Allan Rock exposes Govt – Karuna group nexus to UN working group

February 16th, 2007

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Who is the “suddha” or white man that our pseudo – patriotic hawks love to hate the most?

Earlier it was Norwegian special peace envoy Erik Solheim.

In recent times it was the Canadian Allan Rock who became prime target.

The Former Canadian cabinet minister and ex – ambassador to the UN aroused majoritarian ire after his ten day fact – finding mission to Sri Lanka last November. Rock was sent as special UN envoy by Radhika Coomaraswamy ,the UN Secretary – General’s special representative on children and armed conflict.

Rock held a press conference in Colombo at the end of his mission where he placed the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and tiger breakaway Karuna faction known as the Tamil Makkal Viduthalaip Puligal (TMVP) in the dock over forcible recruitment of child soldiers.

Charging the LTTE of this offence was old hat. Even TMVP guilt was becoming known but not acknowledged openly. The new element in Rock’s revelations was complicity of GOSL security forces in child conscription by the TMVP. Had Rock confined himself to the “Tamil” LTTE and TMVP the die – hard Sinhala hardliners may have been soft on Rock. But Allan touched a raw nerve when he alleged that the “valiant” security forces were aiding and abetting the Karuna faction in this recruitment.

Allan Rock found himself the favourite target of all those rushing to defend the good name of the security forces. Protest demonstrations were held. His effigy was hung from a tree opposite the UNDP office in Colombo. Rock was accused of being a tiger agent. A massive vilification campaign was on. Instead of acting on his charges and making constructive inquiries Rock was asked to produce evidence. Keheliya Rambukwella even wanted to hand over the Raviraj murder investigation to Rock saying he was better than Scotland Yard

It was as usual the typical strategy adopted by pseudo – patriots in matters like this. Selecting a target and conducting a low – class, crude campaign of vilification and intimidation. What these vocal warriors think is that people would get terrified and go soft on the issue. Allan Rock was expected to wilt under pressure. He was expected to cave in and retract his stance when submitting a final report to the UN security Council’s working group on children and armed conflict.

Allan Rock presented his report on February 8th. He then participated in the UN working group discussions on Sri Lanka. The highlight of his report was the recommendation that the UN consider targeted measures against the LTTE. Most media reports focussed on this. The majoritarian hawks were happy. Rock had done the needful in their perception.

Even the Cabinet spokesman on Defence affairs was reported as saying that he was now inclined to withdraw his remarks about Allan Rock’s findings. According to a news report in a Colombo newspaper Keheliya Rambukwella now believed Rock had been provided with misleading information on abductions in the east. Here are brief excerpts -

“It has come to light that in many instances, family members of certain abductees have provided misleading information even to the police and other Government authorities,” Minister Rambukwella said yesterday.

The minister said he could now understand how Mr. Rock had been misled with wrong information which he claimed to be credible evidence.

“What happens is that many informants take things for granted when providing information. For instance, it has transpired in investigations that some complainants have said their friend or relative had been whisked away in a white van merely because they had heard earlier that abductors always use white vehicles,” he said.The minister said that in his report to the UN Security Council Mr. Rock had highlighted what he thought was factual.

“Nobody is perfect, mistake can happen,” Minister Rambukwella said.

Rambukwella’s accusations about the family members having given false information is a dangerous sign. This is in keeping with the “defence” trotted out by Karuna and his minions that the LTTE was getting people to provide false allegations through family members about the Karuna faction abducting children as conscripts. It appears from Rambukwella’s statement that instead of legitimately inquiring into the charges made by Rock the state is now conducting a witch hunt against family members.

Police and security personnel are trying to intimidate the helpless families who have already lost their children to Karuna into “confessing” that the LTTE put them up to it. They are being doubly victimised. Allan Rock refused to give specific details about victimised families to Colombo because it was feared that the state would target those families. This fear is now coming true.

Colombo which blackened Allan Rock’s name initially is now clumsily attempting to whitewash him. Rambukwella’s ramblings indicate that. With the aid of pliable sections of the media the state is now tring to project an impression that Allan Rock had only been harsh on the LTTE and to a lesser extent on the TMVP. The GOSL is now cleared by Rock is the Colombo portrayal. Colombo continues with its fig leaf of saying it has no links to the Karuna faction.

But what is the reality? Has Allan Rock retracted his position and let the GOSL and TMVP off the hook? By the looks of the report that does not seem to have happened. The more things seem to change the more they remain the same. This cliche seems true of Allan Rock’s stance vis a vis GOSL complicity in TMVP conscription too. Here are some relevant excerpts from Rock’s report to the UN.

” The Karuna faction abducts and recruits children into its forces. It does so exclusively in the eastern districts of Sri Lanka. The Secretary-General’s Report disclosed that from November 2005 to October 2006, there were 164 reports of children having been abducted by the Karuna faction, 142 of whom still remain in its ranks. Since May 2006, the number of abductions has increased sharply. In the space of one week in mid-June 2006 alone, UNICEF received 30 reports alleging that children had been abducted by the Karuna faction in the areas of Santhiveli, Kiran, Mankerni, Valachchenai and Iruthayapuram (Manmunai North) of Batticaloa district. ”

“As part of my mission, I met with family members from the eastern districts whose children had been abducted to be used as child soldiers. Parents, grandparents and siblings related their personal recollections and eyewitness accounts during our encounters. In all, members of 25 families described the circumstances in which their children, grandchildren, brothers or sisters were taken, and the efforts they have made to get them back. Although the vast majority of the family members I spoke to reported recent abductions by the Karuna faction, three of the families reported abductions by the LTTE. ”

” There were many common elements in the family members’ narratives describing abductions by the Karuna faction.”

* The Karuna faction abductions took place exclusively in Government-controlled areas.

* The Karuna faction abductors often identified themselves as such to families during abductions, or were known by the families for their association with the group prior to the abductions.

* The Karuna faction most often targeted children for abduction whose identities they knew in advance: few of the victims were chosen at random.

* The ages of abducted children ranged from 13-17 years. To date, the Karuna faction has predominantly abducted boys, although two girls have reportedly been abducted by the Karuna faction in Ampara district.

* Most abductions took place in children’s homes. Many abductions took place at night.

* The children abducted by the Karuna faction were typically taken away in unmarked white vans identified by the local population as the type of vehicle habitually used by the Karuna faction; vans of this description were often seen passing through Government checkpoints without being challenged, stopped or searched.

* All of the children abducted by the Karuna faction spent time in one of several Karuna faction camps near government-controlled Wellikanda town in Polonnaruwa district.

* Many parents had direct contact with their children after their abduction by the Karuna faction and visited them at either TMVP offices while in transit or at a Karuna faction camp in Wellikanda.

What does Allan Rock say in his report about GOSL complicity in TMVP conscription?

” The fact that the Karuna faction has abducted so many children in Government-controlled areas in the eastern districts of Sri Lanka raises the question why the Government has not more effectively protected those children, investigated the complaints made by the children’s families, and secured the release and return of the children from the Karuna faction camps that are located in areas under Government control. ”

” Based on the facts and circumstances set out in this report, I have concluded that certain elements of the Sri Lankan security forces are complicit in the abduction of children by the Karuna faction, and that at least some elements fo the security forces have facilitated and sometimes participated in those abductions. ”

“The complicity of certain elements of the security forces in Karuna faction abductions is common knowledge in the eastern areas where I traveled. The civilian population is in no doubt about why Karuna faction members (as described more fully below) work openly with Government security forces at checkpoints, carry weapons on the streets with impunity, and escape investigation despite many complaints to police and security forces about their involvement in child abductions. ”

Here are some more excerpts about the alleged GOSL -LTTE nexus -

” Karuna faction abductions are taking place in Government-controlled territory. According to witnesses, children abducted by the Karuna faction are driven away in vans, which then pass, without being challenged or searched, through checkpoints operated by the police and the Special Task Force (STF). ”

“There are Karuna faction training camps located in Sevanapitiya, at Karupalai (which is to the west of Wellikanda), Theevuchenai and Muthukkal Village (which is also close to Wellikanda). Two more Karuna faction outposts have been opened in Batticaloa District, in Mankerni (in close proximity to a Sri Lankan Army (SLA) camp) and in Nasivantheevu. All of these Karuna faction camps are in Government-controlled territory. ”

“The existence and location of these and other Karuna faction training camps is well known to many civilians and members of the security forces. Indeed, parents of abducted children often travel to these and other Karuna faction camps in order to visit their abducted children and try to secure their release. When the parents pass through STF checkpoints en route, they explain where they are going and why. Yet neither the STF nor other members of the security forces have made any effort to monitor traffic or to intercept Karuna faction vans that may be traveling to those camps with abducted children. Nor have they made any effort to demand, negotiate or secure the release of children whose presence at those Karuna faction camps has been verified by their visiting parents. ”

” TMVP, the political wing of the Karuna faction, has been opening up offices in the eastern districts. Many of these offices have been located in close proximity to SLA and STF bases. For example, the TMVP office in Akkaraipattu abuts the STF camp. The entrance gate is about 30 metres south of the STF entrance. An STF checkpoint is also 150 metres north of the TMVP office entrance. Another TMVP office has been opened in Morakkodanchenai, Kiran Division, and it is just five metres away from an SLA camp. There are other examples of these TMVP-SLA or STF co-locations. ”

” There is no doubt about the close connection between TMVP and its military wing, the Karuna faction. That connection was confirmed by TMVP Secretary Ms S. Padhmini during her meeting with me in Colombo on Sunday, November 12, 2006. As developed further below, TMVP is also implicated in the Karuna faction abductions. ”

“TMVP vehicles have been seen inside the STF camps, including the STF camp in Kanchirankuda. ”

Rock also cites the failure of Security Forces and Police to Investigate Karuna Faction Abductions of Children . He also outlines many instances of police inaction with respect to families’ complaints of Karuna faction abductions: Here are some excerpts -

“On 21 June 2006, a father went to register the case of the abduction of his son with the police and he was informed that the report could not be registered since the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the station was not there; ”

” On 28 June 2006, a father went to register the case of the abduction of his son at a police station but was informed that the case would not be registered and that instead he should go and report to UNICEF; ”

” In August 2006, the parents of a child who had gone missing but later was found to have been abducted by the Karuna faction reported that they went to register the case at a police station but were told to return the following day because “the entry book was full”; ”

“On October 23, 2006, children who appeared to be 14 or 15 years old were observed with weapons at the TMVP office in Akkaraipattu. This was immediately reported to the Acting OIC at the Akkaraipattu police station, who immediately contacted the OIC at the STF camp at Akkaraipattu. The Ampara police Deputy Inspector General and the STF Director of Operations during my meeting with them on November 7, 2006, asserted that they were not aware of this report; ”

“In June 2006, some families of abducted children reported to SLMM that they had just visited the TMVP office in Batticaloa, and that although they had been told by TMVP that their children were not with the Karuna faction, they had seen their children in the TMVP premises. SLMM informed Batticaloa police asking for a search of the premises on these grounds. It was two hours before the premises were searched and, by that time, the premises were empty.”

Rock also provides examples of the Karuna Faction-Security Forces Collusion and Cooperation . -

” Some families reported that their abducted children were held overnight at an SLA camp before being transported to a Karuna faction camp. ”

” Karuna faction cadres have been observed standing alongside and working with army personnel at checkpoints, scrutinizing citizens passing through. ”

“The Karuna faction has conducted paramilitary operations while the STF was within view, watching the events. This occurred in Thirukkovil DS (Vinayagapuram, Thirukkovil and Thambiluvil) and Alayadewembu DS (Alayadewembu) and Akkaraipattu town areas. Many civilians have reported seeing STF escorting Karuna faction cadres in these town areas. ”

” The assertions in the five paragraphs that follow were made to me by family members of children abducted by the Karuna faction. In each case, the family members told me that they spoke from personal knowledge and/or eyewitness observations.”

” On June 13, 2006, security forces entered a village and rounded up all the boys, bringing them to the main road. The security forces then formed a circle, holding hands, with the boys detained inside the circle. Karuna faction cadres then entered the circle and chose those boys that they wanted to abduct. ”

“On another occasion, security forces arrived in a town at 10 a.m. and asked all the children to come to the main road. There, the security forces took photographs of all the children. Later in the day, Karuna faction cadres arrived in uniform and took eight of the children away. After the eight children were abducted, they spent overnight in an SLA camp located one mile from the town. The next day, they were taken to a Karuna faction camp. ”

“A mother recounted that her 15 year old son was one of three boys abducted by Karuna faction cadres at 9 p.m. on June 14, 2006 from a wedding party being held next door to her home. The child is at the Karuna faction camp at Theevuchenai, where she has since visited him. Her son told her that one of the 3 boys abducted that night was killed in military action while fighting with the Karuna faction against LTTE forces near Vakarai. ”

” The mother referred to in the preceding paragraph spoke to an Army officer while passing through a checkpoint en route to the Karuna faction camp to visit her abducted son. The woman recalled that the officer told her: “I have two children. LTTE want to kill me and my children. As long as the Karuna faction is there, we’re safer.”

These are but few excerpts from Rock’s report. The full version needs to be studied in detail to comprehend the issue more fully. But one thing seems clear. The intimidation campaign against Allan Rock has failed miserably. Sordid details about TMVP conscriptions and GOSL complicity have gone right up to the UN security Council working group. The Govt’s hypocrisy has been exposed at the highest level.

The LTTE is supposedly “terrorist” and the TMVP allegedly “Para – military” but the GOSL is a democratically elected regime adhering to rule of law and international norms on human rights and conduct of war. Allan Rock’s report has put all three in the dock. The LTTE and its off – shoot TMVP can live with it but can the Government of Sri Lanka ?

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