Wartime FM calls for tangible measures to counter Geneva threat

“How come those who voted for Fonseka still push for an int’l war crime probe?’

Wartime Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama (2007-2010) yesterday (17) said that those who had been tainted by their association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were seeking the cooperation of external and internal elements to undermine the democratically elected government.

The former minister alleged that a coordinated campaign was underway ahead of the scheduled 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Bogollagama said that the recent high profile intervention made by the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) and Tamil Makkal Tesiya Kootani (TMTK) backed by several civil society groups for international accountability mechanisms to probe Sri Lanka should be properly countered.

R. Sampanthan (TNA), Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam (TNPF) and retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran (TMTK) and eight other parties, including the Bishop of Trincomalee signed a petition dated January 15, 2021 addressed to 47-member states of the UNHRC called for a new resolution with or without Sri Lanka’s consent. They requested UNHRC members to involve other organs of the UN including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly to take appropriate action by reference to the International Criminal Court and any other applicable and effective international accountability mechanisms to inquire into the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Having failed to achieve Eelam through terrorism and conventional military means, those who still believed in the division of the country on ethnic lines were seeking international intervention, the former Minister said, urging those hell-bent on foreign intervention not to play politics with accountability issue.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009. Responding to another query, the former minister said that the TNA had quite conveniently forgotten how the LTTE forced the political grouping to recognize Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil people. The LTTE exploited that tag to the hilt until the Army put a bullet through the head of the Tiger supremo on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, Bogollagama said. The former Minister emphasized the pivotal importance of Sri Lanka taking stock of the situation without further delay because a new resolution seemed inevitable.

Bogollagama said that Lord Naseby’s disclosure in Oct 2017 in the House of Lords could be part of Sri Lanka’s overall defence along with certain revelations made by Wikileaks since 2011. Continuing efforts to fault Sri Lanka over genocide of Tamil people should be dealt with for once and for all, the minister said, pointing out that both TNPF and TMTK reiterated genocide allegations at the onset of the current parliamentary sessions.

Bogollagama also made reference to wartime US Defence Attaché in Colombo Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith contradicting in public during an international seminar in Colombo war crimes accusations, two years after the conclusion of the war.

The former minister said that Tamil parties’ rhetoric shouldn’t be taken lightly. Asked whether he endorsed the efforts made by the SLPP to counter the threat, the ex-lawmaker said that the joint intervention made by the British-French governments in late April 2009 to halt the military offensive against the LTTE on the Vanni east front indicated the level of Western interest in the issue at hand. “I don’t have to remind you what the then British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s comment on his government’s obsession with the war against the LTTE,” the former MP said, referring to a leaked classified US diplomatic cable originating from their mission in London at the height of the war here.

The former minister said that for the first time one-time LTTE mouthpiece, the TNA had the backing of two more political parties based in the North. Bogollagama pointed out though Wigneswaran quit the TNA in spite of having entered active politics through the outfit in 2013, the one-time Northern Province Chief Minister was working with the TNA and Gajandrakumar Ponnambalam’s TNPF on a common agenda. Geneva was going to be a big challenge, Bogollagama said, adding Western powers’ real interests and motives were wider issues than accountability in Sri Lanka.

Bogollagama said that the TNA owed an explanation as regards its relationship with the LTTE?. Having recognized Prabhakaran in late 2001 as the sole representative of Tamil people, the TNA, on behalf of the LTTE ordered Tamils to boycott the 2005 presidential election, Bogollagama said. The TNA represented the LTTE’s interests until the very end, Bogollagama said, recollecting how the European Union in the aftermath of 2004 parliamentary election faulted the TNA for winning 22 seats in the Northern and Eastern Provinces with the LTTE stuffing ballot boxes on its behalf.

Bogollagama said war crimes accusations collapsed five years before the previous yahapalana administration co-sponsored an accountability resolution in Geneva. How could the TNA explain backing war winning Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s candidature at the 2010 presidential poll and the Northern and Eastern districts, including Digamadulla voting for him overwhelmingly though he lost the election by a staggering 1.8 mn votes. The TNA should have been challenged both in and outside parliament for its stand on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations, having backed the very man who executed the war.

Bogollagama pointed out how high profile accusations made by the then Northern Province Chief Minister Wigneswaran as regards poisoning of LTTE cadres undergoing rehabilitation (Aug 2016) and the Army being responsible for Mannar mass graves (2019) proved nothing but propaganda.

Bogollagama insisted that all evidence should be placed on the table, studied vis-a-vis 2015 Geneva resolution co-sponsored by the then government and remedial measures taken. It would be pertinent to mention that the government went ahead with co-sponsorship in spite of the then Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha rejecting the draft proposal, the former Foreign Minister said.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

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