Fr. Vimal Tirimanna, CSsR, in Rome, in The Island, 16 & 17 July 2016, where the title is “Western hypocrisy and UN call for accountability in Sri Lanka”
Tirimanna -Pic from www.cssr.news
These days the media all over the world is buzzing with various news items, commentaries and articles on terrorism that is gradually stretching its ugly claws all over the world, almost like an epidemic. While acknowledging the obvious fact that terrorism is not born inside a vacum, but rather that it surely has its own particular socio-economic causes and factors, the point that no conscientious person could deny is that terrorism in itself is an intolerable evil, because it intentionally hurts innocent people, often costing them their very lives and destroying public and private property.
Terrorism is no stranger to Sri Lanka in the past few decades thanks to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelaam (LTTE), but ironically, whenever there is a world opinon built up against terrorism, successive Sri Lankan governments on such occasions seem to swim against such anti-terrorist currents. Thus, in the aftermath of the 11th September 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in Manhattan, New York, when the entire world was being mobilized against terrorism, the then government in office under the leadership of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe dared to sign a risky peace accord with the LTTE which was branded at that time by the CIA as “the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world”.
History seems to be repeating for us Sri Lankans! Now when the entire world is taking resolute stands to fight terrorism, again, especially after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Iraq, Turkey and Bangladesh, our present Sri Lankan government – again, with Wickremasinghe’s premiership – is bending backwards to accommodate the US-led Western hypocritical allegations of “war crimes” against our government and troops that militarily eliminated the LTTE terrorists. The present government itself (which consists mostly of persons who opposed the war against the LTTE) seems to be more than willing to allow a so-called “international” probe into such alleged “war crimes”, hoping to score points from their Western allies. In this article, I wish to point out that such a so-called “international” probe on the internal affairs of Sri Lanka has neither legal nor moral justification. The enigmatic role played by the present Sri Lankan government with regard to the “war crimes” episode is bound to boomerang on Sri Lanka as a nation, sooner or later.
Sri Lankan cork at the mercy of powerful international seas
Three Preliminary Clarifications:
One: The term “the international community” is in vogue today whenever we discuss international matters. The writer wishes to clarify that this term is nothing but a dignified term coined by the Western nations led by the USA to refer to themselves and their nefarious activities all over the world. This definition is substantiated by the very fact that those who call the shots in this “international community” are exclusively the Wesern nations. Never have we heard Russia or China being followed by this “community”, but always the commands of the US-led Western nations! The question that is never answered by those who gleefully invoke this term is: “why do we need another ‘international community’ when we have a legitimately established world community in the United Nations Organization?”
Two: To the writer’s knowledge, no legitimately elected government that fought (or is fighting) terrorism is called to accountability by the UNHRC. Even if there were such cases, why not such alleged “war crimes” be probed by those very nations and their judges? Why is this need for “international” judges? The John Chilcott investigation into Britain’s involvement in Iraq was purely a domestic inquiry. No UNHRC demanded that some judges from outside, say from China, Russia, Nigeria or India, be sent there to investigate Britain’s role in the “war crimes” they allegedly committed in another nation’ territory! Apparently, it is only the still prevalent prejudices againstthe competence of the judiciary in the poor third world countries that make the difference.
Three: Terrorism as we witness it today is a relatively new phenomenon, which keeps on evolving, as we witnessed in the recent tragedy in Dacca. As such, there are no properly formed laws or rule as to how to fight terrorism by legitimately elected governments. To apply the laws and rules of a conventional war to the wars against terrorism is not acceptable. However, the supreme rule that non-combattant immunity of civilians be safeguarded as much as possible, is a given even in the fight agaisnt terrorism.
No Legal Justification: With regard to the war against the LTTE in Sri Lanka, we are dealing exclusively with an internal affair of a country, namely, a legitimately elected government trying to save its citizens from “the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world”. Let’s also keep in mind that a long line of legitimately elected Sri Lankan goverenments since 1983 had been doing their very best to get the LTTE engaged in a negotiated settlement for some 26 long years. As a matter of fact, one governemnt in 2002 even entered into a very controversial ceasefire agreement with the LTTE. Even such a risky decision taken by that government did not succeed in cajoling the LTTE to enter into a negotiated settlement as the latter kept on brutally violating the said ceasefire, and demanding that the ceasefire be implemented in a unilateral way that was favourable to them.
The new government elected in 2005, too, tried their best to convince the LTTE to enter into a peaceful settlement through dialogue and negotiations. But with the LTTE blocking the Mavil-Aru anicuts that provided water to whole areas in the upper Eastern Provnce, the then government had no other option but to launch a military attack against them to liberate the water for the thousands of farmers in the said area, which eventually turned out to an overall war against the same LTTE that finally ended in May 2009 when the latter was militarily defeated.
It is extremely important for our purposes of this article to highlight again the fact that the then Sri Lankan government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa was dealing with “the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world” a fact that is conveniently forgotten today, some seven years after the military annihilation of the LTTE. Not only that, the then government also had to face another brutal fact: namely, the LTTE was also overtly and covertly supported by external forces, especially by Western countries who are today very vociferous about the so-called “war crimes” allegedly committed in Sri Lanka. Last but not least, the LTTE terrorism did not spare any part of this small island in its intimidations and ruthless killings of innocent civilians.
Not only the Sinhalese, but also many peace-loving Muslims and Tamils themselves (especially those who took overt stands against them) were ruthlessly bumped off by this group of terrorists. Yes, this, to the present writer, is the most serious issue at stake. Not only did the LTTE assassinate the political leaders and the members of Tamil rival groups, but also helpless innocent civilians, belonging to Sinhalese, Muslim and Tamil communities, all in the name of their so-called “liberation”. In the face of such atrocities, no legitimate government could forefeit their undeniable duty to protect all citizens entrusted to its care, particularly the duty to safeguard the non-combattant civilians. In the war that ensued from 2006, this is precisely what the Sri Lankan government did. As such, it has to be recognized first of all, as a legitimate self-defence of Sri Lankan citizenry as a whole by a legitimately elected government, and that too within its own sovereign territory. This certainly is a legitimate right and a duty of any sovereign nation and its legitimately elected government as guaranteed by international law, itself.
As such, it is not only strange but bizzare to single out the then Sri Lankan government and its troops as a target by the so-called “international community” for accountability on their own allegations of “war crimes”. Did such self-defence in the form of protecting ordinary citizens take place only in Sri Lanka? Do not the same Western government zealots claim to defend their own citizens from terrorist attacks not only by targetting terrorists within their own territories (as it is happening right now in the USA, France, Italy, Belgium and other members countries of the European Union), but also in territories well outside their boundaries (in the Middle East, Pakistan, Afghanistan ….etc.)?
What about the non-combatant civilians killed in such countries? Or is Sri Lanka targetted simply because the government in office at the time, namely, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government was considered an “anti-Western government”? Could there be “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists” depending on the loyalty or the allegience (to the US-led Western nations) of the government in office which is fighting terrorism?
One needs to give straight-forward answers to these crucial questions instead of hiding behind certain concepts created in recent times by the same Western nations such as “the right to protect or R2P” (meaning the right of the Western nations to interfere in the internal affairs of selectively chosen sovereign nations’ whenever they, the so-called “international community” deems fit, especially if such governments are toeing an anti-Western stand), “humanitarian interventions” and even “human rights” to justify their own illegitimate and immoral violent acts against humanity.
Their illegal military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now in Syria, are clear examples of such naked aggressions done in daylight, so to say. The daily human tragedies which still continue unabated in those countries were in fact triggered off by such illegitimate interventions which distabilized those countries politically and socially. Who is held responsible or accountable for such “crimes”? And by whom? What is the UNHRC saying about them? The reader needs to note that all such military activities are performed in other people’s territories, simply by inventing “a right to intervene militarily”, but always using noble and hoodwinking concepts such as the ones mentioned above to camouflage their real intentions. Needless to say that such Western military actions in others’ territories are blatant violations of international law, amounting to unjust aggression, as stipulated in the United Nations Charter itself.
But the irony is when a legitimately elected government (in the context of this article, the then government of Sri Lanka) legitimately uses military power, within its own territory, to combat ruthless terrorism which used to claim civilian lives daily and also cause damage to public property (such as places of worship, airports, oil refineries, ….etc.), the same self-appointed “international policemen”, namely, the Western nations have the audacity to unilaterally call such acts as “war crimes” and then, call for accountability! (To be continued).
No Moral Justification: It was just the other day that the Chilcott report in the UK insisted that the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair dragged his country unnecessarily into the legally questionalbe war in Iraq in 2003 without any valid reason to justify a war. At the time of the British withdrawal of their troops in 2009, some 150,000 Iraqi civilians had died due to violence unleashed by that war, according to the same Western estimates. The long term consequences of death and destruction through car bombs, suicide bombing, sectarian clashes, trade embargoes,….etc. unleashed by that aggressive act of the Western nations, still continue in that unfortunate country, and have so continued to claim further human lives, daily ever since . But who is held responsible for such deaths? Neither the USA nor her allies, such as Britain who waged that war! Neither George W.Bush nor Tony Blair! What will the UNHRC say to such atrocities? Why are they silent about them? But the irony is that it is precisely they (the US-led Western nations) who committed and continue to commit such atrocities in other people’s territories who have the audacity now to call Sri Lanka to accountability for a war her government waged within her own territory to liberate the nation from the “most ruthless terrorist group in the world”! What moral right have they to do so?
Moreover, not long ago, the US President Obama himself admitted with a clear and loud voice that the military intervention in Libya was a ‘mistake’! His point was that after that notorious Libyan intervention, with Britain and France (who were leading the campaign to intervene to remove Colonel Ghaddaffi from office), backing out of Libya, the situation in that other-wise stable country under the Colonel is now under utter politcal chaos. Not only that, the number of daily killings and other violent intimidations, the ever-increasing number of refugees who are making a risky exodus to Europe, are all unavoidable results of that terrible unalwful act.
The vital question to be asked here is: “were Libya and her citizens better off under Ghadaffi (in spite of his alleged dictatorial tendencies) or now with so much of daily violence, murder and blood-shed”? The self-appointed guardians of world’s democracy and human rights, namely, the Western Pharisees need to take full responsibility for what is happening now not only in Libya but also in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt and Syria where they tried to flex their muscles, all in the name of ‘democracy, ‘human rights’, ‘humanitarian interventions’ and ‘the right to protect’. In fact, at the time, such brutal acts of violation of internaitonal law were camoflouged with a noble phrase “the Arab Spring”! But today, no one calls what is happening in those countires neither by that deceptive term which they themselves coined (“Arab Spring”) nor by a parallely more fitting metaphor, such as “the Arab Winter”! Who will be held accountable for those atrocities in those territories which are still continuing thanks to the Western military interventions? Where is the UNHRC to call them to responsibility or accountability, not only for what happened, but for what is still happening in those countries? We have never heard the present UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein nor his predecessor Navi Pillay ever raising a whimper against such glaring atrocities and crimes against humanity.
It is surprising but true that so far there have been no UNHRC investigations for accountability in any of the places where the Western nations waged a war, even when their own allies, the Western media had reported of mass deaths of civilians during such wars. No Western nation to-date has been under investigation for such alleged “war crimes” (after the Nurenberg trials in the aftermath of the Second World War which in fact was basically a war among the Western nations themselves). Why was it that the UNHRC did not call for accountability on the part of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the war crimes that were committed there? Why was the same UNHRC deafeningly silent on accountability in Libya, Syria, and also in Afghanistan when those sovereign territories were invaded by the Western Allies, all in the name of eliminating terrorism and restoring democracy? If this is not open and shameless hypocrisy by the “more righteous than thou art” Western nations, one wonders what other reality would fit into that category called ‘hypocrisy’
Last but not least, what legal or moral authority has the Western Allies to question other countries of accountability through their paw the UNHRC? If at all, let the UN Security Council take decisions on ‘war crimes’, ‘accountability’, ‘human rights’,…etc., but then, let it do so against all those who fight terrorism. This sounds good logic, but not in the ears of the Western doyens of those concepts, because at the Security Council, there are two countries with veto power, namely, China and Russia who would not always follow the Western dictates in voting. So in order to circumvent the UN Security Council, we have the new entity created by themelves, namely, “the internaitonal community”. It is this ‘community’ that has a wider say even at the UNHRC, because this body is under the full control of the US-led Western countries without anyone enjoying a veto power!
The enigmatic role of the Sri Lankan Government: But right now what embarrasses any patriotic Sri Lankan citizen is the fact that the “new” government that came into office in January 2015, instead of taking a firm stand that respects our sovereignty and our Independence, slavishly toeing the line dictated to them by the Western-nation-led UNHRC. The present government is playing a role that is very enigmatic, to say the least with regard to the UNHRC demands. On the one hand, the Executive President says that no foreign judges will be involved in the “war crime” probe; on the other hand, the government ministers say the opposite.
Amusingly, the present foreign minister of ours (who at the time of the war against the LTTE had the audacity to call the then Sri Lankan Army Commander Sarath Fonseka as someone not fit even to lead a ‘salvation’ army!) recently went on record as saying that the President’s views are only personal! While pontificating to the press the other day he is reported as having insisted on the need to respect the Western concerns for accountability in Sri Lanka as expressed by the UNHRC! No wonder the so-called “international community” is now delighted with our government for following their dictates on bended knees which was not the case with the previous government.
One wonders whether the present government is serving the interests of the citizens of Sri Lanka or of those who dictate terms through the UNHRC, for ulterior motives.
It is also interesting to note that the fears of some in the recent past that it was nothing but the Rajapaksa government that was being targetted by the so-called “International Community” in calling for accountability in Sri Lanka has now come true with the advent of the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe government. Not only has the UNHRC been openly soft-peddling the very accusations they made against Sri Lanka, but have now even dared to make partial comments favourable to the present ruling party. Thus, the cat has come out of the bag, so to say! The main aim of the “international community”, in other words, is perceivable: namely, it was not any human rights as such that they were really concerned about, but bringing out a “regime change”. The bringing in of the then Army Commander Sarath Fonseka to parliament by the present rulers through the back door (let’s not forget that he and his party were routed at the last General Elections), and his eventual appointment as a Cabinet Miniser (and very recently joining the ruling UNP) seem to have been completely ignored by the UNHRC.
Here, is the man who led the war against the LTTE, and the UNHRC which accuses the then government and its troops of violating basic human rights at war and thus committing the alleged “war crimes”, has become dumb-founded about him being appointed to a high post by the present governemnt. So, one can rightly ask the question: what is the main aim of the UNHRC? Is it to have an impartial investigation in Sri Lanka? If so, how come that the same UNHRC is not only observing a deafening silence when the very General who led the war (during which the same UNHRC alleges to have occured “war crimes”) is appointed to a high government rank? In fact, what we hear of late is how the UN Secretary General himelf is lavishly heaping praises on the present goverenmnt for its policies which surely include the appointment (as against the wishes of the people who rejected him at the polls) of the General who led the war, to such a high post. So, can the UNHRC be perceived as impartial? How would they have reacted if President Rajapakse (instead of following a policy of antagonistic oppression against Fonseka), were to appoint Fonseka to a ministerial post? Would not the same UNHRC gone to town crying out that Sri Lanka is “a military dictatorship”? Why are they silent now? Even a child could understand what is at stake here, namely, the issue of ‘regime change’ that the Western nations desired so badly has at last come through the installation of the Sirisena-Wickremasinghe government. Moreover, the non-compliant Rajapaksa government which was perceived as anti-Western has been ousted, and thus, a real ‘regime change’ as wished by the same Western nations has been achieved. A governemnt that is ever ready to bend backwards in order to be servile to any Western agenda has been put in place. So, what else would the UNHRC want now? Probably, the complete annihilation of the Rajapaksas and anyone else who would dare to question the Western hegemony in the world in general, and in Sri Lanka, in particular.
Hence, still the red flag of ‘war crimes’ is waved and accountability called for by them, but with a very careful orchestration so that neither their ally government in Colombo right now nor their blue-eyed boys, the LTTE, would be at the receiveing end. It is important to note that though they have now added the phrase “war crimes committed by both the government troops and the LTTE during the war in Sri Lanka” it is only an eye-wash because the words ‘both the government and the LTTE’ were found neither in their earlier accusations of “war crimes” nor in the documents of the UNHRC resolutions, when they called exclusively for Sri Lankan accountability.
SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY inserted by Editor, Thuppahi
Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein 2016 “Hate is now a Major Mainstream River Here, There, Everywhere, says Zeid,” 15 July 2016, https://thuppahis.com/2016/07/15/hate-is-now-a-major-mainstream-river-here-there-everywhere-says-zeid/
Chris Black ?? “NATO forces behind International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague,” http://iacenter.org/folder04/nato_black.htm
Natasha Gooneratne 2016 “USA’s Imperial Embrace marked in 2015 … and Now Continuing,” 14 July 2016 https://thuppahis.com/2016/07/14/usas-imperial-embrace-marked-in-2015-and-now-continuing/#more-21526
Gunatilleka & Ratnawalli 2015 “International Pressures & Island Fissures: Gunatilleke faces Ratnawalli,” 5 November 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/11/05/international-pressures-island-fissures-gunatilleke-faces-ratnawalli/
John Laughland 2014 “Non-interventionism: the Forgotten Doctrine,” at World Public Forum – Dialogue of Civilizations, 20 November 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mgLUrFRt6k
Gerald H. Peiris 2010 “The Doctrine of Responsibility to Protect: Impulses, Implications and Impact,” 30 June 2010,http://www.slguardian.org/2010/06/the-doctrine-of-responsibility-to-protect-impulses-implications-and-impact/ ANDhttps://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/from%3A(geraldpeiris%40yahoo.com)+OR+to%3A(geraldpeiris%40yahoo.com)/1510fc7141751033?projector=1
Michael Roberts 2011 “People of righteousness ‘pursue campaign against Sri Lanka with missionary zeal,” 23 June 2011, http://transcurrents.com/news-views/archives/1522#more-1522; and alsohttp://www.colomboherald.com/world-politics/people-of-righteousness-%E2%80%98pursue-campaign-against-sri-lanka-with-missionary-zeal%E2%80%99zeal,
Michael Roberts 2015 “Lilliputs in a World of Giants: Marga and CHA bat for Lanka in the Propaganda War, 2009-14,” 18 November 2015, https://thuppahis.com/2015/11/18/lilliputs-in-a-world-of-giants-marga-and-cha-bat-for-lanka-in-the-propaganda-war-2009-14/#more-18467
Michael Roberts: “Sturdy Advocacy: Marga’s Questioning of the UNPoE’s Assassination Job,” 25 November 2009, https://thuppahis.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=18544&action=edit&postpost=v2
Malinda Seneviratne 2016 “The Un-Mainstreaming of Hatred,” 15 July 2016, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-un-mainstreaming-of-hatred/
6 responses to “Double Standards in the International Football Game with Sri Lanka”
This is in principle true. But the problem is that the credibility of the justice system has been compromised by the Rajapaksa regime’s politicization of the judiciary. So, it is not unreasonable to ask for foreign judges so that the war crimes probe becomes credible for the minorities.
And should the process not be credible for the majority too? If not, why not? is he assuming that war crimes were committed against the minority and there is a monopoly of virtue on the side of the minority and a monopoly of vice on the side of the majority? If the credibility of the justice system has been compromised, hasn’t that been rolled back by the 19th amendment? More pertinently, if the argument is that aspects of the domestic system have been compromised, surely the task is to reform it rather than replace it with foreigners? If not, why not simply hand the state back to colonialism or become a protectorate? Finally, which is the democratic state that has fought an internal war within its own recognized borders against a terrorist enemy and won, which then institutes a special court with foreign judges to sit in judgment of the wartime actions of its duly constituted armed forces? If there isn’t a precedent– and I know of none– why should Sri Lanka be the first up?
1. War crimes trials have rarely if ever established facts, or gone by all empirical facts, as is well known to those who have studied them. None of the British war crimes have been dealt with, be it from Churchill’s times or the more recent excesses of tony Blair.
A recent attempt to implicate an African leader who was quite innocent was thwarted by the singular effort of a famous and very dogged Canadian civil rights lawyer who had to fight tooth and nail the UN “justice” system that worked hard to impose the script sought by Washington. It is like the Gilbert and Sullivan “first the judgment and then the trial” approach (Mikado).
2. The current leaders of the “southern polity”, viz., Ranil and Sirisena, will accept what the judges say, especially if it enables them to put down their political opponents. But the Militant leaders of the Tamil diaspora will not accept what the judges (be they foreign or not) say, unless they deliver the script they wish to hear.
Have they accepted the valid number counting of the dead in the last stage of the war? No, instead they have insisted on quite absurd figures.
Have they accepted the clearly available facts on the amount of food released by the GOSL and delivered to the Vanni by the IRC and other agencies? No, they insist on a false claim that the Vanni was starved by the GOSL (a war crime if any)
Have they insisted on dealing with known war criminals who are now living in the US and Canada? Not at all, because they were LTTE people who they shield.
Claims of cluster bombs and many more unsubstantiated narratives.
That is, we are dealing with people who are not interested in empirical facts, but so emotionally charged by their wish to have retribution and vengeance that would ultimately lead to a justification of their political agenda; so they see only one side of the coin.
However, there is a case for FOREIGN COUNSEL. that is, those who are accused must be given foreign counsel who are conversant with how the international tribunals work. The Canadian lawyer who successfully defended the African Leader because he know what it takes to mount such a defense is the clear example.
In addition to what Dayan has said there is the more general issue of whether a similar demand is ever likely to be made from any of the UN stalwarts for committing heinous war crimes and crimes against humanity in their attempts to annihilate enemies who posed no serious threat whatever to their existence. Even about the mock trials the US government staged when a few of its military brutalities were exposed, was there ever a question about neutrality of the judges.
As for HL – what can one say on the thoughts of a person who believes that political pressures being brought to bear on members of the judiciary is a Rajapaksa innovation ̶ in Sri Lanka or elsewhere. His sanctimony boggles imagination.
Regards, Gerald H. Peiris
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