ISSN 2330-717X

Sri Lanka: Report Of UN Panel And Rajapakse Under Siege – Analysis


By Dr. Kumar David

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune have buffeted the Sri Lankan Government (GoSL) of President Mahinda Rajapakse with a suddenness and intensity that has left it reeling. A few weeks ago the US State Department released its Human Rights Report which was scathing in its findings of gross violations of both human and democratic rights in the Sinhalese South, the Tamil North and Vannie, and the ethnically mixed Eastern Province. Then came the real bombshell, the report of the UN Panel appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The most damning findings in the report are summarised in one sentence (the third) in the Executive Summary, viz:

“. . (T)he Panel found credible allegations, which if proven, indicate that a wide range of serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law were committed both by the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, some of which would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Indeed, the conduct of the war represented a grave assault on the entire regime of international law designed to protect individual dignity during both war and peace”.

The reference to LTTE leaders is but posthumous; however the leaders of the war on the side of the state, Mahinda and Gothabaya Rajapakse and General Sarath Fonseka, are very much alive, though the last named is a guest of the Superintendent of Prisons thanks to his conflicts with the other two. The integrity and independence of the three members of the panel, Marzuki Darusman (former Indonesian Attorney General), Yasmin Sooka (former commissioner of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission); and Steven Ratner (US academic) are not questioned by anyone except hard apologists for GoSL. Notwithstanding its crimes the now defunct LTTE is not going to be in the dock. The response of Colombo to the Panel report and the events that will follow, regardless of where they lead, ensures that Colombo will be the focus of attention of the world insofar as repression, HR violations and war crimes go. What happened in April 2011 makes it inevitable that the rest of the world will see Colombo and only Colombo as culpable. This scenario is a game changer.

Defiance in depth

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa
Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa

GoSL is not going to curl up and play dead; it is accustomed to artifice, defiance and tactical dissimulation which have served it well for the last six years and it is already mobilising its stratagems in defence. The success of the regime in thumbing its nose at the world is in part a gift from the international community, particularly Delhi which has played dumb, if not quite brain dead and let Colombo get away with this (nothing in the Panel Report is news to Delhi) and renege on a string of promises on a much rumoured political settlement of the national question. An interesting question is how much further Delhi, Beijing and Moscow can go in protecting GoSL? What rationalisation can the proffer? It is difficult for these patrons to echo the shrill voice of Colombo and assert that the findings of the Panel are fabrications worked out in cahoots with the LTTE rump in the diaspora. Nonetheless, since nothing is impossible in this age of Goblesian disinformation by state actors one will have to wait and see how the cookie crumbles. Still, this is a hard one, and GoSL’s primary champions India, China and Russia may retreat somewhat to the sidelines.

Sensing international isolation GoSL is preparing a diplomatic offensive sending delegations led by retired senior civil servants to “neutral” capitals. There are two lines they can opt for: (a) the findings of the report are pure fabrications, or (b) terrible things did happen but were an unavoidable consequence of fighting a ruthless enemy under painful circumstances. The more intelligent defence would have been (b), whether true or false – one can quote Hiroshima, or the fire bombing of Dresdenmand Berlin, or Kashmir, or the Maoist red belt in India, can’t one – but GoSL has shot itself in the foot by its previous stance. President Rajapakse is on record that not a single civilian was killed by the military in the Vannie, that there was nil bombing or artillery shelling of civilian zones, and there is zero state involvement in the 50 or so journalists abducted or murdered. Having said this to win support locally, it becomes imperative for GoSL to assert defence (a) in the main, supplemented by (b). With this methodology GoSL will have considerable difficulty sustaining international credibility. Either the rest of the world – or at least the North Atlantic nations – have gone collectively mad, or something is rotten with the state in Lanka; this dissonance cannot survive long given economic dependence and a thousand strings and the umbilical cord binding Lanka to the countries of the Anglophone West.

GoSL will then have to turn to whipping up support internally by mobilising emotions at home to make up for a possible shortfall in international sustenance. The President has issued a call to make May Day 2011 a day of defiance against the UN Panel and for sure there will be a substantial response from the Sinhalese community which sees the war as a struggle against terrorism and counts the victory as a great triumph against a historical enemy achieved by a heroic army. The community cannot therefore psychologically countenance the possibility that the government or the armed forces engaged in war crimes or crimes against humanity.

It is of vital importance to watch to what degree irrational emotions are whipped up in the coming weeks. The UN has issued a warning to GoSL to guarantee the safety of its staff; excessesagainst minorities or foreigners could become flashpoints. Obviously government leaders don’t want this but emotions on the street once ignited are difficult to control. Lanka has a cabinet minister who led an attack on the UN Headquarters in Colombo some months ago and another who tied a public servant to a tree for dereliction of duty; these are not ordinary times. A worst case scenario that one must hope GoSL will have the sense to avoid is the exacerbation of xenophobic ultra nationalism. It would be helpful if Indian public opinion speaks up at an early stage to discourage such trends.

Rational voices

It is heartening that strong voices have been raised in Sri Lanka against irrational behaviour and emotional outbursts. The most important objection has come from the trade union movement refusing to acquiesce in the government’s bid to “hijack” May Day, workers day, for political ends. The trade unions of the LSSP and CP (both member parties in the government) have insisted that there are more important issues facing the working class such as the pro-IMF economic policy. M.S. Rasdeen leader of the LSSP’s largest private sector union, the Ceylon Federation of Labour, has gone public expressing his dissent with the plan to use May Day as a day of defiance aimed at the UN.

Anik Pittuwa (The Other Page) a monthly supplement issued with the pro-left Ravaya newspaper by a group which includes the leading figures of the LSSP left-tendency made a statement in their May Day issue which, in rough translation reads as follows.

“The findings of the report released by Ban Ki-moon’s investigation panel are shocking to any right minded person. Although most of these allegations were known before and the Tamils have been insisting in private that they are true, their endorsement by an international panel is a matter for further dismay. The government is seeking to use the report to drive the country further down an ultra nationalist path. The Report is equally critical of both sides to the conflict since it is as scathing about the war crimes of the Tigers as it is about the behaviour of the state’s forces. This state of shock and disbelief in Sri Lanka is not unusual; to this day the Japanese people are in psychological denial of the massacres and brutality of the Japanese Army against civilians in China and SE Asia. Most Americans still hide from the truth about the carpet bombing of civilians in Laos and Vietnam that left tens of thousands dead and maimed. Serbians and Croatians are bitter about the war crimes of the other side but cannot accept that their own forces acted similarly”.

“It is necessary now for Sri Lankans to remain calm and to consider with a clear mind all the evidence in the report, the government’s denials, and the large amount of other material that is now surfacing. Right understanding is what we need; it is a precept of the Noble Eightfold path. People must not allow themselves to be incited to irrational emotions, or to rash acts against minorities, foreigners, the United Nations, journalists who criticise the government, or the political opposition”.

It is also encouraging that the JVP, although it was a shrill champion of the war is now holding fast to its new role as the strongest opponent of the government and a campaigner fordemocracy. It is pleased by the embarrassment of the Rajapkse brothers and has adopted a conciliatory tone towards the Panel report. Interestingly the part of the Report it has sought to highlight is the criticism of the UN itself for failure to act during the war and to contain humanitarian disasters in late 2008,the first months of 2009 and thereafter. Here is another extract from the Reports Executive Summary.

“During the final stages of the war, the United Nations political organs and bodies failed to take actions that might have protected civilians. Moreover, although senior international officials advocated in public and in private with the Government that it protect civilians and stop the shelling of hospitals and United Nations or ICRC locations, in the Panel’s view, the public use of casualty figures would have strengthened the call for the protection of civilians while those events in the Vanni were unfolding. In addition, following the end of war, the Human Rights Council may have been acting on incomplete information when it passed its May 2009 resolution on Sri Lanka”.

This stricture of course is also applicable to India, China and other supporters of GoSL in the UN Human Rights Council though in the case of India it would be far fetched to suggest that it was not fully aware of what was going on in the Vanni.


SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.

24 thoughts on “Sri Lanka: Report Of UN Panel And Rajapakse Under Siege – Analysis

  • April 24, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Thank you Dr. Kumar David,

    With the media and peace activists kicked out from the conflict zone, UN report is the least possible outcome of the actual events

    01. As the need for humanitarian assistance rose, it was increasingly restricted by the Government. Attempts to broker a political settlement-or even a sufficient respite in the fighting to enable the civilians to reach safety-foundred.

    84. In the early morning hours of 24 January, hundreds of shells rained down in the NFZ. Those with access to the United Nations bunker dove into it for protection, but most IDPs did not have bunkers and had nowhere to seek cover. People were screaming and crying out for help

    101. Satellite images in Annex 3 show that SLA artillery batteries were constantly adjusted to increasingly target the NFZs. The LTTE had fewer heavy wepons left and less space to fire them from.

    118. Due to the lack of space in the third NFZ civilians had nowhere to hide from the shelling which was coming in from all sides. Shells rained down everywhere and bullets whizzed through the air. Many died and were buried under their bunkers or shelters, without their deaths being recorderd. Black smoke and the stench of dead bodies filled the air. Some people begged food for their starving children or for help for the wounded or dying, The scene was described as reminiscent of hell.

    169. There are allegations that the SLA used cluster bomb munitions or white phosphorus or other chemical substances against civilians

    • April 26, 2011 at 7:40 am

      The war is finished but we have not achieved peace nor the solution to the ethnic conflict. we are not reconciled nor are we moving forward. Mr President; what you couldnt do please let the UN do for us. Since our judiciary is politicized and not indipendant we need an international mechanism that will have credibility if true reconcilation and lasting peace is to be achieved.

  • April 24, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Tamils are new comers to the country like the muslims in Europe who came few decades ago. Now suddenly they wanted a separate state.

    • April 25, 2011 at 9:52 am

      As you said Tamila are new comers to the country, could you say when did they came.

    • April 26, 2011 at 9:23 pm

      I suggest that you go and read your history. The Tamils have a historic right to the land just like lord Buddha who came from India. Grow up.Question for you 1) Where did prince Vijaya come from? 2)Where did Buddism originate from? The answer to these 2 questions will give you a good idea where you come from.

      • October 17, 2011 at 5:05 am


        Seems like you have only read the third chapter of SL history. Your correct that Vijaya came from India to SL thousands years ago. That was the beginning of Sri Lanka’s ruination.

        Before Vijaya’s arrival Sinhalese were the BoomiPuthra (owners of the land) from inception. Sinhalese are people from Sinhabahu not from an Indian hooligan. Vijaya is thug exiled from his father a Indian king.

        We Sinhalese have a far larger history before first Indian came to our paradise island.

  • April 25, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Who are you Frank?

    Suddenly, you are becoming a maniac like your ally Gaddhafi

    • April 25, 2011 at 6:52 am

      yes Frank you are correct!! They were fighting for a land that was not belog to them!

      • April 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm

        like muslim fight for pakistan in india wich doesnt belongs to muslim right?

      • April 27, 2011 at 7:04 pm

        the truth is tamils are living in srilanka long before singalies came from india because of this kind of arquement tamils endup fighting for home land if you don’t know the histary of srilanka please go and read the real histary book before come up with this kind of coment

  • April 25, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Dont forget we are all descendent’s of Vijaya.Who are we?? What every may be the language we are all human whose blood is the same colour.Why should we fight if there is equality,justice and impartiality.
    It is because of power hunger

  • April 25, 2011 at 10:35 am

    Is Frank another Sinhala Modaya? Is Frank trying to rewrite the history?

    It looks to me that the Sinhala are a peculiar race as most write in support of the alleged war criminal regime including educated people for them “rape, torture and mass murders’ is “reconciliation”.

  • April 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Tamils have been in Sri Lanka for thousands of years. In fact, considering that Sri Lanka is closer to South India than Orissa, where Vijaya and his clan came from, it is far more than likely that people 20 kms away over the palk strait got here first than people who came from 1000 kms away! But who cares about who came first? Everyone is human and everyone should be treated equally. Sri Lankans were largely unaware of what happened towards the end of the conflict and we need to know the truth about what happened to end this nasty conflict. Yes, we wanted to get rid of the LTTE but do we also want innocent blood in our hands?

  • April 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Mahinda Rajapaksa should admit that civilians had been killed and make a public apology to the Tamil people. Further, an independent inquiry into allegations of war crime must be instituted and those found guilty must be brought to justice.

  • April 25, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    You simply dont understand reality in Sri Lanka. There is no ‘Sinhala South’ and ‘Tamil North’.
    The capital Colombo has a high pctg of Tamils and Muslims. Tamils live among the populace throughout the country.
    Consider these facts:
    * Free education is provided in Sinhala, Tamil and English in Sri Lankan schools.
    * All govt signage, forms, etc are available in all 3 languages.
    * State and private TV and Radio stations are available in Tamil.
    * Tamil state and private schools operate in teh capital and other cities.
    * A number of hindu temples exist in colombo and other cities.
    * Colombo had a Tamil Mayor (K Ganeshalingam in late ’90s).
    * A governor of the Central Bank was a Tamil.
    * A well loved cricket Muralidaran is a Tamil.
    * There is significant Tamil/Muslim representation in Parliament.

    These are just a few FACTS to show you more of the real picture.

    The GoSL may not be managing the human rights criticism in the best way internationally, but you simply have to see the commitment to REHABILITATION of former combatants and the facilities provided to IDPs (while grossly inadequate, it was more than you’d expect from a 3rd world country that just came out of war)

    • April 27, 2011 at 1:11 pm

      well said. !! the bottom line is that the LTTE has been wiped out. Now all can live in peace and without fear of bombs or children being kidnapped to fight the never ending dirty war on behalf of a blood thirsty maniac.
      The SL govt should now work hard to generate employment, housing, hospitals, in the north and the east. Bring in true democracy for all Sri Lankans, and promote peace and goodwill among all.

  • April 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    TO AG.
    Let me put the picture clear to you..
    * Constitution which is heart of a nation is not in favour of tamils.
    *Colombo had a mayor,will srilanka ever have a Tamil President?
    *Tamils live largely in Colombo,because Sinhalese army have occupied their homes and taken their land.
    *BBC has radio station in many languages,there are many hindu temples in UK too.What makes Sri Lanka special??

    AG your SO CALLED FACTS indicate the mental attitude of Sinhalese.”Tamil are immigrants,we have provided them with all these facilities,now shut and live”.

    Tamil eelam is the only solution for Tamils if they wish to be alive in Srilanka.Afer all that is our native homeland.

  • April 26, 2011 at 6:06 am

    so kumar david too is a tiger supporter another of those tamil

  • April 26, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Whom to be blamed for the current situation is only the ruling party in Indian Politics none other than Sonia, she and her family made a well planned effort with the help of Indian army eliminated the LTTE, but never bothered about the lakhs of lives at the risk. surely only sonia and her family to be booked for war crimes on tamils in sri lanka

    • April 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm

      Dear sir,
      you are absolutely right, Sonia knows what is happing.indians kept everything under their control.

  • April 27, 2011 at 5:29 am

    By reading your analysis one finds that both the LTTE and Govt of sri lanka hv commited war crimes.
    hence it is not proper to forget the LTTe attocities . KP, KARUNA, PILLAYAN,GEORGE MASTEr and who ever other masters now living in SRI LANKA under govt Patronage must also be brought to book.

  • April 27, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    The Sinhalese government policies since the independent had given no choice but fight for freedom. Until a reasonable political solution is given to Tamil the fight will continue.
    Now the arm forces occupying the Tamil land and homes the time for them to go to their own homes will come soon….the only solution for this problem is Eelam for tamil and srilanka for sinhalese.

  • April 28, 2011 at 9:49 am

    A democratic STATE,should not be run like mafia. The current government is
    Not being subjected to independent Judiciary,Media and Security forces.
    No soul is allowed to point out crimes committed by STATE.
    In the case of it is not only the state can treat Tamils inhumanely but by any Sinhalese .
    A Sinhala Doctor /Army rapes Tamil women and escapes justice.
    Time has come to treat everyone equally and eliminate corruption by politicians and their goons.
    India is a secular country……why not Sri Lanka?
    Democracy is dead when the majority does not treat minorities with respect.

  • April 30, 2011 at 11:12 am

    No civilized person on earth can tolerate the war crimes and genocide of the Rajapakse regime.

    Now the UN Report of Sri Lanka is released, the International community, UN and US must take a decisive action to prevent further human rights abuses and war crimes.

    After the war ended two years ago, the Sri Lankan regime continues to deny access to Journalists, media, NGOs, and Human Rights Groups to the Tamil areas and this regime continues with the policy of Sinhala Racist army oocupation and terrorizing the innocent Tamils.

    Rajapakse is a wounded anumail at present and this regime understands only violence, intimidation, corruption. crimes, rape and murder. Hence, the International Community cannot expect any meaningful solution from this regime.

    India while boasting democratic values, under Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh has collaborated with war crimes against Tamils. North Indian dominated Indian regime is mockery and barbaric and it cannot run India effectively and 2G Scam tells the world that it is a Land of Grafts and political violence.

    The progressive leaders of Tamil Nadu Jeyalalithaa, Dr. Ramadoss, Seeman, Vijekant and others are voicing for equality, freedom, human rights and war crimes investigation in Sri Lanka.

    I am confident that the independence struggle in South India will emerge due to the mockery of Italian Sonia Gandhi and North Indian politicians dirty mentality.

    When South is independent, Eelam is a reality.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *