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RTI produces varying accounts of the final stages of war

RTI produces varying accounts of the final stages of war

30 Jan 2023 | BY Buddhika Samaraweera

  • Military previously noted in writing that those who surrendered during the last period of war surrendered not to the Army but to the Government

While the Sri Lanka Army (SLA) has stated that no members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) surrendered to the SLA and that it does not have any information regarding those who surrendered, when an appeal pertaining to a Right to Information (RTI) request was taken up at the RTI Commission, Attorney-at-Law K.S. Ratnavale informed the Commission that the SLA had, during the hearing of a case at the Vavuniya High Court, admitted that LTTE cadres had surrendered to the military.

Journalist D. Nirosh Kumar had made a request under the RTI Act, seeking information pertaining to the number of LTTE fighters who surrendered to the Army, officials who supervised such incidents, the number of LTTE fighters who were arrested during the last phases of the war, and officials who supervised such arrests. As the Information Officer of the Army had not provided him with the requested information, Kumar had filed an appeal with the Commission, and the relevant appeal was taken up on 25 January.

During the hearing, Attorney Ratnavale made an additional submission that the SLA had admitted, by way of a witness who was a high-ranking officer in the rank of Major General, that LTTE cadres had surrendered to the military during the last phase of the war, and that the names and the other details had been duly registered by Military Officials at the Mullaitivu Army camp. He had also informed the Commission that the surrender had taken place with family members and many other people witnessing the act of surrender and registration process.

The Commission was also informed that the admission on behalf of the SLA was made in an inquiry at the Mullaitivu Magistrate Court and that the details of those who surrendered had been accepted by the Vavuniya High Court in its Order dated 17 December 2022 through which the SLA had been directed to produce the relevant persons before the court or assign reasons as to why it could not be done. A copy of the order was submitted to the Commission, which directed that further information be submitted in due course.

Meanwhile, a representative of the SLA attended the appeal hearing via Zoom technology. The Commission expressed its dissatisfaction over it and directed that representatives of the SLA be present in person to make representations to the Commission when the case will be taken up again.

Attorneys Swastika Arulingam and Pasan Jayasinghe appeared for Nirosh Kumar, while Ratnavale and G.C. Ranitha made additional submissions assisting the Commission. The appeal is to be taken up again on 28 March 2023.

The SLA had previously informed Nirosh Kumar in writing that those who surrendered during the last period of war surrendered not to the Army, but to the Government. However, when the appeal was taken up before the Commission last year, the SLA’s Designated Officer, under the RTI Act Brigadier N.K.N.K. Nagahawatte, had stated that LTTE fighters had not surrendered to the Army, but that internally displaced persons (IDPs) had. He had informed the RTICSL that it was the Army that transported such IDPs to IDP camps and that such camps were under the purview of the Bureau of Commissioner General of Rehabilitation.

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