By S. V. Kirubaharan –
Looking at history, we see there have been political and ethnic conflicts attempting secession from aggressors. Some were successful, a few are pending and a very few had sad endings.
It is too early to consider whether the political and ethnic conflict of the Tamils in the Island of Sri Lanka has to come to an end. Of course there are many tragic and disappointing incidents which have occurred. There are many questions to be answered.
The Biafran conflict between 1967 to 1970 in the South Eastern provinces of Nigeria was a very successful case of self-proclaimed independence, supported and recognised by a few States. Unfortunately the same had a very tragic ending.
During the Presidency of General Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria, the 30 months Biafran war ended with an unconditional cease-fire. A few years ago, I met General Gowon in an international conference. During our friendly discussion, he explained that, as soon as the Biafrans declared unconditional cease-fire, he declared that “there would be no victory and no defeat”. A period of rehabilitation, reconstruction and reconciliation followed. This paved the way for the Nigerian economy to start to boom, with the country’s huge oil reserves.
Today nobody talks about Biafra and there have been no punitive mechanisms on Nigeria, especially regarding Biafra. The Nigeria-Biafra war teaches a lesson to dictators and warmongerers about making positive approaches towards a people who a state claims as their own citizens.
The Tamils in the North and East in the island of Sri Lanka have some similarities to the Biafran people.
When we talk about the present government in Sri Lanka, the majority of the people in the South say it is “Rajapaksa’s government” rather than the “Sri Lankan government”. Many are ashamed of what happened during and at the end of the war, in “Mullivaigzhal” in May 2009.
Unlike in Nigeria, Rajapaksa’s regime celebrates the victory endlessly. In fact, it was a victory helped hugely by the international community. These celebrations by Rajapasa’s regime run the risk of motivating Tamil youths and the future generation to take revenge on the Sri Lanka rulers.
Today, at government level, corruption in Sri Lanka is at a peak. Press black-outs, white-van kidnappings, violations against women are terrible and the island has become a haven for narcotic dealers. The situation in the North and East is worse than ever before. As the international community is well aware of this situation, I do not have to go into detail.
Rajapaksa’s regime is spending much time and massive sums of money on its international lobby to justify the massacres that took place at the end of the war. However, the Rajapaksas’ position is that what happened and what is happening in the North and East is an internal affair – giving the government every right to go on the rampage killing and massacring the Tamils. Outsiders should ‘shut up and watch’. In fact, this was the practice long before the United Nations was established.
These days, action on the war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed by Sri Lanka, by all regimes and all parties, has gradually moved into the hands of the international community.
It is true that since the establishment of the UN, the situation in member states has been monitored. But there are problems with this inter-governmental body. One of the main organs of the UN, the Human Rights Council – HRC, is politicised.
Therefore any decision or voting by any state in this august forum, is always considered within their alliances rather than in the light of the realities of the violations. This makes any scrutiny by this body more difficult. No resolution in this forum can be achieved without the support of at least a few Asian and African countries.
In the on-going 25th session of the HRC, the statements by South Africa and Zimbabwe are most worrying. Their position is that any problems have to be sorted by the people of those countries itself. This is ridiculous. If this had been the position of the world in the past, even today white rule would have continued in Rhodesia, present Zimbabwe and in South Africa.
The positive thing about Sri Lanka and the Tamils is that there is a third resolution on the way and each resolution is advancing on a constructive path. Those who know the pain of gaining votes can see that the third resolution is moving in the right direction.
Even though there is nothing directly indicating “international investigation” in the draft resolution, we cannot ignore the fact that the present draft embodies a huge international involvement or action in any future investigation by Sri Lanka. In other words, if this draft resolution is successfully passed during the last week of the current session, then Rajapaksa’s regime has no say in any future investigations.
The draft resolution gives authority to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – OHCHR. Here we cannot ignore the fact, that the present OHCHR is headed by a Judge on the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Ms Navaneetham Pillay was also a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda – ICTR for eight long years and she served as the President of the same for four years. One cannot ignore many groundbreaking findings by the ICTR. Therefore, it is very simple to understand the direction in which Sri Lanka is being taken by the international community
The behaviour of Rajapaksa’s regime is like a Super power or even worse than Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Colonel Gaddafi of Libya.
Sri Lanka continues to reject and to publicly say that it does not accept even the first resolution. This should make those who table the resolutions understand that even if there were another ten follow-up ones; none would be accepted by Sri Lanka.
It is ridiculous to see that while Rajapaksa’s regime rejected this draft resolution, some sections of diaspora groups also came out with childish and harsh statements about it! This is very unfortunate. They neither understood the proceedings of the HRC nor the promises or attitudes of politicians.
English novelist, George Orwell (Eric Arthur Blair) once said “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.
The talk of the town is that the latest draft resolution is ‘watered down’ from the original. This talk lacks maturity and observations. Any resolution coming in any forum will be watered down. While lobbying for votes for any draft resolution, it is always watered down – the text reduces and increases – until eventually the text is finalized at the last minute. Therefore those who are making statements should be cautious. Even the present draft may not be the final text on the voting day.
I fully agree that more delay will cause more colonization, buddisation, militarization and sinhalisation in the North and East. But we should bear in mind that presently it is the international community which is answerable to the Tamils.
We should not forget the fact that with all these ups and down, even today the Sri Lankan affair or even the Tamils affair has not reached the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council.
Therefore we cannot gamble and jeopardize the lives of the people on the ground.
It is a real shame that countries like China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Pakistan and a few others are working so closely with a country which is accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. But they are still shamelessely justifying the most well documented massacres.
It is not acceptable that since the armed struggle started, every Sri Lankan ruler has ignored the Tamils’ genuine political grievances and defined them as a “terrorist problem”. It is obvious that Sri Lankan rulers have been shifting the goal posts on a political solution for the last six decades.
Since 1972, the excuse has been that a two third majority in parliament is needed. The present government has a two third majority in parliament but they still found a good excuse. The Tamil National Alliance – TNA is not participating in the Parliamentary Select Committee – PSC. Yet if the TNA participated in the PSC, they would be bullied for putting forward any political demand and obviously no demand would be accepted by the PSC.
Therefore, the government should implement the political solution they have for the Tamils. This would give a chance for the International community to see Sri Lanka’s seriousness about reconciliation. However, the ‘Mahavamsa’; a distorted interpretation of Buddhism containing the origins and ideology of the oppression inflicted on Tamils, has a great influence on any political solution to the Tamils.
The international community should take note that the latest thinking of the Sri Lankan government is that, the present High Commissioner for Human Rights will serve only until next September. Once she terminates her term, they can cleverly manage with a new High Commissioner.
I repeat here what I said in my last article, “If the International independent investigation does not take place, or drags its feet, this will give birth to another war at some stage. Certainly it will have the support and recognition of many!” That is the time when the heroes and saviours of territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka would become hated by their own people. More lessons to be learned and taught.
The Tamil diaspora groups who are not happy with the resolution should take note of what was said by the former HCHR Louis Arbour! As the President of the International Crisis Group, Louis Arbour said that, “A commission is also likely to uncover evidence of abuses by the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a form that would be hard for Tamils and Tamil organizations to deny. That would deflate a romanticization of the Tigers among Tamils that keeps alive Sinhalese fears that the Tamil insurgency might resume, and also gives the government an excuse for continued militarization and repression”.
Even today there is no unity among the Tamils in the ground and among the diaspora. There are Tamils who think an economic embargo could be an effective punitive measure on Sri Lanka. But it is shame to say that they themselves import many items from Sri Lanka, giving Rajapaksa’s regime very good revenue.
Those who are against the present draft resolution should think that, if a strong resolution is tabled and if it is defeated in a voting, what would be the position of the international community, people living in the ground and the diapora……
If the resolution is lost, those who are anti-capitalist will say that USA did it deliberately, those who are against the colonial master, will say United Kingdom has mishandled it and those who are anti-Indian will say that this is the work of Indians. Are we inviting any such unwarranted scenario to earn further insult and humiliation?
Finally if the talk of the town is genuine, if the USA managed to have some deal on Trincomalee in Sri Lanka, will another resolution on Sri Lanka be tabled by the USA in the 28th session? Likewise there will more delicate situations arising in the near future.
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