28th May 2021 21:03:42 Hours


by Shamindra Ferdinando\r\n\r\nThe UN was having irrefutable evidence that would contradict the much touted allegation that indiscriminate military action had caused the deaths of 40,000 civilians during the last phase of the war on the Vanni east front, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya said.\r\n\r\nPointing out that that many referred to the January-May 19, 2009 period as the final phase, Gen. Jayasuriya said that the UN mission in Colombo had estimated the number of deaths at 7,21 from August 2008 to May 13, 2009. The army brought the ground offensive to a conclusion six days later with the killing of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran on May 19 morning. The same report placed the number of wounded at 18,479.\r\n\r\nThose who had been killed and wounded fighting for the LTTE too, were also listed by the UN.\r\n\r\nThe former Security Forces Commander, vanni (July 2007 to July 2009) emphasized that the proposed UN investigation team would have to closely examine the report prepared by the UN Country Team, though the UNSG Ban Ki Moon 's Panel of Experts (PoE) rejected it.\r\n\r\nIn a brief interview with The Island, yesterday, the former army commander (July 2009 to August 2013) said that the report prepared on the basis of information gathered by the UN had been gathering dust, while various interested parties propagated vastly varying figures to justify a war crimes probe. Nothing could be as ridiculous as the claim made in House of Commons in September 2011 that 40,000 civilians and 60,000 LTTE personnel died during January-May 2009 period, Gen. Jayasuriya said. The CDS was responding to a statement made by Labour Party MP Siobhain MacDonagh.\r\n\r\nExternal Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris recently declared that the government wouldn 't cooperate with UN investigators under any circumstances.\r\n\r\nThe UN requested government clearance to visit Sri Lanka during July-November period to conduct investigations.\r\n\r\nGen. Jayasuriya said that the UN couldn 't ignore its own report. Responding to a query, Gen. Jayasuriya said as the UN report had been based on information provided by the Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS), national staff of the UN, NGOs as well as the ICRC, the UN could easily get in touch with them.\r\n\r\nGen. Jayasuriya said that as the PoE had recommended that the identities of those who had provided information to the group wouldn 't be revealed until 2031, the on-the spot UN report could be the basis for the proposed inquiry. The General said that regardless of Sri Lanka 's participation in the inquiry, the UN couldn 't ignore available evidence.\r\n\r\nThe CDS said that beside the accusations as regards civilian deaths as well as alleged battlefield executions during the last 72 hours ending 9 am on May 19, Sri Lanka was accused of coordinated artillery fire at civilians, depriving civilians of medicine and food, compelling all foreigners to leave the Vanni and systematic rape of both combatants and civilians. Subsequently, Sri Lankan military was also accused of sexually abusing LTTE suspects, the General said.\r\n\r\nGen. Jayasuriya said that those who had served the UN, INGO, ICRC, WFP and India could help the investigation undertaken by UN human rights commissioner, Ms Pillay. The top army officer pointed out that a government planning mass scale slaughter would never have organized food convoys (Oct 2008-January 2009) to Vanni east before sending food ships (February 2009-May 8, 2009). UN investigators could easily verify facts from the WFP and the ICRC, Gen. Jayasuriya said, explaining the circumstances under which the government allowed a large Indian medical team at Pulmoddai, north of Trincomlaee during the last phase of the offensive to treat those wounded in fighting. In fact, the wounded LTTE cadres too, had been evacuated in the ICRC-led operation, Gen. Jayasuriya said, adding that those who accompanied the wounded as well as other patients numbered about 8,000.\r\n\r\nHaving completed its mission at Pulmoddai, the Indian team moved to Menik farm, Gen. Jayasuriya said. Those Indians who had served in Sri Lanka during the conflict would be able to provide information, he said. But nothing could be as significant as the then US defence advisor Lt. Colonel Lawrence Smith 's response to a query by retired Indian Maj. Gen. Ashok Metha in early June 2011 at a defence seminar in Colombo. Pointing out that Lt. Colonel Smith was speaking two years after the conclusion of war, Gen. Jayasuriya said that the US official dismissed allegations made against the Sri Lankan Army.\r\n\r\nCourtesy : The Island online