Disappearances and killings of will continue as long as ‘anti-terrorist’ operations are continuing, Sri Lanka’s Army commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka said this week in a interview to British investigative reporters. Asked about human rights abuses in the newly captured Eastern province, the commander replied: “This area is not a normal area. So people getting killed and some people going missing will happen as far as the anti-terrorist operations are continuing.”
In a program on Sri Lanka by the ‘Unreported World’ program by Channel4, British reporters tried to travel to the island’s North and East to investigate the continuing abductions and killings of civilians.
As part of the program, the reporters interviewed Sri Lanka Army commander, Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka.
Asked about the atrocities, he first accused ‘vested interests’ opposed to the military operations of making unsubstantiated allegations but then admitted these were part of ‘anti-terrorist’ operations.
Asked how it is that so many people were being murdered or abducted in mysterious circumstances across in Sri Lanka, even in the capitol, Colombo, Gen. Fonseka said: “those are the allegations by interested parties who are trying to sabotage or block the military operations.”
“They have vested interests. They say hundreds are missing, hundreds are murdered. But as far as complaints are concerned, there are no formal complaints even entered in the police station or something like that. There are no witnesses who come to police station and given evidence,” he said.
“As far as we are concerned, we give protection to the civilians, innocent people.”
Asked about the killings and abductions that refugees in the east, the General first said in reply: “If you are saying Karuna’s people are doing it or any other paramilitary groups, then it is a problem between the LTTE and the paramilitary groups.”
He then added: “this area [east] is not a normal area. So people getting killed and some people going missing will happen as far as the anti-terrorist operations are continuing.”
Western Province People's Front (WPPF) leader, Mano Ganeshan, who is Convenor of the Monitoring Commission (CMC) on extra judicial killings and disappearances was amongst civil society voiced interviewed by Channel4.
Pointing out that checkpoints were visible all over Colombo, but none had ever stopped those responsible for disappearing people, he said: “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand there is cooperation between the security forces and the abductors.”
Blaming “influential people within the state” for the killings, Mr. Ganeshan said: “they say this is the way to put down the Tamil rebellion.”
Lt. Gen. Fonseka meanwhile insisted the LTTE can be defeated militarily.
“The President has stated he likes to convince the terrorists that getting a solution by military means is not going to work for them,” the General also said.
“We want to also convince them you can never beat us militarily and you can never get what you want by military means. We are capable of beating them militarily. We have done it one area in the eastern province.”
“And if still they don’t understand, we have to do it once more, hoping they will understand.”
When the reporters went to the east, they were shadowed by Karuna Group paramilitaries as they sought to interview local people. The reporters were warned that they posed a risk to people they tried to interview.
People told the reporters they were terrified of being abducted by the Karuna Group, who “everyone told us” were collaborating with the military.
“Karuna Group cadres are coming and going from refugee camps, day and night” the reporters quoted people as saying.
Tamil politician R. Thurairatnam told the reporters the government needed the Karuna Group paramilitaries more than ever now, to identify suspected sympathizers and supporters of the LTTE amongst the civil population.
The British reporters had been given permission to visit Jaffna for four days. But after reaching the northern city they were told they could not “out of sight” of the military. They were also told they would be leaving the following day and given 90 minutes for a guided tour.
In the time they were there, four people went missing, the reporters said.