Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sri Lanka: LTTE - the international community's double standards

By: Manisha Fernando
Source: Ministry of Defence, Public Security, Law & Order - Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

'Its your world' - Terrorism in Sri Lanka and the international community

Sri Lanka is on the brink of finally ending a bleak era of terrorism that was purported by the LTTE, a ruthless terrorist group for nearly 30 years. The LTTE is an internationally proscribed terrorist organization, an honour they have sincerely earned through sheer hard work specializing in the acts of terrorism defined by various legislatures across the world. To name a few, these include the genocide of several tens and thousands of remote Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim villagers butchered in cold blood; illegal shipment of arms across international borders; training of guerilla fighters for clandestine groups who are no doubt fighting for the same rights as the LTTE; suicide attacks; destruction of economic property; political assassinations (i.e. Rajiv Gandhi, Ranasinghe Premadasa, and over 30 Tamil politicians), extortion and finally crowing it by mobilizing and availing of the largest human shield to stall the military forces from wiping them out completely.

Whilst the UN, US and EU nations have resorted to call the LTTE as 'rebels', they seem to be apprehensive to term other militant groups (Al-Qaida, Taliban etc.) engaged in similar activities, as rebels or freedom fighters. It is extremely funny that the world has two different terminologies for terrorists. If the justification lies in the fact that Taliban and Al-Qaida operate at global level and that LTTE does not, then it would be wise to recollect the LTTE members caught red handed in USA and Canada procuring arms, engaged in extortions, pro-LTTE demonstrations and damage to the foreign consulates of Sri Lanka and India in Norway and UK.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq is described by many as a ruthless and fabricated 'war' carried out without any concern for repercussions on civilians. According to records and reports, the invasion in March, 2003, was spearheaded by the United States, backed by British and smaller contingents from Australia, Spain, Poland and Denmark. The invasion and the resulting turmoil which ranged from torture, murder, rape and genocide was later heard through the world media with live footage, photos and confessions of troops.

Several key points should be noted here - The UN states that the invasion of Iraq by the US was not sanctioned. But did the UN genuinely attempt to make the US redeem for their act? All they did was make statements, especially when the world began to see the fabrications falling apart and mounting public pressure, by expressing concern for human rights violations that took place in the aftermath! At the initial stages, some of the permanent members of the Security Council - the French and the British made allegations to support the invasion, but these are now proved to be nothing but pies in the sky and not even closer to the so called weapons of mass destruction!

The inaction of the UN or the US congress to halt deterioration of human rights was not visible in the same vigour and form that other countries are forced to adhere when dealing with terrorism. Even in the wake of impunity for human life by the US military, the UN did not voice any objections. For example, the US military spokesman Major Brad Leighton told AFP, "We regret when civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces search to rid Iraq of terrorism." This implies that the US military acknowledged the fact that civilian deaths are part and parcel of their strategy to eradicate terrorism. There are numerous occasions where the coalition forces had shot and bombed civilians, assuming them to be terrorists and which have simply been shunned away by passive acknowledgements from US representatives stating that they had bombed on available ground information, but which eventually turned out to be nothing but unarmed civilians. Even these apologies are blurted after the media aired an incident. This shows the little effort taken to ensure a low civilian casualty rate in the onslaught against terror by the US or the UN. (E.g. U.S. says 15 Iraqi civilians killed in raid against militants - Nineteen suspected insurgents also were slain in the operation. Elsewhere, bombings leave 12 people dead, by Christian Berthelsen, October 12, 2007; U.S. military acknowledges Iraqi civilians killed - The statement reverses earlier claims that victims were suspected militants, by Associated Press, updated 4:52 p.m. ET July 27, 2008).

It is amusing to note that in the backdrop of human right violations by the US, the current Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton was a senator in the US congress. Today, she has the stomach to call on Sri Lanka and accuse this nation of causing grave civilian deaths and grossly violating human rights. Perhaps she must be under a misconception that she personally had nothing to do with the US war on terror, and temporary amnesia that her inaction to shout out for human rights then, would save over 90,000 Iraqi civilians. She is also blind to the fact that the US deploys drones to attack alleged militants in the vicinity of civilians, in contrast to the interceptor tactics of the SL military to attack identified LTTE units who are using a civilian shield.

In this context, Hilary Clinton should take note that from the very off-set of the humanitarian operation, the Sri Lankan forces had deliberately used a zero civilian casualty approach, which obviously cost the military the lives of several soldiers - a contrasting element to the retaliation of coalition forces in Iraq against civilians and militants. 03 years after the US invasion, the BBC correspondent David Gritton puts the civilian casualties at 37,800 (article: "Iraqi civilian deaths shrouded in secrecy"), and today (6 years after), it stands around 91,586 - 99,991 ( This number is almost equal, if not less than the number of Tamil hostages the SL military rescued from the LTTE tyranny.

If Hilary did absolutely nothing to intervene and stop these civilian casualties in other parts of the world, resulting from the repercussions of the US activities, what right has she to intervene in internal matters of Sri Lanka, under the pretext of human rights or lives? Why did she not request the Taliban or Al-Qaida to surrender to a third party, if that would save lives? How can this individual assume that these terrorist groups would not surrender and that the LTTE would? Perhaps rather than making unwarranted hypocritical comments, she should consider this an opportunity to rally up the pro-LTTE diaspora in her country and contribute to re-establish the lives of their own brethren here.

Soon after the Mumbai attacks, David Miliband visited India and wrote in an article, "Resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms, and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders." Obviously, this insinuation sparked an angry response by the Indian government as it has been India's long stand not to accept any third party in the dispute of Kashmir. This is a very good example of how deliberate statements of a few international figures can create chaos among nations and ethnic unrest among communities. In fact, historians give credit to the British for creating most of the internal conflicts in countries which were under British Colonial rule (Eg. Rhodesia, India -Pakistan issue, Sri Lanka etc.) Some historians view the current Kashmir conflict as a job well done by the British to create instability in South Asia, and halt development of two nations with great potential - who were instead bound by communal and cultural disharmony!

Having said that, why would the same David be interested in interfering with a national issue in Sri Lankan soil? Undoubtedly, we will be privy to the answer soon! However, Miliband has come under pressure from UK MPs and several non-profit organizations to regulate the Private Military Companies (PMCs) in the UK. Yet, Miliband is reported to have described the MPC industry as "essential" and recommended self-regulation only. Some economic analysts say that this PMC industry is now a 100 billion dollar industry in UK, and that these companies can be deployed as mercenaries and security consultation groups for nations which require "intervention". So could it be that there are conflicts of interest in his agenda for developing nations such as Sri Lanka.

According to foreign media reports, David has also called on the Sri Lanka military to halt its operations and allow a British-French joint humanitarian rescue mission to free trapped civilians. This suggestion came only after the SL military rescued over 114,000 Tamil civilians held as hostage by the LTTE. It simply can't be a result of bureaucratic delays that took him so long to figure out the need for such a rescue mission, therefore it is more likely the lobbying of the pro-LTTE diaspora of the two countries had prompted the decision. Or perhaps other motives of vested interest can be hypothetically assumed such as making it an opportunity to embark on fuel explorations in the Eastern coast of Sri Lanka with a pact with the LTTE and/or the use of PMCs for whatever reasons in this part of the world.

Miliband is joined by his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner. Publicity for Bernard can be interpreted by some quarters as an effort to gain public acceptance for him to become the head of the EU in the near future. Media reports indicate that Bernard Kouchner has been the mastermind behind the rebuilding of French relations with US (post Iraq conflict), and the catalyst of various actions and resolutions adopted by EU members. French reports show that his publicity is indeed growing as he is a proactive individual, and an ally of the large number of immigrants domiciled in France.

Yet he is now in Sri Lanka, apparently on a mission to rescue the trapped civilians who he believes are being killed in the effort to eradicate terrorism. His convictions seem to be backed purely on biases and not on facts, as he has not mentioned nor acknowledged the rescue of more than 100,000 Tamil civilians during the past few days. Despite being a co-founder for the MSF (M‚decins sans FrontiŠres), Kouchner has in the past made some interesting remarks, which apparently are not in line with practitioners of medicine and the art of human rights! One such was published in an editorial with Antoine Veil in Le Monde on 4th February, 2003, titled "Neither War nor Saddam", where he said he was opposed to the impending War in Iraq, but in favour of removing a dictator like Saddam Hussein. He is one of the very few advocates who favoured the US invasion of Iraq, and the resulting civilian casualties.

Yet this is not astonishing, for a man like Kouchner, who had once revealed to the Dutch Magazine, Vrij Nederland that, "When people were suffering too much and I knew they were going to die I helped them. I did that in Lebanon, I did that in Vietnam. I gave injections to people, never pills, injections with lots of morphine". He had stated this when he was the health minister in 2001. The world wonders how a man of such attitude gets the right to talk of human rights and killings!

Another, instance of Kouchner's empathy towards human life and human rights were displayed when he called the nurse Christine MalŠvre "an angel of mercy", when she was arrested and charged with killing up to 30 terminally ill patients at a hospital in a Paris suburb in 1998. She was sentenced to 10 years in jail for murder. (It is also joked that when Kouchner's colleague in government, the then interior minister Jean-Pierre ChevŠnement, fell into a coma after a routine operation later in 1998, his first words on regaining consciousness were: "Keep that man Kouchner away from my bedside." !!!). Perhaps Kouchner now feels that the LTTE's action towards the Tamil civilians by using them as a human shield was 'an act of mercy', since they would any how die out of malnutrition, child conscriptions or as suicide bombs in the hand of the LTTE!!!

Besides Sri Lanka, Kouchner's foreign infatuations lie with Iran and he is reported to have said that war in Iran is 'inevitable' and later, back-peddled by stating that "The worst situation would be war, and to avoid the worst, the French position is very clear: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate," - after criticism from his own government and Iran. (Refer news items published by the CNN, BBC and Newser on September 17th and 18th, 2007). Kouchner - a man who wages war, but is opposed to it... a man who does not believe in killing civilians, but in acts of mercy!

Last but not least to intervene in internal matters of Sri Lanka is the UN. The Security Council is made up of 15 member states, consisting of 5 permanent members - China, France, Russia, UK and the US, and 10 non-permanent members, currently Austria, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Japan, Libya, Mexico, Turkey, Uganda, and Vietnam. The five permanent members hold veto power over substantive but not procedural resolutions allowing a permanent member to block adoption but not to block the debate of a resolution unacceptable to it. The recent visit of UN's humanitarian chief, John Holmes is subsequent to vetoes on the Sri Lankan issue.

Strangely, Sri Lanka has had diplomatic visits of 3 of the UN's Security Council's permanent members! Why would the UN be concerned about human rights in Sri Lanka, when it had been blind to the civilian deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and Africa, the instability of governments of nations where the UN intervention was felt after the WWII, and the violations committed in foreign nations against the consulates of other nations. Some accuse the UN of being a front for the US, UK and French interests, the Allied Powers during the WWII, and claim that UN is trying to force pro-US governments in member states. The John Birch Society, which began a "get US out of the UN" campaign in 1959, charged that the UN's aim was to establish a "One World Government."

In fact, some of the statements of US leaders and politicians show that they have very little regard for the UN - Richard Nixon, criticized the UN as "obsolete and inadequate" for dealing with the Cold War (1967). Jeane Kirkpatrick, US Ambassador to UN wrote in a 1983 opinion piece in The New York Times that the process of discussions at the Security Council "more closely resembles a mugging" of the United States "than either a political debate or an effort at problem solving." In a February 2003, George W. Bush (shortly after Iraq was invaded) said, "free nations will not allow the United Nations to fade into history as an ineffective, irrelevant debating society." In 2005, Bush appointed John R. Bolton who had in 1994 stated, "There is no such thing as the United Nations. There is only the international community, which can only be led by the only remaining superpower, which is the United States."

Of course one should not forget to mention the outstanding billion dollar debt of the US to the UN in recent times!!!

In the wake of such comments and acts over the recent past, is it possible for the UN to have a genuine and unbiased interest in the Sri Lankan conflict or any other issue of a member country? If the UN wishes to envisage human rights, shouldn't the rights of people be the same anywhere in the world, be they Sri Lankans, Indians, Kashmiri, Chinese, Africans or the terminally ill? Sadly, it has proved to be an institution following the footsteps of the League of nations, unless it seriously restructures its values and codes of conduct to be more equitable among members!

These antics of the international community are a malady, combined with the LTTE's track record for violence that would be tempting for any youth to embark on a lucrative career in terrorism anywhere in the world! Why lucrative? Well, because it seems the international community is sending mixed messages to the pro-LTTE diaspora and seem to be 'hell-bent' in persuading the cessation of military operations against the LTTE and offering them a fresh breather! Even attacks on diplomatic missions are not a concern for the UN!

Of course, none of these countries with the exception of John Holmes (UN) have yet donated or reached out a helping hand to provide the IDPs with food, clothing, medicine and other basic necessities. In fact today, these items are donated by the generous contributions of the Sinhalese in the country - the very Sinhalese the so called pro-LTTE diaspora and pro-LTTE groups accuse of being racial!!! From individuals to business corporates, state institutions and religious institutions, the donations have increased to help the innocent Tamils rescued from the ruthless LTTE. This was the very same case when the Tsunami hit Sri Lanka - the Sri Lankans in unaffected parts took care of their ethnically diverse brethren long before international aid arrived!

Despite so many obstacles and international pressure, the people in Sri Lanka want to eradicate terrorism now, perhaps the visiting diplomats in our country now, should learn and understand what peace, harmony and brotherhood means in Sri Lanka in the wake of current events and preach it to their people!

References :
The UN's official website (and public documents available therein)
War on Want
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The UN Cash Position, 9 May 2008 by Warren Sach, Assistant-Secretary-General, Controller
Reports from Associated Press, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, Al-Jazeera, Newster, Asian Tribune, The American conservative

Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
Putting principles before profits