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Sunday, 18 March 2012

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Throwing stones from glass houses

Most countries, especially those in this part of the globe, swallow hook, line and sinker what the Western media dishes out from time to time.

Nevertheless, if one were to make an analytical study of what some of the most prominent news agencies in the world and international television channels say, it is crystal clear that most of them dance to the tune of some Western countries. A few powerful nations in the West manipulate these key news agencies and TV channels to suit their thinking.

Over the years, most people in this part of the world believed that what was projected by these news agencies and TV channels was independent, impartial and unbiased.

However, the true colours of these news agencies and TV channels now stand exposed. They make a big hue and cry over human rights when there is an isolated incident in countries such as Sri Lanka. But for reasons best known to them, they turn a blind eye to even greater human rights violations by the US-led Forces, including the drone attacks which had missed the target and killed many innocent civilians, including women and children.

The latest human rights violation by the US forces was spotlighted last Sunday when an American soldier opened fire at civilians in Afghanistan, killing 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar Province, according to Afghan officials.

According to eyewitness reports, US soldiers, who appeared to be drunk, had gone on the rampage, showing no mercy whatsoever to human lives. One Afghan father said that his children were killed in the shooting spree and US soldiers later burned their bodies.

Witnesses said that they had seen how a group of US soldiers arrived at their village in Kandahar's Panjwayi district at around 2 am on that fateful night, entered homes and opened fire indiscriminately. The US Embassy in Kabul washed its hands saying that an American soldier had been detained over the shooting incident. This flagrant inhuman act is one of the worst of its kind since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The so-called 'accountability process' of the country, which pontificates to us on the subject of human rights is mind boggling - such incidents are vaguely referred to and 'regretted' for same with not even a formal apology being tendered. On the latest human rights violation by the US Forces in Afghanistan, the course of action taken by the US was short and simple; a senior defence official saying that "The US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta was deeply saddened to hear of the incident and is closely monitoring reports from Afghanistan". The White House also expressed "concern".

Even the minuscule action taken against such human rights violations by the US Forces ended in ultimate presidential pardons. An American soldier who was sentenced to 20 years' rigorous imprisonment for human rights violations was pardoned barely three days after the judgement.

The Kandahar incident came to light weeks after US soldiers burned copies of the Holy Quran at a NATO base, triggering widespread anti-Western protests. Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the rampage as 'intentional murders' and demanded an explanation from the United States.

One Afghan said that eleven of his relatives had been killed in one house, including his children. Pictures showed ghastly blood-splattered walls where the children were killed. "The American soldiers poured chemicals over their dead bodies and burned them," a weeping relative at the scene was quoted as saying.

Barbaric acts of this nature remind us of the thousands of Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese who were brutally massacred by LTTE terrorists for almost three decades before Sri Lanka's Security Forces eradicated terrorism in May 2009. By a strange quirk of fate, the same country has brought a resolution on Sri Lanka before the current United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva.

It would be a small wonder if some member countries of the UNHRC, which show an extraordinary sympathy over the human rights of LTTE terrorists, bring a similar resolution against the innumerable human rights violations by the US-led NATO Forces in Afghanistan.

It was only last year that a South Korean court sentenced a US soldier to 10 years in prison for raping a teenage girl - the second harshest punishment handed down to a convicted American soldier in Seoul in two decades. The Uijeongbu District Court convicted the 21-year-old US private of sexually assaulting the 16-year-old Korean girl many times after breaking into her small boarding room near Seoul last September. The American soldier had committed many "sadistic and sexually perverted acts" while threatening the girl with a pair of scissors, a knife and a lighter, as disclosed in Court.

The US came under heavy scrutiny following the United Nation's 2011 Human Rights report presented by High Commissioner Navi Pillay, for its alleged human rights abuses, according to Press TV. Pillay and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation were disappointed that the US has not closed the Guantanamo Bay military base that had served as a torture camp, a Press TV correspondent in Geneva had reported.

In November 2010, accusations of human rights violations were levelled against the US for the first time at the UNHRC sessions. The UN human rights body levelled a barrage of criticism at the US administration, calling for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and for investigations on alleged torture by US troops abroad. These are a few of the numerous unruly acts committed by US soldiers all over the world.

The US, indeed, has an inalienable right to protect itself against external threats, especially against a deadly terror outfit such as Al Qaeda. The US action to crush terrorism in their region is no doubt praiseworthy because terrorism in any part of the world is terrorism and should be eradicated likewise. At the same time, the US and all other countries must respect Sri Lanka's legitimate right to protect its people against the LTTE - the world's most ruthless terrorist organisation at one time.

A democratically elected government has a bounden duty to protect its people against terror and safeguard the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Sri Lanka, under the illustrious leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa only exercised the right to protect the human rights of over a half a million people held forcibly by the LTTE.

Goes the popular maxim, those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others. Those who accuse Sri Lanka of human rights violations should be told in no uncertain terms that they must take a closer look at their own human rights record before passing judgement on others.

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