Sri Lankan complicity in war crimes must be checked

A few weeks ago on ABC Radio PM we heard the following interview with Sri Lanka’s former foreign secretary Dr Palitha Kohona, now Sri Lanka’s ambassador to the United Nations, talking about the alleged killing of surrendering Tamil Tiger fighters in the closing days of the civil war:

The ABC asked him what his role was in arranging the surrender.

PALITHA KOHONA: Absolutely none, because I was in Foreign Ministry I had nothing to do with the Defence Ministry or the defence forces. I had no role in arranging anything, and I don’t think anything was arranged anyway.

SARAH DINGLE: So you’re saying there was no surrender agreed to?

PALITHA KOHONA: Actually not as far as I am concerned, I don’t think anybody else was involved in such a surrender either.

SARAH DINGLE: So did anyone contact you regarding the surrender of those two figures?

PALITHA KOHONA: Anybody from the defence establishment? No.

SARAH DINGLE: Did anyone at all contact you about the surrender of those two figures?

PALITHA KOHONA: There was an attempt to wake me up in the middle of the night, and I told them that I was not the person to contact about those demands.

There was a general query about surrendering and I told them that there was, that I was the wrong person, that I had nothing to do with surrendering and asked them to go and deal with the matter in the way it ought to be dealt with.

SARAH DINGLE: And what was that way?

PALITHA KOHONA: I’m sorry, I can’t answer stupid questions of this nature.

The UK Independent a few days ago reported the following (courtesy of journalist Andrew Buncombe):

Earlier this year, I wrote a story from Sri Lanka about the efforts of several senior LTTE members to surrender in the very final stages of the war and how they were shot dead – apparently while walking towards government troops while carrying a white flag. My sources were pretty good – I had spoken with the Norwegian foreign ministry which confirmed that a senior minister had acted as an intermediary as the men tried to give themselves up. I also spoke with the Sri Lankan foreign secretary, Palitha Kahona, who confirmed that he had personally been in contact with the two LTTE members – whom he had met at ceasefire talks – and advised them how to surrender.

Kohona has changed his story. It warrants serious investigation.