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SILENCE OF SOUTH AFRICAN JOURNALIST,INDIA AND HOW WAR DEAD REPORTS WERE IGNORED

Christine Karen Williams shared her experience as a journalist, rights activist and international critic on political matters with the gathering. Essentially, Williams justified the ongoing post-war reconciliation process undertaken by Sri Lanka though some shortcomings were pointed out.

Sirisena-Wickremesinghe created history by co-sponsoring a resolution against itself in spite of it being severely inimical to its interests. The unprecedented resolution has paved the way for a new Constitution, in addition to implementing four specific measures meant to address accountability issues, namely (1) a judicial mechanism with a Special Counsel to investigate allegations of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international human rights law (2) A Commission for truth, justice, reconciliation and non-recurrence (3) An Office for Missing Persons (MOP) and finally (4) An Office for reparations.

At the end of Williams’ presentation, the writer posed the following query to Williams: You dealt with situations and developments in several countries pertaining to Truth Commissions. Reference was made to Charles Taylor, one time Liberian leader found guilty of UN-backed court. The UN found fault with Taylor causing death and destruction in the neighbouring country. Against that background, could you please explain accountability on the part of India over death and destruction on a massive scale in neighbouring Sri Lanka?

Taylor’s issue was raised as Williams made no reference to Taylor now being held in British custody.

Williams responded that it would entirely depend on the mandate given to the Truth Commission. The writer emailed the same query and an additional query to Williams within hours after the conclusion of the inauguration of the workshop seeking comprehensive answers. The following is the additional query: Do you think Truth Commissions should be established in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan devastated by US-led Western interventions?

Williams never responded. The writer made several attempts to secure her response through Shan Wijetunga without success.

Obviously, those wanting to find fault with Sri Lanka for what had happened conveniently forgot how India destabilized her neighbour over a period of time.

The writer in his presentation made before the South African’s keynote address emphasized the responsibility on the part of India in destroying Sri Lanka. India created several monstrous organizations in the 80s at the expense of democratic Tamil political system. For want of a comprehensive examination of the events leading to the outbreak of war in 1983, the despicable Indian intervention was never ever raised at the UNGA or Geneva. The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LRRC) appointed in 2010 refrained from referring to the Indian role. Sri Lanka political leadership lacked strength to present Sri Lanka’s case at UNGA or Geneva much to the disappointment of the vast majority of people enjoying restoration of peace in May 2009.

The writer pointed out at the Hilton seminar that the four Geneva recommendations in respect of post-war reconciliation process in addition to the formulation of a new Constitution were necessitated on the assumption that the war-winning Sri Lanka military deliberately massacred 40,000 Tamil civilians. The writer underscored the importance of inquiring into the failure on the part of the international community, Sri Lanka, the civil society as well as the media as to why indisputable evidence unearthed by Lord Naseby were never used though Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana, PC, assured parliament in late November last year that UK dispatches would be used appropriately. The Sunday Observer in a report dated Nov 26, 2017 quoted Marapana, a former Attorney General, as having said: “We are not saying that we will not use Lord Naseby’s statement. We certainly will use it at the proper time and at appropriate forums. There may be a time when the UNHRC will ask us to conduct investigations into the allegations of war crimes. We will use this statement when such a time comes. Otherwise, our opponents will find counter arguments so we must use it as an ace.”

The UNP not only discarded Naseby’s revelations, the Grand Old Party managed so far to prevent reappraisal of Sri Lanka’s Geneva position against the backdrop of Naseby revelations. The Joint Opposition/Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), too, contributed to the UNP strategy by its extremely poor performance in parliament in defence of the country’s interest. The JO failed in its duty both in and outside parliament. For want of a clear strategy, the JO lacked foresight to examine a detailed report by Gerrard Tracey, Principal Advisor, Information Commissioner’s Office. The report accessible online dealt with Naseby’s efforts to obtain wartime dispatches from Colombo. The writer discussed decision notice dated May 4, 2016 issued by Tracey in terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) UK that dealt with Naseby’s query made to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Nov 6, 2014.

The decision notice revealed desperate efforts made by the FCO to prevent the releasing of wartime dispatches. According to Information Commissioner’s Office, the FCO censored sections of the British High Commission dispatches that were handed over to Lord Naseby under 27 (1) (a) of FOIA on the basis that full disclosure could prejudice relations between the UK and Sri Lanka. Can there be a bigger lie than this?

But the reality was that the disclosure could have certainly cleared the misunderstanding between two Commonwealth member states.

(To be continued on Oct 17)

SHAMINDRA FERDINENDES



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