Navy PillayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s grim silence on Tamil war criminals
Posted on September 12th, 2013
H. L. D. Mahindapala
On May 26, 2009 when the UNHRC met for the first time to consider the post-war situation in Sri Lanka Ms. Navi Pillay was busy elsewhere. Because she could not attend she sent a recorded message to UNHRC. It was pre-recorded on May 25, 2009, which was only eight days after the total collapse of Ã-the murderous organizationÃ¢â‚¬ (Navi Pillay) of Tamil Tigers on the banks of Nandi Kadal.
It is the haste with which she slammed Sri Lanka in her recorded speech that exposes her political agenda. The war ended on May 18. 2009. Before the smoke of the silenced guns could dissolve and clear the skies to assess the devastated war zone with some clarity, accuracy and objectivity she jumped to conclusions of her own and accused Sri Lanka of not conducting the war according to international norms. Mark you, she went on the offensive against Sri Lanka without having any reliable evidence, or statistics, or researched reports. It is obvious that within eight days of ending a war no oneÃ‚ would have had any consolidated evidence to mount a case against any party.
The best guide for her would have been a report from the UN. She had none except a statement by Gordon Weiss, UNÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s point manÃ‚ in Sri Lanka, saying that the total amount of deaths in the last months of the war was around 7,000. Weiss jacked up his own figure to 40,000 whenÃ‚ he went back to Australia to sensationalize his book, The Cage. Inflating the figure from 7,000 to 40,000 was a sales gimmick. Later he revised his figure and came down to 10,000 deaths when questioned at a public meeting in Melbourne.
Clearly, Ms. Pillay had nothing substantial to hang her anti-Sri Lankan agenda. She is also on record saying that the day she recorded her message Ã¢â‚¬” i.e., May 25, 2009 Ã¢â‚¬” the Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon was visiting Sri Lanka. This confirms that she was not in possession of any report/data from the UN to make any judgment. Everyone was digging for information and the available reports were confusing.
The confusion was inevitable because the case against Sri Lanka was based on the last five months of the war and not the entire length of 33 years Ã¢â‚¬” from 1976 to 2009. So on what basis did she accuse Sri Lanka? There were, of course, guesstimates, hearsay and some media reports. The most significant piece of paper available to her was theÃ‚ EU resolution which condemned Sri Lanka for not ending the war according to international norms. Her statement ran, unsurprisingly, on parallel lines with that of the EU Resolution. The coincidence of Ms. Pillay and the EU attacking Sri Lanka on the same day, in the same platform, is, indeed, noteworthy, to say the least.
Besides, the accusation of not conducting the war accordingÃ‚ to international norms was leveled only against the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL). There were other actors like India which violated international humanitarian law in conducting their operations in Jaffna against the LTTE between 1988 — 1990. The Resolution against Sri Lanka did not mention a word about IndiaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s violations of international laws and international humanitarian law. Does this mean that UNHRC considers India to be above the law andÃ‚ should be exempted from all the documented war crimes and crimes against humanityÃ‚ committed by the IPKF in Jaffna?
The main thrust of the UNHRC Resolution against Sri Lanka runs on two parallel paths:Ã‚ (1) exonerate all the other actors/agents involved in a 33-year-old war and (2) raise issues that occurred only in the last five months. Though at first sight both tactics seem like sheer lunacy there is a method in their madness: if their finger-pointing is confined to the last five months then only the GOSL is answerable because the last stages of the war were fought only by the Sri Lankan forces on the banks of Nandikadal. It is quite apparent that this tactic of limiting issues arising from a 33-year-old war to a time-frame of five months in the last stages was designed to corner Sri Lanka and exempt all other actors/agents. So the resolution presented to UNHRC by Ms. Pillay on May 26, 2009 stands out as a selectively politicized act to target Sri Lanka only, exonerating all other violators of international norms, including the LTTE and its collaborators like Adele Balasingham, head of the womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brigades, and the leaders of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).
The role of TNA which collaborated with the quasi-state of Velupillai Prabhakaran, complete with an army, navy, air force and judiciary, takes R. Sampanthan and his lieutenants like M. Sumanthiram to a higher level of criminal liability than just being complicit in the crimes committed by Ã-the murderous organizationÃ¢â‚¬. As the known records revealÃ‚ TNA MPs were obedient and active factotums who went along with the LTTE when it was committing war crimes and crimes against the Tamil people, particularly the Tamil children. They cannot hide behind the standard excuse of havingÃ‚ to Ã-follow ordersÃ¢â‚¬ coming from the top because all crimes have an element of compulsion Ã¢â‚¬” biological, psychological, political, ideological, environmental, economic etc. — which can be used to absolve responsibility. The law steps in to fix responsibility for acts of commission and omission and the responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity was defined in the Nuremberg Trials (1945-1946).Ã‚ The Ã-defense of superior ordersÃ¢â‚¬ used to avoid criminal liability was rejected by Nuremberg Courts. This is also known as the Ã-Nuremberg defenseÃ¢â‚¬ used by the Nazi war criminals to pass the buck to their superiors who gave the orders to kill. They argued that they were following the superior orders that came from Adolf Hitler.
Rejecting this the Nuremberg Principle IV countered by determining : “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” The TNA, which acted as covert and overt agents of the LTTE in exchange for the political patronage and guarantee of personal security, had Ã-a moral choiceÃ¢â‚¬ available to them. Other courageous Tamils resisted the threats of Ã-the murderous organizationÃ¢â‚¬ and either joined the democratic mainstream or maintained their independence by hidingÃ‚ in safe havens in the south. Instead of exercising the Ã-moral choiceÃ¢â‚¬ available to them the TNA in particular decided to go along, willingly and knowingly, with the quasi-state of Prabhakaran which decimated not only the entire Tamil leadership but also killed more Tamils than any other force in the longest running war in Asia, as stated by S. C. Chandrahasan and V. Anandasangaree, President of the TULF.
They do not have even a fig leaf to cover their guilty part. Adolf Eichmann in his defence in Israel claimed : “I never did anything, great or small, without obtaining in advance express instructions from Adolf Hitler or any of my superiors.” The TNA leaders too never did anything, great orÃ‚ small, without obtaining in advance clearance from the Tamil avatar of Adolf Hitler in Vanni. Sampanthan and Sumanthiram knowingly and willingly accepted PrabhakaranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s blessings for their political survival when they could have fought for the human rights of the persecuted Tamils. Today they are posing as defenders of human rights because the GOSL has given them the right and the freedom to fight for their political beliefs.
Where were their voices when their people were facing the brutal violence of Prabhakaran? WasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it the Ã-Sinhala governmentsÃ¢â‚¬ that gave the TNA leaders their dignity, liberty and the equality to exercise their democratic rights in Parliament and in the open political arena? But what rights and dignity didÃ‚ they have under Prabhakaran? The more the TNA collaborated with the LTTE the more they lost their dignity, liberty, and, of course, conscience. It is these willing collaborators who went before Ms. Pillay and pretended to be the defenders of Tamil rights.
The guilt of the Tamil leadership in being partners in the crimes committed by their Ã-liberatorÃ¢â‚¬, Prabhakaran, assumes a greater significance in the light of the arguments raised by Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Neelan Tiruchelvam, and their co-partners in I/NGOs who collectively blamed the GOSL for Ã-1983Ã¢â‚¬. They took the high moral ground in Ã-1983Ã¢â‚¬ and accused the J. R. JayewardeneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s UNP government of being Ã-complicitÃ¢â‚¬ in the senseless riots that killed around 300 innocent Tamil civilians. The charge of complicity was based on the allegation that the GOSL not only failed to take preventive action but was also guilty of turning a blind eye when Colombo was burning. That is a fair argument.Ã‚ If that is her conviction then shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Ms. Coomaraswamy and her I/NGO partners apply the same principle in judgingÃ‚ the role of the TNA leadership? DidnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t TNA go all out to prop up Prabhakaran knowing full well that he was committing war crimes and crimes againstÃ‚ humanity? IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t this far worse than the Ã-complicityÃ¢â‚¬ of GOSL in Ã-1983Ã¢â‚¬? Talking purely in terms of statistics, in Ã-1983Ã¢â‚¬ roughly 300 Tamils died. How many thousands of Tamils were killed by Prabhakaran, the great Thamby of the TNA?
In contrast Ã-1983Ã¢â‚¬ was like the fizz of a soda bottle: it flared and died never to repeat again. ButÃ‚ the subhuman violence of Prabhakaran against his own people lasted for three decades with the blessings of the TNA, NGOs and the Tamil diaspora. So what is holding back TNA, Ã-PakiÃ¢â‚¬ Saravanmuttu, Jehan (Pacha) Perera and their gang of human rights activists from organizing memorials to say never to the rise of a future Prabhakaran? In commemorating Ã-1983Ã¢â‚¬ are they saying that violence comes only from the south against the Tamils? IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t blaming the south the standard ruse for diverting attention from the perennial peninsular violence of the Jaffna Tamil leadership that treated their own people as despicable pariahs not fit for the pure Vellahla society? WhatÃ‚ is the dignity, respect and freedom that the Sampanthans and his kind gave the low-castes in Jaffna? IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it a fact that the Jaffna Tamil man blossomed, with whatever rights that were available, only in the democratic south? WasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Jaffna the Stygian hell-hole where the oppressed and the persecuted minorities were denied the basicÃ‚ right Ã¢â‚¬” forget the universal human rights –Ã‚ to live and walk in the daylight? What dignity and respect did the Jaffna man have under the leadership of the Vellahlas and Prabhakaran?
DidnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Sampanthan, Sumanthiram, Wigneswaran and Ã-PakiÃ¢â‚¬ Saravanamuttu find their full potential to be human, with all its limitations, only in the south and not in the north ruled by Prabhakaran? Even in Ã-1983Ã¢â‚¬ didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the Sinhalese risk their lives to save the Tamils? Also when the tsunamai hit Mullativu wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t it the Sinhala village folk who took essentials to the displaced Tamils? Finally, where did the desperate Tamils running away from Prabhakaran go for safety? DidnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t they go runningÃ‚ into the arms of a vilified Sinhala leader, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to save them?
What did President Mahinda Rajapaksa get in return? When the homeless, hungry, thirsty, exhausted Tamils were saved the Tamil leadership, which has never ceased to blame the Sinhalese forÃ‚ their sins, blamed President Rajapaksa for saving them from the clutchesÃ‚ of savage Prabhakaran. Their logic is bizarre. Joining hands with the West they blame him for the way he saved the helpless Tamils. But they never pointÃ‚ out how 300,000 Tamil held asÃ‚ hostage by Ã-ThambyÃ¢â‚¬ could have been saved except by fighting to a finish in the battlefield. They insist that President Rajapaksa should have follow the rules of engagement that no one else had followed ever before. Rules and morality are only for Sri Lanka. America, for instance, which engaged in biological and chemical warfare can get away with no pressure from outside sources. The YankeesÃ‚ destroyed the fauna, flora and homo sapiens in Vietnam with Agent Orange and delivered small pox infested blankets to unsuspecting RedÃ‚ Indians to wipe them out. Now they are threatening to bomb Syria for using sarin gas.
Incidentally, as pointed out by Prof. Peter Chalk of Queensland University, Prabhakaran is the only known terrorist to have engaged in chemical warfare. He has documented that the Tamil Tigers hurled a poisonous chemical on an army camp in the north, which, incidentally blew back on fell on the Tigers. The enormity of the crimes committed by the Tamil Tigers against the Tamil civilians was never going to end under Prabhakaran. The only way to save the Tamils was to end the war once and for all. Taking Prabhakaran out of the political equation was an act of mercy, both for him and the Tamil people. If the Nobel Peace Prize winning President Obama sits with his apparatchiks every Tuesday and decides which human being should be eliminated to protect and preserve the security of America why is wrong for President Rajapaksa to fight, face-to-face, the worst political criminal of the Tamils and save peace? It is against this moral mis-en-scene that Ms. Pillay, TNA, NGOs and the West say that President RajapaksaÃ‚ should have followed the laws of war that no one else had followed ever before.
Not having any valid argument for ending the war and saving 300,000 Tamils they find fault with President Rajapaksa for the way he ended the war. They throw at him a fictitious figure of 40,000 dead Ã¢â‚¬” no one has yet counted the dead Ã¢â‚¬” and dismiss the counted figure of 300,000 saved. As usual the Tamil narrative rides on fiction than on reality. They disguise their vindictive ethnic politics as a fight for human rights. The TNA has forfeited the right to speak for the Tamil people after their heartless collaborationÃ‚ with the killer of countless Tamils. The time to stand up for Tamils was when Prabhakaran forcibly dragged Tamil children into a futile while his children were swimmingÃ‚ in a pool in Vanni. Why did TNA fail to stand up at least to protect the Tamil children who were forcibly dragged into a futile war? Why didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Ã-PakiÃ¢â‚¬ Saravanamuttu who ran to the Supreme Court raising complex constitutional issues to pin down GOSL refuse to take up the simple issue of the violations of the rights of Tamil children in PrabhakaranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s courts?
The moral ofÃ‚ this tale is quite plain: only the Sinhalese commit crimes. The Tamils are pure. They donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t commit crimes. They only provide human shields to hide the crimes of their political leaders and make them look like the greatest defenders of human rights.
What is equally reprehensible is that Ms. Pillay, who should know her law inside out and, consequently, the criminal liability of the TNA MPs also, did not raise these issues with the TNA delegation that met her. They were willing partners of Prabhakaran, working hand in glove with him, and the Chief Executive Officer appointed by UN to protect and promote human rights never raised the issue of TNAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s culpability as collaborators in war crimes and crimes against humanity. Of course, she was quick to raise issues of human rights with government officials. But when it came to the TNA leaders who collaborated with Ã-the murderous organizationÃ¢â‚¬ she forgot her law and morals. Ã‚ How come? Was it ignorance or a case of turning a blind eye?
The role of TNA now as defenders of Tamil rights is laughable. It is as credible as the Neo-Nazis claiming to be the defenders of the Jews. They are the neo-Prabhakaranists who are waiting for the return of the mummy of Prabhakaran. Their leaders (example: Suresh Premachandra)Ã‚ have expressed publicly a willingness to go along with the next militant movement which they hope to create and strengthen when they win power in the coming Provincial Council election in the north. The Tamil leadership had never been shy of using Tamil people, on the one hand, and Prabhakaran, on the other, to keep themselves in power. They are now emboldened by the visit of Ms. Pillay to kick start their Vadukoddai violence.
To be fair by all sides, even at this late stage, Ms. Pillay has an opportunity in her forthcomingÃ‚ report to the Council to question the criminal role of TNA collaborators who went along with Prabhakaran who was never tired of killing Tamils Ã¢â‚¬” from Neelan Tiruchelvam to the helpless Tamils running away into the safety of the Sri Lankan Forces? But will she find enough courage in her conscience to face up to her own moral and legal obligations? Or will she confine her comments only to denigrate GOSL which is in keepingÃ‚ with her past political agenda?
All doubts about TNAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s separatist/violent political agenda have been removed by the declarations in the election manifesto which takes Jaffna Tamil politics back to Vadukoddai politics of 1976. In their latest manifesto the TNA has deliberately chosen to go down the Vadukoddai path which will inescapably take them to Tamil extremism, Tamil fascism and Tamil militarism. They are the bogus Gandhians who distributed wooden pistols at their satyagraha sit-ins. Their Ã-trousered GandhiÃ¢â‚¬, S. J. V. Chelvanayakam, proudly carried on his forehead a Ã-tilakaÃ¢â‚¬ (red pottu) drawn with the blood oozing from a cut vein of a Vadukoddian committed to violence. In keeping with this bloody tradition the TNA is reviving and recycling the Vadukoddai Resolution to signal that they are ready to pursue Vadukoddai violence which they know will lead to gross violations of human rights. Once again they are preparing to commit the worst crime in international law Ã¢â‚¬” the crime of aggression which leads to war.
The decision of the Tamil leadership to drag the Tamil people back to Vadukoddai is inexcusable. At least in 1976 they did not know the outcome of their calculated decision to seek a military solution. This time they are returning to square one knowing that it is a gamble without any guarantees of success. Nor can they claim now that they were under compulsion from PrabhakaranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s terror. Also, the threadbare arguments of discrimination, and denial of admissions to universities, or job opportunities are no longer there for them to take up arms or call for a separate state. The reality is that they are hoisted by their own petard laid in Vadukoddai and do not know how to get outÃ‚ of it except by playing the usual blame game of accusing the Sinhala-Buddhist majority. Their delusional politics has made them believe that the tide has turned in their favour and the time is ripe for them strike after the elections. They are blindly refusing to look at the plain reality of their own history: if Prabhakaran could not, with the best of military force, backed also by David Milliband and Richard Kouchner and Tamil diaspora, could not save them what are their chances without Prabhakaran?
They are buoyed by the likes of Ms. Pillay whose partisan politics is seen as encouragement to pursue Vadukoddai violence. They are banking, as usual on the international forces. If they have eyes to see and brains to analyse the way the international forces are swinging they would think twice before jumpingÃ‚ into another Nandikadal. Besides, the blame gameÃ‚ played by Ms. Pillay, TNA and I/NGOs can only go thus far and no further. There is a strong resistance gathering momentum against Western interventions Ã¢â‚¬” including tools of the West like UNHRC. Ms. Pillay, no doubt, will damn Sri Lanka in her report and the NGOs will go to town with it. And how many time before have they danced in the streets arguing that this is going to be the end for Sri Lanka. In short, isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t Navy Pillai, whose respect for human rights can be measured by her silent acceptance of the collaborators of Prabhakaran as defenders of human rights, a spent force? If she accepts TNA as defenders of Tamil human rights then she must also accept Prabhakaran as a substitute for Gandhi.
Ms. PillayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s moves are predictable. She will slam Sri Lanka again in her next report to UNHRC.Ã‚ She has done this before and she will continue to do it again. Before she arrived in Sri Lanka I predicted that she will not change because her agenda isÃ‚ tied to that of the West. Besides, she is noted for her partisan politics. The Geneva- based UN Watch, an independent NGO,Ã‚ which has comprehensively researched all statements made by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay between September 2008 and June 2010, reported that their findings Ã-show a questionable sense of prioritiesÃ¢â‚¬.
Here is the relevant quote from its report: Ã-Ms. Pillay turned a blind eye to most of the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worst abusers. She made no statement on the human rights situations of 146 countries. She failed to voice any concern for victims in 34 countries rated Ã-Not FreeÃ¢â‚¬ by Freedom House – meaning those with the worst records, and the most needy victims. She failed to criticize another 50 countries rated Ã-partly freeÃ¢â‚¬ and 63 countries rated Ã-free.Ã¢â‚¬ Among the countries not criticized: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Brunei, Cambodia, Cameroon, Congo (Brazzaville), CÃƒ´te dÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Ivoire, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mauritania, North Korea, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.Ã¢â‚¬
There is one item missing in this list: TNA. NoÃ‚ justice system, committed toÃ‚ international humanitarian law, can exonerate the TNA of its criminal liability. Nor can any system exempt India for its brutal persecution and suppression of Jaffna Tamils. If these two active collaborators with the LTTE Ã¢â‚¬” remember Indian intervention as a whole was to save the LTTE though it turned against them later — are allowed to escape the long arm of the law then on what legal or moral principle should any other party be held responsible?
And again, why did Ms. Pillay leap over all these abusers of human rights and pick on Sri Lanka within days of ending the wars? After spending the longest period of time in Sri Lanka more than in any of her peripatetic global meanderings why did she exonerate the TNA with her silence? Will she have the necessary objectivity and fairness to hold the scales evenly and insist that India and TNA too should be held responsible for the crimes they committed in Sri Lanka? But then we must pause and ask: Can a tigress change her stripes?