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We never subjected LTTE detainees to Abu Ghraib-type humiliation


Retired Senior DIG Nimal Lewke says the controversial ‘Darusman Report’ had made a shameful attempt to discredit Sri Lanka on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations levelled against law enforcement agencies. The post-war allegations, particularly with regard to rape and sexual abuse at detention facilities in the North had been part of their sordid operation to force the government of Sri Lanka to accept an international war crimes investigation. One-time Commandant of the elite Special Task Force (STF) and one of those involved in actual combat was responding to allegations that the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Terrorist Investigation Division (TID) had raped women detainees.

An irate Lewke said: "I was posted to Northern Province as Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police in Feb 2009, where I had the opportunity to be involved in the co-ordination of the final phase of the operation in the Vanni, post-war mopping up plan, including rehabilitation and resettlement programmes, which were set in motion at my instance."

Lewke retired a few months ago to join the private sector. "Had there been rape in detention, then I, too, would have been responsible due to failure on my part as the senior officer in charge of police in the Northern Region,"

Lewke said. The police veteran went on to say: "I may state with a deep sense of responsibility that the allegation of gross misconduct alleged against the CID and TID officers who were involved in investigations and interrogations during the last phase of the humanitarian operation, were baseless and sans an iota or a vestige of truth. As a Senior DIG I enjoyed a very close rapport and supervision over the TID and CID officers involved in the investigations. Most of them were veterans with wealth of experience and handpicked for the mission. They were professional and proficient officers. Since some of the Senior Officers, who were involved in the investigation process at that time, are not among the living today I felt it was my sacred duty to defend their good name against such baseless and false allegations."

Lewke said: "I am fully aware that at no stage were there any complaints of rapes and/or abductions as stated in the report during the period under review and as an officer with a professional background and who clearly identified the conflict resolution basics and the humanitarian side of this struggle, I would never have condoned and allowed atrocious behaviour of any officer as we had clearly identified the root cause of this problem and our responsibility was clearly defined and that was to win the confidence, give hope to the people in the North and East as they had suffered for so long under terrorist clutches."

Asked whether those assigned to investigations had been briefed by their seniors, Lewke emphasized that that the government believed that the need of the hour was for the detainees to realize that they have a future and their children have a future. Those assigned to investigations and other duties at detention facilities had received comprehensive briefing before taking up assignment, the retired policeman said.

"Hence, I as one of the Senior Police Officers present during the last stages of humanitarian operation and strongly object to the allegations made against the CID and TID officers as I am fully aware they carried out their task under very trying conditions. These are flimsy and malicious allegations that cannot be accepted.

Those who place their signature on a document such as Darusman report should realize that the gravity and the consequences and their credentials and credibility will be subjected to challenge."

Lewke had been among a small group of officers trained under ex-British Special Air Services (SAS) personnel in the early 1980s and a participant at many international forums, which dealt with counter-terrorism.

Lewke said that before moving to the North in February 2009, he had been involved in police operations in the East as part of the overall campaign spearheaded by the Army to liberate the Eastern Province.

Speaking of his experience as counter-terrorist specialist, Lewke said: "As an Officer who volunteered to serve the STF in 1984 at the peak of the war, I was privileged to be privy to the conditions and background of terrorists groups as well to identify most of their leaders. They included Thangadorai, Kuttimani, Sri Sabharatnam, Velupillai Prabhakaran, Uma Maheshwaran, Pathmadevan, Victor Osckar, Era Vasudevan, Eliyathambi Ratnasabapathi, Kumararappah, V. Balakumar and even religious dignitaries who earned their support and sympathy like Revd. Fr. Singarayan, academics like Nithyanandan’s etc. The late Anton Balasingham was the ideologist, political advisor and aide to Prabhakaran. Other prominent members were Yogi, Shanker alias Sorana. I was also a member of the De-escalation and normalization committee which had a dialogue with the terrorists."

Lewke said that a section of the international community had accused Sri Lanka of rape on a previous occasion in the UN Security Council. The ‘Darusman Report’ had repeated the allegation, in spite of Sri Lanka’s rejection of the charge made at the UN, he said. "These allegations are made at the behest of the LTTE rump and the Tamil Diaspora seeking to punish Sri Lanka for eradicating the LTTE’s conventional military capability."

Lewke said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton categorized Sri Lanka as a country, which practiced rape as a tactic of war before the UN Security Council on Sept 30, 2009.

Lewke said that those who couldn’t stomach Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE would continue to make allegations in spite of not having any evidence. Those who demand accountability in Sri Lanka had conveniently forgotten what they done in other parts of the world, he said. There couldn’t be a better example than infamous Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse carried out by US military personnel and members of private contractors involved with the US military, Lewke said. In Abu Ghraib, both male and female captives had been raped and subject to degrading treatment following the invasion of Iraq.

The former policeman emphasized the need to counter anti-Sri Lanka propaganda campaign sensibly and effectively without making ‘boru show.’ The country should be proud of its post-war rehabilitation programme, which enabled over 6,500 men, women and children to re-join the civil society within two years after the conclusion of the conflict. By Shamindra Ferdinando



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