Usually the term bribery is used for an official accepting some gratuity or other consideration for deviating from what he or she would normally do as a matter of duty. At a simple level it would mean a policeman accepting a gift for not issuing, say, a speeding ticket. Some justify this saying there is no individual victim; the victim, however, is usually society – because laws are not enforced and society breaks down.
As pointed out in this column, the Commonwealth’s Kamalesh Sharma, the Council of Jurists President Dr. Adish C. Aggarwala (also India’s Bar Association President), Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr, and Dipu Moni (Chair of CMAG and Foreign Minister of Bangladesh) have joined forces to mislead the world on Sri Lanka’s behalf so as to not derail the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Sri Lanka. If they did not take bribes for their unethical acts, they at least acted for some consideration like career advancement or approbation by bosses. Our left-parties’ support of the nationalist Rajapaksas is surely a bribe in exchange for ministerial office.
Considerations between Nations
With nations, just like with individuals, principles are waived for considerations. All nations purport to subscribe to human rights. But we see nations in international competition failing these principles when it suits their interests. The US overlooked the atrocities of White regimes in Africa and its client dictators in Latin America in exchange for business. India seems willing to tolerate Rajapaksa so long as he will keep out China, and to raise human rights only when China gets business contracts.
I have seen US technology whereby a person’s hand movements can be discerned through an Argus Camera on a drone 3 miles above – i.e., the US probably has a detailed recording of the sordid 2009 happenings in Mullaitivu. Civilians did report the sound of drones at the time; whose they were is not known.
Yet US-backed UNHRC resolutions came about only when the Rajapaksas did not do as told after the war. India appears to have backed those resolutions only to get back their flagging obedience. These tapes perhaps are shown to Rajapaksa in his recalcitrant moments to extract obedience.
Times (UK) reporter, the late Marie Colvin, suggests that even the UN can be compromised, writing that the role of Vijay Nambiar, Chief-of-Staff to UNSG Ban Ki-moon, as UN Envoy to Sri Lanka “has come into question. His brother, Satish, has been a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan army since 2002.” Were the Indian and UN establishments effectively swayed by lucrative contracts to Satish?
The BBC has reported our government’s hiring several PR firms like the UK’s Bell Pottinger and the US’s Thompson Advisory Group. It surely is to get appointments and approvals that would normally be denied. With government resources, many can be bought.
Even Britain is enmeshed. Wikileaks cables suggest former Foreign Secretary David Miliband diverted taxpayer-funded foreign aid to Sri Lanka for which Sri Lanka, a middle income nation, did not normally qualify. Liam Fox as Defence Secretary took his bestman Adam Werritty to meetings at Colombo’s Ministry of Defence without his government’s clearance to broker defence deals.
Western and Indian Culpability?
There is now a growing body of opinion that Washington and New Delhi gave the green light to the Rajapaksas to finish off the LTTE, whatever the civilian cost. The LTTE had murdered Rajiv Gandhi. It was into the drugs trade in a big way according to Canadian Intelligence reports. (The diaspora Tamils give $10,000 here and there which is a pittance when fighting a standing army). The LTTE had to go. The US has admitted providing satellite information for Sri Lanka to interdict LTTE shipping. Radar to monitor the skies was manned by Indians. Civilian deaths are simply collateral damage in Washington’s mind as is obvious from the killings of allied civilians by US drones, which in the course of war is a necessary evil in big-power thinking.
Parallels: My Lai Massacre
In My Lai, Vietnam, some 347 to 504 Vietnamese civilians were massacred by the US Army on 16.03.1968. Gang rapes like in Mullaitivu were common. Exactly like our President, those who talked about these massacres were called traitors by US Congressmen. Like in the Trinco massacre, investigations were resisted. In our Bindunuwewa Prison Massacre on 24.10.2000 when 26 Tamils were killed, the few charged and convicted were released by our Supreme Court (blaming those killed, including a 12 year old, as being LTTE). Just like that in My Lai, of the 26 US soldiers charged, only one was convicted of killing 22 villagers and given a life sentence but released after brief house arrest because President Richard Nixon intervened.
Some may argue that this was a half-century ago when the world’s conscience was not so sharp. However, in a newly released book by Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, the author reveals internal army probes that established these massacres and rapes as regular events. Even recently when Turse started digging through reports in the national archives, they quickly disappeared.
Several recent cases show US Generals are masters at suppressing internal sexual harassment and holding token investigations followed by nominal punishment. Foreign women would stand little chance when raped by Americans.
Sri Lanka however is crass. Tamil civilians were imprisoned in barbed-wire concentration camps. There is evidence of rape and murder of surrendering LTTE-ers. The leash was pulled only when the Rajapaksas embarrassed India and America that a regime they helped was not holding any show-trials. The lesson to Indian and US allies is this: we set the standards for how dirty you can be.
Acting against Ally Rajapaksa
If Rajapaksa had done another Bindunuwewa/My Lai – that is charge the culprits, drag the case and let them off – his backers would not have been embarrassed. Rajapaksa hubris and sense of invincibility resulted in 4 years of non-action. The US and India had to act. Even UNHRC resolutions did not work. Then something was done during Basil Rajapaksa’s recent visit to New Delhi. Perhaps he was shown US drone footage. Now suddenly the 2006 murders of 5 Trinco students, the murder of the British tourist Khuram Shaikh and the rape of his girlfriend Victoria Tkacheva are all moving. After 4 years, just before the CHOGM, the President is appointing a commission to probe disappearances during the civil war.
Even elections are on at last for the Northern Provincial Council without constitutional changes. Champika Ranawaka claimed that if the TNA wins Tamils would be entering a crematorium; he forgets that we just came out of one in Mullivaikal partly created by his government while his President and his cronies like Douglas Devananda claimed that there were zero casualties. The UPFA filed nominations on 31.07.2013 with Devananda leading with drummers and musicians. After the arrest of his municipal councilor for robbery Tamils commented that the pictures of his candidates looked like from a rogues’ gallery – they cannot smile because they know how hostile Tamils are to them.
Punishing the Criminals
But once CHOGM is over, what leverage will India and the US have? What do the delay of justice, the promotion of policemen implicated in these massacres and plum diplomatic assignments to generals who executed civilians say about the government’s intentions?
This week the President has said no police or land powers to the TNA. For him to be so confidently defiant, he too probably has evidence of US and Indian co-culpability in war crimes. What does it mean when after Canada promised to boycott CHOGM in November, the government announced this week that “About 85 per cent of the participants from 54 Commonwealth countries including Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird have confirmed their attendance …” Although Baird promptly denied this, I am nervous that states are more important and the world will swing to the Rajapaksas because nations have permanent interests not permanent friends.