Sri Lanka celebrates victory anniversary with foreign VIPs: Tamils still victims of State terrorism

by Satheesan Kumaaran

(June 24, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Last week was a remarkable one for the Sri Lankan government. They celebrated the first year of victory over the Tamils, what Sri Lanka is calling peace and reconciliation celebrations. The envoys from the U.S. and Japan, as well as the UN, made a surprise visit to the island last week. Although Sri Lanka announced its victory in the war against the LTTE in May last year, the government was not able to hold the event as earlier scheduled on May 18 due to inclement weather. Torrential rain that caused flooding made hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

After the Sri Lankan president’s first visit to neighbouring India, where several agreements including monetary aid from that country were signed with Indian leaders, Rajapaksa returned home just few weeks ago. On his return home, he met with the Chinese deputy prime minister in Sri Lanka. Both leaders signed six agreements.

The Sri Lankan government seemed to be very excited over the last few weeks, especially at a time when international pressure was mounting on Sri Lanka to conduct an impartial third party investigation into last year’s war abuses, as it is getting widespread support unlike in the past few years. In the outset, the Sri Lankan president was doubly happy last week with the diplomats’ visits and the victory celebrations which took place on Friday, June 18, 2010 at the Galle Face green in Colombo.

When speaking at the event, Rajapaksa said: “The people should have complete faith and confidence that the land that was liberated from terrorism through great sacrifice of life will not be handed over to the forces of separatism again...As long as we remember that those who sacrificed their lives now rest in the soil of our land, I declare with pride that our people shall not leave room for anyone to divide this motherland of ours.”

All the words from Mr. President are just to win the hearts of the diplomatic community. There are some sections of the diplomatic community who do buy the words of those who caused deaths to tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Mr. President and the Sinhala successive governments declared war against the Tamil community in general, and killed their own citizens using internationally banned chemical bombs. Just as Bosnia, Cambodia, Congo, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Sudan have done against civilians. This was the exact wording from former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He further said, in order to stop such genocidal war, it is mandatory to educate through elementary schools.

In this context, it is significant to discuss the visit of senior diplomats of the U.S., Japan, and United Nations.

What is the message?

The U.S. National Defence Council’s war crime and National Security Director, David Bushman, as well as the U.S. President Barak Obama’s special envoy, Samantha Power, who is the special advisor to Obama, the Senior Director for the Human Rights and National Defence Council, were the two envoys landed in Colombo on Monday (June 14).

Both envoys, along with U.S. high commissioner for Sri Lanka, Patricia Putninaz, met with the Sri Lankan President on June 15 where they discussed various issues including bilateral relations between the U.S. and Sri Lanka. They both discussed the recent bitter events between the two countries over the war crime abuses. The U.S. is putting pressure on Sri Lanka to accept an international team to investigate the last year’s war abuses while Sri Lanka is adamant not to appoint international team, but is willing to appoint its own team of experts to go into the ‘Reconciliation and lessons learned in terms of recent conflict’.

Also, Japanese special envoy, Yasushi Akashi, landed at Colombo on the evening of June 15. He stayed in Sri Lanka until June 20. During his five-day official visit, he met Sinhala and Tamil-speaking leaders and he paid a visit to Jaffna to oversee the projects initiated by the Japanese government for the war-affected people. Akashi has made numerous visits to Sri Lanka after he was appointed by the Japanese government for Sri Lanka as a special envoy to facilitate talks between the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government after they entered into peace agreement in 2002.

Akashi made several unsuccessful attempts to stop the war against the Tamils when governments led by Chandrika Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa were in power. As a special envoy, he was not able to influence the Sri Lankan leaders. In this backdrop, he made another visit last week.

Before he left Sri Lanka, Akashi held a press conference and gave contradictory statements. Once, he admitted that the UN should cooperate with Sri Lanka in investigating last year’s abuses through the investigative team appointed by Sri Lanka itself. Also, he said that the panel of experts should be allowed to investigate the matter and they should provide the advice to Ban-ki Moon. Akashi advised Sri Lanka to cooperate with the U.N. He also asked Sri Lanka to work with the UN in the reconciliation process and offer a meaningful political solution to Tamil-speaking people.

The next important visit was by the United Nation Organization’s political division Deputy Secretary, Lyne Pascoe, who arrived on June 16 for a two-day official visit. He met with Sinhala and Tamil politicians. On the day he arrived in Sri Lanka, he paid a visit to Mullaitheevu where the final days of the last phase of the war took place. He met with the relocated people. Soon after, when he returned to Colombo from Vanni, he met with the Sri Lankan President and discussed the efforts of resettlement, political reconciliation, and the human rights abuse issues.

There is no doubt that Sri Lankan leaders in Colombo and other areas received the senior diplomats well. The Sri Lankan government appears desperate to do anything possible to curb the international community’s move to establish international war investigations against Sri Lanka.

Victory parade a showcase to visitors

Some of the visiting diplomats got the chance to see the ‘victory parade’ commemorating the victory over the LTTE last year. Nearly 10,000 Sri Lankan soldiers, who directly participated in the war with the LTTE, took part in the parade.

This parade was a showpiece to the world that the Sri Lankan government is in a good position with the support of two giants of Asia, neighbouring India and its rival China. Sri Lanka is getting enormous monetary and material support from both countries. Each of these countries has a vested economic interest in Sri Lanka. Although these senior diplomats did not take part directly in the parade as guests, they had a great view of the parade preparations and how the decorations were done in Colombo and its suburbs to mark the victory parade.

China is also planning a massive investment in the fishery industry which is to be inaugurated in Mullaitheevu where the final days of the war took place. Former southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J. Jayalalithaa leaked out shocking news that over 25,000 Chinese nationals, who were held in jails in China for crimes, have been brought to Sri Lanka under the guise of working in Sri Lanka. She said these Chinese nationals are a direct threat to South India in particular and throughout India in general. Jayalalithaa further said if these criminal elements, who are the spies of China, launch criminal activities against Tamils in Sri Lanka, tens of thousands of Tamils would be victimized.

Obviously, the reason for the parade was to bring credibility to Sri Lanka by showing the might of Sri Lankan military. Due to the victory day event, Sri Lanka announced a public holiday so that people would get the chance to see the event and to pay their respect to their fallen ‘heroes’ who killed over 150,000 Tamil civilians in the three-decade war as well as they conducted numerous rights abuses against Tamils.

However, this was a good showpiece for the Sri Lankan government to show the world that the people are with the government and they are happy that their government succeeded to crush the Tamil Tigers who, as it was said, were posing threat to the sovereignty of Sri Lanka for more than three decades.

Mr. President said at the parade event that some countries which were being battered by terrorism had gathered strength from Sri Lanka’s victories over the menace and it was time that they looked back to see what had gone wrong with their strategies while Sri Lanka had succeeded.

He further said: “It is a grave error of judgment to think, while being opposed to terrorism targeting you, that terrorism that is no threat to you is good. The world has so far trodden this wrong path. Terrorism remains unvanquished because of this incorrect thinking. The countries that show sympathy towards terrorism and separatism will be the victims of terrorism. This is the lesson of history.”

Political observers argue that Mr. President must also be aware that the modern political scientists have come up with the three types of terrorism; one of which is State Terrorism. Also, Tamils are feeling alienated as the war brought nothing to them but sorrow. Tamils are still in grief after the war. The war left hundreds of thousands of people killed and same number of people still in camps despite the government’s claims that below 50,000 civilians are sequestered in camps, and they, too, will be released soon. All these statements are rubbish and have no validity at all.

Tamils argue that despite Sri Lanka failing to acknowledge how many Tamils are living as internally displaced persons (IDPs), how can they receive justice from this Sinhalese-dominated State which has no clear mandate in solving the political aspirations of Tamils? In a liberal account, over half a million Tamils are living under pathetic conditions, still living in the houses of their relatives and friends or in temporary shelters, as they cannot even move to their traditional villages, because they are declared by the Sri Lankan State as High Security Zones (HSZs), which are now being used by the Sinhalese from the South. This is the ground reality but the government gives contradictory account of the IDPs.

Hence, the special envoys from the U.S., Japan, and the UN are another milestone of political success. The question is whether these envoys will keep up their mandates or will they fall into the trap of the Sri Lankan leaders whose hands are soaked in the blood of Tamils?

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