The “Third Narrative” reviewed at the Colloquium presents an alternative narrative, of the events of the last stages of the war, and has been developed as a response to the UNHRC resolution of 2014. This is in the wake of the purported conflicting and contradictory accounts of the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka. These varying accounts have come from the Army and the Government of Sri Lanka, I-NGO’s, University Teachers for Human Rights, Academics, Documentaries, Film Clips and Publications by Individuals, Soldiers and Combatants, Diaspora Groups, Civil Society Groups, Activists and Collectives in and Outside Sri Lanka , presentations by the International Community, the UN Secretary General’s panel of experts, and the LLRC.
This presentation is made following an objective analysis and is based on a private sector perspective. It has the sole focus of realizing the common future goal hopefully shared by all of the alternative view presenters. It further aims to assure that the truth and reconciliation will emerge, along with justice, equity, fairness, upholding the legitimate interests of all victims and other local actors. It is also developed with an aim to restore the lives and livelihoods of those who suffered on both sides and lead to peace, reconciliation, reparation, restoration lives and livelihoods and alleviate the grievances of those innocent victims and allow loved ones to come to terms and closure with their dead, missing and disappeared family and friends. The end goal is to ensure sustainable growth and prosperity of the nation and its people, with peace, harmony, good international relations and socio-economic development, equitably benefitting all citizens. This goal has resonance with the private sector’s primary core value of placing the interests of the nation and its people first.
The current path and actions of the Government in addressing the international challenges it faces on the accountability for the last stages of the war and its commitments / obligations in terms of international human rights and humanitarian laws, appears to be inimical to the aforesaid core interests and values. These actions appear to be based on an aggressive, arrogant and self righteous stance that ignores the committed to obligations and desired foreign policy framework for effective international relations in the globalized world we live in today.
With the Sri Lanka government’s stand of ignoring the UN HRC Resolution of 2014 and taking no part in the inquiry initiated by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in fact not allowing the inquiry panel even to visit Sri Lank and further appealing to other nations to follow suit will lead to an acrimonious situation to the ultimate detriment of the nation and its people.
The UN Inquiry panel will, irrespective of the stand of the Government of Sri Lanka, continue with its tasks and have planned to receive submissions, hear and gather evidence in designated countries. The Inquiry team will engage in this task, under the guidance of the panel of international advisors recognized globally for their expertise and integrity. UNHRC team will provide an oral brief to the UN HRC during the September session and submit its final report to the March session of the UNHRC in 2015. Thus it will be an exparte inquiry where Sri Lanka has forfeited an opportunity to present, its voice, advocacy, along with the the available contradictory evidence. Thus the presentations of the Government and the armed services will not be made available to the inquiry panel, in order to clarify, defend and raise objections to the evidence and submissions before the panel. The opposing views, evidence and negative presentations by other interested parties will most likely be received by the panel irrespective of the stand of the Government of Sri Lanka. The inquiry process will document these and these will guide the outcomes of the inquiry and will remain available for access in the years to come along with the final report to be presented.
In the event the final report of the panel is inimical to the long term interests of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’s international image and international relations will be negatively impacted. In addition the nation and the people may also be negatively impacted, along with any named parties against whom the inquiry findings and strictures are made and classified as parties accused of violation of international law and guilty of offences and crimes against humanity.
In such an eventuality the private sector assesses that the following economic risks may crystallize, most of them dependent on the contents, gravity and the weight of the purported evidence listed in the report, the findings and recommendations of next steps and any suggested punitive measures highlihted;
- Banks and finance houses imposing stipulations requiring all documentary credits to be ‘confirmed’ by acceptable first class, designated country, international banks with global credit ratings
- Down grading of Country risks and associated increases in country specific risk premiums impacting on cost competitiveness and deterring import export transactions
- Inclusion of “Sanctions and Boycott” clauses in insurance, loan and credit agreements and import export trade and credit documentation
- Foreign Investors, and Commercial entities entering with trepidation in to long term trade, service and technology transfer arrangements and agreements with Sri Lankan business
- Slowing down of foreign direct investments, at a time high growth targets require significant FDI flows, especially in the wake of domestic savings being inadequate to meet supportive investment targets
- Insecurity led slowing down and significant disinvestment out of and repatriation of capital from securities listed in the Colombo Stock Exchange
- International bond holders of Sri Lanka Government Securities (Government Bonds and Treasury Bills) discounting bills in the secondary markets at discounts prior to maturity and repatriating capital. If a significant portion of the government securities are discounted, the foreign reserves of the country can be significantly eroded and lead to foreign currency reserves available to support future imports being drastically reduced. Such an eventuality can even lead to foreign exchange restrictions being imposed to avert a potential balance of payments crisis.
- If the UNHRC report were to make specific negative references and raise valid charges accusing the state and / or high officials of continuing post war ethno religious persecution, discrimination and targeting of minorities, (especially the Muslim Community), it may trigger a slowing down of employment opportunities for Sri Lankan expatriates in Middle Eastern Countries and even give rise to key trade embargos and boycotts significantly impacting on the balance of trade and balance of payments of the country.
- If charges of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and continuing persecution of minorities are raised in the report and accusations are leveled against leaders in governance and the armed services, Diaspora groups and other parties, especially those belligerent groups in South India, EU, USA, Canada, Britain, Australia and some middle eastern countries, ( ie. Those who have led the voices of advocacy and even legal challenges) who are against the actions of the authorities, may launch effective advertising and promotional campaigns in key export destinations to boycott the imports and services from and travel to the tagged “blood stained nation”. Such a campaigns, where successfully implemented, (as done against imports from and travel to other targeted destination countries), could have disastrous economic consequences. Such campaigns and boycott actions can slow down the growth of tourism, tea, apparel, gems& jewelry, spices, ITC, entrepot and shipping/aviation sectors of Sri Lanka.
- As a consequence of 9 above the financial media, risk assessors/managers analysts and rating agencies will impose amber signals in their communications and reports dealing with Sri Lanka
- As a consequence of 9 above, trade chambers, shipping/aviation, transportation and logistics support service entities and customs, quarantine, inspection and quality control entities in import / export destinations, may discriminate, slow down, impose added conditions and even boycott services support, essential for effective trade and services.
- If American and European Banks, finance houses and global insurers/re-insurers down grade the country risks and join even in a marginal way in supporting the call of opposing parties as stated in 9 above, this could have disastrous consequences for trade and services credit, documentation, payments and settlements
- As a consequence of 9 above, visas and travel restrictions may be imposed not only on those accused persons but also on trade delegations and business persons visiting Sri Lanka as well as overseas.
- There may even be the imposition of bi-lateral country sanctions and boycotts
- The PR image of Sri Lanka as a destination for trade, commerce, services, investment and travel could be tarnished, with long term adverse consequences and possibly leading to classification of Sri Lanka marginally above some of the failed states, in investment, trade and travel friendly states listing international indices.
With such risks as those listed above, looming overhead in the external environment is it the time today to;
- Ignore and boycott with arrogance and articulated acrimonious statements the UN HRC process, already initiated and proceeding for targeted completion
- Not defend the Country and the Armed Services by effective diplomacy, advocacy and raising valid objections to evidence and submissions before the panel
- By words spoken and by actions taken deny /discourage access to the panel and not allow them entry to Sri Lanka, which may give rise to negative perceptions
- Argue that the UN HRC process is illegal and canvass international support to deny access and space for the panel to operate in other countries
- Argue about sovereignty of Sri Lanka bring violated
- To highlight double standards of those leading and supporting the UN HRC Process
- To allow an exparte trial, listing of unchallenged evidence and publication of an uncontested report
- To remain silent on questions as to why some LTTE leaders are entertained in high political posts and given freedom with protection and unhindered access
- Deny to family members of open access to records, centres of detention and information on processes to confirm the dead and find the disappeared
- To not effectively support the process of resettlement of Muslims who were chased out by the LTTE and
- To place restrictions on free access to religious sites, and cemeteries but allow new religious and sacred sites to be established for the majority community
- To ignore the charges of not speedily supporting processes for reparation, restoration of assets, gold, jewelry and bank holdings of families taken over by the LTTE and later recovered by the Armed services and the State
- To not support the processes for effective closure by those with family members grieving over dead, and disappeared
- To not to provide for truth and justice to be facilitated to the satisfaction of the impacted families
- To not provide for psycho social support and long term care for the war injured and persons with shrapnel
- To not address the purported allegations of land grabs, expanding high security zones, militarization, civilian administration being dissolved and replaced by military administration, and
- To ignore charges of failure provide essential resettlement of displaced, and need for establishing livelihood options, housing , water and sanitation for impacted families
- To delay the implementation of an effective power devolution process
- To fail to engage in resolving the ethnic crisis by classifying the seeds of the conflict as terrorism or a language issue
- To not effectively engage with the political groups that have gained due recognition following an election in the Northern Province
- To not have in place an effective long term programme for investment and employment generation, and
- To not have in place an effective process for rapid restoration of education, training and empowerment, health and in dealing with women’s issues, especially of war widows and single women headed households
- To not have in place an effective process for repatriation back to Sri Lanka of those living in camps in India and displaced persons in other parts of the island wanting to return to the North
- Failure to effectively and comprehensively deal with issues raised by the LLRC to be addressed by specific independent investigations as well as its general and specific other recommendations
- The need to address some of the truth and justice issues raised by the civil society activists and organizations, including issues connected with extra judicial killings, rule of law failure, continuing post war ethno religious hate speech, incidents targeting segments of society and minorities, some of which are openly created by identified members of society, who freely participate in such actions with impunity.
Further is this the time for an “Alternative Narrative “ from high Intellectual Civil Society Groups;
- Where the conflicting and contradictory previous narratives are highlighted
- Where the unfortunate and unacceptable procedures are highlighted that made it impossible to gain access to available full evidence in making effective judgments by UN Sec Gens panel and IPEC
- To define an acceptable definition of a ‘Combatant’, a ‘Terrorist’, a ‘Civilian’, ‘ civilian population’, ‘take direct part in hostilities’ and a ‘No Fire Zone’
- To argue on the numbers dead or disappeared in the war against terror, the last stages of the war, once surrender process commenced and after the war effectively ended with the decimation of the LTTE Terrorists
- To reflect how the international community had not at any stage contested the strategy leading to the operation to defeat the LTTE and to liberate the land and administration illegally taken over by the LTTE.
- To highlight how the international community remained silent in the wake of the eastern province liberation war, ie after Mavil Aru and even provided thereafter tactical and intelligence support and even at times access to necessary military infrastructure and thereafter change their attitudes in the last stages of the war and post the completion of the war.
- The serious flaws, the validity of the evidence and material to support the findings in the UN panel of Experts and IPEC reports.
- To challenge the views opposing the validity of the objectives/planned intent of the government and armed services in conducting operations in the Northern theatre in the last stages with the intent of rescuing the civilian hostages fought on the lines of a humanitarian operation , and classify that it was not a rescue operation aimed at minimizing civilian casualties,
- To question the role of the NGO’s who operated in the Northern front and highlight that evidence dictates that in fact they aided the LTTE and made available tactical material and support to them,
- To question the methodology of determining and the specific numbers of dead and disappeared civilian (casualties in excess of 40,000).
- Highlight to failure to recognize the conditions created by the LTTE in the last stages of the war that led to the outcomes and call to examine the war crimes created by the LTTE
- To question the validity of charges of indiscriminate and excessive bombing and targeting hospitals and no fire zones, without tracking the origins of and sources of intentional acts of the LTTE that preceded and necessitated such action
- To charge that the panels of Under valuing the beneficial role of the Armed forces in rescuing civilians, receiving IDP’s and surrendering combatants and humane treatment and rehabilitation efforts that followed
- Highlight that the LLRC did not find against allegations of large scale torture rape and sexual violence as valid
- Stress that the POE report as being a prosecutors brief on war crimes by the Government and armed services
- Contest the evidence connected with Allegation of intentional denial of food and medicines to civilians trapped in “enemy Territory”
Failure of the panels to recognize how the war was fought by the LTTE, the atrocities and accountability of the LTTE , the accountability of the International Community , UN and its agencies
- Inadequacy of an genuine and credible process of assessments to determine the proportionality of the Governments military action
- The failure to give due emphasis to the LTTE actions in preventing civilians from leaving the conflict zone
- The need for changes in IHL, IHRL and R2P doctrine in the face of tactics and strategies adopted by the LTTE
By turning to what the Buddha taught and Emperor Asoka’s Edicts is the strategy of the State and civil society in line with what the Thathagatha preached and What ancient emperors practiced, especially;
- “ Nahi Verani Verani”as articulated by Sri Lanka post World War ii-“ Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease. This is an eternal law
- Dammapada Verse 223; Conquer Anger with love, Conquer evil with Good, Conquer stinginess with giving and conquer lies with the trust
- In the wake of the enmity between the Sakhya and Kholi over river water sharing, the Buddha preached “Value life more than Water” and placed a message that looking beyond the proximate cause and immediate challenges as the Cause and focusing on the bigger picture will be the strategy to bring lasting beneficial results.
In the wake of above can a new path charted by leaders caring for the sustainable future of this nation and people, move forward to actively canvass and seek global leaders like the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and nobel laureate like Amarthya Sen and Abdul Kalam along with Justice Weeramantry to bring together all stakeholder, victims, Complainants, representatives of Diaspora, UN/ UNHRC mediate over grievances, accountability and agree a common non acrimonious process and find an alternative path to assure what was articulated in para two as the objective.