New Geneva challenge: Chagie calls for united stand
Retired Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage says the country should take a united stand at the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) or face the consequences.
The battle-tested Gajaba regiment veteran said that there shouldn’t be a difference of opinion whatsoever as regards Sri Lanka’s defence in the face of a new investigative mechanism approved at the recently concluded 46th sessions.
“We are on the Geneva agenda. Let us be realistic about the threat and take tangible measures without further delay to set the record straight. We may not get another chance to present our case,” Gallage said. The outspoken officer underscored the need to revisit the accountability issue with an open mind.
Responding to another query, the celebrated infantry officer emphasized that Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from an accountability resolution co-sponsored by the previous administration in Oct 2015, six years after the triumph over terrorism, was irrelevant.
Two years before his retirement in August 2018, Australia refused to issue a visa to Gallage based on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations directed at the Army.
Referring to statements attributed to SLPP Chairman Prof. G.L. Peiris and Samagi Jana Balavegaya lawmaker Dr. Harsha de Silva recently in The Island, Gallage welcomed the government and the main Opposition taking a common stand on Lord Naseby’s disclosure based on wartime dispatches from the British High Commission, Colombo. Sri Lanka should collectively ask for examination of all available information pertaining to the war and strive to bring everything before the proposed new inquiry.
The retired soldier noted that the UN had already allocated USD 2.8 mn. “Thanks to the disclosure of BHC, Colombo dispatches, the world now knows their diplomatic representative (Lt. Col. Anthony Gash) contradicted high profile lies propagated by their own,” Gallage said.
Examination of Gash reports, along with UN report that dealt with the Vanni war (Aug, 2008-May 13, 2009), Wikileaks cables, Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith’s astonishing declaration at the first Colombo Defence Seminar 2011 and exposed lies pertaining to Mannar mass graves and poisoning of detained terrorists would help the government to unravel the truth, he said.
Sri Lanka’s overall failure to disapprove accusations even a decade after the successful conclusion was a slur on those who paid the supreme sacrifice and the wounded, Gallage said. Nearly 6,000 security forces personnel died in the Eelam War IV. Of them approximately 2,400 lost their lives during January-May 2009 in fighting east of the Kandy-Jaffna A9 road.
Gallage emphasized that individual countries could always act on unsubstantiated findings and recommendations.
It would be a grave mistake on Sri Lanka’s part to take things lightly on the basis the country couldn’t be hauled up before the International Criminal Court (ICC) because UN Security Council members, China and Russia could veto proposed actions. Among those declared not welcome by the US and Australia were Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka, Army Commander Gen. Shavendra Silva and Maj. Gen. Gallage.
At the behest of the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Army headquarters moved Gallage out of the Jaffna peninsula following a public spat with the former.
Gallage pointed out that those pursuing war crimes issues were only interested in the final phase. Alleging that Sri Lanka was being targeted by both local and foreign elements who couldn’t stomach eradication of the LTTE, Gallage called for a determined bid to overcome the Geneva challenge. “Let us hope now that the Feb-March sessions are over the Geneva threat won’t be forgotten for the time being,” the war veteran said.
Gallage said that the country paid a very heavy price for not countering blatant lies. Unfortunately, some of those propagating lies against the country’s armed forces were elected members of parliament, the retired soldier said. “It is certainly an unfortunate situation,” Gallage said.
Despite public assurances given over the years, Sri Lanka never really addressed the denial of visas. Actually denial of visas was one of the first indicators of hostile foreign action directed against the war winning military, Gallage said, pointing out in the wake of the recently adopted resolution, Geneva was now talking about a host of measures, including universal jurisdiction and extraterritorial jurisdiction.
The war veteran said that whatever the political differences, there couldn’t be a dispute over the need to finish off terrorism for once and for all. “We should quite rightly be proud of maintaining peace since then.”
By Shamindra Ferdinando