Human rights hijacked by “liears, d–d liears and experts”-Part II
Posted on June 4th, 2010

H. L. D. Mahindapala

Raising the issues of human rights for the sake of human rights principles, or for the sake of being champions of human rights, however laudable both may be, do not serve human rights under all circumstances. Nor does it serve the immediate and the long-term needs of protecting and preserving human rights under siege by the enemies of human rights. In short, the application of the principles of human rights is not the answer to all conditions and circumstances. For instance, Gandhi succeeded in the tolerant British political culture in India. Neither he nor his principles would have survived one minute in Nazi Germany.

 So the universal application of human rights as a solution to all violent hot-spots is not only unrealistic but a myth. The argument against this is that if you adopt the brutal violence of the enemies of democracies you descend to their level and become one of them. This is a rather romantic “”…” if not naive — view advanced for those who dwell in some heavenly terrain far beyond the stratosphere, than for those with their feet on this planet earth. Even a glance at the history of human rights will reveal that invariably the best of democratically elected governments are faced with the uncomfortable task of protecting human rights by violating human rights. In fact, democratic governments have been the easy targets of the enemies of human rights. Protecting and preserving rights in their polities have not been an easy task. The inconvenient truth is that human rights have triumphed not by appeasing or by throwing roses at the feet of the fascist enemies of human rights but by adopting necessary methodologies that must strategically encircle and defeat the perpetrators and violators of human rights.

 In other words, human rights has no future in a world stalked by armed combatants at state and non-state levels if the response is to chant the mantras of human rights five times day. Some of these combatants are armed with weapons of mass destruction. The Tamil Tigers, for instance, are the only known terrorist group to have engaged in chemical warfare, according to Prof. Peter Chalk of the Rand Corporation. At critical times, when human rights and democracies are threatened by intransigent and endless cycles of violence, the states have a right to use force, however draconian it may be, to protect the human rights of non-combatants from the terrors of fascist violence. 

 From time to time all societies committed to preserve human rights will be faced with this problem of how to protect human rights without violating human rights. There is only one guaranteed solution: the Asokan model. Emperor Asoka, at the end of a brutal 13-year-old Kalinga War, committed himself never to beat the war drums again. He vowed to beat only the dharma drums of non-violent Buddhism. To this day he stands out, unfortunately for human rights, as a solitary figure in history. The alternative to this is the Jeffersonian principle which says: “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” And under extreme circumstances the vigilance has to be mounted on guns and long-range artillery, leading to violations of human rights. That is the price liberal societies have to pay for liberty and human rights that go with it.

 This may sound cynical to the idealists. But a realistic assessment of human rights must lead to the conclusion that there is no future for human rights, at critical times, if it is not defended with counter-violence which necessarily entails violations of human rights. The popular Jeffersonian quote of keeping an eternal vigilance to protect liberty (and its corollary human rights) sums up the perennial battle waged to defend liberty leading to the preservation of human rights. Jefferson confirmed this when he also said: “The tree of liberty (add human rights to this) must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”  His other relevant quote to this issue says: “We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty on a featherbed.” These three quotes taken together confirm that human rights, which is an indivisible part of liberty, cannot be transported on non-violent featherbeds. Jefferson in subtle ways affirmed that societies must pay a price to defend human rights. It is the fate of human rights to “be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

 For instance, the new age of human rights, which began with the UN Charter, gained momentum in the post-World War II era because the Western democracies (Allies) succeeded in defeating the fascist terror of Nazis. The debate on the quantum of force needed to end World War II, particularly in the last stages, can be endless and inconclusive. But going on the criteria applied to Sri Lanka by Louise Arbour and Navy Pillai, two peas of the same anti-Sri Lankan pod, both Winston Churchill and Harry Truman should be tried for using disproportionate force to end World War II. Instead they became heroes of the free world.

 The massive and indiscriminate air strikes used to end World War II were adopted as deliberate strategies to defeat the enemies speedily and save the lives of the Allies’ ground forces advancing into Germany and Japan. The Allies were expecting to end World War II by Christmas of 1944. But German resistance was heavy causing too many casualties to the Allied forces. The desperate Nazis, on their part, were recruiting even children to defend the crumbling remnants of the promised 1000-year Nazi Reich. Hitler’s last public appearances were among the bemused and clueless children dragged to fight his self-destructive war. It was against this reality that the West decided to flatten German cities from air to save their soldiers getting killed on the ground. England fire bombed and flattened Dresden and American pulverized Hiroshima and Nagasaki to save American lives. Both were aerial attacks without any consideration for the lives of the non-combatant German/Japanese civilians or their human rights.

 After the Allies triumphal march into Germany, after raping German women, after transporting Germans to work in slave camps in Siberia and after plundering the Nazi war machine in the post-WWI period, there were no calls for commissions for reconciliation or for accountability. There was only the Nuremberg Trial to sentence the Nazi leaders to death or imprisonment. The defeated Germans were told to surrender on terms dictated by the Allies. The victorious Allies were hell bent on extracting the maximum war reparations. Sri Lanka can be proud that it is the only nation that stood up for Japan in San Francisco and argued for compassion and mercy in settling the terms and conditions of handling post-WWII Japan..

 It should also be noted that no Hitler came up from the ashes of World War II. This is one of the bogeys touted by the scare-mongering INGOs in projecting the future of post-war Sri Lanka. Beware of the rise of Prabhakaran’s avatar, they cry. But if the rise of Germany and Japan as democratic and peace-oriented nations in post-WWII world can be considered as a guide, then it is fair to deduce that economic recovery and the horrors of the fascist regime that misled the Tamils into Nanthikadal lagoon, must necessarily wean the Tamils away from their belligerent past. There is no reason why Sri Lanka cannot follow the same pattern as Germany and Japan, both of which rose from the ashes, thanks mainly to generous aid packages from the Allies.

 Besides, if Mahinda Rajapakse can emerge as the runner up in the election race, beating Ranil Wickremesinghe in the north and the east, then there is hope for reconciliation, peace and progress. The pragmatic Jaffna Tamil is no longer obsessed with pursuing delusions of Eelamist grandeur. If they do it means another war. Though the deluded Tamil diaspora may be ready to finance another war will they have Tamil cadres on the ground to take on the Sri Lankan forces? And are the war-weary Tamils ready to run around in endless cycles of violence  again?

 Furthermore, the voting pattern so far indicates that they are no longer deluded by Eelamist politics either. If they are determined to go back to the Vadukoddai Resolution Mahinda Rajapakse would not have come second in the northern and eastern polls. .Ignoring “the positive mood” (Prof. G. L. Peiris) and the opportunities opened up by peace for economic recovery and reconciliation in the post-Vadukoddai War phase, Louise Arbour and Navy Pillai have taken the blinkered view of stoking the fires of past politics “”…” mark you, all in the name of human rights! — when the need of the hour is to let Sri Lankans work out their own solutions to post-war problems. Why must these pretentious nannies of human rights try to poke their unwanted fingers in up the nose of Sri Lanka? Why have they failed to learn the lessons of WWII? With big powers it is always a case of “do-as-I-say” and “not-do-as-I-do”. This is also the morality of the I/NGOs who are paid to propagate the policy of “do-as-their-paymasters-in-the West- say” and “don’t do what they do.”

 In this setting Navy Pillai and Louise Arbour, no doubt, would like to come out smelling like roses though their double standards stink to high heaven. Take, for instance, the case of Navy Pillai, the High Commissioner for Human Rights based in Geneva. The Human Rights Commission, in no uncertain terms, told her that there is no need for a commission of inquiry by outsiders. Besides, the Sri Lankan government has launched its own commission of inquiry. China and Russia have maintained that it is an internal matter and there is no need for outsiders to interfere in the domestic affairs of Sri Lanka.  State Secretary, Hillary Clinton, too stated that the Commission for Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation (CLLR) should be given a chance. Prof. G. L. Peiris, External Affairs Minister, too asked for space and the international community, by and large, is agreeable to let Sri Lanka work out its own solution.


But Pillay  and Arbour are aghast like Radhika Coomaraswamy that the West had failed to impose its will on Sri Lanka.. The West moved a resolution at the Human Rights Commission in Geneva to censure Sri Lanka for violations of human rights in the last stages of the Vadukoddai War and Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka not only defeated it but tabled a counter-resolution congratulating Sri Lanka which was passed by an over-whelming majority. This was a slap in the face of the anti-Sri Lankan lobby led by Arbour, Pillay and Coomaraswamy. The shocked and angry response of Coomaraswamy summed up the reaction of the anti-Sri Lankan lobby in the UN. She wrote:  Dear All,  Disiater (sic) is final. The Sri Lankan (sic) draft as modified  has been adopted at the HRC, Europeans lost openly and Dayan made the most obnoxious speech. It is terrible. RC.”

 Her sharp reaction to Dayan is because HRC did not back her anti-Sri Lankan stance. The meaning of Coomaraswamy’s reaction to what happened on that dramatic day in Geneva, when Dayan overturned the Western resolution censuring Sri Lanka is simple: only the West and their hired apparatchiks in I/NGOs funded by them have the right to define human rights according to their agenda and other nations are there to say obediently: “Yes, Maam, no, Maam,, only your definitions of human rights are right Maam!” Any other definition that runs contrary to the political will and objectives of the West is taboo.

 Human rights have lost its directions and its moral authority because the West has hijacked it for their political ends. They use human rights on the global theatre as if they alone own the monopolistic right to define and implement human rights their way. Invariably their definitions of human rights stem not from the UN Charter, though that is invoked for the sake of convenience, but from their political necessities.  Neither Navy Pillai, who, as CEO of UNHCR, is supposed to implement the decisions of its constituent members, nor Louise Arbour, the CEO of ICG, will concede the right to a non-Western, small nation to differ from their definition of human rights. Nor are they much perturbed by the unequal application of human rights to countries that they favour and do not favour. Any definition of human rights that go against the will of the West and their hired stooges in I/NGOs is a no-no.

 They view any independent definitions as an affront to their superior moral and political authority. How dare nations like Sri Lanka defy their dictatorial rulings on human rights! And, pray, how can the dictatorial attitudes of Arbour and Pillay, running against the resolution of UNHCR which congratulated Sri Lanka, serve either human rights or their own credibility? In congratulating Sri Lanka UNHRC has given its collective definition of the human rights situation in Sri Lanka. But that is not good enough for its CEO, Navy Pillai. She is insisting on imposing her definition.

 But is the rest of the world willing to be ruled by the blinkered and partisan judgments of the likes of Arbour and Pillay? Pillay, in particular, is exceeding the limits of her job description. There are several instances of nations (Israel, India etc) who disregard resolutions passed by the UN. But Pillay must be the most outstanding example of a UN official violating its own resolutions. If Pillay has nor respect for UNHRC how she can expect the rest of the world to respect it? If they want respect to themselves and their institutions then they must be realistic enough to accept definitions given by the very body established to protect human rights, the UNHRC, however unpalatable it may be. The least Navy Pillai can do is to think again and give due space and time for Sri Lanka to adjust to the new realities. Sri Lanka has its own routes to achieve goals of reconciliation, peaceful co-existence and progress. Arbour and Pillay should not stand as road blocs on Sri Lanka’s advance into their future. 

 Of course, in hindsight, it is quite obvious that these two ladies have personal and idiosyncratic reasons to take this aggressive stance against Sri Lanka. They are frustrated with Sri Lanka. In their engagements with Sri Lanka in the past they failed to get their way. Their authority has been challenged and their unwanted interventions rejected on several occasions. This explains a great deal for the way they react. Besides, their machinations give the lie to the big claim of feminists that the world would be a better place under more compassionate women.

 On the contrary, “Loopy Arbour, “Nazi” Pillay and “Pottu” Coomaraswamy act like the avatars of the three Macbethic witches, dancing round the Sri Lankan pot, chanting: “Double, double, toil and trouble.” 

Is it possible to believe that these women can serve human rights in any part of the world, let alone Sri Lanka?

Read the next article to find out whether any one of these women can serve human rights by sitting in high-profile  the chairs in Western capitals..

3 Responses to “Human rights hijacked by “liears, d–d liears and experts”-Part II”


    We need to run a Government sponsored international TV series in English to point out very clearly how Tamils have been treated and enjoyed equal rights in Sri Lanka before and after 1948, including the disastrous riots and 30 years of war. It must reveals how Tamils live in North, East and other parts of the country. It must also address the issues that Tamils may have and compare such issues with a similar community in another country like Malaysia in the case of ethnic Chinese. The main objective of the series must be to clarify the myths floating around the world that have been frequently used by the racist Tamil diaspora as a vehicle to promote their claim to a separate nation in tiny Sri Lanka. Once the series is made, authenticated and perfected, I believe we have a tool to combat all the elements that are trying to destroy us again and again.

  2. Raj Says:

    I totally agree with Priyan

  3. cassandra Says:

    There is little doubt that Navi Pillai is an intelligent woman. The members of the International Crisis Group (ICG) are no fools either. What good reasons have they, then, for pursuing an unholy crusade for an international inquiry which, common sense will tell them, will not really benefit anyone?

    Navi Pillai may probably be still smarting from the ‘defeat’ she suffered at Geneva last year. But she should not let personal considerations overrule good sense. Is it not a well established principle that you do not prosecute someone twice, for the same alleged offence? So, why bring up again what Geneva decisively disposed of?

    The ICG report was released to coincide with the anniversary of the defeat of the LTTE. Why? Does the timing of the release not tell its own story? Why would a body, ostensibly guided by high moral principle, resort to such conduct?

    With the ICG, we may also well ask whether it is not exceeding its professed mandate in asking for this inquiry. According to its website, the ICG’s role is in the area of “preventing and resolving deadly conflict”. This report seems to go beyond that remit.

    The report gives the following reasons for calling for an inquiry.
    1. “the absence of political will or capacity for genuine domestic investigations”
    2. “the need for an accounting to address the grievances that drive conflict in Sri Lanka”
    3. “the potential of other governments adopting the Sri Lankan model of counter-insurgency in their own internal conflicts”.

    It is instructive to examine these a little closely.
    1. The recently appointed Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, which US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton saw fit to readily welcome, more than demonstrates both the political will and the capacity for genuine domestic investigations. And regarding the capacity for genuine domestic investigations, it is both patronising and insulting to the nation to say that it lacks such ability. .
    2. How is an inquiry into alleged war crimes going to address grievances that drive conflict? This statement reflects some very muddled thinking. Do the authors of the report seriously mean what they say?
    3. If other countries wish to follow the Sri Lankan example, they will do so whether an inquiry is held or not. It is ridiculous and naive to suggest an inquiry will make a difference.

    An inquiry will be manifestly unfair. Both the government forces and the LTTE are accused of war crimes. But there’s no one left from the LTTE to be charged! Effectively only the government forces will be ‘on trial’. How fair is that?

    It is clear from the report that the ICG has already decided that the Sri Lankan armed forces are guilty of the war crimes. So, what the report is calling for, in effect, is not so much for an inquiry to determine the truth or otherwise of allegations but a confirmation of what the ICG has already decided. The report ostensibly refers to alleged offences but the comments in the report seem to assume that the alleged offences were actually committed. So, where is the integrity in the report? It is a well observed principle, especially touted aloud in the west, that one is presumed innocent until proved guilty. But is seems the ICG is incapable of even observing this.

    Consider for instance how it describes what it calls “the Sri Lankan option”- “unrestrained military action, refusal to negotiate, disregard for humanitarian issues – as a way to deal with insurgencies and other violent groups”.
    This is not funny. Firstly, how can the ICG accuse the SL government of “unrestrained military action”? If the armed services did not choose to show restraint, the LTTE could have been finished off a lot earlier. Secondly, how can it be said the SL government refused to negotiate? The fact is for thirty years it negotiated and negotiated. But the LTTE was never serious about negotiations. The record speaks for itself – the record of the LTTE’s refusal to engage in any meaningful negotiations, its numerous violations of the CFA, its walk out from the last set of talks. The ICG is either ignorant or reckless with the truth. Thirdly, if the government was unconcerned with “humanitarian issues” would it have fed and nourished the people affected – including the LTTE – throughout the period?

    There are other questions we may ask. Why do we need bodies such as the ICG to deal with matters that are surely within the scope of the UN to tackle? Are groups like the ICG a means of achieving ‘through the back door’ what cannot be achieved through the UN? What are the credentials of the ICG? How really independent is it, as it claims to be? It is an old saying that ‘he who pays the piper, calls the tune’. How can the ICG be truly independent if it relies on some countries for substantial funding? And, is it more than mere coincidence that the current co-chairs and the CEO are all from the West?

    The report seeks “targeted sanctions, including travel restrictions, on Sri Lankan officials and members of their families, unless and until the government cooperates with international efforts to investigate alleged war crimes.” It will be noted that the restrictions are to apply not only to the officials but members of their families as well. For a body ostensibly concerned with human rights, does this not seem unconscionably draconian?

    One cannot help feeling that ‘they’ are picking on Sri Lanka. Why are those concerned about abuses of human rights, not concerned about conditions in the US facility at Guantanamo Bay or what happened at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq? And what about the violation of human rights that was involved when, because of the sanctions applied against Sadaam Hussein’s regime, thousands of children died because they were denied access to necessary food and medicines? Surely, that comes within the purview of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?

    After all, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

    The co-chairs and the CEO of the ICG are no doubt ‘eminent’ persons. But the report of this unholy trinity does them little credit. It is ill conceived, lacks objectivity and reflects some very muddled thinking.

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