Open letter to Samantha Power
M/S Samantha Power
Ex Senior Director of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights
Of the US National Security Council
Human Rights Violations by Sri Lankan forces
The greatest friend of TRUTH is Time, her greatest enemy is Prejudice,
and her constant companion is Humility.”
Considering the damage you have done to this country and its image during your time in office, with allegations of human rights violation by its forces, on evidently inflated statistics, it is indeed unfortunate that we Sri Lankan’s cannot welcome you whole heartedly in to this country for your key note address at Minister Mangala Samaraweera’s political milestone event. However, it is with the fervent understanding that we could sought out facts relating to the conflict that ended 2009 and the events thereafter, that we decided to address this letter to you so that you may view those events in a truer and a more realistic perspective for the benefit of US policy and that of this country.
Any visitor to this country today will observe that Colombo has a few high rises and its infrastructure has tremendously improved and continue to do so, vis a vis the situation pre- 2009. The country as a whole, has recorded gains in every sphere including improved tourist arrivals, a new and better road network, new investments and in general buoyancy of life all-round. If it is the North and the East (for whose rights the LTTE claimed they were fighting) you are concerned about; the life is bubbling again in those areas with schools functioning, business and industry thriving, new buildings coming up and most importantly it has been possible to elect representatives to local governing councils after 34 years. There are no child soldiers, deserted and bullet ridden houses, cemeteries for heroes and suicide bombers stalking freely.
Therefore, any well-wisher of the country in particular and a humanitarian in general would welcome the present situation of hope and peace in Sri Lanka as against the sheer hopelessness and misery that existed before. Realistically, had the LTTE not been eliminated in 2009 it would have accounted for well over another 30,000- 40,000 Sri Lankan lives during the period 2009-2019 continuing with that situation where human rights accountability of the country in general would have been blurred and very casual. Thus, it is in this present context of things that we have to perceive all these allegations made against the anti-terrorist operation of the forces as vengeful and is smacking of an ulterior motive, especially when the statistics backed to make those allegations are based on the claims made by those very organisations that funded and propagated the LTTE during the thirty + years of its operations. This is particularly of significance to this whole issue because the LTTE survived for 34 years as the best organized and the most ruthless terrorist group in the world (your State department report in 2001), particularly due to the nurturing it received in the hands of its funding and propaganda/ lobbying wings that are alive and active even today. To be realistic, the devious methods, modus-operands and subtle propaganda of this Diaspora groups have been relentless, purposeful and irresistible to the international compared to the successive SL Government that lacked a clear cut policy on terrorist funding and control.
The bone of contention of these human rights allegations against the Sri Lankan force is the deaths of 40, 000 civilians who are alleged to have perished during the last phase of this conflict when the LTTE surrounded its armed operations with human shields. This figure is primarily based on the Dharusman report that concluded its findings based on the evidence submitted by the propagandist of the LTTE devoid of exercising an iota of an acceptable method of verification. What intrigue us here is that why you and the international community should base their findings on this Dharusman report which was merely a report called by the then UN General Secretary for his personal purposes, compiled by questionable persons and based on one-sided evidence, when first-hand information was available to you and the others of the international community through their Defence attaché of the respective embassies.
Lord Naseby, a member of the British House of Lords, in his findings on the casualties during the last phase of the conflict had revealed to the British Parliament that both the US and the British Defence attaché’s had documented deaths between 7000 to 8000 persons( including the non- uniformed cadres of the LTTE) during the subject period an therefore the 40,000 deaths claimed by the Dharusman report is not tenable. Further, the Sri Lankan Government in the face of these allegations in the international forums commissioned its Department of Census and statistics to carry out a detail assignment to ascertain the number of deaths that had happened during the subject period. This assignment demographically covered the entire northern and the Eastern provinces, with each GS division by operatives of those provinces ( Grama sevakas, School teachers and other Government servants). This information was then collated and compiled and made in to a report as is done normally by the department for all other areas of the country. This report too surmised that the number of missing persons (presumed dead as claimed by family members and by Grama Sevakas) is in the region of 8,000 persons. This report incidentally, was the result of the verified information submitted by the Grama Sevakas (the village level administrative officer) of the areas that the Dharusman report claimed provided them with second or third hand information to their report. Therefore it now appears that the dead according to the Dharusman report is far in excess of those who ever lived in those areas.
What makes these allegations really prejudicial is, when those have to be viewed in the light of how the LTTE conducted its operations and propaganda revolving around civilians for 30 years and also in the light of the international law that makes human shields of military targets by terrorist operatives culpable.
In addition to all this it is reliably learnt that the American State department on Human rights headed by you in consultation with Messrs Richard Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State and Messrs Roberto Blake, US Under Secretary for South Asian affairs, wanted the anti- terrorist drive of the Sri Lankan Government suspended as far back as February 2009 and when the Sri Lankan government did not procced to your request you had a meeting in the State Department with those two offices and decided to bring War Crimes charges against Sri Lanka. We are in possession of proof to prove this point and therefore it now appears that this Human rights violations have been charges concocted even before the time these violations were said to have been committed, as a punishment for the Sri Lankan Government for not obeying your orders.
There is something that is definitely paradoxical with regard to the advocacy and practice in human rights by the US State department as we could observe from their conduct in world affairs. Colossal mistakes have been made in this regard by the US in recent times, during your tenure, in Syria and in Yemen where the consequences have far outweighed the declared good intentions. Sir Winston Churchill was on record making the statement that, ‘You can expect the Americans to do what is right in world affairs after they have exhausted all other avenues available’. This seemingly tenable comment could be attributed, partly to the fact that there is an inherent egoistic element of being the only super power in the world and partly due to the propaganda campaigns and lobbying conducted by interest elements directed at the US to achieve their questionable ends. Whichever the case it is in the case of Sri Lankan forces, the present stance taken by US will not auger well against elimination or terrorism, for the Sri Lankan forces and for the US policy.
The recent US ambassador to UN Ms Nikkei Hailey left her seat recently at the UNHRC calling it a ‘Cesspit of political bias’. We Sri Lankans couldn’t agree more with her on that but however the irony is, when US’s own activities have contributed to make it what she correctly opined it to be.
With best regards