By K. Arumugam –
If our Prime Minister steps on the soil of Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) later this week, he will be committing one costly political blunder. It will surely earn the displeasure of the Malaysian Tamils who had supported him in the last election. In a larger context Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak will be seen to have duped larger minorities within Malaysia for trading humanity and human dignity with hegemonic sovereignty that acted with impunity.
Sri Lanka is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity for killing over 40,000 civilian Tamils in the last phase of war that ended on the 17th May 2009. That military act was brutal and its conduct was without witness save for its own military personnel.
The ethnic Tamils of Sri Lanka were living as a distinct nationhood parallel to that of the Singhala Kingdom prior to colonization. Sri Lanka became a unitary state when it was colonized by the British. Continuing the British system after independence the majority Singhala politicians introduced systematic marginalization, disenfranchisement of citizenships and discriminatory policies against the Tamils. Tamils fought back. When their non-violent struggle was met with the brute power of the state, the Tamils were pushed to take up arms in their right to self-determination. If the Tamils struggle was to take place right after the Second World War, it would have been called an independence struggle. That was the setting.
Immediately after the war in May 2009, Sri Lanka diplomatically labelled the crushing of the Tamils as a military solution to liberate the Tamils from the control of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam calling them terrorist. A resolution was tabled at the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 26th May 2009 justifying the military solution as an act in line with the promotion and protection of human rights’ standards. Malaysia was bought into that and voted for Sri Lanka, despite local Tamils crying foul.
However, soon after images of the war began to surface. These fueled worldwide condemnation. Various levels of compromise in the United Nations monitoring of the event were exposed. Sri Lanka tactfully handled it roping China and India as accomplices to the act with support from few allies in the region.
British television, Channel 4, screened the first video titled ‘The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka’ exposing summary executions and indiscriminate bombings and abductions. Coupled with United Nations Panel of Experts findings and international lobby by Tamil Diaspora the UN conceded that Sri Lanka must be pushed to account for its conduct during the war.
Pressure built up locally pressuring Najib Razak to play a Statesman role in view of the prevailing information to correct its foreign policy over Sri Lanka. Subsequently, Malaysia refused to support Sri Lanka on resolutions tabled in 2012 and 2013 on issues of accountability on the conduct Sri Lanka during the war.
Was Najib Razak playing politics to appease the Tamils for their votes in the 13th General Election or was he a statesman in the making?
Press reports and answers to Parliament questions positively indicate that the Foreign policy of Malaysia has been somewhat compromised in favour of Sri Lanka. Malaysia treats happenings within Sri Lanka as domestic and sovereign in nature. But, this contrary to Najib Razak’s concern for peace across the globe. He also criticized regimes that killed their own people. His role on Syria and Rohingya Muslims were sound.
Just three months ago, at the Mahathir Award for Global Peace ceremony, Najib Razak called upon all nations to share common responsibility to secure lasting peace, He reminded that, “It is a challenge that must be met collectively. It is imperative that we achieve a peace premised upon a covenant of the willing, not one enforced by hegemony or secured through coercion.”
Thus it becomes an acid test for Najib Razak. Between what he profess and what he can become. For him to rely on any policy outcome of Wisma Putra on Sri Lanka will be a disaster. Its synthesis may unwittingly puts Malaysians’ investments in Sri Lanka at risk. In a written reply to a question in the last sitting of the Parliament, the honorable Foreign Minister completely failed in bringing home the profound arguments on accountability of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the government forces of Sri Lanka in May 2009. These were documented in volumes and made available to all parties during the Human Rights Council Sessions in 2012 and 2013. But sadly, Wisma Putra allures investors to Sri Lanka, ignoring the fact that it is indeed a support for a regime run by war criminals.
One should view the Callum Macrae’s ‘No Fire Zone’ the latest authenticated documentary which is available online to get a glimpse of the Sri Lanka episode for a fair appraisal of Wisma Putra. This is precisely the reason why Wisma Putra is deadly against the public viewing of the ‘No Fire Zone’ in Malaysia.
With the latest position taken by Mr Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, the immediate neighbour to Sri Lanka, not to attend the CHOGM in Colombo next week, it is now imperative for Najib Razak to reconsider his earlier decision to attend.
Our Prime Minister has so much to gain by not going than to commit a crime of attending CHOGM. Sri Lanka’s peace is not premised upon a covenant of the willing, but enforced by hegemony, secured through coercion and filled war crimes and crimes against humanity.
*K. Arumugam – Chairperson of Suaram Human Rights Organization in Malaysia