Saturday, March 8, 2008

Whose interests are these "Eminent Persons" watching?

I read with some interest the news that the so-called International Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) are to exit Sri Lanka shortly, and noted also that the news was presented in dramatic fashion. My contact with these eminent persons has been brief but I believe revealing nevertheless. What I have seen and heard have made me question their credentials with respect to the terms 'independent' and 'eminent'.

Here's my story.

I was present at this first public sitting of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry investigating the killing of 17 aid workers of the French NGO Action Against Hunger (ACF) in Muttur in early August 2006, as a pubic observer.

After the counsel for the Sri Lankan Army Mr Gomin Dayasiri marked his appearance, Mr Dana Urban acting as assistant to professor B. Mathews, a member of IIGEP, made an application to the Commission for an adjournment to enable the counsel for ACF to make an appearance. The Commission overruled this request since Mr Urban did have a standing in the matter, either as an official of ACF or as a designated representative.

The commission accepted the submissions of Mr Gomin Dayasiri that no application had been made either by ACF or their counsel for an adjournment as sort by Mr Urban.

It is indeed ironic that no representation was made since ACF had indeed made an application to appear before the Commission.

As a layman, to the best of my knowledge, I believe the following:

(1) That if a party desires to appear at proceedings it is for that party to elect to do so or elect to choose to be represented by a counsel.

(2) It is the right of such a party or counsel to seek an adjournment on proper legal grounds if such adjournment is considered desirable.

Obviously the International Independent Group of Eminent Person's (IIGEP) cannot or should not whilst not representing any party to the inquiry and also holding the position of independent, unbiased, and impartial observer status, have somebody such as Mr Urban at the Commission and Inquiry playing the role of a special interest far
exceeding the role assigned to him.

Observing proceeding from a distance the questions that came to my mind were:

(1) Whom did Mr Urban really represent?

(2) Did he represent ACF or did he believe he did?

(3) Did he have the authority of ACF to make that application or did he step into their shoes arbitrarily to seek an adjournment?

(4) Can Mr Urban an International Independent Group of Eminent Person's (IIGEP) representative make an application for an adjournment on behalf of ACF without instructions?

(5) What are the relevant ethics?

(6) What does all this imply in terms of ambit and intent of IIGEP?

In view of the aforesaid I would also like to state in public interest that the time has come when International Observers themselves require Observers to keep an eye on their conduct as they are often here to tarnish the good name of our country, while being prejudiced and biased or indoctrinated with unreleased agenda to open avenues for foreign interferences in our internal affairs.

Our media too perhaps should perhaps beware of such dubious motives and agendas of "Eminent Persons".........

Yours sincerely,
Dimuth Gunawardena


  1. This is the first time I read first hand experience of an arbitrariness of the NGO's or their cousins any any and many forms. When these experts / councels go to developing / poor countries they tend to behave like bulls in china shop. Lucky we have experienced legal experts to conduct their affairs impartilly irrespective of whom they are dealing with. Congratulations to the writer for the eye opener.

  2. It was the President of Sri Lanka himself who was responsible for approving and appointing the IGEP, in order to demonstrate the good faith and good conduct of the Sri Lankan government in investigating the controversial killings.

    Sadly, the President seems to have botched every aspect of that endeavour. The result of this sorry saga is that the Sri Lankan armed forces will always be under a cloud of suspicion with regard to those killings.

    And, us the citizens of Sri Lanka have to endure the shame of our country looking like a banana republic.