By G. H. Peiris –
The focus of this study is on ‘external interventions’ in the Sri Lankan conflict – those ostensibly intended to pressurise both the government of Sri Lanka as well as the LTTE to abandon violent confrontation and seek a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Such pressures on the government take several forms, applied with varying levels of intensity and insistence by the different countries with which Sri Lanka maintains close relations – advice and moral persuasion, economic aid being made conditional upon the resumption of ‘peace negotiations’, prohibitions on the sale of arms, providing lavish support to local NGOs that claim to be engaged in the ‘peace effort’, and, above all, threat of action as envisaged in the emerging doctrine of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (‘R2P’) against alleged violations of human rights. To the LTTE, with its proclaimed adherence to the belief that terrorist violence is a legitimate instrumentality of ‘liberation struggles’, and ranking as it does among the most violent terrorist outfits in the world, the charge of human rights violations has remained largely inconsequential except where it is given concrete expression in sanctions and proscriptions. To the Sri Lanka government, being placed at par with the Tigers in accusations of human rights violation is, of course, a damning indictment and a humiliating diminution of status in the community of nations.
During the period covered by this study (2006-2007), the secessionist campaign of the LTTE suffered major setbacks, exacerbating its earlier losses caused by the Tsunami and the ‘Karuna revolt’. The period has also been featured by an extraordinarily sharp upsurge of external “humanitarian intervention” in the Sri Lankan conflict, the intensity of which has had a remarkable correspondence with the tenor and tempo of LTTE failures. There are strong indications of this concomitance representing a causal connexion in the sense that the outcry against alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka is, at least in part, the product of a well orchestrated attempt to rescue the LTTE from impending doom.
The study begins with a probe into the changing perceptions concerning human rights as postulated by the United Nations, attempting to contextualise such postulates both in the efforts of human rights activists to ‘globalise’ humanitarian ideals as well as in the counterpoising desire on the part of most States to safeguard national sovereignty. In the next section external interventions which Sri Lanka has encountered in the recent past are placed under critical scrutiny. This is followed by a detailed ‘case study’ of a multi-pronged human rights intervention in an episode of the Sri Lankan conflict.
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