By Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
Perhaps the most startling revelation of bad faith in the report of the Panel appointed by the UN Secretary General is its repeated call for a reversal of the motion regarding Sri Lanka carried at the Human Rights Council in May 2009.
At one point the Report criticises the UN team in Colombo, in saying that ‘the public use of casualty figures would have strengthened the call for the protection of civilians while those events in the Wanni were unfolding’. The rationale for this claim follows immediately, when the panelists declare that following the end of war, the Human Rights Council may have been ‘acting on incomplete information when it passed its May 2009 resolution on Sri Lanka’.
In short, the main agenda of the panelists is to overturn that resolution, which rankled deeply with some countries accustomed to always having their own way in United Nations bodies. When a vast majority votes against them, they must have been wrong, so now the case has to be reopened with information provided when it cannot properly be checked.
What is more preposterous about this claim here is that the Report itself declares that ‘the High Commissioner for Human Rights publicly stated that 2,800 civilians may have been killed and more than 7,000 injured since 20 January’. What this means is that those with a particular mindset in the UN did use loaded information. Since this did not lead to the desired result, the UN in Colombo is blamed for not shouting louder. Those elements in the UN that were acting on a particular agenda did do their worst, and had a willing tool in Ms Pillay but, since her clarion call for blood was ignored at the Special Session, they now have to pretend that the member states were kept in ignorance.
I should add that I do not include Neil Buhne and several of his senior colleagues in the list of those with devious agendas, though we all understood the pressures they were under. When I had to discuss frankly with the OCHA head the efforts of the British to smuggle in a British military man for a position for which terms of reference were hastily changed, on the assumption I suppose that I would not notice, she was delightfully entertaining in trying to respond to my various objections. But when I asked her frankly whether she did not realise what I meant, she simply nodded sadly.
I say loaded information advisedly about what had been supplied to Ms Pillay, since the UN made it clear to us that they had doubts about the figures. This was I believe publicly expressed in New York too. That diffidence was because of the possibility that the figure given was too high, but now the Panel brazenly claims that the calculation could have been too low because it only ‘accounts for the casualties that were actually observed by the networks of observers who were operational in LTTE-controlled areas’.
I am not sure the government was aware of these networks, reporting direct it seems to the shady South African Chris du Toit. It would be good if our Ministry of External Affairs now called in the UN in Colombo and asked about these networks, and indeed found out more about du Toit himself. Meanwhile we are aware that the Panel’s current position is belied by the methodology du Toit laid out to Nishan Muthukrishna and me when the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights called him in to explain the first extravagant figure that he began floating at the beginning of February.
He said then, with regard to the figure of I think 1000 in early February, doubled shortly afterwards, that he had put forward (and which was duly leaked), that there were three categories: direct observation by UN staff (which he admitted had led to a count of about 39 if I recollect right), eyewitness reports by others, though there was uncertainty about whether these were reliable sources, and finally what was described as extrapolation, which was assessments based on reports of incidents.
The methodology was never changed as far as we were informed, which is doubtless why the UN in Sri Lanka was wary about the figures. Given the financial improprieties discovered in the Security section of the UN, which swallowed up funds supposedly for humanitarian assistance, perhaps the UN in Colombo was wary of du Toit too
Interestingly enough, after I had first identified du Toit as the source of the initial figures that had been so swiftly put into the public domain, I was sent some items from a website called the Banking Forum one of which stated
‘I am Looking for any information on the following Persons , who are linked to a fraud committed in 2000….. DR Maarten Adriaan Schalekamp. Chris Du Toit.
Peter Filippinetti’ with a list of Directors and web sites to which they were linked..Web Sites:www.filippinetti.com
Peter Wolfgang Filippinetti is a co-director along with Paul Fraefel, Stephan Frischknecht in a registered company PETRALUS AG……In 1998 in South Africa AUSTRIAN Mr Peter Wolfgang Filippinetti operated in a similar International Scam / fraud with Mr J.H.LE ROUX an ex CCB Officer, Yunis Moosajee Mayet, Petrus Van Der Westhuizen and his known partners,NICO SHEFER, Dr Maarten Adriaan Schalekamp and ex RSA Diplomatic Intelligence officer Chris Du Toit a.k.a. Christoffel Petrus Du Toit, identified as a Current UNITED NATIONS EMPLOYEE as the UNDSS Country Advisor SRI LANKA. In 1998 Filippinetti and their group used the fraud / SCAM structured as the HIDDEN FORTUNES in GOLD, GEMSTONES and CURRENCY…..
All this may well have been investigated by the UN before they offered him a job in Sri Lanka (though again not, depending on what they wanted from him), but I believe we certainly should have been wary of allowing an ex-RSA Diplomatic Intelligence Officer from the bad old days to take charge of security in Sri Lanka. But those alas were days in which the Ministry of External Affairs was not very careful, and subsequently too I found that queries I raised were not followed up.
Anyway, du Toit did what he was expected to here. It was suggested that he was part of a group trying to build up a case against Sri Lanka, and this seems confirmed by the strange use of the word ‘networks’ with regard to the observers who reported to him. However, the excuse offered for his staying on in Mullaitivu was that he was trying to negotiate the release of the local UN staff and their families whom the LTTE was holding hostage. Needless to say, he was not successful.
Worse, his return was delayed day after day, with the LTTE seeming to agree to stop firing to let him and his colleague move, and then welshing on the agreement. This meant that, the Sri Lankan army having been asked to suspend hostilities, found that this had been in vain (and doubtless the LTTE had taken advantage of any lull to strengthen their own positions).
When this happened for the umpteenth time while he was with us (at a meeting at the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Disaster Relief Services, on January 28th), I asked Neil Buhne, the UNDP Head, whom I rather liked and trusted, though I felt he was in some awe of Du Toit, why they did not make public the double dealing of the LTTE. They would certainly make a song and dance if we did anything even remotely similar, to which his reply was, ‘But you guys wouldn’t…’ He paused, and I finished the sentence for him, ‘kill you’, which he seemed to grant though he did not say it himself.
Du Toit then, while ensuring that our progress was slowed down, was busy counting. However, under close questioning, he had to admit that, while there had been firing on areas near where he had been sleeping, he could not say with any certainty from which direction the firing had come. He had brought with him large pictures of craters caused by shells, and he took out one and said that was the only shot the direction of which they could be certain of, and that had come from the direction of the LTTE forces.
I think our close questioning held him at bay during the crucial period. But now it seems he is, at a safe distance, fulfilling his original purpose, in making claims as to his calculations of a very different sort to those he placed before us, when he could be subjected to close questioning.
Since obviously the figures were being conveyed to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2009, as her statement that March makes clear, it is bizarre that the Panel, while revealing this, makes contrary claims in what purports to be an executive summary.
But such intellectual dishonesty for political purposes is what sadly we have to expect from persons seeking excuses for the inexcusable.