05 March 2014

There’s an open can of worms in Ki-moon’s office

[It's 'Geneva Time' again and it is time to re-visit fairy tales crafted, spoon-fed, digested, regurgitated and spat out like so much bad news. It is good to re-read fairy tales because the tellers of the tale need to be known. Their backers too.  This is from 3 years ago.]

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon asked some individuals to advise him on issues pertaining to Sri Lanka.  Such a move is not sanctioned by UN statutes. It amounted to a commissioning of an exercise that contravenes UN procedural regulations and moreover compromises the integrity of that multilateral body on a number of counts has been pointed out in a statement issued by ‘The Federation of National Organizations’ recently.   It clearly violates these and moreover creates an unfortunate and even dangerous precedent that effectively confers blemish on that multilateral body already severely scarred on counts of selectivity, servility to powerful nations, massive internal corruption etc.  

The mala fides of the individuals whose advice was sought by the UN Secretary General have been established beyond a shadow of doubt.  That Ki-moon selected these specific individuals to engage in an exercise that contravenes UN procedural regulations and moreover compromises the integrity of that multilateral body on a number of counts has been pointed out in a statement issued by ‘The Federation of National Organizations’ recently.   Bernard Goonetilleke, a veteran diplomat, in an interview to the website www.asiantribune.com has clearly articulated the illegality, malice, arrogance, utter disregard for protocol of Ki-moon’s moves in this regard and most disturbingly his open violation of the UN Charter. 

As such, this illegitimate panel began operations on the wrong foot from day one.  It could have nevertheless covered itself with some credit if not glory had it opted to privilege reason to the complete exclusion of emotion. 

While it is unfortunate that Ban Ki-moon played Bull-in-China-shop in this instance, it is certainly unpardonable that he abused his position and office to give official weight to a clearly malicious project and its concrete outcome, the so-called ‘panel report’ by making it public.  He could have saved himself some blushes had he considered the ‘advice’, drawn his own conclusions and used his authority in the legitimate processes he is positioned to avail himself of, even though he splashed egg over his face the moment he snubbed the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Security Council the moment he ‘appointed’ this panel.  Gumption in this case must necessarily have been produced by powerful backers, such is the political economy of diplomacy and justice in the UN system. 

Regardless of all this, what is most damning about the panel report is that it has shown up the authors as politically slanted, intellectually lacking and morally suspect.  The problem of depending totally on those you believe are on your side is that it effectively compromises safeguards against error.  When you work with fellow-travellers or at least those you believe are your friends, especially those about whom what is known is what is convenient and/or supports your position, you tend to treat claim as fact.  When three individuals, all of whom in one way or another have compromised all claims to neutrality engage in analysis, it is all the more incumbent on them to exercise caution, place a high premium on corroboration, whittle away everything tainted with emotion and demonstrate integrity at every turn.  If investigative and analytical rigor is relaxed, authenticity of claim suffers. 

There is claim without substantiation.  There is confession of inability to prove claim.  The report while on occasion appearing to chide the LTTE, has clearly treated that terrorist outfit with kid’s gloves even painting it in colourful and sometimes even respectable terms.  This is not the place for a clinical dissection of the document of course. However, I will mention just a couple of instances where the malicious intent of the authors is starkly evidenced. 

In the section on the LLRC, the report, clearly provoked by vilifying intent, takes issue with the compensation of the panel.  The authors state that there is only one Tamil in the LLRC when in fact there are two. That’s careless and compromises the rigor-requirement.  Were they in a hurry, one wonders, or worse, were they deliberately intending to mislead? They have  also sought to vilify certain members of the commission, i.e. to discredit the LLRC and pooh-pooh the entire process, never mind being square in the middle of the charge, ‘pot calling kettle black’ if indeed the LLRC is kettle to the panel’s pot. 

The report, targeting retired diplomat H.M.G.S. Palihakkara, has accused him of misdirecting himself on law on questions of human rights.  The report quotes Palihakkara as telling a witness, ‘since the [disappeared] child was taken by the LTTE the government finds it difficult because it is not the government’s responsibility’.  It then educates us, ‘As a matter of law, the State is required to undertaken (sic) an investigation as to the circumstances of such an alleged violation regardless of the identity of the perpetrators’.  Absolutely correct.  What is damning is that the report has deliberately ignored the rest of Palihakkara’s comment, viz ‘the Chairman has undertaken to check with the security authorities whether they have found him in any place and if so we will get back’. 

The report and the reporters compromise themselves, therefore in both the wild claims as well as in the details.  It is therefore a classic document worthy of careful study and clinical dissection, not in order to divest the entire process of humbuggery but to understand how ‘truth’ is manufactured, event is misrepresented, crimes are whitewashed, heroes are turned into villains and victories are reversed. 
In addition to all this, this report provides an opportunity for the community of nations to demand that Ki-moon refer and act in accordance with the principle of equality. In other words, he must seek advice from others (regardless of mandate or lack thereof) and report on all nations either engaging in military activities outside national boundaries or within them, against insurgents and insurgencies.
In Sri Lanka’s case, using ICRC statistics on the wounded and sick, Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha has made the following argument:
  • A total of 13,826 sick, wounded and their helpers were conveyed to government held areas between February 2009 and May 9th 2009
  • Out of this 4520 were war wounded while 9306 were sick and helpers.
  • Using a far from conservative dead to wounded ratio of 1:3, gives a figure of 1500 dead civilians.
  • Taking into account that the LTTE would have not released all the war wounded we double that figure to 3,000.
  • The wild allegations of the London Times state that there were 1000 deaths a day for the 10 days following the 9th of May.
  • Given the propensity of the London Times to exaggerate and it not explaining it’s method of calculation, we take roughly half that number which is 5000 deaths during that period.
  • Given that amongst this 5000 are hard core LTTEr’s and those conscripted to fight, the number of civilians who would have died is FAR LESS than the tens of thousands that is alleged.
  • Furthermore only a portion of the above derived figure could be attributed to mistakes made by the Sri Lankan armed forces and it is definitely not due to the deliberate targeting of civilians.
Now let’s see what some other countries have done in the name of ‘national interest’ in countries other than their own.  

According to the Lancet the civilian death toll in Iraq stands at 601,027 violent deaths for the period 2003 to 2006 while as of November 4, 2006, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that 1.8 million Iraqis had been displaced to neighboring countries, and 1.6 million were displaced internally, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month.

My friend, Harsha Perera, in an open letter to Gordon Weiss, concludes thus:
‘It is quite apparent that the geo-strategic interests of the west (US, UK and France) required the survival of the LTTE in some form. Furthermore Sri Lanka is seen as a threat of a good example and as such is being singled out for punishment by the US, UK, EU in collaboration with the LTTE overseas network and individuals such as you.  Just like WMD’s were “found” prior to the invasion of Iraq by those wanting to invade Iraq, tens of thosands of civilian deaths have been “discovered” in Sri Lanka by those parties who want to destabilise Sri Lanka and replace the Mahinda Rajapakse administration with a more subservient regime.’

I tend to agree.

Will Ki-moon do a Ki-moon on the USA, UK, France and Israel? Or a Ki-moon on Bahrain and Syria or even Libya?  And while he’s at it, would he ask his advisors why they have not talked about all those nations who openly and secretly supported the LTTE terrorists, provided money, arms and other resources to them in addition to allowing their offices and representatives to operate freely on their soil?

Yes, this ‘panel report’ raises a lot of questions.  It has opened a can of worms, not so much here in Sri Lanka, as in Geneva.  In Ki-moon’s office, to be specific.