On the eve of a visit by Robert Blake, US Under Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and former US ambassador to Sri Lanka, it’s time to turn the turn the tables and ask a few questions of our own.
To Mr. Robert Blake, Sri Lankans want to know:
There are confusions related to the context of terrorism, internally displaced, rehabilitation, reintegration, resettlement, human rights violations & the like – questions which the US, UK, EU, UN & a host of private NGOs seem to enjoy hurling at Sri Lanka & accusing it repeatedly. Despite these questions being thrown at the Sri Lankan Government from various fronts, the Government being elected by the people, who mean us the public, we would now like to have some answers from you.
Is the LTTE a terrorist organization? Is the LTTE not proscribed by US, UK & EU making 32 countries to include the LTTE as a terrorist organization? If so, what stops your government from taking actions against all private movements, organizations including charities that openly promote & continue to administer LTTE terrorism on foreign soil? What is the US Governments stand on the Transnational Government another arm of the LTTE now set up because these operators desire to continue clandestine activities that include money laundering, narcotics, illegal prostitution, human smuggling & collection of funds to be shared amongst its directorates!
Was Saddam Hussein a terrorist for the US to launch “Operation Iraqi Freedom” in 2003? If not why did 198,200 troops invade Iraq? Was there WMDs? If Saddam was reason for US & allies to invade Iraq & he was captured on 13th December 2003 why did the US remain in Iraq?
A recent study by the Center for Public Integrity, top Bush Administration officials told at least 935 lies about Iraq on 532 separate occasions. These included 259 lies by Bush, 254 lies by Secretary of State Colin Powell, 109 lies by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 109 lies by Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, 56 lies by National Security Advisor Condi Rice, and 48 lies by Vice President Cheney.
US has failed to resettle the Iraqi IDPs
Despite the capture of Saddam in December 2003, 200,000 Iraqi’s were displaced in 2003-2005. Since February 2006, an additional 1,552,003 million Iraqis have been displaced. If the ouster of Saddam was the main objective & with him captured what has delayed US & allies from taking care of the internally displaced, resettling them? There are close to 4million Iraqi’s displaced today & the displaced figures are ironically rising since 2003 (2million displaced inside Iraq & 2million Iraqis living as refugees in other countries). Why has the US & allies not paid attention to the resettlement of these innocent Iraqi people? Mr. Blake, are you aware that these 2million internally displaced have no incomes to rely on and are running out of coping mechanisms & the “saviors” seem not to care? According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 70 per cent of IDPs are women and children Results from a recent Oxfam survey of donors show that 2006 funding for humanitarian assistance fell alarmingly to $95m despite the evident increase in need. Has the US & allies forgotten The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement 44 presented to the UN in 1998 describe the rights of the internally displaced at all stages of their displacement, right up to their safe return or resettlement, and also cover the prevention of displacement.
Sri Lanka for almost 30 years gave a terrorist organization more chances than any other country would – with innumerable ceasefires, peace negotiations & even foreign trips. Not only did Sri Lanka eliminate a terrorist organization within 3 years, but also Sri Lanka has within 2 years resettled practically all of the 294,000 IDPs except around 3000 who apparently prefer to enjoy free meals, accommodation & other facilities afforded by the Government without going & starting life afresh.
However, it is poignant that the US & allies first attend to completing the promise given to the people of Iraq that the US & allies would rid Iraq of their dictator & deliver normalcy & democracy to Iraq but in reality what have the US & allies given to the Iraqis?
Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 per cent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 per cent in 2004.
Forty-three per cent of Iraqis suffer from ‘absolute poverty – half the population are said to be without work. It is believed that the money has no other option but to take to prostitution exactly as what is happening in Kosovo. Female trafficking has become a lucrative business many virgin teenage girls are sold for around 5,000 dollars, and trafficked to destinations like northern Iraq, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. The estimated child prostitutes are around the 50,000 figure & they are as young as 13 years.
Mr. Blake, are you aware that child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 % before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 %. More than 11 per cent of newborn babies were born underweight in 2006, compared with 4 per cent in 2003. Of the 180 hospitals countrywide, 90 per cent lack key resources including basic medical and surgical supplies.
The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003. There is a massive brain drain – 40% of doctors, medical staff, teachers, engineers & other professionals have all fled Iraq…why should they when Iraq is now free of their dictator Saddam…? One survey found that 92 per cent of children had learning impediments that are largely attributable to the current climate of fear. Over 800,000 children may now be out of school, according to a recent estimate by Save the Children UK – up from 600,000 in 2004.
Yet with foreign armies in Iraq & so many NGOs – a good question to ask is what are they all doing? Prior to 2003 there were only a handful of NGOs operating in Iraq today there are over 11,000 NGOs (The ministry of civil society estimates that only around 3000 of these are registered & legitimate) The same scenario exists in Sri Lanka.
It is believed that Iraq’s oil prompted the concocted invasion in Iraq. Halliburton (its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), formerly headed by the US Vice President Dick Cheney has been awarded the USD18bilion military and oil service contracts.
Treatment of prisoners
Guantanamo Bay & Diego Garcia are just a few of the known prisons in which the US keeps prisoners. They do not have rights. They are detained indefinitely without charge or trial most of them scooped from a foreign country & taken on private planes across the oceans & brought to these prisons unknown to anyone. The US government claims they can neither be released nor prosecuted. There are 3000 such “suspected” terrorists. Rape, sodomy with foreign objects, the use of unmuzzled dogs to bite and severely injure prisoners, and beating prisoners to death have been documented at Abu Ghraib. Women beg their families to smuggle poison into the prisons so they could kill themselves because of the humiliation they suffered.
Mr. Blake, have the US forgotten that it has ratified the CAT Treaty – Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Torture, inhuman treatment, and willful killing are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions treaties ratified by the United States. Grave breaches of Geneva are considered war crimes under the U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996. American nationals who commit war crimes abroad can receive life in prison or even the death penalty if the victim dies. But we know that some Americans denounces the tortures & cruelty the US government is involved in – 300 lawyers, retired judges, and law professors (including this writer), a former FBI director, an ex-Attorney General, and seven past presidents of the American Bar Association signed one such memo. Afterall there was no war in Iraq – it was only invaded on a false allegation – Saddam was no terrorist – he was earlier a CIA agent just like Osama bin Laden. The American media has managed to keep these facts away from the American public & America remains a nation hypnotized into believing lies.
In a country that boasts of equality, freedom & human rights – what can you say about 1200 Arabs, Muslims, South Asians being rounded up following 9/11 clearly racial profiling. A report compiled by the Dept of Justices Office of the Inspector General into allegations of physical & verbal abuse on non-citizen prisoners by the Federal Bureau of Prisons found that several Metropolitan Detention Center staff had slammed and bounced detainees into the walls, twisted or bent their arms, hands, wrists, or fingers, pulled their thumbs back, tripped them, and dragged them on the floor & verbally abused them. How could such happen in the freest country called America?
Contrast this with Sri Lanka. Yes, we had a movement called the LTTE – it was not a group fighting against the Sinhalese this can be clearly proven in the scores of Tamils that the LTTE killed starting off with the Jaffna Mayor – Duraiappah, including scores of Tamil politicians, teachers, clergy including Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadiragamar. By killing these moderate thinking Tamil politicians the LTTE managed to scare the life of the other Tamil politicians who had no other choice but to parrot what the LTTE wanted to save their lives. Moreover, LTTE was a unit that actually kidnapped the “separatist” theme from the ITAK political party (Illankai Tamil Arassu Katchchi formed in the 1940s promoting separatist state in Sri Lanka) LTTE was given oxygen by our own neighbor India & a country now pretending to be our friend & thinking Sri Lankans will forget 30 years of terror activated & promoted by India! If Sri Lanka cannot assert its sovereignty alone, India should never be an option ever. We will not forget or forgive India & whatever forms of diplomatic & economic ties India wishes to establish the majority people will never forget the India-LTTE links. We are not naïve to buy the India changed after Rajiv Gandhi death excuse – Rajiv died in 1991, over 20 years ago. India had the power & ability to help Sri Lanka eliminate the LTTE no sooner Rajiv died – that India didn’t & preferred to use the LTTE against Sri Lanka shows Sri Lanka that India can never be trusted.
The LTTE collapse came in May 2009 – the army captured LTTE troops while others gave themselves up in an unprecedented humanitarian rescue operation that on account of its magnanimity Western nations stand shocked & their defense is to only point shortcomings above the magnanimity of that rescue operation. All the while if killing or orders to kill was the prerogative why would Sri Lankan governmental soldiers sacrifice their own lives when they could have easily shot dead every one in sight. Why would they remotely undergo hardships to literary carry women, children & men to safety on the ground as well as through the marshy lagoon?
The Sri Lankan government has spent USD2.5b on rehabilitation. 11,700 LTTE cadres surrendered…if there had been orders to kill would they have been alive? Of this number 7969 have been released, 2879, are being rehabilitated in camps. That rehabilitation covers mason skills, handicraft work and paintings as well as vocational, language and communication training to improve their skills and their educational knowledge. What did the LTTE teach them – only to kill. In 2010 within a year after the victory of the LTTE 400 rehabilitated female LTTE cadres received employment at a garment factory. In 2011 One hundred and eight former members of LTTE sat for the GCE Advanced Level examination while over 50% of rehabilitated ex-combatants had successfully completed the GCE Ordinary Level in 2010. Last month (August 2011) 152 former LTTE cadres who had undergone rehabilitation were handed over to their families at the Vavuniya Cultural Center. It was in 2010 that over 100 former LTTE cadres were given marriage in a wedding ceremony organized by the Sri Lanka Army. While all efforts are being taken by Sri Lanka to rehabilitate men, women & children who were made into killers by a terror outfit called the LTTE helped by foreign governments & clandestine operators, LTTE cadres who escaped from Sri Lanka are being rounded up in an attempt to resurrect a now dead movement – ironically Tamil Nadu resurfaces as its training base.
The future of this ambitious plan lies in the hands of the Tamil people who need to seriously ask themselves if they are Sri Lankans or Indians. Indians in particular Tamil Nadu may liken the Tamils in Sri Lanka as part of their own but of late the issues rising as a result of Indian fishermen coming into Sri Lankan waters does not show much affinity towards their own people. Fishing is the livelihood of Sri Lankan Tamils & Tamil Nadu fishermen forcibly coming into fish on Sri Lankan shores are doing more harm than good to their own people. Moreover, if Tamils think that India has answers to their problems it would be prudent for India to offer them Indian citizenship. There is no point living in Sri Lanka if their heart is in India.
While we are on the same topic it is good to remind the Tamil politicians that they should apply for citizenship first if they feel they need to rush all the time to India for advice on how they should bargain with the Sri Lankan government! If discrimination is the tagline used, it is good for the West to go through perhaps over 200 flats & condominiums built by Tamils & ask if they will rent them out to Sinhalese & openly they will say they rent to only Tamils! This may not be discrimination against the Sinhalese to the West! Yet we seem to be eager to ask Diaspora to come & help – this is the same Diaspora that wanted their Tamil people to take to arms instead of going to study & becoming somebody in life while their own children attended foreign schools & worked abroad.
Our President made Sri Lanka a promise – to get rid of terrorism in Sri Lanka. He braved the storms that came from diplomatic fronts to provide that freedom. Today, no one can deny that the country is free of bombs & suicide missions. This is what all Sri Lankans wanted & what we were delivered. Taking care of the other ills is left to us the citizens. Where were the world leaders when the LTTE struck on innocent men, women & children through 30 years? We needed more than just diplomatic statements of sympathy following such bombings. The West takes no share in the liberty that we are now enjoying & all we can ask is that the countries that the West has invaded should not be penalized any further. They are all innocent people.
US & allies promised the end of a dictator in Iraq in 2003. 8 years on the Iraqi people are far worse when Saddam was ruling & the US economy is in total ruin. Trillions in debt can the US literally “afford” to dictate to others? The costs of these trips can best be put to the kitty to rescue the US from debt!