Myself in the background, today’s Daily Mirror
I went to the Lessons Learnt And Reconciliation Commission a few times. War Commission if you will. These are my impressions. It’s, at best, half empty. They speak English. Most of the witnesses are ex-diplomats who offer, essentially, a kindly uncle’s view on the war. One (Nihal Rodrigo) even cited something he’d heard from his domestics. The panel itself is old. There are two Tamils who ask questions about peoples welfare sometimes, there is the Halikarra fellow who does not seem especially intelligent, there is the Chairman C.R. de Silva who has an awesome voice, there is this American professor Hangawatte who I thought was a zealot but has winks of nuance, and then there is the forgettable fellow on the end. The panel is, to a tee, pretty set in its view, and so are the witnesses. The point of the commission is to evaluate the CFA, and there are basically indicting the LTTE and, to a lesser extent, the UNP and Norway. They are doing it wrong, IMHO, but they are not entirely wrong.
I think the UN Panel and international community has their own conclusions too, and I think they’re doing it wrong. The panel is right in their focus on the whole war and the latter fighting in that context. The LTTE did suck, they were given chances and they more than anyone broke the ceasefire and restarted war. I think it is fair to indict them, though I suppose they could have some representation. Where the panel goes off, however, is that there’s no particular discussion of the deaths and disappearances at the end of the war and they instead pretty much buy Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s line about this being a Humanitarian Mission. When he was on the stand de Silva’s questions were, essentially, ‘Will there be a video?’ and ‘I heard that the Army escorted fleeing civilians, did you order that?’ Basically, you are awesome, but how awesome are you exactly?
The members of the panel unflinchingly accept the tenet that the war was good and worth it and that nothing especially bad happened which could be right, but it is not much of an investigation. They should at least ask the questions, if they care.
Seriously though, a lot of the record of this commission will be old uncles going on. Which is lovely, but you could mike up the SSC and get some similar insights. They should probably call Ranil, KP, Sarath Fonseka, some SLMM guys, Norwegians, etc, but they won’t. They did commendably go to Vavuniya, but getting evidence from all the people involved would think I take months if not years and they’re not doing that. They’re calling some guys around Colombo not doing much and punctuating it with actually relevant people like Karuna and Gota whose loyalty (or fealty) is not in doubt.
Which is to say, I think this panel is a dog and pony show, but its conclusion may be somewhat correct. They’re going about it the wrong way, but the LTTE really is to blame for the war getting as messed up as it did and the war ending is good. But there are parts which were quite bad and should be discussed and mourned beyond a repetition of the zero civilian casualties thing and a pat on the back.
This, however, is not really the time. One year after a war while we’re still under the Emergency is not ripe for an investigation. Like Champika Ranawaka apologizing for the Jaffna Library burning (on behalf of the UNP) I think there will be an investigation under another government and a lot of stuff will come up. Right now however, I think the country needs about five years to digest, and the international community needs to stop trying to give us an enema.