The Island newspaper continues to publish leaks from the report produced by the Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General to look into post-war accountability in Sri Lanka. Groundviews has covered in detail the Executive Summary and Parts 1, 2 and 3 of the leaks.

The Island published today Part 4, which focusses on the significant discrepancies between the United Nations and the Government on estimating the number of civilians trapped in the Vanni during the final stages of the war, and how this numbers debate resulted in horrific ground conditions.

As before, we provide context and background information to frame these highlights. In addition, we flag concern over the fact that when the Doctors reporting from the Vanni were detained, many reports suggested that the UN did little or nothing to secure their release or safety. Links to the reports filed by the Doctors to the media are included, as well as articles on the media events staged in Colombo where they, under pressure from Government, retracted their submissions.

We also flag the point that the UN Panel’s report does not seem to have taken into account (though the official report may well have) the testimony given by the Doctors to the LLRC in November 2010, where they specifically note that the figures they reported from the ground were, under duress from the LTTE, inflated. They go on to reiterate however the shelling, and the horrific ground conditions. Finally, we flag a Wikileaks report that confirms the Doctors from the Vanni had been pressured by Government to revise their stories.

“Throughout the final stages of the armed conflict, particularly from January to May 2009, the Government downplayed the number of civilians present in the LTTE controlled area, using the low estimates to restrict the amount of humanitarian assistance that could be provided, especially food and medicine.”

“The United Nations estimate at the time was 250,000 (although its subsequent estimates were higher). Later in January 2009, the Ministry of Defence said that the number of civilians present in the Vanni was between 75,000 and 100,000, “on a high estimate”, However, the Government had more than sufficient information at its disposal during the final stages of the armed conflict to accurately estimate the actual number of civilians in the Vanni.”

“At the end of February 2009, the United Nations Country Team informed the Government that, in its view, there were 267,618 civilians present in the LTTE controlled area, basing the estimate, in part, on UNOSAT Quickbind and Worldview satellite images, used to count the number of IDP shelters. ”

“As a result of the Government’s low estimates, the food delivered by WFP to the Vanni was a fraction of what was actually needed, Resulting in widespread malnutrition, including cases of starvation. Similarly, the medical supplies allowed into the Vanni were grossly inadequate to treat the number of injuries incurred by the shelling.”

“Given the types of injuries sustained in the second NFZ, the doctors requested medical supplies such as anaesthetics, blood bags for transfusion, antibiotic, surgical items, gloves and disinfectant. Only a small quantity of these items was allowed into the Vanni. Instead, they received items such as Panadol, allergy tablets and vitamins. As the casualty figures rose in March 2010, the absence of the needed medical supplies imposed enormous suffering and unnecessarily cost many lives.”

“On 19 March 2009, the Secretary of the Ministry of Healthcare and Nutrition replied that only strong painkillers and intravenous fluids could be dispatched, since Mullivaikkal Hospital did not have trained anaesthesiologists.”

“Despite Its access to first-hand information regarding the size of the civilian population and its needs, the Government of Sri Lanka deliberately used greatly reduced estimates, as part of a strategy to limit the supplies going into the Vanni, thereby putting ever-greater pressure on the civilian population.”

  • Agnos

    On several occasions, I have pointed out on Groundviews the GoSL’s purposeful underestimation of the number of civilians caught between the two sides in the Vanni. I have also repeatedly exposed the lack of credibility of people like Michael Roberts and Muthukrishna Sarvananthan, who during the war came up with ridiculously low numbers and denigrated the NGOs that had come up with much higher estimates. Visceral hatred of the LTTE is no reason to play with the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocents. At least the expert panel is focusing on the issue, even using the words “purposely underestimated.”

    Mr. Anandasangaree, who used to represent Kilinochchi in parliament, to his credit came up with much higher estimates, but he was ignored by the GoSL. His usefulness to the GoSL in carrying out propaganda had by then ended, and he was hung out to dry.

    • Citizen

      Agnos,

      for me it seems UN has “purposely” over estimated figures and “purposely” telling Moon’s/separatists’ fantasies about casualty figures.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Agnos,

      His usefulness to the GoSL in carrying out propaganda had by then ended, and he was hung out to dry.

      What was the dreadful propaganda that Anandasangaree was carrying out? That the LTTE literally was Leading Tamils To Extinction?

  • TT

    “However, the Government had more than sufficient information at its disposal during the final stages of the armed conflict to accurately estimate the actual number of civilians in the Vanni.”

    Absurd!

    Did the government have satellites? No census was carried out for 28 years since 1981.

    Even with sattelite images, the counting was done by counting the number of IDP shelters (huts) and multiplying it by an assumed number of persons per hut. That is not an accurate way of estimation. The fact that it came closer to the total IDP number does not prove anything. What matters is the information available at that time.

    Failing to estimate correctly with no credible information whatsoever does not mean deliberately under-estimating.

    • veedhur

      @TT

      The Government did not need satellites, all it had to do was to listen to its own officials who had been giving fairly accurate numbers – they were first ignored and then cautioned – while ministers and officials in Colombo began spinning the numbers to fit with military strategy.

      • TT

        What government officials?

        Were there any official who could work without fear of the LTTE and favour? No. They were told to lie. LTTE estimate of population was 800,000 which was way too high.

      • veedhur

        The numbers that AGA’s (DSs) gave, and kept repeating through March and April, to the Ministry of Human Rights, Ministry of Resettlement and to the Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Rights (CCHA) proved to be much more accurate. That is the fact.

        The onus is on those who deliberately understated and brow beat the UN to understate too.

      • TT

        They came up with contradictory figures. There was no agreement between them. They and their families were under threat from the LTTE to lie.

  • TT

    Anyway I don’t like the Island newspaper releasing chuncks of the report this way. It has released easily palatable stuff (to some) first and latter releases are gradually getting more gruesome.

    • veedhur

      @ TT

      I agree it is gruesome. If only Island had published the true situation (as gruesome it was) may be the southern population may have realized the human cost of victory and may be some of the buddhists might even have raised their objections. It may have helped in greatly reducing the number of people who ended up being killed. Unfortunately, they (along with many other newspaper) went along with the Zero casualty canard and we all know what happened as a result.

      • TT

        All wars are gruesome. WW2 especially Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, etc, were/are much more gruesome than the war in SL. That is acceptable in war. But what is not acceptable is the Island newspaper manipulating the release of the report. Good information is complete.

  • TT

    If such was the case (many casualties, shells falling on hostials, shells falling on the operating theatre, lack of hospital beds, lack of medicines/doctors/facilities), why didn’t the doctors, ICRC, etc. transport the patients out of Vanni? Many people were leaving Vanni and patients in critical condition certainly deserved to leave it.

    Who prevented them leaving Vanni for medical treatment?
    Did the doctors play their part in helping LTTE maintain its human shield?
    Looks to me they did!

    Army provided medical care to thousands of terrorists free of charge. So why not they were allowed to provide medical care to critical patients!! They would have been transported within minutes to the army controlled areas and they would not be at any more risk travelling than in hospitals according to these reports. 🙂

    • veedhur

      @TT

      Where were you when the war was taking place….the ICRC was begging and pleading for access from the Government to facilitate evacuation – which was given only in delayed and piecemeal manner. That too stopped during the latter stages. The batches of wounded whom the ICRC ships brought were admitted to various hospitals – if only you had seen them 99% of them were civilians(including children and women) and had sustained heavy injuries due to artillery shelling (mostly from the government side as they clearly stated and some due to LTTE snipers and land mines. I met and spoke to the injured who were brought to Polonnaruwa – they had no doubt about who fired the shells into the NFZ and who attacked from the Air. This was the main reason why the Sri Lankan Government did not allow access for others to see these people (though they were given very good medical assistance).

      • TT

        Veedhur,

        You don’t contradict me!

        Why weren’t the others allowed to go by the LTTE and others?

        Had they let the people go, there would be no human shields and AS A RESULT no large number of casualties. Of course LTTE casualties are fair game and LTTE terrorists were dread scared to cross into the government controlled areas.

        But if the people had left, SLA would have pounded the LTTE positions ferociously using CONTINUED MBRL, Baktar Shikan missiles, SLN launched artillery attacks, massive fuel air bombs, etc. by SLAF, etc. You didn’t see this, sadly because the people were not allowed to go.

        Fearing this, LTTE held people as a human shield. But taking a human shield is not a good defence as war laws allow attacking human shields.

  • ward

    Agnos, Thank you.

    The way the people in the Northeast have been treated (leave alone the Vanni battlefield in Aug 2008-May 2009) before and after 18 May 2009 has been following the same pattern for six decades:

    The government side on the ”talks” with TNA tell people to go and look up the database of the disappeared in a government department ?? telling they don’t know about the thousands of detainees languishing in prisons withour charges for years ??

    This is much more humiliating than the series of pogroms unleashed on the Tamils, than detaining in inhuman camps surrounded by barbed wire and the army, than letting the paramilitary to abduct detainees while denying food, water, medicine and sanitary facilities from agents who are willing to provide them, than telling CNN journalist that photographers take the pictures of barbed wire and some people and put thenm together
    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzGj2hYoymo&feature=youtube_gdata), than putting the people under an army of occupation for decades, preparing and sending ”music festival” to an area where people are ”disappeared”, shot at and tortured to death for speaking up their minds, …… :
    http://www.peace-srilanka.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=375:the-dual-reality-of-the-present-time&catid=1:latest&Itemid=121

    ……….
    …………………..

    • Meikandan

      Ward

      Your truthful account of the hopeless situation for many Tamils families with “disappeared” loved ones is a sad reality in Sri Lanka .

      The current repressive regime is a master in deception and skillful “ hoodwinking”.

      • Thambi

        Who’s hoodwinking who?

        “There is today a dual reality in the country. To the majority of people, the difference between the time of war that existed up till two years ago and the present is a very positive one. They are relieved that they can travel on buses without fear and enter into shopping malls without being worried. In their day to day operations in police stations across the country, the police act as family counselors and peace makers amongst the people. It is where political dissent enters that the situation deteriorates”

        From the “damning” article about the terrible living conditions in Sri Lanka

        Please buzz of Canadian armchair critics. You have no idea of what’s going on in Sri Lanka.

  • ward

    ”Who prevented them leaving Vanni for medical treatment?”

    http://www.lawandsocietytrust.org/PDF/Mannar.pdf
    Report of the Inter Religious solidarity visit to Mannar, 23rd April 2008:

    ”….. Amongst the places we visited was a camp in Kalimoddai. Many people living in the LTTE controlled Vanni areas have started to come by boat to Mannar. Since March, the security forces have decided to hold all these people in a camp in Kalimoddai. Thus, although many of them that we met mentioned that they prefer to stay with friends and relatives elsewhere, they are not allowed to do so.
    We heard from the people as well as the security forces in charge of the camp that the camp is snake infested. We saw a snake that was killed when we were in the camp, and were told that snakes are killed there daily. We also heard that UN agencies and NGOs provide assistance for shelter, food etc. But many complained that these were far short of what they needed.
    We came to know of a pregnant women, who is expected to give birth in two weeks time form the date we visited, i.e., around 30th April. She urgently needs medical attention. She has relatives in Mannar who are ready to host and take care of her until and after delivery. We also met a distraught woman whose husband and children are in the Vanni, and she is unable to join them, after she had accompanied some children of a relative. Another boy we met is ready to go abroad and his father is waiting in Colombo. But he is unable to join his father in Colombo and neither is his father able to visit him, due to prevailing restrictions on travel imposed by security forces.
    There were young children, advanced level students and also university students who are unable to continue their education. There was also a girl whose wedding arrangements have been finalized and but she herself, the bride, is unable to go. Teachers and government servant have not received salaries and others such as fisherfolk and farmers also have no income, as they remain confined to the camp.
    We also heard that some people had been allowed outside for few hours, but this had stopped after one boy who had been allowed for few hours, could not come back due to non availability of public transportation from Mannar. The boy told us that this was inspite of the fact that he had informed security forces in Mannar about this situation and returned to the camp by 10am next day.
    Several people expressed frustration that they are being held back by the government, after promises of being looked after if they ran away from the Vanni to government controlled areas. They all had come with hopes of better lives in government controlled areas. But their hopes are dashed, and many told us that they would not have come if they knew the government was going to confine them to a camp.
    The main aspiration of these people was very simple, that is to be allowed to be free and live with friends and relatives without being confined to a camp.
    This may indicate the reaction of some of those who told us that they don’t want the dry rations being offered by various aid agencies, but just want to be free. The security forces at the camp requested that we not carry our cameras and phones and not to take photos or video. …..”

    • TT

      Ward,

      This doesn’t answer the question “who prevented the sick, etc. LEAVING Vanni”.

      We all know the answer – it was the LTTE holding human shields and some others including some doctors supporting that strategy.

      If there were no medical supplies, no facilities, broken hospitals, shells falling on hospitals, etc., what was these jokers were doing holding people there like cattle?

      Had they let them go, they would have survived!

  • Meikandan

    I have noted numerous times in Groundviews’s forum responding to some hard core Mahinda supporters, that sooner or later, Mahinda and his war criminal group will become a huge ‘liability’ to all the Sri Lankans.

    The southern population should have realized early, that UN and most worldwide countries will not allow a despotic regime like Rajapakse’s to carpet bomb civilians in Wanni .

    The sinhala nationalists should know now, that it would have been much better to come to a compromise with SJV Chelvanayakam 40 years ago and we all could have built a Sri Lanka with equality and justice.

    Instead of that, the majority southerners decided to support Sri Lanka president Rajapaksa in his carpet bombing the civilians in Wanni.

    Now many will not forget this and Sri Lanka forever will be stained by these human rights violations

    In my opinion, Mahinda and others who were gleefully executing the tamil massacre should be punished and an example should be set for similar blood thirsty regimes around the world.

    That should serve as a warning !!!!

    • wijayapala

      Dear Meikandan,

      I have noted numerous times in Groundviews’s forum responding to some hard core Mahinda supporters, that sooner or later, Mahinda and his war criminal group will become a huge ‘liability’ to all the Sri Lankans.

      Don’t you wish that the LTTE never had prevented the Tamils from voting in the 2005 election, which allowed Mahinda to win?

      • TT

        They never accept their faults which is good. It means they will never correct them! 🙂

        After doing so much for the northern people at the expense of immense loss of popularity in the south, Ranil was humiliated at the 2005 election and the 2004 election too. Jaffna was not under LTTE control but even people in Jaffna abstained from voting! They paid the price for it!

        So much about winning hearts and minds. If Ranil in 2002-2005 could not have won Tamil hearts and minds, no one can. Forget about winning their hearts and minds, change the ethnic composition of the north. What matters is to win the hearts and minds of the people in the north whatever their race is. It is easier to win the hearts and minds of non-Tamils than Tamils. This is the solution.

    • sabbe laban

      Meikandan

      “I have noted numerous times in Groundviews’s forum responding to some hard core Mahinda supporters, that sooner or later, Mahinda and his war criminal group will become a huge ‘liability’ to all the Sri Lankans”

      You think that only you guys should voice your ipinion?

      “The southern population should have realized early, that UN and most worldwide countries will not allow a despotic regime like Rajapakse’s to carpet bomb civilians in Wanni”

      So, as you say the SL Forces didn’t do it! If they did they could have finished the war 6 months earlier!

      “The sinhala nationalists should know now, that it would have been much better to come to a compromise with SJV Chelvanayakam 40 years ago and we all could have built a Sri Lanka with equality and justice”

      No, not at all! Prabha and his gang plunged the Tamils to a far deeper abyss than any of the Sinhalese nationalist learders could do!

      “Instead of that, the majority southerners decided to support Sri Lanka president Rajapaksa in his carpet bombing the civilians in Wanni”

      It should be “corrected” as prcision bombing!

      “In my opinion, Mahinda and others who were gleefully executing the tamil massacre should be punished and an example should be set for similar blood thirsty regimes around the world.”

      …in the same fashion that George W Bush and Tony Blair were hanged in public, NO?

  • ward

    ”gradually getting more gruesome” ??

    I thought it can’t get more gruesome than this:

    http://www.groundviews.org/2009/08/12/madhu-feast-2009/

    12 August 2009:

    ”…. “We used to live very close to the Madhu Shrine and we long to go and pray at the feat of Our Lady of Madhu as we used to. But we are prisoners in this camp, and not allowed to go out freely” ….”

    • sabbe laban

      Thanks to the permission given by the LTTE in response to the request made by Rev. Rasiah to bring the statue back, NO?

    • TT

      If that is the most gruesome thing you can find, which means bloodshed and alleged killing of civilians either did not exist or they are less gruesome.

      For your information, people of all races can now go to Madhu church. Things have improved.

      The basic premise is “Only the dead have seen Tamil Elam!” And let it be that way.

  • sr

    How do we know how many died in the Menik farm camps as there was no register of detainees?

  • sr

    There were abductions by paramilitary. Dead bodies were found in the camps. Some committed suicide by hanging in the camps.
    Mhhh…
    What a fate to be bundled with people with such hatred for other human beings.

  • Selvan

    Shocking slaughter of so many innocent civilians in Sri Lanka War is one of the bloodiest of our life time. This is an Asian ‘Srebrenica’.

  • sr

    ”You have no idea of what’s going on in Sri Lanka” –

    http://groundviews.org/2011/04/17/sinhala-and-tamil-new-year-in-jaffna-sri-lanka-ground-realities/
    Sinhala and Tamil New Year in Jaffna, Sri Lanka: Ground realities

    http://www.peace-srilanka.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=375:the-dual-reality-of-the-present-time&catid=1:latest&Itemid=121
    THE DUAL REALITY OF THE PRESENT TIME, 11 April 2011:
    Another example of the problem of dissent in civil society comes from Jaffna. A high powered inter-religious delegation from Colombo recently visited the north where they met with the war-affected people. Although there is no more a problem of terrorism, the delegation was given military escort when they traveled into the interior. This would have dissuaded the war displaced people of those parts from being too open in their expression of dissatisfaction for fear of displeasing the military officers who wield great control over their lives. However, when the delegation met with their religious counterparts in Jaffna, they were able to hear a frank and critical expression of views. Specific issues raised included the militarization of governance in the north.
    The following night some men had gone to the residence of one of the outspoken clergymen, called him out and flung cow dung and other excreta at him. They had also thrown chillie powder at the face of one of his assistants and assaulted him when he had gone to find out what was happening. The assailants had dropped a mobile telephone with phone numbers on it that would assist in finding out their identity. Although this valuable piece of evidence had been given to the police, no action appears to have been taken so far. The message that freedom of expression has its limits in the north was very clearly made.

  • Agnos

    Wijayapala, 

    Whether Sangaree’s views were correct is not the issue here. It is that the Rajapaksas used him when his views (against the LTTE) suited them (or their propaganda) and then discarded him whenever he talked about Tamil grievances. Why do you want to divert attention from the issue at hand? I don’t have time for such games with you.

    • wijayapala

      Dear Agnos,

      Whether Sangaree’s views were correct is not the issue here.

      I am afraid that it is indeed the issue- if his views were correct, then how would they constitute “propaganda?” How did Anandasangaree’s appeals to the LTTE to stop fighting contribute to the Rajapakshas’ propaganda?

      then discarded him whenever he talked about Tamil grievances.

      Are the Rajapakshas the only ones who had discarded Anandasangaree?

    • wijayapala

      TT,

      Jaffna was not under LTTE control but even people in Jaffna abstained from voting!

      The LTTE by late 2005 most certainly had achieved a dominant position in Jaffna. How were they able to kill SSP Charles Wijewardena in broad daylight that year? Or kill dozens of soldiers through landmines that winter?

      • TT

        Wijayapala,

        No. They did that in Colombo too. Scores were killed in Colombo during that time including the Foreign Minister! EPDP leader survived many attacks during this time. Scores of intelligence officers were killed in Colombo. Entire families of TMVP activists were killed. That does not mean LTTE had its control or significant influence. Same with Jaffna district. 50,000 SLA and EPDP ruled Jaffna district. People voluntarily abstained from voting.

        LTTE was actually playing a double game. It ALLOWED people to cross Omanthai, VOTE and come back! If the LTTE actually wanted to stop people in LTTE controlled areas from voting, it could have easily closed down the Omanthai entry/exit point. But it didn’t until violence created by the EPDP forced SLA to close it as in 2001 general election.

        Biggest campaigners for Ranil (Chandrasekaran, Mano Ganesan, etc.) made several pilgrimages to Kilinochchi during the election campaign. If the LTTE REALLY wanted them to abstain from electioneering, it would have warned them AT LEAST! But after such pilgrimages, they campaigned even harder.

        I blame the northern voters for their ultra racist political views as expressed in 1947, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1977, 1982 PE, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2010 elections. 2005 was no exception immediately after 2004 in which the northerners rejected even the few support they extended to the UNP in 2001. LTTE threat was ALWAYS there but others contested.

        e.g. EPDP

  • Citizen

    Meikandan,

    “The southern population should have realized early, that UN and most worldwide countries will not allow a despotic regime like Rajapakse’s to carpet bomb civilians in Wanni”

    you have forgotten one thing, Your UN and EU are very selective about which civilian to protect! they r “protecting” Libyans, Iraqi ans and Afghans yet do nothing for Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.
    southern population hv realized this!
    So you may wait and see how your ‘worldwide countries’ act.

    • Lakshan

      Citizen

      So True

      However for any one with conscience ,the plight of the Tamil Civilians trapped between SLA and LTTE should be a harrowing ordeal.
      As much as I wanted to see the end of LTTE , my self and thousands of other Sinhalese sympathized with Tamil people. When Government appealed through TV and newspapers to help Tamil IDP s the response was massive. Sinhalese doctors volunteered to treat refugees. There was no “Kill ’em all” mentality here. GOSL made it patently clear that this was a campaign against LTTE terrorists and not Tamils.
      Sinhalese understood the distinction.
      Unfortunately Tamil Diaspora still refuses to accept such distinction

  • wijayapala

    TT,

    That does not mean LTTE had its control or significant influence. Same with Jaffna district.

    If you take a simple look at the map, you would see that Colombo is much further away from the Wanni than Jaffna is, hence the much greater probability of the LTTE exercising control.

    Also you have neglected to mention that under the terms of the CFA, the security forces were unable to interfere with unspecified “political activities” of the LTTE, and that groups like the EPDP were disarmed. For all your talk, the LTTE was unable to conduct landmine attacks in Colombo because it lacked the necessary infrastructure to do so.

    I was in Jaffna when SSP Wijewardena was killed, and I can assure you that the LTTE was more or less in control (have you ever even been to Jaffna at all?). When I first arrived, I had to register at the LTTE’s local political office in govt-controlled Jaffna after crossing from LTTE-controlled Vadamarachchi East. Your claim that Colombo was no less threatened than Jaffna is horse-manure.

  • Siva

    Who leaked the UN report, I wonder?
    The copy of the UN report was given to the UN and Sri Lanka Government. If Sri Lanka Government leaked the UN report to Sri Lanka Media, could the Sri Lanka Government officials remove the worst atrocities from the text and whitewash the Sri Lanka Government … thus hoodwink the world wide community again?