The present crisis facing Sri Lanka is not an exception, it is one that has been played out repeatedly across the world.
In South America, Africa, Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia powerful nations, primarily the United States has over the last century armed and trained local militaries as a bulwark against their perceived Great Satan. For most of last century the great Satan was communism, and after 9/11 it was replaced by terrorism.
This strategy gave rise to despotic dictatorships, which had popular support initially, before turning out to became some of the greatest human rights abusers, the world had witnessed.
Sri Lankan’s are the latest victims of this global strategy.
As others across the globe battled communist/nationalist rebels for most of the last century, Sri Lanka continually battled “insurgents” every 20 years, for its entire existence since independence.
Like the other nations with similar crisis, Sri Lanka had, and continues to have its share of internal, inherent, structural weaknesses that sparks rebellion.
Approximately 20 years after independence in 1948, Sri Lanka faced its first insurgency in 1971. The Sri Lankan state “dealt” with it and tens of thousands of its citizens were slaughtered by the armed forces in the process. Sri Lanka received military aid from across the world to aid in this slaughter of the perceived “Communist/Marxist” great Satan. Civilians, who were perceived as “insurgents” were stripped, raped and executed by the armed forces even then. The Premawathei Manamperi case being the most famous.
Another 20 years later in 1989, another insurgency was ruthlessly crushed, with the state slaughtering tens of thousands of its own citizens. Civilians faced the brunt of the armed forces onslaught.
Another 20 years later we have 2009, and the “insurgents” have been renamed “terrorists” as a strategy, to hitch the Sri Lankan anti-insurgent wagon to the US led global anti-terrorism initiative.
But in 2009, things are different. There are mobile phones carried by almost everyone to record atrocities, advanced sophisticated satellites which could focus into your house through the window and watch you drinking coffee, and the international legal framework in respect of human rights and war crimes have advanced exponentially since 1971 and 1989.
The quality and quantity of evidence available, advanced investigative techniques and the robustness and the advances in international humanitarian law is what Sri Lanka faces today.
Pinochet was lucky as he was at the tail end to face the full force of these developments. Milosevic and others since then have not been so fortunate.
Like in Chile, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the Sri Lankan government and its security forces were in one sense fighting a proxy war on behalf of India and the United States to dispose of “terrorists” who were destabilising their turf.
They encouraged and assisted in Colombo’s war against “terrorism”. Colombo was somewhat unsophisticated and naïve in interpreting that encouragement and assistance. They saw it as a blank cheque, a wink and a nod to do as they please.
Today as the full evidence of the horrors of war emerge, India and the United States will find it difficult to disassociate themselves from their “ally”.
The outrage in the Indian parliament this week and the massive lobbying of the human rights organisations in the West are challenges in those democracies to self-correct their trajectory and to force those governments to hold Colombo accountable.
In Sri Lanka there are no such mechanisms for self-correction, as it has an impotent rubberstamp parliament and a harassed human rights lobby. The press has been firebombed, abducted, murdered and assaulted. The opposition has been dismantled.
Considering the sudden activity in Sri Lanka, with the military investigating itself and human rights championing by the government, the squeeze in Geneva seems to be giving rise to some window dressing in Colombo. But these are too little too late, only for the consumption by the gullible.
After having battled the LTTE in Geneva on many occasions in the past, this month the Sri Lankan government is battling the United States, the European Union and most of the UNHRC
In Sri Lanka, political bankruptcy is on display as government ministers are clowning trying to show the power of the nation by boycotting Google?
With the Sri Lankan economy dependant on the West for their exports in tea, garments as well as tourism, and now indirectly even oil, it is difficult to see what options they have.
Channel 4 in London, had an “expose” on Wednesday well timed for the vote in Geneva. It was no “expose” as these issues were highlighted on the day the war ended in an article titled “Was Prabakaran and his entire family executed?” It was not published in Sri Lanka for obvious reasons. The article was published on the www. It was regarded by the defence establishment in Colombo as a “party spoiler” as commented by Prof Rohan Guneratna.
Anabarasan of the BBC said that he was surprised as to what I had written.
Now its on Channel 4.
There needs to be a paradigm shift in the thinking of the administration in Colombo and unfortunately they seem incapable of that task.
(The Writer who lives in London, UK was the Editor of the Quarterly “Lanka Outlook”)