Denial of mass crimes by Sri Lanka: UNSC must initiate punitive measures!


-Dr. Abdul Ruff

The truth remains that all terrorists are the creation of the states that behave irrationally and attack minorities on the strength of their majority and military power. Israel invented terrorism and USA used it a perfect tool to advance its imperialist goals. USA and Israel jointly launched many Islamic terrorist organizations by giving them suitable Arabic and English names to confuse and terrorize the humanity, invade energy-rich Arab nations and to defame Islam as a terrorist religion. They have jointly destabilized Arab world after looting their resources, murdering them in millions.

Sri Lanka is one of those weak nations that terrorized the minority community with military force and also claim to be innocent and victims. They almost succeeded in committing a holocaust of Tamils in their country. They don’t bother about international legal system or punishment for their state crimes.

Sri Lanka first used the Tamils as their servants and Tamils obliged them. Sri Lanka refused to give them human status even after several decades of residency and denied many basis rights to them.

Tamils protested. The LTTE came much later to serve their causes. Tamils got several rights. The majority Singhalese were annoyed about giving any status of to Tamils from Southern India who had come to the island nation to work for them and strengthen their economy. It was during the British era. Then Singhalese community began hating Tamils for sharing their jobs in government.

In the face of credible allegations that his forces had slaughtered tens of thousands of Tamil civilians, the claim was jaw-droppingly brazen. As the evidence mounted, the Rajapaksa government and its representatives continued to dispute not only its culpability but also the very fact of mass civilian death.

The Sirisena regime promised action against Rajapaksha and the military bosses for their collective crimes against Tamils and proposed reconciliation with Tamils, but he did not begin that effort. He asked the Indian government to save the Tamils with economic assistance.
Hatred for Tamils in Sri Lanka has grown too much that now it attacks the Tamil fishermen who traditionally fish for their supporting their livelihood, loot their boats, arrest them and put them in jails, expecting Indian government to plead and (even beg) with Sirisena to do the “favor” of releasing the Indians and returning their belongings. The Indian government did all this because of the pressure from Tamil Nadu government.

Sri Lankan regime feels happy and even proud of its “strategic” advantages over India and wants the USA to co-opt Colombo as a “reliable” strategic partner.
Tamil Nadu and Ceylon were historically not separated as they are now. Even in the 1970s before the start of the Civil War and consequent loss of freedom in Sri Lanka, fishermen communities from either side frequently visited each other’s places. It is told that people from Lanka would take a boat and come to present day Nagapattinam District, watch a movie in talkies and will get back the same day. Then fishermen did not have any problem with fishing boundaries since all the problem areas are traditional fishing grounds. The present problem had its origin in the formation of India and Sri Lanka as two sovereign countries. Now fishermen from both sides had to follow boundaries. The problem was compounded by Katchatheevu island settlement in 1974(this agreement is not constitutionally valid since it is not ratified by parliament). Fishermen from Indian side lost additional areas due to loss of Katchatheevu.

India-Sri Lanka fishing issue. The relation between two countries comes under pressure due to fishermen straying into each other’s waters. Every month dozens of fishermen from each country get arrested for illegal poaching. The fishing controversy is due to the unclear demarcation over the Palk Strait, a narrow strip of sea between the two nations. As for Sri Lankan fishermen, they do not know where Sri Lankan waters end and the Indian waters begin. They also lack GPS in boats.

The Palk Strait is a strip of ocean that separates Tamil Nadu in India from the Mannar district in Sri Lanka. Its width is between 53 and 80 km, the narrow division between the two countries has resulted in confusion over who holds ownership over the waters. In the case of the Palk Strait, both Sri Lanka’s and India’s EEZ overlap each other. This has now resulted in the conflict that has arisen between the two nation’s fishing communities.

Both Indian and Sri Lankan prefer to go towards the Katchatheevu Island area in the Strait, where fish reserves are said to be abundant due to the presence of deep waters and the rocky formation. For Sri Lankan fishermen it is within their maritime boundary. Sri Lanka doesn’t agree with Indian Fisherman’s practice of doing bottom trawling which not only captures fishes but also disturbs their habitat. This leads to fewer fishes coming to those areas because of lack of nutrients. Bottom trawling is banned in many countries

The issue of fishermen came to the fore only with the emergence of violent ethnic conflict between the Tamil militants and the Sri Lankan government in the mid-1980s. Increased vigilance by the Sri Lankan Navy to check the intermittent flow of Tamil refugees into India and flow of arms and supplies to Tamil militant groups made fishing difficult and risky.

World powers, especially those that claim that democracy and the rule of law are central to global governance, have not taken the mass murder of minority Tamils by Sri Lankan regime under President Rajapaksha to be a serious crime. They seem to suggest that all state crimes are a part of democracy and the rule of law and hence they are lawful and no need to punish the rulers for their crimes against humanity.

Then President Mahinda Rajapaksa defends Sri Lanka’s military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the mass murder of the Tamils because he does not distinguish between Tamil community and LTTE. What exactly he and his military had tried was a holocaust of Tamil community on the Island land. Although Rajapaksha could not achieve full holocaust, he succeeded in perpetrating genocide of Tamils and terrorizing them to leave the Sri Lanka.

Not only Rajapaksha but even Sirisena who defeated him in the poll to become the President seems to support the military crimes against humanity. Yes, not only Sri Lankan leaders even the USA also seems to support the crimes of Sri Lanka against the minority community.
Lankan regime justified the genocides of Tamils in Lanka as war terror and hence very much humane act as it had to fight the LTTE. Much has been made of the example set by Sri Lanka’s ruthless strategy as an alternative to “hearts and minds” counterinsurgency efforts.
Governments battling stubborn militant movements continue to seek advice from Colombo on employing the “Rajapaksa model.” But the successful elimination of the LTTE in 2009 wasn’t the only unexpected feat Sri Lanka accomplished. Sri Lanka managed to preempt international action long enough to conclude its brutal campaign, despite state-perpetrated civilian casualties on a massive scale.

Sirisena’s reaction to accusations of war crimes is very cool as if nothing bad had happened in his country when he was a loyal minister in Rajapaksa government. Although Sirisena has not rejected all allegations of atrocities as the pure imagination of the world, he has refused legal action against Rajapaksha. There plays the Sinhala politics where all Singhalese leaders have ganged up to defend both Rajapaksha and Lankan from punishment for their heinous crimes.

The Sirisena government, therefore, doesn’t allow the UN to investigate the war crimes committed by his predecessor Rajapaksha while he still maintains cordial relations with him.
And importantly, the Rajapaksa government then enjoyed much greater international support than any other despot on earth.

Sirisena would argue that the LTTE had significant popular support and hence the genocide was logical and complied with the rule of law. The USA and other so-called democracies refused to discuss the pattern of human rights violations in Sri Lanka where the Tamils were cornered by the military and the police. The government justifies all custodial torture, and extrajudicial killings of suspected regime opponents, attacks on civilian targets including hospitals and aid convoys, and the use of prohibited weapons. In both cases, international audiences raised the alarm about mass atrocities. In addition to forbidding foreign correspondents and human rights organizations access to the conflict zone, the Sri Lankan government terrorized the domestic press. Under Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka became one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist.

The delivery of humanitarian aid was also severely restricted. In September 2008, the government ordered all aid workers out of the conflict zone in northern Sri Lanka. While foreign journalists are not officially banned from the country, access to regime-held territory is limited to pre-approved journalists, often accompanied by a minder. Today, it tops the list of deadliest countries for journalists, to a great part due to regime attacks on the domestic press. Humanitarian aid delivery has been restricted since the conflict began. In Sri Lanka, these measures cut off nearly all sources of independent information.

The second tactic out of Colombo’s playbook is to vehemently contest the limited information that does trickle out of the war zone. The Sri Lankan government challenged all casualty reports as “Tiger propaganda.” In late April 2009, as thousands were dying from government shelling, the Sri Lankan Air Force denied that it was carrying out any operations. Both during and after the war, the Rajapaksa regime also challenged the veracity of all photographic and video evidence. The regime disputed the authenticity of photo and video evidence of weapons attacks, barrel bombs, torture, and extrajudicial killings. Sri Lanka boldly claims that video evidence of extrajudicial killing was faked by “Tamil rebels in army uniform.”

Despite the implausibility of the claim, Sri Lanka insisted that any shelling of civilian targets had been committed not by his military boys but by the “terrorists.” The government also repeatedly accused the LTTE of employing civilians as human shields, arguing that this exonerated the military of any responsibility for their deaths.

Any criminal regime would try to justify its crimes just like any street criminal does. On first look, these tactics – all of which amount to contesting empirically verifiable facts – appear deluded. Against reams of physical and testimonial evidence of war crimes, who would believe a self-interested denial?

But sometimes it works, and the strategy paid off for Sri Lanka. In fact, immediately following its victory, the Rajapaksa regime was commended by the U.N. Human Rights Council for its efforts “to ensure the safety and security of all Sri Lankans.” And as impunity for war crimes was compounded by a litany of human rights abuses in the aftermath of the war, the most significant sanctions the government faced were reductions in aid and trade. The war ended eight years ago this week, and to this day no member of the civilian or military leadership has faced justice for war crimes.

But now Sri Lanka wages a regular war on Tamil fishing community.

Sri Lanka’s apparent success in influencing international community not act on SL state terror operations did not depend on actually convincing anyone that it hadn’t committed war crimes. It simply relied on muddying the waters enough to prevent international action. Two structural features of the situation enabled this strategy: First, Sri Lanka was mostly insulated from the action at the UN Security Council or the International Criminal Court. Consequently, there was no straightforward path to halting the violations or ensuring justice for them.

Any intervention (military, judicial, or otherwise) would have been costly and challenging to coordinate. And the final phase of the conflict played out against the backdrop of the Global War on Terror, allowing Sri Lanka to emphasize the LTTE’s use of terrorist tactics and characterize their eradication as an international necessity. There was widespread support (both overt and tacit) for the fight against the LTTE as a terror group. If the first dynamic meant that the bar for international action was set higher than it would have been otherwise, the second meant that Sri Lanka’s actions, seen through the more permissive lens of a fight against terrorism, were less likely to clear that bar.

War crimes are thus justified.

International action on mass atrocities is the exception rather than the rule, and Sri Lanka is eager to escape punishment. The Sri Lankan experience shows that obfuscation and denial can be enough to exploit this inertia and prevent intervention from international community, especially India, which shamelessly kills Kashmiris in their own nation Kashmir which is under Indian military occupation – and alas, UN and UNSC do not intervene to stop the Indian state crimes in Kashmir, does not press for UN investigation and punishing the guilty.

For Sri Lanka, Israel and India are the models in perpetrating crimes against minorities and terrorizing nations under their illegal occupation – Kashmir and Palestine, respectively.
Can USA, ICC and UNSC let Sri Lankan regime get away with mass murder, giving precedence to other criminal regimes to emulate it?

Since Sri Lanka is in denial of mass crimes by its military-police, it is time the UNSC stepped in to initiate punitive measures!