The entire country is engrossed today in the Workers
Apparently, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s call to
focus this year’s May Day events on the United
Nations Secretary General appointed panel report on
alleged war crimes is going to be the theme for
almost all the political parties that would be
engaged in the celebrations.
If the President’s call to make the May Day’s
celebrations to protest against what is commonly
described as the ‘Moon Panel Report’ ends
successfully, then it would perhaps be the first
ever step taken by the entire country to oppose in
unison the UN report.
If, there is unanimity among
all political parties and non political actors over
the panel report then one wonders whether there is
provision in the UN’s regulations or the Security
Council to pull up a country over any matter, be it
war crimes or some corruption charge.
However, albeit several political parties and groups
have expressed solidarity with the United Peoples’
Freedom Alliance (UPFA) government, there are still
some powerful forces in the country that have not
yet spoken a word about the Moon panel report.
Besides, there are also some political parties
that have not yet overtly pledged to stand by the
government’s war against the UN, in countering
charges of war crimes during the final stages of the
Eelam war in 2009.
This then could be an opportunity for the UN to take
Sri Lanka to task and being cognizant of this fact,
President Rajapaksa has invited all the parties to
join hands to forge ahead on a common platform in
order to strongly counter the UN and the Super
Mum on report
Nearly six days after Ban Ki-moon belatedly released
his panel of expert’s report on war crimes in Sri
Lanka, the UPFA government has not yet made any
official clarification or denial of the report.
While the government at international level is slow
to react and very cautious with its words, within
the country the UN has been lambasted, further
calling the report ‘flawed’ and ‘totally baseless’.
The government’s silence on the report to the UN has
been confirmed by none other than UN spokesman
Martin Nesirky himself.
To some, this is subtle diplomacy to generate the
much needed heat within the country first before
getting into the ring and taking on the UN openly.
What has been considered as an unofficial government
response to the Moon panel report so far is the only
document prepared by the Foreign Ministry to aid a
discussion on foreign policy responses to the UNSG
report known as ‘discussion paper’.
The report has been prepared by the Research and
Development for Foreign Policy Formulation of the
External Affairs ministry on April 26, 2011, and
released by the Inner City Press.
Be that as it may, what is expected today is an
approach that would include opinions and voices of
all the political parties represented in parliament.
Serious questions are raised as to whether the
government is working towards achieving what is
known as the ‘Multi-Partisan Approach’ to address
the Moon panel report and the contents of it.
Surprisingly, UNP’s deputy leader Sajith Premadasa
has gone on record calling on all the parties to
unite together to approach this issue while other
parties like the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), the Sri
Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and of course the civil
society including the National Peace Council (NPC)
also echoing similar sentiments.
Among these parties, while some want the
government to simply reject the report, others point
out that while also rejecting the report, the
government should expedite the process of
A few other members of the civil society and
academics worry as to whether the government will
mess up the whole issue by trying to take credit for
itself by not accommodating the views and opinions
expressed by others. They point out that this is not
the time to ‘play politics’ but put to proper use
the opportunity available to Sri Lanka to show her
true spirit of ‘togetherness’, similar to the show
of unity demonstrated by the Sri Lankans,
irrespective of caste, creed or colour during the
One wonders whether at least at a crucial hour like
this, all the political parties will unite together
or on the contrary show their differences which will
strengthen the case of Ban Ki-moon against Sri
Lanka. It is a time testing exercise for the public
of Sri Lanka to wait and see.
Overtly expressing opposition to the UNSG or the
panel report is also expected to be
counterproductive as many intellectuals have pointed
For instance, even today’s island-wide protest
against the UN could further provoke and antagonize
Ban Ki-moon and this in turn could bring adverse
effects to the country in particular.
As reported previously, some trade unionists have
already expressed their discontent over the
government’s efforts to hijack the significance of
the Workers’ Day celebrations, adding that the
issues concerning the Sri Lankan work force have
been swept under the carpet and that the Moon panel
report issue has overshadowed them.
As a result, nobody is talking about the escalating
cost of living and the increasing prices of
Is Sri Lanka unnecessarily getting jittery over the
Moon panel report, is another question that is asked
If co-lateral damage in any war condition is
inevitable and if the government could counter
charge all allegations levelled against the armed
forces by the Darusman led team during the final
stages of the war, then some feel Sri Lanka need not
Through its provocation and confrontational attitude
towards the UN in particular, the UPFA government
could further damage its own credibility in the eyes
of the international community.
Former Foreign Secretary Nihal Rodrigo has correctly
called all political parties to firstly calm down
and think with a relaxed mind.
This is something that has not been displayed by the
respective political parties ever since the report
was leaked to a local newspaper.
Unlike the JVP, the JHU unusually has taken a
stand this time to give the government some sensible
advice by appealing to it to muster the support of
all the political parties first before going against
In addition to a Sathyagraha the party has organized
scheduled for May 3, the JHU has decided to meet the
leaders of the political parties represented in
parliament and urge them to join hands together with
the government, shedding petty party political
JHU legal adviser and western province minister
Udaya Gammanpila says in the event a bomb falls from
the sky aimed at Sri Lanka by one of the super
powers, it will not only hit the Sinhalese but it
could hit anyone irrespective caste or race.
Hence, he has called on all to join hands to show
first of all the strength as ‘Sri Lankans’ and then
to air their opposition to Ban Ki-moon’s
The JHU is also planning to visit each political
party leader and convince him/her to place his/her
signature on a joint statement that is to be
Secondly, the JHU is also planning to appeal to the
opposition parties to accompany the government
delegations in their tour abroad to convince the
foreign governments regarding the Moon panel report
and show the flaws in the report.
He says such a show of unity would help
international community ease their anger against Sri
Thirdly, the JHU is also going to urge the
opposition parties to undertake a visit to the
foreign embassies in Sri Lanka as a joint delegation
to engage in dialogue with the foreign dignitaries
regarding the panel report and explain to the
foreign dignitaries the flaws found in the report.
According to Gammanpila this exercise is not to
whitewash the mistakes allegedly made by the
security forces in fighting against a ruthless
terrorist outfit but mainly to point out the defects
found in the report.
He says foreign dignitaries also should be informed
of the commitment of the Sri Lankan government to
the reconciliation process that is currently in
The JHU’s decision was taken on April 26 and the
party general secretary and Power and Energy
Minister Champika Ranawaka has been assigned with
the task of making appointments with the respective
political party leaders.
Meanwhile, it is also believed if Sri Lanka could
continue with its genuine efforts to expedite the
reconciliation process, without wasting much energy
on visiting and revisiting the UN panel report over
and over again, it would seriously help heal the
wounds of the Tamil minority and besides shut Ban
Ki-moon’s mouth permanently.
Even after a lapse of two years, following the
defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE), if the government has not made any headway
towards finding a lasting solution to the minority
issues, then now is the time to do so.
Minority parties that have not expressed their
opinions openly feel that the government has been
rather slow in this sphere and have pointed out that
it is still not too late for the government to
expedite the process.
What the Tamil parties inform the government is to
immediately repeal the Emergency Regulations and the
Prevention of Terrorism Act, resolving outstanding
disappearance cases, ensuring due process for
remaining LTTE detainees and providing measures for
victims and survivors of the conflict, including by
publicly accounting for civilian deaths and
facilitating the recovery and return of human
remains to their families.
Many southern based intellectuals feel it is not
difficult for the government to do this given its
two-thirds majority in parliament and of course the
defeat of the LTTE. They believe if there is a will,
these could be implemented immediately.
Constitutional and human rights lawyer and former
chief of Transparency International J. C. Weliamuna
says though it is a little too late, the government
could still consider implementing some of the
programmes aimed at creating a just society.
For instance he says the 13th amendment could have
been implemented fully, immediately after the war.
He further says that the whole UN issue needs to be
tackled with correct understanding of diplomacy,
adding that there must be decent and professional
diplomacy, which he says Sri Lankan lacks at
He says as far as the report is concerned it has a
far reaching consequence and says the report
suggests that there is evidence of war crimes. “But
we have no way to verify it.” he says.
“This is the first time the public got to know that
there was another side. It is too premature to say
which side is correct.
“One needs to look at the International statutes
and conventions and also geopolitical reality and we
may not be able to understand the gravity of the
situation. But we have a clear document that points
out certain issues in Sri Lanka.
“From this report we have now got to know that there
was a collapse of democracy during the war by even
journalists being killed,” he said.
To counter all this, he has suggested the
acceleration of a credible reconciliation process
and has added that if Sri Lanka fails to do the
reconciliation at domestic level, the fear could be
a legal issue internationally.
He has further said that Ban Ki-Moon’s action is
only a byproduct of the aggressive responses to Moon
in the past by the Sri Lankan government. “So we
must be careful in our words and deeds at least in
the future,” he pointed out.
The whole issue is centred on the Tamil minority
grievances for which still a credible process of
reconciliation has not been formulated by the
In this whole exercise the Tamils of north-east
continue to stand victimised as proper a solution
has still not been placed before them, according to
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) parliamentarian Suresh
He says the plight of the civilians has not been
addressed to properly by the government and even the
main opposition is not talking about it at present.
“Militarisation and colonisation continue to take
place. The High Security Zones and the Emergency
Regulation and the PTA are still not repealed.
Except for the infrastructure development, there has
not been any other tangible development that has
taken place in the north-east.
“The situation seems to be the same in these areas.
People are continuing to suffer and the government
is not even implementing the 13th amendment fully,”
He further asked as to how one could expect the
Tamils to support the present government when the
reconciliation process is not fully implemented.
The discussion paper
The discussion paper put out by the external affairs
ministry that is now in the public domain analyses
the past current and prospective responses of
Russia, China, India, the Non-Aligned Movement and
The document also places India on the spot and asks
to favour the report without being influenced by the
In response to the Moon panel report that asks the
government to initiate an effective domestic
accountability process and establish an independent
international mechanism to monitor the domestic
accountability process, the discussion paper has
suggested that evidence presented in the report may
have to be physically verified locally.
Following are excerpts of the paper:
“The stance that India takes on the Special Panel
Report and Sri Lanka is critical. It will also
possibly affect the stance that Russia and China
take on Sri Lanka. The stance may be framed around
the following factors:
(1) India’s strategic interests with SL and the
(2) the GOSL’s commitment to resolve the issues of
Sri Lankan Tamils,
(3) the GOSL’s ability to fulfill commitments made
to India during the final stages of the last war,
(4) the Tamil Nadu factor and how the Sri Lankan
Tamil issue will be used in upcoming elections,
(5) concerns about Sri Lanka’s growing relationship
with China and having to deal with a Sino–Pak–Lanka
Axis in South Asia,
(6) the GOSL getting closer to Pakistan if India
takes a ‘harsher’ stand.
“Although the Government is heavily depending on
China for protection at the UN Security Council
level, China is yet to take a public stance on the
(a) The contents of the full report
(b) the stance taken by India may have a significant
bearing on China’s position.
“There are many factors including the publication
of the full report and India’s stance on the issue
that may influence Russia to abstain. On the long
run, a strain in relations between the USA/EU will
be detrimental for the Sri Lankan Economy. This
angle should be given priority in any geo political
“A possible united front by the diaspora is possible
based on the HR violations contained in the report.
However, this is unlikely in the short term.
“International Actors working on behalf of the GOSL
may use the same international law based actions
against Tamil Diaspora leaders as proxies of the
LTTE based on the allegations levelled against the
LTTE in the Panel Report.
“It would be interesting to observe the stance of
the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) given the major
changes that have taken place in Egypt and that are
taking place in Libya and given that both countries
were major players in the NAM. India’s stand will be
critical in relation to NAM’s stand.
Commenting on the UNSG the paper says the following:
“The immediate, public and strong line response of
the state to the Panel report means that it has put
itself in a delicate situation. Having started with
such a reaction the Government will have to find
ways to escalate the scale of their response even
further as the implications of this Panel report
plays out internationally and nationally in the
“The Government will have to carefully balance
any implementation of any of the recommendations
made by the panel with the need to show both the
local and international polity that it has not ceded
ground. This would leave a low margin of error for
“Given the complex political power game that takes
place at the United Nations the future action of the
Secretary General is unpredictable. What is clear is
that he would have to function in a way that does
not upset any of the five permanent members and so
jeopardize his chances of being elected for a second