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Is Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda to be the Sacrificial Lamb at the Altar of the 40th UNHCR Sessions?

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By Sharmini Serasinghe

The 40th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva is currently underway. The report on Sri Lanka will be formally submitted on the 20th of March.

Less than a week before the Geneva Sessions commenced on the 25th of February, former Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda’s impending arrest hit the headlines as the 14th accused in connection with the investigations into the abduction and killing of 11 youths in 2008-2009.

Lest it be forgotten, it was he, the then Navy Commander, Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda who in May 2009, made the initial explosive revelations of a gruesome abduction for ransom racket by some officers serving in the Sri Lanka Navy. Investigations into the racket began immediately, but fell by the wayside soon after.

Save a few amongst the disgruntled Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora and the incumbent government, no one really gives a damn for these ‘Geneva sessions’ anymore.

Even the United States, which was the main backer of the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka pulled out, calling it a “cesspool of political bias.” However the incumbent government of Sri Lanka is pushing for a Resolution in favour of the country to appease the international community.

It certainly defies reason how a Government, conscious of its independence and its sovereign right to make decisions on behalf of its people, free of foreign influence, could make such sweeping pledges to foreign countries with regard to matters relating to national interest.

No nation in the world has ever come forward to co-sponsor a resolution against their own country. But, in 2015, Sri Lanka made history by becoming a co-sponsor of the UNHCR resolution on Sri Lanka. It seems like a typical case of cutting off the nose to spite the face.

Co-sponsorship means the admission of allegations levelled against a country and support for the actions proposed in the resolution. Hence, Sri Lanka is now heavily under pressure to implement the recommendations in the resolution.

For this, the government now needs a sacrificial lamb. They obviously can’t offer Sarath Fonseka for sacrifice at the altar of the current Geneva Sessions despite multiple heinous allegations of war crimes against him, as he’s safely ensconced within the incumbent government and cannot be ‘touched’. So, he is safe, pro tem.

Hence a desperate government decides to make the gallant apolitical wartime veteran Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, the sacrificial lamb. Some amongst the disgruntled Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora would love to see him hanged for his role in accelerating the end of the war in 2009. He did this by changing the primary naval strategy in place at the time which led to the destruction of the entire floating LTTE arsenals on high seas.

During my tenure as Director Communications of the former Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP), the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE were requested by the co-chairs of the Tokyo Donor conference to return to the negotiating table in 2006. Both parties agreed and as the official coordinator for the Peace Talks, SCOPP was where all preliminary discussions took place amongst members of the Government delegation. Amongst them, those who stood out from the rest with their dignity, integrity, decorum and class were, Mrs. Ferial Ashraff, Navy Commander Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda and Major General Mendaka Samarasinghe.

Wasantha Karannagoda won President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s confidence during the Norway-led peace process. She was especially impressed by his performance as the COM East (Commander, Eastern Naval Area) when he took steps to strengthen government defences in Trincomalee. She went on to appoint him the Commander of the Navy which was a very wise and strategic move she made.

Those like Wasantha Karannagoda tend to have many enemies, as is usual with those with integrity and a conscience who stand up for justice.

Hypothetically, had this highly decorated War Hero holding the rank of four-star Admiral – the first and only Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy to hold the prestigious ‘four-star rank’ whilst in active Naval service – been devoid of integrity and a conscience and had blood on his hands, viz. – abduction and killing of 11 youth, the cold blooded murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge, beaten up the former Editor of The Nation, Keith Noyahr, former Rivira Editor, Upali Tennakoon, Journalist-activist, Poddala Jayantha, journalist Namal Perera etc., – would he not have sucked up to the UNP, got himself comfortably ensconced as a Minister within the incumbent government which would have ensured that no matter who he got killed or bashed to near pulp, he would never be charged?

Now, who should rightfully be the Sacrificial Lamb at the altar of the current Geneva Sessions?

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