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Sunday, 25 March 2012

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Deeds are mightier than words

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions in Geneva brought into sharp focus who Sri Lanka’s real friends are.

Although Sri Lanka could not muster enough votes to shoot down the US Resolution at the UNHRC, it helped Sri Lanka identify countries which would stand by us in a crisis. Apart from the friendly countries which had supported Sri Lanka during the 2006-2009 humanitarian operation, the country has now won new friends too.

More importantly, the world at large has endorsed Sri Lanka’s bold step towards national reconciliation by appointing the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). By calling upon the Government to implement the LLRC recommendations, it is crystal clear that the international community has endorsed the LLRC Report and recognised it as an authentic document. Instead of going by the controversial Darusman Report, the human rights wing of the United Nations has strongly endorsed and accepted the LLRC Report.

Perhaps, the US would have brought the Resolution against Sri Lanka with other motives. However, in doing so, they have invariably given legitimacy and worldwide acceptance to the LLRC report, not going by what Darusman and his cahoots had said in their highly controversial report.

Sri Lanka, with the unflinching support of its true friends among the international community, should use the concrete evidence to prove that human rights had never been violated during the humanitarian operation. Contrary to what the US-led Western camp has projected, Sri Lanka has conclusive evidence that the country’s valiant Security Forces had respected human rights at all times.

It is an incontrovertible fact that the humanitarian operation had rescued over half a million people, forcibly held by the LTTE terrorists as a human shield. When tens of thousands of innocent civilians were forcibly held by the Tigers as a human shield it was the Government which declared a no fire zone for the benefit of the helpless civilians.

When the LTTE pushed the trapped civilians into the final battlefields in the East, the Government swiftly moved its no fire zone to provide a safe haven to the civilians. Had the United Nations and other International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) who were operating in those areas at the time been genuinely interested in the safety of those civilians, they could have appealed to the LTTE cadres to avoid infiltrating into the no fire zone.

Having turned a blind eye to all the terror and inhuman acts of the LTTE until the last days of the Tiger leadership, the US and organisations such as the UN are now shedding crocodile tears over those killed by the LTTE. Many civilians had been killed as a result of LTTE terrorists opening fire indiscriminately at civilians who attempted to escape to the liberated areas. The million dollar question is did a single human rights organisation, country or any other organisation ever talk about the human rights of the civilians who had been forcibly held by the LTTE as a human shield.

Though the US pontificates to Sri Lanka as a true champion of human rights, the manner in which the American Forces encountered Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and Sri Lanka’s Security Forces encountered LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is poles apart.

When the heavily armed US soldiers entered Bin Laden’s hideout in a remote area, he was with his family, unarmed, sans any bodyguards to protect him, not even a personal weapon. Nevertheless, the US soldiers not only killed Bin Laden, but also mercilessly killed his wife, though the Laden family did not put up any resistance.

In contrast, Sri Lanka’s Security Forces took on heavily-armed Prabhakaran and his elite suicide bodyguards who fired indiscriminately from the Nandikadal lagoon. Radio messages had been sent to Prabhakaran by senior LTTE leaders such as Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias KP, from time to time since January 2009 suggesting that Prabhakaran must surrender. Having liberated the LTTE stronghold of Kilinochchi, the Security Forces called upon the LTTE leadership to surrender.

However, Prabhakaran, the megalomaniac, opted for a do-or-die battle with the support of his heavily-armed cadres. It was in such a scenario that Sri Lanka’s Security Forces had to take on Prabhakaran.

Prabhakaran was killed in the battlefield, following heavy gunfire with a legitimate army which only attempted to protect its territorial integrity and save its people from the clutches of terror.

On the other hand, the US Forces killed Bin Laden outside their territory, even without informing the Pakistani authorities about entering their territory. The Al Qaeda leader was not killed in the battlefield after heavy fighting. It was said that the American soldiers apprehended unarmed Bin Laden and his family and brutally killed them. The American authorities have up to now not even shown a video footage of Bin Laden’s body.

Having vanquished the LTTE leadership, Sri Lanka’s Security Forces took Prabhakaran’s dead body on their shoulders in a makeshift coffin stand, signifying the country’s rich Buddhist culture of respecting one’s enemy even after death. In contrast, the US soldiers were seen kicking and urinating on the dead bodies of their enemies while Sri Lanka’s Security Forces had conducted themselves in a highly disciplined and respectful manner.

Whatever said and done, Sri Lanka, the US, as well as any other country, have an inalienable right to protect their countries against terrorism. The soldiers of both countries had exercised this right in dealing with Bin Laden and Prabhakaran. In this context, it is most baffling as to why the US is looking at Sri Lanka’s legitimate right to protect itself against terrorism from a different perspective.

This is certainly food for thought for the international community which has been neutral in its stand against the US resolution. Those who preach to Sri Lanka on human rights and act as world champions in human rights have regrettably not proved their sincerity through their deeds. This is the stark difference between the West and the East.

It seems that the US definition of terrorism and human rights differs from region to region. They do not evidently practise what they preach. They tell us one thing and do something different through their actions. The US must demonstrate its sincerity in both word and deed, if they are sincerely interested in the well-being of Sri Lankans. Let’s fervently hope the US, at least at this decisive stage, respects Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and its legitimate right to battle terrorism.

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