Judging Sri Lanka through Western lenses
by H. L. D. Mahindapala
Emboldened by the back-door attack on Sri Lanka led by the US at the UNHRC in March – April this year the global network of the anti-Sri Lankan lobby has accelerated its offensive to increase international pressure hoping that they can get somewhere if they strike now when the iron is hot. This lobby working hand-in-glove with the West failed to nail Sri Lanka at the UN soon after the war and even at the UNHRC twice subsequently. The military success on the ground, fought in defiance of the West’s demand to stop the war in the last days, and Sri Lanka’s initial diplomatic success at the UNHRC, which reversed the West’s resolution against Sri Lanka and commended it for crushing the banned LTTE terrorist, were viewed as two insulting slaps in the face of the Big Brothers who expected Sri Lanka to follow them like sheep.
It was after the successive failures of Western powers to win against Sri Lanka in the UN and UNHRC that America stepped in, with all its imperial might, and launched a massive diplomatic offensive against Sri Lanka, roping in India as well, this year.
The success of Sri Lanka’s assertiveness in the post-Vadukoddai War period irked the Western powers. India too felt that Sri Lanka was becoming too assertive for its liking. Their joint reaction has been to increase the international pressure to force Sri Lanka to obediently follow the Big Brothers. Predictably, the I/NGOs fell in line with this anti-Sri Lankan political agenda of their pay masters.
This wasn’t hard because they are paid to do just that, in any case. Besides, I/NGOs never saw the positive side of Sri Lanka’s military, political, economic and social gains. They are now popping up in various capitals of the world to demonize Sri Lanka more than ever. Two international publications– 1. a report written by Alan Keenan, the in-house expert of the International Crisis Group (ICG) on Sri Lanka and (2) Ms. Francis Harris the former correspondent of the BBC in Colombo — have come out just in time for the Universal Periodic Review to be held at the UNHRC soon.
Keenan, accusing the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) of “stalling the UN’s attempt to ensure an open assessment of the brutal final stages of the country’s civil war”, demands in his report “action now” and not “action plans” from the GOSL. Ms. Harris has selectively interviewed ten nameless, faceless, Tamil expatriates to relate ONLY their partisan stories aimed at demonizing the GOSL — a cheap trick that shuts out other eyewitnesses who have narratives of their own to relate, giving the other side of the same events. According to a review, Harrison’s book, titled Still Counting the Dead, (October 4, 2012), “relates the stories of the survivors in sobering, shattering detail.” These anonymous story-tellers, now living abroad, claim to have lived through the last five months of the Vadukoddai War.
The story behind these anti-Sri Lankan stories, if investigated, would be revealing, particularly in exposing as to who lined up these one-eyed story-tellers for Harris to interview and angle their stories to blame only GOSL.
These two publications, however, are only the tip of the iceberg. The INGOs that have ganged up against Sri Lanka stretches from Toronto to Tokyo, and local NGOs stretches from Point Pedro to Dondra. The anti-Sri Lankan submissions made to the UNHRC sitting down for its Universal Periodic Review between October and November cover virtually every minute aspect of Sri Lanka — from the Brothel Ordinance which, according to the I/NGOs, is used to harass women sex-workers to Police intervening in unauthorized construction work.
The magnitude of the one-sided attack on the GOSL can be seen from
following list of I/NGOs waiting in the queue at the UNHRC in Geneva: ECCHR European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Berlin (Germany); ECLJ European Centre for Law and Justice, Strasbourg (France); FLD Front Line Defenders, Dublin (Ireland); FT Freedom from Torture, London (UK); GIEACPC Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (UK); GTF Global Tamil Forum (UK); HRW Human Rights Watch, New York (-USA); ICJ International Commission of Jurists, Geneva, Switzerland; IMADR International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Tokyo (Japan); MRG Minority Rights Group International, London (UK); NCCT National Council of Canadian Tamils, Ontario (Canada); NESoHR North East Secretariat on Human Rights, Kilinochichi (Sri Lanka); PEARL People for Equality and Relief in Lanka, Washington D.C. (USA); SLA Sri Lanka Advocacy Network, Frankfurt (Germany); STP Society for Threatened Peoples (Switzerland); TAG Tamils Against Genocide (USA); TCHR Tamil Centre for Human Rights, Garge les Gonesse (France); TIC Tamil Information Centre, London (UK); TYO Tamil Youth Organisation (UK);
Joint Submission 1 submitted by Centre for Human Rights and Development, Centre for Policy Alternatives, Centre for Promotion & Protection of Human Rights, Centre for Women and Development, Jaffna (Sri Lanka), Dabindhu Collective, Equal Ground, Families of the Disappeared, Home for Human Rights, Human Rights Organization, Kandy (Sri Lanka), INFORM Human Rights Documentation Center, International Movement Against Discrimination and Racism (Asia Group) (Japan), Janaawaboda Kendrya, Law and Society Trust, Lawyers for Democracy, Mothers and Daughters of Lanka, Movement for Defence of Democratic Rights, national Fisheries Solidarity Movement, National Peace Council, Praja Abhilasha Network, Puravasi Kamituwa, Red Flag Women’s Movement, Right to Life Human Rights Centre, Rights Now Collective for Democracy, Savisthri Women’s Movement, South Asia Network for Refugees, IDPs and Migrants Sri Lanka (SANRIM Sri Lanka), Stand-Up
Movement (SUM), Women Action Network, Women and Media Collective, Women Support Group, and Women’s Centre;
Joint Submission 2 submitted by Equal Ground (Colombo, Sri Lanka), Estate Community Care Organization (Mathugama, Sri Lanka), Rural Women’s Front (Galle, Sri Lanka), Rajarata Gami Pahana (Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka), Sinhala, Tamil Rural Women’s Network (Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka);
Joint Submission 3 submitted by Committee to Protect Journalist (New York, USA), International Federation of Journalist (Sydney, Australia), International Media Support (Copenhagen, Denmark), Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (Bremen, Germany), PEN International (London, UK), and Reporters Without Borders (Paris, France);
Joint Submission 4 submitted by Janasanasaya (Panadura, Sri Lanka) and The Citizens Committee of Gampaha District (Ekala, Sri Lanka);
Joint Submission 5 submitted by PeaCE/ECPAT Sri Lanka and ECPAT International;
Joint Submission 6 submitted by United States Tamil Political Action Council (USTPAC, Washington D.C., USA) and Pasumai Thaayagam Foundation (Chennai, India);
Joint Submission 7 submitted by Asian Legal Resource Centre (Hong Kong, China), Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (Copenhagen, Denmark), and Action by Christians Against Torture France (ACAT, Paris France); Joint Submission 8 submitted by The North East Women’s Action Network (Sri Lanka) and the Centre for Human Rights and Development (Sri Lanka).
There are nine such joint submissions before the UNHRC. This, mark you, is only a fraction of the long list of global I/NGOs waging a propaganda war against Sri Lanka. If you add to this list the pro-Tamil websites, closed-door seminars, films (example: Channel 4), academics, books, churches, Western media, Western and Indian MPs and activists in the pockets of the anti-Sri Lankan lobby, the chances of winning the propaganda war — the second front opened by the Vadukoddians to internationalize their domestic political agenda — seems rather dim.
All the I/NGOs, in one form or the other, are aligned to defend, justify and promote various shades of Jaffna Tamil separatism pursued through Vadukoddai violence. There isn’t a single Sinhala I/NGO accredited to the UN in the current list to present the grievances of the Sinhala-Buddhists.
In the anti-Sri Lankan cacophony of the multitudinous voices the other side of the story — there are always two sides to any story — is virtually drowned.
As against this phalanx there is only one delegation from the GOSL to present the opposite point of view. This imbalance questions the credibility, acceptability and the respectability of the evidence produced by this collective body of anti-Sri Lankan I/NGOs. If everything that is said in the endless tales of I/NGOs is accepted as the truth then Sri Lanka must be the most miserable place on earth to live. But there is a method in the madness of the anti-Sri Lankan lobby: bigger the lie bigger the chances of marketing it as the truth.
The multifarious name boards, parading under Western political cliches, are like saris: they hide a whole lot of sins hidden underneath. Hardly any of these I/NGOs are people-based. They represent invariably only the office-bearers. Their agenda is linked directly to the paymasters of the West. Their interlocking directorates, where, for instance, Jehan Perera is in Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu’s NGO and vice versa, indicate their common anti-Sri Lankan agenda, They are at the beck and call of the Western paymasters who hire them to do the political dirty work on the cheap. Besides, the demonizing of Sri Lanka is only a prelude to open avenues for the foreign paymasters to intervene in the domestic politics of the nation. The more the I/NGOs destroy the image of Sri Lanka the greater the possibility of foreign interventionists poking their unwanted fingers in the internal affairs.
Having read all this the readers may well ask: so what else is new? The anti-Sri Lankan lobbies, both at home and abroad, are playing the same old broken record as if the end of the world has come to Sri Lanka even before the predicted dawn of the doomsday (December 21, 2012 ) signified in the Mayan calendar. Prophets of doom and gloom are proliferating like mushroom in every nook and corner which makes it necessary to critically review these two publications not for what they say but for what they do not say. (More of this later). There is,of course, a sense of deja vu in what they repeat ad naus eam.
Their objective is to keep the anti-Sri Lankan campaign burning, partly to justify their failed campaign against Sri Lanka (their earlier campaign sank in Nandikadal along with their local icon,Velupillai Prabhakaran) and partly to make sure that their NGO businesses, dependent entirely on foreign funds, will continue to run by fuelling the fears of another ethnic conflict. In fact, Keenan, the so-called expert on Sri Lanka, states that Sri Lanka is moving “away from reconciliation between the Sinhalese-dominated state and Tamils, and (heading) toward the next ethnic.” When the Vadukoddai War was raging these pundits said that Sri Lanka can never win the the war. Now they are singing the same song at the next level. They are saying that Sri Lanka can’t win the peace. If Sri Lanka won the unwinnable war against all external and internal odds are there any rational reasons – other than the no-hopers in the I/NGOs — why Sri Lanka can’t win peace?
Peace, however, is the enemy of the I/NGOs. These hired hacks of the West thrive in conflict zones and not in peaceful landscapes. They ran a thriving business disguised as peaceniks while aligning themselves covertly with Prabhakaran all the way from Vanni to Nandikadal — the one man who stood in the way of peace.
They were arguing that peace can come only by appeasing Prabhakaran even though they knew that there was no way of shaking hands with him because he was gripping a kalashnikov in one hand and a grenade in the other. He refused to drop his arms even when the international community asked him to surrender in the last days (January to May 2009). Earlier, he was offered four peace deals: 1. the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement (Prabhakaran assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, the regional peace-maker); 2. President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated when Prabhakaran’s negotiators were in the middle of negotiating a peace deal; 3.
Prabhakaran’s assassins narrowly missed President Chandrika Kumaratunga who formulated the national solution by offering him north and the east without elections for ten years. 4..The Ceasefire Agreement of the international community which offered him the nearest thing to Eelam on February 22, 2002 were torn to shreds by him. (Scandinavian Peace Monitors said he violated 95% of the terms and conditions of the CFA).
Each time peace was offered by national, regional and international agreements Prabhakaran killed the peace-makers and/or ripped the peace-agreements to ribbons. Dismissing this history the international and national pundits on Sri Lanka blame “the Sinhala-dominated governments” (Keenan’s phrase) for not giving into the extremists demands of mono-ethnic politics of the Tamil leadership. In the eyes of self-proclaimed experts on Sri Lanka (Keenan is one) it is always “the Sinhala-dominated government” that is blamed and not the intransigent and belligerent regime of the north that rejected all peace offers.
As recorded in history, it was the northern leadership that officially declared war against the rest of the nation in the notorious Vadukoddai Resolution passed in May 1976. It was the northern leadership that abandoned the democratic mainstream and opted for the military solution in Vadukoddai. They collectively directed, financed, lobbied, internationalized, propagandized their ruthless militarism as a war that they had to have against “the oppressive Sinhala state” though, in reality, Tamil violence turned against Tamils and left them in no-man’s land, drained of civility or morality to face the world as anything but banned terrorists.
The very first quasi-state of Prabhakaran that the northern leadership claimed to have established for the Tamils was a war-mongering, fascist tyranny that “killed more Tamils than all the others put together.” (V. Anandsangareee, TULF leader and S. C. Chandrahasan, son of S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, father of separatism).
The cruel oppression of the Tamils, going as far as forcibly dragging under-aged Tamil children on their way to school to fill the depleted cadres of Prabhakaran’s futile front lines, reveals the obscene depths to which Tamil politics descended in pursuing Vadukoddai violence.
The Tamil violence of Prabhakaran which began with the killing of unarmed, mild-mannered Alfred Duraiyappah in 1975 ended with Prabhakaran, the “liberator of Tamils”, shooting his own people when they decided to vote with their feet and seek refuge in the arms of the demonized “Sinhala state”. He was typical of the Tamil leadership that exploited the helpless Tamils of Jaffna for their political ends and massacred them when they were no longer useful. This “insane fury” of Jaffna (Yalpana Vaipava Malai) began with Sangkili who massacred 600 Catholics on Christmas eve in Mannar and ended (?) with Prabhakaran mowing down the Tamil civilians who had served him all the way from the Vanni to Nandikadal as a human shield.
His ingratitude and lack of respect for his own Tamil people who protected him with their lives, confirms that the vicious, vindictive culture of Jaffna that turns against its own people has its historical roots in the “insane fury” going back to the days of Sangkili, the first mass murderer of Jaffna.
On the other side of the coin, the record states clearly that the vilified “Sinhala-state” had repeatedly worked with the Tamil leaders of Jaffna, India and the international community to provide political solutions that were accepted (even by the I/NGOs initially) as a satisfactory way out of the north-south imbroglio. Each time the Tamil leadership was given a formula, signed, sealed and guaranteed by the international community, they tore it apart demanding more. Peace and reconciliation could not have come in better packages than those offered to the Jaffna Tamils by “the Sinhala state” with the backing of either the regional or international powers. And yet Keenan, and his local counterparts, are blaming the “Sinhala state” for not giving into the extremist demands of the insatiable and intransigent Tamil war-mongers.
The internal dynamics and total framework of the Vadukoddai Resolution, demanding a separate state based on fabricated
history and concocted geography, could lead only to one inescapable extremity: war, because separatism and violence are inseparable.
Looking back to assess the events that unfolded in the post-independence period it is necessary to ask in what way did the Vadukoddai Resolution and the Vadukoddai War serve the Tamils of the north? Any objective analysis of the Vadukoddai War would place the responsibility of launching, directing, financing, militarizing, mobilizing (particularly under-aged children), lobbying, propagandizing, and perpetuating the longest war in Asia, rejecting national, regional and international peace offers, on the shoulders of the Tamil leaders, who brazenly overestimated their power to break-up Sri Lanka.
Before blaming “the Sinhala state” any analysis of the northern political violence should also be compared with the non-violent political behaviour of the other two Tamil-speaking communities — the Muslims mainly in the east and the Indian community in the central hills.
They had resolved their differences non-violently within the democratic framework. If so the question that demands an answer is: why did the northern leadership fail to pursue non-violent politics, despite posing as Gandhians, and why did they alone decided to pass the Vadukoddai Resolution opting for a military solution?
Demonizing “the Sinhala state” has been a standard excuse,the raison d’etre, the usual scapegoat of the northern political culture. Rival political parties of the north have survived by either by blaming their opponents of “collaborating” with “the Sinhala state”, or by selling the Tamil interests to the Sinhalese for personal political gain. It began with G. G. Ponnambalam, when he first entered politics in the 30s competing with the established aristocracy of Jaffna headed by Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Ponnambalam Ramanathan. Parvenu Ponnambalam, the new-comer without any stature, image or electoral appeal, was desperate to make his mark in peninsular politics.
The only card he could play was virulent communalism condemning the “turbaned aristocracy” of Jaffna for collaborating with “the Sinhala state”. He, however, got a taste of his own medicine when his junior, S.J.V. Chelvanayakam accused him of being a “collaborationist” at the time he was a Minister in the Cabinet of Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake.
Their successor,Prabhakaran, took this anti-Sinhala politics to the extreme of killing anyone whom he suspected of being a “collaborationist”. Alfred Duraiyappah and Lakshman Kadirgamar were only two of the prominent victims of the intolerant and aggressive racism of the northern leadership.
Raising the spectre of the “Sinhala bogeyman” continues to be an integral part of the pathological mythology that rules the peninsular political culture. Jaffna jingoism is predicated on the “Sinhala bogeyman”. Tamil political parties cannot survive without it. For instance, when the Vadukoddai War was raging “the Sinhala state” was blamed for not ending the war. When the dreaded Tamil Tigers were crushed in Nandikadal “the Sinhala state” was also blamed for ending the war and restoring normalcy and peace. There is no way “the Sinhala state” can win, either in war or peace. President Ranansinghe Premadasa once told me: “They are now blaming me for eliminating the JVP.They say I was tough. You wait and see if I catch Prabhakaran they will blame me for crushing the Tigers.” That is precisely what is happening to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Having exhausted all their accusations the anti-Sri Lankan lobby – from TNA to I/NGOs — is now pointing a finger at “the Sinhala state” saying that the Vadukoddai War was not ended according to their satisfaction.
They take the high moral ground and claim that the war should have ended according to international humanitarian law. This was the holier-than-thou line taken by USA too when they introduced their resolution to the UNHRC.
No one has paused to ask: which nation has fought and ended wars according to international humanitarian law? which nation can fight and end wars according to international humanitarian law? which nation that had fought wars had concluded wars according to the satisfaction of the enemies of the nation?
This is not to argue that everything is fair in love and war. There are rules of engagement which are meant to restrain excesses in the battlefield, or in the theatre of war, or in conflict zones. If so what is the morality that is applicable to the longest running war in Asia, the Vadukoddai War? How fair is it to pass judgement only on the last five months of a 33-year-old war leaving out the preceding 32 years and 7 months? Isn’t it fair, just and rational to base any judgement that includes all the years of the war without picking only on the last months?
Why is it necessary to limit judgement only to the last months and not to the years that went before? Is there a political agenda behind this decision to judge only the last five months — a limitation not applied to other wars? Isn’t the Vadukoddai War unique in that the moral pundits are obsessed only with the last part and not the entire length of the war? Does this mean war crimes and crimes against humanity are committed only in the last few months of wars?
These and other related questions will be dealt with in the next article.
Courtesy : Sunday Observer