By Kumbakarna –
Rajapakse’s illegal impeachment by Parliament of the Chief Justice, against the ruling of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal , and his subsequent campaign of intimidation and violence have brought Sri Lanka to a more new low. The truth of course is that it is a continuation of a process that has been in the making over many years, and could have been easily foreseen by anyone —- except by the so called International Community, especially the hypocritical UN, Western democracies , India and Japan, who did not want to see it coming , because they would then have had to acknowledge their own “accountability” for Sri Lanka’s descent into a failed terror state and into genocide. And the worst is yet to come.
At the same time, the courage and commitment to justice now displayed by judges of the Supreme Court and High Court, and the expressions of support for them, especially from the legal community and political and civic leaders crossing ethnic divisions, give reason for hope in the otherwise dismal Sri Lankan landscape.
It is now a matter of absolute urgency , and at a minimum an act of self preservation, for the leaders of the protest movement against the illegal impeachment of the chief justice , especially the organizations of the legal profession, like the Lawyers Collective, to send a public letter to leaders of the International Community, especially the UN Secretary General, UN high Commissioner for Human Rights and President Obama, holding them to account for their support for Rajapakse — despite credible allegations of his serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, subversion of democracy , rule of law, human rights and national reconciliation in contradiction of his solemn commitments to the UN Secretary General and the UN Human Rights Council ( UNHRC) in May 2009— and requesting them to support an independent international investigation of Rajapakse Government’s actions during and after the war. President Obama bears a special responsibility, not least because key members of the top Government leadership responsible for the alleged violations are either US citizens or Permanent Residents.
The protest leaders cannot be easily dismissed by the International Community (IC) as proxy for the dead LTTE. This is not to excuse the responsibility of the LTTE for their huge blunders , crimes against civilians, and their misguided role in helping elect Rajapaksa, which Mr. Sampanthan has courageously acknowledged.
This is now an opportunity for all everyone involved — including the international community — to seriously and honestly acknowledge and redress their mistakes — and to bring those responsible to justice There is a general consensus that the Rajapaksas will not participate in such an effort, and that their promises are meaningless. Therefore the initiative must come from the Sinhala polity, and more importantly and urgently from the so called International Community in accordance with their responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law. The IC has been complicit in Rajapksa’s crimes without accountability, not only in the final months of the war, but also for years before and after ward – in the latter instance even after the LTTE had been decisively vanquished.
The Rajapksas have reacted to the protests against the illegal impeachment of the chief justice with their characteristic brutality. They will use every means possible to retain their authoritarian hold on power, through the usual mix of terror, guile, barefaced lies, corruption and patronage , while maintaining a false façade of a democracy and its trappings to fool the International Community.
What better example of their success does one need than the spectacle of Catholic Cardinal Malcom Ranjith singing the praise of Gotabhaya, the executioner in chief of thousands of Tamils in his own flock, at a public meeting in Mannar to announce the forced expropriation of land belonging to impoverished and cast out Tamil Catholic villagers. It was not too long ago when the same Cardinal appearing before the LLRC, cautioned the Rajapksa government against “mass colonization” and forced “change in the ethnic ratio of the Northern and Eastern Provinces”. Clearly the Rajapksas have the ability to perform miracles even with a Prince of St Peter’s Church !
Complicit International Community (IC)
The truth, which has not been recognized in current commentaries, is that the Rajapakses’ success so far has been due not only to their total control of all internal levers of power untrammeled by considerations such as of rule of law, the Constitution and natural justice, but also, perhaps even more importantly, to the support and protection provided by the so called International Community, even after the demise of the LTTE.
The following quote from the former foreign minister of Australia sums up the failure of the IC.
“One of the worst atrocity crime stories of recent decades has barely registered in the world’s collective conscience. We remember and acknowledge the shame of Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. We agonize about the failure to halt the atrocities being committed almost daily in Syria. But, at least until now, the world has paid almost no attention to war crimes and crimes against humanity comparable in their savagery to any of these: the killing fields Sri Lanka in 2009” — Gareth Evans— Remembering Sri Lanka’s Killing fields” -October 26, 2012.Project Syndicate
In fact, comprehensive evidence of Rajapaksas’ war and other crimes and IC’s complicity is readily available in the reports of the UN Panel of Experts on Accountability, the UN Internal Review of UN Actions in Sri Lanka, and in the WikiLeak US embassy cables compiled by in the Colombo Telegraph and other sources.
It is now also imperative that commentators and activists of the standing of Dr. Saravanamuttu, Tisaranee Gunasekara and others s use these sources to draw public attention to Rajapksa’s crimes and to the complicit actions of the IC , especially those governments with democratic credentials , and ask them to take urgent and specific remedial actions on Sri Lanka during the forthcoming meeting of the UN Human Rights Council, as they have done in all other recent cases of mass atrocities against civilians
Perhaps those in Colombo Telegraph who have been compiling the WikiLeak cables will do a serious analysis of them. It will be an important complement to the UN’s internal review of UN actions in Sri Lanka which exposed the concurrent failures of the UN. Such a study will also doubtless reveal the malign role played particularly by Mr. Robert Blake as the pivotal figure in US policy on Sri Lanka, as Ambassador and as Assistant Secretary for South Asia, for almost the entire eight year period of the Rajapaksa presidency to date. Accountability never had a chance.
The UN Internal review has spelled out in detail the grave and deliberate failures of the UN, (including senior officials close to the Secretary General) and its Member States to protect “hundreds of thousands of civilians and in contradiction with the principles and responsibilities adopted by Member States and the Secretariat, agencies and programs.” The UN review Panel has also noted that the UN’s failures in Sri Lanka reflected effective control exercised over UN actions by major Member States, including their overriding concern to avoid any mention of potential war crimes and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by the Sri Lankan Government.
This would not be news as far as China and Russia are concerned, but the same pattern has been followed by other countries with democratic credentials in other contexts as well, , as is evident from wikileak US cables, past statements by the Co Chairs, and infrequent public statements by US officials, — at least since 2006 when Rajapakses assumed control of Sri Lanka.
Anyone who needs convincing should read at least Mr.Blake’s horrific WikiLeak cable of May 18, 2007, (WikiLeaks – US embassy cable (18 May 2007) : Sri Lankan government accused of complicity in human rights abuses The Guardian ) about grave crimes committed with impunity and with the complicity of the Defense Secretary , against civilians in the North East , including systematic use of sexual abuse and rape. Blake’s cables during the months long massacre of civilians in 2009, show that the Sri Lanka Co- Chairs deliberately chose not to make public, even at the UN, their knowledge, including satellite imagery, of the ongoing massacre of Tamil civilians and the repeatedly failed promises of the Rajapaksa Government that heavy weapons will not be used and that an adequate supply of food and medicines would be delivered.
The International community was complicit in Rajapksa’s crimes not only during the war but also in the four years after, in his flagrant failure to meet his commitments to the international Community in May 2009 on accountability , human rights, democracy, rule of law and reconciliation, resulting in serious and ever widening violations with impunity and consequent destruction of democratic institutions, rule of law , and of judicial independence, inevitably leading to the present crisis. Unfortunately, IC’s complicity was helped by the Sinhala polity’s silence, as long as the victims of Rajapaksa’s genocidal policies were the Tamil or Muslim minorities.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the Rajapkses have been emboldened to present a so called “ Action Plan” to UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) , which, as noted by the Center for Policy Alternatives and the International crisis Group, make clear that the Government has no intention of taking credible and concrete actions to enforce accountability for the alleged war crimes or to implement the recommendations of the LLRC.
If the IC, and especially the US, is to retain any shred of credibility of their own, they must, in the context of the forthcoming meeting of the UNHRC, finally and firmly establish an appropriate international process to make the Government accountable for its alleged crimes, and to implement its commitments made to IC in May 2009 as well as the LLRC’s recommendations.
The reality is that what happens next will depend almost entirely on what the US does to redress the damage it has done to Sri Lanka through its complicit relationship with the Rajapakse Government. The Rajapakses, for all their bluster, have a healthy concern about what the US could do to them if it really wanted to, having given them more than enough rope to hang themselves — especially with Gotabhaya and Basil Rajapaksa being either US citizens or Permanent Residents. They also know too well that the US war Crimes Office almost certainly has heavy dossiers on them and others in the Sri Lankan Government and military.
It is now long past time for the US to do the right thing and bring the the Rajapakses to justice , taking into account Sri Lankan pleas for relief from Rajapaksa’s failed terror state, and in accordance with US responsibilities under US law and international human rights and humanitarian law.