Beware of Americans bearing assistance
Posted on August 14th, 2016

by Rajeewa Jayaweera Courtesy The Island

Last week’s Sunday Island news report captioned “U.S. to assist in drafting a new Sri Lankan Constitution” is indeed food for thought. US Ambassador Atul Keshap, during a reception on board USS New Orleans, docked in at the Colombo Port on a three day goodwill visit, had reportedly held sway of his country’s desire to partner with the Sri Lankan military while assisting the government in drafting a new constitution and meeting commitments it had made to the United Nations Human Rights Council with regard to accountability issues. He supposedly welcomed new staff to the American embassy in Sri Lanka to work, amongst other things, on “human rights cooperation, rule of law and justice”. He has stated “we are working to strengthen our relationship with all of the different facets of the Sri Lankan government, including the armed forces, because we believe that a professional military is essential to the development and success of any viable democracy”. He has further expressed America’s desire to “partner with the security forces and move forward on the very important issues that had attracted the attention of Sri Lankans which encompassed development of a new Constitution and cooperation with the international community to address commitments with regard to accountability issues made in September of last year”.

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Few of the 504 victims of My-Lai-Vietnam-Massacre (top) Lynndie Rana England ‘interrogating’ an Iraqi prisoner in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq(Bottom) 

Both Sri Lanka’s Constitution and Judicial system has its share of imperfections. So does the American Constitution and Judicial system. Court proceedings commence with a contradiction. Accused are required to take an ‘honesty oath’ or affirmation to “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Immediately thereafter, an accused may plead the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution which is a part of the Bill of Rights and protects a person from being compelled to be a witness against himself in a criminal case. It invokes the privilege that allows a witness to decline to answer questions where the answers might incriminate him or her. In short, he or she does not need to “tell the truth”. In light of the ability to plead the Fifth Amendment, the need for an ‘honesty oath’ or affirmation is a contradiction.

Strengthening Relations & partnering Sri Lankan military

Dozens of US officials have visited Sri Lanka since January 2015. The Indian born Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal recently visited Sri Lanka for the sixth time. Even the current Secretary of State saw it fit to visit Sri Lanka. Elements of the US navy have paid more than a half dozen ‘goodwill visits’ to Sri Lanka.

Intelligence assistance provided by US in the later years of Sri Lanka’s fight against terrorism need be acknowledged with gratitude. That said, the lack of other forms of military assistance, America’s disinterest in partnering our military and absence of goodwill visits by US naval craft during the decades Sri Lanka spent fighting terrorism need be highlighted. In light of America’s attitude towards Sri Lanka since mid-1980s, motives for its sudden desire to “strengthen relations”, to state mildly, is questionable.

America has indeed come long way from the dark days in mid-1987 when then Sri Lanka’s pro American President JR Jayawardena (JRJ) desperately attempted to speak to then US President Ronald Regan. In his naivety, JRJ wanted Regan, who had previously entertained him to dinner in the White House, to prevail upon pro Soviet India to desist from a possible invasion of Sri Lanka (ship loads containing Indian Black Cat commandos could be seen from Galle Face, supposedly on standby by to evacuate Indian nationals in Colombo). Regan who declined to accept the telephone call had notoriously stated “tell him to talk to Spain” (James W Spain was the then US Ambassador to Sri Lanka). Left with no alternative, JR Jayawardena agreed to the infamous Indo – Sri Lanka Accord, the IPKF and the 13th Amendment. Thereafter, there were hardly any US bigwigs or underlings who came by Sri Lanka except in the aftermath of the 2004 Tsunami when two former US Presidents, US Secretary of State and a naval contingent visited Sri Lanka in connection with relief operations.

A Professional Military

Professionalism of Sri Lanka’s military was proved by their defeat of the LTTE terrorist group. That is not to say, certain excesses did not take place or to deny the need to investigate such cases, not forgetting the concept of ‘collateral damage’, a justification regularly used by America. The US army’s professionalism, in spite of access to superior fire power, technology and virtually unlimited funds spans all the way from Korea to Vietnam to Beirut to Somalia to Iraq to Afghanistan. Narration of excesses by US forces abroad would require volumes. Two random examples would suffice for the purpose.

The My Lai massacre committed by US forces killed 504 (subsequently reduced to 347 by US military investigators) unarmed civilians in South Vietnam in 1968 within a few hours. Victims included men, women, children, and infants between ages of one and eighty two. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies mutilated.

Members of the US Army and the CIA committed a series of human rights violations against dozens of detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. They included physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder.

Human Rights

America led the western pack at the UNHRC in Geneva by sponsoring a Resolution against Sri Lanka in September 2015. Sri Lanka, facing the threat of international sanctions had no option but to accept the resolution even though the need to co-sponsor it is understood only by those responsible for the decision. Since then, the international community cabal has never failed to remind Sri Lanka of its ‘commitments with regard accountability made in September 2015’. Recent history is strewn with examples of abuse of Human Rights by US during the Vietnam war, in Guantanamo Bay, unjustified regime changes in Iraq and Afghanistan to name a few. One is left bewildered trying to understand the logic of perpetrators of excesses in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan and rendition, thousands of miles away from US soil sponsoring a resolution against Sri Lanka, accusing it of alleged human rights violations during its endeavor to defeat a terrorist group advocating separatism on its own soil.

Raymond Allen Davis, a private security firm employee, and contractor with the CIA, killed two reportedly armed men in Lahore, Pakistan in 2011. The U.S. government claimed diplomatic immunity for an employee of a contractor on the basis he was an employee of the U.S. Consulate in Lahore. Nevertheless, Davis was jailed and criminally charged by Pakistani authorities with double murder and the illegal possession of a firearm. In a back room deal, Davis was released after the families of the two killed men were paid $2.4 million in diyya (a form of monetary compensation or blood money).

Judicial System

The absence of a credible judicial investigation to investigate pogroms in July 1983 is a clear case of the lack of a credible and robust judicial system in Sri Lanka. Such an investigation would have no doubt contributed immensely towards reconciliation. However, considering America’s own poor track record in such matters, one is left wondering if Ambassador Keshap’s new team of Americans now in Sri Lanka to work on “human rights cooperation, rule of law and justice” are the right people for the task.

After the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, twenty six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses related to the massacre. However, only Lieutenant William Calley Jr, a platoon leader was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but served only three and a half years under house arrest before being released. The US Judicial system has left it to the imagination of the public to deduce the manner in which the remaining 482 lost their lives.

Lynndie Rana England, a former United States Army Reserve soldier along with eleven other soldiers was convicted of war crimes and torture in the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal by Army courts-martial for inflicting sexual, physical and psychological abuse on Iraqi prisoners of war. She was sentenced to three years in prison and dishonorably discharged from the army. She served 521 days of her 1,095 days prison sentence before being paroled. After multiple investigations, human rights organizations stated that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were not isolated incidents, but were part of a wider pattern of torture and brutal treatment at American overseas detention centers, including those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Several scholars stated that the abuses constituted state-sanctioned crimes. Allegations have also been made of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld having authorized some of the actions.

CIA contractor Raymond Allen Davis was never tried in US for his crimes.

It is left to the discerning reader to fathom if Lt. Calley and his twenty five fellow soldiers, Lynndie Rana England and her eleven fellow soldiers and Raymond Allen Davis would have received different sentences, had they been tried under Vietnamese, Iraqi and Pakistani law. Further, would US have agreed to any “special courts” to prosecute the likes of Lt. Calley, Lynndie England, their fellow soldiers and CIA contractor Davis with “foreign assistance” and participation of “foreign Judges and expertise”?

Partiality and leniency towards members of its armed forces and nationals committing crimes abroad against foreign nationals, practiced regularly by US, is a perversion of its judicial system.

The incidents narrated herein should not be taken in isolation but in totality with US actions abroad since WWII, too numerous to be narrated in a single essay. The US has been responsible for thousands of acts similar to those narrated. They do illustrate a distinct pattern of sheer impunity and absolute disregard to international humanitarian law, when it involves America’s own interests and its forces.

Ambassador Keshap is the public face of America in Sri Lanka. Considering America’s track record, it behooves the Ambassador to explain to us Sri Lankans, his nation’s credentials, competence and suitability to assist this country on “human rights cooperation, rule of law and justice”.

4 Responses to “Beware of Americans bearing assistance”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    SL will be the next PAKISTAN.

    USA used PAKISTAN to attack Soviets. Look what is left of Pakistan today. Now USA wants to use SL to attack Chinese ships. Is there any idiot who thinks China will just do nothing?

    IF we cannot stop US basing, give them JAFFNA. Then a confrontation will affect mainly Jaffna.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sri Lanka should not get caught up in international politics.
    Sri Lankan politicos and the people CANNOT handle such huge issues.

    Those who cause problems may just go abroad if matters get ‘too hot to handle’ and leave the mess to be handled by many millions of those stuck in Lanka … Watch it Lanka !

    There has to be a huge movement in Lanka from ALL the people, to PROTECT LANKA from neo-Colonisation.

    The last wave of Colonisation lasting nearly 500 yrs brought enough sorrow and losses.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Suggestion :

    Sri Lanka PORTS (both sea & air) should be used ONLY for peaceful purposes, always.

    – Is Yahap up to getting that done ?

    – Will INDIA back Lanka with such an idea ?

    Quote of the day : ‘Discretion is the better part of Valor’

  4. plumblossom Says:

    Mr. Udaya Gammanpila Sir,

    Apart from highly commending you for taking legal action against the treacherous CBK (Chaura Rejina) regarding the defamatory and utter lies she keeps repeating to defame her rivals, legal action should be taken against her for stating that she will definitely devolve more powers to provincial Councils within the new constitution. Does this evil woman CBK think she owns Sri Lanka and that she is the one who is going to draw up the new constitution of Sri Lanka (according to the wishes of the imperialistic US, UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden, India, the racist TNA and the separatist terrorists)? The constitution of Sri Lanka should satisfy first and foremost the majority of people of this island i.e. the Sinhala people and the Sinhala people firstly do not want to draw up a new constitution nor do they want any more powers whatsoever be provided to the provincial councils.

    Someone has to go to the supreme court and take action against treacherous CBK for suggesting that she will definitely devolve more powers to provincial councils within the yet to be drawn up constitution since this means the treacherous Ranil, Sirisena, CBK and Mangala have already drawn up a constitution to satisfy the imperialistic US, UK, EU, Canada, Norway, Sweden, India, the racist TNA and the separatist terrorists which is illegal.

    Beyond this, this yahapalanaya government, CBK, Sirisena, the JVP, the JHU, Sarath Fonseka and the like are extremely corrupt and are enjoying perks such as Pajeros, official vehicles, official residences, Rs.200 lakhs loans, doing deals such as renting buildings for example to house the agricultural ministry at very high rents, the bond scam, paying supporters very high salaries and hiring them as ‘consultants’ who are not really consultants such as at the RDA, the rice mafia of Sirisena brother making massive amounts of money at the expense of poor rice farmers, the coal deals of Champika making yet more massive amounts of money, all these corrupt deals are being done and the country is being betrayed in this way by collecting the required two thirds majority in parliament to ensure that treacherous acts such as the missing persons act are approved by parliament.

    All the while valuable infrastructure that should be marketed all over the world such as the Mattala Airport was used for storing rice rather than enticing airlines all over the world to use this airport or at least divert half the airplanes which use Katunayake to Mattala, especially tourist planes.

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