Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe says the evidence is not credible
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka's high commissioner to Australia
SAMARASINGHE: This is absolutely out of context to say that the government is sanctioning such action that is being aired for vested interest with the Human Rights Commission sessions coming round the corner. This is not something new. The Sri Lankan government and the rest of the world is fully aware not to be gullible for such thing to claim a democratically-elected government, which has defeated a terrorist organisation which was tormenting and brutally killing and butchering innocent civilians.
I will only say one thing, Honourable Senator Bob Carr recently went on record on television, when he was asked in parliament whether the Sri Lankans returning voluntarily or involuntary are being tortured or harassed as you very unfairly and unfairly claiming and his answer was. Since the return, there had been no such complaints. There had been one such complaint to the Sri Lankan High Commission in Colombo and that was investigated and found to be baseless. These baseless allegations are unfounded and the government of Sri Lanka is totally rejecting it and people who make these allegation forget the terrorist who are doing various atrocities behind the walls of the terrorist organisation are now defeated and yes, we have heard from that defeat.
COCHRANE: We have heard from Human Rights Watch they're criticisms of the actions of the Tamil Tigers as well.
SAMARASINGHE: There are no action of Tamil Tigers, there is nobody to ask, nobody to clarify. They can just keep on seeing both sides. The fact remains Sri Lankan government rescued 300,000 civilians.
COCHRANE: Yes, and we've heard your comments about that before. I don't want to go into that. What I would like to discuss with you Admiral is these recent allegations and I want to make clear. I'm not making allegations, the ABC is not making allegations, the report is written by Human Rights Watch. It has interviewed 75 people, both women and men who say that they were raped and tortured by the police and army officials in Sri Lanka. You say that the government did not sanction this as a policy. Do you believe that rape took place in the way it's described by Human Rights Watch?
SAMARASINGHE: Absolutely no. If you go to the JAMA - Journal of American Medical Association, they carried out a immediately after the completion of the conflict, they carried out a survey of 1,900 women who were released and being settled. They could not find a single woman coming up and saying there was any rape or torture or anything. So those things are very clear. They're in black and white. This is the interest of the vested parties, was smarting of the defeat. Don't forget, 11,000 terrorists either surrendered or captured has been rehabilitated into normal life and they are, they can be contacted. Please go to Sri Lanka, the Honourable Minister, Bob Carr, was in Sri Lanka, Deputy Opposition leader of Australia was in Sri Lanka and they've seen for themselves. There is embassies of the Western world, Sri Lanka represented very well in Sri Lanka with embassies from various countries. These people are liberty to travel, to see to the organisation, NGOs, question Sri Lankan authorities and these countries have come to a conclusion that these are baseless and Sri Lankan government totally rejects.
COCHRANE: Admiral, why would Human Rights Watch make up, invent the testimonies of 75 people?
SAMARASINGHE: These Human Rights Watch are not credible.
COCHRANE: What about the International Crisis Group which is also reported on sexual assault?
SAMARASINGHE: That is also not credible.
COCHRANE: Well, it is well respected internationally, it is well respected internationally as a very fair handed analysis organisation.
SAMARASINGHE: They are respected internationally when it suits for various countries. But they are not fair, when handling Sri Lankan issues. I don't want to comment on other issues. Then the rest of the world conflicts supposed to have been completed, finished, but still the countries burning, bombs are being exploded, people are dying. But in Sri Lanka, three years after the conflict, single such event has not taken place. People can travel any length and breadth of the places. This type of thing do not help reconciliation.
COCHRANE: Welll, that is your claim. The Human Rights Watch claim is that rape and torture continues to happen?
SAMARASINGHE: So bring the credible evidence to open, we open the LLRC for people to come and give evidence. There are still investigations going on. Bring credible evidence, not doctored video footages, doctored photographs, bring credible evidence and show it to the people and that will be taken to the Sri Lanka if they are to face any criticism with substantiated evidence. This is hearsay evidence which had been collected that you cannot be identified for 40 years, 20 years, are not credible evidence.
COCHRANE: Well, unfortunately the lessons the LLRC,the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which is the government inquiry into what happened during the conflict is also seen by many as not credible. It's seen as the government's primary means of deflecting... well let me finish my question, Admiral, let me finish my question. It is seen that particular Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission is seen as the government's primary means of deflecting pressure from international investigations in exactly the way that you're doing right now. It is not seen as credible. Why not allow an independent investigation into what's happening and clear these issues up in a way that is credible?
SAMARASINGHE: What is the credibility of the international investigation and what they're trying to do. When Sri Lanka was tormented by terrorists for 30 years, where was this credible organisation coming to find fault with the terrorists. They never supported the Sri Lankan government militarily to defeat this terrorism and we had to do it ourselves at, people of the armed forces and the normal civilian had to shed their lives. Twenty thousand shed their lives including Tamils and Sinhalese and Muslims civilians all. Military had to do that and they sacrificed their lives to safeguard the Tamil people, the terrorists who are tormenting the Tamils. So having done that, now the terrorism is defeated, country's peaceful, progress is making, that you are making this false allegation.
COCHRANE: Once again, I'm not making allegations, the Human Rights Watch are making the allegations?
SAMARASINGHE: Yes, they are doing that to give oxygen to terrorists who are operating for the rest of the world, if we are there to see. But what is happening the rest of the world, I don't want to comment. I speak of my country, who gives arms, who gives what to what do what. But Sri Lanka, there was nothing like that. They fought with hard earned money, and the lives of the innocent civilians who were tortured and butchered by people. Let Sri Lanka manage themselves. We are capable of handling it. Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission one time, people said it's a whitewash. Now, including Australia, there accepted it to be very credible. They have given certain very strong recommendations that has been studied by all quarters and any allegation is being invested. We will punish, even we have punished certain soldiers who have found fault of.
COCHRANE: How many soldiers have been punished for sexual assault during the conflict?
SAMARASINGHE: You have to find out, you find out for me. I'm telling you it is published in a document number of soldiers punished. You've got to find out.
COCHRANE: Well, you're the High Commissioner for Sri Lanka?
SAMARASINGHE: So I'm telling you they've been punished.
COCHRANE: How many, how many?
SAMARASINGHE: No, I don't want to tell you. You better find out. It is published in a document called "Analysis of the Conflict"
COCHRANE: That's fine. We're on now, I'm not able to go and find that information out. Can you give me a rough estimate of how many people?
SAMARASINGHE: No, I'm not going to give you, because you're making false allegations.
COCHRANE: Once again Admiral, I'm not making any allegations. I'm asking you a question?
SAMARASINGHE: You are being spokesperson for the Human Rights, but you should have come to me first.
COCHRANE: Well, we are coming to you. We are coming to you to get your reaction to the report?
SAMARASINGHE: Over the phone, I have documents. If you come to my office, I'll give you documentary evidence. Tell those people who are calling you, whatever the watch could be not to give oxygen to terrorism. They want Sri Lanka to burn again. They want Sri Lankan situation not to develop to the wonder of Asia. People have gone and seen it. They're growing at a very good percentage group. These are things that the country and Sri Lanka was termed and nominated at the top most country to visit in 2013, not by us, it's by the Australian Lonely Planet research which as a longstanding reputation. They don't do these things just by self, whatever the organisation statements are true, there is torture, there is whatever, rape all that, will any tourist go?Tourism has gone up by 25 per cent.
COCHRANE: I think they're very different issues, I think they're very different issues. There is certainly terrorism....?
SAMARASINGHE; No, ...? it is absolutely relevant and .....?
COCHRANE: Terrorism, sorry, tourism continued during the civil war, so?
SAMARASINGHE: No, it does improve. You don't get me. Thirty per cent increase. People go to Jaffna and do you know that...
COCHRANE: Of course they are, because the civil war has ended? Why wouldn't there be a 30 per cent increase?
SAMARASINGE: In Colombo, in Colombo, the so called torture the Tamils, sort of in the population in Colombo, the majority is the minority ethnic groups and the top businessmen now are all ethnic group which is only ten or 15 per cent. So these are hard facts. People are free to move in any place. Colombo the people are living more day by land. They're having equal opportunity. Education is such, sports is such, everybody can take part. Why this false allegation? Bring credible evidence, bring people who have seen this, heard it. Give evidence which his admissible in court. Yes, Sri Lanka will look into it. That is the last thing that I can tell you without sending, when it has come to March. Why can't this happen all through the year. They wait for the Human Rights Commission thing, and this person says that, and various things. So this is unfair, this is unacceptable by any standards of common sense.