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Sinhala nation justifies the human rights abuses by electing Mahinda for second term

By Satheesan Kumaaran

(February 06, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) When the Tamil nation was at the height of facing military onslaught by Sri Lanka on the final phase of Eelam War - IV, the world community at least shed a crocodile tear. But the neighbouring Sinhala nation celebrated the deaths of thousands of Tamils with fireworks and worshipped the Gautama Buddha preaching victory for Sinhala soldiers who trespassed into once-flourishing Tamil kingdoms who became voiceless after they fell into the hands of the European powers in the 1500s A.D. Yet, the Eelam Tamils are facing untold sufferings with their plights kept secret inside Sri Lanka.

However, when the Tamil Tigers were seriously committed to the ceasefire agreement brokered by the Norwegian government and even when the Tamil Tiger fighters captured the areas controlled by the Sri Lankan armed forces in Trincomalee, they were asked by the international community to return to their barracks, as it was in violation of the ceasefire agreement.

When the Sri Lankan armed forces took control of the LTTE-held areas in the East, the international community maintained silence. The LTTE fighters tactically withdrew from the region to safer places without showing their military prowess. But the Sri Lankan armed forces, who managed to gain victory in the East, pushed forward to capture the LTTE’s stronghold of Vanni in the North. One by one, the Sri Lankan armed forces took control of the entire Tamil territory and claimed victory. The Sri Lankan government and the military announced that they defeated the LTTE. They even took the dead body of the LTTE leader V. Pirapaharan. The death certificate is also being given to India, as India insisted that Sri Lanka capture Pirapaharan alive or dead to close the Rajiv case in India.

Once the military victory over the LTTE climaxed, Mahinda Rajapaksa took a calculated chance by taking the pulse of the Sinhala voters about how they felt about the victory over the LTTE. The Sinhala nation, whether they are peasants or extremists, all of them came strongly in support of Mahinda.

In this context, Mahinda realized that although he could hold the elections anytime before 2011, it was appropriate to hold the elections during the heat of the military victory over the LTTE. Last year the election commission, too, announced the date for the presidential election as January 26, 2010.

Ranil wants Fonseka as Opposition candidate

The main opposition party, United National Party (UNP), leader Ranil Wickremesinghe feared to contest in the election for the presidential post because he knew that he could not win and he knew that Mahinda would seek a vote on the tails of the Tamil Tiger victory and further, he could campaign Ranil as the person who opposed crushing the Tamils militarily, instead entering into peace talks with the LTTE in 2002 with Norwegian mediation. However, Mahinda would reveal that he defeated the LTTE and saved the country from LTTE terrorism, which is a total lie because the Sri Lankan armed forces are the ones who terrorized the Tamil nation while the LTTE only fought in their homeland to defend their defenceless Tamil nation.

The army commander Sarath Fonseka, who fought the war with the LTTE and immediately after resigned from his latter position as Chief of Defense Staff, announced that he would be the primary candidate of New Democratic Front (NDF) to contest for the presidential election.

Fonseka and Mahinda exchanged heated arguments. Fonseka did not even let the brothers of Mahinda, who are also holding high portfolios in the Mahinda government, escape blame. Fonseka put the blame on Mahinda and his brothers for the human rights abuses against the Tamils. Further, he announced that he knew who killed the journalists in Colombo. Under Mahinda government nearly 30 journalists have been killed and more than 30,000 Tamil civilians killed while more than 300,000 Tamils were held in Nazi-style camps in Vavuniya and most of them were released on condition and are still on the government’s surveillance.

In this context, the Tamils are at the mercy of anyone who can rescue them. Fonseka even promised them that he would release all the Tamils from the camps and allow them freedom of movement anywhere in the island. He further said he would relax the high security zones which are designated by the Sri Lankan armed forces as risky zones, so the residents of the areas are left homeless and the residents cannot even enter their traditional farming lands nor attempt other activities in their lands as the Sri Lankan armed forces have their bases with the guise of security risks. So, the Tamils realized that, although Mahinda and Fonseka were equally responsible for the onslaught of Tamils in the final phase of Eelam War - IV, the Tamils thought Fonseka would be better than Mahinda as he was giving promises in favour of the Tamils. However, Mahinda was paying attention to the south to get the support of the Sinhala nation with the mandate that he would not divide the country and would unite all the peoples of the island.

Tamil nation falls while Sinhala nation rises again

As we studied the history of Sri Lanka in the past, Sinhala and Tamil nations have both equally, from time to time, fallen and risen. However, the Tamil nation kept on falling for nearly 500 years since they were brought under the European powers. When Britain left the island, they gave the destiny of Tamils into the hands of the Sinhalese. Since then, the Tamil nation has fallen prey to the venomous teeth of the Sinhala nation.

When the Tamil kingdom was being defeated by the Sinhala kingdom from time immemorial, the Chola Empire from the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu sent thousands of Tamil soldiers to save and restore the Tamil kingdom. The Chola armed forces captured over 10,000 Sinhala soldiers and took them to Tamil Nadu where they were detained. While keeping them in jail, the Chola used them as manpower to build a man-made lake in Tamil Nadu.

But, in the contemporary world, the Tamil Nadu became the powerless state within India. Well over 70 million Tamils in India are still helpless and hopeless when their brethren in Eelam were dying at the hands of the Sinhala armed forces. This is the history of both nations in Sri Lanka. However, Mahinda says that he will unite the people of Sri Lanka.

It is no doubt that the Sinhala nation rises again while the Tamil nation has fallen again. The Sinhala nation voted in favour of Mahinda while the Tamil nation voted in favour of Fonseka. Mahinda polled 6,015,934 (57.88 %) per cent of the vote against opposition common candidate Sarath Fonseka who got 4,173,185 (40.15 %) votes.

Sri Lanka’s Elections Commissioner, Dayananda Dissanayake, declared President Mahinda Rajapaksa winner in Sri Lanka’s presidential election. He further expressed his disappointment for the flouting of election rules and his guidelines by the state-owned media and some government officials. He said: “Under this circumstance, it is not appropriate for me to continue as Elections Commissioner any longer...I will retire from this post as soon as possible.”

It is no doubt that the Sinhala nation will not grant any powers to the Tamil nation even though the Tamil Tigers have silenced their guns after May 19, 2009. This is the reality. The western world has also failed in their attempt to restore democracy in Sri Lanka. The step-motherly attitude of the international community, particularly that of the western world, towards the Tamil people in Sri Lanka has unveiled their original face. Now talk of democracy and human rights does not befit their mouths.

First, they failed to stop the war even though they were exerting pressure upon Sri Lankan government to stop the war. Second, they failed in regard to the high record of human rights abuses instigated by the Sri Lankan State. Third, they failed to make a political regime change because they were hoping that they could bring Mahinda and his brothers along with other senior military officials to justice.

Will world community prove abuse charges in Sri Lanka?

The Human Rights Watch, in the aftermath of the presidential election and at the victory of Mahinda as president for second term, issued a statement: “United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and key international actors should take steps to bring accountability for Sri Lanka’s grave human rights violations so that the thousands of victims will not continue to be denied justice during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s second term. The human rights situation in Sri Lanka deteriorated markedly during Rajapaksa’s first term, and he failed to hold perpetrators accountable.”

Also, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) based in Milan, which held hearings on 13-14 January 2010, in Dublin, looked into war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government. After listening to eye-witnesses and looking at other material evidence, a panel of 10 international jurors has as of 16 January, 2010, released its preliminary findings - that the Sri Lanka Government is “guilty of War-Crimes” and “guilty of Crimes Against Humanity”, and that the charge of Genocide requires further investigations. Eye witnesses included several escapees from the final week of Sri Lanka offensive in the Mullaitheevu “No Fire Zone” where more than 20,000 Tamil civilians were allegedly slaughtered by Sri Lanka Army (SLA), turning heavy weapons on them.

The video footage released by the Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, which was first telecast on Channel 4, showed the Sri Lankan government troops summarily executing Tamils. The government immediately denied the accusation, saying it was fabricated. The UN investigation team also found that the video was original and the executions of the Tamils were real.

Another video has emerged when the Sri Lankans were going to elect the president. This video shows the Sri Lankan armed forces with naked women, raping them and torturing them before killing them by shooting from close proximity. Sri Lankan soldiers were also battering the private parts of the women with guns and the women were lying in pools of blood.

The question is whether the world community will bring the perpetrators of the crimes to book. The man who conducted all these crimes has once again come to power for second term. What are the actions of the international community as well as the United Nations against the Sri Lankan State? The Indian leaders, including the Indian President, sent out greeting letters to Mahinda on his second term victory saying that they were extending their congratulations while urging Mahinda to fulfill the demands of Tamils and help them to settle in their native lands. These statements are nothing other than another ploy to hoodwink the Tamils of India and Sri Lanka. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the general secretary of United Nations, too sent congratulatory letter to Mahinda for his winning in the election. Ki-moon is still taking the UN for an easy ride with pleasing Sri Lanka despite the fact that he knew that the Sri Lankan State and the Mahinda leadership should be held responsible for the human rights abuses against Tamils in Sri Lanka, but Ki-moon has taken no initiative to bring the war criminals to book. Rather he is collaborating with the perpetrators.

The international community, too, failed to extend a hand to conduct investigations over the crimes and to bring the perpetrators of the crime to book. The human rights activists want the world community to conduct the investigations on its own and bring the perpetrators to a foreign location as in the case of Yugoslavia, for example. Tamils no longer trust the Sinhala nation and it is impossible for them to live together with all these bitter events unless there is a reconciliation effort taken by the United Nations, but it is a distant dream for the Tamils as the UN reveals that it is nothing but puppet of powerful elites rather than acting for the justice of the people who fall prey to oppressed regimes.

(The author can be reached at e-mail: satheesan_kumaaran@yahoo.com)

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