The Sunday Leader

Do As I Say Not As I Do

  • The duplicitous Mantra of the West

Almost 96% of the demining process has been completed as at today

By Camelia Nathaniel

With the United Nations Human Rights Council Sessions scheduled to be held in March, the Sri Lankan Government and the Army have come under fire again, and this time for allegedly using cluster bombs and chemical weapons.

Allegations of war crimes and the use of chemical weapons are periodically levelled at the Government of Sri Lanka in a collective bid to bring disrepute to the state and the armed forces which sacrificed life and limb to save the country from the LTTE and its megalomaniac leader. In the event western hypocrisy prevails, the consequences of economic sanctions on an already beleaguered nation will go down in history as the international response to our thirty year long anguish.

No evidence of cluster bombs or chemical weapons

Interestingly enough while almost 96% of the demining process has been completed as at today, none of the demining teams have found any evidence of cluster bombs in these war torn areas. Nor have they found any chemical munitions in the North and the East, either. The demining teams include British and Indian personnel as well.

According to the latest demining records, at the end of the conflict, 2064 sq km were deemed hazardous areas. Furthermore, there was an additional 5000 sq km which were considered potential areas for demining and after non technical surveys the teams were able to exclude about 3000 sq km and confirm that 2064 sq km were hazardous areas. Of this, 1980 sq km has been cleared and only about 83 sq km is left to be demined.

The balance area which is still to be demined is in the Muhamalai stretch which is mostly thick jungle. Initially the areas needed for resettlement and vital activities were cleared as a priority so that people were able to go about their normal day to day life. Of the total demined area approximately 75% was cleared by Sri Lanka Army demining teams.

International hypocrisy

In Vietnam people are still being killed as a result of cluster bombs and other unexploded ordnances (UXOs) left by US and Vietnamese military forces. According to estimates, up to 300 people are killed annually by these UXOs.

Some 270 million cluster submunitions were dropped on Laos in the 1960s and 1970s; approximately a third of these submunitions failed to explode and continues to pose a threat even today.

During the 1999 NATO war against Yugoslavia, the United States of America and Britain dropped 1,400 cluster bombs on Kosovo.
Within the first year after the end of the war, more than 100 civilians died as a result of these British and American UXOs. The cluster bombs that eject explosive bomblets are designed to kill personnel and destroy vehicles, and these unexploded cluster bomblets caused more civilian deaths than landmines.

Israel used cluster bombs on Lebanon in 1978 and in the 1980s. Those weapons which were used more than twenty years ago by Israel continue to affect the people of Lebanon. During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Israel fired large numbers of cluster bombs, containing an estimated 4 million cluster submunitions. In the first month alone, following the ceasefire, unexploded cluster munitions killed or injured an average of three to four people per day.

Yet, in spite of such enormous casualty figures being reported in those countries many years after their wars had ended, in Sri Lanka only around 120 casualties have been reported since the end of the war.

During the Gulf War, Coalition forces launched attacks that killed many civilians, raising questions about indiscriminate attacks involving needless civilian casualties. In one such instance Iraq reported that coalition forces attacked the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, chalking up a death toll of 2278 and injuring 5965 Iraqi civilians.

The US government’s response to this indiscriminate shelling was that the Iraqi government fabricated numerous attacks on Iraqi holy sites in order to rally the Muslim community.

On 13 February 1991, two laser-guided smart bombs destroyed the Amiriyah blockhouse, which was a civilian air-raid shelter, killing up to 300 civilians, including at least 91 children.

The US response was that the blockhouse was also a military communications centre. Jeremy Bowen, a BBC correspondent, was one of the first television reporters on the scene. Bowen was given access to the site and did not find evidence of military use.

A day after the Amiriyah attack, a British warplane fired a laser-guided missile at a bridge in the Al-Fallujah neighborhood west of Baghdad. It missed and hit a residential area, killing up to 130 civilians. When friends and relatives rushed to the scene to assist the injured, British warplanes returned to bomb them, as well.

International response

What has been the international response to these atrocities committed by the United States of America and her allies? Has anyone been charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity to date? Or are the US and Britain exempt from being charged?

The LTTE scourge

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were extremely innovative in their methods of using military force against the armed forces as well as civilians. The LTTE was responsible for introducing the ‘suicide bomber’ to the world. LTTE suicide bombers assassinated leaders such as President Ranasinghe Premadasa and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The LTTE also used its infamous suicide bombers to carry out brutal massacres in places of worship such as the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy and the Sri Maha Bodhiya in Anuradhapura, both of which are venerated by the Buddhists in Sri Lanka.

It was the LTTE that first used RPG-7s. These are portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The Army had never used RPG -7s until they captured them from the LTTE and recognizing their value, procured them.
The LTTE was extremely creative in its use of weapons, as well as unconventional means, including the LTTE’s very own Jony mine, which was an anti personnel mine invented by Prabhakaran himself.

The LTTE also targeted civilians by massacring civilians living in the border villages, worshiping at temples and travelling on trains and buses.

The LTTE aimed to cripple the economy by bombing the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in the heart of the business center in Colombo, as well as the Bandaranaike International Airport and either damaged or destroyed 26 aircraft.

Sri Lanka accused of using chemical weapons

While there have been accusations that the Sri Lanka Army had used chemical weapons during the conflict, to date there has been no evidence to support that claim, either by any of the non- governmental organizations that were working with the civilians in the conflict areas, or by the medical teams attending to the injured. As at date, there has been no evidence that any civilians had been treated for injuries resulting from the use of chemical weapons.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader Military Spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasuriya said that while the Sri Lanka Army never had the capacity to manufacture munitions in the country, the LTTE had at least primitive means of manufacturing munitions and in fact had manufactured mortars, pasilan 2000 and other large mortars. There is evidence that the LTTE had conducted experiments and manufactured these munitions and used them against the Armed Forces, he added.

“At the end of the conflict we found large stocks of chemicals in cans, particularly in the Mullaitivu and Puthukkudiyiruppu areas, which may have been used for their experiments. Whether the LTTE used these or not is unknown but the fact is that they had the means to develop these destructive munitions,” he said.

However, the Army claims that there had been instances where the LTTE had used chemical attacks against them but these were not serious attacks.

“In the case of chemical weapons, they are not available for purchase in the open market. Very few countries have the capacity to manufacture these chemical weapons and only a very few countries have these chemical weapons in their possession. So anyone can check with these countries if they had sold chemical weapons to Sri Lanka

Furthermore if as alleged chemical weapons were indeed being used, there would have been some mention of it either by the doctors who treated the injured or the international NGO’s which cared for and treated the wounded.

Dr. Shanmuganathan, who had treated the injured in the field, had in fact given an affidavit stating that the medical facilities that were available in the LTTE controlled areas towards the latter part of the conflict and he was the head of the medical team of the shifting hospital. His affidavit stipulates that they used to get medicines from the government quarters to treat the sick and injured,” Wanigasuriya stated.

The Military Spokesman also observed that nowhere in his statement or anywhere in the country has any person reported injuries resulting from chemical warfare.

In the absence of victims bearing specific injuries such as chemical burns and other related injuries sustained due to exposure to chemical weapons, the allegation that Sri Lanka used chemical weapons is unfounded.

“After the conflict we carried out demining in excess of 2000 sq km. We did not find any remnants or indication of any explosives, remnants of chemicals or cluster munitions. That also proves that these allegations are baseless. Moreover it was not just the Sri Lanka Army that carried out the demining process, other international agencies such as Halo Trust and MAG of the UK, FSD (a Swiss agency) and Indian agencies too were involved in this effort.

To date none of these agencies have reported the discovery of any evidence to support these allegations by the international community that the Sri Lankan Security forces had in fact used any chemical weapons or cluster munitions.

Once more it appears that the international community is engaged in a malicious campaign to bring disrepute to the security forces and tarnish the image of Sri Lanka, Brig. Wanigasuriya observed.

Census and statistics

Speaking about the exact number of civilians killed during the conflict in the North and East, the Military Spokesman said that an exact figure could be obtained once the Census is completed. “According to the enumeration of vital statistics,” he said, “it appears that approximately 7000 people have been reported killed due to conflict related activities. That figure will either be disputed or confirmed by the ongoing survey, so we will have to wait and see. Of these people some are LTTE cadres, and some are civilians. The LTTE was using these people as human shields. Some civilians were shot by the LTTE as they attempted to cross over to the government controlled areas,” he noted.

Wanigasuriya pointed out that it is possible that while retaliating to the attacks by the LTTE, there could have been collateral damage. However, even though the government policy was to aim for zero civilian casualties, it certainly does not imply that there were zero casualties.

“The orders were very clear to the armed forces to ensure zero casualties. But that could only have been achieved if the LTTE had separated themselves from the civilians. Instead the LTTE kept them by force around them forming a human shield. They wanted this collateral damage so that they could blame the armed forces, but due to the policy of the government the damage was minimal,” Wanigasuriya said.

He added that the whole purpose of the exercise was to rescue the people from the clutches of the LTTE. “Even though we were extremely cautious, we had to face the LTTE’s resistance every step of the way. This is one reason for the large number of deaths among the security forces. During the period of January to May 2009, the Sri Lankan armed forces lost over 2350 of their personnel, while 5300 were critically injured. This is a clear indication of the level of attacks against the government forces,” he said.

Lands released

As per the recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the Army has released thousands of acres of both private and state lands that were initially occupied by the armed forces. “In total we have released 27000 acres of land and of that 18500 acres constitute private land. Approximately 8500 acres of state lands are in the North and East, but the majority is in the North. This includes around 6000 acres in the Palali HSZ which is now the Palali cantonment and about 60% of that area is occupied by the Palali airport, harbour and cement factory. The cement factory occupies around 8000 sq km and the harbour around the same and the airport constitutes over 3000 acres. We have also released over 8420 houses in the Jaffna Peninsula to the people,” Wanigasuriya said.

12 Comments for “Do As I Say Not As I Do”

  1. weerawansa

    Yes the people didn’t suffer 30 years (for a war brought on by the same politicians there today) and the army didn’t sacrifice life and limb to pave way for another megolomaniac Dictator to come in and rob its own people.
    Remember your late bosses blood too is on the hands of this Dictator and his assets (your paper) is in the hands of a lackey of this devil.

    I know this comments will not be posted by you as you are cowards and live off these megolomaniac family that will end all the freedom for the citizens of sri lanka.

  2. Malin

    The Govt of SL and the Army must be hauled before the ICC for war crimes, there is no question about it.

    • KA

      LTTE supporters in the west should be brought before ICC for war crimes supporting funding to buy weapons of mass destruction against the peace loving people.

    • Dave

      The LTTE and Tamil diaspora must be hauled before ICC and GOD for killing thousands of innocent people and giving cyanide capsules to Tamil children.

  3. fawzan

    It is shame that media published this type of article which was written without of any analysis of the subject matter. This is like a dumb speech delivered by either politicians or military spoke person. Regarding usage of cluster bombs and chemical ammunition, already there were couple of photographic evidence and reference made by doctors those treated those poor civilians. SL government imprisoned 2 doctors and forced them to make statement to cover up their crime. Only morons will fall prey to these type of articles.

    • Mangala

      You already fall pray to ltte and western articles. First look back what happen in kaattankudy. If you have brain.

    • Dave

      Mr Tamil fawan, show your evidence instead of blabbering around the world. Sorry, no Eeelamb.

    • carlion

      Wow! Malin and fawzan. seem to be quite privy to the exact events that took place. Why don’t you go to the UNCHR and tell them about it? Better still keep barking up till the cows come home/

  4. dagggy

    Use of Cluster Bombs and Chemical Weapons… who are the manufacturers of these today.
    Its all manufactured in rich Paraiah States.

    If Sri Lanka had them, then the questions need to be asked who sold it to them??
    Go….MALIN AND FAWZAN, haul these sellers before the International Courts.

    Sri Lanka shall not yield come what may.

  5. Piranha

    What a load of rubbish. Very poor journalism, if you can call it such. Is this person on the payroll of Rajapaksa?

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