By Shamindra Ferdinando
Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on National Security, Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera, MP, yesterday (15) asked whether a comprehensive international investigation into accountability issues here could be conducted unless India, too, was subjected to the same.
The former Public Security Minister was responding to the Global Tamil Forum (GTF) declaration that India and Sri Lanka Core Group at the ongoing 54 session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, emphasised Sri Lanka’s continuing failure to fulfil its own commitments to justice and accountability. The Core Group consists of the US, the UK, Canada, North Macedonia, Malawi and Montenegro.
The Colombo District lawmaker said that the bone of contention seems to be whether the killings in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, during the deployment of the Indian military (July 1987-March 1990), and seaborne PLOTE (People’s Liberation Organization of Tamil Eelam) raid on the Maldives, in Nov, 1988, too, should be investigated.
The GTF, in a statement issued from the UK, declared its support for an international investigation as demanded by senior Opposition political leaders and the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. The UK-based GTF also welcomed the latest report on Sri Lanka by the Human Rights Commissioner.
Acknowledging the death of nearly 1,500 Indian officers and men, and the assassination of former Premier Rajiv Gandhi, MP Weerasekera said that those demanding accountability on the part of Sri Lanka should explain their stand on
India’s culpability, as well as the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) that served the LTTE until the very end, having declared Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil-speaking people. The Sri Lanka Army lost approximately 23,500 officers and men whereas the Navy, Air Force, Police, including the STF, lost about 4,000 personnel.
Weerasekera, who retired in 2006 after having served the Navy for over three decades, said that interested parties had raised unsubstantiated war crimes allegations in the wake of the UK television station Channel 4 claim that SLPP presidential election candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s camp engineered the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage to facilitate the former Defence Secretary’s victory.
The former Minister was responding to the GTF declaration that near simultaneous attacks were meant to cause what the Diaspora grouping called a sense of insecurity and blatant communalism needed for the Rajapaksas to recapture power.
Referring to the 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, the GTF alleged that the deterioration in inter-communal relations were often viewed as an acceptable price for acceding to political power. This appalling culture was built on the unshakable confidence that the Sri Lankan judicial system would never be able to deliver truth or justice, the group added.
The Chairman of the Sectoral Oversight Committee said that as the close relationship between the GTF and the TNA that had been formed in 2009, the year the LTTE was brought down to its knees is well known, it would be pertinent to ask them for an explanation regarding their backing war-winning Army Chief General Sarath Fonseka’a candidature at 2010 presidential election after accusing him and his forces of committing war crimes.
The MP pointed out that following the 2004 general election, the EU Election Monitoring Mission declared that the TNA secured over 20 seats in the Northern and Eastern Provinces with the help of the LTTE to stuff ballot boxes in the areas it controlled. Having benefited from its relationship with the LTTE, the TNA threw its weight behind the UNP-JVP-SLMC coalition that fielded Fonseka who handsomely won all Northern and Eastern districts because the Tamil speaking community was relieved by the eradication of the LTTE.
The SLN veteran urged all political parties, represented in Parliament, to use the two-day debate, scheduled for next week, on the 2019 Easter Sunday attacks and national security, to engage in a meaningful discussion.
Weerasekera said that a thorough inquiry was definitely needed to establish the number of deaths, due to the conflict. The recent disclosure that Mohamed Mihlar, the father of C4 whistle-blower Mohamed Mihlar Mohamed Hanzeer aka Moulana, had been killed in Chennai, India, along with 12 others of the EPRLF, underscored the need to ascertain the number of victims, MP Weerasekera said.
Noting that incumbent TNA MP Dharlamingham Siddharthan (Vanni) had declared years ago that his father V. Dharmalingam and his parliamentary colleague M. Alalasundaram, both Jaffna District MPs of the now defunct TULF, were killed by TELO (Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization), in early Sept. 1985, at the behest of India’s premier intelligence service, RAW, MP Weerasekera called for no holds barred investigation. The MP said that accountability issues couldn’t be resolved until those concerned established the number of people killed in India due to clashes among Tamil groups, the number killed by India, after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, deaths due to raid on the Maldives, and Indian Navy action against PLOTE cadres fleeing that country in a commandeered ship, those killed as a result of fighting among Tamil groups here, those caught in crossfire between the LTTE and the Indian military, and finally those killed during fighting between Sri Lankan forces and terrorists. The victims of LTTE massacres and the number of child soldiers should be counted separately, the ex-Minister said, urging the GTF to acknowledge the number of LTTE cadres killed during the three decades long conflict.
Their latest statement at least failed to indicate that there had been two wars – one between LTTE and Indian military and other between LTTE and Sri Lankan military, the former Minister said. Weerasekera found fault with successive governments for failing to set the record straight.