By Shamindra Ferdinando
Australia has deprived Maj. Gen. Chagie Gallage of an opportunity to visit his brother, an Australian citizen on the basis of unsubstantiated war crimes allegations against the Sri Lanka Army (SLA).
Australia has found fault with Gallage for being in command of the 59 Division from May 7, 2009 to July 20, 2009. In response to inquiries made by Gallage, the Australian High Commission has stated that troops under his command certainly committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Maj. Gen. Gallege, currently functions as Director General, Infantry. The officer, who was in the forefront of the war against the LTTE, is widely considered one of best strategists.
The Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection has extensively cited Report of the OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) on Sri Lanka (OISL) to turn down Gallege’s visa. On the basis of OISL report, Geneva adopted Resolution 30/1 to pave the way for foreign judges in a domestic judicial mechanism.
Australia also cited the UNSG Panel of Experts (PoE) report on accountability issues released on March 31, 2011. POE accused Sri Lanka of massacring over 40,000 civilians and depriving the Vanni population of their basic needs.The combined security forces brought the war to a successful conclusion on May 19, 2009.
Australia has cited a statement attributed to General Officer Commanding (GOC) 58 Division Maj. Gen. Shavendra Silva that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) real time footage had been made available to ground commanders marking targets, to justify its decision. On the basis of Maj. Gen. Silva’s statement, Australia has alleged that Maj. Gen. Gallege had been aware of artillery strikes on third no fire zone.
There have never been specific allegations against Maj. Gen. Gallege before.
Authoritative military sources told The Island contrary to Australian assessment, the deployment of Israeli built UAVs was meant to direct attacks on the enemy. Sources said that Colombo based foreign military attaches were invited to Air Force headquarters to observe real time video footage provided at crucial stage of Vanni offensive.
Australia has accused Maj. Gen. Gallege of planning, implementing and supporting war crimes and crimes against humanity. Australia also held him responsible as the serving officer for failing to prevent troops under his command from committing war crimes.
The Australian report, while identifying Gallege as ‘potential controversial visit’, alleges that the SLA committed atrocities even after the conclusion of the war.
Gallege has been screened by Australian authorities following him seeking visa for a month long visit.
Sources pointed out that the decision to accuse Maj. Gen. Gallege of crimes against humanity meant that Australia believed that the Sri Lankan army carried out systematic attacks against Tamil civilians.
Australia has identified the 59 Division credited with wresting control of LTTE Mullaitivu bastion in late January 2009 as one of the formations responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Formed in Jan, 2008, the 59 Division, deployed on the eastern flank aka the Weli Oya front, fought under the then Brig. Nandana Udawatte’s command for one year to cross the Anandakulam and Nagacholai forest reserves, which served as natural defences for the LTTE Mullaitivu stronghold.
Over the years, the US and some other countries have denied visas to senior commanders on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations. In the case of Maj. Gen. Sudantha Ranasinghe, the US refused to accommodate him on a programme as he commanded the elite 53 Division in peacetime.
The 53 Division killed LTTE leader Prabhakaran.