Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

President Bush's Address to the UN

Serious Omissions

by Dr. Victor Rajakulendran, September 28, 2007

In short, since President Rajapaksa came to power in November 2005, over 1974 Tamil civilians have been killed by the Sri Lankan armed forces and its allied paramilitaries and over 842 Tamil civilians have been either arrested or abducted and then disappeared. Among those killed were four popular Tamil parliamentarians.  In the Jaffna peninsula more than 150 civilians have sought refuge in the Jaffna prison after surrendering to the Human Rights Commission to save their lives from the marauding Sinhala army. 

Appearing at the opening of the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly on the 25th of September, President Bush (PB) called on members of the United Nations to do more to support nascent democracies and to oppose autocratic and tyrannical governments.  He chided nations to live up to the rights and freedoms the United Nations promised six decades ago, announced new sanctions on Myanmar and denounced the governments of Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe as “brutal regimes.”

It was ironic that the autocratic President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR), who has been leading a tyrannical government, delivered his address to the same General Assembly on the same day.  It would have been a disappointment to several member nations and human rights organisations that Sri Lanka was omitted from the list of countries President Bush chose to denounce as “brutal regimes”, particularly at a time when several member nations and human rights organisations were contemplating passing a resolution at the 6th UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session in Geneva against the tyranny unleashed by the Sri Lankan regime against its own citizens.

About Burma, President Bush said that, “Americans are outraged by the situation in Burma, where a military junta has imposed a 19-year reign of fear”.  “Basic freedoms of speech, assembly, and worship are severely restricted. Ethnic minorities are persecuted. Forced child labour, human trafficking, and rape are common.” 

What is the difference between the Burmese military junta and the “Rajapaksa Junta” that has been ruling the roost in Sri Lanka for the last two years?  Does not President Bush know that Mahinda Rajapaksa as the President is also the commander in chief of the Sri Lankan armed forces, his brother Gothabaya Rajapaksa is the Secretary of Defence, another brother Chamal Rajapaksa is the Minister of Ports and Aviation and another brother, Basil Rajapaksa, who was a Presidential Adviser hitherto, has been recently made a parliamentarian through the back door and is waiting to soon become another cabinet minister? 

The opposition in Sri Lanka complained that 90% of the Sri Lankan budget is controlled by the “Rajapaksa Junta” even before Basil Rajapaksa entered the parliament, as several cabinet portfolios come under President Rajapaksa, including the finance portfolio.  President Bush may not know that both Gothabaya and Basil Rajapaksas are US permanent residents and were doing odd jobs in the US to make their living before Rajapaksa incorporated them into his Junta.

If Americans are outraged by the 19 year reign of fear by the military junta in Burma as President Bush has stated in his address, Americans cannot be unaware of the 2 year reign of fear unleashed by the “Rajapaksa Junta” in Sri Lanka and should be  equally or even more outraged.  The cold-blooded murder of Tamil journalists under the “Rajapaksa Junta” has been condemned and exposed by International Media Organisations and UN officials.  News about attack on Christian churches by the militant Buddhists, while the security forces turn a blind eye under the “Rajapaksa Junta”, has been in the media in the US (for example in The Christian Science Monitor).  As I write, a Catholic priest - the third such priest - has been killed by the security forces in the northwestern district of Mannar.  The NY-based Human Rights Watch in its reports on Sri Lanka has graphically described how the ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka are being persecuted by the Sri Lankan armed forces.  The abductions, kidnapping for ransom and extrajudicial killing of innocent Tamil civilians in Colombo and the North East under the “Rajapaksa Junta” has been submitted to the UNHRC in detail by human rights organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Asian Human Rights Council, all of which recommend establishment of a UN human rights field monitoring mission in Sri Lanka.  President Bush and his advisers cannot be unaware of all this.   The American public and the president are well aware of the fact that their Senate recently passed a motion to suspend all military sales to Sri Lanka until the “Rajapaksa Junta” demonstrates that it is willing to and is able to investigate and punish the perpetrators of the human rights violations currently being committed by the security forces.

In short, since President Rajapaksa came to power in November 2005, over 1974 Tamil civilians have been killed by the Sri Lankan armed forces and its allied paramilitaries and over 842 Tamil civilians have been either arrested or abducted and then disappeared. Among those killed were four popular Tamil parliamentarians.  In the Jaffna peninsula more than 150 civilians have sought refuge in the Jaffna prison after surrendering to the Human Rights Commission to save their lives from the marauding Sinhala army.  Representatives of the international community, who raised their voices over these horrendous violations of humanitarian norms, have been repeatedly attacked by the Sri Lankan government as "terrorists" and "LTTE sympathisers." Canadian former Cabinet Minister and UN representative for Children Affected by Armed Conflict Ambassador Allan Rock was vilified as an LTTE supporter. UN Under Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs, Sir John Holmes was called a terrorist by a Sri Lankan cabinet minister, and Australia's Former Foreign Minister and current President of the International Crisis Group, Mr. Gareth Evans has been vilified by senior members of the Sri Lankan government as a "White Tiger".  Under the “Rajapaksa Junta”, Sri Lankan air force MIG 27s and Kfir supersonic jets have regularly bombed heavily built up civilian settlements in the Tamil homeland under the pretext of hitting LTTE military camps and ammunition depots.  Considering the number of aerial bombings carried out under the “Rajapaksa Junta”, there could not be any LTTE facility left in the North or East.  What the “Rajapaksa Junta” has tried to do is similar to someone emptying a tank to separate the fish (LTTE) from the water (people – Tamils).  During these operations Tamil people have been driven out of their habitats the way wild herds are driven out of an area using helicopters.  Many of them have been prevented from returning to their original habitat and, in many cases, Singhalese are being settled in these areas instead, deliberately changing the demography of the Tamil homeland.  Is this not “Ethnic Cleansing”?

Can President Bush name any regime in the world that uses its air force bombers to bomb its own citizens?  Even the military junta of Myanmar, against whom President Bush has announced new sanctions, has not done this.  None of the countries President Bush classified in his address as “brutal regimes,” namely Belarus, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe, has even thought of doing this.  The International Community, which is rightly raising their concerns today against shots being fired on unarmed protestors in Myanmar, has not done anything to stop the aerial bombing of innocent civilians in the North East of Sri Lanka.

Not only has President Bush said in his address that “Every civilised nation also has a responsibility to stand up for the people suffering under dictatorship,” but also outlined a tightening of financial sanctions on Myanmar and an extension of a ban on visas of officials “responsible for the most egregious violations of human rights” and their families.  If he has this responsibility to stand up for suffering people, is President Bush willing and ready to stand up for the Tamil people who are suffering under the “Rajapaksa Junta”?  If not, the president should not to preach anything that he cannot practice in the real world.