The International Community and their Agenda on Sri
Lanka - Part II:
Fighting terrorism and human rights
This is the second part of the serialized excerpts
from a forthcoming publication titled Sri Lanka - the War fuelled by
International Peace by Palitha Senanayake. These extracts from Chapter
16 of the book are published with the kind permission of the author. The
first part was published on June 30.
9/11 made Western nations experience ‘first hand’ terrorism
For a long time, I entertained the thought that this intense
criticism, of Sri Lanka’s campaign against terrorism, by the Western
powers on grounds of ‘discrimination’ and ‘human rights violations’ was
due to neo liberal Western attitudes on secularism. I was also aware
that there was a massive disinformation campaign against Sri Lanka in
general and Sinhalese in particular by the Tamil Diaspora mounted from
as early as 1960’s. But the events of 9/11 should have helped change
much of the Western perceptions about terrorism.
It not only exposed the sheer destructive and dehumanized nature
inherent in terrorism but also made the pervasive and domineering
character of the terrorist amply clear. More significant was the fact
that 9/11 made these very Western nations, that were aiding and abetting
terrorists on various ruses, experience ‘first hand’ terrorism
themselves, threatening to make them direct targets of unbridled terror.
However, 7 years after 9/11, all what the event seemed to have achieved
was to make those terrorists who are against the West as ‘bad terrorist’
and those who are against the others as ‘good terrorists’ or ‘freedom
fighters’. This proves that the West’s nonchalant and patronizing
attitude all these years towards terrorism has not been the result of
propaganda or misunderstanding but just their policy.
No wonder the life of a terrorist in Sri Lanka who is trained to kill
the innocent has a bigger value in the Western scale than the lives of
thousands of innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the name of ‘national
security’ the West has licence to invade other countries, thousands of
miles away, establish control and maintain it at whatever the cost. It
is not violation of human rights! But Sri Lanka cannot even assert its
own territorial integrity and sovereignty within its own territory, in
the face of the most brutal terror outfit in the world. It is a
violation of human rights. How tragically hippocratic?
Sri Lanka is one country that has negotiated with its adversaries
like no other; with its back to the wall: while its leaders were killed,
while its economy got devastated: while its civilians were killed with
impunity, even disregarding the international norms of ‘not negotiating
with terrorists with arms’. In fact Sri Lanka has been so desperate for
peace it was made to negotiate, at the behest of the ‘International
community’, on the terms and conditions of these very terrorist who have
refused to accept its sovereignty and vowed to eliminate it from the
face of the earth. All that, albeit resulted in making the terrorists
more and more powerful, belligerent and more destructive. In the final
stages there was only one more item left for Sri Lanka to negotiate with
the LTTE and that is, its own destruction. The international community
was prompting Sri Lanka again to negotiate, quite mindful of this
reality. Did they wish that the state of Sri Lanka should ‘rest in
It is ‘fashionable’ to advise others to ‘negotiate for political
settlement’ when it is not your kith and kin that has been subjected to
years of terrorism. But when your own people die, you leave what is
fashionable aside for a moment and get down to the hard facts. The irony
is that, in the same breathe the International community advised Sri
Lanka to negotiate, they advised Pakistan ‘not to negotiate’ with the
terrorists of Wazaristan. You can call this ‘duplicity’ or ‘hypocrisy’
but yet, that is the only way to ensure that both those countries are
kept ‘bogged down’ with terrorism.
There is a pithy Sinhala saying that ‘poverty is comparable to a cow
without a tail’: to mean that the cow without a tail can’t even show
away the pests. It may be that Sri Lanka is comparatively poor because
Sri Lanka could not built up a material lead by colonizing less powerful
countries and engaging slaves, but let the West realize that the Sri
Lankans are not a bunch of apologetic morons or ‘rice eating monkeys’
who can not see between the lines. Are we being pelted for not having
‘human rights’ of for not having the ‘human might’?
In 2001 under the Chandrika regime the LTTE attacked Sri Lanka’s only
International airport making international Insurance agencies to turn
down re-insurance facilities to Sri Lanka. The country achieved negative
economic growth in that year and the travel agencies dubbed Sri Lanka as
a ‘high risk’ destination. Bombs were exploding all over Sri Lanka
killing innocent civilians. This pushed the fate of 18 million democracy
loving citizens on the cross roads due mainly to terrorism of the LTTE.
No international ‘do gooders’ however thought it fit to visit Sri Lanka
during those days to inquire after its citizens-well-being, facing the
world’s most ruthless terror organization. The west, on the other hand
imposed arms embargos on the country. But ironically when the fascist
LTTE was marooned in their hell hole in 2008 March, the foreign
ministers of UK and France, Miliband and Kouchner, made a hasty trip to
Sri Lanka to initiate a ‘cease fire’ and lecture the Sri Lankan leaders
on the virtues of ‘human rights’. Kouchner, by the way is the architect
who created Kosowo under EU aegis. Does the west stand for democracy and
human rights or do they stand for fascism and terror?
Universal human rights
The Universal declaration of Human rights assures basic human rights
for every citizen living in this world and the different States making
up the world are called upon to institute laws and practices to uphold
such basic human rights. Therefore the intention of the bill of rights
is quite noble and it would be in the interest of every human being to
see that such laws and practices are enforced.
It would also become the responsibility of every civilized state to
enact laws and practices to ensure that the rights of its citizens are
upheld preventing violations of such basic rights by the Government,
other institutions and finally by the individuals. These individual
rights are however conditioned by the larger interest of the society and
then the State policy which safeguards national interest.
Sri Lanka is a democracy where the basic human rights are enshrined
in the constitution itself and the country’s human rights legislation is
attuned to meet the international norms and practices. Civil society too
has its own responsibility here for a vigilant civil society aided by HR
organizations should take appropriate action to strengthen a country’s
human rights position.
Therefore then the enforcement of the Universal declaration of human
rights is one of the best things that ever happened to the human race.
But ironically in Sri Lanka with this conflict raging on, the term
‘Human rights’ evoke repulsive sentiments from the larger masses.
This is mainly because these international organizations engaged in
human rights have been vociferous and make themselves felt only whenever
there are issues in these so-called LTTE areas where the conflict was
raging and have been conspicuously absent or play a very limited role
when the need for their services is felt in the local arena where the
law and order reigns.
These areas where these International HR organizations chose to
indulge in, for the bulk of their activities, are the areas in which the
Government has temporarily lost its control; where the Government writ
is not maintained at present.
The Government has deployed the Security Forces to re-impose its writ
in these areas and therefore until this is done what prevails in these
areas for the moment is just anarchy.
The NGO’s may prefer to call it a ‘war’ situation in their
propaganda. Even if it is a ‘war situation’ the common saying that
‘everything is fair in love and war’ is a pointer that a war situation
is a situation of anarchy where nothing in fact is unfair.
Under such circumstances when the Government Security Forces attempts
to restore law and order it is possible that they may sometimes resort
to extra judicial activity. Factually, there is no extra judicial
activity in this situation because there is no judicial activity in a
situation of anarchy.
The accepted civilized laws and practices suffer for the time being
because everybody is fighting for their very lives and that makes the
situation an ‘inhuman’ situation. Hence these so called ‘Human
rightists’ have been trying to apply human right in to an inhuman
situation thereby preventing order in those areas from being restored.
There is provision in the International law to accommodate the type of
situation Sri Lanka was faced with. But for those provisions to be
applicable the conflict in Sri Lanka has to be recognized as an ‘armed
conflict’ and not as a mere ‘insurgency’.
The international law recognizes countries facing an organized armed
conflict, as against those engaged in operations against internal
insurgency and hence there are two sets of laws applicable to these
A country confronted with an armed conflict has to abide by the
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) whereas a country having internal
strife (relative peace) has to abide by the International Human Rights
Law (IHRL). The difference between the IHL and the IHRL is that IHL is
limited in scope as it is the law that is applicable during times of
armed conflict whereas IHRL is wider in its scope as that is expected to
prevail during times of comparative peace. Societies in UK, US and in
many European countries have accepted the inevitability of the
derogation of civil liberties due to threats from organized conflict and
The issue however is, since ICRC is the initiator and the guardian of
IHL no other agency including UN could claim any right to intervene in
the internal and external affairs of Sri Lanka, had the situation in Sri
Lanka qualified to be designated as an ‘armed conflict’ as against an
‘internal dispute or riots’.
Sri Lanka however has to invoke the provisions of the IHL to be
designated as a country whose activities should be evaluated by the IHL
rather than by the IHRL.
The fact is that Sri Lanka has not done so far and that is a
continuing source of embarrassment to the successive Governments which
have to bear the brunt of all this criticism and interventions in the
name of International Human Rights Law when it should really face issues
only under IHL which recognizes extenuating circumstances under ‘armed
conflict’ situations. In two articles published in public newspapers on
January 19 and March 13, 2008 Nevil Laduwahetti has elaborated this
position in detail.
A primary position taken by these human rights INGOs when confronted
as to why their criticism is always levelled against the Government and
never against the LTTE, the answer is that they criticize the Government
as a responsible organ and they do not criticize the LTTE because it is
not a recognize entity.
The British based Amnesty International and the US based Human Rights
Watch often adopt this position. Although they may get away for the time
being with such time serving arguments no such precedent could be
established in international practices in monitoring human rights
The humanitarian laws that are applicable to Sri Lanka at times of
conflict even specifies a code of ethics for the non state actor engaged
in the armed conflict. For instance the non state actor would be in
violation of the Humanitarian law when it does not distinguish between
combatants and non combatants, recruit child soldiers, and use humans as
The LTTE did all these all the time and that too with impunity. But
you only have to go through the high profile reports of these two HR
organizations during the past 5 years to realize that the criticism of
the LTTE has been marginal with the bulk of the criticism directed
towards the Government.
Any person reading only those reports may feel that the LTTE is
justified in taking up arms as there are so many seemingly questionable
acts by the Government. Prabhakaran was often quoted to say that, “the
recent report by the Human Rights Watch against the Government is very
encouraging”. So then, it must be the purpose of these reports to
Next : Part III