Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Sri Lanka: An orphaned Race Vs A Tyrannical government

The Sri Lankan tragedy is now garnering the attention of news outlets across the world. NYT, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Washington Post etc have been publishing regular stories. Increasingly the focus is turned on the Rajapakse led government, its arrogance, blatant violation of all international laws, unbridled tyranny, war crimes are all being brought to world attention, sadly with little effect though.

"In victory, magnanimity" said Churchill. Rajapakse, his government and the Sinhalese public, in general are gloating over their victory in an unseemly sight. Rejecting the offer of truce by LTTE, Gothabaya Rajapakse and another minister, showed arrogance that sends a chill down the soul of anyone who had glimmers of hope in reconciliation amongst Tamils and Sinhalese. The attitude of revenge, especially indiscriminate revenge is chilling. The concentration camps, they are not refugee camps, is a travesty of all international laws. In the guise of screening thousands are held in concentration camp like set ups. This is no way to treat a people. This is no road to reconciliation.

Sri Lanka is today rated as the worst spot for journalistic reporting. Every news agency draws attention to the fact that no objective reporting can be done because reporters are denied access to war zone. What is worse is the naked tyrannical atmosphere where unfriendly journalists are murdered or disappear without trace.

The Economist, in an article titled "Dark Victory", writes, "In the east and elsewhere, especially Colombo, the country’s main city, it is alleged to have abducted and killed hundreds of young Tamils. Nor are Sinhalese entirely safe, especially journalists. Several have been mysteriously assassinated, and the rest terrorised. Reporters Without Borders, an NGO, considers Sri Lanka more hostile for journalists than any other democracy."

International agencies accuse the Sri Lankan government of the highest number of extra judicial killings or just plain disappearances. Tamils picked up for questioning routinely turn up dead or just not traceable.

Just today the Swedish foreign minister was denied visa, he was to undertake a humanitarian fact finding mission. This diplomatic slap is unprecedented. According to NYT, the pro-government Sinhalese newspaper, Daily News, today published an article titled ominously "“Get your humanitarian paws off my country.”

Sri Lanka has requested foreign aid to deal with the refugee crisis. It has already recieved one third of the $200 million it requested. But many aid agency staff are refused visas. NYT reports that Doctors-without-borders, says, “For us as a humanitarian organization, it’s extremely difficult for us to get permission to get staff in. It can take up to six weeks to get approval.” Another NYT report, cites Dr Pruchnic of Doctors-without-borders “there are kids here who have had amputations, their mother and father are gone — their whole family is missing,”. Yet they can still smile. I’m amazed at their resilience." Dr. Pruchnic said many of the patients, including children, arrived without their families.

It is the duty of world bodies NOT to release any further money without getting gaurantees from Sri Lankan government on access to refugees and stringent auditing of funds is required.

BBC reports that "The United Nations top humanitarian envoy, John Holmes, said on Monday that he had failed to secure agreement from the government on access to civilians."

Condemning Rajapakse is not a free pass for LTTE, the Economist notes bluntly, "Nor should Mr Prabhakaran and his crew be mourned. A well-organised and vicious terrorist group, expert in brainwashing and suicide-blasting, the LTTE has maintained its fief—which until late 2006 extended over almost a third of the country—by murder and fear. Moreover, having sabotaged a peace initiative of the previous government, and helped it lose an election by imposing a boycott on Tamil voters under its sway, Mr Prabhakaran has had the war he was asking for".

The onus on a government is because a government is necessarily judged on a different plane. America's use of napalm in Vietnam war and My Lai are still justifiably cited as some of the most shameful instances of a country with a proud army. Abhu Graib is the latest blot. India's role in Kashmir is no less repressive. Rajapakse's government has been singularly incapable of honoring any promise, they are absolutely duplicitous.

The world community with so many options is still feeble in its responses. A people have been brought to its knees and the victor is salivating with taste for blood and revenge.

Rwanda, the place of 20th century's most horrific genocide by Hutus against Tutsis has a Tutsi President. Million plus Tutsi's were killed by Hutus. This week's issue of New Yorker carries an extensive article on the reconciliation between Tutsis and Hutus, thought impossible 10 years ago.

The day Sri Lanka can elect a Tamil as Prime Minister or President is when Sri Lankans can truly be proud. Its a long road but its up to the Sinhalese to pave the road. There are good people amongst them too. I also hope that Tamils will be able to join the mainstream as equals and contribute to a prosperous Sri Lanka.

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