No UN panel in Afghanistan and Iraq where over a million had died: Rohan Gunaratna

 (Cont. from yesterday)

The UN claims that ‘Mr. Ban has decided that he will respond positively’ to the panel’s recommendation for a review of the UN’s actions regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates during the war. The modality of which is to be determined after consultations with relevant agencies, funds and programs. How concerned are you of such a mechanism coming to place?The UN can conduct its own internal investigations on responding to humanitarian issues. The value of such internal inquiries is to assess how the UN responds across the board, not in one isolated situation. The UN responds differently to countries favoured by the West, for example the UN response to the situation in Bahrain has been questioned by many. But that’s the reality.

 Given the delays in the UN seeking similar mechanisms to bring alleged war crimes by US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan under discussion, is the allegation that the UN exercises double standards fair?

 The UN levelling allegations of war crimes against Sri Lanka in a report is not unique. It is a common challenge faced by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian forces in Chechnya and elsewhere in the caucuses, Pakistani forces in FATA and in Swat, Israeli forces in occupied Palestine, and Indian forces in disputed Kashmir and in its northeast. All these theatres have produced civilian suffering, injuries and deaths. As such, instead of singling out Sri Lanka, Colombo should call the UN to launch an investigation into all on-going major conflict zones especially Iraq and Afghanistan where as a proportion more civilians have been killed by US and British forces. Nobel laureate Mohamed Mustafa ElBarade former Director General of the UN body,  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), [December 1997 to November 2009]  called international criminal investigation of former Bush regime officials for their roles in fomenting the war on Iraq. Over a million civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fighting is still continuing.  Nonetheless, human rights have become a political instrument used by Western and other nations to pressurize other countries.

All armies today face such major challenges of fighting unorthodox adversaries using orthodox methods. Of the threat groups, the LTTE was a class of its own. To this date, the LTTE remains the world leader in suicide terrorism with an unrivalled over 330 attacks, pioneer in maritime suicide operations, the first terrorist group to use chemical weapons, and in the assassination of high quality leaders including two world leaders. Deceptive, cunning, and ruthless, the LTTE projected different faces to different audiences. Despite its appetite for unbridled violence for thirty long years, LTTE’s capacity for access to the corridors of power, lobbying and campaigning is unprecedented.

While the British Tamil Forum, a LTTE front that supported LTTE’s unlawful killings met with senior UN leaders, the Global Tamil Forum, LTTE’s premier umbrella organization met with British politicians and US officials including Robert Blake. Sri Lanka especially its Attorney General’s Department, Ministries of Defence, Information and External Affairs should build a significant international capacity to investigate support for terrorism, issue Interpol red notices and launch formal and an informal campaign to educate those politicians and officials that are being misled by these terrorist front, cover and sympathetic organizations. If determined, Sri Lanka has a huge capacity to disrupt and dismantle these LTTE affiliates that now threaten its security. 

You have continued to be critical of the role of the Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry in effectively dealing with the post war situation in the international arena. How much did they falter in your opinion?

With the shift in LTTE activities from the domestic to the international arena in May 2009, the Sri Lankan government failed to recognize a new set of capabilities it should built to counter that horizon threat.  Today, it is paramount for Sri Lanka to re-engage (a) an important segment of the international community, notably the US, UK, and France; (b) the advocacy NGOs, notably Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International; and (c) the radicalized segments of the diaspora.

The Sri Lankan government should create within its ministry of external affairs a post of Additional Secretary for Public Diplomacy and appoint Ravinatha Ariyasinghe, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador to EU, to head it. In addition to media, counter terrorism, this new division should include two new capabilities – diaspora affairs and NGOS division especially to keep advocacy NGOS such as human rights organizations briefed.  While harnessing its best minds, the Sri Lankan foreign office cannot fight this battle without bringing in a new set of highly skilled men and women to the frontline. They should not be relatives or friends or party activists but some of the best minds of Sri Lanka. In addition to retaining Minister Peiris as Minister, the President should bring in Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, an expert on human rights, to the Ministry of External Affairs full time until this crisis is over. The President should appoint former Minister Milinda Moragoda as his personal envoy to bring US, UK and France up to speed on post-war developments in the north and east and former UN Under Secretary General of the UN Jayantha Dhanapala as a presidential advisor to both engage the UN and advice government on the UN system. While Mr. Moragoda participated in all the rounds of talks with the LTTE, Mr Dhanapala was the head of the Peace Secretariat and they are fully aware of the ground reality of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is the only foreign ministry in the world without a proper legal affairs division.  The President should invite Anura Meddegoda, a former Prosecuting Attorney from Hague, as the Legal Advisor to Ministry of External Affairs.

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