By S. V. Kirubaharan –
Well and good, another successful UN resolution (A/HRC/CC/L.1,Rev1) on Sri Lanka has been passed with a huge majority in the UN Human Rights Council – HRC. We appreciate and thank the United States of America – Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, for initiating this resolution and the other 25 states for voting in favor of the same. We take this opportunity to thank India for their courageous decision, the Indian ambassador’s astonishing open speech on Sri Lanka after more than two decades and their vote in favor of this resolution. Surely every Tamil organisation locally and internationally must thank and appreciate India for this highly significant and important gesture.
However, we also got the chance to see a glaring similarity between the Sri Lankan government, a few members of the Tamil diaspora and some Tamil grass-roots politicians.
In our opinion those who have the public interest at heart, are in favour of this resolution. Others who have a selfish and hidden agenda criticize this resolution. Later I will discuss this in more detail.
In the past I have written many articles. Some of these disturbed fellow Tamils and a few Sinhalese who can’t compete with me and have written comments under different pseudonyms, proving they are hypocrites, not writing the truth. Their cowardice itself is an acknowledgement and recognition of what I say in my articles. I inform them that they cannot discourage me, either in continuing my task or in writing more articles. One frustrated person said that I always praise myself. Of course, there are people who praise me and I am proud of this. If any of these cowards were in my position with many long years of contribution, they would have done the same. Some are jealous and a few behave like a dog in the manger and suffer from an inferiority complex.
Due to our constant and systematic work over a long time, highlighting Sri Lanka’s the Sri Lanka government and their media have given us good publicity. On occasions some English newspapers have published front page lead news too. All these stand witness to our longstanding work, and, paradoxically, to its effectiveness.
Those who write with pseudonyms many consider this article as another based on praise and pride. I am aware of that. So there is no point in howling at the full moon like a pack of wolves. I prefer everything to go on record, because now-a-days there are some people suffering from loss of memory, exaggerating and making bogus claims.
Another case of memory loss. The Sri Lankan minister, who spoke in the last session of the HRC, has forgotten much of what he said in the past sessions. Again and again he says: We need time and space’. In a parallel event, an activist said this was the 13th time this minister had asked for ‘time and space’. In the UN, civil society has named him “Minister of Time and Space”.
Selfishness versus public interest
In fact, we can’t ignore this complicated and dangerous similarity between the Sri Lankan government and Tamils who criticise the resolution. This needs serious analysis.
The criticising Tamils are like some blind people who encounter an elephant. By touching the same, they say, its trunk feels like a fat pole/baton, its ears feel like Banana leaves, its tail feels like a long brush, etc. The Sri Lankan government is worried and says that the recent resolution is unwarranted. Tamil critics say that it is useless and does not fulfill the aspirations of the Tamils. Is there any difference between these two extreme positions? NO. Those who value public interest and who feel for the suffering of the people in the ground, accept this resolution. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) is a very good example. But those who promote selfish politics and directly or indirectly support the Sri Lankan government’s position, do not agree with this resolution, misinform and mislead others.
Those who criticize this resolution know neither the functions of the UN HRC, nor its limits. Nor do they understand the depths this resolution plunges. The Sri Lanka government may be influencing those Tamils.
In the recent past, seminars and conferences have been organized by Mickey Mouse organizations among the Tamil diaspora – costing thousands of sterling pounds and Canadian dollars. Each organization had their own resolution, which in fact, has no value and no teeth internationally. None of the eminent persons or VVIPs is aware of these resolutions, which in reality; even steer people further away from Tamil aspirations. Considering these factors, why are these Tamil individuals and organizations finding fault with the latest UN resolution? What would they say if the latest resolution had been defeated by Sri Lanka? (The in-depth implications of this resolution will be explained in another article.)
Prior to Mullivaigzhal – PM
I am very proud to say that this is the 23rd year I have participated in UN Human Rights Forums. Also I have attended most of the UN World conferences and other important conferences around the globe. One of the grass-roots politicians asked me recently, what I have achieved for the Tamils. First of all, human rights work is not an overnight task. Secondly, this ex-MP never realised that, other than splitting the unity of Tamils, he has done nothing for the people who elected him in the past.
It is to be noted that the experience of working in UN forums as a Tamil has been completely different before and after Mullivaigzhal. Since the aftermath of Mullivaigzhal – AM (May 2009) working in any UN Forums as a Tamil activist has been an easy task. In the 1990s, the first question we were compelled to answer to most of the UN member states, International Human Rights and Humanitarian organisation was about violations of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). There is nothing to hide in that we were supportive of the political position of the LTTE, because that was the only organization which stood for the democratic mandate given by the people of the North and East. The independence of Tamil Eelam was overwhelmingly voted for, by Tamils in the general elections held in 1977.
Prior to Mullivaigzhal – PM, when we placed facts and figures of the atrocities taking place in every nook and corner of the North and East, there were government lobbyists who said that those violations were committed by the LTTE. Many were taken in by these heavily funded lobbyists. To complicate the matter further, the LTTE was banned internationally.
Those days were in stark contrast to, especially, the most recent session of the UN HRC, when there were no government lobbyists at all. This meant Tamil activists had an easy time in the 22nd session.
PM, one Sri Lankan Ambassador in particular, wrote many letters to the UN, with the specific idea of throwing me out of the UN. Due to these fabricated complaints, I faced a few inquiries. Presently this is happening visa versa.
During those days and sometimes now, the government media wrote pages and pages of fiction, slandering articles and news items about my fiancé and me, attempting to damage our integrity in the eyes of the international human rights community. One pro-government media in Colombo even said I was wanted by “Interpol”. That news item was published with the intention of destroying my work in the UN human rights forums and poisoning our contacts with VVIPs. Fortunately, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders verified that it was a baseless accusation, and published a statement to this effect.
Aftermath of Mullivaigzhal – AM
Since May 2009, as there has been no armed struggle, there has been nobody to question about LTTE violations. All UN reports AM have covered LTTE violations extensively. At the present time, most of the UN member states and International NGOs have changed the position they held before. Therefore, whether Tamil activists continue to work or not, those actors are seriously working on the situation in Sri Lanka.
The Tamil people’s long history of both non-violent struggle and armed struggle in the island of Sri Lanka has not produced any fruit. Both ended in disaster. Now what is happening is a ‘Diplomatic war/struggle’. This struggle has to be moved carefully through right and proper channels. I mean, not by emotions and open air politics, where every Tom Dick and Harry intentionally messes up affairs. If we mess up our affairs any further, especially at the last chance or opportunity, all efforts will be counter-productive and eventually our ethnicity will be not be seen on the map of Sri Lanka at all!
Don’t forget, this is the wish of not only Rajapaksa’s government, but also of any government in power and of course, of the Buddhist hierarchy in Sri Lanka. The question is, whether we are going to endorse that government agenda? If not, other than US resolutions, what other alternative venues/forums, do we have at the moment to work to save our people and land in the near future? If anyone has a serious practical idea, we can consider those venues. Mind you, in future, we cannot proceed further alone, but in cooperation with the international community and especially with the help of our neighbor, India.
We have lost everything. Now what is left in our homeland is a few hundred thousand innocent people and land. The land is gradually being grabbed and the people in the ground are facing enormous hardships. If the opportunists can’t understand this checkmate and if they continue with their selfish policies and arrogant attitudes, how in the long term can the struggle for the “Tamil Nation” and the “Right to self-determination” be taken forward?
It has to be said!
It is to be noted that PM, there were a few other Tamil activists attending the UN Forums. But they were known to the Sri Lankan government as good boys, because they were known in the UN as pigeon-hole lobbyists (filling the mail boxes of member states with photocopies). They never made any interventions in the plenary hall nor spoke in any briefings.
In the past, these activists organised seminars and conferences, having a big Tamasha, fooling the people and the leadership in Vanni. Fortunately none of their show games continue in the UN AM. Their task throughout was to damage our work rather than working on the plight of the Tamils.
I understand that one of them, as usual, is still messing up others’ work through third and fourth parties. But he is progressing well in his alimentation business. Another has gone back to his original field of Tele-Drama and the third one still continues with his espionage but he has messed-up his personal life.
As our organization became very popular, a Tamil person in the United Kingdom volunteered to work with us, only in 1997. Unfortunately as soon this person started to work with us, she gave herself a designation on her own without any consultation, and also wanted to hijack the organization. Anyhow, as we prevented her agenda, that person gave some discrediting misinformation about us to a Sinhalese, so-called journalist in London. Despite all this misinformation and hardship we survived and still function today to the extent that is possible and we will continue in the future. Right from the beginning, our policy was: “Slow and steady will win the race”.
These are some interesting memories from the period prior to Mullivaigzhal – PM.
Some who attended the UN forums AM and a few months before Mullivaigzhal, are not genuine activists. Some are in Geneva, especially in the UN, just marking their presence to claim that they have been in the UN. A few attend the UN HRC on behalf of unknown sources to gather information on Tamil activists. Of course the young, energetic students and interns are doing an excellent job. Sadly so-called leaders tend to interfere in their work. Many have observed that unfortunately there is competition among the diaspora organizations in the UN. The UN HRC should not be used as a springboard by those who engage in cunning politics.
During the last UN HRC, a few diplomats told us that three different Tamil diaspora organizations wanted to meet them. After some deep consideration, they agreed to meet them all separately. Unfortunately all three gave different versions of the current situation, and experienced different views on the way forward. Those diplomats told us that this is not a constructive path to international investigation and genuine reconciliation!
Critics of the TNA
If some come to Geneva to find fault and lobby against the Tamil National Alliance – TNA, this is a ruthless policy equal to, “I don’t mind losing my nose, as long it is a bad omen to my enemy”. It is a shame for someone to say that his project is to destroy the TNA and appeal to others in Geneva requesting them not to support the TNA. Are these people Tamils? Are these the ones who talk about “Tamil Nation” and “Right to self-determination”?
One person told me in the UN that the TNA has given up on the “right to self-determination”. Immediately I asked him, which right to self-determination he was talking about. As he behaves likes a parrot, I received no reply from him. The reason for this is that he doesn’t know there are two types of self-determination – internal and external. If the claim is true, that the TNA has given up the right to self-determination, why didn’t the Tamils in the North and East reject them in the last elections?
Every Tamil knows what the “Tamil Nation” and the “Right to self-determination” is. Because of the people’s support only, the armed struggle prolonged for nearly three decades. No-one needs new lectures on these themes. The way these two themes are outlined currently, it is as if they were something that these jokers have newly discovered, and no-one ever realized anything about them in the past!
Recently I was surprised to learn that the ‘late Sivaram (Taraki) was the founder of the Tamil National Alliance – TNA. His contribution towards the amalgamation of the TNA cannot be denied. But the way his name is used presently, is like naming a marriage broker / match maker / or messenger as the father of Bride or Bridegroom. Telling mean lies doesn’t facilitate fertile growth from grass-root to maturity.
On 15 March 2013, with a few minutes interval between them, four Tamil activists including myself made interventions on Sri Lanka in the HRC plenary hall. In fact my statement was partly accusing Pakistan as well. But one of the English websites build up by the energy of Taraki Sivaram gave publicity only for one statement discarding all other three. This is the very website talking about discrimination and censorship practiced by the Sri Lankan government. Are these people qualified to talk about Tamil grievances practiced by Sri Lanka?
At the same time, what happened to the policy of this chosen speaker and this website? The particular intervention that was published was made through an organisation where the main representative belongs to a new set-up known as the ‘Senate’ of the Trans-National Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE). There again, what is the message being given to the innocent people, the public? Is the website endorsing the policy of the TGTE, or saying that whatever is convenient for them is the Tamils’ politics and policy? Or at least now do they agree that all organisations should be united. Otherwise, should we consider this as the usual ‘divide and rule’ policy applied among Tamils by a non-Tamil in the UN?
During the last UN HRC, I was attending one of the side events and a human rights champion said that it would be no surprise, in a few months or a year, if President Rajapaksa happens to ask, “What is the 13th amendment”? Recently I saw a similar position on the 13th amendment, from an immature politician who is waiting to bury the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka.
On the day of the resolution, 21 March 2013, when we were queuing up to enter the main plenary hall of the UN Human Rights Council, I noticed a tiny bald-headed Sri Lankan looking at us rather anxiously. Once we entered the hall, I noticed this man seated just behind the Sri Lankan delegation desk, disobeying the rules within the hall. He was taking photographs of members of civil society, especially Nimalka Fernando. This was immediately brought to the notice of the UN security staff.
As the photographer’s face was familiar to me, I went and spoke to him. I introduced myself and asked who he was. I recalled that I remembered him taking a photograph of me during the 19th session of the HRC, when I was talking to Douglas Devananda. He admitted that, and introduced himself to me as “Jegath Fernando” working for the Sunday Leader under Sakuntala Perera. This really surprised me. Then I asked him whether he writes articles in the Sunday Leader. He bluffed that question. While I was talking to him, I noticed that he was wearing a badge and his name started with V…..
As there was another journalist who is on asylum in Europe, present in the hall, I asked him whether that small man who was seated behind the Sri Lankan desk was Keerthi Varnakulasooriya. The journalist on asylum told me that, he didn’t know that person and that it was not Keerthi Varnakulasooriya! Maybe the journalist on asylum doesn’t want a minority to put the majority into trouble. This journalist was lying to me, and is now paying the price, it seems.
Now I realise, the so-called journalist, known among the Lankan journalists as “Catalog translator” for the Ministry of Defence, is none other than Keerthi Varnakulasooriya. He had abused the role of journalism and the media. He was fortunate that day but won’t get away with it, in future.
It does not come as a surprise, that people working for the Ministry of Defence, claiming to be journalists, misuse the name of reputed newspapers like the Sunday Leader. This shows clearly, that supporters of the President Rajapaksa regime can do anything and everything, locally and internationally. This is one of the many reasons why the UN resolution is proven to be so important.