Feature Article

Diplomatic misstep

[TamilNet, Friday, 25 December 2009, 21:33 GMT]
Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, permanent secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, appears to have received a reprimand from his Department's Minister after making disparaging remarks on Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary execution, and for dismissing as "another nuisance," the letter from Alston requesting explanation to Sarath Fonseka's allegations that Colombo may have committed war-crimes. In an interview, Mr Wijesinha calls Alston "a sad man," "an excitable man," and "a bit of an excitable chap." The Sri Lanka Government announced that it has withdrawn Mr. Wijesinha's self-publicized response to Alston.

Rajiva Wijesinha's letter to Alston
Rajiva Wijesinha's letter to Alston
Following allegations by presidential aspirant Fonseka in Sunday Leader, of war-crimes committed by Gotabhaya Rajapakse and senior Army commanders, Alston wrote to Colombo:
    "It is my responsibility under the mandate provided to me by the Human Rights Council to seek to clarify all cases brought to my attention. Since I am expected to report on the death of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh, as well as of the members of their families, I would be grateful for the cooperation and observations of your Excellency's Government. In particular in relation to the following questions:
    1. Are the allegations summarized above accurate, If not so, please share the information and documents proving their inaccuracy.
    2. What information does your Excellency's Government have on the family members of Messrs. Nadeshan, Pulidevan and Ramesh allegedly killed on 18 May 2009.
    3. Please refer to the results of my military, police, judicial and other inquiry or investigation carried out in relation to the allegations summarized above.
Samarasinghe on Alston letter
Courtesy: Daily Mirror
Whilst Mr Wijesinha said he has sent his letter to Philip Alston, Disaster Management and Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said Wednesday that "the Government has not made any official reply to the letter sent by UN Special Rapporteur yet, and expects to send the reply through the Foreign Ministry and Sri Lankan Ambassador to Geneva in due course," according to Daily News.

"The Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Geneva has been directed to withhold Mr Wijesinghe's response," the Minister said in a video interview Wednesday.

Later, Hindu reported that "[t]he Sri Lankan government on Thursday announced that the letter sent by...Rajiva Wijesinha in response to questions raised by...Phillip Alston, on charges made by the former Army Chief Sarath Fonseka against Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa about the sequence of events in the last phase of Eelam War IV (May 16 to 19), should be treated as withdrawn."

Rajiva Wijesinha interview
Courtesy: Adaderana
"Colombo rightly felt that Mr Wijesinha's condescending admonition to Philp Alston, whose strong legal credentials earned him the coveted expert position at U.N., to withdraw the letter, would create difficulties for Sri Lanka at the UN Human Rights Council, especially as Alston is scheduled to submit a report on these revelations. Further, when International community, following the damning report by the U.S. State Department, is raising stronger voices of war-crimes allegations against Colombo, Wijesinha's diplomatic transgressions are ill-advised," spokesperson for a US-based pressure group said.

"Mr Wijesinha, a former English professor, appears to enjoy the thrill of stirring up controversy by his use of words, and exhibits deplorable disregard for truth in the zeal with which he defends the Rajapakse Government," the spokesperson added.

In a recent incident, responding to serious accusation of sexual abuse by an eye-witness inside military supervised internment camps where more than 350,000 Tamil civilians were held until recently, the former professor responded, "[w]e received a report that a soldier went into a tent at 11:00 p.m. and came out at 3:00 a.m. It could have been sex for pleasure, it could have been sex for favours, or it could have been a discussion on Ancient Greek philosophy, we don't know."

Another issue that continues to smolder in the agenda of international rights groups is the war crimes allegation arising from the summary executions seen in the video broadcast by Channel-4.

Interview with Philip Alston
Courtesy: Channel-4
"Mr Wijesinha and Minister Samarasinghe continue to tout the technical arguments put forward by a panel of four "independent" experts selected by Colombo. While Alston had said Colombo's experts are "not independent," two independent forensic firms, one in the U.S.and the other in the U.K., have established authenticity of the video. Tamils Against Genocide (TAG), the US-based pressure group will soon have a point-by-point technical rebuttal of Colombo's discredited report, which will again likely challenge Mr Wijesinha's skills in propagating falsehood," a TAG spokesperson told TamilNet.

Tamil circles also point out that while war-crimes allegations of killing surrendees, summary executions witnessed in the Channel-4 video, and allegations of crimes against humanity for the conduct of Colombo in planning and managing the internment camps, are serious, Tamil expatriates have a primary duty to expose Colombo's egregious crime of "purposely and intentionally" killing more than 30,000 unarmed civilians during the first five months of 2009.

And that reconciliation is not possible until the events of those crucial five months are brought in the open, and criminals brought to justice.


Related Articles:
21.12.09   Allegations of killing LTTE surrendees under UN probe
28.08.09   Horrendous video images indicate violation of International ..

External Links:
DN: Govt’s victory at UNHRC undone
DM: UN questions Govt. on Fonseka’s Allegations
Channel-4: Interview: Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Adaderana: VIDEO: UN has based accusation only on reported interview
Hindu: Letter on U.N. queries withdrawn: Colombo
Guardian: Sri Lankan guards 'sexually abused girls' in Tamil refugee camp
Channel-4: UN probing Sri Lanka 'executions'


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