Seeing is Believing
If seeing is believing, then what brought Sri Lanka to the attention of the world were the atrocities committed by Sri Lanka in the war and exposed by Britain’s Channel 4 videos.
According to reliable sources, tens of thousands of Tamils civilians were slaughtered in the spring of 2009 by Sri Lankan government forces, many who had sought sanctuary by surrendering to the army.
Sri Lanka’s situation shows nothing new. There is continuing violations of human rights. Killings have become a way of life. Violence, disappearances, and killings, are commonplace. Freedom of expression, peaceful association and assembly, are things of the past. Judicial independence was destroyed when the Chief Justice was dismissed for no real reason, and replaced by a co-operative person!
By 1998 Sri Lanka had become notorious as violence and crime infested the land. When 23 bodies requested the President and Opposition Leader to solve to the Tamils problem, they did nothing.
Today, the Tamil are suffering untold hardships especially in the North. The army is doing as they liked or wished, but it is nightmare.
UNHRC Acts on War Crimes
Tamils died fighting to get a piece of land to call their own. They became victim of Sinhala extremism, constantly stoked by their politicians. It tells its own story to know there were pogroms against the Tamils in 1956, ‘58, ‘77, 79, ‘81 and ’83. But the Tamils never gave up. In the end, the government defeated the Tamils in 2009 by committing war crimes to win the war. In the process many surrendering Tamils were taken away and killed, and in fact murdered. It was Channel 4 videos that exposed Sri Lanka’s human rights violations to the world, and the UNHRC acted to take it further.
A US/India resolution at the 2013 UNHRC sessions required Sri Lanka to investigate the HR violations in the war, and start reconciling with the Tamils. But Sri Lanka refused to do either. Their decision came up for review in 2014, and on a US resolution, the UNHRC was directed to investigate the war crimes.
Not long after, a high ranking Sri Lankan commanding army officer told the UNHRC that hundreds of surrendering Tamil combatants were taken away and killed on the orders of a very high government official he named. It now appears that it was all probably planned before the war began, because no one was allowed into the war zones to conceal the illegal acts planned in the war.
What is the evidence available to the UNHRC: Video Evidence, Satellite Images, and Oral Evidence from Tamils, at home, and abroad. After the lead given by the Sinhalese commander, other Sinhalese army personnel could come forward, to avoid prosecution by the International Court of Justice.
Options for Tamils
OPTION 1: This option is for the Tamils to do nothing, and hope that the Sinhalese would come to their senses, do the needful, and everything would fall into place. But this is daydreaming. Recall that nothing of any consequence has happened in 66 years. It is because Sinhalese leaders never relented.
OPTION 2: The Tamils always dreamt of a piece of land in their corner of the world, where they could be their own masters. For a time, they even toyed with the idea of a separate state. The Sinhalese, however, never relented to anything, and instead piled untold hardships on the Tamils. The plight of the minorities was never foreseen by the British when they left. They did not anticipate the lengths to which the Sinhalese would go to deny the Tamils their rights, and even banned appeals to Britain.
OPTION 3: But now, after the shocking disclosure of war crimes by a high ranking Sri Lankan commanding army officer, who also named the high raking official who issued the order, the world knows of the government’s involvement. Army officers and soldiers could have refused to carry out illegal orders. It might be recalled that a very important personage, immediately after the war ended, said that their soldiers carried a gun in one hand and a copy of the Geneva Convention in the other, in a preemptive move to clear the forces of war crimes! But did the soldiers or the officers have a choice? This will be known only when the UNHRC files its report.
The dark deeds of Sri Lanka were not forgotten by USSecretary of State, John Kerry when he said, after the US resolution was adopted: “Today’s vote in the UN Human Rights Council sends a clear message. The time to pursue lasting peace and prosperity is now, but justice and accountability cannot wait.”
But there are impediments. The leaders in government believe that the war victory qualifies them to rule in perpetuity! Minorities are being persecuted and killed, and their properties are being sized without due process to please the Buddhist clergy and win their backing. The media is being hounded. Journalists are threatened, harmed, and even killed, if they do not adhere to the government line.
Let it be noted that the Sinhalese outnumber the Tamils 7:1, and used the tax money of the Tamils to finance their war effort! The Tamils, a constituent people of Sri Lanka, never imagined they would be like outsiders in their own country!
The violence in the war has changed everything. War crimes charges are hanging over the heads of leaders of government and others. They have to answer to the International Court of Justice.
Strangely, it could create constructive circumstances for the settlement of the Tamil problem after the long years of negotiating, protesting, satyagrahas, fighting, and finally war. The UNHRC will likely be the intermediary. India would be a factor in the search for a settlement, if the contending parties agree to its participation. The Tamils will likely choose their representatives from amongst their elected representatives in central government, and the provincial council.
Should an agreement not be reached, it could complicate matters. A solution could be imposed by the UNHRC once the International Court of Justice has finished its work. There are other more difficult options, but it is premature to go into them at this stage.
It is useful to know a few things about the UN and the UNHRC. The UNHRC is the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UN’s objective for people everywhere is this: 1. The right to live as free citizens of a country. 2. Equality before the law. 3. The right of free speech and writing. 4. The right to education, employment and freedom of religion. 5. Freedom from discrimination based on religion and sex. 6. Equal pay for equal work. 7. Freedom to travel from one place to another.
NB: Names of people in government and elsewhere have been left out for obvious
reasons, because they are not helpful in the context of what lies ahead.