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Imelda Sukumar: victim of a propagandist media

Once again the government opened a huge can of worms and sowed the seeds of suspicion and speculation among the media and the international community by foolishly denying media access to the warfront. The fact that it treated foreign correspondents with utmost contempt and denied them visas has led it to be investigated for war crimes committed.

by Pearl Thevanayagam

(November 09, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) When Jaffna government agent Imelda Sukumar gave her first evidence before the LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission) she was stating facts as she witnessed. She is one of the brave government servants who stood by her people and who did not shirk her responsibilities. She followed the fleeing civilians to Wanni, liaising with both the LTTE and the commanders of the security forces amidst great danger and uncertainty and was a first-hand witness to the most gruesome scenario of shelling, shooting and aerial bombardment.

While the media and humanitarian workers were left out of the picture through total media ban and orders for NGOs to leave the battlefront, civil servants and doctors apart from the civilians caught midway are the only witnesses we have to record the last days of this brutal civil war. The civilians were living in abject fear and only looking for ways to escape death. There were under-going deep physical and psychological trauma and their accounts cannot be taken as absolute truth given their predicament.

The Tamil media in particular went on to castigate Ms Sukumar as the latter day Imelda Marcos. Could the same media provide evidence of any opulent lifestyle or possessing 3,000 pairs of shoes on the part of the GA? Not by a long shot.

What was her crime? She told the LLRC that no civilians carrying white flags (meaning peaceful surrender) were shot at by the security forces. This is a very unpalatable statement to digest for those who want to place all the blame on the security forces. There is no denying that both the security forces and the LTTE facing a horrendous end to their zeal and mission were directly involved in the massacre of killing civilians.

Government Agent of Mullaiththeevu District, Imelda Sukumar, wounded in SLA artillery fire on her residence located in District Secretariat premmises on 08 August, 2008 -File image

Then of course the editor of The Sunday Leader, is now giving evidence that Defence Scretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, brother of the President, ordered the White Flag bearers to be shot as per the interview she had with General Sarath Fonseka.

I have never met Ms Sukumar but I have had meetings with former Vavuniya and later Jaffna GA Mr V. Ganesh in 1995 and 1996 whom Ms Sukumar succeeded. This was the time the IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Vavuniya were being repatriated to Jaffna and Mannar following the re-capture of the peninsula by the security forces from the LTTE.

Both worked under very trying circumstances and their contribution to the welfare of IDPs cannot be undermined. Both were walking the tightrope of appeasing the LTTE while negotiating with the security forces.

For her forthrightness and much to the disappointment of those who have been led to believe that the LTTE would bring them to their promised traditional homeland in the North and East for nigh on three decades the GA’s evidence smacked of disingenuity. In their eyes she is unravelling all the sacrifice made by the LTTE.

Once again the government opened a huge can of worms and sowed the seeds of suspicion and speculation among the media and the international community by foolishly denying media access to the warfront. The fact that it treated foreign correspondents with utmost contempt and denied them visas has led it to be investigated for war crimes committed. It did not help the government also went on a witch hunt of journalists murdering several, imprisoning many and abducting many more.

In the process it fuelled the flames of charging the security forces entirely of scant disregard for civilian lives, although the LTTE despite its holding civilians to ransom was being sympathetically heard in the eyes of the international community.

Even in this last moment, the evidence being heard at the LLRC should be made public and not just accountable to only the President as mandated.

The videos of close range shooting of suspected LTTEers which are surfacing need to be investigated by independent scientists specialising in the subject rather than ignored as propaganda by LTTE sympathisers. Let clear evidence speak for itself and if found guilty those perpetrators of these brutal crimes if proved guilty should be brought to justice by the Sri Lankan government were it to avoid international war tribunal.

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