This article seeks to examine the stark contrast in UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon’s response, EARLIER in Sri Lanka’s genocidal war against Eelam Tamils and UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres’s response NOW in Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinians. Ban Ki-moon’s approach certainly put at stake the independence of the office of UN Secretary General.
It has been announced that the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has now invoked Article 99 – which previously the TGTE (Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam) expected UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon to invoke when a genocidal war perpetrated against the Eelam Tamil people by Sri Lanka intensified in 2009 – an action Ban Ki-moon did not take.
This dereliction of duty by Ban Ki-moon was ill-conceived, despite Sri Lanka’s unrelenting shelling of the Eelam Tamil people; his response to Sri Lanka’s offensive was abysmal, even as Charles Petrie later estimated around 70, 000 innocent civilians may have been killed and Bishop, the late Rayappu Joseph, gave evidence to the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission that 146,679 Tamil civilians were unaccounted for.
Article 99 of the UN Charter, gives the Secretary General special powers to call upon the Security Council to take action against threats to the maintenance of peace and security – in this case, the present Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has invoked Article 99 asking the Security Council to impose a ceasefire in Gaza to avert a humanitarian crisis – and has been unequivocal in his stand that the humanitarian suffering in Gaza warrants this!
What’s become abundantly clear, reading my response to the Charles Petrie Report on UN’s colossal failures during the last stages of Sri Lanka’s genocidal war against Eelam Tamils, is Ban Ki-moon’s callous disregard for human suffering, in stark contrast to that of Antonio Guterres’s. Ban Ki-moon’s dismal failure to call for a ceasefire, under Article 99 is a case in point. If such a call was made, and was heeded by the Security Council, it would have prevented a blood bath and saved many Tamil lives.
In the article, under the caption: ‘TGTE’s Response to the Report’, I write about TGTE’s plea to Ban Ki-moon made by the then Minister for the Investigation of Genocide, Deluxon Morris, calling on him to invoke Article 99, under the UN Charter, to persuade the UN Security Council, “to appoint an International Commission of Inquiry as recommended by his own advisers.”
Deluxon Morris insisting that not merely war crimes but genocide must be investigated.
The UN Secretariat’s response NOW under Antonio Guterres and EARLIER under Ban Ki-moon begs a comparison for its strikingly different approaches; the latter’s approach putting at stake the independence of the office:
Please note this comparison is not to degrade or undervalue the suffering borne in either case.
UN Secretariat’s response NOW shows it has learned from the past and isn’t as ill-prepared, inept or inaccurate in its assessment of the situation or blatantly partisan as it was EARLIER during and after Sri Lanka’s genocidal war against the Tamil people;
Whereas NOW the UN has not left the war zone and is on the ground in Gaza despite many UN staff being killed;
Whereas EARLIER Ban Ki-moon ordered UN staff to leave the war affected areas, on Sri Lanka’s instructions, despite Tamil civilians begging the UN to stay;
Whereas NOW the UN has set up more shelters for the people and Antonio Guterres has been categorical in his warnings that UN humanitarian posts – namely UN premises, clinics, schools and shelters must never be targeted;
Whereas NOW the UN Secretariat has been highly critical of the blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza preventing civilians from receiving humanitarian assistance – food water fuel, medical aid and other necessities, with the UN even succeeding in seeking a ‘humanitarian pause’ at least for a few days;
Whereas EARLIER Ban Ki-moon seemed as though he was working in cohorts with the government of Sri Lanka, his judgment somewhat clouded;
Whereas NOW it’s refreshing to hear Antonio Guterres continue to publicly speak out against both Hamas and Israel, despite eliciting strong criticism from Israel which has called for his resignation;
Whereas EARLIER the UN expressed condemnation only of the LTTE, unfairly blaming it for the violence;
Whereas EARLIER the UN Secretariat relied on civilian casualty figures put out by the government of Sri Lanka which was evidently false;
Whereas NOW the UN has been releasing its own figures of the dead and injured;
Whereas EARLIER hospitals and ‘No Fire Zones’ were bombed and shelled by Sri Lankan forces with no one to try to stop them, express condemnation or send out a warning;
Whereas EARLIER without UN presence and with no one to speak on their behalf, with no Media to report on or post graphic details of the mass atrocities committed by Sri Lanka, Tamil civilians were left to die – to sadly fend for themselves with no humanitarian aid including medical aid forthcoming;
Whereas NOW both the UN Secretariat and the WHO have constantly reiterated the need for a ceasefire – alerting the world to the, “hellish scenario in Gaza” and describing the situation as, “epic”, as, “apocalyptic for Palestinians”;
Whereas EARLIER Ban Ki-moon’s close ties with President Mahinda Rajapaksa would have deterred him from calling for a ceasefire. The Rajapaksas gave Ban Ki-moon their solid support when Ban Ki-moon was running for the Secretary General’s post, asking his opponent, Sri Lankan candidate, Jayantha Danapala to withdraw from the race;
Whereas EARLIER Ban Ki-moon’s Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar was singing the tune of the government of Sri Lanka. In fact, it’s known, they had a cozy relationship. Vijay Nambiar’s brother, Satish Nambiar was an adviser to the government of Sri Lanka on defense related matters. Adding to the triumvirate who influenced Ban Ki-moon was Siddarth Chatterjee, his son-in-law, who was an officer in the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) which studies found, (one by Amnesty International and another by the Jaffna University Teacher’s Association), tortured, disappeared and killed many Tamils during their stint in the Eelam Tamil homeland, the North and East of Sri Lanka;
Whereas EARLIER, the UN Secretariat, under Ban Ki-moon, was, “complicit”, with the government of Sri Lanka – a serious accusation coming from UN staffers themselves who were posted in Sri Lanka before they were asked to leave by the government of Sri Lanka. In an “Independent Report”, Julian Vego reveals, “the UN did not do enough and enabled a situation of human rights abuses to include, according to many, genocide.” She writes about how UN senior officials and the hierarchy of the UN colluded and were silent on acts of genocide that were committed by Sri Lanka;
Whereas as NOW Antonio Guterres, in trying to force the UN Security Council into action, has invoked Article 99, wanting an immediate ceasefire to save lives and avoid further bloodshed;
It seems Antonio Guterres has definitely learned from the mistakes his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon made vis a vis Sri Lanka’s genocidal war against Eelam Tamils.
And this is to the UN’s credit under Antonio Guterres, although regrettably UN, as an organization, has little power and influence over its members and isn’t always successful in carrying out its mandate.
Even if the UN Security Council does nothing, even if Israel continues to slam him, calling for his resignation, even if his call does not result in a ceasefire in Gaza, the invoking of Article 99 by Antonio Guterres has to a great extent re-established the UN Secretariat’s independence and credibility. And this is to the UN’s credit under Antonio Guterres.
Here’s are some Extracts from my response to the Charles Petrie report showing the stark contrast in UN Secretary General’s response then and now:
– An honest analysis of the report would reveal a “Government”, totally in command and intent on eliminating the ethnic Tamil population it had wily trapped into so called ’no fire zones’ capitalized on the breakdown of the UN system that was seemingly ill-equipped and faltering, to execute its plan; this it did with pre-meditation, blocking all humanitarian aid and ensuring there were no witnesses, using heavy weaponry and firing at civilians from land sea and air, killing tens of thousands, and issuing orders to its military that was in violation of international law.
– Review Panel’ (the Panel) headed by Charles Petrie in exposing the colossal failure of the UN to stop the killings have enough incriminating material on the conduct and actions of the Rajapaksa government, that should be investigated to establish beyond doubt whether or not what happened in Mullivaikaal was genocide. An international investigation has now become critically important for the truth to be revealed.
– The UN Placed Greater Emphasis on LTTE Responsibility and failed to Mention “Government Violations.” The Panel’s findings now show senior UN officials chose to misrepresent the ground situation with respect to responsibility for violation against the considered opinion of some UN staff, “placing primary emphasis on LTTE responsibility when facts suggested otherwise.”
– The UN repeatedly condemned the LTTE for serious international human rights and humanitarian law violations but largely avoided mention of the Government’s responsibility…Some UN staff in Colombo expressed to the UNCT leadership their dismay that the UN was placing primary emphasis on LTTE responsibility when the facts suggested otherwise, and urged a more public stance.”