Leaked cables from the US Embassy in Colombo have revealed American diplomatic concerns alleging Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former army commander Sarath Fonseka were last year responsible for war crimes committed during the end of the civil war against Tamil separatists.
The US diplomatic cables, leaked by whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, includes 3325 from Colombo, making the Embassy in Sri Lanka among those hardest-hit by the scandal.
In a leaked cable sent on January 15 2010, Ambassador Patricia Butenis remarked there was a clear “lack of attention to accountability” following the mass killings of Tamils in the final days of the war, a situation she described as “regrettable” but unsurprising.
“There are no examples we know of a regime undertaking wholesale investigations of its own troops or senior officials for war crimes while that regime or government remained in power,” Butenis said in the cable.
“In Sri Lanka this is further complicated by the fact that responsibility for many of the alleged crimes rests with the country’s senior civilian and military leadership, including President Rajapaksa and his brothers and opposition candidate General Fonseka.”
The cable also revealed that Fonseka had quietly ordered the opposition campaign “to begin planning a ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission.”
In a comment piece published in Minivan News on November 30, Butenis condemned the release of the cables and said it was important for diplomats to be able to have “frank” discussions with their colleagues and counterparts.
“We support and are willing to have genuine debates about pressing questions of public policy. But releasing documents carelessly and without regard for the consequences is not the way to start such a debate,” she said.
The US has stated that it will not comment on the specific content of the leaked cables.
Cultural Affairs Officer and Spokesperson for the US Embassy in Colombo, Glen Davis, told Minivan News earlier this week that cable traffic was “very preliminary; pieces are incomplete and read out of context, they are easy to misconstrue.”
“A disclosure like this is bad for contacts, harmful to global engagement and makes it difficult to tackle problems such as organised crime and nuclear proliferation,” he said.
The Sri Lankan President was due to meet the UK’s Defence Secretary on December 3, as well as address the Oxford Union, however the visit was cancelled for security reasons.
The Maldivian government, which this year won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, recently established a credit line to Sri Lanka worth US$200 million. The announcement was made by President Mohamed Nasheed on November 18 prior to departing for Sri Lanka to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Sri Lankan President.
Read the full cable (English)