Investigation against Sri Lanka – then what?

United Nations Human Rights Council

It does look a bit odd that a UN existing since 1945 having done nothing to put an end to 30 years of LTTE terror, suddenly gears into action under the stewardship of the outgoing UN Human Rights head who is spearheading an ‘accountability’ exercise after the terror group has been vanquished. With the leadership of the terror side eliminated the new ‘both sides to blame’ scenario does raise some eyebrows given the context of hypocrisy in ‘accountability’ that prevails by UN and its officials.

There are some things that we need to first make clear.

LTTE terror started out not because they were spurred by any grievance or discrimination but because a neighboring country saw fit to take unemployed Tamil youth and clandestinely train them as opposing groups on their soil under the tutelage of former military personnel and instructed by their intelligence personnel. Sufficient evidence clearly establishes that Tamil armed groups emerged because they were trained, armed and financed by a foreign nation. LTTE’s emergence is no different to the manner Islamic groups are mushrooming into existence. Whether that connotes to mean state-sponsored terrorism is for political pundits and the UN to answer.

These created monsters were tasked to carry out a guerilla warfare and that lasted 3 decades. It is possibly with the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi that LTTE changed hands to be under the charge of other forces and factors.

As far as victims are concerned, victims cannot be confined to a period and victims must start with the LTTE’s first acts of terror. The UN has conveniently omitted this from scope and a look at newspaper archives will reveal UN and international community reaction to the villagers hacked and killed by LTTE was nothing but lukewarm and nothing of the kind Sri Lanka experienced with the likelihood of LTTE finally getting eliminated was in the horizon. It is a pity that UN and its Panel, scores of humanitarian organizations have conveniently omitted to include LTTE’s crimes committed every day, every month that lasted for 3 decades which included suicide attacks, bus bombs, bombs placed in civilian installations, assassinations, killing of clergy, public servants and anyone that stood in their way. Even foreigners had fallen victim to the LTTE.

Having done nothing to stop LTTE’s murderous ways for 3 decades isn’t it a bit too late in the day for the UN to now want to investigate crimes and seek accountability? The question is simple – what did the UN do about LTTE’s killing spree?

It was after all an internationally proscribed terrorist entity and the UN and foreign governments are well aware that the international rackets that LTTE were involved in under stewardship of foreign passport holding Diaspora elements continue unabated still. So what is this game about holding LTTE accountable when it is obvious that with the leadership now no more it becomes a very tedious and unnecessary exercise if there is and was no sincerity about holding every person who was part of the LTTE at some time or other and that list includes even leaders of foreign nations that were molly coddling the LTTE over the years. If that reality and the fact that these personages are to be omitted and their names unlikely to come out and be investigated there is hardly any reason to bring out only half of those responsible.

In the same manner in describing Sri Lanka’s conflict as an armed conflict the arguments that are being brought forward to project the Sri Lankan troops as intentionally killing is not only unwarranted they do not hold water. No one making the accusations can give reasons to why the military saved close to 300,000 Tamils at the cost of over 2500 soldier lives and delaying the inevitable military victory. The simple logic is that had the military intended to kill or were even ordered to kill they would not have waited 5 months to finish off the operation, nor delayed even until India held its domestic elections or even braved landmines and other booby traps to save 300,000 Tamils, nor would they have kept alive close to 12,000 LTTE cadres who had surrendered when they could have easily bumped them off ‘deliberately’ too. Therefore, with these live examples at hand the ghost estimates being thrown from different sources who are being kept secret and not disclosed raises the question of ‘authenticity’ and ‘credibility’.

Now that 5 years have elapsed and people are going on with their lives and the Government has visibly shown the people of the North, East and in other parts of the country development of a kind that the people had not seen in previous years, we really must wonder what all this accountability fad is about.

The accusation of militarization is a key component of complaint by Navi Pillay and a host of others. What have they done about LTTErization of the North in taking over lands and property of Tamils over the period they ruled? Have Tamils been given back these properties or are they too scared to ask them back? Does the UN know how much of lands the LTTE and their families have confiscated over 3 decades? Why have these aspects not become a topic of discussion EVER?

Why did UN agencies stationed in the North not do anything to stop children being kidnapped and trained as cadres when these children were moving around them with gun in hand?

Why were UN, its agencies, INGOs/NGOs silent throughout the time LTTE ran its defacto rule with own courts, own police, own currency, own banks, own laws and regulations etc – did these not include deliberate killings, extra judicial killings, take over of land and property, extortion, intimidation and was there any freedom for the Tamil people?

Moreover, in comparison to the manner the military interventions have taken place with lies, distortions and fake reports as well as total disregard for international laws by US and NATO nations – the UN or Navi Pillai is doing NOTHING to call for accountability, it is simply showcasing the UN as being biased, lacking credibility and proper work ethics.

In terms of victims why have ALL the victims of LTTE atrocities not been given due justice?

In terms of terror why has the entire period of LTTE terror not been taken to account?

Nevertheless, as a nation we are well aware that LTTE functioned with the blessings of not just nations but very powerful external factors. How else would they explain why LTTE prevailed for 3 decades for none of the Western nations went after the LTTE as they are supposedly going after the Al Qaeda, ISIS or other Islamic militant groups. We are also aware that LTTE fronts continue to enjoy external support and they are being used for political mileage.

We are next aware that with the hypocrisies with which the UN, the international community and even our own politicians function people just want to get on with their lives. None of the dead are going to come alive by simply having a tribunal and claiming LTTE was the perpetrator. We all know what the LTTE did. We do not need a 3 member UN panel to tell us in a report that will be based on what suits them to tell us what LTTE did. We know LTTE brutality very well.

We also know that there would have been collateral damage inspite of a very honorable quest to conduct operations with zero casualty. It is that policy that rescued close to 300,000 Tamils, ensured close to 12.000 LTTE cadres remained alive and delayed the inevitable defeat of the LTTE. The army did not have to go this length to do what it did and therefore it is totally out of line to be hounding an army with ghost estimates of people accused of being dead when they cannot even give a name, a date of birth or even find skeletal remains of these supposed 40,000 or even 125,000 people. Let us also remember that the GOSL had to only provide ACCESS to humanitarian aid and NOT AID itself!

We the public are well aware that there would have been deaths, the army was not dealing with a conventional military. The LTTE were brutal terrorists who have not signed, ratified or cared to follow international laws except to demand that these laws be applied to save them. Had the LTTE taken the upper hand not a single military soldier would have been spared and evidence is available in the manner that LTTE cut off supplies to several camps in the past and these soldiers met a very tragic inhuman death. So, yes people would have died but people were also saved and these saved people were not just a handful but ran into almost 300,000 and this is no small number to have been saved within just a short number of days amidst firepower.

So what exactly are these investigations attempting to do? Declare ‘both parties’ as guilty, then what? We have moved on as a nation. None of the dead are going to come alive. We are all more concerned about the present and ensuring that the future does not bring out more people like LTTE. Therefore, if the UN and these investigators are concerned at all they need to first list out and expose all the people who had been part of the LTTE in some way or the other. These people have every potential to create other militant movements and lobby with them, they are also serial killers in so far as accepting money and being tied to the LTTE nexus.

We are totally fed up with these commissions because they are all set up with different agendas. Collateral damage have gone ignored in all of the illegal military interventions taking place infront of the UN and its Human Rights head. Sri Lanka’s was a legitimate army taking on an illegal and internationally proscribed terrorist entity. The military option qualifies for a just war determined by the failures in peace talks, negotiations, ceasefires and foreign mediation held over 3 decades. The UN is well aware that the LTTE listened to no one even the UN Secretary General. Appeals to release civilians fell on deaf ears and we do not need a panel to tell us that there would be no civilian hostages or human shields had the LTTE released the civilians when they were asked to. Moreover, the UN or the UN panel is challenged to let us know exactly how many of these civilians were involved in combat either voluntarily or by force. While this question remains unanswered we are prepared to keep this an open question if there are no bombs, there are no assassinations and there is no likelihood of another 3 decades to haunt us.

Therefore, in our eyes we cannot see why the UN and the outgoing human rights head should waste such time, colossal amounts of funds to end up saying ‘both sides’ are to be held accountable. Then what is the next step, LTTE leader is dead so LTTE is guilty by paper only. What about the Sri Lankan Government – the President, the armed forces commanders, the defense secretary and all line commanders are to be held accountable. Then what – is the next step to declare that they be arrested? We feel that this is going a bit too far and out of scope. The investigation covering ongoing events self-mandated by the Panel is to showcase as excuse to portray a fearful gruesome scenario in Sri Lanka, the same paid NGOs enjoying millions of disbursement are ever ready to issue local reports portraying the version that the UN panelists want to hear. These versions though given maximum publicity do not even create a ripple.

There is more to the investigation than meets the eye. Is Sri Lanka’s case being used as a testing point to create precedents, for surely the President of Sri Lanka and all others that are attempted to be implicated for war crimes do not pose any international threat. So we continue to question, what is this panel investigation all about and what mischief is the UN and its heads upto?

– by Shenali D Waduge