Chagie picks holes in controversial US resolution
Retired infantry Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says the recent US declaration that some sections of traditional Tamil homeland remains so militarized 12 years after the war with ‘up to one soldier for every two civilians in the most war affected regions,’ underscored Sri Lanka’s daunting challenge in countering the high profile propaganda.
The Gajaba veteran insists even during the height of the war there had never been such intense deployment. Over the years, the scale of deployment has been reduced and forces deployed only to meet present-day requirements, he said.
Having served the Army for over three decades in frontline combat roles, military strategist Gallage retired in late August 2018-two years after Australia declined to issue him a visa over unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.
Referring to a resolution dated May 18, 2021 (H.Res.413) moved in the US House of Representatives, Gen. Gallage said that the LTTE had been recognized as a Tamil independence organization in spite of it still being on a list of organizations proscribed by the US, accepted traditional Tamil homeland claim and also acknowledged a merged northeastern region. Gen. Gallage pointed out that the US showed its bias against Sri Lanka by calling predominantly Tamil speaking Northern and Eastern Provinces as ‘historically oppressed northeastern region.’
Obviously, the submission of the House of Representatives resolution that has been subsequently referred to the House Foreign Relations Committee coincided with the 12th anniversary of the end of war was meant to cause further rifts, Gen. Gallage said.
Asked whether the government was taking steps to set the record straight, Foreign Secretary Admiral (retd) Jayanath Colombage said that the Foreign Ministry was in the process of addressing the issue at hand.
Gen. Gallage dismissed much repeated public assertion the US policy had been influenced by the Tamil Diaspora. The outspoken retired officer said that the latest US resolution should be carefully examined against the backdrop of Sri Lanka-China partnership culminating with the Colombo Port City Economic Commission as well as collapsing of talks on MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) Compact and SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) though ACSA (Access and Cross-Servicing Agreement) finalized in Aug 2017 remains intact.
The combat veteran questioned the rationale in the US grouping the LTTE among what the House of Representatives called ‘various armed Tamil independence organizations.’ An irate much decorated infantry officer emphasized that those terrorist groups formed by India in the 80s had been devilishly called independence groups. The US obviously disregarded the well-known fact that except the LTTE, all other groups gave up arms in terms of the Indo-Lanka Accord of July 1987 and entered parliament in 1989 during the tenure of President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Gen. Gallage said that the LTTE couldn’t be under any circumstances promoted as an organization that fought for Tamil independence.
When The Island pointed out that the US resolution strongly criticized Sri Lanka for not repealing the longstanding Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) having recently adopted a bipartisan Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (DTPA) of 2021 to investigate acts of domestic terrorism, Gen. Gallage said the US acted swiftly after the US Department of Justice underscored the need for domestic anti-terrorism law in the wake of the January 6 Capitol attack. There couldn’t be a better example than that to highlight the absurdity of the US stand on the PTA introduced by President JRJ to fight those who have now been rechristened by the US as Tamil independence groups.
Gen. Gallage found fault with the US resolution for not making reference to the origins of terrorism in Sri Lanka. He said that the US needlessly faults Sri Lanka for the deployment of the armed forces to control rampaging Covid-19 epidemic. Did they at least bother to check the actual ground situation here? General asked, pointing out that the armed forces rendered a yeoman service in support of the health sector.
The bottom line is that the civilian establishment and the police couldn’t have coped up with Covid-19 challenge without the combined security forces backing, Gen. Gallage said.
Responding to another query, Gen. Gallage alleged that the US seemed to have quite conveniently forgotten how its wartime Defence Attache Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith cleared Sri Lanka of bogus war crimes accusations at the first Colombo Defence Seminar held in May-June 2011, two years after the successful conclusion of the war. Gen. Gallage, who had been present on that occasion recalled how an embarrassed US State Department claimed that their man hadn’t been there in an official capacity. Thanks to Lord Naseby’s disclosure in the House of Lords in Oct 2017, now the entire world knows Lt. Col. Smith’s British counterpart, Lt. Col. Anthony Gash, who had been in Colombo during the war, too, denied unsubstantiated war crimes accusations.
Gen. Gallage said that having backed war winning Army Chief the then Gen. Sarath Fonseka at the 2010 presidential election, the US now expressed concern over elevation of persons alleged to have implicated in war crimes to senior government positions.
Appreciating the US backing for eradication of the LTTE, Gen. Gallage said that the Super Power accelerated the demise of their conventional military capacity by providing specific intelligence that led to the sinking of four ships carrying millions of dollars’ worth of armaments in the high seas.
Gen. Gallage said that the US should take note of the 2011 UN recommendation (Panel of Experts report) that prevented proper investigation for a 20-year period. The undeniable truth was the accusation of 40,000 civilian deaths (Panel of Experts report/paragraph 137) hadn’t been investigated yet, Gen. Gallage said. But that didn’t prevent UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issuing a report in 2015 (the
OISL Report) that outlined the occurrence of war crimes and crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law during the war in Sri Lanka.
Gen. Gallage urged the political leadership to take tangible measures to counter the continuing politically motivated anti-Sri Lanka campaign. The Gen. said that it was the responsibility of the parties represented in parliament to address the latest attack also taking into consideration Canada recognizing the genocide of Tamils and the display of LTTE flag in the UK Parliament Square. The retired soldier pointed out that in spite of the eradication of the LTTE’s conventional military power, the separatist agenda was alive in foreign parliaments as well as our own. Gallage said so referring to a group of lawmakers in current parliament seeking UN intervention to set up an international war crime probe. Those who wrote that letter had ignored the fact that the TNA recognized the LTTE as the sole representative of the Tamil speaking people in 2001. That status remained until the Army shot and killed Prabhakaran on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, Gen. Gallage said.
By Shamindra Ferdinando