Aborting the hard won peace to placate the implacable
Posted on October 26th, 2016

By Rohana  R. Wasala Courtesy The Island

The article entitled Can Sri Lanka hold on to its fragile peace?” on the National Geographic  website by American journalist Robert Draper  seems to be nothing more than a sample of the run-of-the-mill false propaganda that is usually churned out to promote the Tamil separatist cause in Sri Lanka. By being accommodated in a prestigious world-class magazine like the National Geographic, damaging lies about our beloved motherland gain international currency as undisputed facts. The periodical itself is not likely to incur any serious damage to its reputation as a result of this, because the low quality journalism patronized by it on this occasion concerns a small insignificant third world country in Asia. However, except for its geostrategic importance of its physical location for the Americans, Sri Lankans would have been allowed to sort out the separatist problem by themselves without much ado.

The title of Draper’s write-up alludes to an alleged ‘peace’ (between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority) that is claimed to have come into being after the ‘change’ supposedly effected at the January 8, 2015 presidential election. We, the ordinary Sri Lankans, as the most important stakeholders in this context, know that the truth is otherwise. It is a truth that ill-informed foreign journalists are never likely to recognize: The peace that the defeat of armed terrorism restored in 2009 became permanently  threatened on the day of the so-called ‘change’. What Sri Lanka achieved politically, economically and socially during the previous six years has now been completely overturned under the so-called yahapalanaya (good governance) administration. The question is not Can Sri Lanka hold on to its fragile peace?”, but Will Sri Lanka ever regain the peace that it achieved in 2009?”

Robert Draper (57), who is an alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin, is a correspondent of the New York Times and the National Geographic magazine. His epic intention in the National Geographic article seems to be that of justifying the ways of the West  to Sri Lanka, which is a politically vulnerable and economically weak nation that is subject to the relentless geopolitical  domination of regional and global powers.

Draper’s article shows that the ‘International’ media have not let go of Sri Lanka as yet. The West wants Sri Lanka destabilized through federalism for their own purposes, which have nothing to do with the welfare of Sri Lankans. A federal ‘solution’ to this alleged ‘ethnic’ problem  will only be a halfway house between a unitary state and a fragmented country. When the country gets broken up into two independent states, one in a combined north and east, ethnically cleansed of the Sinhalese as already demanded, and the other in the rest of the island, the Sinhalese majority will still have to coexist with more than a half of all Tamils and Muslims of the whole of undivided Sri Lanka as it is at present, but without access to the natural resources in one third of its land area and two thirds of its vital coastline.  This means that the alleged ‘ethnic’ problem will not go away, but instead will assume really unmanageable proportions. So, a federal solution cannot be envisaged without some grave apprehension about the future, particularly on the part of the majority Sinhalese. Whatever eventually happens, no rational Sri Lankan (be they of Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, or other ethnicity) will ever be ready to accept actual or potential fragmentation of the country with fatalistic passivity. Are we being frog -marched towards an uncertain future of worse political instability than now?

The bald editorial summary of his thesis in the article is: Seven years after a brutal civil war, the South Asian nation faces the aftermath: tens of thousands homeless or missing”. This is a gross oversimplification of the complex current state of the artificially created ‘ethnic problem’ in our country. The unduly exaggerated ‘missing persons’ issue is not the most vital problem the country is facing. The essay also gives the false impression that the Sri Lankan state did nothing between 2009 and 2015 about the problem of war displaced and alleged enforced disappearances.  It is clear that Robert Draper, unfortunately, like any average Western journalist nowadays, is basing himself on unverified information gathered from alleged victims and biased UN bodies. Draper appears to be building on the recent passage of the office of missing persons legislation, controversially pushed through a chaotic Sri Lankan parliament amidst strong opposition. The opposition was not to justice being secured on behalf of persons, if any, who have been subjected to involuntary disappearances, but to the forced establishment of foreign backed legal mechanisms to punish the political and military leaders who defeated the world’s most ruthless terror outfit, on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations of wrong doing lodged by terror backers without allowing them a proper chance to defend themselves.

The article opens with an emotive account of the case of a young Tamil woman of 34 allegedly grieving over the disappearance of her fisherman husband ten years ago. They had met and fallen in love with each other in a refugee camp in South India in 1999 when she was 17. According to her account she had escaped with her family leaping over the corpses of neighbours killed in a bombing raid by the army. Such allegations of indiscriminate attacks on Tamil civilians must be investigated, and perpetrators punished. No one would dispute that. But they usually turn out to be false allegations or instances of misreporting real incidents. Besides, it is a fact that many Tamils and a handful of other ethnics made use of false charges of army atrocities and other forms of persecution to escape to Western countries seeking greener pastures there. According to what I have read, some powerful armies apparently seek to minimize casualties among their own service personnel while maximizing weapons use for the purpose; the fateful implications of that policy for the enemy and the civilian population associated with the enemy need hardly be elaborated. While this is the case elsewhere, the Sri Lanka army, in the last phase of its legitimate campaign to contain separatist terrorism, followed a strict ‘zero civilian casualties’ regime, which eventually resulted in a higher than normal casualty rate among the soldiers.

According to Draper, the unnamed woman’s brother was said to have been tortured by the Sri Lankan military. Whether true or false, the complaint has helped him to be in Paris, at least illegally and without a job. ‘If he were to return home, he fears he might well be apprehended..’. The woman herself sells rice and telephone cards at a roadside kiosk to make a living. She told him that her fisherman husband used to supplement his income by selling canisters of gasoline to ‘Tamil resistance fighters’. (Doesn’t this suggest that he probably courted arrest by the security forces?) The woman is confident that her husband is still alive. ‘She asked not to be identified out of fear for her safety and that of her family….her husband remains a ghostly prisoner of a war that concluded seven years ago’. That returned refugees are ill-treated by security forces is a deliberate falsehood that is frequently uttered to hoodwink gullible host populations in Western countries.

Stories about anonymous characters cannot be checked for veracity. Of course, the army fought a lawless group of terrorists, who used civilians as human shields. They even used heavy weapons against the army from among civilians, a strategy that must have drawn retaliatory fire from government soldiers who were unaware of civilian presence where the rebel cadres were firing from. But the army did not target civilians deliberately, unlike some LTTE cadres who tried to stop Tamil civilians held by them as human shields from crossing over to the safety of the army lines by shooting at them at point blank range.

The former president established  the Presidential Commission to Investigate Complaints regarding Missing Persons (PCICMP) on August 15, 2013 consisting of three respected legal experts: Judge Maxwell P. Paranagama  (chairman), and Mrs Mano Ramanathan and Mrs Suranjana Vidyaratne. During public hearings in the north and the east, the Commission gathered evidence relating to approximately 2700 complaints over a period of roughly one year, which constituted its First Mandate. Then the remit of the commission’s mandate was expanded, as its Second Mandate, by gazette notification on July 15, 2014 to address the facts and circumstances surrounding civilian loss of life and the question of the responsibility of any individual, group or institution for violations of international law during the conflict that ended in May 2009”. Under the Second Mandate, the commission limited its inquiry to the period between the fall of Kilinochchi on January 2, 2009 and the end of the war on May 19, 2009. On February 5, 2015, under the new government, the time frame for the First and Second Mandates was extended until August 15, 2015. So, it is clear that Sri Lanka has done enough to address  the issue of involuntary disappearances and alleged human rights violations without foreign involvement.

Draper maintains that the island nation squandered its opportunity for international legitimacy when it descended into a spiral of violence fomented by long nurtured ethnic grievances”. This is a meaningless statement. Which period is he referring to? The whole of the post-independence period, the  early 1980’s or the post- 2009 period? It cannot be the last because terrorist violence had stopped by then with the defeat of the LTTE. So, Draper must be referring to the earlier periods. During the whole period different governments ruled, but did nothing to forfeit ‘international legitimacy’ in this connection.  Of course, we know what the term means, and that is the problem. To earn ‘international legitimacy’ the country must do what the Americans tell it to do, which involves ignoring the democratic will of the people, something that the former president (to his credit) refused to do. And what are these ‘long nurtured ethnic grievances’ of the Tamils? No one has defined them despite repeated requests from the majority Sinhalese to please oblige them with an answer. The majority of Sri Lankans of all communities do not want their country to be divided into several ethnicity-based states, which will inevitably destabilize the country for ever. That prospect may be attractive to America and India for different reasons, but it will spell disaster for all Sri Lankans. (To be continued)

4 Responses to “Aborting the hard won peace to placate the implacable”

  1. helaya Says:

    Who ever this guy is he must be in payroll of LTTE. These guys think that they know every thing. People like this disgrace to the journalist profession.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Wars are never ‘sweet’ !
    Once conflicts take off, wars and conflicts have a negative and sad side.

    Two World Wars came out of Christian Europe. Around 100 Million died.
    Many atrocities took place, now forgotten.

    If true Reconciliation is to happen for Lanka, it has to be approached with greater understanding from the UN & the IC.

    The UN had/has no Laws to contain inimical actions against small states by larger states, such as what happened with INDIA imposing under Duress the 13-A on the JRJ govt., as well as INDIA training the LTTE in Tamil Nadu.

    Therefore, the UN must be held at least in part responsible for what happened in Lanka.

    More reasons for the conflict :

    *One of the main reasons for unrest, both North & South, was Unemployment.

    * All illegal migrants must be deported. Too many low caste Tamil people came across the Palk Sts to Lanka to flee the Caste/poverty bind in Tamil Nadu.

  3. plumblossom Says:

    This National Geographic article is full of lies. It is overseen by that Samantha Power. All the statistics provided in the article are completely bogus and total lies. Sinhala people and Sinhala Buddhists are depicted as demons or worse. I think it is extremely racist towards the Sinhala people and beyond racist, it is insulting. I think it is fair to say the article is written to persecute the Sinhala people. The previous government is demonised. The Sri Lankan Armed Forces are depicted as demons and worse.

    I think the idiotic Sri Lankan Government should take up the grossly insulting contents of this article with the highest levels of the US Government. Failure to do so will mean almost endorsing all the untruths that have been written there. This Yahapalanaya Government is without a doubt the most treacherous government to ever govern Sri Lanka to our great misfortune. They will end up endorsing an Eelam as the US imperialists want the way things are going.

  4. plumblossom Says:

    Check the link out and this treacherous yahapalanaya government should take some action to stop such lies and propaganda with the highest levels of the US government.

    http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/11/sri-lanka-tamil-peace-civil-war/

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