Feature Article
4TH LEAD

UN consistent in ‘leaking’ on Sri Lanka

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 14 November 2012, 04:21 GMT]
An internal review panel report on the UN ‘s conduct in the final months of the Vanni War has found the UN guilty of “systematic failure” in Sri Lanka, according to the report leaked to the BBC on Tuesday. The practice of ‘leaking’ information and reports on Sri Lanka is consistent with the UN ever since the times of the Vanni War, and this only shows how the UN is still not straight forward in remedying the genocide of Eezham Tamils it abetted in the island, commented a new generation Tamil politician. He cited the leaked documents of the UN on the casualties in Vanni War in March 2009 and the UNSG panel report that was leaked to media before being made public in April 2011. BBC cited sources that the executive summary of stark conclusions in the current draft report will be removed in the final report.

The investigation panel was headed by former senior UN official Charles Petrie.

Senior UN staff in Sir Lanka "had insufficient political expertise and experience in armed conflicts and human rights... to deal with the challenge that Sri Lanka presented," the leaked report said, adding that the staff were not given "sufficient policy and political support".

"Many senior UN senior staff did not perceive the prevention of killing of civilians as their responsibility - and agency and department heads at UNHQ were not instructing them otherwise," the report was cited by the BBC.

The UN staff posted in the island were not children unable to perceive the historically existing genocidal intent of the Sri Lankan State and the national question in the island. The issue squarely falls on the international politics that twisted the question and continues to twist the question, the Tamil politician in the island responded.

A major fault found by the report on the UN was that it delebrately down-sized the magnitude of the casualties during the war.

Tracing reasons, the portions of the leaked report cited by the BBC harp around Sri Lankan government’s “strategem of intimidation” including “control of visas to sanction staff critical of the state.”

The UN staff developed "a culture of trade-offs"– UN staff chose not to speak out against the government in an effort to try to improve humanitarian access, the report reasons out.

Gordon Weiss, the UN spokesperson in Colombo during the war subscribed to the view in speaking to the BBC that "It was an institutional decision not to use those [casualty lists] on the basis that those could not be verified and of course they couldn't be verified because the government of Sri Lanka wasn't letting us get anywhere near the war zone."

Gordon Weiss himself did it in January 2009. Speaking to AFP, he put the number of civilian casualties inside the ‘Safety Zone’ at ten and said “we don’t know where the firing came from,” when TamilNet, based on accounts of eyewitnesses and doctors, reported 300 dead and a thousand injured. Weiss helped Colombo’s military spokesperson to dismiss TamilNet report as “cheap propaganda,” and the AFP to highlight that on 26 Jan 2009.

The then US ambassador in Colombo and the current Asst. Secretary of State Robert Blake did it in his cables. In a Wikileaks cable of April 2009 Blake said, “The pro-LTTE TamilNet website reported 57 civilians killed and 300 wounded in April 16 fighting. The website also reported 600 of the 1,500 shells fired by the SLA hit the GSL-designated safe zone on April 16,” adding within bracket that “Such reports from TamilNet cannot be confirmed and are frequently exaggerated.”

It was not merely an institutional decision of the UN as claimed by Weiss and found fault by the current report. It was a pre-meditated political decision hatched elsewhere, the Tamil politician in the island responded on Tuesday.

Writing in May 2009, the French daily Le Monde revealed that the UN chief of staff Vijay Nambiar had told the UN representatives in Sri Lanka that the UN should “keep a low profile” and play a “sustaining role" that was "compatible with the government.”

The then foreign minister and current President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukerjee set an example by down playing the number of civilians in the killing field, the Tamil politician cited.

Finding fault with the UN staff, accusing the intimidation strategy of Colombo and reasoning out the collaborative strategy played by the UN to stay in the island help only to shield the ultimate political, ideological and moral fall out of the powers that were in complicity in the war, the Tamil politician said.

The BBC cited Benjamin Dix who was part of the UN team that pulled out from Vanni during the war: "I believe we should have gone further north, not evacuate south, and basically abandon the civilian population with no protection or witness.”

He was frank about his thoughts: "As a humanitarian worker, questions were running through my mind 'what is this all about? Isn't this what we signed up to do?”

But the UN decision to pull out was again another political decision orchestrated by the abetters of Colombo, aiming at a psyop war against the Eezham Tamil civilians to demoralise them in their cause and to lure them away from the trust they had in their fighters before the actual kill, the Tamil politician in the island argued.

The BBC reporting gave prominence to the defence of former UN humanitarian chief John Holmes against the findings of the leaked internal investigation report.

"But the idea that if we behaved differently, the Sri Lankan government would have behaved differently I think is not one that is easy to reconcile with the reality at the time," Holmes was cited by the BBC.

Avoiding provocation of the Sinhalese is exactly the line of argument ICG’s Alan Keenan came out with last month for his ‘contextual’ negation of the sovereignty claim of Eezham Tamils. “It is a recipe for further violence and further conflagration that will just add up more dead bodies to the already enormous pile of dead bodies that Sri Lanka, particularly Tamils have suffered the last 30-40 years,” he argued.

This is also the argument many Western diplomats in the embassies and foreign offices try to sell to Eezham Tamil politicians and activists nowadays, in detracting them from asserting to the reality, i.e., the genocide of the past, the on-going genocide and the urgent need of the Eezham Tamils to protect their nation from annihilation by claiming independence.

They are not worried about the provocation they caused to Eezham Tamils and global Tamils by the genocidal war and by the continued structural genocide, but they are worried about provoking the genocidal State, the Tamil politician in the island said, asking how to expect any meaningful justice to come from them.

Unless the powers monopolising the UN are persuaded to take an international political decision on accepting the truth of genocide in the island and on accepting the irrefutable need for Eezham Tamil independence, the fault finding exercises targeting hollow institutions and their officials could bring in only little effect or no effect at all, the Tamil politician in the island further commented.

The internal investigation report was perhaps ‘leaked’ to the BBC so that a calculated first impression would be created on the report, or perhaps there was a fear that certain conclusions of the report could be censored in the final release, commented a political observer in Colombo.

The very picture highlighted by the BBC in its news title that the "UN failed Sri Lanka civilians" is not doing justice to the affected nation of people. It is subtle mischief to generalize as 'Sri Lanka civilians' when the concerned people covered by the report were exclusively Eezham Tamils, and it only infers the political agenda of the elements behind the BBC, the political observer in Colombo noted.

BBC’s Chief International Correspondent cited UN sources saying that Ban Ki-moon is determined to act on its wide-ranging recommendations in order to "learn lessons" and respond more effectively to major new crises, such as Syria, now confronting the international community. But to what extent the report would help to practically arrest the on-going genocide facilitated by the UN’s failure in the island, is the concern of the affected nation of Eezham Tamils, the political observer commented further.


Chronology:


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24.04.09   Civilian casualties top 20,000 in Vanni: Leaked UN document
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External Links:
AFP: Internal probe says UN failed Sri Lanka: report
BBC: UN 'failed Sri Lanka civilians', says internal probe
The Independent: UN 'failed to protect' hundreds of thousands of civilians caught up in Sri Lankan civil war

 

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