Sri Lanka’s Successful War on Terror Irks West Double Standards Evident in the West’s Attitude to Sri Lanka
Posted on July 23rd, 2009

Dr Sanjiva Wijesinha

One of the few nations in modern times to militarily defeat a terrorist Movement, Sri Lanka now faces criticism by self-appointed guardians of Human Rights in the West.

From the viewpoint of Western, based organizations like New York based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s recently concluded war on terror – against the terrorist group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or LTTE – should have been fought like a cricket match on the playing fields of Eton.

” The Sri Lankan government” claim Kenneth Roth, Executive director of Human Rights Watch and Yvonne Terlingen, Head of Amnesty International Office at the United Nations in a letter written to the Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, ” has committed grave abuses, none of which are excused by its claims that it is fighting terrorism.”

If these self appointed Human Rights advocates had their way, the Sri Lankan Air Force should have resorted to precision bombing that identified LTTE gun positions and personnel from thousands of feet above and bombed them with such precision – like a radiotherapist targeting a brain tumour – that collateral damage would have been completely avoided (unlike in Iraq in 2003).

The US War on Terror

“All these gentlemanly Queensberry rules” says Dr Dayan Jayatilleke, Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Geneva who represents the country at the United Nations Human Rights Council, “are being applied to Sri Lanka – while other countries that have fought or are fighting terrorists are permitted to fight real wars where collateral damage, such as in Baghdad and Herat and the Swat valley, is accepted as a regrettable consequence of the war.”

Two million IDPs in Pakistan is not a major issue, but 300,000 IDPs in Sri Lanka is. The Taliban and Al Qaida are demonized as heartless Terrorists that have to be wiped out (even at the cost of thousands of innocent civilian deaths) but the LTTE that had killed thousands – including the heads of government of India and Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Ranasinghe Premadasa – are painted as idealistic freedom fighters by politicians such as the British Foreign Secretary David Milliband.

When the war ended, these picnic rules were shifted to Sri Lanka’s IDP camps, while the self appointed Western-based Human Rights guardians continue to spread innuendos about how Sri Lanka fought their war. Brutal, atrocious, inhuman, an excessive use of force are just some of the descriptions used.

Nuclear bombs in Japan, Napalm in Vietnam, 270 million mini bombs dropped on Laos, the deaths of over 800,000 human beings in Iraq, bombing of wedding receptions in Afghanistan – all this is not considered brutal but simple an ‘inevitable consequence of a righteous war’ on that nebulous entity that George W. Bush termed “Terror”.

LTTE Members in IDP Camps

The government would be failing in its duty to the rest of Sri Lanka if the hardcore LTTE members living within the camps are allowed to leave and get back to a life of terrorism. As they are no longer wearing their distinctive tiger-striped uniforms, the government has to subject everyone in the camp to efficacious screening. The fact that the LTTE recruited women, children and older men and women as combatants makes it necessary to check everyone of these IDPs.

Screening Terrorists

Such screening has already resulted in several hardcore LTTE terrorists being ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-discoveredƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ amongst innocent civilians within the camps. It is to the credit the Sri Lankan government and the Armed Forces that such screening is taking place and it is netting LTTE members who have been directly involved in terrorist activities. Critics from the West will not be around to protect Sri Lankan citizens if these LTTE terrorists are allowed to escape, regroup and resume their terrorist activities – just as they were not around in Sri Lanka’s hours of need in the past.

Life in the IDP camps could be better. Sri Lankans would be the first to acknowledge this, and the government is doing its best to make things better for the IDPs. International and local NGOs (for example Candle Aid Sri Lanka) are already working in the camps.

Criticism has been made by certain Western members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that IDPs must be settled back in their homes immediately. It must be remembered that there is the matter of clearing thousands of mines buried by the LTTE in the areas they occupied. Sending the IDPs back to these mined areas would result in loss of lives and limbs – as still happens in Cambodia and Laos – and one could imagine the western media would say if this were to happen!

LTTE’s Human Shields

It is forgotten that these IDPs were marched from their homes and villages to provide a human shield for the LTTE when they were retreating to the strip of land in which they were finally cornered by the Sri Lankan army. Most of them were living in makeshift tents and under trees when they were rescued by the Sri Lankan Forces They were short of food, water and medicines when they were held captive by the LTTE, and several already had diseases like Hepatitis long before they were rescued.

It is a pity that the Sri Lankan government has not brought these facts to the notice of the world. Western governments could do more to provide assistance to the Sri Lankan government, to initially improve the conditions in the camps, and then to make sure areas occupied by the LTTE are de-mined and houses built for these people so that resettlement can be expedited.

Sri Lankans expect their government to continue the screening procedure to make sure hardcore LTTE elements are identified, charged wherever appropriate in a court of law or isolated for purposes of rehabilitation, before IDPs are resettled. This may appear unkind or callous to the outside world, but the consequence of not doing this would be a neglection of duty on the part of the Sri Lankan government towards its law abiding citizens.

“With the end of hostilities”, says Professor Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, “considering the next steps for the people involved in this conflict becomes even more acute. Thousands have been conscripted by the LTTE over the years, while many others may have joined up in the belief that fighting the State was the best option available, for themselves personally and for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka in general, reintegrating people like this into society is going to be a massive challenge – but it is work that the Government will have to do well if a lasting peace is to be achieved.”

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