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A Response: ‘The Geneva consensus: Setting the record straight’

by Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah


(February 17, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The tale of two Sri Lankan Diplomats embroiled in a war of words – where ‘truth’ is a bystander…….

Dayan Jayatilleka Shamelessly Claiming Credit for Concealing the ‘Slaughter in Sri Lanka’

While there is a row brewing in cyberspace between two Sri Lankan diplomats, past and present, career and political appointee, about who was better at their jobs in telling lies for the Rajapaksa regime, let’s not be side-tracked from the ‘truth’.

Dayan Jayatilleka is shamelessly taking credit for having cleverly concealed the truth about the mass slaughter of Tamils in Mullivaikal Northern Sri Lanka in May 2009. Damning evidence now in the public domain tells a different story.

Investigative reports, photographs, satellite images, videos and testimonies reveal what truly happened. The Times (UK) front page headlines on 29, May 2009 called it the ‘Hidden Massacre’ and declared in its editorial “the truth must be told.” There was indeed a Genocide perpetrated by the Sri Lankan Armed forces that used chemical weapons among other banned devises to simply annihilate Tamils. It’s sad that on the orders of the Sri Lankan military top brass and their Secretary of Defence and Commander in Chief and President, innocent civilians, prisoners of war and surrendering cadres were bombed, executed, and massacred without mercy. After embarking on a huge clean-up operation it was then left to Sri Lanka’s diplomats to start the cover-up operations. It fell on Dayan Jayatilleka Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations at Geneva and his erstwhile colleagues in Sri Lankan Embassies abroad to conceal the truth and tell lies; yes tell lies.

Dayan Jayatileka in a stinging rebuttal to Sarala Fernando’s ‘The “race” between Mahinda Rajapakse’s LLRC and Ban Ki-moon’s UN panel’ takes offence to Sarala’s innuendo that career diplomats do a better job: “Fortunately there is a return to professional diplomacy in Geneva, with the amiable Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe also taking up again the human rights portfolio, who has both institutional knowledge and experience. ….Supported by quiet diplomacy, that goodwill extended over a period of years, such that when I left Geneva in early 2007, a Special Session on Sri Lanka would have been unthinkable,” says Sarala.

Who needs ‘Wiki leaks’, Dayan’s response to Sarala’s ‘putt shot’ directed straight at him titled ‘The Geneva consensus: Setting the record straight’ reveals some of the maneuverings and manipulations of the Sri Lankan diplomatic corp. who truly have sung for their supper and in Dayan’s case to the extent that he managed to block a much needed UN presence in Sri Lanka at a crucial time which could have halted if not minimized human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and prevented ‘who knows’ the human catastrophe, the unspeakable tragedy that ensued: “The written record would show that far from a special session on Sri Lanka being “unthinkable” during the tenure of the article’s author, there was a highly critical draft EU resolution on Sri Lanka on the HRC agenda from 2006, precisely during that tenure and a good year before I was deployed to Geneva. When I assumed duties as Ambassador/Permanent Representative on June 1st 2007, the awesome nature of professional achievement immediately prior to my arrival was to have persuaded the initiators of the draft resolution to continue the postponement of the resolution to the next session, the first one that I would attend having assumed duties in June 2007. This was not quite ‘fixing the problem’ but fixing the successor. By the end of 2007, in my first 6 months, I had succeeded in removing that draft from the agenda without making the slightest concession on the outstanding demand of stationing a full-fledged presence of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Sri Lanka,” says Dayan.

What ever Dayan says in his bid to set the record straight in his tussle with Sarala, taking credit and basking in the glory of what he achieved that day at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) special session convened to discuss war atrocities allegedly committed by both sides in the war in Sri Lanka, the out come actually sent shockwaves in the international circles. He is being more than economical with the truth when he says that “sources from the Washington Post, The Times (UK) and The Economist through the International Crisis Group, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International ruefully point to that Geneva vote as a considerable diplomatic achievement by Sri Lanka and its friends in the face of great pressure and momentum.” They not only expressed regret they were livid.

The Times (UK) in its editorial condemned the proceedings in the strongest possible terms and it’s appropriate to provide the full contents of the editorial to appreciate the outrage felt by most reflected here by The Times.

The Times (UK) Editorial:
May 29, 2009
Slaughter in Sri Lanka

Evidence gathered by The Times has revealed that at least 20,000 Tamils were killed on the beach by shelling as the army closed in on the Tigers

“Deeply disappointing” was how a human rights group yesterday described the vote in the United Nations Human Rights Council hailing the victory of the Sri Lankan Government. This is a breathtaking understatement. It was an utter disgrace. The 47-member body, set up in 2006 to replace the previous corrupt and ineffectual UN Commission on Human Rights, has abjectly failed one of its first and most important tests.

It was asked by its European members to investigate widespread reports of atrocities and war crimes committed by both government troops and the Tamil Tigers in the final weeks of the conflict. The council chose to debate a one-sided, mendacious and self-serving motion put forward by the Sri Lankans. This welcomed the “liberation” of tens of thousands of the island's citizens, condemned the defeated Tigers, made no mention of the shelling of civilians and kept silent on the desperate need to allow the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups into the camps where some 270,000 Tamil civilians have been interned. Support for this flawed resolution came from China Russia, India, Pakistan and a clutch of Asian and Islamic nations determined to prevent the council ever investigating human rights violations in their own or any country. It was sad to see Israel, for obvious political motives joining in this charade, claiming that the massacres, violence, repression and internment a re an internal affair.

To her credit, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, insisted that there needed still to be an inquiry into “very serious abuses”. Those abuses, it now emerges, are far, far worse than the outside world imagined. The UN estimated that 7,000 people were killed in the first four months of this year; the figure now appears to be at least 20,000. Thousands of these victims died as a result of the shelling by the Sri Lankan Army of the strip of coastline where the final remnants of Tiger resistance were trapped, along with at least 100,000 civilians.

Photographs taken by The Times present clear evidence of an atrocity that comes close to matching Srebrenica, Darfur and other massacres of civilians. In the sandy so-called no-fire zone where the trapped Tamil civilians were told to go to escape the brutal army bombardment, there are hundreds of fresh graves as well as craters and debris where tents once stood. This was no safe zone. This was where terrified civilians buried their dead as the shells landed - after the Government had declared an end to the use of heavy weapons on April 27.

Some civilians were probably killed by the Tigers, whose brutality and ruthlessness over the past 28 years has fully justified their depiction as terrorists. Finding out what happened, however, is impossible: the army has barred entry to all outsiders. Food is short, sanitation appalling; wounded and traumatised civilians are in desperate need of help. That much is clear from those who have been able to escape. More sinister reports are now circulating of systematic “disappearances”, of families separated and young men taken away. But until the Government allows in aid workers, the presumption must be that it wants nothing to be heard or seen of what is going on.

This tactic was used in the final push to beat the Tigers. The army wanted no witness to the onslaught, no journalists to alert the world to human rights violations, no photographers to record the suffering. Sri Lanka, now basking in its victory, may set the pattern for other nations battling against insurgencies. For them, victory is all that matters. Most of Sri Lanka may rejoice at the end of a bloody civil war. But the UN has no right to collude in suppressing the appalling evidence of the cost. The truth must be told.

End of Editorial

Yes the Truth must be told! It may seem Sir Henry Wotton's definition, “An ambassador is said to be a man of virtue sent abroad to tell lies for the advantage of his country,” is quite apt here but only Dayan would know if he fits this definition. All he needs to do is some soul-searching to see if he, to borrow a phrase from the Times (UK) editorial “colluded in suppressing …appalling evidence” for his country!

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