Published On: Sat, Oct 15th, 2011

WikiLeaks : Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered Sri Lankan troops to kill LTTE leaders attempting to surrender

WIKILEAKS: FONSEKA OPENS UP PANDORA’S BOX

“Although Sarath Fonseka was quoted as accusing Gotabhaya Rajapaksa of ordering Sri Lankan troops to kill LTTE leaders attempting to surrender, he quickly backtracked after heavy criticism from the president and his allies and may avoid similar accountability issues during the presidential election campaign” US ambassador wrote to Washington.

The Colombo Telegraph found a leaked US diplomatic cable from WikiLeaks database. The cable was classified as “CONFIDENTIAL” by Ambassador Patricia A. Butenis.

The cable written on 23, December 2009 says “After the president’s announcement of the formation of the committee in October, the issue of accountability for possible war crimes received little attention in Sri Lanka. Most people appeared to think either that civilian casualties were unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of war on terrorism or that, even if crimes were committed, there was little that could be done as long as the Rajapaksas remained in power.” The cable further says “ General Fonseka trust the topic onto the national scene, however, in a December 13 interview published in the local Sunday Leader newspaper, in which he said Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had ordered troops from the 58thDivision to kill any remaining LTTE leaders, in particular Pulidevan, Nadesan and Ramesh, in spite of a reported attempt by them to surrender. This interview was immediately met by a firestorm of criticism from the government allies, accusing Fonseka of egregiously betraying his country and exposing its ‘loyal, courageous soldiers’ to war- crimes investigations and the possibility of being arrested when travelling overseas. Walking the tightrope of courting both Tamil votes and Sinhala voters, Fonseka backed off his statement two days later saying he had been misquoted, and that he would take full responsibility for anything done by his troops at the end of the war.”

Under the subheading of “ Anti – corruption as the new accountability?” the ambassador wrote “After ten days of brutal hits on his statements about the killing of the LTTE leaders, General Fonseka may e less likely to bring up specific human rights incidents that are related to ethnic divide and instead may talk more about general political reconciliation and the way ahead.”

Responding to Secretary of the Ministry of Human Rights Rajiva Wijesinghe’s letter to Philip Alston the ambassador wrote “ Although local media has no reported this development, it is unlikely that Wijesinghe’s arguments will stop either the UN’s interest in the alleged incidents or the attacks on Fonseka by the Rajapaksa camp.

The Colombo Telegraph published another cable on 10th October which shows, the Presidential candidate General Sarath Fonseka stood by the controversial “white Flag” story published by the Sunday Leader. The cable written on 14th December 2009 at 13.50pm by the ambassador Butenis and classified as “Confidential” recount the details of a lunch meeting she had with UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya and Sarath Fonseka on 14th December 2009. Read that cable here; http://colombotelegraph.com/2011/10/10/wikileaks-%E2%80%93-fonseka-did-discuss-the-%E2%80%9Cwhite-flags-story%E2%80%9D-with-us-ambassador/

Read below leaked US cable for full details;

VZCZCXRO3072
OO RUEHAG RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHLM #1180/01 3571215
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 231215Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1058
INFO RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA PRIORITY 2223
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD PRIORITY 9245
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU PRIORITY 7500
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 5344
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 3655
RUEHNY/AMEMBASSY OSLO PRIORITY 5269
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA PRIORITY 0130
RUEHSM/AMEMBASSY STOCKHOLM PRIORITY 0804
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 4391
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI PRIORITY 9805
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI PRIORITY 7096
RUEHON/AMCONSUL TORONTO PRIORITY 0125
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 3967
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 COLOMBO 001180

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR SCA/INSB

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF PHUM PTER EAID MOPS CE
SUBJECT: ACCOUNTABILITY: FONSEKA STIRS UP HORNETS’ NEST

COLOMBO 00001180 001.4 OF 003

Classified By: AMBASSADOR PATRICIA A. BUTENIS. REASONS: 1.4 (B, D)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The committee appointed by the president to
look into allegations raised in the Department’s October 21
incidents report to Congress will not issue a public report
but rather a recommendation memo for President Rajapaksa’s
consideration. Although Sarath Fonseka was quoted as
accusing Gothabaya Rajapaksa of ordering Sri Lankan troops to
kill LTTE leaders attempting to surrender, he quickly
backtracked after heavy criticism from the president and his
allies and may avoid similar accountability issues during the
presidential election campaign. Tamil MP Sivajilingam broke
from his TNA colleagues and submitted his own name as a
presidential candidate, saying among other things, there
should be an international inquiry into the deaths of Tamils
during the war. Rather than pushing accountability for
possible war crimes and human rights violations, Fonseka may
try to push anti-corruption as a major campaign theme,
attempting to appeal to all ethnic groups. END SUMMARY.

RESPONSE TO INCIDENTS REPORT
—————————-

¶2. (C) President Rajapaksa formed a committee in early
November to look into the allegations of violations of
international humanitarian law raised in the State
Department’s “Report on Incidents” of October 21, 2009. This
committee is expected to issue their report on December 31,
2009, but Ambassador was recently cautioned by Foreign
Minister Bogollagama not to expect too much from this initial
action. Bogollagama said rather than a full-scale response
that is released to the public, the committee would send an
advisory memo to President Rajapaksa, making recommendations
on what items in the report merit further action and what
action might be best. The president would then consider
those recommendations and decide how to proceed. Bogollagama
appeared keenly interested in recent U.S. Appropriations
language requiring a follow-up report to the State
Department’s October 21, 2009, report on incidents at the end
of the war.

FONSEKA OPENS UP PANDORA’S BOX
——————————

¶3. (C) After the president’s announcement of the formation of
the committee in October, the issue of accountability for
possible war crimes received little attention in Sri Lanka.
Most people appeared to think either that civilian casualties
were an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of a war on
terrorism or that, even if crimes were committed, there was
little that could be done as long as the Rajapaksas remained
in power. General Fonseka thrust the topic onto the national
scene, however, in a December 13 interview published in the
local Sunday Leader newspaper, in which he said Defense
Secretary Gothabaya Rajapaksa had ordered troops from the
58th Division to kill any remaining LTTE leaders, in
particular Pulidevan, Nadesan and Ramesh, in spite of a
reported attempt by them to surrender. This interview was
immediately met by a firestorm of criticism from the
government and its allies, accusing Fonseka of egregiously
betraying his country and exposing its “loyal, courageous
soldiers” to war-crimes investigations and the possibility of
being arrested when traveling overseas. Walking the
tightrope of courting both Tamil votes and nationalist
Sinhala voters, Fonseka backed off his statement two days
later, saying he had been misquoted, and that he would take
full responsibility for anything done by his troops at the
end of the war. Criticism of him by Rajapaksa allies
nevertheless continued unabated, with some saying that
Fonseka had damaged Sri Lanka’s reputation in the
international community. Former Sri Lankan Navy Commander

COLOMBO 00001180 002.4 OF 003

Wasantha Karannagoda, for example, said on December 23 on
state media that Fonseka’s comments jeopardized the Sri
Lankan military’s chances at obtaining coveted UN
peacekeeping operations assignments in Haiti and elsewhere.

¶4. (C) UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or
Arbitrary Executions Philip Alston reportedly has sent a
letter to the GSL requesting more information on the alleged
incident involving the three LTTE chiefs. In the
government’s own backtracking exercise, Secretary of the
Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights Rajiva
Wijesinghe has reportedly sent a letter back to Alston
clarifying that since Gen. Fonseka subsequently retracted his
statement, there was no longer a need for Alston’s request.
Although local media has reported this development, it is
unlikely that Wijesinghe’s argument will stop either the UN’s
interest in this alleged incident or the attacks on Fonseka
by the Rajapaksa camp.

SIVAJILINGAM DEMANDS JUSTICE FOR TAMIL DEAD
——————————————-

¶5. (C) TNA member of parliament M.K. Sivajilingam, who
recently broke with his party to present himself as a
candidate for the presidential elections, raised the need for
an international inquiry into civilian deaths and injuries
during the war as a primary theme of his campaign. The
leadership of the TNA has not pressed either candidate on
this publicly. TNA leader P. Sampanthan on the other hand
told Assistant Secretary Blake and Post that while he was
concerned with the accountability issue, he believed it was
both unrealistic to expect the government to do anything
about it and dangerous for the Tamil leadership in Sri Lanka
to raise the issue publicly. Nevertheless, he believed it
was important for the government eventually to take some
steps towards accountability if it were to achieve meaningful
national reconciliation.

ANTI-CORRUPTION AS THE NEW ACCOUNTABILITY?
——————————————

¶6. (C) After ten days of brutal hits on his statements about
the killing of the LTTE leaders, General Fonseka may be less
likely to bring up specific human rights incidents that are
related to the ethnic divide and instead may talk more about
general political reconciliation and the way ahead. Fonseka
appears to be hoping that anti-corruption emerges as a
touchstone and has attempted to paint the Rajapaksas as a
family-based kleptocracy, giving out hundreds of jobs to
distant family members, building grand houses for themselves,
extorting vast sums of money from the country, and fostering
a culture of corruption throughout the government. The
president, however, may be relying on his own internal
polling, which we understand from sources in the president’s
office indicates that while a majority of voters know the
Rajapaksa family is corrupt, they still would vote for him as
the more experienced politician who does what he says he will
do.

COMMENT
——-

¶7. (C) As Sri Lanka tries to move beyond the war,
accountability for possible crimes remains a significant,
though secondary, issue in Sri Lanka. Whether speaking of
accountability for ongoing human rights abuses or for
incidents occurring during the final stages of the war, the
issue had not received much attention from either the
government or the public before the recent flurry of activity
following Fonseka’s statement. Given their possible
involvement in most if not all incidents investigated, top

COLOMBO 00001180 003.4 OF 003

government leaders, in particular the Rajapaksa brothers,
have not pushed for greater accountability. Indeed, given
the risk of exposing his own involvement, it was surprising
to many that Fonseka attempted to raise this as a campaign
issue, and he will probably not do so again. We are unaware
of any cases in which a sitting government has undertaken
wholesale investigations of its own troops or leadership for
alleged war crimes, and it is probably unrealistic to expect
the current Sri Lankan government to do so. Nevertheless, at
some point Sri Lankans will need to find a way to deal with
the accountability issue to achieve national reconciliation
and lasting peace.
BUTENIS

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