ISSN 2330-717X

Sri Lanka: Crisis Of Credibility – Analysis

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By Srideep Biswas

On the model of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at the end of three decades of civil war, appointed a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) on May 15, 2010, to examine the events covering the period between February 21, 2002, and May 19, 2009, and their attendant concerns and issues, and to recommend measures to ensure that there would be no recurrence of such strife.

The mandate of the eight member Commission, headed by former Attorney General C. R. De Silva as Chairman, was to inquire and report on the following matters over the period defined:

  • The facts and circumstances which led to the failure of the cease-fire agreement operationalized on February 21, 2002, and the sequence of events that followed thereafter, up May 19, 2009;
  • Whether any person, group or institution directly or indirectly bore responsibility in this regard;
  • The lessons that could be learnt from those events and their attendant concerns, in order to ensure that there would be no recurrence;
  • The methodology whereby restitution to any person affected by those events or their dependants or their heirs, can be affected;
  • The institutional administrative and legislative measured which was needed in order to prevent any recurrence of such concerns in the future, and to promote further national unity and reconciliation among all communities, and to make any such other recommendations with reference to any of the matters that have been inquired into under the terms of the Warrant.

The LLRC had been constituted after rejecting calls for an international probe into the killing of thousands of Tamils in the final stages of the civil war and the refusal to allow the United Nations Panel of Experts entry into Sri Lanka. Backing the Commission, the Government argued that the LLRC, made up of Sri Lankan veterans, with a broad mix of local and international experience, had the advantage of “home-turf” and had the ability to conduct business in Sinhala, Tamil and English, to reach out to the people directly and hear testimony from former combatants in prisons, detention centers and rehabilitation camps. Further, it was argued, the UN-appointed Panel ran the risk of widening the split between the Tamil Diaspora and Tamils back home.

Sri Lankan authorities were, in fact, never ambiguous about their apathy towards the UN’s stand on the Eelam War. Former Peace Secretariat Chief and United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Member of Parliament Rajiva Wijesinha, after his testimony before the LLRC, for instance, told the media that a thorough inquiry was needed to establish the amount of funds received by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) through various UN agencies. Giving credence to the allegation, according to Wikileaks, former US Ambassador in Colombo Robert Blake, in a classified diplomatic cable sent on June 12, 2007, had explained that LTTE’s fund-raising operations targeted foreign donors, including UN agencies. In the missive captioned “Sri Lanka: Tamil Tigers siphon off part of international relief funds”, Blake had discussed how the LTTE forced UN agencies (UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP) to work with its front organization.

The Government’s strong rejection of any UN or international probe into alleged war crimes was, consequently, understandable. Nevertheless, international pressure has induced the Government to conduct its own probe into the ethnic conflict. President Rajapaksa, on March 25, 2011, declared that his Government would study the findings of the LLRC and conduct its own investigations where necessary.

Unsurprisingly, international agencies have sought to undermine the LLRC’s credibility from the moment of its announcement. A major attack on the Commission came in the form of a letter dated October 14, 2010, jointly undersigned by the heads of three international NGOs. The signatories, Louise Arbour, Kenneth Roth and Salil Shetty, on behalf of London-based Amnesty International (AI), Brussels-based International Crisis Group and New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), respectively, refused an invitation of the Sri Lankan Government to make representations before the LLRC and unambiguously articulated their dissatisfaction with the Commission. Describing the LLRC as a “fundamentally flawed Commission” the letter claimed that accountability for war crimes in Sri Lanka demanded an independent international investigation, instead of the LLRC, many of whose members were retired senior Government employees and therefore pro-Government.

Another blow to the LLRC came on March 1, 2011, when the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution commending the UN Secretary General (UNSG) for appointing a panel to advise UNSG on Sri Lanka’s human rights accountability and calling “on the Government of Sri Lanka, the international community, and the United Nations to establish an independent international accountability mechanism to look into reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other human rights violations committed by both sides during and after the war in Sri Lanka and to make recommendations regarding accountability.”

Though the resolution was diplomatic enough in its content and did not frame any direct allegations or doubts regarding the conduct of Sri Lankan authorities, the implicit message was far from ambiguous. The reaction was almost instantaneous. On March 4, 2011, Sri Lanka’s Ministry of External Affairs released an official statement noting:

It is well known that motivated groups do target influential bodies such as the Senate of the United States, with a view to persuade those entities to adopt ill-founded positions. It is therefore important that an equal opportunity should be afforded for alternate and more legitimate points of view to be heard, before a conclusion is reached… It is therefore all the more unfortunate that those who framed the text of the Resolution have overlooked the capacity and strong track record of the LLRC as a domestic mechanism, to work for reconciliation and the further strengthening of national amity.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Diaspora, among whom the pro-LTTE sentiment has always been high, has continuously criticized the LLRC through the media, particularly in controlled publications. Accusing the Rajapaksa regime of butchering innocent Tamils in the name of the war against LTTE militants, the Tamil Mirror, for instance, questioned the very legitimacy of the Commission appointed by the President:

One could ask him or herself how it is possible to seek justice from the butcher for killing animals. The butcher would have his own story. The animals, which are already dead, leave only the witnesses to seek justice from the investigation commission appointed by the butcher. How it is possible to get justice from this commission? This concept applies to the… Commission set up by Rajapaksa and the Tamils who are the victims of the genocidal war.

The Commission has, moreover, become embroiled in domestic politics as well. On March 25, 2011, the leader of the United National Party (UNP), Sri Lanka’s main Opposition party, Ranil Wickremasinghe decided not to testify before the LLRC. UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake attributed this decision to LLRC’s lack of interest in fulfilling its stated purpose of reuniting the communities and finding a solution to the problems faced by the people. Most analysts, however, believe the move was provoked by fears that the LLRC would be used as a tool to discredit Wickremasinghe, as he had signed the cease-fire agreement with the LTTE in 2002, an initiative that has long been criticized by Rajapaksa as having conceded too much to the rebels.

The Commission, meanwhile, has completed recording testimonies and is to submit its final report on May 15, 2011. With the sustained international and domestic campaign against the Commission, however, it is unlikely that its findings will take the process of reconciliation and political resolution significantly forward.

Srideep Biswas
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management


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SATP

SATP

SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

16 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: Crisis Of Credibility – Analysis

  • April 11, 2011 at 2:53 pm
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    LLRC should be looked into in conjunction with;

    – Other several failed commissions appointed by Sri Lankan administration on the killing of Trincomalee students, killing of Tamil inmates in prisons and several ethnic riots unleashed on minorities since 1958. The track record of the Sri Lankan military was evident when they were expelled from Haiti for sexual assaults on local women. It is not something new to investigate

    – LLRC investigations are conducted under military governorship in the regions and emergency laws still intact.

    – Sri Lankan majority population members of the civil societies have no confidence in LLRC. Only the officials perpetuating nationalism and dictatorship in Sri Lanka have crocodile hopes.

    – alleged war criminal met the UN advisory Panel last week (The Sunday Leader, April 10, 2011)

    This should form the basis and credentials.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  • April 11, 2011 at 3:25 pm
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    ”With the sustained international and domestic campaign against the Commission, however, it is unlikely that its findings will take the process of reconciliation and political resolution significantly forward” ??
    The Commission should do what it is meant to do, irrespective of others’ misunderstanding about it.

    Reply
    • April 11, 2011 at 4:59 pm
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      Eureka,

      ‘The Commission should do what it is meant to do, irrespective of others’ misunderstanding about it.’

      Everybody knows what it is meant to do.
      Why waste ink in your pe??

      Reply
      • April 13, 2011 at 6:11 am
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        You are right. As any commission in Sri Lanka it has been told what it should. So it would do as it was told. If they don’t they all we be gone missing and we may need another commission to find out where they have gone .We all know this. We have seen many commissions like this.

        Reply
  • April 11, 2011 at 3:35 pm
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    Intention of LLRC is suspect when it was reported that it had gone to the Buddhist prelates for ”guidance” before it prepares its report(lakbimenews, 3 April 2011) !!

    Reply
  • April 11, 2011 at 9:56 pm
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    Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have opposed the LLRC because of their sympathies to the Tamil Tigers. During the cease fire these NGOs were front and centre trying to curry favour from Prabakaran and the LTTE. Any prolonged war – regardless of the fact that 80,000 had perished, and most of them due to the brutality of the Tamil Tigers – were to the benefit of these NGOs. They desperately wanted to carve out another South Sudan, but failed miserably.

    The fact that these organizations dismiss the atrocities of the Tigers, is evidence of their bias. The Tigers were the ones who used close to 300,000 of thier own people hostage, so that they could get the international community to come and help them. Prabakaran was trying his level best to escape with his family, up until the last moment possible. This struggle was entirely motivated by the blood thirsty megalomania of Prabakaran and nothing more.

    HRW, AI and the other NGO sycophants of the LTTE of course do not see it that way. They rather have the majority Sinhalese and everybody else in Sri Lanka suffer, rather than put an end to the murderous regime of Prabakaran.

    Reply
    • April 12, 2011 at 2:10 pm
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      @Ulysses,
      No wonder how the squandered Tsunami fund works to slander human rights organizations and NGOs and perpetuate lies in favour of a dictatorship.

      History tells us Hitler had many guys like you.
      I am waiting for the day you become a Moussa Koussa one day.

      Reply
      • April 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm
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        You LTTE terrorists will be caught soon! LTTE terrorist genocidal maniacs massacred over 1 million innocent Sinhalese! LTTE terrorists were brutally crushed which was what they deserved and thank god we all in Colombo are living happily forever! LTTE terrorists are the war criminals and there is no doubt about it!

        Reply
  • April 12, 2011 at 3:05 am
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    When a nation lacks credibility there can be no meaning in any commission contract, constitution or anything that matters. Sri Lanka has had this culture of paying total disregard to standard norms and behavior expected of a country for long long time. The life in Sri Lanka revolves around how accepted rules regulations laws practices etc can be cleverly sidelined manipulated and camouflaged. LLRC is one such tools of many which has been created to hoodwink the international and some local communities. Everybody including the president and the members know about this. It is a waste of time to take notice of that seriously. The president has told that “nobody died in the war” – That is how much Sri Lankan credibilty is.It want surprise me if the LLRC finds thousands of innocent civilian including children old men pregnant women some even not born at that time guilty of committing serious crimes that resulted in their death and at the same time praising the criminals who committed the crimes as true heroes.. They are such a bunch of jokers

    Reply
  • April 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm
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    The LLRC is neither for truth nor for reconciliation! It is a farcical body appointed by the No.1 war criminal suspect to sidetrack and deflect attention away from the call for an International Commission to investigate end of war serious crimes by both sides of the race and religious conflict. In any case the public will never get to see its final report, like all other commission reports after 1975 under Emergency Regulations which exist to cover up gross crimes against the people by the state. It’s a waste of public funds and people’s time! What can you expect from the former Attorney General, the Chairman, who was found seriously wanting by the International Panel of 10 experts(no less) under the IIEA Commission appointed by the same President as result of which that Commission self-aborted. Another abortion is in the offing. Only self delusional people will pay any heed to the LLRC.

    Reply
  • April 12, 2011 at 3:33 pm
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    Mr. Bizwas,

    What about your Farsi Nation Congress and Vijay Nambiar?

    They were holding Tamil Nadu and Western nations from protecting 125, 000 innocent Tamil civilians.

    Farsi National Congress even gave 2 billion dollars in war funding and 2 warships and several hundred Indian military officers to support the genocide.

    We know the truth Mr. Bizwas!

    Reply
  • April 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm
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    LTTE TERROR supporters must first press their white masters UK and USA to be sent to the war crimes tribunal for massacring millions of Iraqis, Pakistanis, Afghanis and now Libyans! Instead these Tamil terrorists are licking their white master’s boots begging for help as they just cant fight on their own! Obama and Cameron must face prosecution for all atrocities in Afghanistan and Libya!

    Reply
    • April 13, 2011 at 6:17 am
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      I dont know why you did not bring in the Blue or pink or red masters here. There is no white murder and a black murder. Any murder should be punished. If you have not commited any you dont have to worry. Sri Lanka is full of this. Keep up your true Sri Lankan language- the language of terror and genocide.

      Reply
  • April 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm
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    Tamil terrorism is a billion times worse than Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorism! Worse barbaric terrorist of humanity is Velupillai Prabhakaran who is thankfully dead now!

    Reply
    • April 13, 2011 at 6:20 am
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      Sri Lankan terrorism is bigger than all of these put together. Unfortunately all Sri Lankan terrorist are still alive and thriving in terrorism. The world should be very careful of this and rehabilitate them soon before it is too late

      Reply
  • April 15, 2011 at 12:06 pm
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    There was a time when the mantra was ‘Terrorism cannot be defeated militarily’.

    That was until the ‘Sri Lankan Solution’ was tested…and proven effective.

    Today there is no Tamil Terror in Sri Lanka. Take a walk on the streets and see what’s missing – fear.. Fear of Tamil terrorists who kill indiscriminately. Now they are all gone..Bye Bye..and good riddance.

    But the rage remains. The defeated, defanged and deranged are growling in their dark corners and seeking to bribe and squirm their way into the pocket books of slimy western bureucrats.

    No matter what they try to do, the deed is done, and history created. A history which necessitates re-thinking and re-writing military strategy; terrorism can and must be defeated militarily.

    The world had better quickly learn how.
    Because now the whole world is infested with Tamil terrorists.

    Reply

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