Ban tarnishes SL’s image
Posted on September 11th, 2016

By Shivanthi Ranasinghe Courtesy Ceylon Today

Did the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon commit a serious error when he lumped the Rwanda and Srebrenica genocides with our war against terrorism? The Joint Opposition (JO) charged that he deliberately tarnished our image, ahead of the proposed war crimes probe.

Skills Development and Vocational Training Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, in a special media briefing, insisted that the media had misunderstood. Ban, he stated, never equated Sri Lanka with the above massacres, but as situations far worse than was in Sri Lanka. The UN Spokesperson Farhan Haq, however, stated that the UNSG’s words spoke for itself.
Ban’s words were, “Something more terrible and serious that happened in the past. In 1994 in Rwanda, there was a massacre. More than one million people were massacred. United Nations felt responsible for that. Of course, it was their war and massacres. But the United Nations was not able to act on it. We said repeatedly, “Never again, never again”.
“It happened just one year after in Srebrenica. Again, many people were massacred when they were not fully protected by the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. So we repeated again, “Never again”.

Never again, never again

“How many times should we have to repeat, “Never again, never again”? We did it again in Sri Lanka. We have to do much more not to repeat such things in Sri Lanka, Yemen and elsewhere.”

UN.org skips over this contentious quote and highlights that Ban commended the efforts to a comprehensive transitional justice agenda, the Constitutional reform process, as well as singing the National Anthem in Sinhala and Tamil on the Independence Day. He however said, “More can and should be done to address the legacy of the past and acknowledge the voices of the victims…There is still much work to be done in order to redress the wrongs of the past and to restore the legitimacy and accountability of key institutions, particularly the judiciary and the security services.”

UN.org further highlights, “In the conflict’s decisive final stages, tens of thousands of civilians perished. The war was ended – an unquestionable good for Sri Lanka, the region and the world. But we also know that even in its ending, the price was high.
“I again commend Sri Lankans for examining the difficult period you have now begun to leave behind. I am sure those efforts will continue to generate important lessons for the international community that can save many lives in many places.”

Civilian deaths

Ban must expose his source that testifies “tens of thousands of civilians perished”, as that has been denied by legitimate investigations.

Sri Lanka’s humanitarian mission that rescued the largest hostage situation in recent history certainly holds important lessons for the world that is increasingly besieged with terrorism. The tragedy is that the focus is not on such crucial lessons.
Be that as it may, disputing the JO leader Dinesh Gunwardena’s interpretation of Ban’s remarks, acting Foreign Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva opinionated in Parliament that Ban’s visit and remarks improved Sri Lanka’s image overseas.
On that note, it is pertinent to visit the Ruwanda and the Srebrenica genocides.
The Rwandan genocide

The majority Hutu aimed to wipe out the minority Tutsi from Rwanda in 1994. From 7 April to mid-July, it is estimated that as many as 70 per cent of the Tutsi and 20 per cent of the Rwandan population perished.

Historically, Hutu and Tutsi are of the same ethnicity, but of different castes. Traditionally, Tutsi herded cattle while Hutu farmed land. Since the 18th century, Tutsi became increasingly dominant and in a corvee system Hutu were forced to work for Tutsi chiefs. During the colonial era the Tutsi were favoured, while Hutu’s traditional lands privatized and hardly compensated. Though the Belgians modernized Rwanda with large scale projects in health, education, agriculture and public works, Hutu were disenfranchised and subject to large scale forced labour.

After World War II, Hutu agitated for their freedom. Tutsi also agitated, but on their own terms. The Belgian administration sided with Hutu and Rwanda regained its independence in 1964 with a Hutu-dominated republic.
To avoid Hutu reprisals, more than 300,000 Tutsi fled to neighbouring countries. They formed armed groups and frequently attacked Rwandan territory, which led to a cycle of further reprisals and more exiles. With President Juvenal Habyarimana ascending to power in 1973, violence against Tutsi reduced somewhat.

Guerrilla warfare

However, Tutsi refugees continued to intervene militarily. Chiefly, the Rwandan Patriotic Front with the backing of Uganda engaged in guerrilla warfare. After two peace negotiation attempts, Arusha Accords were agreed upon in 1993. It accommodated RPF in the Broad-Based Transitional Government and in the national Army. The peacekeeping force, United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) arrived during the setting up of the BBTG.
The events earned Habyarimana his government’s and military’s wrath. Racist propaganda increasingly ridiculed and belittled Tutsi. The civil defence force trained and armed with machetes by the Army in early ’90s to combat RPF’s terrorism now transformed to radical militia.

In 1993, Burundi’s first ever Hutu President was assassinated by Tutsi army officers. This exacerbated hatred towards Tutsi.
On 11 January 1994, UNAMIR commander, General Romeo Dallaire, appraised UN headquarters on the developing situation. The then UNSG Kofi Annan refused to intervene – even three months later, after the killings began.

Parties to the conflict

His reasons are unclear as the UNAMIR was established with the consent of both parties to the conflict. Thus, the intervention would have been by the UN and not a member State. Then, UNAMIR could not be charged with intervening as it was requested and consented by both parties and authorized by the UN Security Council.
On 6 April President Habyarimana was assassinated. However, PM Agathe Uwilingiyimana was not allowed to take over – despite Dallaire’s insistence. When 10 UNAMIR Belgium soldiers escorted her to Radio Rwanda to address the nation, soldiers and civilians overwhelmed her escort and forced them to surrender. They were then tortured and killed. PM and her husband too were killed. Then onwards, prominent politicians and journalists were hunted down and killed. Dallaire notes, by 7 April noon, the political leadership was either dead or hiding.

Anarchy and genocide followed. The military hierarchy blamed the RPF for the President’s assassination and ordered the Hutu to “begin their work” and spare none – not even babies. In villages where families knew each other, Tutsi were easily identified and killed. In towns, roadblocks were set to identify Tutsi by their identity cards and summarily executed.
HIV-infected men were formed into “rape squads”. Tutsi women and even Hutu women who were married to Tutsi men or harboured Tutsi were raped. Thus, many survivors were infected with HIV and/or with unwanted pregnancies.
800, 000 Rwandans killed

It is estimated that in the first six weeks, as many as 800, 000 Rwandans were killed. Yet, RPF was the only advancing counterforce. UNAMIR was expressly forbidden to intervene, except in self defence.

Early on, the French launched a military operation with Belgians’ and UNAMIR’s assistance to evacuate expatriates from Rwanda. They however separated Tutsi spouses and only evacuated their families of foreign nationality. Those who boarded the evacuation trucks were forced off at checkpoints, where they were killed. The French, who were close to Habyarimana, rescued several high profile members of Habyarimana’s government. RPF was a threat to their influence.
On 23 June the French-led UN returned with about 2,500 soldiers. However, their humanitarian mission went awry, when genocidal authorities also displayed the French flag on their vehicles, luring Tutsi from their hiding.
As RPF slowly gained control, Hutu en masse, fearing reprisals, fled to neighbouring countries. By 18 July the genocide was officially over.

The Srebrenica genocide

Following WWI, Bosnia was incorporated into what became Yugoslavia. On 29 February 1992, in the referendum held, the result was in favour of independence. At the time, the Bosnian multiethnic composition comprised 44 per cent Bosniaks, 31 per cent Orthodox Serbs and 17 per cent Catholic Croats.

Though Bosnian Serbs firmly rejected the outcome, the European Community and America formally recognized the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnian Serbs, supported by Serbian Government of Slobodan Milosevic and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), attacked the newly formed republic to unify and secure Serb territory.

The region around Srebrenica was of primarily strategic importance to Serbs. Without it, their new political entity, Republika Srpska had no territorial integrity. Therefore, they sought to expel Bosniaks from Srebrenica.

Bitter conflict

In the bitter conflict for territory, Srebrenica became isolated in the Serb-controlled territory. The advancing Serb military cut off Srebrenica’s only link to Bosnian controlled land and reduced the enclave to 150 square kilometers. As residents of outlying areas sought refuge in the Srebrenica town, the population swelled to 50,000-60,000.
When Commander of the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR), General Philippe Morillon of France visited Srebrenica in 1993, the town was overcrowded and under siege. There was no running water, proper electricity and scarcity in food, medicine and other essentials. He assured the panicked residents that they were now under the UN protection and would never be abandoned.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees began to evacuate thousands of Bosniaks. The Bosnian Government however opposed it, claiming it contributes to ethnic cleansing. Even after Serbs warned that the town would be attacked in two days unless Bosniaks surrendered and agreed to be evacuated, Bosniaks refused.

From 1992-1995 the besieged population was deliberately starved. The world attention however was on the fight for Sarajevo and the peace process. Srebrenica was far removed geographically from Sarajevo. Thus, its rapidly deteriorating plight rarely came to focus. Only Dutchbat – the fourth tier in the UNPROFOR command chain – was assigned responsibility for the Srebrenica Safe Area.

Hostile acts

On 16 April 1993, the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding that Srebrenica and its surrounding areas be considered a safe area and free from all hostile acts. On 8 May it was agreed to demilitarize Srebrenica. The Bosniak forces within the enclave were to handover their weapons, ammunition and mines to UNPROFOR. Serbs would then withdraw their heavy weapons and units.

This safe area agreement was violated by both parties. The Bosnian Government forces used the area as a convenient base to launch counter offensives, which UNPROFOR failed to prevent. The Serb forces prevented Dutchbat personnel, equipment and ammunition from getting through to Srebrenica. UN headquarters issued specific instructions to UNPROFOR not to be zealous in searching for Bosniak weapons and that the Serbs must withdraw their heavy weapons before Bosniaks gave up their weapons. The Serbs did not withdraw their weapons.

By early 1995, fewer supply convoys made it through to the enclave and even the UN forces started running dangerously low on essentials. On 6 July the Serb offensive began in earnest and UNPROFOR posts rapidly fell. The Dutch soldiers either retreated into the enclave or surrendered. NATO bombers could not attack VRS artillery positions due to poor visibility. Then it capitulated to VRSs’ threats to kill Dutch and French military hostages and attack refugee sites with 20,000-30,000 civilians. Thereafter, Dutchbat commander was captured on film, drinking a toast with General Mladic of VRS under whose command the killings perpetrated.

Young girls gang raped

In the following days and months to come, as Dutchbat failed to protect Srebrenica, boys and men, mostly but not necessarily of fighting age, were massacred. Even young girls were gang raped. Though 25,000-30,000 women, children and elderly were forcibly transferred, not all buses apparently reached safety.

It is baffling how Sri Lanka came out smelling of roses when Ban laments that the UN failed in Rwanda, Srebrenica and again in Sri Lanka. The government insists that the international community is good with Sri Lanka. However, Ban grouping Sri Lanka with the carnage indicates otherwise.

Hence, it is imperative for the government to stop playing politics with national security and immediately rectify this errorneous statement. After all, our war was not one without witnesses. Ban’s ardent defenders can extensively brief him the significant role India, America and other prominent diplomatic bodies played bringing humanitarian aid including medical attention to the civilians held hostage by the terrorists.
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One Response to “Ban tarnishes SL’s image”

  1. plumblossom Says:

    The UNSG Ban Ki Moon’s Outrageous, Total and Utter Lies With no Proof Whatsoever Regarding the Sri Lankan Conflict during His Speech in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is Insulting to the People of Sri Lanka

    The UNSG Ban Ki Moon’s statement that ‘thousands of civilians died in the last stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka’ at a speech Ban Ki Moon gave in Colombo, Sri Lanka on the 2nd September, 2016 is a total and utter lie, is outrageously wrong and an extreme insult to all the victims of the brutal terrorist group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). If Ban Ki Moon makes such outrageous statements, it is better he has any proof whatsoever to show for it. His utter lie is totally deplorable, is condemnable and an insult to the people of Sri Lanka and the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka.

    Sri Lanka has had 26 years of conflict from 1983-2009. In this period (inclusive of the first, the middle and the last stages of the war), it is the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) terrorist group who massacred over 47,000 mainly Sri Lankan Armed Forces members and also civilians.

    The LTTE massacred over 35,000 Sri Lankan Armed Forces members, Police Force members and Civil Defense Force members over 6000-7000 overwhelmingly Sinhala but also Muslim civilians, 1,253 Indian Peacekeeping Forces (IPKF) members, over 2,000 Tamil Armed Group members who supported the Government of Sri Lanka and who were against the LTTE, around 3,000 Tamil civilians and all this add upto 47,000. Around 35,000 LTTE terrorists are estimated to have perished too. In all around 84,000 in total have perished in total in the war.

    As you can see it is the brutal LTTE terrorists who massacred over 47,000 mainly Sri Lankan Armed Forces members, Police Force members, Civil Defense Force members in over 26 years of war. Over 23,000 Sri Lankan Armed Forces members are today both temporarily and permanently disabled due to the war. Over 13,000 Sri Lankan Armed Forces members are permanently disabled due to the war. Over 156,000 Sri Lankan Armed Forces members have been injured due to the war. Over 6,000-7,000 overwhelmingly Sinhala but also Muslim civilians have been massacred by the LTTE terrorists in the war of over 26 years. Ban Ki Moon is insulting all these civilians who perished at the hands of the LTTE terrorists. Ban Ki Moon is also insulting all the over 35,000 Sri Lankan Armed Forces members, Police Force members and Civil Defense Force members who perished at the hands of the LTTE terrorists.

    If Ban Ki Moon can prove the above statistics wrong, please do so. Otherwise please do not insult the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka and the thousands of Sri Lankan citizens who were massacred by the LTTE terrorists for over 26 years. Thankfully the Sri Lankan civil war is at an end.

    Regarding Ban Ki Moon’s deplorable statement further, the UN did absolutely nothing while the LTTE terrorist group recruited over 20,000 child soldiers, all Tamil youth, as attested by UNICEF itself which stated in 2007 that perhaps the LTTE has recruited over 20,000 young persons under the age of 18 years into its cadre between 1983-2007 inclusive.

    The LTTE terrorist group also ethnically cleansed the entire Sinhala and Muslim population of the Northern Province, of over 65,000 Sinhala people and over 75,000 Muslim people of the Northern Province in the 1980s and the 1990s. The LTTE also ethnically cleansed the entire Sinhala population of the Batticaloa District in the East of over 25,000 Sinhala people. The UN did absolutely nothing then too.

    Today, the Sinhala people and their descendants of over 135,000 are yet to be resettled in the North and in the Batticaloa District and Muslims of over 115,000 are yet to be resettled in the North. Uptil 2012, of the above number, around 32,000 Sinhala people and around 32,000 Muslims has been resettled in the North.

    The LTTE was notorious for its horrific terror tactics such as large scale bomb attacks and the use of suicide bombers in carrying out hundreds of attacks against mainly Sinhala civilians and the country’s leadership, horrific attacks against Sinhala civilians using IED devices, claymore mines and bombs, the massacre of Sinhala villagers in their villages in the North Central, Eastern, Northern and North Western Provinces, the coerced recruitment or abduction of Tamil youth and children for recruitment as child soldiers, forced money collection from Tamils with threats to life in case of non-compliance, attacks on Sri Lanka’s economic infrastructure such as the Central Bank of Sri Lanka (CBSL), Sri Lanka’s the then only international airport, oil storage facilities, hotels, planes, buses, trains etc. ethnic cleansing of Sinhalese and Muslims from the North and East of Sri Lanka, the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the systematic assassination of over 120 noteworthy Sri Lankan politicians, civil servants, senior military and police officers, prelates, activists, academics, journalists and other professionals who were assassinated by the LTTE who were but a few of the hundreds of assassinations carried out by the LTTE, including the former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar.

    My plea to Ban Ki Moon is to leave Sri Lanka alone and for the UN to stop supporting once and for all, the brutal terrorists group the LTTE at least now. The UN has continuously supported the brutal terrorist group the LTTE while it massacred over 47,000 as shown above for over 26 years.

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