We had a war for 30 years and it ended like a dream. That is how it looks, but very funny. Many other wars that ended in shorter times in certain countries have been investigated on documented and verbal evidence to ascertain if any war crimes have been committed. No war has been perfect without crimes against civilians.
We wake up with religious programmes aired by the neighborhood radios and TVs, feeling saintly. We hear compassion echoed by clergy of all religions. We are open-hearted people and have nothing to hide. This is how we dragged a bloody war for three decades and ended up wiping our hands. Has anyone committed war crimes? There are millions, headed by clergy, to answer with a resonating NO. Our quarrels over the fence are explosive and a war cannot end without crimes. A gentleman will not hide his son’s crime whatever it is. He will seek legal help. This is not an open betrayal, but it is the way to do things. The law demands any crime big or small be punished. This view is common to all religions.
We live peacefully now because of our brave war heroes who sacrificed much for the country. The whole country is indebted to them for saving us from constant fear that we lived with. They kill and get killed in the battleground and they are not accused of killing enemies in war. Now, in the context of a top general being accused of war crimes, it has developed to a sensitive situation where our international relations are at stake.
The President raised his voice that he won’t let any foreign influence to mess with our service personnel. He has taken it to an extreme. MS took a hurried step that made his world relations and his popularity among world leaders wobble. No leader, especially in the west condones war crimes. I think he spoke too early. A level headed leader would not express his view in a panic. His stance regarding his generals’ purported war crimes flashed instantly to foreign leaders. The diplomats do it efficiently. It is global news now, that the Sri Lankan President defends war crime perpetrators. World leaders like our President who has taken two parties by the horns, which is unique, and they expect him to be fair in war related affairs. We cannot deprive ourselves the positive relations that have been established lately. Also, he cannot take the Field Marshal’s words lightly. SF wouldn’t state such a thing irresponsibly. The President should have consulted his ministers, and come to a conclusion that’ll permit an investigation to admit or reject the blame made by the Field Marshal.
Punishing a wrong doer could be interpreted by the opposition as a betrayal of our war heroes. We respect our war heroes, but the opposition and many clergy seem to worship the war heroes. They over praise the military more than warranted. Once I saw a clergyman while boarding a prison bus, asking “Where is the army commander.” He thinks that the army commander must come and help him because he always speaks high of the army. These clergy and some men are simply obsessed of war heroes. Battle hardened soldiers act on the orders of superiors without preferences, and this was obvious at the Rathupaswala incident. We can’t blame them.
A disciplined army’s fight is quite different from terrorists who have no regard for anyone or anything. A clear distinction can be seen how these two sides engage in battle. Once Obama’s secretary of defense, Robert Michael Gates, was asked by a journalist that terrorists attack schools and hospitals, so why don’t we attack their hiding places like schools and hospitals? Gate’s brief answer was “They are terrorists but we are not.”
Field Marshal is a whistleblower who spoke with boldness. This decorated war hero knows very well the inside things of his army and his testimony will be seriously taken by the international organisations. Civilian casualties, killing or mistreating prisoners of war, are war crimes. This unfortunate massacre has taken place wherever battles have been waged. The perpetrators are the armed soldiers and in some instances, commanders have ordered indiscriminate killings. Countries are under obligation to conduct post-war trials according to pacts they have signed. Many civilians are missing in the North with no trace, and their mothers are holding framed photos of their dear ones for years in despair. How did they disappear? Those mothers are demanding answers. Soon after the war, jubilant politicians and military leaders were at a race owning the honor of ending the war; but when it comes to war crimes now, they pass the ball. Nazi war crimes trials began in November 1945, but we skipped the war crimes trial with a ‘Lessons Learned’ drama. Perpetrators had no one to question them of crimes committed. All they got was endless praise.
US government investigated the Abu Ghraib detainee camp abuses committed by American civil contractors. Their gross abuses were seen by the world on video clips. Amnesty International insisted on investigation on abuses inflicted on detainees. Wikileaks released The Afghan Files that exposed. Milosevic, the President of Serbia, was convicted of war crimes and later died in his prison cell. Napoleon’s armies committed war crimes against civilians all over in Europe. After his defeat at Waterloo, a Prussian Field Marshal, Yon Blucher, had said that Napoleon should be summarily shot, but in the end he was banished.
FM Sarath Fonseka’s allegations of war crimes must be investigated by our judges. Let us be upfront with our conscience. While in the Air Force, I happened to witness innocent Tamil people being assaulted by civilians on the streets. I kept a Tamil family in my home for a week till they found a relative to help them. They were our church members. We had a 30-year war that caused thousands of deaths, but it ended up like a dream with no investigation. All war crimes must be investigated that the world may know that we care for civilian victims.