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Home > Struggle for Tamil Eelam > International Frame & the Tamil Eelam Struggle for Freedom > Double Standards in Washington
TAMIL EELAM STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM
There is so much to be watching and observing as a journalist within Sri Lanka that it is not often that I refer to developments abroad unless it directly impinges on the Sri Lankan situation.
Most observers notice what is a near desperation among the ‘International Community’ which incidentally excludes more than three-fourths of the world’s population, and of the international media in their comments on the situation in Sri Lanka, with the Government resolutely refusing to give in to pressures brought at the behest of the Sri Lankan Tamil expatriate populations in various European and ‘Western countries’ who are wrongly labelled, even by our own diplomats who should know better as the Tamil Diaspora; and for the geo-political interests of some of these nations that still think this is the age of imperialism.
What has to be brought into sharp focus today are the double standards of the United States of America that remains the strongest military power in the world, but is unable to use that power to rule the world, or to bring about the ‘Change we can believe in’ that was Barack Obama’s compelling slogan in the run up to his election, especially in dealing with countries such as Sri Lanka.
If not openly showing its muscle over Sri Lanka, the US State Department under Hillary Rodham Clinton appears keen to lecture to Sri Lanka on moral principles in dealing with IDPs and more importantly with the LTTE - an organization that remains banned in the United States as an international terrorist organization.
The big issue about which much is said so often by the State Department is the situation of civilians in the Civilian Safety Zone (CSZ), where their safety is threatened by the LTTE, much more than by the Sri Lankan Security Forces that are on a mission to help them liberate themselves from the clutches of terror, as they have helped nearly 200,000 other Tamil civilians in recent weeks.
Together with a section of the international media that is not loathe to publishing broadcast unverified reports of civilian casualties from alleged aerial and the use of heavy weapons in the CSZ, Secretary of State Clinton is always ready with the strongest condemnations of such actions, be they true or false, and also the injury and even death of some civilians, tragic as it is, in the course of attempts to liberate them from terror.
Mantra of regret
The entire record of the United State on the current situation with regard to the Sri Lankan Tamil civilians is one of double standards. This was best seen earlier this week when more than 100 Afghan civilians were killed and many more injured, when the US military carried out air attacks on Afghan terrain where they believe fighters of the al Qaeda are sheltering.
At a meeting with the Afghan President Karzhai in Washington US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that America ‘deeply, deeply regretted’ the reported deaths.
That is all. Whether ‘deep regret’ is repeated thrice or a hundred times like a mantra, it does not take away the sheer brazen nature of the US action, the tragedy that has taken place, and the total disregard for the safety of Afghan civilians, especially non-combatant women and children, in carrying out its aerial attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There can be little comfort that the Afghan and Pakistani Presidents were present when the Triple regret was announced, with something between a smile and as the cameras showed her, as they had little choice but to nod in sad agreement, caught as they are in the coils of American economic and military aid and direction for what appears to be the survival of their states today.
The double standards of the United States were best commented on in The Hindu, in its editorial yesterday (May 8) titled - Deaths do them apart, from which I quote: “Nothing illustrates the double standards Washington applies to the issue of civilian casualties in conflict zones more sharply than the contrast between its high moral ground on Sri Lanka and its apologetics for Monday’s air strike on two villages in Farah province that killed more than 100 innocent men, women and children - easily the worst such incident since the start of the Afghan war in October 2001.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the U.S ‘deeply, deeply regrets’ the loss of civilian lives but U.S. military commanders on the ground have questioned the assumption that the U.S. was to blame for the Farah incident. There is no indication at all that the Pentagon intends to re-evaluate its deadly use of close air support in skirmishes with the Taliban.
Friends in deed
As the Security Forces continued to advance into the ever shrinking stretch of land held by the LTTE, largely with forcibly conscripted civilians including children (who are not seen by Hillary Clinton, David Miliband et al) pointing to the early end of the operation to what could more aptly be termed Operation Liberation, President Mahinda Rajapaksa had an important interaction with the Diplomatic Community in Colombo last Thursday (May 7).
He was speaking with confidence of a leader who had faced and overcome many pressures from those who for various reasons, all seemingly, but not necessarily, in the interests of the civilians trapped by the LTTE, and in moving on to the genuine moral high ground he is entitled to, with regard to the liberation of the Tamil people.
He told the diplomats that as they were no doubt aware, “the LTTE has an extensive international network spread among many of your countries.
As members of the international community, friends of Sri Lanka need to bring pressure on the LTTE to lay down arms and surrender.
Punitive action could be taken on its front organizations spread globally. Your Governments also need to bring pressure on the leadership of the LTTE to free the civilians who are being held against their will as human shields.
In fact, these civilians could be relatives of those Sri Lankans who are in your countries.
Acknowledging the services of the DPL community, the President said: “I am fully aware that in-depth reports submitted by you contribute no little to building international opinions.
There is no doubt that these reports are much important in the building of arguments and positions in your Capitals.
As you are well aware the Government of Sri Lanka is now facing the daunting task of providing security and needs of displaced persons who are now in the welfare villages.
The Government has mobilized all the relevant Government Agencies and stakeholders who are working together to provide the basic needs of these innocent civilians.
Thanking the various Governments, the United Nations and its Agencies as well as the ICRC for the humanitarian assistance extended in our hour of need, the President said: “The next step is to focus our collective attention and energies on the long term post conflict development agenda for Sri Lanka. In this regard, one of the primary tasks is to rebuild the shattered lives of our people who have been traumatized by living for long periods under LTTE domination.”
Hard won praise
The same evening the President had a meeting with the INGOs and NGOs actually engaged in assisting in the work of caring for the large numbers of IDPs who have come into Government areas in the past few weeks.
All of the organisations present showered unmitigated praise on the President and the Government for the good work they were doing and its efforts to resolve the hardships of the IDPs. Senior Advisor to the President Basil Rajapaksa steered the meeting with the President in the Chair and responded adequately to the various needs, concerns and requirements that were brought to the notice of the President.
One of the INGO representatives present, while joining in the encomiums showered in the President and the Government, said that after the end of a war, what is more difficult is to build peace.
He said there was a pressing need for better communication with the world to make it aware of the good work being done, so that there would be more understanding of the situation in Sri Lanka and more assistance to come. Basil Rajapaksa explained that the Government had indeed lost in the information war, which had to be addressed, but it was difficult just now with the more pressing needs of providing for the needs of the vast number of IDPs.
President Rajapaksa was candid in his observation that he was more interested in working to ease the conditions of the people who needed help, than in any marketing exercise. He thought that the improvement of the conditions and actual comfort of the people would speak itself.
It is interesting that the need for success in the new battle to win the peace came from one who had been often heard saying, as so many others too, that the war with the LTTE could never be won, and was part of the loud chorus of those singing about the invincibility of the LTTE.
As for the international opinion and image, if half the number of INGOs and NGOs who are present and praised the work of the President and the Government, holds a media briefing where they are as candid as they were on Thursday evening about the actual situation, with shortcomings stated too, there need hardly be any communication gap to be bridged.
It is moot to remember that most of the averse publicity for Sri Lanka is also the result of statements from several organizations engaged in relief work here, of various types who have been ready to shoot their mouths to the international media, instead of first bringing such shortcomings, whether they do exist to the notice of the Government, and by this means have been willing to add to the propaganda blast of the LTTE.
One must hope that saner judgment will prevail in these circles, and they at last in Full Alert about the truth and image of Sri Lanka, unlike earlier direction and association with international alerts and similar exercises.
Mob law of the LTTE
More and more the Western countries that have taken economic refugees from Sri Lanka, especially from the Tamil community, who have falsely projected themselves as the Tamil Diaspora, are beginning to see and feel the reality of what they have been nurturing under the guise of supporting the cause of Tamil liberation in Sri Lanka.
The pro-LTTE mobs are increasingly on the rampage, especially in London, with Parliament Square, now conveniently renamed by some pro-LTTE members of the House of Commons as ‘Tiger Square’ their point of co-ordination, attacking the embassies of countries that have been firm in their support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka, in the face of a barrage of threats that have been coming from countries of the West that should know better.
After the earlier attacks on the Indian and Sri Lanka High Commissions, last Thursday saw two more such attacks in London. One was on the Chinese Embassy; the other was on the Vietnamese Embassy. These pro-LTTTE thugs, well trained in street violence, caused considerable damage to the Chinese Embassy in Central London.
The reason being China’s consistent support for Sri Lanka in the United Nations, when western powers, under the electoral influence of large numbers of Sri Lankan Tamil expatriate voters, have been seeking to make the UN Security Council place Sri Lanka on its agenda.
The attack on the Vietnamese Embassy, which would look very strange indeed, was also linked to Vietnam being a current member of the UN Security Council, among the non permanent members, that also opposed placing Sri Lanka on the SC agenda.
What was more funny than strange about the attack on the Vietnamese Embassy was the demand that Vietnam also support NATO and EU resolutions against Sri Lanka, the pro-LTTE demonstrators did not know that Vietnam is certainly not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and that it is also not a member of the European Union.
Desperate situations lead to confused thinking. It is becoming increasingly clear that the pro-LTTE Tamils abroad are fast reaching such levels of desperation, that they could well turn to be the next major threats to the countries that have given them refugee status, followed by citizenship, too - giving credibility to their claims to being part of any Diaspora, that is clamouring to set foot on the dream homeland of an Eelam in the territory of Sri Lanka.
Obama and the Law
We have always known that whatever promises he made about the need for Change in the United States, Barack Obama, the first African-American President of that country, will remain the strongest defender of American policy abroad, even to the detriment of other countries that will have to suffer under such policies.
We see that unravelling in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it was really shocking to see the US President openly interfere in the judicial process in Sri Lanka, in his statement on World Press Freedom Day.
It was his reference to the current case involving J. Tissanayagam, a journalist known to me, and who began his work in the Sunday Times when I was also associated with its re-launch with Vijitha Yapa. President Obama is no ordinary person, elevated to the US Presidency.
He is a product of the prestigious Harvard Law School, and was the first African American to be Editor of the Harvard Law Journal.
His knowledge of the law and judicial practice is certainly much better than that of George W Bush who he recently replaced and also Richard Nixon.
Whatever the propaganda or information fed to him by his officials or the pro-LTTE Tamil lobby in the US, who are clearly very close to his Secretary of State, the lawyer in Barack Obama should have told him that one does not make comments about a matter that is sub judice, in a proper appointed court, and on which a judgment is expected very soon.
Whether I agree with the indictment filed against Tissanayagam or not, the facts are that he is being tried under the laws of Sri Lanka, which are not primitive, but in fact a good combination of Roman-Dutch and British judicial traditions, and very much influenced today by the judgments of the Indian Judiciary and on occasion by the US Courts, too.
In such a situation President Obama should at least be more cautious in his comments on the Tissanayagam case, whatever the Committee to Protect Journalists (New York) or Reporters sans Frontiers or even PEN International may have to say.
Such interference with the judicial process of a democracy is not what is expected of a person learned in the law and from one whom a large part of the developing world, rightly or wrongly, expected justice, as well as respect for representative democracy and independent judiciaries.
Obama has sipped badly on this occasion. Possibly it was the lawyer in Hillary Clinton who advised him on the matter. It is good to beware of such advice, knowing how much the Clinton administrations were mired in judicial problems through most of its two terms, other than the ugly episode of Monica Lewinsky.