Opinion: Sri Lanka not a British colony anymore
Posted on November 17th, 2013

By K.M.H.C.B. Kulatunga

Certain Western countries are trying to make use of the Commonwealth to pass judgments on smaller countries which had been former British colonies, under their iron fist.

Certain so-called big countries appear to think that countries such as Sri Lanka are still their colonies and that we should dance to their melody.

Under the circumstances, Sri Lanka is fortunate to have a fearless leader in the calibre of President Mahinda Rajapaksa who has always put country before self to safeguard the interests of his people and the motherland.

The new bridge in Panichchankerny, Vakarai which was opened in September. Pic: Sudath Silva

It was a great honour not only to Sri Lanka but also to all other smaller states in the Commonwealth to have President Rajapaksa as the Commonwealth Chairman-in-Office succeeding the Australian Prime Minister for the next two years.

Global and Commonwealth issues

The CHOGM is the Commonwealth’s ultimate policy and decision-making forum. Commonwealth leaders meet to discuss global and Commonwealth issues such as international peace and security, democracy, human rights, health and the environment, and to agree on collective policies and initiatives.

But never before in the history of the Commonwealth have internal matters of a member country has been dug so much. The way some delegates are taking about Sri Lanka, it looks as if the Commonwealth has nothing else to do, other than meddling in Sri Lanka-â„¢s internal affairs. The Prime Ministers of Canada and Britain seem to be thinking that the Commonwealth is all about Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is among the oldest members of the 53 member Commonwealth of Nations, being one of its founders since it gained independence in 1948.

President Rajapaksa became the Chair-in of the Commonwealth at a milestone month of his exemplary career as a dynamic politician loved by all. His match to the chairmanship of the Commonwealth coincides with his 68th birthday which falls tomorrow and the eight anniversary since becoming the President on November 18, 2005.

Overwhelming majority

He established a record in Sri Lankan political history with being the first Executive President to lead his party to a landslide victory in Parliamentary Elections held just over two months after being elected for a second term of office as Executive President with an overwhelming majority of 1,842,749, polling 6,015,934 votes in January, 2010.

This saw the Sri Lankan electorate recognising him as the national leader who liberated the country from the terrorism of the LTTE and set the country on the path to peace, stronger democracy and rapid economic development.

He was elected as the Chairman of the eight-member South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) at the 15th SAARC Summit held in Colombo in August 2008, taking over the Chair of SAARC from India. He relinquished his position at the 16th Summit to Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Thinley. He was also Chairman of G15 from 2010-2012.

Leadership

Hence, Sri Lanka has a string political leadership which is capable of facing all overwhelming odds. But the international community should think twice as to why these concocted stories are doing rounds every time Sri Lanka takes part in an international for a.

Why did the visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron completely shun local media personnel at the press conference he held yesterday? Cameron put Sri Lanka on notice to address allegations of war crimes within months or else he would lead a push for action at the United Nations.

Cameron has been here to attend the CHOGM 2013 as a Head of Commonwealth Member state. We wonder whether he has got his priorities mixed up and think that he an international arbitrator or investigator sent to Sri Lanka by the UN Security Council?

The British Prime Minister who held a press conference at the BMICH media centre last morning, completely avoided the majority of local media who were ready to pose questions while only answering a selected few questions mainly by foreign journalists.

Development

Cameron has no business to advocate Sri Lanka or its democratically elected leaders on the course of action they should take. Is he blind to not see the unprecedented volume of development activities that has been accomplished in the North and the East and the speedy resettlement process that has taken place after the eradication of the terrorism?

Victims of one of the several attacks on civilians by Tigers.

It seems that Cameron and his team had only spoken to some of ex-LTTE cadres who are still dreaming of a separate state. If Cameron is so sympathetic on terrorists, he must first show that at back home, treating the same manner he preaches us to the Irish rebels.

Sri Lanka has embarked on its own reconciliation process and we would not take any threats from Cameron who has unilaterally set deadlines. Cameron has threatened that if an investigation is not completed by March, he will use UK-â„¢s position on the UN Human Rights Council to work with the UNHRC and call for a full, credible and independent international inquiry.

But what Sri Lanka-â„¢s celebrated Test bowler Muttiah Muralitharan has told Cameron at the CCC yesterday was food for thought.

It was heartening to see Muralitharan, as usual, vocing on behalf the country, as he had done with the ball on a many a occasions in international cricket. Muralitharan has done his level best to convince Cameron on the true situation in Sri Lanka.

People’s needs

As President Rajapaksa told the CHOGM 2013 opening ceremony, if the Commonwealth is to remain relevant to its member countries, the association must respond sensitively, to the needs of its people’s and not let it turn into a punitive or judgmental body.

We must also collectively guard against bilateral agendas being introduced into the organisation, distorting Commonwealth traditions and consensus.

The strength of the Organisation lies in keeping the member countries together, helping one another in a spirit of partnership, making the Commonwealth truly unique.

The Commonwealth should not act as international policemen, forgetting its values and customs.

As a matter of priority, the Commonwealth should focus on development challenges, confronting the majority of their member nations.

There is a compelling need for those who guide the destiny of the Commonwealth to give serious thought to practical modalities, focusing on social and economic issues.

This will greatly enhance the relevance and value of the Commonwealth. Special emphasis on the well-being of women and children is important.

Accountability

Prince Charles said that Sri Lanka had confronted great adversity in recent years. -I am especially pleased to be back among the people of Sri Lanka who, in recent years, have confronted great adversity,- the Prince said.

Hence, we trust the Commonwealth brings healing to our troubles, rather than poking into internal matters of member countries.

It appears that Cameron was using the visit to win favour with the Tamil community in the UK. If Cameron is taking about accountability and human rights violations, he must first and foremost apologise for the brutal killings and gross human rights violations by the British Forces when they invaded Sri Lanka and took complete control of the country by 1815. Those too are war crimes and could never be compared with Sri Lanka-â„¢s Security Forces action against LTTE terrorists.

Cameron appears to be a spokesman for the Channel 4 when he mentioned about a controversial documentary produced by the notorious channel on Sri Lanka-â„¢s Security Forces.

As Minister of mass Media and Information Keheliya Rambukwella has quite rightly pointed out, Cameroncould not treat Sri Lanka as a colony still as the country has gained independence from the British in 1948. Perhaps, Cameron may not be aware that when the British ruled Sri Lanka, they ordered not only to kill all civilians against the forcible British rule but also ordered to kill cattle in 1818.

War crimes

Before talking about internal matters of Sri Lanka, Cameron must prove Britain-â„¢s accountability in killing 1.2 million people by invading Iraq with the US. Though the West made a big hue and cry over weapons of mass destruction, they could not find any in Iraq.

They also committed the same war crimes in Libya and Afghanistan. These are the strategies of the West to take the regimes which do not dance to their melody.

If Cameron is so concerned about civilian casualties, he should first give explanations and compensate thousands of civilians who has been killed by NATO forces and the US-led drone attacks in Pakistan.

Despite all those gross human rights violations, the UN appears to act like a toothless tiger. If the UNHRC chief Navi Pillay is transparent in her conduct, she should first act against human rights violations by the US-led NATO forces in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. While allowing the US and its allies to do anything and everything in the guise of their national security, the UNHRC continues to question Sri Lanka-â„¢s right to protect its 21 million people from the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world.

Hence, Cameron should first prove UK-â„¢s sincerity and transparency by tendering an unconditional apology for thousands of Sri Lankans killed when the British forces invaded Sri Lanka nearly three centuries ago.

Those too are war crimes and it is the duty of the UK to address them rather than shouting from the rooftops on the human rights of the LTTE terrorists killed in action.

4 Responses to “Opinion: Sri Lanka not a British colony anymore”

  1. helaya Says:

    Kule,
    There is no point asking UK give accountability on their atrocities in many countries. Next march Sri Lanka delegation to Geneva must act effortlessly having prepared with documentaries ect to support Sri Lanka claims. Always Sri Lanka sending incompetent people to Geneva and we get same results.

  2. Ananda-USA Says:

    Helaya is right,

    If Sri Lanka is hauled up by Britain in front of the UNHRC meeting in Geneva next March, our team should READ INTO THE PERMANTNT UNHRC RECORD a FULL LIST OF WAR CRIMES and HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS by Britain, demanding EQUAL ACCOUNTABILITY from Britain.

    A PARTIAL list of these British crimes, culled from sources on the Web, is given below:

    …. The ILLEGAL unpunished war in Iraq without UN sanction and based on false fabricated allegations of WMD production by the Iraqis, extinguished over 1.5 million Iraqi lives as estimated by the British Medical Association’s Lancet journal staff. During the first years of British rule in Iraq, numerous attacks on civilians were carried out, including village burning and indiscriminate bombing.

    …. Raping of local German women was a common feature among British troops in post-WWII occupation of Germany. Even elderly women were targeted. The Royal Military Police tended to turn a blind eye towards abuse of German prisoners and civilians but rape was a major issue for them.

    ….The indiscriminate carpet bombing of Dresden, Germany that created a firestorm that killed over 100,000 people. While “no agreement, treaty, convention or any other instrument governing the protection of the civilian population or civilian property” from aerial attack was adopted before the war, the Hague Conventions did prohibit the bombardment of undefended towns. Allied forces inquiry concluded that an air attack on Dresden was militarily justified on the grounds the city was defended.

    …. The summary execution of 7 captured Argentine soldiers by British soldiers in the Falklands war. In 1993, Argentine president Carlos Menem ordered an investigation into allegations that Argentine soldiers captured during the Battle of Mount Longdon had been executed by British paratroopers. The statements were said to confirm seven executions.

    …. The GENOCIDE in Sri Lanka in the Uva-Welassa uprising of 1818. Tens of thousands of innocent villagers were slaughtered by marauding British troops, thousands of women raped, thousands of children decapitated, hundreds of thousands of homes burned, all cattle and other live stock killed, fruit trees cut down, rice fields and irrigation systems destroyed, and the land and the means of livelihood of the people laid waste, just as Gen. Tecumseh Sherman did fifty years later in his march from Atlanta to the Sea in the US Civil War.

    …. the suppression of India’s 1857 Sepoy Mutiny including widespread summary executions across the countryside, particularly by forces under the command of Neill and Renaud; indiscriminate murder of civilians during the capture of Delhi; and the summary execution of the princes of Delhi and other Indian leaders,

    ….. the treatment of Boer civilians in the Second Boer War, when the British Empire ordered the civilian internment of the Afrikaner population into concentration camps, killing around 34,000 people. A later Prime Minister, Henry Campbell-Bannerman, declared in the British Parliament on 14 June 1901: “When is a war not a war? When it is waged in South Africa by methods of barbarism.”

    …. the murder of German naval prisoners from the two German submarines, U-27 and U-41 which were sunk by the British Q-ship HMS Baralong between August and September 1915. In the first case, a number of survivors were summarily executed by Baralong´s crewmembers under orders of Lieutenant Godfrey Herbert on 19 August 1915. The massacre was reported to a newspaper by American citizens on board Nicosia, a British freighter loaded with war supplies which was stopped by U-27 just minutes before the incident. On 24 September, Baralong destroyed U-41, which was in the process of sinking the cargo ship Urbino. According to Karl Goetz, the U-41’s commander, the British vessel continued flying the U.S. flag after opening fire on the submarine, and the lifeboat carrying the German survivors was rammed and sunk by the British Q-ship.

    …. the use of chemical weapons in WWI. Poison gas was introduced by Imperial Germany, and was subsequently used by all major belligerents (including Britain) in the war against enemy soldiers, in violation of the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which prohibited the use of “poison or poisoned weapons” in warfare.

    ….. the killing of Irish civilians in retaliation for Bloody Sunday violence in Dublin on 21 November 1920.in which the IRA assassinated 13 British intelligence agents. That same afternoon, a joint force of British soldiers, policemen, and paramilitaries opened fire in retaliation on a crowd attending a Gaelic football match in Croke Park, killing 14 civilians and wounding 68.

    …. the greatest genocide of the 20th century was not the Holocaust in German death camps during WWII, but the Bengal famine in India as late as 1943, caused due to English atrocities. Mass stockpile of food grain harvested in the state of Bengal,were taken away and hoarded by the English in anticipation of Japanese attack. Very seldom has this genocide been mentioned in historical records. More than 3 million lives perished. Never has England acknowledged this fact, and never will they include this in their historical records. It is an absolute shame. This aspect places England not much better than some of the merciless regimes of the modern era that have absolutely no remorse for the crimes they have committed.

    ….the mass murder by engineered famines in Colonial India. In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of the famines which killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy.

    When an El Nino drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, government officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices.” The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. Within the labour camps, the workers were given less food than the inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.

    As millions died, the imperial government launched “a militarized campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought.” The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places which had produced a crop surplus, the government’s export policies, like Stalin’s in the Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the North-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceding three years, at least 1.25m died.

    …..Slaughter of 100,000 by violence and engineered famine in Kenya. Three recent books – Britain’s Gulag by Caroline Elkins, Histories of the Hanged by David Anderson and Web of Deceit by Mark Curtis – show how white settlers and British troops suppressed the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s. Thrown off their best land and deprived of political rights, the Kikuyu started to organise – some of them violently – against colonial rule. The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps. Most of the remainder – over a million – were held in “enclosed villages”. Prisoners were questioned with the help of “slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes.” British soldiers used a “metal castrating instrument” to cut off testicles and fingers. “By the time I cut his balls off,” one settler boasted, “he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket”. The soldiers were told they could shoot anyone they liked “provided they were black”. Elkins’s evidence suggests that over 100,000 Kikuyu were either killed by the British or died of disease and starvation in the camps. David Anderson documents the hanging of 1090 suspected rebels: far more than the French executed in Algeria. Thousands more were summarily executed by soldiers, who claimed they had “failed to halt” when challenged.

    …. At least twenty such atrocities overseen and organised by the British government or British colonial settlers: they include, for example, the Tasmanian genocide, the use of collective punishment in Malaya, the bombing of villages in Oman, the dirty war in North Yemen, the evacuation of Diego Garcia. Some of them might trigger a vague, brainstem memory in a few thousand readers, but most people would have no idea what I’m talking about. Max Hastings, in the Guardian today, laments our “relative lack of interest in Stalin and Mao’s crimes.” But at least we are aware that they happened.

    …. the enslavement of whole Indian villages and transporting them as bonded laborers to work in other British colonies in Asia, Africa and the West Indies. This is how much of the Indian communities in other colonized countries were created.

    …. the production of Opium in India and its sale under military threats (i.e., the Opium Wars) to the people of Imperial China to convert them wholesale into drug addicts.

    Seeing little to gain from trade with European countries, the Chinese Qing emperor permitted Europeans to trade only at the port of Canton, and only through licensed Chinese merchants. For years, foreign merchants accepted Chinese rules—but by 1839 the British, who were the dominant trading group, were ready to flex their muscles.

    They had found a drug that the Chinese would buy: opium. Grown legally in British India, opium was smuggled into China, where its use and sale became illegal after the damaging effects it had on the Chinese people.

    With its control of the seas, the British easily shut down key Chinese ports and forced the Chinese to negotiate—marking the beginning of what is known as the “one hundred years of humiliation” for the Chinese. Dissatisfied with the resulting agreement, the British sent a second and larger force that took even more coastal cities, including Shanghai. The ensuing Opium War was settled at gunpoint; the resulting Treaty of Nanjing opened five ports to international trade, fixed the tariff on imported goods at five percent, imposed an indemnity of twenty-one million ounces of silver on China to cover Britain’s war expenses, and ceded the island of Hong Kong to Great Britain.

    This treaty satisfied neither side. Between 1856 and 1860, Britain and France renewed hostilities with China. Seventeen thousand British and French troops occupied Beijing and set the Imperial Palace on fire. Another round of harsh treaties gave European merchants and missionaries greater privileges, and forced the Chinese to open several more cities to foreign trade and opium sales.

  3. Ananda-USA Says:

    David Cameron in India: Should U.K. Apologize for Its Imperial Past?

    At the Jallianwala Bagh memorial, David Cameron called the 1919 massacre “a deeply shameful event,” but didn’t extend a formal apology on behalf of his government

    By Ishaan Tharoor
    World.Time.com
    February 20, 2013

    On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron became the first serving British Premier to pay a visit to the Jallianwala Bagh memorial in the northern Indian city of Amritsar. The site marks the 1919 massacre of scores of unarmed Indian protesters by British colonial troops — imperial officials at the time put the body count at 379; subsequent Indian investigations claim more than 1,000 died. The incident is firmly embedded in India’s 20th century historical memory and inflames nationalist passions. It reached the rest of the world’s imagination when immortalized in a scene in Richard Attenborough’s Oscar-winning 1982 film, Gandhi.

    After laying a wreath at the memorial for those slain, Cameron commented in a handwritten note at the site, describing the slaughter 94 years ago as a “deeply shameful event.” But, as all the media have noticed in both India and the U.K., he didn’t extend a formal apology on behalf of his government. Aware of the full weight of scrutiny on his visit, Cameron offered this defense to reporters in Amritsar:

    In my view we are dealing with something here that happened a good 40 years before I was even born, and which Winston Churchill described as ‘monstrous’ at the time and the British government rightly condemned at the time. So I don’t think the right thing is to reach back into history and to seek out things you can apologize for. I think the right thing is to acknowledge what happened, to recall what happened, to show respect and understanding for what happened.

    Fair enough. Cameron was in India (he had earlier stops in Mumbai and New Delhi), after all, on a trade mission, focused on a rosy future of Indo-British cooperation. Why bother with the sulfur stench of the past?

    Yet in India and other countries once ruled by the British, there are of course lingering resentments and historical grievances. For all the railroads and courthouses built, the British were always in India for pragmatic (read: rapacious) reasons. “India was bled white,” wrote Cambridge historian Piers Brendon, author of The Decline and Fall of the British Empire. The British Raj “rested on a mountain of skulls,” said the well-known India-based British writer William Dalrymple in a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph. “And people need to know that.”

    As a moral buffer, Cameron cites the contemporary outrage of Churchill, then the British Secretary of State for War, upon hearing reports of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Churchill and a whole rank of latter-day defenders of the empire maintained an earnest belief in the otherwise “liberal” effects of British dominion. But the man lionized in the West as that bulldog of liberty and democracy brimmed with racist contempt toward Indians and their aspirations for freedom. He also perhaps criminally neglected their plight. In 1943, as many as 3 million people in Bengal died in a famine instigated by British imperial policy during World War II and deliberately ignored by Churchill.

    But while the past must always be remembered — and, at times, interrogated — does it need, as Cameron says, to be apologized for? It’s difficult enough for countries these days to retrieve treasures plundered by the 19th century’s empires; symbolic state apologies are even rarer. Think of the decades of silence and shame that yawned between Australia’s apology to the aborigines or the U.S.’s apology to those harmed by the Chinese Exclusion Act and the cruelties for which they atoned. This past December, French President François Hollande stood before Algeria’s Parliament and spoke of the “brutal” and “unjust” effects of French colonial rule, but stopped short of an actual official apology. “I recognize the suffering the colonial system has inflicted,” uttered Hollande. That’s probably the most people from the decolonized world can expect from a European head of state.

    The obvious argument here is that once the apologizing begins, when does it stop? If Cameron had tendered a formal apology to India for Jallianwala Bagh, shouldn’t his government have also considered the inept British blundering that led to the hideous communal slaughters of Partition in 1947? (The current crises in the Middle East could also be laid at the feet of British cartographers.) Shouldn’t London also then turn to the deeper past and the grotesque rapine and pillage the East India Company inflicted upon whole swathes of India in the late 18th and early 19th centuries? And shouldn’t postcolonial governments then adopt a similar pose and consider accounting for the mistreatment of marginalized minorities or the misdeeds of their revolutionary wars? As some of the lingering geopolitical disputes in Asia prove, history can become both the most tedious and thorny of battlegrounds.

    But history is also rich with irony. Cameron was in India less as an imperial of old and more as a supplicant to a rising power, eager to boost trade. He faces stiff competition from the likes of Hollande — France recently beat the U.K. to win a lucrative fighter-jet contract with New Delhi. And then there was that moment of pleasing cultural contact: Cameron’s other stop in Amritsar was at the city’s famous Golden Temple, the holiest shrine for Sikhs. He knotted his head in a blue turban and spent an hour among its altars. The visit was a gesture not simply to Sikhs in India, but the large diaspora in the U.K. “What [Punjabi Sikhs] contribute to our country is outstanding,” said Cameron. The past may be a foreign country, as the saying goes, but the future should be about finding a better home there.

  4. Ananda-USA Says:

    “But while the past must always be remembered — and, at times, interrogated — does it need, as Cameron says, to be apologized for?:

    Is this THE SAME DAVID CAMERON … who threatens Sri Lanka with HELL, FIRE and BRIMSTONE for not repenting for faked alleged war crimes …. trying to DODGE THE BULLET fired at Britian’s own well documented MONUMENTAL CRIMES? Is this the same guy, or is he a totally new Englishman BORN-AGAIN with a BLANK MEMORY in the last few days?

    As I said before, here is a HYPOCRITE INCARNATE ….. exercising the WHITE IMPERIALIST’S inalienable birthright to ADOPT DOUBLE STANDARDS with IMPUNITY against former “subject” peoples!

    Bah! .. A POX on HIM & HIS ENTIRE HOUSE!

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