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We need no INGO and NGO volunteers in Sri Lanka

Their track record is one of sinister activities and destruction; no more Wanni again

By Mohan Gunaratnam, Ranjan Jayakody and Ranjit Surendran from Vavuniya

(March 25, Jaffna, and Trincomalee, Sri Lanka Guardian) Many efforts are hardly necessary to discover the kind of impacts Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) have made in Sri Lanka since independence. Decades ago the NGOs played a key role in the anti-slavery and women’s suffrage movements in the United States. Once the United Nations was set up, the NGOs received some form of recognition worldwide. There was a provision in Article 71 of Chapter 10 of the United Nations Charter for a consultative role for organizations which are neither governments nor member states.

The INGO concept came into being in 1950 which provided for any international organization that is not founded by an international treaty to function overseas like an NGO.

Though most of these organizations were obviously found on enlightened ideals and principles and involved were dedicated volunteers and some great movements were launched as a consequence. In the developing world NGO activities were largely focused on improving the welfare of people and communities in need, volunteering in education and more in the form of expertise supporting grass root projects. So much so, NGO personnel were often known as social workers in the developing countries.

Unfortunately, in the developing countries, the NGO personnel often tended to act in conflict with the aspirations of local leaders. Most of them were strangers to the traditions, customs and values of the countries where they served and had the tendency to interact either with those whom they could dominate or be able to socialize at their level who look up to countries where they came from as heaven on earth.

Most of them believe they came from a superior culture that has to be impacted on the locals. This is why the INGOs and NGOs find easy comradeship with the Diaspora community of a country that has made new homelands in the western world and whatever communicated between the two tend to become a powerful factor in respect of some of the developing countries in the international scene.

The integrity of volunteers working for international non-governmental organizations and their association and working relationships with volunteers from local non-governmental organizations and their interactions with corrupt government officials via the backdoor have shown very unhealthy signs in many developing countries.

Early in the 1950s evangelical missionaries from the US were accused of stirring up rebellions among the people of Nagaland against the Indian union and even arms were suspected as smuggled into their territory. Fortunately, India stemmed this in time before it blew into a major insurgency.

There is a strange and more complex pattern in respect of Nagaland in the case of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Firstly, the genesis of the LTTE and founding of the Cey-Nor Project in Jaffna belong to the same source, space and time. Secondly, the Catholic Church was so heavily involved with Prabhakaran and his budding terror gang that it was in church premises the loot from his several bank robberies was kept.

Thirdly, Prabhakaran began a deadly campaign of decimating those whom he felt were opposed to his bandit activities and even made many people to believe that was indeed a hired killer. No doubt, the LTTE has no political ideology whatsoever.

If he was not a hired killer, he had no reason whatsoever to assassinate Mayor Alfred Durayappah. It almost turned out to be a botched-up one where his intention was to kill two people, the mayor and his companion. Once he committed this dastardly act, some elements of the Tamil community began to look up to him as a hero and this was how, he laid the bloody trail and called it striving for a Sate of Eelam.

On this track, Prabhakaran received a great deal of support from the Federal Party. It was unfortunate, Mr S J V Chelvanayagam who advocated non-violence of a mysterious kind either turned a blind eye or could not see through the terror inclinations of Prabhakaran.

As for Appapillai and Mangayakkarasi Amirthalingam, Prabhakaran was their great hero and was affectionately addressed by both as Thambi (younger brother affectionately) and even publicly acclaimed as their virtual successor to lead the way for the establishment of Tamil Eelam.

Once having secured this state with the Federal Party which by this time had become the Tamil United Front, Prabhakaran indulged himself in a series of killings and decimation of other militant groups, His appetite for blood was insatiable, eventually even Mr Amirthalingam and some of his fellow Tamil United Front leaders were killed by Prabhakaran.

Through all these atrocious events, the Catholic Church in Jaffna remained close to Prabhakaran and there were also indications that something sinister was developing among the Tamils which may possibly be a hand outside Sri Lanka but certainly outside the Tamil community. As for the Tamils, because of the anti-Sinhala propaganda and the riots against them, whatever that embarrassed the government was cheered without understanding that no one should hire a fox to guard the henhouse.

It is also a matter of deep distress that the Catholic Church in the North had never thought it fit to express its anguish to the continuous blood-letting Prabhakaran caused from the day he killed the good Mayor of Jaffna. Even today this church seems to have played a major role in herding the people of Wanni as human shield to give Prabhakaran and the LTTE a chance to be protected and preserved for posterity. This is a horrendous blackmail on the Tamil community.

It is also widely known many INGO and NGO officials and volunteers generally interacted with Catholic priests during their stay in Sri Lanka. It is not surprising, despite over four decades of INGO and NGO presence in the North and East, there is nothing they have achieved in the area of grass root or any other development activities and even the Cey-Nor Project turned out to be a total failure.

There is a terrible weakness among us Sri Lankans. We take gossips seriously and never ever try to question, investigate or research for the truth in matters that concern or affect us. If by any chance an exceptional person did raise a question or two, he faced the risk of being condemned as a troublemaker and if it concerned the validity of a separate state for the Tamils, he would be branded as a traitor and possibly shot. One could see this more clearly how G G Ponnambalam from a 50-50 hero became a traitor overnight just because he behaved like an opportunist politician. He was in no way different from most other Sri Lankan politicians.

This brings up the thoroughly disturbing stand of the Catholic Church whose priests had the temerity to even demonstrate supporting the LTTE publicly holding the photographs of an ace killer and yet the Sri Lankan community has sheepishly remained silent. How can a church compromise with the LTTE and for what purpose?

Many people are screaming around the world about thousands held as human shields for which the LTTE is entirely responsible and when it is also known that among those who force-gathered the people of Wanni to march to Mullaitivu as human shield, one of them is the Rev Father James Pathinathar. The role of the Bishop of Manner, the Rt Rev Joseph Rayappu as a person quite close to Prabhakaran is widely known.

A few days ago some Catholic bishops from the south visited Wanni and present with them was the Bishop of Mannar. Why did they not seize this opportunity to demand from the LTTE to let the civilians go? What was the hidden mission of their visit even though they publicly stated they had come to give spiritual guidance. What kind of spiritual guidance did they mean and how did they offer it?

It appears, in the final count, most INGO and NGO volunteers have only interacted themselves with the Catholic Church in the North, Prabhakaran and the LTTE. During the last several days various kinds of reports are being splashed across the world from the INGO and NGO sources that give totally false impressions about civilians held as human shield by the LTTE.

What they chose not to report is that the Sri Lankan Armed Forces have placed the safety of the civilians held hostage as primary and have accordingly adjusted their war strategies. The reports flashed to the world screams about civilians being endangered by the actions of the armed forces and killed in their hundreds. In truth, most civilians were killed by the LTTE when they tried to flee from their grip.

The No Fire Zone was created by the government to enable the trapped civilians to be safer and even have the chance to escape. No government ever anywhere has created such a No Fire Zone when calamities of this type have occurred, a great credit to Sri Lanka. Despite the fact the LTTE appropriated this area and built bunkers slave-working the civilians, thousands have managed to escape at great peril. If there was genocide against the Tamils, it is strange that it is to the government forces the people are rushing for their safety.

In this context, it must be pointed out that the LTTE Political Commissar B Nadesan said people should not be uprooted from their habitats. But what is faced today is that the LTTE had uprooted families from the entire region of Wanni and are holding them as human shield in a tiny area merely to protect their leaders and cadres including Prabhakaran. Even worse, children and young people are being snatched to be forced as cadres.

In their march through Wanni, the Armed Forces personnel discovered luxury bunkers, arsenals, sophisticated communication equipment, and also electronic gadgets, vehicles and other materials that were imported into the country by INGO and NGO volunteers for their use.

There were also earth-moving equipment, hundreds of vehicles and fuel dumps that were obviously given to the LTTE when they were asked to leave the zone of conflict. Was it not right and proper that they should have handed over all these to their respective offices in Colombo?

One wonders what kind of role these volunteers played in building seven air strips each a kilometer long. How these came to be built, the resources needed and the relative silence on them despite many overseas volunteers working in Wanni certainly raises many questions. One can conclude that in the building of these airstrips, the luxury bunkers and the mini-fortresses all over Wanni, these volunteers would have certainly had a hand.

There is information that 41 INGOs and NGOs have applied to work among the IDP villages in Vavuniya. This raises many disturbing concerns. Will this mean, these volunteers will have the facility to interact with Tiger leaders and cadres underworld and also create conduits to support them materially including even weapons that may be imported in the categories of relief materials?

There are reasons to believe many Tiger cadres and their families have seeped through as civilians to the IDP villages for after all one can recognize the rabbit catcher hound from its face.

What have the INGOs and NGOs achieved in Wanni during the last decade or two? Wanni was the granary of the country and when the LTTE took over this region, its agriculture and agro-industries were steadily destroyed and people of Wanni began to depend on government assistance and handouts. While these were provided by the government and even salaries of government officials paid, the LTTE and the Catholic Church gave the impression to the people of Wanni that just about everything they received came from the INGO and NGO organizations overseas.

The LTTE created vast amounts of security and no man zones at great cost to the Wanni people. Many of their houses were commandeered and also farm vehicles. During harvest times, the LTTE took much more than the lion share and severe taxes were imposed on the people.

What was obvious was that the INGOs and NGOs gave a great deal of comfort and even worse, recognized the pro-LTTE Diaspora as the people who were wronged by the government of Sri Lanka and only their voice has credence about Sri Lanka. They saw the Diaspora as their soul brothers and the LTTE as their saviours.

There is a great danger potential if INGO or NGO volunteers are allowed to operate in Wanni or regions in the neighbourhood. Wearing the skin of the cow, they will prey like the tiger and serve only their masters against the interests of the people of Sri Lanka. They are also likely to delay the government’s quest to end terrorism in the country. If allowed to work in the IDP villages, they are more likely to present to the world that these places are concentration camps even liken them to that of Hitler’s.

Ideally the INGO and NGO organizations, if they are keen to help the people of Wanni, they can provide funds and materials and there are many people from this region who are capable of providing the physical help badly needed at this moment and also trained to take care of rehabilitation work. What is needed now is for the government to create a volunteer corps to get to action and there are many people even among the Tamil Diaspora who will be happy to serve their kith and kin in Sri Lanka.

-Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

Unknown said...

It is time that the SL government did what India did years ago, and more recently during the Tsunami crisis. SL should kick out these parasites NGOs and INGOs feeding and extending human misery in the guise of doing humanitarian work. They will surely find another festering wound somewhere in the world, but at least they will be out of Sri Lanka. I am disgusted at these so-called do-gooders who are mostly college dropout scum from western countries.

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