Two years after the massacre – UN produces words but no action: part1

For readability this article is divided into the following three parts.

Part 1: Sri Lankan government war crime and UN’s belated report and UN hypocrisy 

Part 2 : UN and imperialist interest

Part 3: Attack on Diaspora and lack of political solution

-Written by TU Senan, for Tamil Solidarity.

Part 1:Sri Lankan government war crime and UN’s belated report

 The UN panel report, published on 25 April after considerable delay, confirms what Tamil Solidarity and others have been saying about the slaughter of Tamils in Sri Lanka over the last two years. The panel was set up by the United Nations secretary general Ban-Ki Moon in June 2010 to advise him on Sri Lanka.

 This report affirms our claims that the Sri Lankan military massacred more than 40,000 people in the final phase of the war that ended in May 2009. They constantly bombed hospitals, schools, temporary shelters and so-called ‘no fire zones’. Every single one of 400,000 refugees was then taken, en mass, to ‘detention camps’ with no proper facilities. Deaths and gross humanitarian abuses took place during the transportation and in the camps. Many campaigns, including Tamil Solidarity and Tamil media outlets, constantly published reports of these horrors.

 However, there should not be any illusions that this report, will bring about any change in the conditions of the victims in Sri Lanka. The day after its publication the UK Guardian newspaper reported that the UN secretary general ‘would only launch an international investigation if the Sri Lankan government agrees or an “international forum” such as the United Nations security council calls for an inquiry’.  It is obvious to many that the Sri Lankan government will not allow any international investigations. In fact the publication of the belated panel report was itself further delayed by the Sri Lankan government’s protests. The Sri Lankan External Affairs minister, GL Peiris, called the report “preposterous” and “baseless”.

The Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, called for a ‘show of strength’ on May Day, international workers’ day, to “demonstrate against the injustice done to the country” by the UN report! “May Day should not be confined to expressing workers’ solidarity”, declared Rajapaksa. While the regime is trying to hijack workers’ day for their chauvinist benefit, they accuse the UN of being “hijacked by some countries”!  The government also called on all political parties in the country to express opposition to the report. They want to divert criticism of the government towards the ‘foreign enemy’. 

 In response to Rajapaksa’s call, the pseudo-Marxist JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a Sinhala-based chauvinist communal party which incorrectly calls itself ‘Marxist’) attacked the UN for interfering in the country’s affairs! The real reason behind their opposition to the report comes from the fact that they supported the government during the war. They were with the government every step of the way during the war. And quick to promote ex-General Sareth Fonseka who led the war and he had been treated as a national hero.

 The JVP sometimes tries to give a ‘mixed picture’. It gives the impression that it is fighting against the attacks on democratic rights, fighting for Tamil refugees’ rights and media freedom. It does this to keep the support of the students and some workers, who they have mobilised on the basis of ‘radical’ social and economic demands. But as they mix these demands with Buddhist Sinhala nationalism they push these layers further towards the Rajapaksa regime. This flawed method was demonstrated graphically in their electoral losses. An appeal must be made to those students and workers, who are looking for a lead, to break away from the JVP and to join a genuine fightback.

 But the JVP are not the only political party to deny the claims of the UN. Some in the capitalist opposition party UNP, such as PE Jayasuriya, still claim that: “Not a single innocent Tamil civilian was killed by the army during the war due to the leadership of the president Rajapaksa”.

 Ironically, or not so ironically in the Sri Lankan context, Jayasuriya is also a member of the international human rights association! The deputy leader of the UNP, Karu Jayasuriya, also stated that the party will stand by the security forces, further lending their support to the government on this issue.

 The racist Buddhist monks’ party, the JHU, is doing ‘all it can’ to support the government. “If Ban Ki-moon and the UN want to put President Rajapaksa on the electric chair, they have to put all of us, religious first,” said the Venerable Galagama Dhammaransi Thero adding: “We shall always protect and bless this courageous leader.”

 Meanwhile the professed reconciliation commission set up by the government, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), declared that they will not comment or take any action regarding this report. The LLRC is a fake commission set up by the president and it is living up to his expectations.

 Despite the anti-imperialist rhetoric to re-mobilise support based on Sinhala nationalism, both western imperialism and the Sri Lankan regime are clear on the limitations of the possible actions being taken against Sri Lanka.

 UN hypocrisy

Despite the report’s own admission that “during the final stages of the war, the United Nations’ political organs and bodies failed to take actions that might have prevented civilians’ deaths” no ‘apology’ has been made on the part of the UN so far. Instead it continues its inaction.

 Numerous appeals for action to stop the war and prevent mass murder of Tamil-speaking people were made during the war in early 2009. On Saturday 31 January 2009 over 100,000 marched through London in opposition to the slaughter. Internationally hundreds of thousands of Tamils and others took to the streets. After the war the demands for genuine humanitarian measures to be taken continued. In the silence and inaction on the part of the UN and governments, untold horror and mass murder took place. And the human rights abuses and killings continue to this date. This will not be forgotten.

 The UN may now be trying to redeem its humanitarian credentials with this report. But the fact remains that the UN made no attempt whatsoever to stop the killings. Furthermore, it made no apology for passing a resolution, within just ten days of the major massacre, clearing the Sri Lankan government of wrong-doing. The resolution passed by the UN human rights council on 27 May 2009 welcomed the “conclusion of hostilities and the liberation by the government of Sri Lanka of tens of thousands of its citizens that were kept by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) against their will as hostages, as well as the efforts by the government to ensure the safety and security of all Sri Lankans and to bring permanent peace to the country”.

 Not a single criticism of the Sri Lankan government is contained in the 27 May 2009 resolution. The resolution went even further politically: “Reaffirming the respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Sri Lanka and its sovereign rights to protect its citizens and to combat terrorism”.

 In fact, the only condemnation was against the LTTE for launching “attacks on the civilian population” and “using civilians as human shields”. The recent panel report has not referred to, let alone, denounced any of this. It merely asks the UN human rights council to ‘reconsider’! The hypocrisy of the UN, as Professor Noam Chomsky pointed out, “was so profound, it was suffocating”.

 One may hope that this panel report could be considered by all governments and governmental bodies as a minimum guidance before they embark on any relationship with the Sri Lankan government. Or it could lay the basis for an international war crimes investigation. However, we may never see such action take place.

 Even though the UN gives the illusion that it is an independent body, it would be naïve to imagine that the UN will go beyond the interests of its major components: the US, the UK, India, China, Russia. It is not an independent body in any way. Nor does the UN have a credible record of preventing mass murders taking place in other areas of the world. The UN did not prevent the massacre in Congo for example. In Rwanda world state powers watched the genocide of up to a million people in a period of a few months.

 The UN almost always takes the side of the imperialists. When it doesn’t, its actions have been blocked by powerful governments who can exercise a veto over UN activities. The oppressed masses have no voice to represent their interests in the course of the decision-making in the UN.

 The UN Security Council consists of countries such as Russia, China and India who, not only funded the Sri Lankan government’s military, but continue to protect it. After the report was published the defence secretary, Gotabayah Rajapaksa, announced that Sri Lanka “will have to seek protection from countries like Russia and China”.

 These governments’ actions are an extension of how they treat their own people. They have no concern for human rights. The brutal role of India in Kashmir and other parts of the country is well-known. None of the Indian governments have delivered on the UN agreement to hold a referendum in Kashmir. The Indian government’s massacre of tribal people and activists in the name of so-called ‘operation green hunt’ is widely published.

 Similarly, the role of the Russian government in Chechnya, and Chinese human rights abuses in Tibet and the rest of the country are recognised globally. These states, which abuse the rights of the masses in their own country, have no problem cooperating with another government who commits war crimes, such as that of the Rajapaksa regime.

…Part2 and 3 will be posted shortly