PR: Do you feel that an international investigation into the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka in 2009 is justified and what do you make of the recent comments by the Secretary to the President of Sri Lanka Lalith Weeratunga that if such an investigation were commenced, IPKF must also be investigated?
RH: Yes, I think there is sufficient ground now to determine the extent of war crimes committed by both Sri Lanka government and the LTTE and fix culpability of authority and responsibility of perpetrators of the crimes.
As Sri Lanka has dithered in impartially investigating the allegations, probably an international inquiry is required. To be meaningful, it will require not only the concurrence but also the cooperation of Sri Lanka government. International real politick will ensure economic sanctions are subverted, so it’s no option for quick results. It can come through only by international pressure and not by threats.
Lalith Weeratunga as Chief Secretary was an executor of President’s orders. So he is only inventing new ways to evade Sri Lanka’s responsibility to investigate allegations of war crimes in 2009. I am not surprised he has raised the issue of investigating IPKF’s alleged war crimes. As a CEO of the government of Sri Lanka for the last 11 years he is within his rights to order an inquiry into IPKF allegations so that the veracity of the accusations can be established.
It is 25 years since IPKF operated; so why does he remember the issue only when Sri Lanka is asked to be responsible for his conduct now? His intention is clear: Sri Lanka does not want to carry out an impartial investigation. It wants to evade responsibility for its deeds during the war. That is the bottom line. Even President Premadasa who colluded with the LTTE to throw the IPKF out of the country and no lover of India did not seek such an investigation.
Even if you examine it from the point of view of national and international human rights watchdogs, why have they failed to internationally raise this (allegations of IPKF) an issue now? They have not done so because it will only deflect the efforts take Sri Lanka to task for its lack of accountability for human rights violations and war crimes which is at a critical stage in UNHRC. So this is neither the time nor suitable environment to raise the issue; it would further delay the process by distracting global attention.
Even with my sympathy for victims of human rights violations and as a serious advocate of improved accountability of law enforcement agencies and armed forces, I feel commonsense approach is required to sell any proposition related to historical issues. This issue is one of them as many players of that time including those of the LTTE are no more or nearing the age when dementia sets in (I have fortunately escaped it I think.)
There is no reason for India to want an investigation now. It is a functioning democracy which has progressively tried to improve its human rights record. Moreover, it does not serve India’s objectives in Sri Lanka which are two-fold:
1. Ensure integrity of Sri Lanka as a single entity and discourage all efforts to create an armed insurgency to violate it because it will have security repercussions in India’s national security architecture.
2. To see that Sri Lanka Tamils’ grievances are removed and their confidence is restored in participating in mainstream political democracy in Sri Lanka on equal terms.
So fundamentally any action other than those that serve India’s objectives will not be encouraged or initiated in India. Such a demand would be ignored in India as it is going through a delicate pre-election campaign and it would suicidal for any political party let alone Tamil Nadu ones to accept it.
Excerpt from a longer interview
see full interview at ES