Friday, February 12, 2010

Ruwanda, Congo, Darfur, now Sri Lanka - Up to 40,000 civilians 'died in Sri Lanka offensive'

By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Friday, 12 February 2010

The bitter controversy surrounding the final stages of the Sri Lankan government’s operation to crush separatist rebels has been reopened after a former UN official claimed that up to 40,000 civilians may have been killed.

In the final stages of last year’s move to defeat the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the UN protested strongly about the number of Tamil civilians caught up in the fighting. Privately, officials estimated that between 8,000-10,000 lost their lives and that many more were wounded.

Now, Gordon Weiss, who until the end of last year was the UN’s spokesman in Colombo, has suggested the figure may be much higher. “A lot of civilians died inside the siege zone. I have heard anything between ten and forty thousand people and that’s from reliable sources who had a presence inside the zone,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “[The Sri Lankan authorities] repeated a number of things that were either intentionally misleading or were lies. One senior government civil servant remarked at the end of the war that the government insistence that the figures were very low was a ploy. It was a ploy to allow the government to get on with its business.”

Last night, the Sri Lankan government dismissed the claims. Lucien Rajakarunanayake, a senior presidential spokesman said: “All I can tell you is that [Mr Weiss] is unaware of the facts. The figures are a total exaggeration. The UN itself has given figures that are much lower than this.”

Precisely how many civilians were injured or wounded as Sri Lankan forces defeated the remnant of the LTTE fighters making a final stand in the north east of Sri Lanka, may never be known. At the time, the UN and other organisations claimed that civilians were being struck by ordinance fired by both sides. Testimony provided by Tamils who escaped from the war zone suggests that many civilians were used as human shields by the LTTE as government troops advanced.

Mr Weiss was last night unavailable to comment and the UN in Sri Lanka refused to discuss the claims of its former spokesman, believed to be writing a memoir of his experiences in Sri Lanka.

In the interview, the former spokesman also suggested there was a need to investigate allegations of possible war crimes. While there have been widespread calls for such an inquiry, including from some senior figures within the UN, the Sri Lankan authorities have refused such an undertaking. “I will not allow any investigation by the United Nations or any other country. There is nothing wrong happening in this country?Take it from me, we will not allow any investigation,” Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the country’s defence secretary and brother of the president, recently told an interviewer.

Indeed, the purported readiness of former army chief Sarath Fonseka to cooperate with such an inquiry has been cited by the government as one of the reasons he was arrested and placed in detention and will likely be placed before a court-martial. Mr Fonseka, who last month failed in his electoral challenge to Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, had said allegations about war could be investigated. The defence secretary said of Mr Fonseka’s undertaking: “He simply cannot do that. For one thing it is a lie.”

Yesterday, hundreds of lawyers marched through Colombo to protest against Mr Fonseka’s continued detention. They gathered near the country’s Supreme Court which admitted a petition filed by the former general’s wife that claimed his detention by the military police was illegal. The court has given the government four weeks to reply.

Such a date would be less than a month before parliamentary that Mr Fonseka has intended to contest. The government has not yet specified which charges it wishes to bring against him, but has repeatedly claimed he was plotting a coup – something he denied.

Meanwhile, the US and Norway denied claims made by the government that they had bankrolled Mr Fonseka’s campaign. In a statement, the US Embassy in Colombo said: “The United States backed no candidate but strongly supported a free, fair, and credible democratic process.”


Tamil Kovil said...

Velu , up to 40,000 Tamils killed in Sri Lanka war?

I doubt, the Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse and his brothers will ever be brought to justice, because they have the support of China, Russia, India and many other autocratic countries to avenge any dissenters without fearing for any consequence.

Even the UN turns a blind eye because its Chief of Staff in charge of Si Lankan affairs is favourable as his brother is an adviser to the government.

All that the democratic countries can do and have been doing is to make statements of ‘concern’ to the unabated human rights abuses and war crimes against the minorities especially Tamils and independent journalists.

Tamil Kovil said...

Thanks for a good article

Bhairav said...

UN is nothing but a mouth-piece of corporate world.

Bhairav said...

Did anyone miss above article?

The title should be "Cry for Self-Rule by Tamils Is Muffled by Genocide.

Bhairav said...

The home of snake charmers may find the heat in near future. India's foreign policy is short-sighted to the least.

Bhairav said...

This comment is posted by someone for the above link of editorial page of NY Times.


February 18th, 2010
1:27 pm
When Indra Ghandi led Congress was in power in India in early 80s, she helped to create the half dozen insurgent groups in Sri Lanka to distract the economical and political growth of SL that many thought would easily surpass Singapore or Hong Kong if it was given a proper guidance then. Of the half dozen insurgent movements she created, one, LTTE, went against their wishes and it actually fought for the rights of Tamil people in SL. India finally wanted to destroy the insurgent group, LTTE, that was created for their own well-being, in that process, they have direct hands of killing 40,000 innocent Tamils in the 4 month of bloody war between Srilankan government forces and LTTE in the last summer. Now 300,000+ Tamils are behind the warped wires in SL, and Srilankan armed forces pick and choose the Tamil girls and women in the camp for their sexual assaults.
What India did in SL now Pakistan does it in Afghanistan but in this case, Taliban is Muslim fanatics who have no values for civilized world. Contrary to what posters think here, India is no saint at all, and its foreign policy is flawed in every corner just as US’s foreign policy in Midde East.

Suresh said...

Karuna discarded from the National list

The SLFP leadership has notified that Minister Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna cannot be accommodated in the National list of MPs.
He was appointed to Parliament as an MP via the National list. He is a Vice President of the SLFP. It is learnt that the President has informed Amman that the Tamils must be allowed to choose their leader, and hence he must contest the General election and win. Accordingly , Muralidharan will contest the Batticaloa District at the forthcoming General elections as a UPFA candidate.

Meanwhile , Eastern Province Chief Minister Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan has decided to contest Batticaloa and Trincomalee Districts independently.

Bhairav said...

The symbol itself shows how predictable JVPers are, let alone their real acts.

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