Header Ads

Australian jurist, Dowd, exposed as a Tiger propagandist

"A-Level students were given tuition by specialists teachers transported from leading elitist schools like Royal College and D. S. Senanayake College in Colombo. There is a bank in which the IDPs had deposited Rs.300 million. There is a post office and phone facilities to contact the outside world. Anybody is allowed to visit them. There is a fish and a meat shop. I did not see a single student carrying AK 47s."

By H. L. D. Mahindapala

(June 26, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) In the following letter to Justice John Dowd, the Vice President of the International Commission of Jurists, H. L. D. Mahindapala challenges the credibility of the Australian jurist to speak on the ground realities and inter-ethnic relations in Sri Lanka.

H. L. D. Mahindapala

53, Galahad Crescent
Glen Waverley,
Vic. 3150
June 29, 2009
Phone: 03 - 98876176.

Justice John Dowd
Vice President
International Commission of Jurists

Dear Sir,

Your litany of complaints against the Sri Lankan government, reproduced predictably in the TamilNet ( June 25,2009) -- the leading propaganda medium of the Tamil Tigers -- indicate to me that you have fallen for the “big lie” (your phrase) propagated by the rag-tag remnants of the defunct Tamil Tigers in Australia, some of whom have been the primary sources that had financed the Tiger killing machine responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians.

According to TamilNet you have fired on all cylinders demanding “to not (just) speak up but yell”. Having toured the northern region and visited the IDPs I am compelled to take your decision to "yell" now with more than a pinch of salt. Your sudden decision to “yell” now and the failure to "speak up" earlier when the worst crimes against the Tamils were committed by "Pol Potist regime" (New York Times -- June 25, 1995) of Velupillai Prabhakaran exposes the callous and partisan approach of the do-gooders who are in the habit of wearing blinkers whenever it suits them to take sides on the false presumption that all evil stems from the states and not from brutal terrorists who operate outside the known canons of international humanitarian law.

Last week I returned to Melbourne from a visit to Jaffna, Killinochchi, Vavuniya and the Manik Farm where nearly 45,000 of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are located. Having seen with my own eyes and having interviewed some of the IDPs your outburst has convinced me that ignorance is a crime that cannot be pardoned in the case of do-gooders who claim to have snake oil panaceas for human rights violations. You will agree that ignorant comments add up to blatant lies. Nor can ignorance serve the greater good of human rights. If you are genuinely concerned about human rights then may I suggest that you acquaint yourself with the truth as it prevails in the IDP camps, and in the inter-ethnic relations in Sri Lanka, before you rush into places where angels fear to tread.

I must also confess that on my return I found the living conditions of the IDPs in Mullativu to be far superior to conditions of the Victorians reported in my local weekly, The Waverly Leader (June 23, 2009). It reported on page one that “an estimated 300,000 people (are) going hungry in Victoria.” It added on page 8: "One in 10 Victorians are malnourished, go hungry or feel anxious because they cannot access healthy and safe food." For your edification may I state the 300,000 IDPs are not in such dire straits as the Victorians in affluent Australia.

Perhaps, the following outline may help you to grasp some ground realities prevailing in the IDP camps in Sri Lanka. I toured the northern region, including the IDP camp in Manik Farm from June 13th to June 16th. I was expecting to see "concentration camps" like the ones in which non-combatant Japanese were imprisoned during the World War II in Australia for no known crime other than the fact that they were Japanese. None of the IDPs I met were rounded up because of their ethnicity like the Japanese. They came voluntarily and were housed in make-shift tents, huts and other temporary shelters.

I am not saying that their conditions are comparable to that of a five-star hotel. But any sensible eye witness will agree that they have more than the basic amenities to regain the lives they lost under Prabhakaran. They have more than what most of our remote villages have. They have schools and hospitals. One hospital is run by a team of Indian specialists ranging from cardiac surgeons to nephrologists. This hospital has an x-ray unit, a small operating theatre and large stocks of required medicine. All medicine -- you name it -- is distributed free. The Sri Lankan hospital is manned by 55 doctors who also run a mobile ambulance. Here too medicine is free.

A-Level students were given tuition by specialists teachers transported from leading elitist schools like Royal College and D. S. Senanayake College in Colombo. There is a bank in which the IDPs had deposited Rs.300 million. There is a post office and phone facilities to contact the outside world. Anybody is allowed to visit them. There is a fish and a meat shop. I did not see a single student carrying AK 47s. They were more interested in watching the 20-20 series on TV sets. Investigations were going on to find the relatives of orphans. There were two INGOs purifying the water pumped from the Malwatu Oya. An engineer of the Water Board, M. Manoharan (a Tamil in case you do not know) was supervising the operations of this water project. The IDPs were provided dry rations. Visitors and well-wishers from the south, mostly Sinhalese, bring loads of goodies for the IDPs. If you had a choice in which “concentration camp” would you like to be: the one run for Japanese in Australia or the one run by the Sri Lankan government?

Without any first-hand experience of the existential and ground realities you were obviously repeating, parrot-wise, what was fed to you by interested parties to whip up intervention in the domestic affairs of another state which has been bending over backwards to care for the Tamil IDPs who were rescued from the jackboot of "the Pol Potist regime". It is ironical that you have jumped in, boots and all, to blame the Sri Lankan government that rescued the Tamil IDPs, some of whom were shot and killed by the Tamil Tigers when they were trying to escape, and not the Tamil Pol Potists who were the cause of their misery in the first place. Besides, before engaging in your outburst, commonsense should have pricked your conscience to ask why the IDPs preferred to run away from their so-called protectors into the arms of the Sri Lankan forces which you condemn.

In your judgment it seems that rescuing 300,000 who fled the Pol Potist regime and providing alternative accommodation, however defective it may be, is a crime committed by the state of Sri Lanka. These helpless Tamils were used as a human shield to protect the Tiger leadership. Their children were plucked forcibly from the arms of their defenceless parents and thrown mercilessly into a futile war. Your silence when all this was going on implies that these oppressive conditions were preferable to the current situation where the IDPs are cared in the best possible manner by the Sri Lankan government. Why was your voice silent when these crimes against humanity were committed and why are you "yelling" now when the Government of Sri Lanka, working under most trying circumstances, is putting their best foot forward to lift the Tamil IDPs from the misery they experienced under the Pol Potist regime -- a regime which you seem to gloss over with benign neglect and a few jibes?

As a jurist it is your duty to balance the crimes of the competing forces and then pass judgment for the benefit of the greater good. You may come up with theoretical propositions to justify your judgment of accusing the Sri Lankan government with accusations that lacks fairness and most of all fidelity to known facts and the ground realities. But in this imperfect human world we can only hope for the greater good, irrespective of the theoretical utopianism. When jurists of your calibre abandon this basic principle what hope is there for human rights or for those victims persecuted by political criminals like the Tamil Pol Pot, Prabhakaran? It seems to me that the tears of crocodiles in the Northern Territory can be trusted to be more genuine than the tears shed by you for the Tamil victims of Prabhakaran rescued in the biggest humanitarian operation conducted by the Sri Lankan forces.

Your basic argument amounts to the naïve proposition that it would have been better for the Tamils to suffer the subhuman conditions under Prabhakaran than being rescued and placed in the IDP camps. Take the issue of the 80,000 children which you raised. I didn’t hear a peep coming out of the ICJ of which you are the Vice President, when the Tamil Pol Pot was forcibly plucking under-aged children from arms of Tamil parents and throwing them as fodder into a futile war. How come you found your voice to talk about the 80,000 children only after the Sri Lankan government had rescued these children from the trauma of fighting in a war which they never wanted? Where is your sense of fairness and balance in assessing the realities of then and now?

Out of the blue, as it were, you have begun to "yell" now about the children who had been saved from the haunting nightmares by the Sri Lankan government. But how come your judgment has not led you to conclude that the prevailing peaceful conditions are far superior, despite all handicaps, to the time when they had no food, water, shelter or even the basic right of a child to lead a normal life without a midnight knock on the door threatening to drag them into a war they hated? Isn't the fact that there is peace now a positive factor for the future of these children? Earlier they were locked into the inescapable fate of carrying an AK47 to shoot another human being, some of whom were Tamils? Your decision to “yell” against the government that saved 80,000 children from a fate worse than death places me in a dilemma not knowing whether to question your integrity or sanity.

Leading Tamil activists like S. Chandrahasan, the son of the father of separatism, S. J.V. Chelvanayagam, and the UN Peace Award-winning leader of the Tamil United Liberation Front, V. Anandasangaree, have placed on record that Velupillai Prabhakaran has killed more Tamils than all the other forces put together. Independent analysts also agree that had Prabhakaran decided to surrender, as urged by the International Community, he could have saved the lives of thousands of Tamil civilians caught in the cross-fire. He could have stopped the bloodbath if he stopped the war to save the Tamils. Instead he carried on knowing that he had no chance of winning. So who is responsible for the deaths of the 7,000-odd, according to UN figures? As a jurist concerned about human rights shouldn’t you have posed this question before accusing the Sri Lankan government of causing the deaths of Tamil civilians? I must confess that your silence on these obvious issues is deafening.

You have started yelling after the Sri Lankan government had rescued 300,000 Tamils from the Pol Potist regime. The hard facts staring in your face make it clear that your judgment of the current situation lacks the necessary impartiality and most of all credibility. I regret to say that as far as I can see your hysterical outburst brings disrepute to the very institution you represent. In any case, this is not the time to rave and rant hysterically. This is the time to contribute constructively to the healing process which is the need for the hour.

For a professional lawyer who had earned spurs on the way it is incumbent upon you to be restrained and measured in your statements. Besides, unlike propagandists your primary duty is not to make wild accusations, as you do, but to base your conclusions only on verifiable facts. It is easy to be moved when you hear sob stories, most of which are concocted to fit a particular political agenda. But there is a responsibility cast upon those who are supposed to represent human rights to be on the side of verifiable truth as lies do tend to exacerbate human rights conditions. If we are to save human lives and human rights we can't go down the path taken by the officials of the Bush administration which concocted lies and twisted the principles of law to intervene in Iraq.

According to TamilNet you had cited the experiences of World War II in dealing with situations where treaties were breached. As a learned jurist you must be aware of the history of the Japanese prisoners held in concentration camps. How many hospitals did they have with specialists looking after them? How many specialist teachers were catering to the needs of the higher education of Japanese children? Under what convention did Australia imprison the Japanese civilians who had not committed crimes against the Australian state? So on what moral grounds are you accusing the Sri Lankan government for providing the best possible living conditions which, admittedly, do not compare with the quality of life of the whiskey-guzzling Tamils demonstrating in the streets of Sydney and Melbourne?

I do not want to go into the tiresome recycling of the litany of Tamil complaints which you seem to have swallowed hook, line and sinker. If you are that sure of your complaints I am ever willing to debate the issues with you in any forum of your choice. I hope as a prominent human rights activist who is committed to explore the truth you will agree to debate this issue for the benefit of all communities, particularly the Australian human rights activists.

According to TamilNet you demand "not (just) to speak but yell". I am offering you the chance to "yell" as much as you like. I hope you will accept my offer and help the Australians to hear you the way you want.

With best wishes and hoping to hear from you asap.

Yours sincerely

H. L. D. Mahindapala
Editor, The Observer (1990 - 1994)
President, Sri Lanka Working Journalists' Association (1991 - 1993)
Secretary-General, South Asia Media Association (1993 -1994)

PS: In case you need a reference please contact the Law Faculty, Sydney University, which invited me to debate the issue of the “Human Rights Crisis in Sri Lanka.” I debated with Mr. Siva Pasupathi, the former Attorney-General of Sri Lanka. Prof. Ivan Shearer of Sydney University too participated in it.

(Editor’s Note; This article was written at the request of Sri Lanka Guardian.)

-Sri Lanka Guardian

1 comment

Unknown said...

I am an avid reader of both the Sri Lanka Guardian,and MR. HLD Mahindapala the yeomen services both render our country are invaluable. The Australian Jurist Dowd received richly the abject kick he deserved on his arse from a humble Sri Lankan patritic academician. Its most disappointing that those who are fully aware fail to appreciate the parental services we extend to those made destitute by the LTTE, and most of whom are their supporters who were later forced to shield them. The conduct of not only Dowd, but other European, USA and UNO stalwarts are most despicable, unfair and loathsome..
and deser to be similarly exposed .

Powered by Blogger.