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UN agency arranged secret meet between US and ex-Tigers - GoSL Top American official forcibly enters army camp near Boossa detention facility

2014 Feb 08

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Commenting on the allegations made by the government, a senior spokesperson for the Office of UN Resident Coordinator told The Island: "On the basis of information the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office received from IOM, the Office understands that IOM was requested to provide information on a meeting between stakeholders (rehabilitated ex-combatants) of a recently completed project with representatives of the concerned project donor. It’s normal practice for donors to interact with project stakeholders/beneficiaries with the purpose of understanding the results that the project has achieved. IOM has informed UN Resident Coordinator’s Office that it has provided the requested information on the event and are available for any further clarification, as needed"

The government has accused the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of violating its mandate by arranging a secret meeting between a group of ex-LTTE terrorists and a top level US delegation led by Ambassador-at-Large Stephen J. Rapp, the head of the Office of Global Criminal Justice, during the second week of January.

The meeting has taken place at the IOM office in Kilinochchi. The US delegation included US Ambassador in Colombo Michele Sison.

Authoritative government sources told The Island that the meeting had been arranged by the IOM in consultation with the Office of UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka, Subinay Nandy.

The meeting should also be examined against the backdrop of the US offer of rewards of up to USD 5 million to those who could provide information leading to the arrest or conviction in any country, or the transfer to or conviction by any international criminal tribunal, of any foreign national accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, sources said.

The IOM comes under the purview of Nandy in his capacity as UNDP Resident Representative.

Asked whether the US delegation had an opportunity to meet ex-child combatants under the auspices of the UN, a US embassy spokesperson  said the US wouldn’t discuss the particulars of those who had met the delegation. The spokesperson didn’t respond to the query whether the US embassy had secured UN approval to meet ex-terrorists.

Government sources said that soon after the secret meeting had come to light, the Defence Ministry took up the issue with the IOM mission which accused its Kilinochchi office of arranging the meeting without informing Colombo. Sources emphasised that the local office wouldn’t have facilitated such a meeting without the blessings of higher authorities.

Subsequently, Nandy spoke to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa regarding the IOM abusing its mandate. Defence Secretary Rajapaksa has insisted that action be taken against the IOM for its high handed action.

The US delegation questioned ex-LTTE personnel on the last phase of the Vanni East battles. The army crushed the last LTTE resistance on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon on the morning of May 19, 2009.

Army headquarters told The Island that thousands of LTTE cadres including those attached to elite fighting units had benefited through Information, Counseling and Referral Services (ICRS) carried out by the IOM. Those who had been invited to be interviewed by the US delegation were among the beneficiaries of the IOM project, sources said, adding that the US would now try to exploit whatever information elicited from them to justify the proposed US-led resolution.

Having moved two successful resolutions in 2012 and 2013, the US has declared its intention to move another, late next month at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Asked whether the government had been aware of the IOM having access to LTTE cadres after the conclusion of the conflict, a senior military official said that the IOM had set up its project in Sri Lanka in 2002. "The original project went failed the resumption of hostilities by the LTTE. However, the IOM launched a fresh project to help ex-LTTE combatants even before the conclusion of the conflict. Those who had been rehabilitated received access to the IOM before their release. It was a unique project. Unfortunately, the new IOM leadership seems to be working overtime to undermine Sri Lanka."

Government sources alleged that the US delegation led by Ambassador Rapp had also forced its way into an army detachment adjoining the Boossa detention facility. The visiting US official had wanted to know whether the detachment was responsible for security at the detention centre, sources said, adding that the GoSL couldn’t comprehend the US attitude. The army detachment had been there for many years, they said.

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