Sinhala Silva’s LLRC report helps MR out of War Crimes for Now

By: Dr C P Thiagarajah

The 400 odd page report of the Sinhala chairman Silva’s, Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), was tabled by the Government of Sri Lanka in its Parliament on 16 December after many days of its much delayed release. The main aim of the majority Sinhala dominated government is to buy more time to heal the wrath of the human rights organisations and the UN that had been demanding an international inquiry into war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide of nearly 40000 ethnic Tamils following the release of the UN Expert Panel Report on Sri-Lanka war.

When the Silva commission was appointed about 18 months ago many HR organisations, humanists and the Tamils in Sri-Lanka and the Diaspora expressed dissatisfaction over the perpetrators of war crimes appointing a commission to investigate their own criminal actions. This action smacks of credibility as pointed by US ambassador in Colombo, Ms Patricia Butenis. She said in a diplomatic cable sent on 15 January last year (2010) that President Rajapaksa and the former army commander, Sarath Fonseka, were largely responsible for the war crimes. She went on “There seemed little hope of accountability given that there were no examples of a regime investigating its own troops for war crimes”. "In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many alleged crimes rests with the country's senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and ex military commander Gen Fonseka,"

The UN expert panel declares that crimes were committed by the army in shelling civilian targets in the no fire zones. The BBC Chanel 4 video on Sri-Lanka killing fields and its subsequent video go to show beyond doubt that war crimes were committed. The videos were widely distributed by all HR activists and it swayed opinion for an independent war crimes inquiry particularly in the USA. This alarmed the Sinhala racist regime who felt that what happened to Hitler and Milosevic could happen to Rajapkse and his elks if UN conducted an open inquiry through the ICC.

MR moved fast to stem the tide against him by running to his helpers like India and China to save him. India and China have been implicated in providing logistic and prohibited weapons to Sri-Lanka in its war against the LTTE. They felt that by helping MR out of the ICC inquiry they might also save their skin and embarrassment. They supported Sri-Lanka appointing its own inquiry of the war ie the LLRC. The UN had to yield in to this request for maintaining the correct procedures concerning UN remedial actions on HR violations. The magnitude of the war crime and the heavy toll of civilian casualties were of no concern of anybody except for activist like Ron Ridenour, Prof Francis Boyle and Gordon Weiss and many others.

Mr Ron Ridenour
Ron Ridenour, who was born in the USA in 1939 has 50 years of activism in the struggle for justice, and 45 years of writing for justice, released his book titled “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka” on 12 November 2011 through New Century Book House, India. .He said “We must unite around the world and struggle for an independent international investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity against Sri Lanka government leaders. We must call for a worldwide boycott of Sri Lanka. Martin Luther King expressed: “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Tamils suffer, especially in Sri Lanka where they are subjugated to Shinalese chauvinism”

Reporting to ABC news recently, former UN resident official in Sri Lanka, Mr Gordon Weiss said, that between January 2009 to May 2009, the Sri Lankan government slaughtered over 40,000 Tamils civilians and intentionally reported the war zone civilians numbers low to hide the massacre. He too had written a book painfully giving details of war crimes. The title of the book is “The Cage-the fight for Sri-Lanka & the last days of the Tigers” -The Bodley Head London 2011pages 330 excluding bibliography.

Mr Gordon Weiss
In the preface he grieves “After the final battle, the government rejected international calls for an investigation into the conduct of the war, and instead commissioned a domestic inquiry vaguely mandated to look at the ‘root causes’ of the conflict over the previous seven years”. In the same preface he asserts his view thus” However, I believe that the tactical choices the SLA was directed to make, and which contributed to the death of so many civilians, warrant a credible judicial investigation of the kind that the Sri-Lankan state, in its current guise, is no longer capable of mounting. The large scale deaths of civilians had less to do with a necessary absolute victory over the Tamil Tigers, and more to do with the nature of government spawned by the island’s history as a modern nation state”. How true Gordon is.

International American lawyer Francis A. Boyle traces the ongoing engagement during the last years of the conflict in his book “The Tamil Genocide by Sri-Lanka” – Marston Book Services Ltd, Didcot. 2010 pages 139. Prof Boyle was among the very few addressing the international legal implications of the Sri Lankan Government’s grave and systematic violations of Tamil human rights while the conflict was taking place. This is the first book to develop an authoritative case for genocide against the Government of Sri Lanka under international law.

Prof Francis A. Boyle
Professor Boyle comments on war crimes and genocide which the Sinhala Silva’s report denies that Sri-lankan army ever committed but which the UN report says occurred.

Commenting on the interview to the BBC and to the Sky TV by Sri-Lanka defence secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse Professor says “ The deliberate targeting of hospitals and civilians by the government of Sri-Lanka (GoSL) violates the Geneva Convention and is thus a war crime. The GoSL defence secretary Rajapakse has publicly admitted that they have turned the Tamils North of the country into a so called Free Fire Zone, which is clearly illegal and criminal under International Humanitarian Law. It is the culmination of long standing GoSL policy to inflict genocide upon the Tamils in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention to which Sri-Lanka is a contracting party”.

The facts being so clear for self protection the Government of India welcomes the public release of the LLRC report and takes note of the assurance given by the Government of Sri Lanka in Parliament about implementation of many of its recommendations. Unfortunately, the Indian government forgot many assurances Rajapakse promised India over the 13+ amendments and the 50000 houses promised by India but did not keep up. India anticipate genuine reconciliation Implementation of assurances to ensure speedy resettlement and, including early completion of the process of the return of Internally Displaced Persons and refugees to their respective homes, restoration of normal civilian life in affected areas would mark a major step forward in the process of reconciliation. India does not realize that what the Tamils need most is political freedom and security without which reconciliation is a mirage. India feels that the LLRC report has underlined that the present situation provides a great window of opportunity to forge a consensual way forward towards reconciliation through a political settlement based on devolution of power. It recognises that a political solution is imperative to addressing the root cause of the conflict and notes that the Government should provide leadership to a political process which must be pursued for the purpose of establishing a framework for ensuring sustainable peace and security in the post-conflict environment. The ground reality is contrary to this precept. The window is completely shut by military government and cultural genocide by the armed forces. The Indian government also says that it noted the Government of Sri Lanka’s intention to set up a mechanism to carry out further investigations relating to instances of alleged human rights violations and incidents involving loss of civilian life. It counsels the GoSL to ensure that an independent and credible mechanism is put in place to investigate allegations of human rights violations, as brought out the LLRC, in a time-bound manner. India quite well knows that this is another attempt by the government of Sri-Lanka to keep the issue away from the UN and to avoid an iCC inquiry. India condones that delaying tactics.

The Silva' report virtually exonerates the Lankan army from the charge of deliberately targeting civilians, including using heavy artillery in the No Fire Zone when there are compelling evidence otherwise. Therefore fears have been expressed that the LLRC was set up as part of an effort by Colombo to stave off international pressure for an ICC inquiry and buy more time while really not doing much on most issues in reality. By vindicating the Lankan Forces and thereby their commander in chief Mahinda Rajapakse and brothers on all essential counts, the LLRC discredited itself and defeated its own purpose. This is what the LLRC said “….the Commission is satisfied that the military strategy that was adopted…was one that was carefully conceived, in which the protection of the civilian population was given the highest priority.” But then did the LLRC investigate the high civilian death of which Gordon Weiss is very worried? If it did not confront field commanders with the massive deaths, what then is the value of the Report? No independent forensic evidence was collected from the ‘crime scene’ to confront the military and obtain clarification. These are glaring shortcomings of the Silva’s report.

One of the most hypocrisy of the report is about para military groups. It criticises the Devananda’s EPDP and the TMVP of Pillayan and Karuna for engaging in rights-violations. However, religiously omits to mention that this impunity is granted and guaranteed by the Sri-Lankan Forces and the Rajapaksa Siblings for Post-war, these outfits have become key cogs in the Rajapaksa politico-electoral machinery wheel. One noteworthy HR violator in the East, Mr. Iniyabarathy, who was a convicted criminal and alleged abductor had been bestowed the highest honour by Mahinda Rajapakse for being a good political organiser for SLFP in the East. Such titles are normally given to respectable worthy citizens of a state for exemplary service.

So where does this Sinhala Silva’s report leads to. Obviously to free Mahinda Rajapalse from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and shield him from an ICC inquiry. But how long can it with its glaring discrepancies?

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