Questions Raised On The Transparency And Integrity Of The OISL
By Camelia Nathaniel
The minister of foreign affairs Professor G.L. Peiris convened a meeting last week with representatives of the OISL and Heads of Missions, and briefed them on the recent arrest of Sinnathamby Krishnarasa who had possessed blank forms containing signatures of conflict affected persons who had been promised monetary compensations by the UN in exchange for their signatures and copies of National Identity Cards and death certificates.
The minister during the meeting pointed out that investigations following his arrest have revealed that the information collected by deceiving conflict affected families was to be utilised in reports to the OISL.
Peiris raised concerns over the integrity and transparency of the whole OISL process and also highlighted the fact that certain parties were trying to manipulate the plight of these innocent people in order to distort the truth and create a distorted picture in order to discredit the Sri Lankan Government and the security forces.
Krishnarasa who resides in Kiranchi Pooneryn had undergone training in the LTTE in 1999 in Kiranchi under the political wing member Nation and thereafter engaged in activities of the LTTE. During the conflict his daughter Lingeswarie was killed in battle while another daughter Sudharshini is reported missing in action. During the conflict Krishnarasa lived in Vishwamadu and with the end of the conflict had moved to the government controlled area in Mullivaikkal. Thereafter he lived in Manik farm until his resettlement in the present location in November 2009.
On October 25, Krishnarasa who was an ex-LTTE non rehabilitated cadre was taken in for questioning for having in his possession 25 blank submission papers of which six had signatures on them. The six signatures that were on the forms were of persons from Kumalamunai, Mulangavil and Iranamathanagar. These forms were to be subsequently submitted to the OISL Geneva and it is suspected that the blank signatures were obtained with the intention of a third party filling them out later implicating the security forces of human rights violations.
Sources from within the TNA revealed that the forms were to be subsequently filled as per the instructions of the TNA blaming the security forces of HR violations. The suspect also had in his possession a diary containing around 400 names of those who had lost their loved ones in the war and according to certain TNA members who wished to remain anonymous, they were instructed to obtain the signatures of all those on the list obtained from the local authorities. This list of 400 contained names of missing persons, the names of persons who had died and injured during the humanitarian operations in Puthulathalan, Kiranchi, Mulliyavaikkal, Iranamadu, Nachchikuda, Mulankavil, Sugandhirapuram and Valaignanamadam. The list had also contained names of children who the parents had not allowed the LTTE to conscript.
Upon speaking to several persons who had signed this form, it was revealed that they were told this form was to obtain compensation from the UN for their losses and also requested tem to hand over any other relevant documentation as well including death certificates etc. These vulnerable people had believed this story as they could not read the forms. Hence the information had been collected on the pretext that the TNA is planning to help provide financial and material aid to families who had been affected by the humanitarian operations.
Further while searching his home police had also discovered detailed information on all military camps in the Vanni area detailing even the troop strength in every camp.
It was further revealed that Krishnarasa had been instructed to meet Alva Pulle Vijendrakumar alias Sun Master (presently serving on the TNA advisory panel) at the Vavuniya bus stand at 1500 hrs on the 22nd of October. At this meeting Sun master had handed over the submission papers and instructed Krishnarasa to collect death certificates of any person who had been killed during the humanitarian operations, personal details of war widows and their national identity card numbers and photographs of disabled persons. Further sun master had instructed him to gather only the signatures of individuals on the forms that he had provided.
The Sunday Leader also reliably learns that even during investigations conducted by the law enforcement authorities, Sun Master had been contacting Krishnarasa on his mobile phone. Further it was also revealed that several other trusted TNA supporters including a grama sevaka had also been engaged in gathering such information and signatures.
It is also alleged that the Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) and TNA Northern Provincial Council member Ananthy Sasitharan had also been involved in this sinister endeavor. In fact she had requested the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights in Geneva to grant them more time to gather information.
The Sunday Leader also reliably learns that Ananthi and T.Ravikaran (another NPC member) went to Geneva on their own without NPC permission. According to TNA sources, the Governor took the issue very seriously and sent a letter to NPC Chairman C V K Sivagnanam saying that henceforth, NPC members will have to take the Governor’s permission for overseas visits, even if private.
Chairman of NPC, C V K Sivagnanam says that the circular on foreign travel had been issued to all Provincial Councils four or five years ago but it was brought to the notice of the NPC (by the Governor) only recently after the controversial visit of Ananthi and Ravikaran to Geneva in the second half of September this year.
Meanwhile issuing a statement the minister of External Affairs Professor G.L. Peiris had pointed to the unofficial extension of the deadline given to make submissions to the OISL that was conveyed by the OHCHR Spokesman to a local newspaper, in which he had stated that late submissions would not necessarily be refused since some material would take time to arrive.
But Prof. Peiris stated that although it is not unusual to extend the deadline, the manner in which it has been done and the fact that it came soon after Northern provincial council member Ananthi Saitharan requested for such an extension, has benefitted groups with vested interests.
He had also expressed regret at the nature in which the hearings of the OISL are to be carried out in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America where alleged victims residing out of Sri Lanka are due to be accessed. He had pointed out that the absence of the dates or venues of such hearings shows that the OISL arranges only to interact with persons of their choosing who would give them access to the type of information they wish to receive for a specific outcome.
It is also noteworthy that arrested LTTE members in Malaysia were found to be in possession of UNHCR identity cards, raising concerns regarding the involvement and the motives of the organisation itself. It also raises concerns regarding the UN’s refusal to reveal the identities of those who provided information to the Darusman panel until 2013. In the wake of discovering the blank forms being distributed, it raises doubt if the information provided for the Darusman panel were also obtained in the same manner.
Meanwhile Professor Peiris further stated that the processes of the OISL so far demonstrates a selected and biased approach and had stated that despite Sri Lanka rejecting the investigation it is only reasonable to expect that certain fundamental principles relating to the objectivity and fairness is followed.
Further the UNHCR had granted approval for submissions to be made in all three languages, however they had later informed those who made submissions that all supporting documents have to be translated into English, French, Spanish or Russian language.
The OHCHR in an earlier circular calling for submissions stated that Individuals, organisations and governments are invited to submit information and/or documentation on alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes allegedly perpetrated from 21 February 2002 until 15 November 2011 in Sri Lanka by either of the parties to the armed conflict.
It said that submissions must be made by midnight, Geneva time, on 30 October 2014. This is to allow the investigation team time to analyse all the information gathered before drafting its report. Drafting needs to be completed at least two months before the report is presented to the HRC in March.
Yet in spite of the guidelines clearly mentioned the spokesman for the OHCHR extends the cut off date. This too raises concerns whether Anandi Sasitharan’s visit had anything to do with this extension, and if so how credible will this investigation be? Taking all these incidents into account it is clear that this investigation does not stand in consistence with the practice of the United Nations fact finding bodies and does not conform to establish reasonable grounds to believe and be accepted as a standard of proof.
Meanwhile The United States has expressed concern over the Sri Lankan government’s attempt to silence persons cooperating with the United Nations mechanism inquiring into Sri Lanka. US Ambassador to the UNHRC Keith Harper had tweeted on his official twitter account that Sri Lanka must understand that attempting to silence those cooperating with the UN is an attack on the UN.
Further the TNA too had denied any involvement with the distribution of the blank forms and also denied that Sun Master is a member of the TNA and that alleged activities with regard to the distribution and collection of forms have not been endorsed by the TNA.