Cameron’s Rights’ HOCUS-POCUS

Dr Kamal Wickremasinghe ( Courtesy: Daily News)

As a politician, the British Prime Minister David Cameron has earned many colourful descriptions of his character and personality – the veteran Scottish MP Sir Thomas (Tam) Dalyell described Cameron as “an actor who has never had a proper job”; Charlie Brooker, satirist and columnist for the Guardian newspaper, quipped – “There is nothing to him. He is like a hollow Easter egg with no bag of sweets inside.”

It must be said in Cameron’s defence that he has consciously earned such reputations. Since coming to power in 2011, with the help of his Foreign Secretary William Hague, he has managed to construct the elaborate hoax of a foreign policy the two have repeatedly claimed “has human rights at its heart”; They have urged ministers and diplomats to press human rights concerns “whenever and wherever they arise”.

Looking remarkably like the 70s TV character Kojak, Hague, with a conviction of electoral malpractice of “blatant ballot box stuffing” as President of the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA), has been the perfect ‘partner in crime’ for Cameron. Hague’s character can also be gauged by a 2001 poll in the Daily Telegraph in which 70 per cent of voters believed he would “say almost anything to win votes”, and 66 per cent considered him to be “a bit of a wally”.

Hague’s announcement this week that the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) inquiry on Sri Lanka will soon begin “the process” of establishing an investigation to assess “a broad range of information and evidence” needs to be taken against the background of this Cameron-Hague conspiracy of a bogus human rights protection mission.

China calls Cameron’s bluff

Despite their continuing efforts however, it seems now, as suggested by China’s cancellation this week of the “bilateral human rights dialogue with Britain”, that the major countries of the world are beginning to see through Cameron’s bogus human rights ‘campaigner’ façade and the world is losing patience with his hypocrisy.

The cancellation of the “human rights dialogue” with China is a big blow to Cameron who highlighted it as an important achievement of his trip to Beijing last November. Less than a year later, China is now accusing the UK of “using human rights issues to interfere in its internal affairs” through plots such as the goading of NGOs at the UNHRC to demand that a minute’s silence be observed in memory of a dead Chinese “activist”.

It was only a matter of time before the world called Cameron’s bluff on his egregiously sanctimonious “human rights” façade. He has been raising “concerns” about trumped-up issues such as human rights in Sri Lanka and the right of self-determination in the Falklands. But in glaring recent examples of duplicity, Cameron has had the temerity to berate the Russian President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, after orchestrating the terrorist movement that violently overthrew the elected government of that country; In a speech to the Israeli Knesset, in mid-March, he refrained from using the words “occupation” to refer to the 47 year occupation of the West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights in defiance of numerous UN Security Council resolutions.

The lack of credibility of Cameron’s interest in the alleged war crimes in Sri Lanka are also founded on his obvious motive to hide his own human rights abuses, and in his desperate attempt to maintain “colonial” influence in Sri Lanka’s domestic affairs.

Cameron now threatens to pull out of the EU Human Rights Court

Cameron’s hypocrisy on human rights on the domestic front has been equally spectacular. In a recent article for The Telegraph, launching Tory campaign for the European Parliament elections in May, he made “reforming” Britain’s relations with the European Court of Human Rights top priority, as the price for remaining in the EU and to stop Britain being “sucked into a United States of Europe”

The centrepiece of Cameron’s package of measures is the legislative changes designed to scale back the power of human rights judges of the European Court of Human Rights in imposing human rights in Britain. Cameron aims to achieve this by repealing a Section in the British Human Rights Act that requires the government to “have regard” to the European Court of Human Rights. A new Act of Parliament will also be enacted with the objective of preventing the Strasbourg court creating human rights precedents by making British courts the final arbiter of the law.

The EU changes demanded by Cameron arise primarily from his clash with the European Court over the order banning the deportation of Islamic cleric Abu Qatada to his native Jordan, due to violation of his human right to a family life in the UK, and fears of his not receiving a fair trial in Jordan.

In a glaring display of inconsistency that exposes Cameron’s bogus commitment to “human rights everywhere”, he now threatens to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court if he is unable to get his way.

Double-standard on human rights

The Cameron-Hague style of repulsive double-standard on human rights seems to be founded on the arrogant premise that the powerful states are free to violate human rights of their own citizens as well as those marginalised by them internationally, like the Chagossians – the citizens of the island of Diego Garcia forcibly evicted by the British between 1965 and 1973. Cameron’s version of human rights protection seems to be founded on the premise that, he attempts to lecture the world on human rights, and starting “revolutions” in other countries on the basis of human rights, while taking no heed of any critique of his own human rights record.

UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) picks holes in Cameron’s human rights facade

During the recently concluded 25th sessions of the UNHRC held in Geneva, while Cameron was busily campaigning to garner support for his anti-Sri Lankan resolution, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) accused the UK delegation of being evasive on questions about Britain’s own human rights record.

The CAT pointed to a litany of human rights abuses by the British government during the so-called war on terror, including the mistreatment of prisoners in British custody in Iraq. The committee was “deeply concerned at the growing number of serious allegations of torture and ill-treatment, as a result of Britain’s military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq.” It also flagged up some 40 separate incidents on which the UK government must act.

The CAT urged the British government to quickly establish an inquiry into whether detainees held overseas were ill-treated or tortured by British officials, warning that urgent action is needed for Britain to meet international standards. All this, while Cameron was working on “applying pressure” on Sri Lanka to initiate an inquiry to look into matters that are alleged to have happened nearly a decade later!

In a reminder of his own responsibilities, the CAT requested the Cameron government that historical investigations into past misconduct of military officials must not be delayed or suspended.

The panel also expressed disappointment that Britain has failed, to date, to prosecute anyone for the torture of Iraqi prisoners and to convict anyone for the murder of the Iraqi prisoner Baha Mousa who died in British custody in 2003 in Basra, with just one soldier given a one-year sentence for admitting inhumane treatment.

The UN team also slammed a number of legal loopholes in the relevant British legislation including “an escape clause” in the Criminal Justice Act (1988), which allows officials accused of torture to escape prosecution if they can demonstrate “lawful authority, justification or excuse” for committing the act. Also, the CAT found the provision in the Intelligence Services Act (1994), which effectively ensures that intelligence officers cannot be prosecuted within the UK upon the grant of “lawful authority” by a government minister inconsistent with international standards.

Deportation of asylum seekers

There was also concern expressed regarding the British government’s plan to introduce Closed Material Procedures that will allow the admittance of hearsay as evidence and evidence obtained through torture. The CAT also criticised the failure of the Cameron government to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the UK resident in Guantanamo, despite the purported “best endeavours”.

In a glaring pointer to Cameron’s duplicity, the CAT questioned the UK government’s deportation of failed asylum seekers to Sri Lanka, a country he himself is (falsely of course) accusing of committing human rights abuses.

While Cameron and Hague are hyper-ventilating about the need for Sri Lanka to cooperate with the OHCHR inquiry, the CAT gave the British government a year to explain how it could improve its human rights record in the areas of overseas torture, getting Shaker Aamer out of Guantanamo and setting up inquiries into past military abuses in Northern Ireland.

Human rights is the cover of neo-colonialism

There is clearly a pattern common to the foreign policy of the US, and its “special relation” the UK that centres around a bogus commitment to human rights protection, globally.

The Russian and Chinese governments are becoming increasingly wary of the new push based on frequent criticisms of their record on human rights by the US and UK.

Russia recently accused Britain of failing to practice what it preaches on human rights after the British government forced the Guardian newspaper to destroy the computer hard drives containing the information given to it by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden. “The measures taken by the British authorities towards the Guardian newspaper are out of tune with British statements on commitments to universal standards of human rights”, a Russian statement said.

The Chinese foreign ministry asked the US on Monday to stop “gesticulating” regarding China’s treatment of dissidents, after Washington expressed “deep disappointment” at a Beijing court’s decision to uphold a four-year jail sentence granted to a prominent “activist”.

Foreign policy

China pointed out that the prisoner was a Chinese citizen who broke the law, being punished and asked that the US stop using so-called human rights as an excuse to interfere in China’s internal affairs.

The role of human rights as a tool of foreign policy has been sharpened by Western governments since the end of the Cold War, through the conspiracies relating to the Balkan, Iraqi and Libyan Wars. Britain is currently fully synchronising its foreign policy, in a bipartisan way, to align with this lie.

In a recent speech, the shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy signified this trend by pledging that human rights would be at the heart of Labour’s aid agenda, with tough new conditions put on UK development assistance through a “human rights unit” set up at the Department for International Development.

Survival in today’s world is dependent on being awake to such conspiracies and Sri Lanka is one of the countries with the intellectual heritage to resist such evil designs – rejecting the OHCHR resolution is justifiable on this grounds alone.

 

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Accuser as Judge and Jury

- The Island Editorial April 4, 2014

US Ambassador in Colombo Michele J. Sison is doing everything in her power to justify her country’s resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC. She cannot be faulted for doing her job. But, some of the arguments she has put forth in support of the US action are not convincing, to say the least.

Ambassador Sison has told foreign correspondents in Colombo that the US should not be blamed for long-standing divisions in Sri Lanka. Here, one sees the so-called straw man fallacy. No one in his or her proper senses will make such an allegation. Sri Lanka’s divisions, especially those along ethno-religious line, are as old as the hills and some of them even predate the discovery of America!

But, the recently adopted US-sponsored UNHRC resolution has caused reconciliation to elude this country further. For, it has made LTTE groups active overseas intransigent and cocky so much so that they are now all out to use the UNHRC to avenge the decimation of their military muscle and pursue their separatist goal politically with the help of some western governments.

The US envoy has urged the Sri Lankan government to fulfil its obligations to its people and take meaningful, concrete steps on reconciliation and accountability. The latter, no doubt, must do so, but it takes two to tango, doesn’t it?

What about the proponents of the UNHRC resolution, who recognised Prabhakaran as the sole representative of Tamils? Reconciliation is anathema to them because they need ethnic tensions to fuel their Eelam project and secure block votes. It is not reconciliation that they seek but revenge and an opportunity to create conditions for re-launching their Eelam project. They are doing their damnedest to have the incumbent government responsible for defeating the LTTE dislodged because they see it as an insurmountable obstacle in their path. They are striving to pave the way for a malleable government like the one which allowed itself to be railroaded into signing a blatantly lopsided CFA with the LTTE and compromising national security at the behest of external forces. Their not-so-surreptitious plan and the agenda of the West desirous of engineering a regime change here to further their geo-strategic interests dovetail.

The US policy towards the LTTE has been consistent and it has repeatedly declared its commitment to helping preserve Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity. But, sadly, there is little that it could do to avoid being seen to be promoting the interests of pro-LTTE groups because of its diplomatic badger hunt against Sri Lanka in Geneva.

Ambassador Sison is reported to have told journalists that for the first time, ‘the resolution requests a comprehensive investigation, to be undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), into alleged serious violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes committed in Sri Lanka by both sides, during the 2002-2009 period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) Report’.

Yes, it does make such a call. The US may preen itself on its diplomatic victory against a tiny country though it could not secure India’s support for its move. But, there is absolutely no need for such an investigation! The OHCHR has already found those who defeated the LTTE guilty of war crimes as could be seen from what UNHRC Chief Navi Pillay has said in her report on Sri Lanka. The same goes for the UNSG’s office, if the Darusman Report commissioned by it is any indication. Here is a situation where the accuser has been allowed to act as the judge and the jury as well. All signs are that the OHCHR’s probe will turn out to be a kangaroo trial.

The US wishes to encourage the Sri Lankan government to cooperate fully with UN mechanisms, Ambassador Sison says. But, the problem with them is that they are manipulated by vested interests to further their interests on the pretext of protecting human rights.

 

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Island Editorial

 

Friends!

March 31, 2014, 8:54 pm

US Ambassador in Colombo Michele J. Sison has claimed that the recently adopted US-backed Geneva resolution is not against Sri Lanka. It was undertaken in recognition of the resilience shown by Sri Lankans following years of conflict and their yearning for democracy and prosperity, she has said. The US maintains that it has done so as a friend of Sri Lanka!

If that resolution is not against Sri Lanka as the US envoy claims how come LTTE sympathisers including some Tamil Nadu politicians exulted at its passage? India flatly refused to vote for the resolution, dismissing it as ‘an intrusive approach that undermines national sovereignty and institutions [and therefore] is counterproductive; any significant departure from the core principle of constructive international dialogue and cooperation has the potential to undermine efforts of Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for promoting universal respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms’. Twelve UNHRC members voted against the US-backed resolution on similar grounds. Does the US think these countries are not Sri Lanka’s friends and they have not recognized ‘the resilience shown by Sri Lankans following years of conflict and their yearning for democracy and prosperity’?

Ambassador Sison has frowned on the deterioration of Sri Lanka’s human rights situation. Yes, the general consensus is that the government has not done enough to improve its human rights record and its cavalier attitude has proved to be counterproductive.

But, shouldn’t the US which pontificates to other countries about the need to protect human rights and address accountability issues practise what it preaches?

The UN Human Rights Committee has recently urged the US to ‘ensure that all cases of unlawful killings, torture or other ill-treatment, unlawful detention, or enforced disappearance are effectively, independently and impartially investigated and that perpetrators, including, in particular, persons in command positions, are prosecuted’. In other words, this call has had to be made because the US has not yet probed these crimes. Isn’t the UNHRC duty bound to step in to conduct a ‘comprehensive and independent investigation’ into such accountability issues?

The UN Human Rights Committee has flayed President Barack Obama for his failure to fulfil a commitment to close the Guantánamo Bay Prison. One of his pre-election promises was to close down that Black Hole. Many detainees have been held there and in military prisons in Afghanistan for more than a decade without charge or trial, the committee has pointed out. Will the US welcome a UNHRC resolution calling for an international mechanism to probe these serious human rights violations?

Among the other offences the Human Rights Committee has hauled the US over the coals for are enduring racial disparities in the justice system including large numbers of black prisoners serving longer sentences than whites, mistreatment of mentally-ill and juvenile prisoners, segregation in schools, high levels of homelessness and criminalization of homeless people, racial profiling by police, including the mass surveillance of Muslim communities by the New York police department, failure to prosecute senior members of its armed forces and private contractors involved in torture and targeted killings. Strangely, the UNHRC has chosen to turn a blind eye to these very serious charges.

If the recently adopted Geneva resolution is really aimed at helping Sri Lanka improve its human rights situation and bring about reconciliation as Ambassador Sison has argued, then there is no reason why the proponents thereof should not help the US similarly by getting the UNHRC to probe its human rights violations, at least, the ones listed by the UN independent experts. That’s what friends are there for––according to the US!

 

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An Urgent Appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council

WORLD ALLIANCE FOR PEACE IN SRI LANKA

20th March 2014

To: Members of the UNHRC 2014

An Urgent Appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council toReject the Draft Resolution against Sri Lanka

We, concerned individuals and organizations around the world, urge the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to reject the proposed draft Resolution (HRC-25) directed against Sri Lanka. The draft resolution is in contravention of the basic principles of the UNHRC as enunciated in its ‘Charter,’ including the principles of “universality, impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity and constructive international dialogue,” along with the norms of fair play and justice.

The draft Resolution raises concerns with respect to two sets of issues: first, a purported increase in human rights violations in the country; and second, a lack of progress with regard to accountability, i.e. a lack of credible investigations into violations of humanitarian laws allegedly committed during the last stages of the war.

With regard to the issue of human rights violations, the UNHRC has an established mechanism to take up such matters – namely the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and therefore there is no justification for a country- specific resolution.

With respect to the issue of accountability, the High Commissioner’s report of 24 February 2014 (A/HRC/25/23) that is intended to be the basis of any Resolution adopted in the present sessions, cites two sources of allegations regarding the issue of alleged violations of humanitarian law: The Secretary General’s Panel of Experts (POE) Report of March 2011, and the Channel 4 videos.

The POE and Channel 4 videos have not at any stage been tabled officially before the Council and Sri Lanka has had no opportunity to respond to them before the Council. Thus, the credibility of these two sources has never been tested. This is a serious violation of procedural fairness.

Furthermore, with respect to the POE, there are allegations that sample letters generated by Tamil Diaspora elements and sent online to the Panel comprise a part of the evidence on which the Panel reached its conclusions with regard to alleged violations of humanitarian law; that satellite photos used by the Panel were manipulated; and that data on humanitarian aid sent to the conflict zone by the Government of Sri Lanka was deliberately under-reported.

With respect to the Channel 4 videos, the latest allegations against them involve claims that witnesses used in the videos are “fully paid-up members of the Tamil Tigers.” These allegations are of so serious a nature that they deserve to be investigated.

The draft Resolution (HRC-25) in its recommendations requests the High Commissioner, inter alia “to lead a comprehensive investigation into alleged serious violations and abuses of Human Rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka.” It should be noted that the UNHRC can avail itself of the UPR mechanism to address these concerns, because the UPR mechanism is specifically designed to ensure compliance with the principles of the UNHRC’s ‘Charter.’

The UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 that set up the Human Rights Council does not mandate the Office of the High Commissioner to engage in any investigation, leave alone “lead” an investigation into Human Rights violations. Assigning such a mandate would be in violation of the UN Charter and would furthermore set a dangerous precedent. The Resolution should be rejected for these reasons.

We represent organizations and individuals in many countries. Standing in solidarity with the great majority of people in Sri Lanka and others who are of view that the UNHRC in pursuing country-specific resolutions against Sri Lanka is exceeding its mandate and thereby facilitating an erosion of international law, we urge the United Nations to advise the Human Rights Council to reject the draft Resolution (HRC-25).

( This appeal has been signed by hundreds of concerned individuals from all parts of the world)

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MIRACLES CAN’T BE PERFORMED OVERNIGHT

(Courtesy of Sunday Observer)

The United States and the co-sponsors of the latest Resolution against Sri Lanka to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) have not only brazenly interfered with the internal matters of a sovereign state but have also violated Sri Lanka’s constitution.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha had quite rightly pointed out that the draft resolution on Sri Lanka deposited with the UNHRC by the core group comprising the US, UK, Mauritius, Montenegro and Macedonia, violates the constitutional provision of Sri Lanka.

The draft resolution is highly intrusive and is in breach of the sovereignty of the citizens of Sri Lanka and the country’s territorial integrity. It is politicised and a clear contravention of the accepted principles of conduct in the UNHRC. The resolution sets a bad precedent, and can in the medium-to-long term have an adverse impact on all developing member countries in the Council.

The vested interests of some Western countries are understandable as they prefer to have a Sri Lankan leadership that would dance to their whims and fancies. President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the ruling UPFA Government have always maintained an independent foreign policy without singing hosannas to the West.

It goes without saying that certain British politicians thrive on the Tamil Diaspora vote and are obliged to the LTTE sympathisers. But it is intriguing that Mauritius, Montenegro and Macedonia have become co-sponsors of the Resolution against Sri Lanka. It would be small wonder whether the representatives of these countries know at least Sri Lanka’s geographical location on the world map, apart from the contents of the Resolution and the true ground situation here altogether.

As Aryasinha had stressed, anyone unaware of the real ground situation in Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council sessions over the past week, could not be blamed for thinking that Sri Lanka is perhaps the most troubled spot on this planet.

The draft text before the UNHRC sessions by the core group presenting this resolution – the USA, UK, Mauritius, Montenegro and Macedonia, should be reminded that Sri Lanka, like many Asian, African and Latin American countries represented in the world human rights body, had emerged from the yoke of colonialism as far back as 1948.

It is deplorable that they had conveniently forgotten the fact that Sri Lanka had suffered untold misery for almost three decades due to ruthless terrorism unleashed by the LTTE, world’s most ruthless terrorist organisation. After battling terrorism for three years in the humanitarian operation – the world’s largest human rescue mission, over half a million civilians were rescued from the jaws of death.

The most noteworthy achievement after the successful completion of the humanitarian operation on May 18, 2009 was that not a single person died in Sri Lanka due to terrorism. Moreover, all displaced civilians have been resettled after demining the LTTE-held areas. They received a new lease of life as the Government had invested four billion rupees on infrastructure development in the North.

Sri Lanka has embarked on an ambitious reconciliation drive by implementing the National Plan of Action of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). It is a crying shame that certain Western countries which pontificate to us on reconciliation had failed to behold the peaceful coexistence of all communities after terrorism was eradicated.

Notwithstanding these remarkable achievements, the obsession shown by some leaders, in the call for action on Sri Lanka, only bears out their hidden agenda in relentlessly targeting Sri Lanka, to placate pro-LTTE Tamil constituencies, for collateral electoral political gain. The baseless Resolution and any further action would only impede reconciliation now under way.

There is no rationale whatsoever to justify the call for a third successive US-led resolution on Sri Lanka during the UNHRC’s current session. The Government will continue to engage with all parties to seek a constructive dialogue on how to move reconciliation in Sri Lanka forward.

It is earnestly hoped that this spirit of engagement will be reciprocated, and that member and observer states of the UNHRC will perceive development in Sri Lanka with an open mind. Nevertheless, disgruntled international elements would by no means be tolerated in the guise of reconciliation.

The US intention to present the third successive Resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions was made known to the Government only in January, long before the UNHRC chief’s report was available. This is a clear indication that it was led by political imperatives, rather than an objective assessment of the situation on the ground situation as the UNHRC mandate, would need to base its assessment on Navi Pillay’s Report.

Sri Lanka has categorically rejected the recommendations in Pillay’s latest report, which reflected bias, and was tantamount to an unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. The Report itself contained substantial erroneous information and misperceptions and Sri Lanka called upon the OHCHR to correct through its Comments of the State on the Report which has been made public, though not reflected as an Addendum to the Report.

Sri Lanka was amazed by the violation of the UNHRC procedure envisaged by this draft which is in clear contravention of the rules of procedure and the method of engagement that guide the Council. The draft resolution is an unjustified endeavour to vest the Office of the High Commissioner with an investigative mandate, monitoring and assessment. These run contrary to the UNHRC Resolution 60/251, the IB package and Resolution GA 48/141.

Hence, Sri Lanka has rejected in toto such disingenuous efforts on the part of the proponents of the resolution to by-pass the method of engagement of the Council, which could not only set bad precedents, but also have wider relevance to all member and observer states of the Council.

It is crystal clear that the new draft resolution, which violates the constitution of Sri Lanka, is highly intrusive and is in breach of the sovereignty of the Sri Lankan people and the country’s territorial integrity. It also goes against, the core values of the UDHR, core international human rights treaties and basic principles of law that postulate equality among all people, the GA resolution 60/251 and the IB package.

Hence, the proponents of the resolution should take cognizance of the reconciliation in Sri Lanka. This is imperative at a time when Sri Lanka is implementing comprehensive reconciliation with all communities, having overcome the scourge of terrorism after a 30-year struggle.

This type of intimidation would not only be confined to Sri Lanka and would also pose a challenge to other sovereign states which are smaller in extent and with limited firepower. In this scenario, all Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states must continue to show their solidarity with Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s opposition to the Resolution was a fight on a matter of principle and Sri Lanka would not compromise on it. The member states of NAM should realise that what happens to Sri Lanka today, could happen to any other NAM country tomorrow.

Sri Lanka, over the years, continued to engage with the international community and needed no Resolutions encouraging it to do so. During that time too, Sri Lanka briefed various groups and shared information in a transparent manner.

Quite apart from the successful demining of the areas held by the terrorists and the speedy resettlement of persons displaced due to LTTE terror, Sri Lanka has rehabilitated around 12,000 ex-combatants and former child soldiers have been reunited with their families while others have been provided with a tertiary education within five years.

No other country, for that matter, had achieved such unique goals after the bitter battlefield experience. One is at a loss to understand as to what the West expects of us in the guise of reconciliation. Can they coerce Sri Lanka to perform miracles overnight?

 

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Another point of view ! Media and the suffering of the Tamil people-


True report from a Tamil Journalist for the UN & Tamil Diaspora
.

 By Noel Nadesan - Courtesy Daily Mirror

 

 As a Tamil domiciled in Australia I served the Tamil community by editing the only Tamil community newspaper, UTHAYAM. I ran it for 14 years My experiences in dealing with the Tamil community, both in Australia and in Sri Lanka, make me feel sad about the callous way in which the media is exploiting the suffering of our Tamil people for self-serving ends. I think I could speak as an independent voice with no allegiances to the politics of either community or political parties. My main concern has been to help our Tamils in Sri Lanka who had to face the brunt of all attacks from the Indians soldiers, Sri Lankan forces and, above all, the so-called Tamil liberators, the LTTE. I have just completed building a small hospital in the island of Eluvaitivu, in which I grew up and, sooner or later, I plan to go back to serve our Tamil people who are desperately in need of help.

              It is against this background that I thought of forwarding my comments to you after viewing the re-broadcast of Channel 4 programme, The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka. I must confess I felt depressed and I could not sleep that night. I have recovered since then and I feel I must send you my comments for your consideration because I feel that you aired it to exploit the suffering of our people whose need of the hour is not to rake up the bloody past but to find a way out of the past.

       I fail to see how your programme could help the victims of the war – if that was your intention – when their immediate and long-term needs are to regain a future free from these. The sensationalism certainly may help the ratings of Channel 4 and BBC but how will it help our people? Our people who lived through the horrors of the futile war know that this is only one side of the story. Our Tamil leaders have informed the world that the LTTE has killed more Tamils than all the other forces – Indian, Sri Lankan and rival Tamil parties – put together. The moralizings of the media lacks credibility because our people who lived through the horrors of the war know who killed whom in what manner. Leaving aside the die-hard partisans, our people know that the LTTE was a cruel and beastly outfit they had never encountered in living memory – and do not want to encounter in all their lives to come.                         

           Undoubtedly, there are Tamils who are jubilant about this broadcast because they are aligned politically to the side (i.e., the LTTE) that perpetrated the worst crimes against the Tamils. If Channel 4 produced a film of the atrocities committed by the LTTE against their own people and the other communities throughout the 33-year-old war – the longest running in Asia – it would shock the world beyond belief. Then there is the documented story of Velupillai Prabhakaran herding nearly 300,000 Tamil civilians to serve as his human shield when he was retreating. In the last stages he shot the Tamils who were running away from him into the arms of the Sri Lankan forces who were commended or their humanitarian services by the Ban Ki-moon’s expert panel and even by Gordon Weiss. Any Tamil who was in Prabhakaran’s human shield will tell you that the Sri Lankan force treated them humanely than the LTTE cadres. 

                  The atrocities committed by the LTTE are numerous. Why didn’t Channel 4 balance their story with the other side? Yes, there were passing references to LTTE atrocities but you will agree that the blame was put entirely on the Sri Lankan government. Is this fair journalism?  It was a controversial document in which the best of experts disagreed on the authenticity and the accuracy of the contents. For instance, Channel 4 showed images of a young man who was tied to a tree, threatened with a knife and subsequently killed. I was told by sources in the Wanni that this was an LTTE operation and pictures were taken for propaganda purposes by LTTE.

               Have a close look and you will find among the so-called soldiers a man in slippers. Sri Lankan soldiers never go about in slippers when they go out on operations.  Those who know both sides of the story were appalled by your decision to air a partisan video. Despite occasional references to the LTTE the main thrust of the video was to blame the Sri Lankan government. You were aware of this gross distortion and you went ahead because it fitted into your biased political agenda. As stated by the London Sunday Times, it was shoddy journalism unworthy of a reputed media institution like the BBC. Take the case of Suthanthirapuram which was declared as the first No-Fire Zone for the civilians. The LTTE moved their radio station and artillery unit to fire at Army points from NFZ. They were also firing at the advancing army from close proximity to the hospital or make-shift hospital. The AGA Parthipan and Dr Shanmugaraja can confirm this. I will quote another incident. When former EROS leader Balakumar and his family , who worked with LTTE for many years, tried to flee in a boat in Mullaitivu in 29th April   2009, the LTTE, knowing very well who he was, fired at them. His young daughter was critically injured and the bullets tore her forearm. Her hand is yet to heal.  

                These are facts  How do I know all this? I travelled Sri Lanka seven times last two  years widely in war zones in Wanni and talked to the victims who were trapped in the war zones. They knew that they were targeted both sides and they could not comprehend why the LTTE should expose to retaliatory fire in the NFZ. They could not understand why the LTTE turned the NFZ into a war zone.  The agents of LTTE in the Tamil diaspora also shed a lot of crocodile tears about the 300,000 IDPs. They described the IDP camps as concentration camps. Knowing the general conditions under which Sri Lankans live I can assure you that the conditions of the Tamils, particularly in the  in the IDP camps, were far superior to the slums of Colombo or even the conditions of the Sinhala villagers and hill country Tamils in remote areas. Even the Tamil MPs of Tamil Nadu and Indian journalists who visited the camps were convinced that the Sri Lankan authorities had done a very good job under trying conditions.

             Besides a comparison with the manner in which the government treated the Sinhala JVP rebels who took up arms in 1971 will reveal that the LTTErs received far better treatment than the JVPers. Most of them were incarcerated for more than four years.  However, I wish to emphasize that at this stage the government has to accept responsibility for their share of the civilian casualties and apologise for that and compensate the next of kin. In calling for justice it is fair and just to hold the leaders in the Tamil expatriate groups who financed, lobbied, and gave moral and material support to the LTTE to prolong their futile war. They too are liable for aiding and abetting a banned terrorist group. Justice demands that these leaders, posing as human rights activists in Western bases, too should be tried  for the crimes committed by the LTTE against their own people. On balance, it must be conceded that the elimination of the ruthless LTTE outfit was commendable. What Prabhakaran did to Sri Lanka was 100 time worse that Al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden did to America. Like America any democratic country had the right to eliminate threats to its sovereignty, peace and stability, transgressing, if necessary, international humanitarian law and international law. 

             India did it in Punjab and continues to do so in Kashmir. Russians did it in Chechnya. NATO allies are doing the same thing in Libya. America has done it in their war against Al Quaeda since 9/11. At the end of it all Sri Lankan Tamils now realise that their destiny is inextricably linked with Sri Lanka and Sinhala people. Violence is not the way out. It was the LTTE who sought the military solution and started the war- they have reaped the bloody harvest they sowed. Now we must genuinely commit themselves to the paths of peace, reconstruction and rehabilitation because violence will not lead anywhere except to the destruction of the remaining Tamils in the north and the east.

Dr. Noel Nadesan is Editor of the UTHAYAM.

 

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U.S. Senate Resolution: Sri Lanka’s Rare Display of Public Diplomacy

By Daya Gamage – Asian Tribune US National Correspondent
Washington, D.C. 08 March (Asiantribune.com):

At a time Sri Lanka is battling the rise of ‘Global Diplomatic Insurgency’, well replenished by the former acolytes of Prabhaharan’s terror-separatist group LTTE who are now covertly and overtly advocating a bifurcation of Sri Lanka within the Tamil Diaspora, Sri Lanka has displayed a rare public diplomacy victory in engaging in a fruitful dialogue with a group of U.S. Senators to move a resolution to bring the U.S. and Sri Lanka to the same page on ‘national issues’ concerning this South Asian nation.

The significance is that the Senate Republican Resolution moved and tabled on 27 February urges the Obama White House to recognize Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and maintain relations to safeguard it. The movers of the resolution expect the State Department to take note of what they have written in it.

The great Latin American revolutionary and Cuba’s most famous thinker Jose Marti in 1894 said: “Seeing afterwards is worthless. Foreseeing is what really counts…and being ready”.

The evidence is that the handlers of Sri Lanka’s external affairs and its Washington diplomatic facility seem to have done just that, to the delight of this Online Newspaper which has been advocating to use public affairs, public diplomacy and strategic communication in a more effective manner to ‘explain Sri Lanka’ to the rest of the world who have succumbed to misinformation, misrepresentation, half-truths and diabolical falsehood to haul the country all way to Geneva.

Unlike previous Senate Resolutions, one of which was on 6 February this year three weeks before the current one, Resolution 364 advocates a domestic mechanism rather than an international mechanism to ascertain the nature of the execution of the war during the final months in 2009.

Sri Lanka’s Washington diplomatic post moved forward in securing this language in the resolution, a rare triumph to this South Asian nation which has been battling the ‘Giants’ in the international community to safeguard her image in the globe.

Sri Lanka’s ambassador in Washington Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya has thanked the U.S. Senators who introduced Senate Resolution 364 recognizing Sri Lanka’s success in restoration of democracy , rebuilding and reconciliation after the dawn of peace since 2009.

In a letter addressed to the Senators, the Ambassador called the resolution a very a positive gesture of goodwill and understanding towards Sri Lanka from these senior representatives of the American people. He underscored the facts enumerated in the Resolution such as the continued peace in the entire country , restoration of democracy and the concrete steps taken towards reconciliation that represent the true situation in Sri Lanka.

” I wanted to express my gratitude to you for co-sponsoring Senate Resolution 364. This resolution is a fair and balanced and one that reflects the actual progress made by the Government of Sri Lanka”, Ambassador Wickramasuriya said in the letter.

The Ambassador is also of the view that adopting such a positive resolution on Sri Lanka by US Senators would certainly be seen in Sri Lanka as moral encouragement to continue the process of healing and reconciliation.

“I am appreciative that this resolution acknowledges the establishment of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission and the multitude of categories it addresses. This resolution is a historically significant piece of legislation that I believe will enhance the US – Sri Lanka relationship’.

Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya also thanks all Sri Lankan-Americans who have been tirelessly working to keep their legislators informed about the true story on Sri Lanka. He opines the Senate Resolution 364 is clear evidence that their endeavors have been successful.

Further, Ambassador Wickramasuriya requests the Sri Lankan community to continue updating their political representatives in the U.S. on the current positive developments in Sri Lanka and encourage them to visit the country and see the progress for themselves.

The Resolution Calls on President Obama to adopt balanced & comprehensive policy towards Sri Lanka.

Eleven senior Members of the United States Senate introduced a bipartisan Senate Resolution (S. Res. 364) on Thursday, Feb 27 expressing support for Sri Lanka’s internal reconciliation process and the significant overall progress the Country has made since the end of the civil war–some 5 years ago.

The Senators also called on the President of the United States to develop a “comprehensive and well balanced policy towards Sri Lanka”, supportive of promoting U.S. interests including respect for human rights, democracy the rule of law as well as taking onto account the United States economic and security interests.

Senate Resolution 364 recognizes the immense suffering of the Sri Lankan people caused by the 26-year conflict, and the genuine aspiration of the government to prevent any outside force from triggering a reemergence of similar situations that are now behind us; but instead look to the future through enhanced national unity and reconciliation . A special recognition has been given to the establishment of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and the significance of implementing its recommendations.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the LLRC in May 2010, following the end of the three decade long terrorist conflict. The Commission Report was released in November 2011 and tabled in the Parliament in December 2011. The Cabinet of Ministers approved the National Plan of Action to implement the recommendations of the LLRC in July 2012.

Senate Resolution 364 underscores that the Government of Sri Lanka has made significant progress in implementing the LLRC recommendations within a limited time. With a special reference to the first ever elections held in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka in September 2013, the Resolution commends the reestablishment of representative democracy in the conflict-ridden areas through elections.

“ …the elections allowed the people of the North of Sri Lanka to exercise their political rights that had been withheld from them for more than 20 years by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and resulted in a clear victory for the provincial wing of the Tamil National Alliance”

The Resolution however remains concerned over possible restrictions to the media freedom and religious freedom of Sri Lanka. It highlights that a peaceful and just society reconciled through a political settlement addressing the needs of all ethnic group should be achieved by a process driven by the people of Sri Lanka themselves.

The Resolution calls on the United States Government and the International community to offer meaningful assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka to make its domestic endeavors toward reconciliation more effective, while respecting the country’s sovereignty, stability and security.

The Resolution encourages Sri Lanka to consider a mechanism similar to the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission to heal the wounds of war. The Government of Sri Lanka is further urged to take necessary steps to improve religious and media freedom in the country.

The Asian Tribune considers this a very positive development toward Sri Lanka undertaken by Washington’s Sri Lanka diplomatic mission and to the delight of this Online Daily Newspaper which has continually advocated the adoption of a sharp diplomatic reach to negate the maneuvers of activists/professionals within the Tamil Diaspora who were once supplying ‘Material Support’ to the lethal terrorist movement Tamil Tigers in the form of raising funds, providing expert advice, propagating the LTTE agenda and promoting the procurement of military weapons all of which were in violating United Stated Federal Laws.

- Asian Tribune -

The U.S. Capitol Building which houses the Senate and House
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