21 September, 2020

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For Sri Lanka, More Empty Words

By Samanth Subramanian –

Samanth Subramanian

A year ago, when I was living in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I arranged to meet a friend for lunch, to talk about a Sri Lankan journalist who had gone missing and was presumed dead. By the time we met, my friend had a new mission: to keep another Sri Lankan safe.

The previous day, the United Nations Human Rights Council had passed a resolution “noting with concern” the Sri Lankan government’s refusal to address serious allegations of human rights abuses by the military — carried out during and after its 26-year war with the separatist Tamil Tigers, which ended with a defeat of the rebel group in 2009.

A number of Sri Lankan activists had flown to Geneva to lobby for the resolution, to their government’s dismay. Commentators on state TV lambasted them as villains and traitors, and word reached several of the activists that they might not want to rush back home. So my friend and I spent that sticky afternoon trying to help one get to safety, assembling the papers she needed to apply for a visa to the United States, where she hoped to lie low for a while.

Yesterday, the Human Rights Council voted once again to urge the Sri Lankan government to investigate “alleged violations of human rights” — or what The New York Times called “polite diplomatic shorthand” for the growing evidence that government soldiers killed tens of thousands of civilians in their bloody campaign to crush the rebels. But as with last year’s resolution, this year’s Council vote offers little more than hand-wringing.

While they carry symbolic weight, such resolutions may, in fact, be impeding progress rather than facilitating it.

The government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa greeted last year’s vote with complaints that it was being persecuted by the international community — and used that as a pretext to obstruct even more thoroughly the work of journalists, lawyers and activists. As Mohan Peiris, a former attorney general who is now Sri Lanka’s chief justice, said last March: “It won’t change anything. We will just forge ahead as planned.”

In May 2009, the Tamil Tigers, a merciless guerrilla group, lost the fight to carve out a separate state for the island’s Tamil minority. The war ended in a blaze of blood, with roughly 40,000 Tamil civilians killed, according to a United Nations estimate.

Four years later, the government has not investigated numerous charges that the army committed atrocities during the waning years of the conflict. Straining the fragile peace yet more, Tamils in the country’s north and east continue to live under the close watch of the Sri Lankan military.

People are arbitrarily arrested or abducted — “disappeared,” to use what is now a common term. Security forces quell peaceful protests. Relatives of Tiger combatants who surrendered in 2009 are still petitioning, in vain, to find out where their loved ones are, or even to be told that they will not be coming back.

Human rights activists and journalists are continually harassed. In February, a group of men shot a reporter for The Sunday Leader, a newspaper frequently critical of the government.

The ability to conduct business as usual appears to have persuaded Sri Lanka that it need not worry about international opinion. Last year, the government campaigned vigorously to swing the Human Rights Council’s vote in its favor, dispatching diplomats around the world to make its case. This time around, Sri Lanka has been cool and dismissive, sending a relatively featherweight delegation to Geneva. “I think they know now that the vote doesn’t mean anything,” a human rights lawyer in Colombo told me recently.

For the resolution to mean anything, of course, large nations must back words with deeds, but this shows no signs of happening. India, the dominant power in South Asia, is content with the politest of raps on Sri Lanka’s knuckles, lest it alienate a close neighbor.

Britain voted for the resolution, but it still plans to convene a meeting of the heads of governments of Commonwealth nations in Colombo this November, instead of shifting the location as a symbolic protest, as rights activists have beseeched it to do.

In their collaborations with the Sri Lankan government, China and Japan also overlook its human rights record.

Only in the United States did a Congressional committee vote, in 2011, to ban nonhumanitarian aid to Sri Lanka — though even that move was possible only because, as a former American ambassador to Sri Lanka once put it, “the U. S. has no significant strategic interests in Sri Lanka.”

There was no doubt that the resolution in Geneva would pass, but this will only further demonstrate the impotence of lukewarm diplomacy. Only more principled action will force Sri Lanka to examine the horrors that took place on its northeastern beaches and the frightening abuses that have happened since.

*Samanth Subramanian, the India correspondent for The National, is writing a book about the Sri Lankan civil war. This article is first published in  New York Times.

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    Another cheap indian trying to make some money out of the tamil terror..

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      Another cheap Sinhalese trying to protect MR and his thugs.

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        SEEMAN

        The arrested persons all from Chennai are N Saravana Prakash, 29, from ayiram Vilakku, L Prabhakaran , 24, from Kothavalchavadi and M Srinivasan, 33, from Thiruvallikerni. They are all members of the Naam Thamizhar Katchi (We Tamil Party). The party is led by Sebastian Seemon who now calls himself Senthamizhan seeman. He is currently in Geneva, Switzerland to engage in anti-Sri Lanka lobbying.

        Seeman a film director cum actor has been obnoxiously racist. He was detained in Tamil Nadu for many months for publicly threatening to kill Sinhalese in India as retaliation for Tamil Nadu fishermen being killed. He was deported from Canada some time ago for making racist remarks threatening the lives of Sinhala persons. Recently Seeman was denied entry to the USA and turned back at the John F Kennedy Airport in New York .Seeman’s movement has a leaping tiger as its symbol. His younger followers wear black tee –shirts with Prabhakaran’s portrait and describe themselves as “Karumpuligal” or black tigers. His party has thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil members from the global Tamil Diaspora. The membership fee is 100 US Dollars per year. In addition Seeman also gets hefty donations from tiger supporters abroad.

        The attacks on two Buddhist priests from Sri Lanka within three days in Tamil Nadu has angered many. The deplorable attacks have been condemned – and rightly so – severely by responsible representatives of all communities in Sri Lanka The Govt has protested to the Indian Govt and also sought protection for Sri Lankans and Sri Lanka related Institutions in Tamil Nadu.

        The attacks on the Buddhist priests cannot be viewed in isolation. They form part of an ongoing pattern of rowdy attacks by a racist rabble posing as Tamil nationalists. One of the earliest attacks was on Thirukumar Nadesan the well-known Sri Lankan businessman who is married to Nirupama Rajapaksa the MP from Hambantota and niece of Chamal, Mahinda, Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa.

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        Proud of it

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    GENEVA 2013 LOST.

    Now launching the INFORMATION OPERATIONS
    for the upcoming targets:

    CHOGM NOV 2013 and GENEVA 2014

    Ground Control to Major Tom
    Ground Control to Major Tom
    Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

    Ground Control to Major Tom
    Commencing countdown, engines on
    Check ignition and may God’s love be with you

    ALL SYSTEMS READY TO GO

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    Mr Subramaniam has more serious political issues to worry about in his own “Homeland”.than worrying about the dead Tigers in Srilanka.

    LTTE supportes are running amok on his own turf bashing poor Buddhist pilgrims and their Monks.

    Both major political parties there are trying to side with the mini Tigers, fearing that they will become the new “force” in Tamil Nadu.

    They know that these mini Tigers have the financial as well as political muscle courtesy of the mighty Diasora.

    Even the ” Center” is scared of the new Eelaam movement in Tamil nadu, that the Govt sided with the US resolution which was sponsored, supported and heavy canvassed with tea parties by the powerful Diaspora which is headed by one time card carrying LTTE members.

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    I urge Samanth Subramaniam to research his information before he puts anything in his book. The figure of 40,000 civillians being killed is arbitrary and not factual. Some even quote numbers as high as 80,000. These are unsubstantiated figures and you must not quote them without thorough research. Also tell us how you arrived at these numbers. It is probably true that a large number were killed but if the numbers were as high as alleged there will be some physical evidence now, perhaps credible eye witness accounts and some photo/video clips. As Sri Lankans we ourselves like to know the truth.

    As for your account of the behaviour of the government, the murders, abductions, disappearances, lack of judicial enquiry, etc. we know from experience that they are true.

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      Wickramasiri

      “The figure of 40,000 civillians being killed is arbitrary and not factual.”

      I hate to agree with you.

      This one reason as to why we need an independent credible investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity acceptable to the people of this island who would like to know how many people had been killed, maimed, tortured …………since April 1971.

      Would you please start counting them, its not too late.

      Honestly dealing with these violations will help you to have good night sleep and not be disturbed by Tom, Dick and Harry from India or elsewhere.

      Even when counting is left to the foreigners the secrets you want sweep under the carpet will come back to hound you.

      Matale pit is just an example even without foreigners.

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    “Only more principled action will force Sri Lanka to examine the horrors that took place on its northeastern beaches and the frightening abuses that have happened since.”

    Until the stupid Sinhalese and stupid Tamils woken up nothing will happen.

    International Community continues to support the state in war and during the absence of war since April 1971.

    It is IC which protects the state and its armed forces from charges of war crime and crime against humanity.

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    Attacking Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans in Tamil Nadu and the conduct of Tamils and India has created so much hatred among Sri Lankans including the armed forces. This will spell disaster to Tamils as the government controls everything from water supply to medicine supply. Inability to foresee these dangers is the biggest weapon they have. I will be amazed if these events go without silent but effective “retaliation”.

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      How about killing Indian fishermen.

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    “…SL chief justice, said last March: “It won’t change anything. We will just forge ahead as planned.”

    This, if true, is the basis of MR and cabals hidden agenda, so much so
    at the next UN gatherings MR will not even care to be present, as all
    the “home work” required for the Sinhala Buddhist Dynasty led by the
    family will be complete. USA or India cannot raise a finger and all
    what the powerful diaspora can do will be something new (?) – lets await
    that stage.

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    It may be the style of the Governments in developing countries to come down heavy on opponents or for that matter on correct legal actions that has to be taken against another party. But the democratic developed nations do not take action based on short term results or expectations. Their actions are well thought out and planned. This resolution is one of those actions. The new resolution is slightly stronger than the previous but its another step in the right direction to show the Sri Lankan ruling party, and not the citizens of Sri Lanka that if the ruling party is not willing to take appropriate actions and fall in line with the international laws then the next round and especially the conference after that would pave way for serious consequence to the Government of Sri Lanka.

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    Rambler & Tsunamisekera:
    Two for the price of one and responding to the same column of sober and accurate analysis! What a joy if one considers that there could be the likelihood of a large enough rock for the two of you to crawl back under and join your neanderthal colleagues!

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    Indian fishermen are Indians and Sri Lanka should not harm them in anyway. The enemies of Sri Lanka are within the island!

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