Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

The Credibility Gap

by Victor Cherubim

What seems pragmatic at present for overcoming this impasse and to restore some credibility is in the control of the sale of arms and the dispersion of arms to all parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka...

A measure of control which the British Parliament can enforce is to reactivate its own ethical policy on military hardware sales to Sri Lanka, which can be the beginning of a concerted effort by other nations to emulate.

With concerns expressed by the trend towards increasing violence and the growing environment of impunity surrounding Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka, the rationale for the British All Party Parliamentary Tamil Group, formed recently in the House of Commons, in the U.K. ,was to hear evidence and to address the legitimate aspirations of all Sri Lankans.

It was stated that all parties to the conflict, the Sri Lanka Government forces (GoSL), Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and other parties were violating international humanitarian law on a regular basis, citing abductions, extra-judicial killings, forced recruitment, making life and liberty at risk.

On the Humanitarian assistance issue, including monitoring visits to projects of the various implementing agencies supported by the Swiss Development Corporation Agency (SDC) the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), European Commissions Humanitarian Aid Organisation (ECHO), a delegation visited Kilinochchi, in the North on Monday 28 May 2007 and had meetings with LTTE officials.  A summary report of the delegations findings will be drafted and presented to the Sri Lanka Government and to the stakeholders.

In order to seek a respite in the daily bombings of civilians in the NorthEast and as a way forward to a stage-by-stage resolution, a fuller appraisal of the international involvement in the peace process has again been mooted.

Some Western governments, in the interest of maintaining diplomatic dialogue with Sri Lanka, have  worked with the strategy of ” bombing as a way out of terrorism”, whilst other agencies and international governments have been sceptical and termed this policy futile. With all the sophisticated military and manpower might of the nation, it is argued that eventually the problem could only be solved by political means.

The evidence of continued abductions, killings, Police and investigative reports on human rights abuses have been produced and submitted to international forums. In the absence of legal prosecution, it appears that all this has done is inflame the situation. What prevails is more punitive and preventive body checks by the military and police force, restriction of movement, infringement on personal liberty on the civilian population going about their daily living, and an aura of fear and uncertainty.

The situation is at stalemate without bringing the perpetrators of the heinous crimes against humanity to justice. The President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, himself has deemed it necessary to show credibility to an unbelieving but inactive world, by his travels to the various capitals, including Beijing, New Delhi, Islamabad, Rome, London, Male (Maldives) and soon Teheran, both to validate and vindicate his strategy on terrorism. The problem continues to be one of a credible alternative.

The issue for the British Parliament is to appreciate the impasse in international support to press both the Sri Lanka Government and the parties to the conflict to come to a modus operandi for the immediate cessation of the daily bombings of innocent civilians, both in the North East and in other parts of Sri Lanka.

It is unrealistic to underestimate the escalation of the war in Sri Lanka. Everyone knows that this strategy cannot be perpetuated. Neither can international governments expect to prescribe remedies for the proliferation of human rights violations, solely though the use of “the big stick policy” on restrictions and refusals of aid from donor nations.

What seems pragmatic at present for overcoming this impasse and to restore some credibility is in the control of the sale of arms and the dispersion of arms to all parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka. What cannot be done is to stop the sale of arms without a monitoring body.

It is the hope, however, through diplomatic channels for the British and other Governments to motivate governments and mobilise international opinion to refrain from the sale of arms which can be used solely for destruction and bombardment of civilians in the North East.

Though it is easier said than done, it is essential that goodwill be created through this process to put a moratorium on arms sales as a prerequisite for a peace formula to be evolved by the Government of Sri Lanka and LTTE in due time. It is an anomaly that Muslim nations around the world are being canvassed to sell arms to Sri Lanka for the destruction of Tamil-speaking Muslims in the North East. It is equally distressing to note that neighbouring nations like India, Pakistan, Iran and Indonesia by silence condone the sale of military equipment and arms to be used by both parties to this conflict.

In the self interest of nations and for the promotion of trade, when the going gets tough, Arms salesmen are despatched to Sri Lanka from all quarters, to dispose of and discard obsolete military stock, on preferential credit and to entice the Government to update its military might to bomb civilians into subjugation.

A measure of control which the British Parliament can enforce is to reactivate its own ethical policy on military hardware sales to Sri Lanka, which can be the beginning of a concerted effort by other nations to emulate.