Dawn – Hasty departure of an ex-general

Abbas Nasir

Op/Ed, 2 September 2017. A news item that didn’t seem to get any traction at all in Pakistan this week was the filing of war crimes charges in Brazil and Colombia against the former chief of the Sri Lankan army General Jagath Jayasuriya who is reported to have fled from Latin America.

The charges relate to the alleged war crimes, including summary execution of surrendered/captured Tamil Tiger cadres, rape and torture of men and women, disappearances, and then mass-scale targeting of civilians in ‘no-fire-zones’ recorded in eastern Sri Lanka using rockets and artillery.

Jayasuriya was the operational commander as a major-general in northern Sri Lanka during the last stretches of the war which saw the army finally crushing the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and declaring victory in May 2009, bringing to a close the quarter century-old conflict.

Later, after his elevation as army chief which was followed by his retirement from the army in 2015, Jayasuria was posted as his country’s envoy to Brazil with simultaneous accreditation to Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Chile and Suriname based in Brasilia.

The charges were filed by the South Africa-headquartered International Truth and Justice Project (ITJP) in partnership with human rights organisations in Latin America. They were represented by Spanish lawyer Carlos Castresana Fernández.

Charges relate to Jayasuriya’s role in the final phase of the Sri Lankan civil war when the UN estimated between 40,000 and 70,000 Tamil civilians were killed.

In 1996, Mr Fernandez was among the Spanish lawyers who filed cases against Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in the Spanish National Court. As head of the Commission Against Impunity in Guatelama (CICIG), he indicted Guatemala’s former president Alfonso Portillo and a number of other Guatemalan war criminals including members of organised crime.

He was also involved in the cases against Argentine dictator General Rafael Videla for crimes committed during his tenure from 1976 to 1981. “I am shocked to see there is even more evidence of grave crimes in this lawsuit than in the cases we started against Gen Pinochet or Videla,” said Castresana, according to the ITJP.

“Nobody believed at first that the Pinochet case would go anywhere or that the Argentinian courts would ever be able to make the military juntas accountable; nobody believed the Guatemalan security forces could be held accountable, but with a handful of good, committed people I want to tell you that it is possible to deliver justice for the victims.

I don’t care that he fled Brazil; the case is just starting. He has made things easier for us, because fleeing he will not enjoy immunity anymore.”

The ITJP says the charges relate to Jayasuriya’s role in the final phase of the civil war in 2009 when the United Nations estimated between 40,000 and 70,000 Tamil civilians were killed and a 2015 UN Investigation found reasonable grounds to conclude the Sri Lankan military had committed systematic and widespread violations of international humanitarian law.

The lawsuit filed in Brasilia and Bogotá on Monday alleges that Jayasuriya bears individual criminal responsibility as the commander of units that committed repeated attacks on hospitals, carried out acts of torture and sexual violence and were responsible for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

Jagath Jayasuriya was the Vanni Security Force commander from 2007-09 and, by his own admission, overseeing the entire conduct of the final phase of the war during which Tamil civilians were indiscriminately shelled and bombed and hospitals targeted.

He oversaw the offensive from one of Sri Lanka’s most notorious torture sites, known as Joseph Camp. The ITJP has collected testimony from 14 survivors of torture and/or sexual violence in this camp that occurred while General Jayasuriya was in command of the site.

Joseph Camp had purpose-built torture chambers, equipped with manacles and chains, pulleys for hoisting detainees upside down, bars for handcuffing them to the ceiling and underground holding cells. Victims describe hearing other detainees screaming at night, which the general would also have been able to hear from his house in the camp.

The lawsuit also alleges Jayasuriya, who went on to become Sri Lankan army commander, had command responsibility for acts of extrajudicial execution and the enforced disappearance of hundreds of those who surrendered at the end of the conflict.

The Sri Lankan government, for its part, rejected the charges against one of the country’s war heroes and described them as part of the Tamil diaspora’s ‘propaganda’ against Colombo and its forces. It has also said it is happy to investigate any credible charges of such crimes.

Having read through the details of testimonies of some of the survivors a picture of immense horror emerges of brutal torture and sex crimes against the detainees before their summary execution.

In many cases, soldiers involved in the actions were making videos of the whole exercise on their phones, lending credence to charges that this was an orchestrated effort.

One is, of course, not naïve about how vicious this war was and how nearly insane was the LTTE’s founder-leader Vellupillai Prabhakran as his quest for a separate Tamil homeland in the north of the country included using child soldiers and deploying suicide bombers.

He also spurned a credible peace effort a few years before being killed in the final phase of the conflict.

But that a country’s trained armed forces would so systematically disregard the law and trample on human rights is shocking to say the least. Whether Jayasuriya is ever brought to court anywhere in the world one can’t say.

What one can say is that such cases should serve as a warning to other autocratic governments and officials that one day their horrible crimes will chase them and leave them with no place to hide. Look at the Sri Lankan general’s fate.

From representing his country in several countries in South America, he will now live the rest of his days on his small island state, too fearful to step out let alone travel abroad for fear of facing justice.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn

abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

https://www.dawn.com/news/1355509/hasty-departure-of-an-ex-general

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The Times of India – Young Pakistani Sikh to host cricket match for expatriates

Yudhvir Rana

Bahrain, 18 May 2017. A young Pakistani Sikh consultant is organising a cricket match in Bahrain involving cricketers of India and Pakistan to entertain thousands of expatriates of both the countries in the Gulf nation.

“Bahrain cricket festival will be held on May 19 between the teams of Misbah Falcons and Irfan Eagles at the Bahrain National Stadium,” Taranjeet Singh, the host of the event for Bahrain TV, told TOI on Wednesday. Pop band Stereo Nation and Pakistani actress Neelam Muneer, will perform.

Taranjeet informed that the event organized by Bahrain Cricket Academy, in association with the ministry of youth and sports affairs, will feature top players like Misbah-ul-Haq, Irfan Pathan, Rana Naveed, Micheal Lumb and Shahid Afridi.

“This will not be just one match but an ongoing process,” he said. Taranjeet is of the view that resumption of official matches depend on the relations between the two countries.

“But Indians and Pakistanis living in Bahrain share common interests. They have common business interests and even socialize together. Besides they have the same idols want to see them in action,” he said.

Cricket is one of the oldest sport played in Bahrain with roots dating back to 1935. “We plan to host matches involving recently-retired players from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and entertain the Indian and Pakistani cricket lovers in a healthy environment in Bahrain,” he said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/amritsar/young-pak-sikh-to-host-cricket-match-for-expatriates/articleshow/58724279.cms?

The Tribune – SAARC members keen on boosting trade with India

Neha Saini

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, 8 December 2016. SAARC countries are keen to strengthen trade with India by overcoming their internal challenges, said delegates at PITEX, organised by PHDCCI, today. SAARC members were of the opinion that the South East Asia was a consumer market with India a major player in it.

The five-day trade expo attempts to bring biggest buyers and sellers from across the countries on a single platform for direct trade collaboration.

“Being at the confluence of trade routes connecting SAARC members, India is a natural trading partner for the South Asian countries. Despite this, our trade is remarkably low with them,” said R S Sachdeva, co-chairman, Punjab committee, PHDCCI.

According to the South Asia Monitor, India’s trade with the SAARC members was three per cent of the country’s total trade with the rest of the world. “Therefore, with a view to boost the intra-regional trade, we organised the Reverse Buyer Seller Meet (RBSM) supported by the Union Ministry of Commerce,” Sachdeva added.

Speaking on increasing cooperation, Asela Livera, deputy president of National Chamber of Sri Lanka, said, “There is a big potential for high quality and high-end products from Sri Lanka while we look for the ayurveda and its learning from our Indian counterparts.”

According to Hassib Rahimi, CEO, Kabul Chamber of Commerce and Industry, “Afghanistan expects expertise and technology from India. Also, the recent change in the government policy has made Afghanistan more centred towards the economy.”

Kabul is looking to ink agreements with Indian companies in the field of agro-industries and food processing.

Similarly, Kesang Wangi, deputy secretary general, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Bhutan’s import of edible products to heavy machinery from India in lieu of hydel power could open more trade avenues.

With its ‘open door policy’ for promoting direct foreign investment, Bangladesh is looking forward to enhance collaboration, partnership and cooperation for trade and investment.

“We want to establish 100 special economic zones where investors can target both domestic and export markets,” said Mohd Abu Naser, director, Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/saarc-members-keen-on-boosting-trade-with-india/334362.html

538. Man in Blue – If Narendra Modi becomes the Prime Minister of India International Relations

Before tackling the subject I want to introduce two assumptions.

Assumption 1: The BJP after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections will either have a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha or will be near to having such a majority.

If the BJP is the biggest single party but depends on the support of a number of smaller parties to form a government, it will not be able to implement its nationalistic and Hindu supremacist programme.

Supposition 2: Narendra Modi as PM will be like Narendra Modi the Gujarat CM, and will follow a nationalistic and Hindu supremacist programme.

His record in Gujarat worries us greatly, and many of his statements and posturing in the campaign confirm our worries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and international relations

India has problematic relations with Pakistan, China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Deterioration of the already problematic relations with Pakistan will have a negative effect on India’s relation with many other countries in the world.

I will tackle India’s relations with Pakistan first.

Pakistan

Pakistan’s civilian governments were never in control of the security forces, and its various security forces do not always sing from the same hymn sheet either.

In India the government has more control over the security forces, but border incidents along the international border or along the ‘Line of Control’ between the Pakistan and Indian controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir are not necessarily always reported correctly to Delhi.

Jammu and Kashmir, which has a Muslim majority and is adjacent to other Muslim majority parts of pre-partition India, should have been part of Pakistan from 1947 going by the partition agreement. What the majority of the population of Jammu & Kashmir want is another matter. For many ‘Azad Kashmir’ should be an independent state and not a part of Pakistan.

Even ‘moderate’ Indian and Pakistani governments have taken positions on Jammu and Kashmir that make compromise near impossible. Just to maintain ‘status quo’ needs governments that practice a lot of self-restraint and are willing not to get provoked by incidents between the security forces of both countries or between Indian forces and ‘militants’.

With Narendra Modi at the helm an already fraught situation is bound to get worse. Going by newspaper reports the BJP has always been more stridently anti-Pakistan than the Congress led UPA government.

Politically aware people on both sides of the border are worried about another India – Pakistan war fought in the planes of Punjab, this time between two nuclear armed opponents.

There are two areas where the India – Pakistan border or the Line of Control has not been clearly defined.

Sir Creek is a 60 mile strip of water disputed between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kutch marshlands on the border between Sindh and Gujarat. Pakistan claims that the line follows the eastern shore of the estuary while India claims a centre line.

In the Karakoram Mountains in the Himalayas are located the Siachen Glacier and the Saltoro Mountains, where there is disagreement over the location of the LoC.

These disputed territories are of no great economic value, but in spite of that it is very difficult to get both parties around the table and agree on a compromise.

China

There are areas of Pakistan controlled Jammu and Kashmir which have been ceded to China, causing unhappiness in India. The border between India and China in Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir) is disputed and there are Chinese claims on parts of or all of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Chinese government is aggressively nationalistic and claims territories all around it, including large parts of the surrounding seas and islands therein.

PM Manmohan Singh and External Affairs minister Salman Khurshid have been handling recent incidents in Ladakh and visa problems for people from Arunachal Pradesh diplomatically, firmly insisting on India’s version of the border without indulging in non-diplomatic shouting matches.

There has only been one India – Chinese war so far, and both parties would be mad to indulge in another, but if either party feels that its honour requires military action, even if it is meant to be a limited one, things could easily get out of hand.

And Mr Modi and organisations like the RSS and the Bajrang Dal are not known for subtle approaches and self-restraint.

Bangladesh

There are border issues between the two countries, but I feel that the complicated relation between the two countries is mostly based on the Indian intervention in the East – West Pakistan conflict. Without the help of India the struggle for independence would have lasted much longer, but it is not easy to accept big brothers help.

There are additional problems about river waters, about the treatment of Hindus in Bangladesh and about illegal immigrants from Bangladesh settling in neighbouring India states like Assam.

The Shiv Sena, a Maharashtra party to the right of the BJP, claims that all Bengali speakers in Mumbai are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, and wants to return them to that country.

There are serious issues between the two countries and the chances are that a Modi government, encouraged by the Trinamol Congress in West Bengal, will not improve matters.

But it seems unlikely that the existing tensions will erupt into an armed conflict.

Sri Lanka

What we are facing here is an equation between the Delhi government, the Tamils from Tamil Nadu, the Tamils from Sri Lanka, specifically those from the north-east of the island and the Colombo government.

The central governments in Delhi and Colombo have both a record of centralising tendencies, and opposition to movements that emphasise local cultures and local autonomy.

Since Congress lost its overall majority in the Lok Sabha India has been governed by coalitions that usually include parties from Tamil Nadu. These parties have supported the efforts of Sri Lanka Tamils to have more political and cultural autonomy.

Tamils speak a Dravidian language and are mostly Hindus. The majority of the Sri Lankans speak Sinhalese (an Indo-Germanic language like Hindi, Punjabi or Urdu) and are Buddhists, while the majority of the Indians speak Indo-Germanic languages and are Hindus.

Rajiv Gandhi sent an Indian Peace Keeping Force into Sri Lanka and changed from peacekeeping to fighting the Tamil Tigers, which led to his assassination in 1991.

At the moment the UPA government is forced by the Tamil Nadu political parties to be highly critical of the treatment of Tamils after Sri Lanka won the civil war against the Tamil Tigers.

What Narendra Modi and the BJP will make out of this is hard to predict. Will they go with the fellow Indo-Germanics who are mostly Buddhists, or with the mostly Hindu Dravidians? And how will these choices work out domestically? As we have also said about the other issues discussed above, strident nationalism and Hindu supremacist attitudes will certainly not be helpful.