10 August, 2022


Higher Duty Of Care Is Owed To One’s Own Citizens 

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The US government has rejected the war crimes allegations against it in regard to its conduct of the war in Afghanistan. This is yet another indication how governments across the world seek to justify their actions in times of war. Three decades ago, when the war with the LTTE was heightening, there was a debate about whether President J R Jayewardene had misquoted the Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero as saying that “In times of war, the laws fall silent.” Last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned a decision by the International Criminal Court to probe alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan by US forces. He said, “we will take all necessary measures to protect our citizens from this renegade, unlawful so-called court.”

On the other hand, ICC prosecutors say they have evidence that U.S. forces in Afghanistan “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence.” An international NGO based in the US, Human Rights Watch welcomed the ICC’s ruling, writing in a statement, “The ICC Appeals Chamber’s decision to greenlight an investigation of brutal crimes in Afghanistan despite extreme pressure reaffirms the court’s essential role for victims when all other doors to justice are closed.”

In such a context, it is not a cause for surprise that the Sri Lankan government should also be resisting the pressures from the UN Human Rights Council and international NGOs such as Human Rights Watch to move forward on the issue of accountability for war time human rights violations. Addressing the UNHRC session, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena pointed out that the allegations of war crimes against General Shavindra Silva and against the government in general were still unverified and therefore that punitive action taken on that basis was uncalled for . He said, “We also stress that there are no proven allegations against individuals on war crimes or crimes against humanity in the OISL report or in any subsequent official document.” The Sri Lanka government has also pointed out that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission that was appointed in 2011 observed that there was no evidence of systemic war crimes sanctioned by government policy. It left open the possibility of individual crimes and called on the government to set up a separate inquiry into those matters.

Power Politics 

The UN Human Rights Council and its institutions, together with international and national NGOs and Tamil political parties are currently putting pressure on the Sri Lankan government with regard to accountability issues. The pressure from within the country is particularly strong on the issue of missing persons and needs to be heeded. Currently there are over 20,000 cases of missing persons registered with government appointed commissions of inquiry. The increasing pressure of questions regarding how, why and where they went missing may be the reason why there are more and more media reports that the government is planning to control the activities of NGOs in the country. There is a recent circular issued by the District Secretariat in Mullaitivu asking NGOs to reduce their training and soft skills strengthening work including in human rights and to focus more on infrastructure development activities in support of the government’s commitment to development.

The District Secretariat has said that action plans of organisations that contain less than 70 percent of physical infrastructure activities, such as construction of rural roads, wells and preschools, will not receive its approval, which may be an indication of the district’s needs. During the period of the war, the Mullaitivu district suffered great devastation. However, not all NGOs are service delivery ones which engage in infrastructure development. Through their soft skills trainings NGOs, not only in Sri Lanka, but worldwide, seek to create awareness in the general population of their rights and responsibilities in relation to one another, the state and the larger community. In this Independence Day message, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa reaffirmed the government’s commitment to basic democratic values and to the rights of all citizens by saying “We will always ensure their right to think freely, hold independent opinions, and express themselves without any hindrance. We will always respect the right of any citizen to follow the religion of his or her choice. Every citizen has the right of free association and of free assembly.” He went on to say “We consider all these as rights of human beings that no one can challenge.”

In Geneva, at the UN Human Rights Council session, Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena stated that “the Government will also address other outstanding concerns and introduce institutional reforms where necessary, in a manner consistent with Sri Lanka’s commitments, including the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDGs). We will implement policies rooted in the Government’s commitment to the people by advancing individual and collective rights and protections under the law, ensuring justice and reconciliation and addressing the concerns of vulnerable sections of society.” These assertions are important and need to be followed on for the good of the country and its people in the manner they are being asserted.

Citizens Duty 

Despite the challenges that Sri Lanka faces, visiting international delegations continue to see the positive aspects of the country. Indeed, in a global context in which there is a general retreat from the values that inspired the formation of the United Nations, Sri Lanka continues to remain the South Asian country in which civil society has the most amount of space for work in the areas of human rights and peacebuilding. Despite the dark clouds that are gathering on the horizon, Sri Lanka continues to remain a country that can provide a positive example of solving intractable political and nationality conflicts while preserving the basic human freedoms, duties and responsibilities that the larger humanity itself must strive for.

Unfortunately, the way power politics works in the world, both between countries and within countries, is that the rules that ought to apply to all are not applied to the powerful. Those who are powerful can and probably will subvert the law to get their own way. This is not the way it should be. The ideal was spelt out in the beginnings of human civilisation that the world is one family to the wise, so that there is no foreigner and citizen where it concerns the dharmic law. The LLRC in Sri Lanka also stated that the rule of law and not the rule of men should prevail. It is the responsibility of enlightened citizens whether in the US or in Sri Lanka to insist that their governments are kept under pressure and kept in check to look after the wellbeing of all as indeed Mahatma Gandhi aspired for India, and was assassinated while trying to realise his vision.

The US denial of accountability for war crimes in Afghanistan and its rejection of the International Criminal Court are in regard to a foreign population. Therefore, there is less internal pressure on the US government to take responsibility for the destruction in Afghanistan. This is not the case in Sri Lanka where the victims of the war on all sides were Sri Lankan citizens. Therefore, the Sri Lankan government is duty bound to show a higher a level of care to its own citizens and ought not to take the US as its example. At least in regard to comforting and compensating the victims, the Sri Lankan government is duty bound to meet a higher standard of accountability and ought not to disclaim responsibility for what happened during the three decades long war to its citizens.

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Latest comments

  • 6

    @Jehan Perera
    “This is not the case in Sri Lanka where the victims of the war on all sides were Sri Lankan citizens. Therefore, the Sri Lankan government is duty bound to show a higher a level of care to its own citizens and ought not to take the US as its example.”

    Victims of Sri Lanka genocidal regime are Eelam tamils of separate independent state of Tamil Eelam. this genocidal war was waged by genocidal sinhala state against citizens of tamil eelam. Therefore war crime should be heard by an international council.

    Is this Jehan Perera chap born yesterday. I remember the chap coming crawling to Kilinochchi, the capital of Tamil eelam to meet Selvan Thambi. Tamilselvan used to say these sinhala cheaters are like cockroaches .
    how soon can this man forgot tamil eelam is a separate independent?
    i dont think he is ignorant. He is doing this to humiliate we Eelam tamils.

    We eelam tamils should follow the path of our Thalaivar. Thalaivar made supreme sacrifice for we eelam tamils. Tamils quest is for Tamil Eelam.

    • 1

      Ealam Tamil P
      I am the only Sinhalese in this forum who supports a separate Homeland for Tamils (all Tamil speaking people irrespective of their religion, caste or the date of arrival scattered across the island)


    • 3

      Eelam Tamil Patriot? It is an oxymoron (if you know what that is!).

      • 1

        Sol Banders, an oxymoron by a moron!

    • 3

      Eelam Tamil Patriot

      I am for eelam. I miss LTTE.

  • 2

    ‘We Elam Tamil,’ go forth and multiply.

    • 2

      Eelam Tamil Patternot, in case you didn’t understand I was politely telling you to f off.

  • 1

    Way power politics works in the world, both between countries and within countries, is that the rules that ought to apply to all are not applied to the powerful American forces have started pulling Afganistan prerequisite ahead of negotiations, will this area establish a parallel government keen to this end this force will be a strategy of standing up as US proxy forces appear to be in some agreement. for controlling its military footprint

  • 2

    War crimes may not have been verified? That is why an independent inquiry has to initiated to ascertain the Truth, not by locals, but by the International Court of Justice.(ICJ) Why is the government reluctant?. Whether there is Coronavirus or not can be ascertained only after a Test.

  • 3

    My strong argument is Sri lanka should have chased out all the Tamils to the other side of the Palk Straight and must have followed what TRUMP, MIKE POMPEO and USA did. Just chase out ICC Judges and do not give visas to them. Sri lankan govt, it is because they are village youth, parents are not educated and powerful, they sacrificed many brave youth to protect useless LTTE suicide bombers, black tigers and Makkal padai.

    • 1

      JD Jim Softy

      “My strong argument is Sri lanka should have chased out all the Tamils to the other side of the Palk Straight “

      Good argument.
      If your strong argument is accepted being a descendant of Kallthonie South Indian convert, where would you chose to go, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Modi’s Medieval Gujarat, ….

    • 0

      JD ,

      Get updated JD . The hottest news is reportedly coming from Army
      spokesman regarding the hullabaloo at the BIA when arrivals from
      Italy and S Korea , nearly all of them were Sinhalese , held for many
      hours before being packed to Batticaloe Campus for a short degree
      course ! The spokesman has reportedly warned ” cooperate or we’ll
      pack you to where you came from.” What you wish for others haunts
      yourself ! No need to get back to school , just be in touch with the
      right sources , you will be alright.

  • 0

    I can’t understand why that Eezaam Patriot has gone after Dr Jehan’s Jugular .

    Dr Jehan apparently has gone to see Barber Chelvam in his hey day, when Mr Soheim used to visit him every month in his A/C Bunker.

    I am sure Dr Jehan must have met Mr Solheim if not attending one of those strategy meets to form the Tamil Eelaam in the North East.

    But the Eelaam Dream has now got into a bit of bother after Chelvam and then the Thalaiavar departed.
    With Dr Rani and his Cabinet departing, the Eelaam in the NE Dream has become just a Dream at least until Nandasena is around .

    Also the other Tamil speaking people taking over the East after 2009 , the Eelaam has split into half, with the people in the East also vying for a Muslm Eelaam with their new Wahabi Leadership Team .

    Wonder whether those warring parties in the North now will do a UNP, and try to amalgamate the Vellala, Dalit and LTTE Factions, before going to the Election?.

  • 0

    Jehan Perera,
    “This is not the case in Sri Lanka where the victims of the war on all sides were Sri Lankan citizens. Therefore, the Sri Lankan government is duty bound to show a higher a level of care to its own citizens and ought not to take the US as its example.”

    These citizens of Sri Lanka who launched the barbaric terrorist campaign against Native Sinhalayo are the descendants of Dravida slaves brought to Sinhale by colonial parasites and dumped in this country. Native Sinhalayo felt sorry for these Stateless slaves and their descendants and gave them citizenship in Sinhale. Instead of been grateful to Native Sinhalayo for their kind gesture, these uncivilized barbarians started to slaughter Sinhalayo who accommodated them in this country. So, Sinhalayo should not consider these barbarians as patriotic citizens of this country.

  • 0

    Jehan ,

    Anastazio Somoza , cruel dictator of Nicaragua was reported to have killed
    150,000 , a monstrous figure to a population of 800,000. in 1940.In 1956 he was
    shot by his enemies . What happens next is the interesting part ! A US Navy
    helicopter takes him to the Panama Canal where the best American surgeons
    including the personal physician of President Eisonhover were battling eight
    days to save him without success . AND THE FAMOUS US PRESIDENT
    ROOSVELT’S PHRASE GETS OUT : ” Somosa may be a son of a bitch but he is
    our son of a bitch .” The phrase is valid till the sun gets red and disappears
    from our sight never to return !

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