Britain destroyed nearly 200 files on LTTE; spy agency role in Sri Lanka: Report
Great Britain's Foreign Office destroyed nearly 200 files on the rise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the role of British spy agency MI5 and the Special Air Service (SAS) in the island-nation, the Guardian reported on Wednesday, May 23.
The destruction of the files means there is now almost no proof of the British government's work with that of Sri Lanka at the beginning of the infamous civil war, the report added.
The revelations raised more question marks over the British Foreign Office's approach towards handling sensitive files. In 2012, an official review found that the same department had allowed several documents related to British counter-insurgency operations in Kenya and other former colonies towards the end of the empire, the Guardian report added.
The Guardian report said while the government departments are obliged to preserve historic documents under the Public Records Act of 1958, when it sought information over the destruction of the files under the Freedom of Information request, the foreign office said it was not necessary to preserve the documents.
"It said the files' content "may be of a policy nature but might also be administrative or ephemeral," the report added.
The foreign office confirmed that it destroyed 195 files on Sri Lanka dating from 1978 to 1980 though it did not divulge the details. The civil war in Sri Lanka began in 1983 and went till 2009 when the LTTE was decimated and its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran shot dead.
Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) received its independence from British rule in February 1948.
"Files not selected for permanent preservation would have been destroyed offsite by the company contracted by the FCO for this purpose," it said, the Guardian report added.
Experts were not pleased with this act. Rachel Seoighe, a criminologist and an expert on Sri Lanka at Middlesex University said the revelation was worrying for there is little public information available about Britain's involvement in the island-nation's security practices when the civil war started, the Guardian report said, adding that she even filed a complaint with Unesco, the international body that takes care of world heritage, over the matter.
The loss of these records is a bad news for Tamil historians, who found it tough to protect the documents throughout the civil war, the Guardian report added. It also mentioned about the burning down of the famous Jaffna library in 1981 by anti-Tamil groups which destroyed almost 1,00,000 documents including valuable ancient texts.