Shamindra Ferdinando, Island, 20 November 2018, commenting on the BRISLA AWARDS
Lord Naseby (Michael Wolfgang Laurence Morris) on Oct 13, 2018, received the BRISLA (British Sri Lanka Association) award for being an Outstanding Friend to the British-Sri Lankan community from British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Ambassador to Maldives, James Dauris. Non-profit organization BRISLA recognizes achievements and contributions made in the spheres of Healthcare, Literary Arts, Performing Arts and Entrepreneurship.
The Grow Traffic Limited sponsored the award at the fourth edition of the BRISLA awards, at the Long Room, Lord’s Cricket Ground. The inaugural BRISLA awards ceremony was held on Nov 15, 2015 at Grange St Paul’s Hotel in London. Sri Lanka cricket great Kumar Sangakkara was also among those honoured at the inaugural event. The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government was represented at the recently concluded event by Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, the Acting Sri Lankan High Commissioner in the UK.
The writer believes the highlight of the event was the presentation of an award to Conservative politician Lord Naseby for being an outstanding friend to the British Sri Lankan community.
Among those present was Princess Katarina Karadordevic of Yugoslavia, the widow of Desmond de Silva QC, who spearheaded Sri Lanka’s efforts to counter unsubstantiated war crimes allegations. The late Desmond de Silva was a key member of the Legal Advisory Council that assisted the Paranagama Commission. The team comprised a team of international legal and military experts. Other experts included, Prof. David Crane, Sir Geoffrey Nice and Maj. Gen. John Holmes. Sir Desmond had been involved in Human Rights violation and war crime issues in Sierra Leone, Belgrade and Syria. Prof. Crane functioned as the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and has spent 30 years working for the US federal government. Sir Geoffrey served as the deputy prosecutor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
In addition to Lord Naseby the following received BRISLA 2018 awards:
Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare, sponsored by Research Intelligence Unit: Professor Karim Meeran, presented by Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames Cllr Thay Thayalan
Outstanding Contribution to Literary Arts, sponsored by Olympia Clinic: Michael Roc Thomas, presented by Mayor of Harrow Cllr Kareema Marikar
Outstanding Contribution to Performing Arts, sponsored by St James’s Place Wealth Management: Dilini Seneviratne, presented by acting Sri Lankan High Commissioner to UK Sugeeshwara Gunaratna
Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Al Rayan Bank: Dr. Desmond Biddulph CBE, presented by Leicestershire Cricket Club CEO Wasim Khan, MBE.
Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by Specsavers Opticians: Des Gunawardena, presented by Buckingham University Vice Chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon
The 2018 BRISLA awards took place with corporate sponsorship from Altair, Sri Lanka’s most recognized high rise development project.
An outstanding friend
Lord Naseby obviously received the attention of BRISLA for voluntarily coming to Sri Lanka’s rescue. Lord Naseby spearheaded Sri Lanka’s defence since his historic speech in the House of Lords, on Oct 12, 2017. BRISLA rewarded him exactly one year after Lord Naseby’s House of Lords disclosure which efficiently countered primary accusation as regards the massacre of over 40,000 Tamils on the Vanni east front.
Unfortunately, Sri Lanka parliament didn’t even notice the honour bestowed on Lord Naseby, whose tireless efforts to set the record straight in Geneva never received the required support from Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby received the wrath of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government for successfully countering the despicable UN project.
The inaugural BRISLA awards ceremony took place six weeks after Sri Lanka co-sponsored Geneva Resolution 30/1 to pave the way for hybrid judicial mechanism to probe accountability issues during the war. Sri Lanka brought the war to an end on the morning of May 19, 2009 on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon.
Lord Naseby countered the Geneva operation on the basis of wartime dispatches from the Colombo-based British High Commission, during January 1, 2009-May 31, 2009. Lord Naseby, on the basis of official documents, asserted that the maximum Vanni death toll couldn’t have been more than 7,000-8,000 of which one fourth were LTTE cadres and that the then Sri Lanka political leadership didn’t deliberately target the civilian community.
The Sri Lanka Foreign Ministry essentially dismissed Lord Naseby’s assertions based on hitherto classified military dispatches obtained with the intervention of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office in terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The revelations were made during a debate on Sri Lanka. Lord Naseby declared: “…the UK must recognize that this was a war against terrorism, so the rules of engagement are based on international humanitarian law, not the European Convention on Human Rights.”
Baron Naseby explained in parliament how the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office had dismissed his 2014 request for Gash’s reports pertaining to the period January 1 to May 19, 2009, in accordance with the freedom of information law. Thereafter, Baron Naseby’s appealed to higher officials, too, but they too had rejected his request, prompting the intrepid politician to seek the intervention of the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner’s intervention resulted in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office making available 26 pages of heavily redacted dispatches from Gash. Had Gash condemned the SLA, those reports would have been extensively used by the British and the British media outfits such as Channel 4 years ago to further malign Sri Lanka. Had the British not done so, the May government would have used them during debate on Sri Lanka in response to Baron Naseby.
The Baron explained to British parliament how he had received an additional 12 pages, all redacted, from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office when he pointed out insufficient number of Gash reports. Baron Naseby explained how he gave up his struggle for Sri Lanka when judges of the First-tier Tribunal upheld the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office assertion that had they revealed confidential information they wouldn’t receive such information in the future. It would be better to reproduce verbatim what Baron Naseby told parliament: “...Still concerned about the lack of dispatches in the past few days, I made a final appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, assisted by my very good friend Amal Abeywardene. We had the sympathy of the judges for the cause, but they accepted the Foreign Office view that if confidential information was given out, nobody in future would give us any more. So I now have the princely sum of 39 pages of heavily redacted dispatches—nevertheless, if you dig deeply, as in life, you find some real gems. For example, on 28 January:
“It is not possible to distinguish civilians from LTTE cadres as few are in uniform”.
Then, from 16 February: “IDPs being cared for in Trincomalee. Welfare appears to be overriding security considerations”.
Then on 20 January they say, “no cluster munitions were used”, and on 26 April, “civilians killed Feb 1-April 26—6432″.
Obviously, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office stance cannot be acceptable as the person making available information in this case Lt. Colonel Gash was a British government employee. The British position could have been acceptable if those dispatches were sent by a mole within the Sri Lankan establishment. Those who had perused Wiki Leaks now know how our honourable members of parliament provided information to US diplomats in Colombo regarding a range of matters.
Sri Lanka suppesses Naseby disclosure
The writer received the following response from the Foreign Ministry on Oct 27, 2017, as regards Lord Naseby’s disclosure: “The Government of Sri Lanka remains committed to national processes aimed at realizing the vision of a reconciled, stable, peaceful and prosperous nation. Engaging in arguments and debates in the international domain over the number of civilians who may have died at a particular time in the country will not help resolve any issues, in a meaningful manner, locally, except a feel good factor for a few individuals who may think that they have won a debate or scored points over someone or the other.”
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government conveniently refrained from taking advantage of the UK revelations to seek a fresh examination of Geneva Resolution based on accusations based on UNSG Panel of Experts (PoE) report.
Foreign Minister Tilak Marapana on Nov 25, 2017, assured parliament Lord Naseby’s disclosure would be used as ‘an ace’ when the time comes and at the right place.
Marapana sad so in response to a query raised by Joint Opposition Leader MP Dinesh Gunawardena, as to why Lord Naseby’s statement was not used at the Universal Period Review of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Marapana assured Lord Naseby’s revelations would be used at an appropriate forum.
The Minister said, “We are not saying that we will not use Lord Naseby’s statement. We certainly will use it at the proper time and at appropriate forums. There may be a time when the UNHRC will ask us to conduct investigations into the allegations of war crimes. We will use this statement when such a time comes. Otherwise, our opponents will find counter arguments so we must use it as an ace,” he said.
The Foreign Ministry never used Lord Naseby’s disclosure to Sri Lanka’s advantage. The government dismissed by President Maithripala Sirisena has been determined to ensure the continuation of the Geneva process hence the decision to suppress Naseby revelations. The then government, obviously felt that Lord Naseby’s revelations could jeopardize its ‘arrangement’ with the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The UNP feared to take tangible measures on Naseby’s disclosure. President Maithripala Sirisena, in spite of repeated high profile promises to protect Sri Lanka’s national interests, too did absolutely nothing. Much to the dismay and disappointment of the vast majority of people, President Sirisena finally squandered an opportunity at the recently concluded UNGA, New York, last September to take up Sri Lanka’s case and follow it up with Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Subsequent inquiries made by the writer at various media conferences since the Naseby disclosure in Oct last year revealed the government hadn’t at least discussed the Geneva Resolution before the then Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera co-sponsored it about 10 days after Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha rejected the document.
Dauris on Lord Naseby: The British High Commission in Colombo was rattled by Lord Naseby’s disclosure. In early Dec 2017, the British High Commission declared that Lord Naseby’s House of Lords statement pertaining to accountability issues in Sri Lanka didn’t reflect UK’s stand.
The British HC said so in response to The Island query whether the BHC had discussions with the Foreign Ministry here or the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) as regards Lord Naseby’s call for reviewing Geneva Resolution 30/1. The following is the text of the BHC statement: “Lord Naseby was not speaking for the British Government when speaking recently in a debate in the House of Lords. As a Member of Parliament he is entitled to express his own views.”
“A point that has not been in dispute in all that has been written and said since Lord Naseby spoke is that many thousands of civilians died during the conflict. We continue to encourage the Sri Lankan Government to implement the commitments it gave and which are set out in UNHRC resolution 30/1 and reaffirmed in UNHRC resolution 34/1, including the undertaking to establish a truth-seeking commission. Resolution 30/1 emphasises the importance of a comprehensive approach to dealing with the past, incorporating the full range of judicial and non-judicial measures, including truth-seeking. The resolution affirms that the commitments given, if implemented fully and credibly, will help to achieve reconciliation. Achieving reconciliation is in the clear interests of every community in Sri Lanka.”
Dauris constantly played down Lord Naseby’s disclosure. Had Sri Lanka and the international community acted on British High Commission revelations, they could have had helped post-war national reconciliation efforts. Knowing the very basis of politically motivated case against Sri Lanka could be undermined, Sri Lanka and the UN turned a blind eye to the British revelations. In fact, the entire set of diplomatic dispatches from Colombo to London hadn’t been revealed so far and still remains classified. Even the documents that had been released to Lord Naseby were censored, drastically for obvious reasons. The recent BRISLA award certainly renewed interest in Lord Naseby’s efforts to clear Sri Lanka of war crimes allegations.
Finally, the top British diplomat Dauris ended up presenting one of the five BRISLA awards – perhaps the most important accolade – to Lord Naseby. Lord Naseby has pointed out “It is therefore disappointing that the British High Commission fails to acknowledge the importance of the dispatches of its own former defence attaché and the insight that is provided by his communications with the British Government.”
It would be pertinent to mention that Dauris hadn’t been in Colombo during the war and received appointment here in April 2015 within months after the change of government leading to the Geneva Resolution. The British worked overtime to convince the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government to accept uncorroborated war crimes accusations in the wake of Maithripala Sirisena succeeding war-winning President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The British would never have contemplated successful intervention by the Information Commissioner’s Office on behalf of Lord Naseby, who sought disclosure of Lt. Colonel Anton Gash’s dispatches. The revelation of records countered the very basis of anti-Sri Lanka project. Had the Foreign and Commonwealth Office given into Lord Naseby’s request made on Nov 06, 2014 for Gash reports, perhaps he could have caused quite a problem for those pushing for Sri Lanka co-sponsorship of a Resolution against its own political and military leaderships.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government created history by backing a Resolution against its own, to spite the previous leadership that won a war, which most ‘experts’ claimed was unwinnable, a treacherous act in deed.
Lord Naseby’s efforts should have been examined against the backdrop of Kumar Sangakkara’s “Spirit of Cricket” lecture at the July, 2011, Sir Colin Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s. Let me reproduce verbatim the section which should have inspired our parliament:
Having recollected the terrorist attack in Lahore, Sangakkara recounted an unforgettable experience he had with a Sri Lanka soldier back at home. Sangakkara told the audience: A week after our arrival in Colombo, from Pakistan, I was driving about town and was stopped at a checkpoint. A soldier politely inquired as to my health after the attack. I said I was fine and added that what they as soldiers experience every day we only experienced for a few minutes, but managed to grab all the news headlines. That soldier looked me in the eye and replied: “It is OK if I die because it is my job and I am ready for it. But you are a hero and if you were to die it would be a great loss for our country. I was taken aback. How can this man value his life less than mine? His sincerity was overwhelming. I felt humbled.”
For them, avoiding bullets, shells, mines and grenades, was imperative for survival. This was an experience that I could not relate to. I had great sympathy and compassion for them, but had no real experience with which I could draw parallels. That was until we toured Pakistan in 2009. We all realized what some of our fellow Sri Lankans experienced every day for nearly 30 years. There was a new respect and awe for their courage and selflessness.”
The ongoing constitutional crisis following the sacking of PM Wickremesinghe is evidence that in spite of absence of war, political parties cause debilitating damage all around.
SOME COMPARATIVE MOMENTS OF EXTREME DANGER in SNAPS: Cricketers and Soldiers
LAHORE 27 MAY 2009
ALSO NOTE THESE REFERENCES: ITEMS from ROBERTS
“The Gash Files II: LTTE’s Strategic Design,” 4 April 2018, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/04/04/the-gash-files-ii-lttes-strategic-design/
“The Gash Files III: Trapped Tamils Out by Sea in 2009,” 9 April 2018, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/the-gash-files-iii-trapped-tamils-out-by-sea-in-2009/
“The Gash Files IV: The War on Land in the Final Five Months,” 16 April 2018, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/the-gash-files-iv-the-war-on-land-in-the-final-five-months/#more-29891
“Revelations in Britain: Lord Naseby undermines the received ‘Wisdom’ on Civilian Deaths,” 12 November 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/11/12/revelations-in-britain-lord-naseby-undermines-the-received-wisdom-on-civilian-deaths/
Michael Roberts: “Saving Tamil Civilians by Sea: More on the ICRC-cum-SL Navy Operations: Admiral Travis Sinniah Speaks,” 13 April 2018, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/saving-tamil-civilians-by-sea-more-on-the-icrc-cum-sl-navy-operations-admiral-travis-sinniah-speak/
De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2010a “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010, 30/4: 35-37, http://wwwasiapacificdefencereporter. com/articles/40/Sri-Lanka.
De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009d “The Battle for the Vanni Pocket,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, March 2009, Vol. 35/2, pp. 17-19 — SEE http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/aulimp/citations/gsa/2009_157395/156554.html
IDAG [i.e. Citizen Silva] 2013 “The Numbers Game: Politics of Retributive Justice,” http://www.scribd.com/doc/132499266/The-Numbers-Game-Politics-of-Retributive-Justice OR http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/document/TheNG.pdf.
Muralidhar Reddy, 2009 “An Escape from Hellhole,” http://www.hindu.com/ 2009/04/25/stories/2009042558390100.html.
Muralidhar Reddy, 2009 “Multiple Displacements, Total Loss of Identity.” The Hindu, 27 May 2009, http://www.hindu.com/2009/05/27/stories/2009052755811500.htm
Michael Roberts, “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/04/10/generating-calamity-2008-2014-an-overview-of-tamil-nationalist-operations-and-their-marvels/
Michael Roberts: “BBC-Blind: Misreading the Tamil Tiger Strategy of International Blackmail, 2008-13,” 8 December 2013, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/bbc-blind-misreading-the-tamil-tiger-strategy-of-international-blackmail-2008-13/#more-1122
Roberts, Michael 2013 “Introducing “Numbers Game” – A Detailed Study of the Last Stages of Eelam War IV,” 30 April 2013, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/introducing-numbers-game-a-detailed-study-of-the-last-stages-of-eelam-war-iv/
Roberts, Michael 2014 Tamil Person and State. Essayl, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.
Roberts, Michael 2014 Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.