Louise Arbour’s visit to Sri Lanka - A view from Jaffna
The recent visit of UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour to Sri Lanka generated interest and concerns in many quarters. When her impending visit was announced relevant authorities of the GOSL made elaborate preparations to enlighten her on the actual position of the government on the alleged human rights violations reported in Sri Lanka. It is natural in the context of the unending terrorism of LTTE and its ramifications domestically and globally, for the government of Sri Lanka to fully make use of the visit of the HR Commissioner with an aim of mustering international cooperation to compel the LTTE to denounce violence and take part in peaceful negotiations for a political solution to the conflict.
On the contrary, the LTTE with the backing of its international network launched a campaign to present a case before the Commissioner to portray the GOSL as a serious HR violator. As usual, certain local NGOs and a section of the media disseminated information that the visit would expose the HR violations of the government to the world. The propaganda orchestrated by them was meticulously planned. This has been the practice of the LTTE and their supporters. Whenever any VIPs from important countries/UN agencies visited Sri Lanka the propaganda mill of the LTTE became very active. Many so called civil society organizations, societies, fronts, NGOs at the behest of the LTTE prepared petitions, memoranda detailing the humanitarian problems of the Tamil people and their suffering and presented them to the VIP requesting the direct intervention of the UN to protect and safeguard the Tamil people. From the time of the visit of Mr.Poori, former Deputy High Commissioner, India just before the IPKF was sent to Sri Lanka till the latest visit of the UNHR Commissioner, the tactics of the LTTE has been the same.
|File photo: UN Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour with Human Rights minister Mahinda Samarasinghe during her visit to Sri Lanka in October.
Being a citizen from Jaffna, suffering in silence with fellow Tamil citizens from the North I choose to tell the world of the tactics of the LTTE to make use of the UNHR commissioner’s visit to advance their cause to divide our motherland. Sri Lanka, a small island with a long history of parliamentary democracy. Democracy, with all its shortcomings, provides enough space for the destructive elements to destabilize the country. A section of print and electronic media play havoc in portraying this island as a racist country discriminating against the minorities, the Tamils and Muslims of the country. They try to disseminate information that the Sinhalese government ill-treats its citizens belonging to minority ethnic groups. On the other hand they try to demonstrate that the Sinhalese government looks after only the interests of the Sinhalese majority. But the stark truth is that the economic and social condition of a significant proportion of the majority Sinhalese population is pathetic and far from satisfactory. The reality is, as a typical third world country all the citizens of Sri Lanka undergo the same social and economic difficulties irrespective of the ethnic group they belong to. Two insurrections in 1971 and 1988 are good examples to show the agitation of the Sinhalese youth who were disillusioned with the governments of the day which hitherto have failed to deliver the goods.
The situation in the districts of Mullativu and Kilinochchi deserves special mention. My relatives and friends along with fellow Tamil citizens are unfortunate to have been trapped in those areas under the jackboot of the LTTE.I am at a loss to understand why in the era of globalization and vast strides in information technology, the international community has failed miserably to protect the unfortunate people trapped in the Wanni areas. The sufferings of these unfortunate people have been adequately documented in the UTHR publications and repetition is not warranted. However, the human rights of the Tamil population are being trampled by the LTTE and the unfortunate people have no way out to make their voices heard or escape from the clutches of their slave drivers. The Jaffna people underwent the same experience for nearly 10 years till April 1996 and they cooperated with the SL security forces for their liberation from the so called Liberators in 1995/96..The myth that the LTTE was invincible was broken. This is now history. I remember certain NGOs and International organizations would warn the government of the day not to make any efforts to recapture Jaffna from the LTTE, saying that such a military operation would result in thousands of innocent Tamil people being killed. Indeed nothing of that sort happened. Jaffna was liberated in 1995/96 with minimal civilian causalities.
The people in the Wanni urgently need liberation. UN agencies are in a position to help these unfortunate people. I am not advocating a UN led force to liberate the Wanni people from their masters. The visits of UN officials/experts would not bring any tangible results due to the fact that they would not be able to move freely and speak to the people. Even in case people are allowed to speak, they would not open their mouths to utter a word against the LTTE. They are aware of what would happen to them after the departure of the VIP .The existence of underground torture camps/prisons in each village in the Wanni is not a secret to the inhabitants. There are thousands of relatives of the victims of the LTTE in Jaffna and other places who are in a state of inaction/silence due to fear psychosis. There are very rare cases of complaints from this category of people to the Human Rights Commission office in Jaffna or other institutions because they fear reprisals from the LTTE .
It is laughable to observe how certain self named civil society institutions in Jaffna represented the cases of the missing/abducted citizens of Jaffna to the HR Commissioner on her visit to Jaffna. These organizations are voices of the LTTE. For the purpose of questioning their neutrality and independence it is appropriate to pose a few questions to the so called civil society organizations in Jaffna. What was their role when the Muslims of the North were chased from their traditional homeland? How did they react when the Jaffna Tamil people were ordered to get out of Jaffna at the time the security forces were marching towards Jaffna town on 30 October 1995?What was their response when the people of Jaffna were compelled to survive like beggars on the roads? What was their intervention when hundreds of Tamil civilians, including government agents, Principals, teachers University lecturers, government officials were massacred/killed in broad daylight? It has to be mentioned that the timely intervention of the government saved the people from starvation throughout the conflict. I wish to stress that the major share of the food and other emergency supplies sent by the government and international organizations were grabbed by the LTTE. Successive Governments have nevertheless shown strong commitment to feed its citizens who were/are geographically in the areas controlled by LTTE.
It has to be accepted without any reservation that the LTTE is the most sophisticated among the global terror outfits. Though Al Qaeda stunned the whole world on 9/11 it has no credentials to outclass the LTTE. Owning a number of large ships, masterminding arms trafficking, human trafficking, drug smuggling, collection of funds overseas, maintaining an efficient and effective network of arms procurement and smuggling, cultivating political and other relationships with local politicians in India, ,Europe, Canada and Australia are some of their unique activities that separate them from other contemporary terrorist outfits. The death cult evident in their suicide cadres-the Black Tigers, and cadres carrying cyanide capsules are some of their innovations that make them fundamentally different from other terror outfits. Above all the well organized disinformation campaign domestically and internationally carried out with the support of their front organizations is an innovation in the whole terror campaign. For example, the LTTE was/is capable of portraying the Sinhalese people as racist and Sri Lankan security apparatus as forces that indiscriminately kill the Tamil people. We, the people of Jaffna are sick of these tactics. It has been the tactic and practice of the LTTE to occupy houses adjoining temples/churches, hospitals and convert them into camps with the sole aim of inviting the Sri Lankan security forces to attack them so that they could shout through their machinery that the security forces are killing innocent Tamils, and so on. But we all know that hundreds of thousands of Tamil and Muslim people are living in Colombo and other suburbs among the majority Sinhalese people. Ironically, the LTTE is the only terror outfit in the world which engages in ethnic cleansing of Muslims from the North. It has the audacity to hoodwink the whole world. This is the situation the Human Rights experts fail to understand.
Sri Lanka has been an example of a social welfare state with an excellent social welfare foundation built long ago. State patronage was extended to cover many fields including primary, secondary and tertiary education. Sri Lanka had a long standing commitment to free education. Social welfare brought spectacular changes in Sri Lanka to uplift the underprivileged irrespective of ethnicity to privileged positions in public life. Even India has still to address the acute problem of uplifting the underprivileged and marginalized population and the situation has compelled the policy makers to devise a system basing on Scheduled castes for the upliftment of the poor segments of the population. It is regrettable that despite the opportunities created and granted by successive governments after independence for the underprivileged in Sri Lanka of which the Tamil population too enjoyed the fruits, the disinformation campaign carried out by LTTE and their supporters still misleads the international community.
UN Officials in Colombo have to share a significant portion of the blame in their contribution towards the formulation of policy positions and options on Sri Lanka. A typical example was the condolence message issued by the UN on the demise of a senior member of the LTTE, Kausalyan who was believed to have been killed by their rival group. Where in the world could you witness the UN, mandated with the solemn duty and responsibility of maintaining world peace and security issuing a condolence message on the demise of a terrorist?.As a person living in Jaffna who has undergone untold hardships, I am optimistic that peace will dawn in the near future in our motherland. The terror outfit which is being cornered by the international community should not be provided with the much needed oxygen by responsible organizations, particularly by the UN. I have strong faith in the importance of the rule of law, democracy and good governance. But these noble ideas and concepts should not in any way place impediments to the elimination of terrorism and bringing to book the leaders of the LTTE for their crimes against humanity.