No sooner had Sri Lanka’s supposed change of heart on allowing the UN panel of experts on war crimes convened by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon been announced, the Colombo regime made clear the circumscribed space it will accord the panel and, more importantly, the dangerous reciprocity it is demanding.
After months of defiance in the face of growing international calls for investigations, and mounting evidence of war crimes, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government this weekend (conditionally) agreed to allow the UN expert panel to visit. The ever acquiescent Mr. Ban not only grasped the regime’s new offer, but reportedly commended President Rajapaska’s “flexibility on this issue.”
The UN experts, Ban said, would “visit Sri Lanka and meet with” the Sri Lanka’s own ‘Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission’ (LLRC) – staffed by government loyalists and already dismissed as neither genuine nor credible by international human rights groups. (Sri Lanka, however, has a different idea – the External Affairs ministry says the UN experts are to present before the LLRC, something UN sources deny).
While Sri Lanka has been under growing international pressure, its adjunct logic for agreeing to Mr. Ban’s deal soon became clear. Media minister Keheliya Rambukwella told reporters: “We resisted the panel saying we can’t allow a UN investigation unilaterally. But in this case, the president has invited them not to undertake any investigation but to share the evidence.”
There can be no doubt who stands to benefit from any such an arrangement. While the LLRC arguably has nothing useful to offer a proper investigation, Sri Lanka’s murderous regime is, for obvious reasons, keen to study the evidence, including witness details, in the UN’s possession. In short, in exchange for meeting the LLRC, the UN panel is being asked to hand over information gathered about atrocities to the very people who committed, sanctioned and ordered these.