Groundviews

A tragi-comedy? The UN Advisory Panel and war crimes in Sri Lanka


Photo courtesy Inner City Press

There is nothing to scratch heads for, to find the reason why Moon at the UN and Mahinda in Colombo agreed to have the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Panel on Sri Lanka, make a sudden visit to Colombo and meet SL President’s “Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Commission” (LLRC). Its simple logic. They both could wash their hands off mounting international pressure for an independent investigation on war crimes and crimes against humanity accusations, international organisations now seem to feel, have enough evidence piling up for investigations.

“WikiLeaks” with its dump of US diplomatic cables in the public domain has added substantial supplementary documentation for a renewed stronger call to investigate war crimes in Sri Lanka, with the British Channel 4 airing more video clips on gory killing of suspect, unarmed LTTE cadres, though not authenticated. There is also the case of  a murdered woman seen in the clips, claimed by some as the TV announcer Isaipriya, a civilian who worked for the Tiger TV station.

Both UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and SL President Mahinda Rajapaksa, were never for investigations, when international human rights organisations called for independent investigations of the last phase of the war. Under pressure, they both appointed their own, consciously malfunctioning “panels” and “commissions” as total eye wash, much later. There was no serious intention of investigating military excesses and violations of international human rights law, or to find answers and reconciliation in a morbidly divided society by either of the two leaders.

Rajapaksa has his own personal crisis in allowing or accepting an international investigation on supposed war crimes, apart from his claim that it was a “humanitarian operation” to liberate Tamil people from crimes committed on them by the LTTE. He has his brother Gota standing on the firing lines of any international investigation on war crimes. With the latest Wiki’s cablegate leaks, all 03 Rajapaksa brothers are dragged to the witness box and its undoubtedly a “family affair” now.

Ban Ki-moon was also pressured to avoid any real time investigation with his Chief of Staff Vijey Nambiar being implicated directly with the now commonly termed “White Flag” surrender issue. In any international commission of inquiry, Vijey Nambiar would have to come forward and testify on what he is quoted by Marie Colvin, in her article in Sunday Times (London) on 24 May, 2009 under a sympathetic caption, “Tigers begged me to broker surrender”. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6350563.ece )

Vijey Nambiar’s complicity is not just vague or minor, being a top UN diplomat and then implicating President Rajapaksa as well, going by the following.

“Once more, the UN 24-hour control centre in New York patched me through to Nambiar in Colombo, where it was 5.30am on Monday. I woke him up.

I told him the Tigers had laid down their arms. He said he had been assured by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, that Nadesan and Puleedevan would be safe in surrendering. All they had to do was “hoist a white flag high”, he said.

I asked Nambiar if he should not go north to witness the surrender. He said no, that would not be necessary: the president’s assurances were enough.”

Vijey Nambiar is yet to deny or disclaim such dialogue with Ms. Colvin and Ban Ki-moon  had to comply with international calls for investigations. He therefore did so with a panel that is very personal, in nature of its mandate. This advisory panel has no future validity, apart from advising the SG on the Sri Lankan war. There is also no binding on Moon to have any of the advise given by the panel to be made public. What could instead be announced with many nuances as the UN SG’s media spokesmen/women often do, is what he intends doing after the panel winds up on 31 December. And that could be, doing nothing.

So is Mahinda’s LLRC. Its Interim Report that was handed over to the President is still under wraps. That had been the fate with all reports handed over to the President so far, including his much hyped APRC final report. One should not expect anything different with the LLRC “findings” too. That report may perhaps conclude the 2002 CFA under Ranil was all at fault and responsible for all the war atrocities committed, thereafter.

So the two finally initiated working on a mutually beneficial compromise to get out of all these calls for war crimes investigations, during the pow-wow they had as a customary UN meeting, during the last General Assembly sessions. What Moon and Mahinda discussed was never in the open. What came to the open was the controversial statement released by the SL President’s media, which the UN SG’s staff did not mind. Obviously, Moon had told them not to.

They have eventually decided to freeze all calls for independent investigations on war crimes, with a joint effort, before more complications set in. That not only explains the SG’s sudden decision to extend the life of his advisory panel by another 02 weeks till 31 December, but also the Rajapaksas deciding to accept a visit to SL by this once detested, “conspiratorial” panel.

Moon’s men would most certainly sit with Mahinda’s men in the LLRC to discuss, what they decide they should discuss and the outcome, as in any Bollywood blockbuster film, could be guessed before the curtains go up. Why then should WW throw hiccups on UN SG’s advisory panel members visiting SL ? How else could this drama in which he plays the comedian be scripted, to look genuine and tragic, instead of being seen as fake and a comedy ? Director Mahinda and Producer Moon know their audiences well enough, I believe. So lets wait for 2011 for the ceremonial screening.