THE DOUBLE STANDARDS
By Blind Spot
Navi Pillay is expected to submit the Report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Sri Lanka at the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council, sometime this month.
All Sri Lankans will however consider it ironic that the OHCHR has repeatedly ignored that noble goal during the 30 years up to May 2009, during which period terrorism had been seriously affecting Sri Lanka.
All that while, the OHCHR and certain countries of the international community were deafeningly silent, or were lukewarm in their comments against the LTTE. Although some governments took the legal step of proscribing the LTTE, they turned a blind eye to the massive LTTE fund raising operation that was taking place on their own soil. As a result, throughout the difficult three decades that Sri Lanka struggled to face the never ending terrorist threats which deprived all Sri Lankans of their human rights, especially their right to life, none of the current international agencies that are presently eagerly offering “technical advice”, offered any serious advice as to how to stop the LTTE terror machine.
As is now being increasingly acknowledged, Sri Lanka carried out the largest ever hostage rescue mission in the history of the world. Around 300,000 Tamil civilians who were held hostage in fear of their lives and used as human shields by the LTTE were rescued in the first half of 2009 and brought to safety. Those persons suffered untold misery at the hands of the LTTE, being driven from different parts of the Northern Province to Nandikadal.
The Sri Lanka authorities also successfully demined thousands of square kilometres of land, before the resettlement of the rescued civilians could take place. As is well known, when the LTTE was retreating from different parts of the Northern Province towards Nandikadal, it buried about a million land mines across vast tracts of land in order to stop the Sri Lankan Armed forces from advancing, as well as to stop their civilian hostages from going back to their own homes.
At that time, many in the “international community” estimated that this complex and arduous demining operation would take more than ten years to be concluded. However, the Sri Lankan authorities and Armed forces, assisted by several international agencies, were able to complete the major part of this massive task in less than three years, thereby paving the way for the rescued civilians to be resettled in their own homes and villages, expeditiously.
The huge task of resettlement of civilians who had been rescued and accommodated in temporary villages with basic comforts was another massive challenge that was successfully met by the Sri Lankan authorities. Here too, many international observers were of the view that Sri Lanka would perhaps take more than ten years to complete this resettlement task. However, within a period of around three years, a very high percentage of the 300,000 civilians have been resettled in their homes in accordance with UN standards.
After the end of the conflict, the entire infrastructure in the conflict areas had been damaged or destroyed, and a massive rebuilding effort was implemented by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Thousands of kilometres of roads, hundreds of kilometres of railway tracks, hundreds of government buildings, thousands of private dwelling houses, shops, factories, railway stations, hospitals, schools, court houses and other buildings have been constructed. Electricity has been restored together with other communication facilities. As a result, the previous conflict areas now enjoy levels of infrastructure which are on par with other emerging districts in the country. The massive public investment of more than US$ 3 billion was given by the Treasury over a four year period.
It must also be recollected that at the end of the conflict, more than 12,000 ex-LTTE cadres who had been responsible for murders, bombings, kidnappings, extortion and other crimes were under arrest, and in the custody of government forces. Nearly 600 LTTE child soldiers were rescued from the clutches of the LTTE and they were quickly reunited with their parents while the ex-LTTE cadres were rehabilitated within a short period of time, released and allowed to reintegrate with society.
This gesture by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is one that is unprecedented after a military victory. It is also completely contrary to what had taken place before in wars where Western powers had been involved, where “enemy” combatants had been incarcerated without trial, humiliated, hunted down mercilessly, tortured, urinated upon, water-boarded, set upon by dogs, and put to death after phony trials.
In this background, it is highly regrettable that the OHCHR is ignoring the favourable outcomes in Sri Lanka, and is continuing to “cherry-pick” a few unsubstantiated, unverified, or anonymous reports, to make sweeping allegations against Sri Lanka’s record of reconciliation and accountability.
It is now becoming increasingly clear that this stance and attitude of the OHCHR is quite selective, and is based on its quest to buttress the expected resolution that is to be introduced by certain North American and Western nations at the next UNHRC session in March 2014 against Sri Lanka.
This contention is gaining further credence due to the fact that there is a growing suspicion in many circles that the efforts by the OHCHR and certain North American and Western countries are due to the strong and well-funded lobby of the yet existing, but newly transformed LTTE international network that actively supported the three-decade terrorist campaign, in the past.
As is well known, this network located largely in North America and the West, conducted a relentless campaign of propaganda, fundraising and procurement of weapons and equipment, during the conflict. However, today, the very same individuals and the entities that funded and supported the ruthless terrorist acts in Sri Lanka have reinvented themselves. They now wear human rights masks and have taken the campaign against Sri Lanka to a different level, using “human rights” as their new “weapon”.
Accordingly, these terrorists-turned-human rights crusaders are now highly active in Western capitals, lobbying Washington DC, London, Brussels and Geneva, etc. As a direct result of this well-funded lobby, the OHCHR also seems to be eager to oblige these terrorists-turned-human rights crusaders by unabashedly basing its reports on unsubstantiated events, un-collaborated stories and highly dubious photographs or film productions planted and concocted by the LTTE international network, in order to level charges against Sri Lanka.
In that context, the authorities and people of Sri Lanka are now beginning to realize that the shockingly biased and one-sided stance of the OHCHR is primarily to appease the LTTE and help it to realize its mission which is to extract revenge from the GoSL for destroying their beloved LTTE terrorist movement.
As a result of this attitude and stance, which incidentally goes contrary to all UN norms, the OHCHR has lost all credibility in the eyes of the people of Sri Lanka. The OHCHR’s inner motives are also now exposed. In that background, the OHCHR has made it very difficult for the people of Sri Lanka to believe that any recommendations that will be made by the OHCHR in future will be for the benefit of the country or its people. That is further aggravated by the dubious track record of the OHCHR, in many other global cases too, where it has applied double standards with gross impunity.
The UN and OHCHR reports of the past have also contained extensive factual inaccuracies, and matters that seem to have been deliberately taken out of context. In addition, many relevant matters which have been favourable to Sri Lanka have been conspicuously left out. Therefore, in the next OHCHR Report too, that unfair and biased standard could be expected to be followed.
That is why the Sri Lankan authorities must not, and should not expect a fair or helpful report from Navi Pillay. Therefore, the Sri Lankan authorities must immediately challenge the OHCHR and now state the key fact that, no other country has been able to achieve a higher degree of reconciliation and accountability in such a short time, after a prolonged period of conflict, such as that which has been achieved by Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan authorities must also demand that the OHCHR provides it with any other case study or studies where a more robust or tangible reconciliation and accountability has taken place in any country in such a short period of time, than in Sri Lanka!