksas. 

¶8. (S) TNA MP Pathmini Sithamparanathan told us in
mid-December that the true story of what happened in the
final weeks of the war would not go away and would come out
eventually, but she also said now was not the time for war
crimes-type investigations.  Finally, on a recent trip to
Jaffna, PolOff found that local politicians did not raise
accountability for events at the end of the war as an issue
of immediate concern, focusing instead on current
bread-and-butter issues, such as IDP releases, concerns about
Sinhala emigration to traditional Tamil regions, and 

COLOMBO 00000032  003.2 OF 003 

re-developing the local economy. 

COMMENT
------- 

¶9. (S) Accountability is clearly an issue of importance for
the ultimate political and moral health of Sri Lankan
society.  There is an obvious split, however, between the
Tamil diaspora and Tamils in Sri Lanka on how and when to
address the issue.  While we understand the former would like
to see the issue as an immediate top-priority issue, most
Tamils in Sri Lanka appear to think it is both unrealistic
and counter-productive to push the issue too aggressively
now.  While Tamil leaders are very vocal and committed to
national reconciliation and creating a political system more
equitable to all ethnic communities, they believe themselves
vulnerable to political or even physical attack if they raise
the issue of accountability publicly, and common Tamils
appear focused on more immediate economic and social
concerns.  A few have suggested to us that while they cannot
address the issue, they would like to see the international
community push it.  Such an approach, however, would seem to
play into the super-heated campaign rhetoric of Rajapaksa and
his allies that there is an international conspiracy against
Sri Lanka and its "war heroes."
BUTENIS
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Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    The conclusion drawn by the US embassy in Colombo on the divide between the Tamils living here and sections of the Tamil Diaspora, was valid then ( 2010), is valid now and will be valid for a long time to come. I thank CT for bring out this information.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

    • 0
      0

      Yes, you will be happy if they leave your hero Gota and MR to continue to rule won’t you (as long as you are kept happy)

    • 0
      0

      Are you happy about this ? “US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert Blake said the US was ‘disappointed’ about Sri Lanka’s failure to address several issues including the implementation of the LLRC action plan. – http://www.dailymirror.lk/news/26031-us-disappointed-with-sl-blake.html

    • 0
      0

      Absolute nonsense.
      US embassy in Colombo would have spoken to Tamil politicians like Douglas Devananda, PLOTE leader Sitharthan, Chief Minister Pillaiyan, Minister Karuna, Pottuvil MP Sirisena (Former TNA PM and half Tamil), Former UNP MP’s Prabha Ganeshan, Renga and Digambaram, CWC MP’s from Thondaman to other MP’s and Deputy Ministers, and Tamil politicians who are from the SLFP who were defeated in the last elections and has got terribly confused.

      There certainly are a few Tamils in Sri Lanka and working in the Middle East and elsewhere are our very own quislings, Bendicts and Ettapans, who will and have worked with the State Terrorist without being very worried about the majority of the Tamil sentiments.

      The US embassy doesn’t realize that the Tamils in Sri Lanka cannot discuss War Crimes with foreign diplomats out of sheer fear about the murderous regime of the Rajapakses. That includes the TNA MP’s since 5 Tamil MP’s were murdered by the State Terrorist and no one has been apprehended and jailed.

      US diplomats, I repeat are a confused bunch for decades.

      Donald Gnanakone

    • 0
      0

      Dr I wish you’d read before commenting, don’t just look at the headlines: Read what the TNA leader has said. Although the the news is stale, please read what he said way back then. The others have pretty much echoed his sentiments. All were hoping for reconciliation to take place in a meaningful way and a political settlement that reflected the aspirations of the Tamil people.
      “TNA leader R. Sampanthan, he said he believed accountability
      was important and he welcomed the international community’s
      — especially the diaspora’s — interest in the issue. But
      Sampanthan was realistic about the dim prospects for any Sri
      Lankan government to take up the issue. Granting that
      governments in power do not investigate their own, Sampanthan
      nevertheless said it was important to the health of the
      nation to get the truth out. While he believed the Tamil
      community was “vulnerable” on the issue and said he would not
      discuss “war crimes” per se in parliament for fear of
      retaliation, Sampanthan would emphasize the importance of
      people knowing the truth about what happened during the war.
      We also have asked Sampanthan repeatedly for his ideas on an
      accountability mechanism that would be credible to Tamils and
      possible within the current political context, but he has not
      been able to provide such a model.”
      Thank you for reading,
      Usha
      The last thing I want is to have a row with you.

  • 0
    0

    when these western Led LTTE lobby groups and their HR groups and channels talk about war crimes against tamils.. Which TAMILS.. When col Karuna broke away most of the Eastern Tamils and their population also broke away and joined their fellow citizens in defeating the LTTE.. so are these LTTE eelam lobby talking about prabhas Tamils??? when they say Tamils?? they need to get their definitions correct, as most Nothern and all eastern Tamil Lankans later fought the LTTE and hated them more than the sinhelese. Thats why wanni LTTE tamils killed most of the eastern Batti tamils.. something the Prabha LTTE western tamils seem ti ignore.

  • 0
    0

    War affected different Tamils differently.
    Diaspora Tamils
    Jaffna Tamils
    Colombo Tamils
    Tamil Nadu Tamils
    Batticaloa Tamils
    Vanni Tamils
    Upcountry Tamils
    LTTE Tamils
    TMVP Tamils
    EPDP Tamils

  • 0
    0

    The Wikileaked report is quite clear in its main thrust and the appended comments of Ambassador Butenis. Usha Sri-Skanda-Raja seems to have picked up only what suits her from this report . I do not comment unless I read the entirety of what I comment on. I know, I got the right message from this report. Incidentally a debate is not a row. A row also is not a debate.

    Donald Gnanakone has gone to the extent of questioning how the US embassy collects information. He also mentions possible informants and some quislings, including one working in the Middle East. I guess he is referring to me,as I have worked for long years in the ME. I am retired and am in Sri Lanka for the past two years , spending most of my time in Jaffna. The US embassy is not definitely speaking to me. Mr. Gnanakone has a propensity to call anyone who holds contrary opinions by various names , including calling Dr. Noel Nadesan ( Australia) a ‘Balu Dostara’ ( Dog Doctor) in the past. I am a Balu Dostora who taught that Balu Dostara at Peradeniya !

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

  • 0
    0

    A question for Mr Gnanakone and the fragrant Mrs Sri-Skanda-Rajah,

    Were you part of the US-based pro-LTTE diaspora groups who refused to call for the LTTE to release civilians held as hostages?

    We know that the overseas LTTE didn’t give a damn about the well-being of Tamil civilians in the North & East. They wanted them to die in very large numbers. We know this thanks to Wikileaks.

    “Ambassador [Blake] briefed the minister on the results of the meeting Asst Sec Boucher had hosted with American (SL Tamil) Diaspora representatives. He explained that the Diaspora had rejected U.S. calls for them to urge the release of civilians.

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/wikileaksdiaspora-had-rejected-u-s-calls-for-them-to-urge-the-release-of-civilians/

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