Colombo Telegraph

Archbishop Tutu’s Initiative For Sri Lanka Reconciliation

By S. Sivathasan

S. Sivathasan

Archbishop Tutu has placed his name and prestige for the cause of reconciliation in Sri Lanka. With motives that are purest, he invokes the UNHRC to add a cutting edge to the Resolution. Towards this end, he urges the setting up of an Independent International Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sri Lanka. Joining him from across the world with as much conviction and equal force are 38 other society leaders and institutions of standing. Prominent among them are three Tamils enjoying the confidence of their community acquired through means that are overtly legitimate. In addition, resident as they are among the people, they have a stake in the future of the Tamils and of the country. Justice CV Wigneswaran, Chief Minister Northern Provincial Council, Hon.R. Sampanthan, popularly elected Head of the Tamil National Alliance, the acknowledged leader of the Tamils and the indomitable Bishop Dr. Rayappu Joseph, who has won the trust of all Tamils Hindu and Christian.

Concerned individuals and organisations are urging the UNHRC to throw in its full weight and authority in the counsels of the world to mete out justice to the Tamils. The strategy chosen is a potent resolution having enough teeth. The occasion selected is the March session this year in Geneva. The target is identified as reconciliation in Sri Lanka. Quite correctly, the path is seen to lie in justice. The single way to lead the country to redemption is through justice. With these perceptions, fervent demand is for a resolution that is unequivocal. Looked forward to is a resolve and a commitment to an Independent International Inquiry.

Why are Bishop Desmond Tutu, institutions and society leaders perturbed? To them never in sight is lasting peace. The future therefore is of grave concern. As they themselves concede, fear grips the land. A sense of injustice is persistent and pervasive. Five years after the end of war, all the signs are that the situation is getting worse. To make the problems increasingly intractable are unresolved issues, ongoing human rights violations and crimes on an expanding track. All these omissions and commissions when left unaddressed could lead to renewed conflict is their discernment. Very correct is what foresight tells the Tamils both resident, diaspora and in Tamil Nadu. Never to be left out are the enlightened and the percipient among the Sinhalese. Joining them are the minorities as well.

Culture of Impunity

Failure to enforce the law or even more deadly the wilful refusal at enforcement are what the country has seen consistently and continuously from June 5th 1956 to date in 2014. Inevitably every succeeding pogrom against the Tamils has been more devastating than the preceding one and it captured the international eye in the last 31 years from 1983. The wanton destruction of life of an estimated one lakh came about for lack of political wisdom. Tutu and others with social concern, aghast at this recurring phenomenon want this stopped. They see a serious fault in the government’s lack of respect for the rights of citizens and more disrespect towards minority citizens. Very rightly the lapses are attributed to the failure to hold to account those who committed atrocities.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Tutu and his intellectual comrades have made a neat and clear listing of the antecedents contributing to a dismal situation which has become systemic and even endemic. Having seen with detachment a tragedy developing for six decades and after analyzing the reasons therefor dispassionately, they make bold to say that the faults on both sides need examination. Hence their assertion that help is needed from the International Community to get the country back on track. Who can disagree? If the sore is permitted to fester further, a neighbouring power can be tempted to sanitize an unhealthy atmosphere. History is replete with discomforting precedents.

Sudetenland and Crimea

The BJP Manifesto declaring in 2009, “Rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority community must be protected” is more than a hint of India’s concern induced by ethnic affinity of Tamil Nadu. Allusions by a few to Germany’s interest in Sudetenland Germans and what followed in September 1938 by way  of   annexation of Sudetenland may revive disquieting memories. However a graphic repeat of history is not among workable propositions as the world of foreign relations has changed considerably”. –  I wrote thus in an article ‘India’s Direction … And Impact on Sri Lanka’, dated 3.6.2014.

Vladimir Putin President of Russia proved me wrong when he sent his troops into Crimea in March 2014, within days of my writing so. He justified his action with the words “Russia reserves the right to protect its interests and the interests of the local population speaking Russian”. India has endorsed the action saying “Russia has legitimate interests in Ukraine”. Hitler marched his troops into Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia on 30th September 1938. Preceding the action he thundered “The condition of the Sudeten Germans is indescribable”. When actions effuse from interests, such is the language in which justification is couched.

Hillary Clinton said on March 4th 2014 “Putin’s desire to protect minority Russians in Ukraine is reminiscent of Hitler’s actions to protect ethnic Germans outside Germany”. She added “Putin is a man who believes his mission is to restore Russian greatness”. The psychological urge that impels him into it is similar to Germany denied a place under the sun endeavouring to reach for it. BJP in its Manifesto said “A resurgent India must get its rightful place”. A diligent look at the three nations may throw some clarity on possibilities.

Back to Home page