Sunday, January 6, 2008

Humbugs, human rights and peace
By Janaka Perera

The past several days saw developments that may not be very pleasing to the 'peaceniks.' The government passing the budget with a 16 vote majority without question has dashed the hopes all the humbugs waiting to re-start the usual `peace talks' game. Had the budget proposals been defeated it would have very likely led to dissolution of Parliament and a general election that would have definitely added to the financial burdens facing the country.

In the process all major anti-LTTE military operations would have had to be halted thereby giving breathing space to the Tigers and demoralizing the Security Forces. A new government possibly with Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prime Minister would then 'reinvigorate' the so-called ceasefire and withdraw government troops to the positions they held before the Mavil Aru operation for that is what the 'Sun God' would demand in order to re-consolidate his power in the East.

Wickremesinghe would then be in his element playing the role that history has assigned to him as the second 'Don Juan Dharmapala.' (The first Don Juan D handed over this country by gift of deed to the King of Portugal in a failed attempt to make Sri Lanka a vassal state of that country).

Promptly, all anti-war crusaders, 'human rights' champions and sections of the 'international community' will then urge new government to revive the hackneyed 'peace process.' 'Negotiations' with the LTTE of course would very likely be on the latter's terms – in other words legitimizing Tiger rule in the areas they held when the 2002 MOU was signed between Wickremesinghe and Prabhakaran.

Thereafter only Karuna and the Pillayan group or the TMVP would be branded terrorists, disarmed and prosecuted for past human rights offences, many of which were actually committed on Prabhakaran's orders.

But there is perhaps one obstacle to the full realization of this cherished dream of the 'peace industrialists.' It is the international tightening of screws on the LTTE - especially the U.S. Government freezing all assets of the so-called Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) a few days before the budget debate began here.

Following the action to freeze the funds, Washington has urged the Tigers to get back to the negotiating table. It is the first time that a Western Government told the Tiger terrorist outfit to do so instead of pontificating to the government. This has obviously disturbed the NGO-engineered so-called civil society' which never gets tired of demanding that it is the government that should get back to the negotiating table.

They have continuously blamed the Sri Lankan State for the failure of negotiations, breakdown in law and order, human rights violations and the loss of peace in the country. In this context the U.S. Government telling the Tigers to return to the negotiating table is a very significant development.

On the freezing of TRO funds however there is one thing that needs further clarification. It is American Ambassador Robert Blake's statement that the action against the TRO was not a move against the Tamils. It is not exactly clear what he meant. Tamils in Sri Lanka are generally confined to (a) the North and East, (b) the hill country and (c) Colombo. The hill country Tamils are of Indian origin and have largely distanced themselves from the Tigers, although the latter have been trying hard to lure them into the LTTE fold.

That leaves the Tamils in and outside State-controlled areas of the North and East and those in Colombo and suburbs. Needless to say the Tamils who suffer human rights violations the most - as confirmed by TULF Leader V. Anandasangaree himself - are those living in the Wanni under Tiger domination. It is a tyrannical regime which tolerates no criticism, continues to recruit children for combat duties with no compunction and sends young men and women on suicide missions. Ironically for its survival it continues to depend on food, medicine and other essentials supplied by the Sri Lankan State. So if it is these Tamil victims of the LTTE that Ambassador Blake really meant we fully welcome the U.S. government stance.

He however should realize that other Tamils include many who overtly or covertly sympathize with and support the Tigers. The majority of these pro-LTTE Tamils (in addition to sections of the Diaspora in the West and Australia) live outside Tiger dominated areas, especially in Colombo. We can understand the feelings of Tamils who prefer to be neutral or to avoid talking about the Tigers out of fear for their lives.

But what about the rest (including both Tamils and some Sinhalas too) in Colombo who openly oppose any move to marginalize or neutralize the Tiger terrorists? What is the difference between them and the LTTE or the TRO?

They reminds us of certain 'Marxist intellectuals' who tried to justify or rationalize Pol Pot's brutal regime in Cambodia. But none of these bogus pundits lived at the time in Cambodia where the Khmer Rouge had turned the country into a veritable a hell on earth - the so-called Democratic Republic of Kampuchea! It is the same with Prabhakaran's admirers who live outside the Wanni. And some of them like the LTTE 'Supremo' have sent their children not to the battle front but to do higher studies in the West.

As long as Tigers wield power in the Wanni and spread their invisible and visible tentacles to the rest of the island, no proposal to solve the national crisis can be effectively put before the people since LTTE threats and intimidation will prevent the majority of ordinary Tamils from expressing their true feelings, especially if the political solution which they prefer is going to undermine Tiger power and its hold on them.

On the other hand it should be noted that no terrorist outfit or tyrannical regime can survive without at least a section of a community supporting it. Even during the declining days of the Third Reich there were Germans who believed that Hitler was right.

Likewise if LTTE sympathizers of whatever race, class and religion are not recognized for what they are then any action against the Tigers will not prove fully effective. It is necessary for foreign governments - if they want to see real stability and peace in this country – to keep a tab on the activities of such people (including the 'Tamil National Alliance') and help the GOSL to deal with their nefarious activity and refuse them visas to travel to these 0countries. The biggest threat they pose to Sri Lanka is all the falsehoods with which they feed the foreign media so that it would help to create a distorted global image of Sri Lanka.

It is as a result of such slanderous propaganda that the Boston Globe was misled to write on November 14 an editorial full of distortions titled "Violence drags on in Sri Lanka." The editorial describes "A "current offensive into the Jaffna peninsula" resulting in 300,000 displaced civilians - a situation that never happened!

In a fitting response to the Boston Globe's Editor's call for "an international arms embargo on Sri Lanka" our Ambassador in Washington Bernard Goonetilleke states: "It is easy to impose embargoes on legitimate governments. How can embargoes be imposed on the Tamil Tigers, who purchase heavy artillery and other warlike material unhindered?"

In another exposure of double standards on human rights, International activist Jean-Pierre Page (co-author of, War in Yugoslavia: Preparatory Manipulations - Human Rights, Diplomacy, the KLA), has challenged Sri Lankan 'feminist' and NGO 'peacenik' Nimalka Fernando to prove her allegation that he is having a 'stooge state of mind' vis-à-vis the Sri Lankan Government. Her attack on Page was a reaction to an article written by him jointly with Tania Noctiummes, severely criticizing UN High Commissionier Louise Arbour's stance on human rights issues in Third World countries. The article was titled, 'Louise Arbour's diabolical project.' The article drew attention to her proclaimed intention to press the Government of Sri Lanka to open a field office under her authority to "protect" the citizens of Sri Lanka , implying that the Government of Sri Lanka is not capable of protecting its own citizens!

This indeed is a very valid point considering the miserable failure of another international office – the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission – to prevent countless ceasefire violations, especially by the Tigers. No doubt a UN human rights field office would go down the same slippery path, eventually ending up blaming only the Sri Lankan State for all HR violations. We do not need a UN office to do that since the NGO jokers are already doing it.

Page's reply to Fernando's unfair criticism of the article is a damning indictment on the hypocrisy of so-called human rights champions who are waiting to accuse the Sri Lankan State of HR violations at the drop of a hat.

Page writes:

" For my part, I am wary of unilateral arguments! It is hard for me to understand how a human rights activist like you can speak of human rights violations by the Government and the Karuna Group only and conveniently ignore those committed by the LTTE and the support given by certain Western powers and their NGO mercenaries. You cannot be blind to the fact that the LTTE has physically eliminated large numbers of people who didn't share its views, starting with the Tamil people themselves. By being partial, you are not serving the interests of those people that you claim to defend! Is that your way of respecting people? Finally, your letter convinces me that the defense of human rights is far too serious a matter to be left to amateurs, or worse, to those who make a very good living out of it! I'm sure that I will never ever receive an award from Human Rights Watch, but all things considered, I think it is better that way, because I can maintain my independence."

It may be noted that this woman has been a vociferous demonstrator at all NGO-sponsored 'anti-war' demonstrations directed against the Sri Lankan State. She has spared no efforts to vilify this country and its armed forces in interviews she gives to the foreign media.
In the UN General Assembly resolution 54/164, Member States reiterated their unequivocal condemnation of the methods and practices of terrorism, in all its forms and manifestations, as activities aimed at the destruction of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democracy. In that resolution, Member States moreover once again recognized that such acts threaten the territorial integrity and security of States, destabilize legitimately constituted Governments, undermine pluralistic civil society, and have adverse consequences for the economic and social development of States. No end justifies intentionally attacking civilians and non-combatants. Terrorist acts are violations of the right to life, liberty, security, well-being and freedom from fear. Therefore, adopting and implementing effective counter-terrorism measures is also a human rights obligation for States.
If the so-called international community wishes to see genuine and lasting peace in Sri Lanka they should better extend their full backing to the effective enforcement of the above resolution instead of continuously pointing an accusing finger at the government and the State.