Wavering Commitment by International Community to Human Rights violations in Srilanka

By: Roger Gnanaindran - Political Column

Reams of paper have rolled down the printing mill on Human rights violations in the International sphere ,by various bodies of the United Nations. The International Community lead by the United States of America, the European Union , Japan and others never fail to din into the heads of the Third World countries on the necessity of upholding Human Rights as a corner stone of the Democratic principles wherever it is practiced and even in countries where it is not practiced. Sanctions, embargoes and whatnots have been imposed on regimes where Human rights are being systematically violated. Surprise upon surprise, Srilanka escaped any form of punishment, despite the worst forms of violations by any country in the world. The International Community seems to have failed to realize or did not care to read the Report of the United Nations Human Rights Commission for the years up to 2001. If they have read it, they would have observed that Srilanka gained the dubious distinction as the second country with the most number of Human Rights violations after Iraq. The question is what eluded their nimble minds or did the International Community disregarded the atrocities on purpose?

To answer this question, it is the geo-political interests of the big powers, especially the United States that forced the hands of others to follow suit and consider Srilanka with a benevolent attitude. The other is that Srilanka is supposed to be a Democratic country which means going to the polling booth, and voting parties in and out of power on a regular basis, despite Srilanka’s Black History on Human Rights violations commencing in June 1956. The Tamils do not come into the picture because of its minority representation and have no say in the decision making process.

For the benefit of the Non-Srilankan community in Canada, it is worth mentioning the fact the Srilankan State openly encouraged its Police and Armed forces to unleash violence on the ethnic Tamil Minority Race, by way of Murder, Rape, Arson Robbery and every imaginable atrocity that a warped mind could formulate. This ethnic pogrom was followed in clockwork regularity in May 1958, 1961 (in a minor scale), July-August, 1977, 1979, (In Jaffna alone) June 1981 and July-August, 1983. The victims of State violence have unfailingly been the minority Tamil Race. The reason being that the Police and the Armed forces are manned by the majority Sinhalese, who are empowered by the State to use the guns on Tamil civilians supported by laws under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act . This culture of impunity commenced with the draconian laws ,and the State supported the perpetrators to the hilt. There was no such thing as Human Rights or for that matter rights of any dimension for the minority Tamil Race, which resulted in severe discrimination in Educational, Economic and Social fields .To top it all, the abject failure of the prevailing political system effectively shut out the Tamil race from gaining any foothold in the Nation building process that kept them as second class citizens devoid of rights that ultimately constrained the Tamil youths to take up to arms to defend the Tamil Race from complete annihilation. This cardinal fact is completely lost sight of, by the western bureaucrats, politicians and the like when dealing with the ethnic violence that had wracked the country for the last sixty years eluding a solution. Apart from this the historical and cultural differences between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils widened the chasm that it became neigh impossible to find common ground.

The stock solution that is offered by the so called western experts to solve the ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils was to condemn the Tamil youths for defending the Tamil rights and the Tamil land albeit with the power of the Gun, on one hand and offer the democratic way of peaceful negotiation on the other. This so called peaceful negotiations had failed the Tamils miserably for the last sixty years because the Tamils have been deceived by the Srilankan State time and again leaving the Tamils high and dry. The International Community, especially the big powers were never sincere or serious to find a solution faced by the Tamils and instead they embarked on a negative voyage of banning the LTTE, the only movement that was fighting for the Liberation of the Tamil race from the continued oppression by the Srilankan State.

The cumulative effect of the big powers’ apathy towards the persecution of the Tamils by the Srilankan State, had given rise to the increasing human rights violations by the Srilankan State on the Tamils which is the present impasse.

The International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) strongly condemns the killing of 15 national employees of the French humanitarian organization Action Contre la Faim (ACF) in the town of Muttur, Trincomalee district, Sri Lanka. "We are appalled at what happened to the ACF staff. This was a deliberate attack on a humanitarian organization that was doing valuable work for the people of Muttur,"said Yvonne Dunton, head of the ICRC's sub-delegation in Trincomalee in a press released issued Monday evening.

Amnesty International has pointed out that under the state of emergency, security forces are given wide powers of arbitrary arrest and detention under the pretext of action against terrorism. Such powers are abused by the security forces in Sri Lanka because there have been abductions, illegal arrests, detentions and disappearances.

It is deplorable that the International community which condemns violations of human rights by non-state sectors is quite apathetic to state terrorism. State sectors have a greater responsibility and accountability for their activities because they are expected to follow Democratic principles in their process. Such apathy in the face of state terrorism, is a subtle approval by the international community of the excesses caused by security forces of state sector. The calculated silence by the international community, especially the big powers over state terrorism is a signal that had encouraged the security forces in Srilanka to continue their violence with impunity.

I give here below a few incidents that happened in Srilanka and the response to it by the International Community (Big Powers), to establish the partiality shown towards the State or the majority Sinhalese community in comparison to the apathy shown towards minority Tamil community.

Incident 1 - 5th January,2000
Kumar Ponnampalam -He was the December, 1982 Presidential Election candidate representing the Tamil community in Srilanka, and received 1,750,000 votes. A leading Civil Rights Lawyer, an Alumni of Cambridge University, England, son of G.G.Ponnampalam ,a Tamil leader, who himself was a one time Cabinet Minister and the foremost Criminal Lawyer in Srilanka.

He was assassinated by a member of the former President’s Security Division, named Avishka Perera alias Beddagama Sanjeeva . Response: Deafening silence of the Big Powers

Incident 2- 12th August, 2005
Srilanka’s Foreign Minister – Lakshman Kathirgamar was killed by a sniper at his residence in Colombo.

Response: Joint condemnation of the LTTE by the Big Powers

Incident 3 -25th December, 2005
Joseph Pararajasingham, one of the leading Tamil Members of Parliament representing the Batticaloa District from the TULF, was killed right inside a Catholic Church by Srilanka’s Army Intelligence, just as he was receiving Holy Communion from the Priest

Response: Deafening silence of the Big Powers

Incident 4- On 25th March, 2006
An attempt was made on Srilanka’s Army Commander Lt.General Sarath Foneseka’s life right inside the Army Headquarters, by a supposed pregnant woman suicide bomber.

Response: Joint condemnation of the LTTE by the Big Powers

Incident 5 - 7th May, 2006
Tamil civilians were readying for a Hindu temple festival in Manthuvil east in Chavakachcheri area. Around about 1.10. am, the villagers had heard the sounds of eight gun shots. The villagers had then hurried to the temple site on seeing the unusual movement of an armored vehicle (Buffel APC) around about 4.00 am. Later eight bodies of the persons who were shot and killed were detected in the shrub jungles near Kapputhu in Vadamaradchy.

Response: Deafening silence of the Big Powers

Incident 6 - 13th May, 2006
The Srilankan Navy personnel with the paramilitary group known as the E.PD.P, had entered the house of Sellathurai Amalathas in Aallaipiddy at about 8/30 pm, and had opened fire on the sleeping family killing 8 persons including a four –month-old baby and a four-year old boy

Response: Deafening silence of the Big Powers

Incident 7 - 15th June, 2006
A claymore mine exploded close to a Bus carrying 150 Sinhalese civilians in Kebitigollawa in Vavuniya District killing 65 and injuring 75.

Response: Joint condemnation of the LTTE by the Big Powers

Incident 8 - On 20th June, 2006
The biggest Catholic Church in Srilanka, situated in Pesalai, Mannar, was desecrated by innocent blood being shed in when the Srilanka Navy personnel attacked the church full of refugees killed a person and wounded several. Earlier in the day, 5 innocent fishermen who were working besides their boats were gunned down by vengeful Navy personnel who were pleading for their lives.

Response: Deafening silence of the Big Powers

Incident 9 - 28th June, 2006
Jaffna Office of the Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission (SLHRC), had issued a communiqué, to the effect that the number of civilian disappearances after detention by the Srilankan Army in the Jaffna peninsula since December, 2006 has exceeded 160 persons.

Response: Deafening silence of the Big Powers

Incident 10- 5th August, 2006
Srilankan army personnel massacred 16 Aid workers (15 Tamils and 1 Muslim), working for the French Aid agency ‘ Action Contra la faim’ (ACF) in Sampur in Trincomalee District. These workers were aiding the victims of the December, 2004 Tsunami. It is reported that they were ordered to line up and then shot at point blank range

Response: Agitation and condemnation by France only

Incident 11- 14th August, 2006
61 school girls were killed and 129 wounded, when Srilanka Kfir jets bombed a children’s home compound in Mullaitivu District when they were attending a residential course in First Aid.

Response: Deafening silence of the Big Powers

Incident 12 - 20th August, 2006
Rev. Fr.Thiruchelvam Nihal Jim Brown, Age 34, the Parish Priest of Allaipiddy, along with a lay person Mr.Wenceslaus Vincent Vimalan, age 38 who accompanied the Priest, were last seen at the army check point seeking permission to enter Allaipiddy to say Sunday Mass. Thereafter their whereabouts are not known. It is appropriate to mention that Rev.Fr.Brown was instrumental in arranging for the judicial inquiry to the massacre in Allaipiddy and it is believed that interested persons may have been responsible for his disappearance.

Response: Deafening silence of the Big Powers

It is the primary responsibility of the Big Powers which lead the World by applying an impartial standard of judgment on Human Rights violations by so called Third World Democratic Nations whom they favor for parochial gains and another set of rules when non-state entities are concerned, or else the social fabric of the society will disintegrate in to chaos like Iraq.

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