UN and Co-Chairs Soft Pedalling Delivery of Justice To Tamils

By: Dr C P Thiagarajah

The UN and the Co-chairs of aid giving nations to Sri-lanka, US, EU, Japan and Norway had a great responsibility to be fair to all Sri-Lankan citizens while working towards their welfare and human rights. This was all the more relevant while the two communities were at war and when the majority Sinhalese were hell-bent on destroying the Tamil nation, their culture and their Traditional Homeland (TH) for the last 60 years after Britain gave independence. Sri-Lanka executed these atrocities taking cover under Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter "Nothing should authorise intervention in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State”. But the HR situation was badly stinking to the whole world.

Religious Dignitories Intervention

According to Uthayan (www.uthayan.com) the Catholic Bishops of Sri-lanka, in their Christmas Message of 24 December for 2007, had severely criticised the International community for failing to bring in pressure on the Sri-Lankan government to put forward a power devolution package for the Tamils in their TH. Their silence was a calculated move to serve their self interest they asserted.

The Bishops were convinced that the Sri-Lankan government like all past Sinhalese governments was insincere and untruthful in devolving political power to the Tamils Homeland. The government was merely harping peace rhetoric to convince US and India only but in truth it was (politicians, military personnel, administrators, other armed personnel and the police ) keenly inclined on a military solution in order to force on the Tamils what could be the bare minimum rights and privileges. The Sinhalese politicians were die-hard supremacist and willed to dominate the Tamils without giving them the power of self-determination. The Sri-Lankan government was diabolical.

The Sinhala government had been both covert and overt in its communal adventurism. The most flagrant and the one act that earned them the world’s utmost contempt was the way the Tamil Tsunami victims were looked after and cared for. The corrupt manner in which the government doled out the Tsunami fund and the world bodies’ non-intervention to halt the unfair practices of the Sri-Lankan government such as favouritism towards the Sinhalese were abominable acts that must be hated and condemned.

Lanka Business on Line flashed a news on December 24 2007 that World Bank which worked along with the UN, had estimated that Sri Lanka needed more money to re-build houses destroyed in the December 26 2004 tsunami. The natural disaster took the lives of 46000 people living along the Eastern and Southern coasts. Even nature had been cruel like a section of the cunning world, more Tamils lost their lives in this natural phenomenon.

Also, World Bank evaluated that its programme was lagging behind in the island's war-ravaged areas ie TH. So far 142 million of the funds had been disbursed. The World Bank just distributed the money without any priority or consideration of equity. The Sinhalese purposely blocked the highways A9 and A19 and 18 that led into TH under the pretext of controlling the LTTE. Citing this as an alibi the Sinhalese used the money to develop the Sinhala areas and help the Sinhalese advance economically, depriving the poor Tamil victims of Tsunami of any chance of rebuilding their lives. Andrew Gilligan of the Evening Standard disclosed on 28 November 2005, that Mahinda Rajapakse had built 350 houses more than the required for the Tsunami affected in his electorate of Hambantota. Petty politics, politics of racism and vote catching. The world did nothing to rectify this communal charity based on ethnic superiority. As things were at the time, the Tamils victims were left with nothing. Were they not world citizens? Were they not of human born?

Another complaint from TamilNet,on Monday, 23 April 2007, stated that according to civil society sources in Jaffna, funds meant for improvement projects in Jaffna peninsula set aside by World Bank, World Food Programme (WFP) and other foreign sources were being directed to southern Sri Lanka by the Government ministries handling the funds.

Total foreign aid pledges for rebuilding tsunami ravaged areas topped 3.2 billion dollars, but Sri Lanka said it had received only 1.2 billion dollars. And out of that, 634 million dollars -- less than 20 percent of the original amount pledged -- had been spent by the end of November, according to Transparency International, an international watchdog on corruption.

What was the remedy for this blatant discrimination of the minorities with the connivance of the elitists controlled world bodies UN and the Co-chairs? The conscientious community must rise up to the occasion and put and end to elitist diplomatic politics. The one and only way that is feasible at that moment is to give self-determination to the Tamils without any limitations that India is proposing for its regional hegemonic benefit.

Up to now, the dispensation of justice from the outside world had been half hearted. It was not well thought through and analysed in spite of mass amount of facts and figures that showed ethnic Tamils were seriously victimised and annihilated at an unimaginable speed with the help of the resources poured by vested interests. The modus operandi drawn in the three-year Project Beacon presented to the co-chairs in Norway was a failure although it was an apparent success for the first year. The co-chairs funded Sri-lanka hoping that project Beacon could work out well and the LTTE could be controlled militarily. Unfortunately their aid fell in the hands of the Sinhalese who used it to for genocide of the Tamils. The noteworthy vested interests that gave string attached aid were India, Pakistan, Israel, Korea, China and one of the Axis of evil Iran.

Tamils Discriminated on Ethnic and Geographical Grounds

Consider the ethnic mix of the Lankan population. 75 % are Sinhalaese, a majority and the largest minority in the rest of the 25% is the Tamils. From ancient times and for more than 500 years of recent colonial history, the Tamils had occupied their Traditional Homeland (TH) of the North and East (N&E). Out of the three colonial powers, namely the Portugese, The Dutch and the English it was the last that brought the TH under their newly created unitary government on which the Sinhalese want to rule the TH as well. If so where is the independence for the Tamils?

Tamil’s Homeland of North and East When Sri-Lanka was granted independence by UK

The red coloured areas in this map of Sri-lanka were the TH of N&E of Tamils. Some Sinhala colonisation of Tamil areas were carried out by the Sinhalese in Padavya in Vavuniya in the North and Paddippallai Aru (Amparai) and Serunuwara in Trincomalee in the East and in Puttalam after independence.

Historical Tamils Resistance to the Sinhala occupation of their Homeland

Far back in 1934, a Pan-Sinhalese cabinet, implemented the calculated colonisation schemes of TH at Gal Oya, Trincomalee District and elsewhere to settle southern Sinhalese only. The Sinhala cabinet did not give the three communities equal opportunities in this land distribution in spite of Tamil’s protests. These areas were where Tamils and Muslims predominated.

The Sinhalese later even refused to accommodate ‘fifty - fifty’ demand by the minorities by which the majority community could be prevented from enacting laws discriminatory to minorities.

In the 1948 Constitution, drawn by a British citizen, Lord Soulbury, who later became the first governor general of Sri-Lanka, introduced Article 29 clause to protect the minorities.

When Bandaranayake came to power in 1956, he drafted a pact with the Tamils the 1957 Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam Pact for direct election to Regional Councils. When Sinhala extremist protested against it Bandaranayake withdrew it.

Further he intoduced the Sinhala Only Act in 1958 and it was passed despite Article 29 of the 1948 constitution. The bill was held to be ultra vires the constitution by a judge called de Kretser but nevertheless continued in practice by the state.

Following the intoduction of this racist law the first ethnic Riots of 1958 flared up.

The next bachelor prime minister Dudley Senanayake signed the 1965 Dudley Senanayake-Chelvanayakam Agreement for District Councils... with the federal party but subsequently abrogated it when Sinhala masses opposed it.

Unfortunately, the 1970 proposals to incorporate a protective clause in the up coming new republican constitution by the Tamil Federal Party was rejected by Sri Lanka... .The Sinhalese refusal to accommodate an Article similar to Article 29 in the new Republican Constitution of 1972 to protect the minorities was again unilaterally rejected by the Sinhalese in the parliament. The deletion of this provision from the Republican constitution which enabled courts to hold any law ultra vires the constitution was the death knell for the Tamils.

In 1979 Presidential Commission was established to report on creation of District Development Councils.... The Sinhalese refused to accommodate a federal form of government when enacting two new constitutions to devolve powers to the northern and eastern provinces. They made out deliberately that federalism was separation when in- fact federalism was an effective form of apportioning power to regions which would have empowered the Tamils and prevented future bloodshed. From then on there was continuous harassment of the Tamils through pogroms and riots such as in 1958 and 1983 and thereafter many riots.

World is Ignorant of the Status quo in Sri-Lanka

The world is a compassionate society majority of whom were peace loving and democratic. They had still not quite well understood the real problem, both political and societal, because of the majority Sinhala politicians’ false propaganda. Though recently several NGOs had identified the cause for the decadence in Sri-Lankan politics, which was racism or suppression of the rights of the minority Tamils (Tamil speaking citizens) by the majority Sinhalese after Sri-Lanka’s independence from the British in 1948.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) in December cited escalation of large scale of human rights violations against civilians such as enforced abductions, disappearances, killings of civilians. They also said that criminal investigation capacity of the Sri Lankan policing system was also severely interfered with. They also called on the UN human rights council to press Sri Lanka for the International monitoring mission in Sri Lanka early this week.

On Dec 15, 2007, the London-Based Amnesty International (AI) and New York-Based Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced that at least 50 civilians had been killed in Sri Lanka within past two weeks. Further, at least 20,000 people had been newly displaced due to the escalating violence between the Sri Lankan Security Forces (SF) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in September alone.

Hundreds of men, women and children from Jaffna continue to seek protections from the Jaffna Human Rights Commission (JHRC) and the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission (SLMM) fearing for their lives and securities from the Sri Lankan SF and paramilitary forces, according to a rights activist in Jaffna.

The death toll for the last two years was the hoghest. During the upsurge in violence in Sri Lanka over 5,800 civilians had been killed, thousands had been abducted, hundreds were disappeared while close to 500,000 people were internally displaced (IDP) in the North and East of Sri Lanka within past two years alone, a rights group said.

AI and New York-Based Human Rights Watch (HRW) both wrote an open letter to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), on December 15, regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Sri-lanka. They wanted UNHCR to pressurise Sri Lanka to allow the International Monitoring Mission to monitor human rights in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan government had repeatedly refused to allow any international monitoring mission filed office in the country to monitor its human rights record. It said that they had mechanism in place to monitor HR violation such as the National Human Rights Council (NHRC). The appointment was illegal. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa personally appointed five commissioners in May 2006, in violation of the Sri Lankan constitution. Article 41B of the constitution specifies that appointments to the NHRC could be made only after a recommendation from the Constitutional Council, a multi-party body established by the constitution.

As this tug of war between the UNHCR and Sri-lanka went on the HR situation had reached a point of R2P. Minority Rights Group International said on 13 December 2007 one year since the Sri Lankan government promulgated tough anti-terror laws the country’s human rights situation had hit a new low, resulting in serious violations against ethnic Tamil and Muslim minorities.

Their briefing paper given to the media on Friday said the human rights situation in Sri Lanka had reached a 'crisis point' in 2007, with 662 people being killed and 540 persons having disappeared between January and August 2007. At least 3,500 civilians were killed and close to 290,000 were displaced in 2006 and 2007. A vast majority of those killed, disappeared or displaced were Tamils and some were Muslims. This is more a way of ethnic cleansing or intimidating the ethnic minorities.

Mahinda Rajapakse was very good at procrastinating and bluffing issues. Mr Basil Fernando showed instances of MR’s hypocrisy. Basil was a director of the Asian Human Rights Commission based in Hong Kong. He was a Sri Lankan Sinhalese lawyer who had also been a senior U.N. human rights officer in Cambodia. He wrote to UPI Asia line on December 14 what MR told media after the gruesome murder of two young Red Cross workers in Colombo. MR assured representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who met with him at his official residence, that he was giving the Sri Lankan police seven days to find the perpetrators after which he would call in "foreign sleuths" to assist. Although it had now been six months since the president was alleged to have made that pledge, no perpetrators had ever been arrested. Furthermore, there was no sign of the "foreign sleuths."

Another incident on June 7 occurred not even a week after the murder of the two Red Cross workers, in which the president spoke without due consideration for the facts. The inspector general of police, with elements of the military, forcibly evicted hundreds of Tamils from Colombo. The eviction itself had been well publicised and spread like wild fire. Once again, however, there was an international outcry, and once again, Rajapakse thought to still the angry voices by announcing that those responsible for the eviction would be brought to justice.

It had now been documented and become public knowledge that the Sri-Lankan inspector general of police was acting on instructions from the secretary of defence, Gotabhaya Rajapakse, the president's own brother. Impunity given to brother on nepotistic grounds. The brother was still free attending to his racist agenda of war against the Tamils. It would be pertinent to remember that Gothabaya was a naturalised citizen of the world democracy watch dog US. What a conundrum?

Observing all these gross HR violation, Human Rights Watch on 18 Dec 2007 published in Relief Web lately that the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights –the international body that regulates national human rights institutions had taken disciplinary moves. It had reduced Sri Lanka's NHRC to the status of an "observer" because of government encroachment on its independence. As a result, the commission no longer had the right to vote in international meetings and was not eligible to stand for election to the international coordinating committee. They were also doubtful of the commission's practice. It was not "balanced, objective and non-political, particularly with regard to the discontinuation of follow-up to 2,000 cases of disappearances in July 2006."

Added to these censures US is also holding back military/arms aid after the above report. According to reports from Washington, the US Congress had stipulated that the Secretary of State will have to certify that the Sri Lankan government had taken certain specified steps towards ensuring human rights in the war-torn country before military aid was given.

Unrealistically both the august bodies UN and the co-chairs were soft-pedalling the delivery of justice to the Tamils who are at a turning point in their glorious history even when thing around them were piping hot. UN as a mediator and policy formulating body for the world had 195 government in its membership while the co-chairs represented those UN membership countries that gave economic aid to Sri-lanka. The aid was not fully monitored by these states but given on the trust it would be used for the economic growth of the whole country including those areas where Tamils predominated -Tamils Homeland (TH) of North and East (N&E). As we saw in the above paragraphs the aid was helping Sri-Lanka to divert its GNP for wanton war against the Tamils with disastrous consequence to the Tamils and the world citizens at large.

These twin bodies should change their snail speed and deliver a self governing package for the Tamils as advised by The Economist of Jun 7th 2007 “After so long a struggle, they also require a fair apportioning of power to a united north-eastern province. Nothing less will bind them to Sri Lanka and diminish Mr Prabhakaran's brutish hold over them”.

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Comments (3)
good presentation. we thank Dr.C.P.Thiyagarajah. Please bring all the matter to the world about sinhalese rogue militaries and their constitutional setup against tamils.
kabil from India on Mar 03, 2009 7:07:40 GMT
Majoritarian Sinhala Governments had consistently over 60 years made a 'monkey' of its own Constitutions, Pacts, Agreements with Tamils and carried out genocide, ethnic cleansing, land grabbing, gross HR violations and war crimes and got away with these crimes with impunity. It is obvious that it is also hoodwinking the Human Rights Council in the hope that it can seek more time to make genocide more complete. Raises the serious question: What is the purpose of the HRC when it is not even allowed to place monitors in the affected parts of the country to find out reality ? Is it because the factual position on the ground will cause too much shock to the outside world?
MS from United Kingdom on Dec 29, 2007 19:26:28 GMT
A well-presented analogy of our struggle in a nutshell by Dr.Thiagarajah is commendable. We need to have such caliber of writers who can put across 'our cause of struggle/FREEDOM/INDEPENDENCE/LIBERTY' to the international community and world-at-large.
Richy2 from United Kingdom on Dec 27, 2007 21:33:58 GMT