Renton de Alwis, in the Daily News, 4 May 2011
Brute forces of terrorist gangs blow up innocent people; be it at a public market, at places of religious worship (like the Temple of the Tooth of the Buddha in Kandy), in buses, trains, buildings of economic significance, airports or on roads (like we Sri Lankans had for nearly three decades) or at places where people gather for entertainment (Bali Hard Rock Cafe and the recent incident in Morocco). And if we know who they are that blow people and places, we are told by the ‘international community’ to talk to them and seek honourable political solutions.
Central Bank in Fort, Colombo after bombing, 31 Jan 1996
Some even offer to be mediators in the process. And when some of these happen in the big cities of the world on the Western hemisphere, all systems are let loose to annihilate international terrorists, like the hunted killing of Osama Bin Laden announced on Monday this week I learnt of, upon near completion of writing of this column.
Black Tigers marching, Kilinochchi
Maaveerar Cenotaph in replicaof Iwo Jima monument–location unknown
Maaveerar thuyilam illam [‘cemetery’]
During the last presidential election in theUS, promises were made that proactive attempts will be made to mend the causes for clashes between civilisations, for the root causes for the birth of terrorist movements has to be addressed. The Islamic world was offered hope of reconciliation, with fresh and more tolerant ways in dealing with the issues they faced. Then presidential candidate Barack H Obama lifted my hopes of seeing a world much better than we had seen in the past. Once elected, the equally brute forces of on-the-ground socio-economic and political realities began over-shadowing the once well-articulated concerns for the protection of human rights and the need for better human understanding. Sadly, those promises and datelines have now been placed on back-burners.
It is indeed a strange world we live in. In the name of protecting the rights of civilians from once friendly but now turned naughty undemocratic tyrant leaders, alliances of Western nations keep attacking positions within sovereign oil rich countries. Sometimes targets are mixed up and lives of innocent civilians are lost and only apologies are made for the ‘errors’ made.
When such incidents happen and if the numbers are significant (there is a threshold), some equally significant personalities send messages of condolence and in some instances condemn the dastardly acts. But I notice that it is not always the case. In almost all such cases that only happens if it passes the ‘threshold test’ of significance. That test includes the strategic importance of the resource-base of the location or the region of the incident, if the community affected are defenders of the ‘high ideals’ set for the world by the dominant culture, are significant trading partners or the impact the incident will have on a voter base in that country or organization and of course the significance of the number of victims. It is also significant to note how the response against these acts of terror gets lukewarm, where there are important lobbyists (paid or unpaid) that appear for what sometimes is called the ‘just cause’ of ‘liberator terrorists’.
Why don’t we realise that to a mother, father, brother or a sister the loss of his or her son/daughter, brother or sister in an attack by terrorists is not just an insignificant or significant number. These are losses that are real, irreversible, causing deep hurt and pain that can never ever be compensated for. This applies just the same for each family that looses a loved one as a result of communal or racial violence or being held as human shields in the defence lines of terrorists under attack, an earthquake, a tsunami or any other such act, induced either by humans or are ‘Acts of God’ as is cited in the small print in insurance disclaimers.
Where were they?
What the UN Secretary General through its advisory panel has chosen to do, is to probe human rights violations on howSri Lankadefeated terrorists during a confrontation that was named a ‘Humanitarian Operation’ from the very beginning. Its intent was to annihilate terrorists, while bringing to safety the Tamil people they held as a human shield to protect their fighting positions.
To me, a Sri Lankan citizen who has his feet firmly on this soil, and kept my eyes and ears open throughout this operation and ventured to assist the IDP’s at the shelters to the best of my ability, the accusations now brought out on us demonstrate yet another instance of the hypocrisy we see day-in-day-out, in this strange world we live in. When during those near three decades, Prabhakaran and his brain-washed suicide squads, blew up people, including several of my dear friends in the Central Bank bombing and many unknown yet innocents just the same, at that and many other such incidents, soldiers in civilian garb returning home to their families for the New Year; I do not remember that there were many, who condemned those acts or offered independent commissions of inquiry.
I also fail to understand why, and it is strange that no attempt was made by the then UN Secretary General to appoint an independent international commission to probe the alleged state sponsored attack on innocent Tamil people and their property in July 1983. Then it was cited as our internal problem, and we had to seek our solutions. It perhaps was because it was during a ‘Dharmista’ regime and its leader was nicknamed ‘Yankee Dicky’.
They (terrorists) took the lives of most valuable leaders and our own peace-seekers such as President Premadasa, Lakshman Kadirgamar, Neelan Thiruchelvam and several others and even our neighbourIndia’s much-respected leader Rajiv Gandhi. They reduced our airplanes to ashes on the tarmac of theColomboairport, targeted oil installations and created huge dents in our economy.
They also destroyed whole villages in the border areas indiscriminately killing helpless women, elderly and children and did it at frequent intervals. No head of the world-body then stepped in to probe these, for violation of the rights of those people or to assist clear up the messes that were created. Instead, we saw attempts to justify those acts of terrorism, linking it to the just demands the Tamil Sri Lankans had, for they on several occasions, lost their loved ones as a result of racial violence. It was as if, the deduction made was that ‘all terrorists were victimised Tamils’ and ‘all Tamil people approved the ways of the terrorists’.
Onus on us
In each instance, we were sent reminders through emissaries that our government needed to act with restrain hold talks and seek political solutions that would also be acceptable to terrorists. While, we Sri Lankans; Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims alike, were suffering losses on home ground, our ability to fight them was curtailed. The terrorists were positioned as an invincible group, willing to die for their cause. A romanticisation of the Tamil Tigers was carried out and they were allowed to extort and collect funds from the Tamil Diaspora, in their adopted countries where they sought refuge. The onus was placed on us, to prove that these were not liberators fighting for the rights of Tamil people, but a brute force of terrorists, seeking to establish a dominance of their own.
Look in the mirror
I join the many millions of fellow Sri Lankans, to remind the ‘international community’ at large, that it is time they ended the hypocrisy in dealing with this nation and many others like us, who have suffered being victims of acts of terror of TERRORISTS. The majority of us, but for a few, are immensely grateful for the singular resolve, focus and the brave and strong effort our President and our defence forces put in to end the menace that hurt us for far too long. We owe them more than a debt of gratitude, for the many sacrifices made, in selflessly placing their motherland before self.
What the ‘international community’ must do now, if you are sincere in helping us rebuild our nation, is to give up supporting attempts at rekindling the divisive demands of those who continue to seek an ‘Eelam’ and their supporters. You must understand that it is the expectation of every rational Sri Lankan to rebuild our country, as a place where all its races; Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Malay and Adivasi, can live in harmony enjoying equal opportunities to make better lives for themselves.
If you truly care, you must probe your own hearts and minds and ask the question “Do not the people ofSri Lanka, after so many long years of suffering, now deserve the opportunity to live in unity and harmony?” If the answer to that question is a resounding yes, then we call on you not to go on poking us in the wrong places, but to assist us get there.