By Paul Newman –
As the dust settles down over the fortnight long protests against the barbaric gang rape of a 23 year old girl in Delhi, the world reacted strongly, a number of world leaders commented on the need to protect women. I was amused with two news articles, one was the demonstrations in support of the Delhi rape victim in Sri Lanka, here I was wondering when rape is an everyday unreported occurrence in the North and East of their own country, the demonstrators shut their eyes towards these Tamil women and looked to the other side of the Indian ocean.
The second news was the statement of Mr.Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations. He urged India to protect its women. Mr.Ban has conveniently forgotten the plight of the Tamil women in neighboring Sri Lanka.
It is estimated that around 140,000 Tamil women live in the north and east of Sri Lanka, out of which a whooping 90,000 of them are war widows and much worse nearly half of them are below 40. The world knows that these women continue to be raped and brutalized as the armed forces continue their rule in the north and east of Sri Lanka. Rape cases generally go unreported fearing vengeful attacks by the perpetrators and social ostracization. Who is there to shed tears for them?
Last year the armed forces were attacking and molesting Tamil women in the form of grease devils, there were also violence against female ex-combatants, though reported extensively there were no signs of protests or statements anywhere!
Inadequate infrastructure for women IDPs and returnees especially housing, health facilities, water, sanitation, proper employment and education still remains a great cause of concern.
Why Mr.Ban has not raised any questions with the Sri Lankan ruling class about the plight of these voiceless women?
As a mute spectator during the final stages of war why the all empowered UN and Mr.Ban did not plunge into action when the LTTE offered to surrender in May 2009? In the two UN reports, the Panel of Experts as well as the Charles Petrie report there is no mention of the failure of the UN SG’s Chief of Staff, Mr.Vijay Nambiar who was supposed to personally supervise the surrender of the Top political wing cadre of the LTTE. He as the emissary of the Secretary General had advised the LTTE political wing personnel to carry white flags and surrender before the Sri Lankan forces, when they did that along with many women and children they were brutally assassinated in cold blood. This incident is well recorded by the great journalist late Marie Colvin.
Even after this monumental failure of Mr. Vijay Nambiar, Mr.Ban persisted with his Chief of Staff who never came under the firing line. It is a well known fact that these Gentlemen share 40 years of friendship. Mr.Vijay Nambiar who’s elder brother Lt. Gen (Retd) Satish Nambiar was a Defence adviser to the President of Sri Lanka and that could have had a bearing on the decision making along with the Indian influence exerted on the Chief of Staff not to intervene in the last stages of the war needs to be investigated.
Sri Lanka had also enthusiastically supported Mr.Ban’s candidature withdrawing their candidate to the post of the UN SG. Mr.Ban’s son-in-law’s anti-Tamil stand which was very much evident through his past writings and his bitter experiences in Eelam as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) has also greatly influenced Mr.Ban’s thinking and subsequent inaction.
On the part of the UN, the International Community one can see the double standards in dealing with the Tamil issue in Sri Lanka when compared to Libya, Egypt or Syria.
Despite all the International condemnation the students of Jaffna University were mauled by the army and a few continue to be in jail, where are the voices from the UN and the IC?
The muted response of Mr.Ban on the Tamil issue makes many to believe that there are ulterior motives in his and the UN inaction.
The UN Panel of Experts, the International Community and human rights groups have sought Independent investigations into war crimes and genocide which have been completely rejected by the Sri Lankan state dominated by a single family rule of its President, Mr.Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Genocide of the Tamils continues in different forms, Sinhalisation, Militarisation and Economic marginalization are the order of the day. All methods of coercion to start a meaningful dialogue by the International community have failed and are bound to fail under the present regime. The war criminals roam around freely after more than three and a half years.
The Sinhalese armed forces savagery carried out the worst Genocide of the 21st Century in which 146,679 civilians are still unaccounted. There is also information available which speaks of another unpublished report on Sri Lanka during the last stages of the war by the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. It would be the wish of every world Citizen that UN publishes this report which could lead towards justice to the victims and their families.
The human rights fraternity supporting the rights of the Tamils would also urge Mr.Ban Ki Moon to use Article 99 of the UN Charter and order an International Investigation and presents the report before the Security Council and the General Assembly so that World decides who was wrong. For all the mistakes the UN has committed it can also redeem itself.
Let history remember UN and Mr.Ban Ki Moon as those who worked for Justice and not just as those who just mourned.
*The author holds a Doctorate of Philosophy on ‘Internal Displacement and Human Rights situation in Northern Sri Lanka from Bangalore University. He was one of the four public speakers at the Permanent People’s Tribunal on War Crimes against Sri Lanka.