Rear Admiral Sarath Weerasekara is a high level naval officer who played a major role during the civil war. The former Deputy Minister and former MP recently became a much talked about figure because he went to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Switzerland to counter war crimes allegations levelled against the Sri Lankan military by the UNHRC. He spoke to Rivira from Geneva. Below are excerpts from the discussion.
Q: Why did you go to Geneva?
The UNHRC alleged that the Sri Lankan security forces committed war crimes during the period of the war. It was through baseless information that they founded this allegation. Accepting the Resolution passed in 2015, the Government of Sri Lanka too proceeded to investigate the matter. That is why they agreed to look into the matter by establishing a hybrid court.
The pro-Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) Diaspora makes this allegation. In reality, what our military did was to free innocent Tamils from the inhuman clutches of the Tigers. No one says this clearly. However, I have a duty and responsibility to say so. This is why I went to Geneva.
Q: From what we know, no individual can go to the UNHRC session and air their views and make representations. What organization did you represent?
While in Sri Lanka I planned and left for Switzerland to get registered at a temple there and then attend the session. One can participate as a member of a non-governmental organization (NGO). Yet, at the last moment, the temple’s board of lay trustees opposed me.
Q: Why did the temple’s board of lay trustees oppose you?
This was because they considered me a person who is in favour of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. By this time over 100 pro-Tigers NGOs had got registered.
Q: Following this setback, what did you do?
Afterwards, with the help of the monk, Thawalama Dhammika, I got myself registered as a representative of the International Buddhist Relief Services organization of Chief Incumbent of a temple in Birmingham, England, Witharandeniye Kashyapa. These monks truly sponsored me. This is not for me but a service done to our motherland. It was only after I registered that I obtained an opportunity to present my views.
Q: What did you say?
I pointed out that the LTTE was an extremely brutal terrorist organization. I emphasized that in operations against them, 29,000 soldiers had sacrificed their lives while 14,000 became disabled due to injuries sustained in fighting with the Tigers.
I further pointed out that if our military which defeated such a vicious organization were punished after levelling war crime allegations against them, it would be akin to punishing the US Navy SEALS that killed the head of Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda terrorists. Although, the UNHRC levelled allegations against the Sri Lankan military on the basis of baseless information, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom raised a strong voice against her soldiers against whom war crime allegations had been levelled. Unfortunately, it is regrettable that we don’t have such a patriotic leader.
Q: What kinds of responses did you receive in Geneva?
One foreign group came near me, tapped me on the shoulder and told me that it was only now that they had really come to know about the other side. This is because up until then what they knew was the propaganda put out by the LTTE Diaspora.
Q: Did the government’s representative mission speak to you in Geneva? Did you meet them?
No. The government’s team pretended to ignore me. It was Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Harsha de Silva who was there at the time. They ignored me because they feared that an allegation would be levelled against them.
Q: Who else from Sri Lanka was there in Geneva?
There was a large group who had come to talk on behalf of the Tigers. Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Dr. Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, former MP, M.K. Shivajilingam, Northern Provincial Councilor, Anandi Sasidaran, former MP, V. Anandasangaree’s son S.G. Anandasangaree, trade unionist, Saman Ratnapriya and civil society activists Sunanda Deshapriya and Dr. Nimalka Fernando were there to talk against our country and the Sri Lankan military.
Dr. Fernando started off her statement by stating that she had been victimized by the previous government. We don’t know what kind of pressure was levelled against Dr. Fernando by the previous regime.
Q: What kind of influence did you have?
It was only I who spoke on behalf of the country and the military. A certain message went out to the world because of it. Also, at the next UNHRC session, one can find out the impact I may have had from the work I did. A team of ours has to go to the next UNHRC session.
Q: Did you meet the heads of the UNHRC?
No. However, I handed over my document to the Secretary of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.