Sri Lanka was sent a very confidential message by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton through Assistant Secretary for Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, Robert O’ Blake Jnr. and US Ambassador here in Colombo from 2006 till the war was concluded on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon in Mullivaikkal, May 2009. Blake met with the External Affairs Minister one to one in his hotel suite to convey Madam Clinton’s message to President Rajapaksa, say informed sources, after a formal meeting with the Minister and his senior staff. That’s two years after the war when the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel Report is held out like a menacing hand. Two years, when most post war issues should have been managed and brought under control. That responsibility ignored with PR manipulations beyond the shores of Sri Lanka, professorial glib talk to satisfy the gullible middle class here, Sinhala heroes’ playing for local media and vernacular rhetoric aired for the poor and the innocent Sinhala majority, the world of the Rajapaksas revolve with increasing war crimes accusations. Taking umbrage against the UN and its SG instead of resolving issues at home, has only allowed piling of carefully sifted and documented evidence against this regime, during the past two years.
This is no more a ‘War Without Witnesses’. Satellite imagery provide evidence (though without witnesses) in this modern world. ‘WikiLeaks’ provides evidence too and the latest in Aftenposten in Norway, SITREP 74 speaks for Blake himself and implicates Gotabaya, Basil and Nambiar. Though taking time, documented stories surfaced as evidence through Tamil Diaspora sources, as well. While government propaganda satisfied the Sinhala middle class here and abroad, international organisations had worked passionately in salvaging evidence they are after. A reputed, internationally recognised expert panel thus concluded the much talked of British ‘Channel 4’ aired video, as authentic. A subsequent programme on ‘Channel 4’ on Isaipriya claimed its new content was added proof on war crime charges against the Sri Lankan government.
Most such stories, videos and satellite imagery have gone into the UN Advisory Panel Report as substantial evidence that require independent investigations into war crimes, crimes against humanity and accountability, trashing government claims about “pro Tiger propaganda”. With the report made public, international concerns on presumptive war crimes and accountability keep piling up. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, that fought a savage battle against apartheid rule and thereafter was part of the campaign for reconciliation through independent and open ‘Truth Commissions’, supports an independent investigation on Sri Lanka. This regime’s trusted friends, Russia and China, according to media reports had warned they would have to reconsider their support, if Sri Lanka does not behave well with UN and other international staff, stationed in the country.
Portugal though listed as a new found ally, is an economic wreck given a Euro 78 billion bailout by the EU. The EU that sent out a crisp statement defending the panel report, scheduled an emergency debate on Sri Lanka’s presumptive war crimes on Thursday and endorsed its statement requesting the Sri Lanka government to honour UN panel report recommendations.
India is clearly disturbed with this loaded report to the extent that President Rajapaksa himself has doubts on their backing, as reported in the media. Well, they have to be coaxed, but how is an issue with a confused External Affairs Minister who does not know whether to officially respond to the UN Panel Report, or not, or how. In Colombo, Anandasangaree from the ranks of Tamil affiliations with the Rajapaksas, wants the government to face up to these accusations and absolve itself from all charges.
Complications for the Rajapaksa government don’t seem to stop just there. Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN in NY, Palitha Kohona who was reported by Andrew Buncombe of The Independent a British daily, on May 20, 2009 as one who sent text messages from his mobile on how two LTTE seniors with a few others should surrender, is accused of complicity in war crimes in a case filed with the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. An adopted Aussie, he is a citizen of a country that had signed the Rome Statutes. This case if taken up by the ICC, would drag Vijay Nambiar, Chief of Staff to UN SG Ban Ki-moon to serious complicity, who according to Marie Colvin of the British Sunday Times of May 24, 2009 had told her over the phone from Colombo on May 18 morning around 5.30 am local time, President Rajapaksa had assured him, the surrendering Tiger leaders would be safe and his presence therefore at the surrender was not necessary. Neither Kohona nor Nambiar had contradicted or corrected those news reports to date. And this case if taken up, would also implicate all others who were constitutionally and command-wise, on top of the war.
Completing that jigsaw, a group of Tamil people in Norway it is reported, has sought permission to indict President Rajapaksa, Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka for their role in the May 2009 concluded war. Filed under Norwegian national law for the Chief Prosecutor to accept submissions, the report says Norwegian Minister Erik Solheim, has also been cited as one in the know of the “white flag surrender” incident.
What is the game plan of the Rajapaksas in facing this slowly but gradually swelling tide against Sri Lanka, or do they have one at all ? The political reality is, there is nothing certain with the two super powers, Russia and China. Having already registered their dislike in how this regime treats UN and international agencies, they have also in the past proved their uncertainty on commitments. Sudan and Libya are paying for that. It would be unwise today to think, we are strangely more important than Gaddafi and petroleum. Russia and China dropped Libya and would they keep Rajapaksa? And for what?
Those in this regime doesn’t seem to know the difference between handling complex international relations and treating foreign tourists on the Tangalle beach. This regime, certainly runs around with no strategic plan as to how it could meet international pressure and an extremely committed and stubborn Tamil Diaspora that is not necessarily ‘pro LTTE’, but ‘anti Rajapaksa’ for sure. For the Tamil people, there is good reason to be angry and feel jilted. It is the very ordinary Tamil ‘non vote’ on Prabhakaran’s dictates that brought this Rajapaksa regime to power in 2005 November, while 4.7 million in the South voted against Rajapaksa.
That being a bloody political blunder by the LTTE, this regime has no other reason to believe it has all the luck to continue with its petty scheming. It is petty too to believe, the international community and other agencies, more so the Tamil Diaspora would take it that this government is hell bent on having the Northern people resettled and rehabilitated at break neck speed. That the international community would believe Prof. Peiris when he says, the Advisory Panel Report would hamper government’s “reconciliation and peace efforts”. Its naïve to think the international community is deaf, dumb and blind to all the security restrictions, to all militarisation and violation of rights on the ground. Would they, the Diaspora included, not know that the Economic Development Ministry could construct what ever it has funds for, but would be put to good use, only if the Defence Ministry agrees ? Would they believe it is despite the sincerity of the Rajapaksa regime that 50,000 houses pledged by Delhi are still on paper, running close to an year ? Would not those international networks also know, how signatures for the government sponsored petition against the UN panel report were collected in the North ?
With such routine addictions, lets not feel ‘lion happy’ keeping the TNA guessing and the international community waiting for political answers. Information flow is not just two way, but four way and beyond, in this world of competitive politics. It is a fact known to all who want to know, that full implementation of the 13th Amendment with police and land powers, even if promised by the President, would not go beyond his own Defence Ministry. These issues cannot be swept under the carpet with contradictory statements by confused politicians.
There is a fundamental flaw, not in the UN panel report, but in how this government feels it could handle this report. There is no way, the ground truth could be subverted to suit the political fancies of this regime, any more. Loud screaming about Western conspiracies, about traitors, on new suicide squads to protect President Rajapaksa, fake claims on reconciliation and peace, full page, heavily paid media advertisements by quacks; well…… can they mute the cold truth on the ground ? That truth is very clearly heard by those who want to know the truth and not by those who don’t want to tell them. That truth demands justice and decency over biased administrative regulations, this regime tries to find answers from.
The Rajapaksa troika needs to accept this simple truth. They’ve got to be honest at least to themselves. President Rajapaksa needs to sideline political clowns, to have sensible and practical advice with accurate information. The two ministerial failures who suffocated the 2002 – 2003 peace negotiations, will not be any patch to this more serious and complicated issue with an international face and a local soul.
This Rajapaksa regime, even for their own selfish survival, needs to have just one single, honestly briefed political stand in reaching out to the requests of the international community and to answer democratic needs of the Lankan society. That is not what the world sees in this regime. This regime for now as the world outside sees it, is a confused pack of political ‘Jacks and Jokers’ with no answers for its own problems. And that may leave paal soru instead of kiribath on the table, when finally, celebrations are called for. With racist politics, those who read obituaries loud with passion, do not linger long with those who did the killing for them.