Sri Lanka's successful war on terror irks West
Prof. Rajiva 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 view point of Western, based organizations like New York
based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Sri Lanka'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 advocated 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
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 welfare centres
The Government would be failing in its duty to the rest of Sri Lanka
if the hardocre 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.
Such screening has already resulted in several hardcore LTTE
terrorists being 'discovered' 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 terrorist are allowed to escape, regroup and resume their
terrorists activities - just as they were not around in Sri Lanka's
hours of need in the past.
Life in the IDP Welfare Centres 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 these centres.
Criticism has been made by certain Western members of the United
Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) 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 Secretary to the Ministry of
Disaster Management and Human Rights, Professor Rajiva Wijesinha,
"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."