Category Archives: truth as casualty of war

FOR Sri Lanka: Engaging Lord Naseby and His Journeys in Sri Lanka

Michael Roberts

Since I had been introduced to the British peer Lord Michael Naseby in the surrounds of the House of Lords in March 2018,[1] I assumed that he had been born into the aristocratic upper layer of British society. Wrong. It required his book Sri Lanka for me to learn that he was from the upper middle class and had contested parliamentary seats from the late-960s on behalf of the Conservative Party in what were Labour strongholds – with his peerage being of 1990s vintage. As vitally, his early career as a marketing executive had seen him working in Pakistan and Bengal in the early 1960s before he was stationed in Sri Lanka as a marketing manager for Reckitt and Colman in the period 1963-64.

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Justice decimated with Gota’s Ominous Step: Military Murderer Rathnayake pardoned

ONE: Ambika Satkunanathan: “Presidential Pardon emphasizes the State’s Privileges and the Denial of Justice

Lawyer, human rights advocate and former Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka, Ambika Satkunanathan, questioned the basis for the presidential pardon of Sunil Rathnayake and the legitimacy of the process, using the case to underline the challenges Tamil families’ face in holding perpetrators accountable and obtain justice.

Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa pardoned sergeant Sunil Rathnayake, who was sentenced to death for killing eight Tamil Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Mirusuvil, Jaffna on December 2000.

Despite being found guilty by the Colombo High Court in June 2015, and having his sentence upheld by the country’s highest judicial Supreme court in April 2019 with a compelling witness testimony and evidence, Rathnayake was given an unwarranted pardon.

The sanctioning of presidential pardons have been reserved for situations where the convicted person has been unfairly or wrongly convicted and a process following the Article 34 (1) of the Constitution needs to carried out. Historically, presidential pardons have been granted by the executive in an “arbitrary and non-transparent manner” and instead “special pardons should be standardized,” argued Satkunanathan.

The process should be ‘transparent’ and should be disclosed to the public if this process was followed for Rathnayake’s case. “This is particularly important since Rathnayake was released less than a year after his sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court, which renders any rehabilitation within such a short period improbable,” added Satkunanathan.

Satkunanathan questions the impartiality of the Sri Lanka justice system, identifying the privileges held by those in governance and the discrimination faced by “vulnerable” minority groups in Sri Lanka.

This can be highlighted by Rathnayake’s wife thanking both President Rajapaksa for his ‘promise’ to give Rathnayake a pardon and state officials, with the latter having no legal authority to influence the presidential pardon, stated Satkunanathan.

Minority groups in Sri Lanka, namely Tamils, “are unable to exercise and enjoy their rights, which exposes them to potential further violations and restricts their ability to seek justice for the violations they experience.” Satkunanathan explains the victims of the Mirusuvil massacre were no different as they faced “economic and physical insecurities” that positioned them in a position where they were vulnerable to violence.

Satkunanathan stressed that there has been a lack of public outrage caused by the pardoning, despite the lack of transparency and validity in the process of the pardon. She asks whether Tamils lives are “worthy of being mourned” and added that the victims of the massacre were labelled as “terrorists merely by the fact they lived in the North or because they were Tamil.”

By shifting the blame onto the Mirusuvil victims by casting them as terrorists, it gives the notion they are “someone not deserving of empathy nor of being mourned” and justifies the crimes of Rathnayake as a “heroic act.”

Satkunanathan expressed her concern at the measures implemented by the governments to restrict civil rights and free speech – “particularly speech that challenges or critiques state action or inaction” – under the guise of stemming the pandemic.

However, she adds that free speech has been impacted by several factors such as various socio-economic and political elements, but the ability to criticise the decisions of the executive and draw criticism, is dependent on a person’s identity (whether they are Tamil or not) and privilege. Despite the fear of reprisals from speaking out, Satkunanathan has maintained the importance of challenging the states’ decisions as a means of “exercising one’s citizenship.”

His victims – which included children, amongst who was a five-year-old whose body showed signs of torture – were meticulously killed by him and a group of others. Rathnayake vehemently denied involvement in the murders in his Dock Statement and showed no remorse for his actions, making it a greater injustice that such a pardon was allowed.

The court has concluded that it was “highly improbable if not impossible for a single person to commit all these acts” and it was indicative of a premeditated massacre. Rathnayake was the only one to be convicted for the crimes and to undo the little justice won adds to the “negligible action that has been taken by the state to prosecute those accused of human rights violations during the thirty-year internal armed conflict in Sri Lanka,” emphasised Satkunanathan.

This is one of the rare instances of a perpetrator being made accountable, the pardon doesn’t serve the interests of justice, particularly in relation to holding those responsible for conflict-related violations accountable,” she added.

***  ****

TWO : News Item in Tamil Guardian, January 2020, entitled Sri Lanka to release soldier from prison for massacre of Tamils”

The Sri Lankan government is reportedly set to release a soldier who was sentenced to death over the massacre of eight Tamil civilians, according to an opposition parliamentarian who applauded the move.

“Now we have got information that the government has taken measures to release 34 members of the intelligence and Sunil Ratnayake, as mentioned during the Gotabaya Rajapaksa election campaign,” said UNP MP Ajith Perera.

“That is how a leader who does what they say works,” continued Perera. “Therefore I would like to extend my gratitude to president Gotabaya Rajapakse and Minister of Justice Nimal Siripala De Silva for taking this decision.”

It is unclear as to whether the soldier has actually been released as of yet, and whether he has received a presidential pardon.

Staff Sergeant Sunil Rathnayake was sentenced to death in 2015 for the murder of the 8 Tamils, including 2 children, in the town of Mirusuvil. The Tamils had been arrested by Sri Lankan security forces on the10th of December 2000. The following day their bodies were found in a mass grave with their throats slashed, according to the District Medical Officer’s post-mortem report. All but two of the bodies had been stripped naked. The youngest to have been murdered was a 5-year-old child.

The killings have since been dubbed the Mirusuvil massacre.

Ponnathurai Maheswaran, who managed to survive and escape from the army, testified in court and identified at least five of the soldiers responsible. After a lengthy court process only Ratnayake, a member of the military’s elite Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), had been sentenced. The other men were cleared of all charges.

As mentioned by Perera, current Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa made repeated pledges to release soldiers that had been convicted of rights abuses. His regime has also vowed not to abide by a UN Human Rights Council resolution that mandates a hybrid accountability mechanism to prosecute those responsible for rights violations.

The case of Rathnayake, one of the few convictions of Sri Lankan soldiers for abuses of Tamils, drew particularly widespread support amongst the Sinhala south.

At the time of the 2015 conviction, Together Against Genocide released a statement welcoming the sentencing, but added “much more” needed to be done to end impunity on the island.

“Even though the war has ended, the racial hatred is far from resolved,” TAG said.

“The open support for the convicted soldier as a ‘War Hero’ clearly shows that racial tensions are still extremely high. This racial hatred prevents justice for the Tamil victims of this and other massacres. There is a clear reluctance among the majority ethnic Sinhala population to hold SLA forces responsible for their war crimes.”

The names of those killed in the massacre are listed below.

Kathiran Gnanachandran (35)
Gnanachandran Santhan
Baskar Gnanabasakaran (19)
Sellamuttu Theivakulasingham (31)
Vilvarajah Pratheepan (15)
Sinniah Vilvarajah (41)
Nadesu Jeyachandran (21)
Vilvarajah Prasath (5)

THREE:

Maria Abi-Habib and As Pandemic Rages, Sri Lanka’s President Pardons a War Criminal,” 28 March 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/28/world/asia/sri-lanka-war-crimes-coronavirus.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap

28srilanka-war-jumbo

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Word Pictures in Deciphering Sri Lankan History, Politics, War

Jonathon Riley, reviewing Michael Naseby: Sri Lanka. Paradise Lost. Paradise Regained, 2020, London, Unicorn

Sri Lanka, Ceylon – geographically so close to the Indian sub-continent and yet with a culture and history that has been for many centuries distinct. What a difference a few miles of water make – as we in England know well. I recall visiting Sri Lanka in 1993 and, on the anniversary of independence in 1948, and reading a leader in the newspaper that suggested maybe it would have been a good idea to have stayed with Britain a few years longer. A brave sentiment indeed and one which, after more than twenty years, makes much more sense having read Michael Naseby’s book.

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Profound Insights into Sri Lanka’s Tempestuous History

Royston Ellis, in Sunday Times UK in March 2020 where the title of his review reads  “For anyone interested in Sri Lanka, its politics and human nature”  

Lord Naseby (right) with Royston Ellis outside the House of Lords

This book by Lord Naseby, who lived in Sri Lanka from 1963 to 1964 when he was Michael Morris and an eager South Asian Marketing Manager for Reckitt & Colman, has a cover with an eye-catching red spine proclaiming “Sri Lanka in large type. It is clearly designed to attract bookshop browsers and to ensure that it becomes a prominent addition to an enthusiast’s collection of contemporary literature about Sri Lanka. Continue reading

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Miniature Drone Weaponry: A Fearsome Future?

This video display on Artificial Intelligence within Drones has to be seen to be …. PISSING FRIGHTENED. I sent it to a few grounded pals …. Note their reactions ……

David Blacker, Ex-SL Army infantryman: “I think so.”

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Dinesh Gunawardena in Forthright Challenge to UNHRC and Yahapalana ‘Mangalaya’

Neville Ladduwahetty, in Island, 3 March 2020, where the title runs  “Fundamental Rights, Human Rights and other rights”

At the 43rd Session of the Human Rights Council, held in Geneva, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena, on 26th February, 2020, placed on record a clear, firm and unambiguous statement that Sri Lanka was withdrawing from co-sponsorship of UNHRC Resolution 40/1 and its precedent 30/1, on grounds that “Constitutionally, the resolution seeks to grant upon Sri Lanka obligations that cannot be carried out within the constitutional framework and it infringes the sovereignty of the people of Sri Lanka and violates the basic structure of the constitution”.

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Port City Colombo 2014-2040 Clarified

SEE  …. LISTEN …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2e1xOcGpDc

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