Commonwealth Charter cannot ignore the right to apology and reparations due to former British colonies
– by Shenali D Waduge –
It has become a trend to design and implement a string of international laws, charters, treaties and what not, all applicable to one set of people totally omitting the architects of these laws who created these laws having first flouted them and continue to flout them. Therefore, much as we like to praise the camaraderie of the Commonwealth and its heads meeting we need to seriously bring some neglected issues to the forefront of discussions. All former colonies are today Third World nations except Australia, Canada and New Zealand – these three countries have much to answer for in the manner they have cornered the indigenous natives to declare White rule. The recently drawn up Commonwealth Values of 16 points become meaningless if those conducting the trials are excluded from taking the dock.
International Commission of Inquiry on Truth and Reparations
If nations of Africa, Latin America, Asia and Asia Pacific are to meet every two years to discuss issues it would look rather silly for members to glorify the fact that they were once slaves under British rule and therefore these nations must while welcoming the new 16 values also demand that:
a) An International Commission of Inquiry on Truth and Reparations be established comprising a panel of distinguished people drawn from lawyers, judges, historians, archaeologists, artists, writers, politicians, sociologists, psychologists, and beyond them all people of good will, of all races, which perceive that the colonialism in all its manifestations was a monstrous evil, for which atonement and reparation is long overdue, and that such a
b) Commission of Inquiry looks into each of the crimes committed by the colonial rulers upon their colonies and the subject people.
It is only after addressing the historic injustices and grievances of these member nations that we can with some comfort claim to belong to the ‘family’ of Commonwealth nations. This is the goodwill that Britain must seriously consider without delays,
Gambia’s resolute stand
The Commonwealth member nations now number 53 – the 54th member Gambia recently quit the Commonwealth (following Zimbabwe which left the Commonwealth in 2003) declaring that it no longer wishes to be “a member of any neo-colonial institution.”
President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia in a speech delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in New York recently said that African nations would no longer be “hoodwinked” into taking lectures from the same Western nations that colonised and “plundered” Africa in colonial times. The relevance of this to the behavior of David Cameron in Sri Lanka as a guest shows the mentality has not changed.
“Today, after fighting for our freedom and liberating our continent, we are being prescribed a religion – democracy, human rights and good governance – by descendants of the same colonial powers,” President Yahya Jammeh declared.
These 53 nations span Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific – areas that the British once ruled. Canada became the first colony to obtain self-government in the 1840s and became the 1st dominion in 1867. Australia became a dominion in 1901, New Zealand in 1907, South Africa in 1910 and the Irish Free State in 1921. India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947 and Burma and Sri Lanka in 1948. Ghana became the first African country to join in 1957.
Opting not to join the Commonwealth has been Myanmar (Burma) ever since its independence in 1948. Ireland withdrew in 1949. Pakistan left the Commonwealth in 1972 and rejoined in 1989. South Africa withdrew because of its policy of apartheid but rejoined in 1994. Fiji Islands left in 1987 following the military coup but reapplied as member in 1997. Nigeria was suspended in 1995 but the suspension was lifted in 1999. Pakistan, Fiji and Zimbabwe have been suspended from the Council and Zimbabwe withdrew from the Commonwealth completely in 2003.
Commonwealth Charter and Core Values
The 16 Core Values and Principles as Declared by the Commonwealth Charter are as follows:
1. Democracy – Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group cannot omit from taking stock of the VALUES that existed PRIOR to the conquest and colonial occupation by Britain of its colonies for no democracy can prevail if ONLY the VALUES of the conquering nations become relevant and applicable and upon which nations of the Commonwealth are benchmarked. Britain in particular must be aware that these former colonies had very rich civilizations running back to thousands of years, they had their own legal and social systems and they were following a set of values far different to what the West is currently promoting through so called ‘liberal and multiculturalism’ based exclusively on concepts drawn from the Judeo – Christian civilization.
These values, cultures, behaviors and rituals saw a shock when the white men who landed on their shores carried out brutal and heinous crimes that they had never witnessed and they were too shocked to understand what the values that these foreign conquerors had brought to their lives. Therefore, what needs to be clearly established is that VALUES means not exclusively British Christian Values but Universal Values that are agreeable and harmonize with the Value systems of the heritage cultures that the British displaced through their oppressive policies. THIS IS TRUE DEMOCRACY in ACTION.
2. Human Rights – Again we come to a topic that has become a contentious issue primarily because every time Human Rights covenants, international laws come into practice it conveniently OMITS applicability to the nations that were responsible for centuries of crimes upon nations they invaded. No human rights can prevail if there is a time bar, or omission because the architects demand omission, by commission. What type of justice system can be promoted when the major portion of crimes remain swept under the carpet. Let us not forget that the former colonies were all leading their lives according to their culture and values until the British and other western conquerors landed and told them how to live and those that did not listen were annihilated. Our conclusion that the current laws are only meant to be applied to the Black, Brown and Yellow people will remain until the historical colonial crimes and the contemporary crimes by the same parties are investigated and truly exposed, and the criminals punished. Then only can a Charter profess to have carried out justice without discrimination in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or similar – otherwise it is simply empty rhetoric.
3. International peace and security – Again international peace becomes an issue when Britain as head of the Commonwealth has been part of military invasions without any legal basis e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan,Libya etc. and occupying nations to tap into the remaining resources of these countries that were once colonies drenched of their riches. There can be no peace or security when countries like Britain openly claim to arm, train and finance rebel movements that helped take over nations and oust leaders. On what grounds and who gave Britain to decide who is a ‘dictator’ and who is not, which leader should be forcefully removed or killed and who should not? If these actions are not terrorist what is. When armed groups carry out terrorist attacks and these armed groups received training and funds and even arms from countries like Britain – does that not make Britain also a terrorist? These are serious questions that Commonwealth members need to address and demand answers directly from Britain if it is Head of the Family of the Commonwealth – we will not accept Britain pointing fingers despite of its guilt.
4. Tolerance, respect and understanding – These are very fancy names but for them to have meaning the application must be sincere. We cannot have a world function ONLY to the whims and fancies of the Abrahamic religions with both competing to dominate the world through expanding of their religions. We cannot hide behind the fact that the foreign invading nations of Britain, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, France, Belgium etc all came with guns in one hand and the Bible in the other. The motive was very clear. Today we have all non-Abrahamic countries or majority non-Abrahamic countries facing unprecedented pressures as both have fast-forwarded drives to expand and the conversions of people become a key component in this drive. So these nations are all faced with Western Christian Imperialism or Arab Imperialism using Islam. How do these non-Abrahamic countries tolerate the incursions and who is to set the no-go zones or the limits? Isn’t Britain itself now a victim of its own liberalism- just ask the Brits themselves?
5. Freedom of Expression – Open dialogue, free flow of information are all good concepts. How ‘open’ are they in practice becomes the question. How would this fit into a scenario when media are paid to tell lies, when politicians are bribed to do wrong, when people are unethical and can be bought over? In what ways do we expose media for their lies, for their falsehoods and the fact that as commercial entities they are always out to sell their stories whether it is true or not.
6. Separation of Powers – If Britain as head of the Commonwealth recognizes the importance of maintaining integrity in the role of the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary why has Britain in particular allowed the LTTE to use London as its international headquarters for 30 odd years, allow LTTE to raise funds for 30 odd years, allow UK parliamentarians to attend LTTE events and even take part in LTTE promotions, allow Adele Balasingham the nurse who trained young children to kill and to commit suicide to remain in the UK? These examples do not constitute good governance or goodwill and instill confidence among member nations.
7. Rule of Law – As regards rule of law again what needs to be reiterated is that all the nations of the world that became colonized had their own legal systems. These systems have all been shoved into a corner to force them to adopt to the rule of law as prescribed by the invading Western Christian nations. Now this is not fair and is an injustice on these nations. Colonialism and Rule of Law are mutually exclusive as colonialism by its very nature of plunder and destruction of indigenous culture and forced religious conversions violate the very essence of the Rule of Law.
8. Good governance – If Britain as head of the Commonwealth claims to uphold transparency and accountability then it must own up to each of its crimes in the nations that it once ruled. None of these nations was ruled with fairness and equity or principles of good governance. Severe punishments were forced upon the natives that resisted colonial rule. They were treated inhumanely and put to their deaths in cruel ways, their lands were confiscated and used to plant cash crops that made the British settlers prosperous while forcing indigenous people to become landless, millions of people were ferried from one corner of the world to another as cheap indentured labor and many died en route while many ended up having to make the nations they were forcefully brought to as their new home, territories were drawn and divided and people and tribes were simply split up with no care and consideration. These were all horrible crimes and systematic depopulation of people is nothing but genocide. If Britain cannot own up to these dark secrets e.g. Trans – Atlantic forced transportation and enslavement of Black Africans, what is the point in preaching good governance?
9. Sustainable development – Again we need to remind Britain that the populations of these nations prior to the arrival of Britain and other foreign invaders had their own economic systems. They even traded with foreign nations and they had their own legal systems. Therefore, their people were never without food and never suffered what in modern times we know as ‘poverty’. The advent of poverty came with the new capitalist system that was established once the foreign invaders had drained the former colonies of their riches. They then were quick to devise international trade rules that would enable them to continue to maintain superiority over the newly independent colonies and create a loan system that would entrap these nations into taking loans and then paying interest which would become a never ending manipulation keeping these nations eternally debt-trapped. In what ways have these nations realistically come out of the abyss unless they have bartered away whatever remains to call their own?
10. Protecting the Environment – how many of the developed world have thought of the adverse effects of some of their actions in particular to the manner these first world nations are using nuclear arsenal. The bombs dropped on Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and all other nations US, UK and NATO have bombed are testimony to the environmental hazards they have created with even new born babies becoming deformed while even their own soldiers are now experiencing physical and mental problems.
11. Access to Health, Education, Food and Shelter – it is predicated that if the first world stopped manufacture of arms the money spent on this lone production would meet and eliminate the world crisis in food, health and shelter – our question is why is this not one of the key issues brought up by at least the members of the Commonwealth upon Britain.
12. Gender equality – In many ways countries like Sri Lanka has a far better record than most first world nations when it comes to gender equality. The Muslim nations however do not. We would like to know on what basis is it acceptable to call predominantly Muslim nations as ONLY Muslims practicing ONLY Islam whereas all other non – muslim nations have to be referred to as plural, multi- cultural and secular and thereby removing their fundamental and historic ethno – religious identity?
13. Importance of Young people in the Commonwealth – The future belongs to our children. It therefore becomes necessary for the Youth to be fed a proper value system and not one based on hypocrisy and immoral ethics. For this education is extremely important. No education system can deny and devalue the history, heritage and ancient civilization that made these nations to what they became which influenced the foreign conquerors to occupy and tap into their rich resources. Member nations need to realize that they are doing a great injustice to their own traditions and history if they are to promote the values of ONLY post-independence totally ignoring the set of values, heritage and culture that prevailed before invaders, traders or other arrivals that came and made their home in these former colonies.. The place of the indigenous people cannot be compromised or shoved to a corner simply because a new set of values with the backing of foreigners and local surrogates is being heralded. In the colonies the colonial system produced deformed and denationalized people with a mindset that was ashamed and angry of their indigenous religious and cultural identity. This process must now be reversed.
14. Recognition of the Needs of Small States – Definitely the smaller states would welcome assistance but not if this assistance comes at the cost of compromising all that they believe in and value. Most of the nations small as they are have turned into military bases for countries like the UK where even secret renditions have taken place having chased the indigenous people elsewhere to establish a base to conduct surveillance and other crimes.
15. Recognition of the needs of vulnerable states – let us first be clear that no nation was vulnerable prior to the arrival of colonial rulers who found ways and means to divide and disturb the equilibrium that existed. None of these natives ever complained – they didn’t have any of the benchmarks currently in existence that make us to question what we have and we don’t have.
16. Role of Civil Society – role of civil society must be to think of country first and not to function according to the principles that fund their existence locally. When civil society groups are created and funded by foreign sources their objectives, mission and what they are paid to do is what these foreign principals have ordered them. Most often the agenda has been regime change and this explains why many such organizations have been banned or been investigated for their nefarious activities. Until such time organizations work towards uplifting their current practice and engage in ethical conduct the role of civil society cannot become meaningful and becomes only a charade scorned by the vast majority of the locals.
For the Commonwealth to become an effective association, responsive to member needs and capable of addressing significant global challenges we need to remind Britain that as the family head we are disappointed that UK allowed LTTE to use London as its headquarters, did nothing about Anton and Adele Balasingham, UK Government simply watches its MPs wine and dine with LTTE front organizations, watches LTTE pose as charities and swindle British citizens in credit card scams and other illegal activities which all went into LTTE terror kitty and never supported Sri Lanka to end terrorism that took thousands of lives throughout 30 years. It was only when LTTE was close to being defeated that Britain came to the fore sending Miliband to demand Sri Lanka to stop the legitimate anti – terrorist operations and invite LTTE for another bogus and deceptive peacetalk cocktail. Let us remind Britain that they ignored LTTE terror for 30 years and came into action ONLY when LTTE was at the brink of defeat.
We again reiterate that no authentic international legal system can overlook the crimes of the very authors that created the laws and simply hunt down nations and leaders because they don’t function to the dictates of the Christian West. If values are the new key player we need to also remind Britain and member nation leaders that they need to ensure that Commonwealth values reflect not ONLY the Judeo-Christian tradition but the civilizational values e.g. Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, of the non-Christian member nations whose history goes far beyond that of the western countries influenced by Abrahamic religions, and being countries which were very rich in social systems before they became targets of change.
Need for an International Jurisprudence of Conscience
No tenable international jurisprudence can hound only the black, brown and yellow people of this world while excusing the crimes against humanity by the British and other Western Christian Empires purely on the basis that they drew up the new laws and they have the power to manipulate the system even today to decide on who is guilty and who is not.
History cannot be erased merely because it is convenient for the foreign perpetrators of such enormous crimes with the yapping support of local surrogates to do so. They may like to forget but we will not forget until there is proper accountability, unreserved atonement, sincere apology and full compensation. The right to settle a score is on us – not a moment of empathy was spared upon the nations that were invaded and colonized and their people ripped apart. We demand a crackdown on criminals past and present. It will be pursued until justice is done. Under Chinese leadership of the unfolding modern era we are confident that this will be achieved in the foreseeable future to the great relief of people all over the world seeking a rectification of historical injustices committed by western imperial nations. Russia’s Putin has shown that there are leaders ready to question the West and we stand for such righteousness.
Now coming to the Commonwealth Charter how can we move forward with 16 value points if we ignore these aforesaid realities?