* In-fighting again in SLFP
* Paranagama denies and affirms
SLFP-UNP ‘power sharing’ strategy for L-G polls
A heated verbal battle broke out at the SLFP parliamentary group
meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena last Monday evening over
another gathering held earlier at MP Gamini Lokuge’s house in Colombo.
The person who stirred up the hornets’ nest was Minister S.B.
Dissanayake who lashed out at certain SLFP MPs for holding what he
called a “conspiratorial meeting” at Lokuge’s house.
Dissanayake alleged that Udaya Gammanpila, Dinesh Gunawardena,
Bandula Gunawardena and Prasanna Ranatunga met at Lokuge’s house and
plotted the formation of a new and separate political alliance to
contest the Local Government election.
The Minister said the group had discussed forming an alliance under
Dinesh Gunawardena’s leadership outside the SLFP and even outside the
old, now faltering UPFA structure.
Dissanayake accused the SLFP MPs who were present at the Lokúgé
meeting of attempting to create a division in the party.
At this point, MP Gamini Lokuge, the politician who facilitated that
controversial meeting, denied any such ‘conspiracy’.
As he sat down, Prasanna Ranatunga responded angrily to the
accusations made by his party senior, Dissanayake.
“Yes there was a meeting. But it had nothing to do with forming a
separate political alliance.
However, the party members who attended the meeting requested us to
contest under a new alliance as they were not happy with certain
decisions made by our MPs,” Ranatunga said directing his criticism at
the party MPs who had entered into a national unity government with the
Irked by Ranatunga’s remark, Dissanayake reiterated that a group of
conspirators were attempting to destroy the party.
“How can you say that? People rejected you and you entered Parliament
through the backdoor. You went behind the President and got a ‘charity’
And then you said Mahinda Rajapaksa was responsible for the election
You were the one who caused great damage to the party by joining the
UNP in 2001 when you had issues with Madam Kumaratunga,” Ranatunga
slammed Dissanayake. He also urged President Sirisena, who was chairing
the meeting, to be cautious of such ‘unscrupulous’ characters.
Finally, it was President Sirisena who intervened to resolve the
verbal battle between the two MPs. The President said, “Let bygones be
bygones. Everyone should now work towards the betterment of the party.”
He said the party should focus on securing a victory at the
forthcoming Local Government election and differences of opinion should
be set aside. The President said that the next Local Government election
would be held under the new electoral system. It was also an indication
that the election might get delayed by a few more months.
It is now clear that the SLFP has plans to contest the election
separately, while distancing itself from the UPFA coalition.
As party insiders point out, the party is not in a position to secure
an electoral victory on its own, only a few months after its defeat at a
crucial national level election.
As a way of addressing this issue, the party has decided to arrive at
an understanding with the UNP on running Local Government bodies in the
same ‘national unity government’ format. Under this plan, the UNP and
the SLFP will jointly run the administration of Local Government bodies
and the party that obtains the highest vote in each Local Government
body will command more responsibilities in the administration.
However, it is still not clear whether the UNP, which holds a certain
edge over other parties at the Local Government polls, would give its
green light for such a plan.
UPFA Parliamentarian and National Freedom Front leader Wimal
Weerawansa was caught in his own immigration tangle in the wee hours of
last Friday as he was about to board a flight to Dubai and on to Rome.
The immigration counter at the airport found that the passport the
parliamentarian presented on departure was invalid. They later found out
that the parliamentarian had obtained a new passport, after cancelling
his old one. However, the Parliamentarian had come to the airport on
Friday with his old passport with the relevant visa also issued for his
old passport. This left the immigration authorities at the airport in a
state of confusion.
The MP, however, had an excuse. He said he obtained a new passport as
he thought his old passport was lost.
After obtaining the new passport, the MP had found his ‘lost
passport’ and he had used that for this foreign trip.
Although the parliamentarian, whose wife is also caught in an
identity tangle, argued that it was a ‘genuine mistake’, the authorities
wanted to further inquire into the matter as using two passports was an
offence under the present legal system in Sri Lanka.
The MP had obtained his first diplomatic passport in 2011 and had
applied for another diplomatic passport in 2012 citing that he lost his
previous passport. He had travelled to many countries using this
passport till 2014.
This was the first time he attempted to travel overseas this year.
The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) questioned the
parliamentarian on the matter for a few hours.
Weerawansa was not allowed to leave the country as he had flouted
immigration laws by obtaining s visa for an invalid passport. He was
arrested and later produced before the Negombo Magistrate’s Court.
Soon after Weerawansa was arrested, three of his Parliamentary
colleagues, namely Jayantha Samaraweera, Udaya Gammanpila and Niroshan
Premarathne left Colombo to ‘rescue’ their friend from the CID. They
also accompanied him to the Negombo Magistrate’s Court where the
parliamentarian was released on bail.
When former President Rajapaksa appointed the Commission headed by
former High Court judge Maxwell Paranagama to look into the missing
persons’ issue, many believed that the findings of the Commission would
be in favour of the former President and the military forces which
operated under him.
However, the findings of the report, which were tabled in Parliament
last week, proved that the Commission had carried out its duties in a
fair and impartial manner, giving a fair overview of what happened
during the final phase of the war.
While denying genocide claims made by many Tamil Diaspora groups and
certain politicians in the North, the Commission identified a series of
incidents that needed further investigations.
The Paranagama Commission also denied the statistics concerning
civilian casualties presented by the UN experts’ panel, popularly known
as the Darusman committee.
The Paranagama Commission asserted that the 40,000 deaths claim,
presented by the Darusman report, had no basis in fact and that the
actual figure was much lesser than that.
The Commission rejected the suggestion that civilians were either
targeted directly or indiscriminately by the SL Army as a part of an
alleged ‘genocidal plan’. Its executive report added that “Commission
finds that the Darusman Report, as well as other reports, has taken a
particularly narrow and restricted view of the obligation upon the GOSL
to prosecute international crimes.”
“The LTTE was principally responsible for the loss of civilian life
during the final phase of the armed conflict through their actions which
included taking 300,000 to 330,000 civilian hostages, implementing a
strategy of killing Tamil civilians to suit their military aims, using
civilians as a strategic human buffer leading to considerable loss of
civilian life, using hostages to dig trenches and build fortifications
thereby exposing them to harm, sacrificing countless civilians hostages
to keep the LTTE leadership in power, arming hostages and forcing them
into the front line leading to the deaths of large numbers, forcing a
great number of children to man the front lines; deliberately preventing
civilians, under their effective control, from fleeting to areas away
from the fighting and executing civilian hostages for attempting to
escape their captivity; shelling civilian hostages in order that the
LTTE might assign those deaths to the SLA for media purposes to provoke
international humanitarian intervention; placing their heavy weaponry
amid civilians making it inevitable that there would be civilian
casualties; killing civilians through the use of suicide bombers;
placing mines and other explosive devices that resulted in civilian
deaths; causing the deaths of civilians who drowned in an attempt to
flee their LTTE captors; and adopting a practice whereby a significant
number of its cadres fought in civilian clothes, thus blurring the
distinction between combatants and civilians inevitably leading to
The Commission accepted that shelling by the SLA undoubtedly led to a
significant number of civilian deaths, “but the Commission stresses that
this was an inevitable consequence of the LTTE’s refusal to permit
civilians to leave their control in order to use them both as a shield
and a pool for recruitment, even when the GOSL permitted a ceasefire on
No government could be expected to permit young children to be forced
into the front lines without taking all available measures to put an end
to such ruthless exploitation of a civilian population.”
The Paranagama Commission, however, also had some sting for the past
regime. The Commission’s Report adds:
“The Commission is of the view that the material shown in Channel 4 -
shorn of its theatrical and dramatic presentation and of the
occasionally extravagant language used - does show, however, that there
was material enough to justify a judge-led investigation,” the
Paranagama commission said.
The Paranagama report, however, has been treated with mixed reactions
by the government MPs. While some MPs commended the report for its
impartial and comprehensive nature, some MPs were of the view that the
report had the potential of creating far reaching problems. One of the
key figures of the government who held this idea was Minister Rajitha
Senaratne, the official Cabinet spokesman.
Addressing the weekly Cabinet briefing at the Government Information
Department auditorium on Thursday, Senaratne explained the complexities
wedded to the Paranagama report.
“If the Paranagama Report was released before passing the Geneva
Resolution, the Resolution could have been much more negative than the
current one. The Paranagama report is much more serious than the UN
Report,” Dr. Senaratne said.
To justify his logic, Minister Senaratne said the Paranagama Report
specifically referred to incidents such as the White Flag, Channel 4,
Isipriya murder and Charles murder stating they should be investigated.
“But the Geneva Resolution has not named anything specific. The 20th
Clause of the Resolution very clearly says everything will be done with
the consent of the Sri Lankan government and only with the agreement of
the Sri Lankan Government. Therefore, there is no reason to worry. If
Sri Lanka does not agree, nothing can be done.”
The timing of the reports was a main topic of discussion when the
Government Parliamentary group met in Parliament on the same day the
Commission reports were tabled. Some of them raised questions as to why
the Udalagama and Paranagama Commission reports were not tabled in
Parliament before the adoption of the UNHRC Resolution on Sri Lanka.
Responding to their questions, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
said tabling the Udalagama and Paranagama reports in Parliament after
the UNHRC Resolution was “strategically advantageous” to the country.
The Prime Minister also told the Government MP group that these reports
have extensively dealt with individual cases and made recommendations.
Minister Rajitha Senaratne, speaking at the group meeting, had said
that the public should be made aware of the parametres and the
composition of the war crimes inquiry mechanism.
“If there is an involvement of foreign judges and prosecutors,” the
minister said, “that should be done in line with the country’s existing
laws.” President Sirisena, on several occasions, reiterated that the war
crimes inquiry mechanism will be set up within the parametres of the
country’s constitution and legal framework.
Retired High Court Judge Paranagama, the chief architect of the
report, however insists his report does not level any charges against
“In our findings, we have highlighted specific incidents that need
further investigations. Only an investigation of that nature will prove
whether there have been war crimes during the final phase of the war. We
have gone a step beyond the LLRC and come up with some important
findings. It is up to the political leadership of the country to
investigate such matters and take further action,” Paranagama told the
Sunday Observer, stating that “some elements have already misinterpreted
the findings of the report to suit their political objectives”.
“The same applies to the finding on the Channel 4 documentary. We do
not say the Channel 4 documentary is correct. We have only arrived at
the conclusion that there is enough grounds for further investigation,”
Judge Paranagama, however, did not fail to dub the final phase of war
against the LTTE as a ‘humanitarian operation’ aimed at rescuing nearly
300,000 people who were under the LTTE’s control. “But that does not
mean that transgressions did not take place,” the senior judge
The Paranagama Commission also suggests the formation of an
independent High Court and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to
address accountability and reconciliation.
When asked whether the special ‘independent High Court’ should have
provisions for a hybrid Bench – as suggested by the UN Human Rights
Chief – Paranagama said that “the matter lies in the hands of the
political authorities of the country”.
Shedding more light in this regard, the Paranagama Commission report
identifies the Gambian model as a ‘successful experiment’. The
Commission pointed out that a court, known as Special Division of the
Supreme Court of Gambia, was set up in 1981 following an upheaval in
which many died. That court included judges from the Commonwealth.
“This was a court that met both national and international concerns,”
he pointed out. In the event of Sri Lanka establishing a ‘purely
domestic tribunal’ without the participation of foreign judges, the
panel opined, “there should be international technical assistance and
observer”. It called for making core crimes applicable in
“non-international armed conflicts” part of Sri Lankan law. Otherwise,
there could be “no effective domestic mechanism”.
MR and Noguchi
When Motoo Noguchi of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office of Japan
visited Sri Lanka last week, he also met former President Mahinda
Rajapaksa at the latter’s personal residence in Colombo. During the
meeting, the former President was accompanied by former External Affairs
Minister Prof. G.L. Pieris.
Noguchi is no stranger to the Rajapaksa administration. In fact, he
was invited by the government of former President Rajapaksa to serve in
an advisory capacity to assist the Commission on Missing Persons headed
by Maxwell Paranagama. The invitation for him to visit Sri Lanka was
first extended by former President Rajapaksa’s government which was
desperate for ‘international support’ during its last stages.
According to the former President’s Media Secretary Rohan Welivita,
Rajapaksa and Noguchi discussed a range of issues connected with current
initiatives for reconciliation and accountability.Rajapaksa, while
appreciating his insights, pointed out the fundamental difference
between the Sri Lankan and Cambodian contexts, and referred to the
salient features of the Sri Lankan situation, the basic element of which
was the eradication of terrorism and the availability of the opportunity
today for all citizens of Sri Lanka irrespective ethnic identity, to
live in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. He described in some
detail the challenges which confronted his government and the strategies
which he put in place to overcome them.Noguchi, in response, expressed
appreciation of the invitation which had been extended to him by the
Rajapaksa’s government to serve in an advisory capacity to assist the
Commission on Missing Persons headed by Maxwell Paranagama.
The former President specifically clarified that the intention of his
government, in response to a written request by Chairman Paranagama was
to secure for the benefit of the Sri Lankan Commission the expertise of
several international experts including Noguchi.
He emphasised that the role of these experts was to serve as resource
persons in dealing with complex issues of international humanitarian law
and international human rights law which arose in the course of the work
of the Commission.
Rajapaksa said that the appointment of foreign experts as judges
exercising judicial power in respect of the Sri Lankan armed forces and
other Sri Lankan citizens was at no time contemplated by his government
because it was politically unacceptable to our people and also because
it involved conflict with basic provisions of the constitution of Sri
Lanka. Noguchi agreed that the best course of action was to have
judicial mechanisms manned by Sri Lanka’s own nationals.