Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 11 March 2012





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Government Gazette

Sri Lanka respected human rights from time immemorial

The meaning of terrorism remains unchanged, be it in the West or this part of the world. There are no good terrorists or bad terrorists. Terrorism in any part of the world is terrorism and should be eradicated likewise.

This was the forthright view of President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the United Nations General Assembly a few years ago, when LTTE terrorism was at its peak in Sri Lanka. Indeed, he was constrained to make that bold statement in the presence of world leaders as certain countries in the West, even at that time, viewed terrorism in countries such as Sri Lanka from a different perspective.

The need to crush world terrorism was discussed at the highest international fora following the 9/11 attack in the United States. People in Sri Lanka, who had endured untold privations for decades, heaved a sigh of relief, after the US vowed to take the lead role in crushing global terrorism.

It was bewildering, however, when it came to the innumerable atrocities and flagrant acts by the Tigers, the world’s most ruthless terrorist outfit, these countries, which projected themselves as the godfathers in protecting the world against terror, held a different view. They seemed to be extraordinarily concerned about the human rights of terrorists while at the same time turning a Nelsonian eye on the LTTE’s brutal killings. The LTTE gave a damn for human lives.

What was even more baffling was the quaint stance adopted by certain countries in the West, which did not seem to bother about the Government’s legitimate right to protect its citizens against terror attacks. In contrast, the US Forces overstepped its limits with its drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan and some drone attacks had even resulted in the deaths of many innocent civilians.

The US has certainly a right to protect itself against Al Qaeda terrorists and other similar acts of terror, especially after the massive 9/11 attack which sent shockwaves throughout the world. By the same yardstick, Sri Lanka and all other countries have the same right to act in self-defence.

The Government of any country has a bounden duty to protect its citizens against terrorism and this is precisely what Sri Lanka’s valiant Security Forces exercised, under the leadership of President Rajapaksa during the 2006-2009 humanitarian operation. It saved the lives of over half a million people who were trapped by LTTE terrorists and offered a new lease of life with mega development projects being launched in those areas.

Rather than commending these Herculean acts of Sri Lanka’s Security Forces and President Rajapaksa’s inspiring political sagacity, certain countries which could not stomach Sri Lanka scoring a world’s first in eradicating terrorism, are now apparently intimidating Sri Lanka under the guise of human rights. These Western countries should be told in no uncertain terms that the human rights of civilians, are by far, more important than terrorists’.

Politicians in some Western countries who rely heavily on the votes of adopted Tiger sympathisers seem to be using the ongoing United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions to level wild allegations against Sri Lanka. At the same time, certain countries in the West which are yearning for a regime change in Sri Lanka too are adding fuel to the fire.

The leaders in these countries are acutely aware that a regime change in Sri Lanka is remote as the masses strongly support the democratically elected Government which has a legitimate right to protect its citizens against terrorism. The undiminished popularity of the ruling party, which has won all elections since 2005, amply demonstrates the fact that the masses have reposed faith in President Rajapaksa and the UPFA Government. Hence, these ‘agents’ appear to be spearheading a campaign through organisations such as the UN.

Sri Lanka’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Tamara Kunanayakam, castigated the West, saying that “Certain countries only want a regime change in Sri Lanka”.

Over the past decade, the US had sought to impose the concept of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) to justify military interventions in countries where, according to them, the governments are unable to protect its citizens. These Western countries are adept at labelling the countries which do not fall in line with their thinking as ‘failed states’ so that it could be eventually used as an effective tool to justify interference in the internal affairs of those sovereign States.

According to Sri Lanka’s envoy in Geneva, the West had developed such arguments to justify its interventions in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. As Ambassador Kunanayakam had pointed out, US Under Secretary Maria Otero’s sweeping comments at the UNHRC that Sri Lanka had failed to show progress on human rights issues, shows the hypocrisy and double standards of the US that would gravely undermine the legitimacy of the Council.

Western countries should refrain from demonstrating an inordinate haste in browbeating Sri Lanka to implement their recommendations. The Government is heading in the right direction in reconciliation and gradually implementing the LLRC recommendations.

People the world over should bear in mind that only 10 weeks have elapsed since the LLRC Report was published. Is it morally right for any right-thinking people to impose any solutions to a three-decade long terrorism, less than three years after the LTTE was eradicated?

As the Chinese delegate had told the UNHRC, the US should take a long and hard look at its own human rights record before accusing other countries. The delegate emblazoned that no country can speak of a perfect human rights record and one must set an example oneself before criticising others. China has expressed its “deep concern” over the US failure to address its own human rights issues.

Those who point an accusing finger at Sri Lanka, should first and foremost visit Sri Lanka and see for themselves the freedom enjoyed by one and all, especially the new lease of life afforded to people in the North and the East and the mega development projects implemented.

The exemplary manner in which ex-terrorists have been rehabilitated and absorbed into mainstream society as skilled workers should also be taken up for discussion at the UNHRC.

Sri Lanka, from time immemorial, had a civilised society and respected human rights – long before those countries in the West dreamt of becoming civilised nations.


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