UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki Moon’s speech at the Bandaranayake International Memorial Conference Hall (BMICH) in Colombo to citizens of the South of Sri-Lanka showed that he has revived his Eastern wisdom. He tactfully told the audience that Sri-Lanka was responsible for part of the war crimes that was committed in the past. The crimes against the minorities reached the zenith under Mr Mahinda Rajapakse and lay defence secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse his brother. Plenty of reports worldwide, particularly award winning journalist MrCallum Macrae’s Channel 4 Video “Killing Fields of Sri-Lanka” exposes this defended truth.
Mr Callum Macrae
Mr Ban Ki Mun used Shakespearian character Mark Antony’s art of using rhetorical irony to tell the audience that Sri-Lanka must do justice to the war crimes committed in the May 2009 war with the LTTE. This is what he said “Sri Lanka has taught us many important lessons”, He continued. “We have learned. The United Nations, I am not talking about you”. He purposely put the blame on the UN.
But when he was sure there was no adverse reaction from the audience he slowly put some blame on the Sri Lankan government for being the perpetrators of crime. Here is how he insinuated the Sri Lankan government. “You also made serious problems among your people”. He softened the accusation with a repetition of what he has already told the world in the UN. “But United Nations, particularly during the critically important last several months, we made big mistakes. We learned very hard lessons”. This is diplomacy. One has to keep in mind that Mr.Ban Ki Mun was a diplomat first and a Secretary General of the UN afterwards. He explicitly said UN failed in Sri-Lanka during the war with the LTTE in 2009. Everybody knows now the much guarded secret that UN failed in Sri-Lanka in preventing war crimes. He bearded the lion in his own den-metaphorically also true.
The audience was spellbound. They were awe struck to find that UN found Sri-Lanka committed war crimes direct from the horse’s mouth as it were. The listeners in the hall even failed to clap him when he praised Sri-Lanka for sending efficient civil servant like Ms Radika Cumaraswamy to the UN. Mr Mun had to openly ask the audience to clap when praise was being given to Sri-Lanka.
Mr.Ban did not tell the audience anything new. Mr. Charles Petrie’s (a human rights activist and lawyer working in the UN) report of 14 November 2012 had found out that UN mechanism of protecting civilians in war zones failed in Sri-Lanka and as a result about 70000-100000 civilians died in the war “without witnesses”. In line with Mr.Ban’s approach towards transparency and accountability at the United Nations, the report had been made public. Had UN stayed without withdrawing from the war zone the war would have had eye witnesses and those who transgressed war laws would have been prosecuted easily. Sir John Holmes a UK/UN civil servant who functioned as the then UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, told media “They were not going to let anybody stop them do that (finishing off the Tigers). Either the international community, the media or the fear of humanitarian issues of civilian casualties. And that’s the way it worked out.” Knowing all these secrets/intelligence of the war the UN/UNHRC asked a majority of their staff to withdraw from Kilinochchithe main arena/theatre of the war. The reason, they said, was they could no longer guarantee their safety. In the understanding of Pulitzercentre the real reason was far less honourable: They did not want any witnesses to what was coming during the criminal war.
Mr Ban Ki Mun visited Sri-Lanka for the first time in May 2009 immediately after the May 19 genocide of Tamils in Mullivaikal when according to him ‘all dust of war have settled’. The dust from all thermobaric and cluster bombs did settle by then so too were the shell from multi-barrel guns and aerial bombs and artillery fire did quieten leaving more than 200000 Tamils dead as a dodo, 90000 women widowed and 40000 crippled and 70000 children orphaned. Their homeland Vanni was scorched earth. Having had an aerial view of the Tamil Homeland and the last place of inferno in the war-Mullivikal. Mr Mun’s conscience was true to reality and he told the reporters thus “I have travelled around the world and visited similar places, but [these are] by far the most appalling scenes I have seen.”
During that visit he made a joint statement with the President at that time Mr Mahinda Rajapakse, who was also the commander of all three armed forces that a full investigation into all allegation of war crimes would have to be investigated. This joint statement is in public domain and can be easily accessed in the UN web site.
The Sri-Lankan government did not make much progress since then. The victims of the war are still suffering without a place to live, with a massive army controlling them (1 army personal to every 5 civilians). Life to the Tamil civilian is a hell under army repression. Please see Ms Anuradha Mittal Oakland Institute report in web http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/srilanka.
In a meeting with a senior Sri Lanka Government official in October 2012, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the need for to find a speedy political solution to the underlying factors behind the country’s civil war that ended three years ago (May 2009) with a Government victory over Tamil separatist rebels.
Now Mr Ban Ki Mun had come to Sri-Lanka after 7 years for a second time during his eve of relinquishing the post of SG by end of this year. From his speech we could see that he was a disappointed man with Sri-Lanka. Sri-Lanka had ducked the issue of giving remedial justice to the victims of war and other recommendation embodied in the latest UNHRC resolution 30/1that was co-sponsored by Sri-Lanka in In September 2015 with the US. Sri-Lanka is slow peddling to implement fully even the recommendation of its own LLRC recommendations that was a Mahinda Rajapakse hoodwinking initiative. Now this government had also refused for an International or a hybrid investigation into the war crimes that was agreed upon by Sri-Lanka. Where are we heading? Are we heading for a repetition of war crimes ‘again and again’ as parroted by Mr Mun. Will his conscience be stirred once again and condemn those regimes that refuse to comply with UN’s resolutions and motions?
I wish to remind MR Ban Ki Mun that all pogroms that have happened in Sri-Lanka since independence seems to be state involved. The army and the successive governments had been accused by Tamil organisations and some NGOs of war crimes in Sri Lanka. These had taken place over a period of time involving several premeditated steps and concealed strategies. This includes organized attacks and destruction of essential foundations of human life common to all civilized human societies. Tamils civilian life was disturbed frequently by unannounced shelling, curfew, and cordoning off and searching and arresting people. All these human rights violations have to be stopped.
UN had progressed so far in its mission on having an International Inquiry into the war crimes of 2009. There are only a few more steps and hurdles to go to finally nail the war criminals and to deliver justice to the Tamils, with a political solution that can guaranteethem a life of safety and security in their own Traditional homeland devoid of threat of further holocaust.
Tamil minorities claim the Northern and Eastern districts of Sri-Lanka to be their recorded Traditional Homeland. Archaeological evidences are still available in Sri-Lanka although it was reported in the Tamil press that some archaeological materials unearthed had been purposely destroyed by vested interest to wipe out evidence of proof. Wikipedia says “Evidence of a settlement of people with burial practices similar to that found in the Tamil Nadu region in India and further North was excavated at megalithic burial sites at Pomparippu in the western coast and inKathiraveli in the eastern coast. These are dated between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD”.
The final proposal, an International Investigation now under discussion with Sri-Lanka offers the finest opportunity to net all the war criminals involved and to provide a fool proof political solution. If the Sri Lankan regime fail to respond respectably there are many options open now to Mr Ban Ki Mun as voiced by international Human Rights lawyers and legal professionals eg. Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a former UN appeal judge and the author of Crimes Against Humanity, and Professor Boyle of USA.
Additionally, the UN must investigate the key players who were involved on behalf of UN in Sri-Lanka particularly Mr VijeNambiar whose brother Mr SatishNambiar was a consultant of some sort to Sri-Lanka. The latter is also a friend of Mr Chatterjee the son in law of Mr Ban Ki Mun and a high ranker in the Indian army. In August 2016 Mr Ban’s son-in-law – Mr.Siddharth Chatterjee, has been appointed United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya where he will lead and coordinate 25 UN agencies in the country. He will also serve as the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Is it a case of kissing going by favour? Nepotism!
The US also should explore the part played by former ambassador Mr Robbie Blake who is alleged to be a friend of the ex-President Mr Mahinda Rajapakse who is now an ordinary back bench MP. Infected apples are usually separated from good apples to prevent the spread of decay. Similarly any corrupt high ranking officers involved in unofficial activities should be named and shamed. Suspicions had been raised in the press that they may be partners in war crimes.
It is very unfortunate that the UN threw out the fearless journalist Mr Russell Mathew Lee of Inner City Press Lee was prohibited from future UN press briefings.
He is an investigative journalist par excellence who meticulously followed human rights violations in Sri-Lanka and indefatigably questioned every slip made by the UN onwar crimes. No one knows if power politics was a cause for his ousting?
Dr C P Thiagarajah a retired medical practitioner from Sri-Lanka, now residing in the United Kingdom. He is a human rights activist and an English poetry writer. He can be reached at [email protected]