Most media coverage and political debate over the Adam Werritty scandal is surreal and bizarre in treating Werrity’s status as the serious issue while not even mentioning that Werritty, Defence Minister Liam Fox and the British government are promoting arms sales to a Sri Lankan President who ordered war crimes including shelling civilians and hospitals with artillery after telling them they should move to what the Sri Lankan military and government had told civilians and aid agencies would be “safe zones”, followed by massacres of Tamil Prisoners of War and of civilians, including children and aid workers. At least 7,000 civilians have been killed so far. (This is all recorded in multiple investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the UN, as well as by soldiers in the Sri Lankan military who were eye witnesses and heard the orders given.)
Channel 4 News in the UK is the only exception I’ve found so far – they have covered the war crimes issue.
British MPs found that the previous Labour government in Britain also approved arms sales to Sri Lanka during ceasefires in the war. In fact that wasn’t the whole truth – the British government sold £13.6 million of arms including armoured cars, machinegun components and semi-automatic pistols to the Sri Lankan government at the height of the civil war. So British arms were almost certainly used to commit the massacres and more sold to them now may be used for future massacres and continuing disappearances. The bodies of the disappeared are being discovered constantly.
The almost total silence on it in most media reports and opinion columns is despite the video footage and photos of Adam Werrity, standing alongside Liam Fox, shaking hands with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa which have been taken to be important because they show Werrity had taken part in official meetings with members of other governments.
In December 2010 Channel 4 News reported that
‘The Defence Secretary made five trips to Sri Lanka in the past three years, all while in opposition. Each trip was paid for by the Sri Lankan government.
On 2nd December, the Defence Secretary held a private meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in London's Dorchester Hotel, while he was on a private visit to Britain. The visit was aborted when a Tamil pressure group sought the arrest of one his entourage on war crimes charges.
Among matters reportedly discussed between the two were investment opportunities in the north of the island, where many of the alleged atrocities took place.’
More recently they reported that :
‘Highly-placed souces in Sri Lanka have told Channel 4 News that Liam Fox and Adam Werritty have both visited Sri Lanka every year now for a decade. And every time Dr Fox has gone there, Mr Werritty’s been with him – even while on holiday….
….Three highly placed sources in Sri Lanka independently allege that Adam Werritty’s frequent visits to the island were to do with arms deals – and that he stayed there, it’s alleged, at Sri Lankan government expense….. The sources have claimed that Mr Werritty acted as an interlocutor for a senior figure in the regime of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. This senior figure reportedly discussed with Mr Werritty whether he could lobby the British government over the supply of arms, security equipment and aviation parts.’
Rajapaksa arrested the General who headed the campaign, not for war crimes, but for standing against him in the subsequent Presidential elections and for revealing that the orders for the massacres came from Rajapaska’s Defence Minister.
Yet Fox and the British government are both promoting the sale of British arms to Rajapaska’s government and giving him political support by going on state visits to Sri Lanka.
Compared to all this I really couldn’t give a toss whether Werritty had security clearance ; and care even less about innuendo about whether he and Fox might be gay lovers or not.
On this issue much of the media and many politicians seem to have no moral compass, no sense of proportion and an amazing ability to fixate endlessly on trivia while ignoring the British government arming and supporting war criminals who ordered the deliberate killing of thousands of civilians and aid workers.
Labour Party MPs, many of whom were silent or stayed in cabinet as Ministers while the government armed Sri Lankan forces at the height of the massacres, make no mention of them when criticising Fox, Werritty and Cameron.
The new Labour Defence Spokesman, Jim Murphy MP, a typical Blairite and party hack, never mentions them because he knows he was part of a government that did the same. In his letter to Cameron he only mentions conflicts of interest and risks to ‘national security’ – not a word about arming war criminals with arms used to massacre civilians. It seems we can’t expect much improvement from the Labour party leadership under Milliband.
Channel 4 News 11 Oct 2011 ‘Liam Fox friend Adam Werritty accused over Sri Lanka arms deal’, http://www.channel4.com/news/liam-fox-friend-accused-over-sri-lanka-arms-deal
Channel 4 News 15 Jun 2011 ‘Killing fields video evidence ‘builds case for war crimes’’, http://www.channel4.com/news/killing-fields-video-evidence-builds-case-for-war-crimes
Channel 4 News 27 Jul 2011 ‘Sri Lanka ‘war crimes’ soldiers ordered to ‘finish the job’, http://www.channel4.com/news/sri-lanka-war-crimes-soldiers-ordered-to-finish-the-job
Channel 4 News 04 Oct 2011 ‘Liam Fox quizzed about friend’s access to MoD’, http://www.channel4.com/news/liam-fox-quizzed-about-friends-access-to-mod
HRW / The Guardian 21 Jan 2010 ‘Uncovering Sri Lanka's war crimes’, http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/01/22/uncovering-sri-lankas-war-crimes and http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jan/21/sri-lanka-war-crimes-investigation
Guardian 30 March 2010 ‘MPs call for review of arms exports after Israeli assault on Gaza’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/30/arms-british-gaza-assault (also covers sales to Sri Lanka)
Times 02 Jun 2009 ‘Britain sold weapons to help Sri Lankan army defeat Tamil Tigers ’, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/asia/article2610539.ece
HRW 08 May 2009 ‘Sri Lanka: Repeated Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes’,http://www.hrw.org/news/2009/05/08/sri-lanka-repeated-shelling-hospitals-evidence-war-crimes
HRW 03 Aug 2011 ‘Sri Lanka : No Justice in massacre of aid workers’, http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/08/03/sri-lanka-no-justice-massacre-aid-workers
HRW 23 May 2011 ‘Sri Lanka: Military Conference to Whitewash War Crimes’, http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/05/23/sri-lanka-military-conference-whitewash-war-crimes
Human Rights Annual Report 2010 – Country Report – Sri Lanka,http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/Sri%20Lanka.pdf
Amnesty International 26 Apr 2011 ‘UN must act now on Sri Lanka war crimes report’,http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/un-must-act-now-investigate-war-crimes-sri-lanka-2011-04-21
Guardian.co.uk 09 Oct 2011 ‘Liam Fox allegations: Letter from Jim Murphy to David Cameron’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/oct/09/liam-fox-jim-murphy-letter?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487