Posted on July 24th, 2009 No comments
By: Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
19 May 2009-The Anglo American Corporation Human Rights Watch is now engaged in a campaign, along with its patrons, to denigrate Sri Lanka in the eyes of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. This follows its campaign throughout 2009 to dissuade civilians from leaving LTTE controlled territory to refuge with the Sri Lankan government.
In both cases, the HRW agenda fits in with that of the LTTE. This may not be deliberate, but it is certainly convenient for the LTTE. Now that the LTTE is reduced to using the civilians it has entrapped, not just as a shield, but as a weapon of mass destruction, HRW has begun to issue lengthy descriptions of their suffering. It ignores completely its own contribution to this suffering, through its protracted campaign to suggest throughout 2008 that the civilians were as well off with the LTTE as they would be with Government.
In July last year, when it became clear that the Tigers were forcing civilians to accompany them as they retreated into smaller and smaller areas, HRW began the game of claiming that the facilities the Sri Lankan government provided for refugees were internment camps. Rousing emotions associated with what the British did to the Boers and the Nazis to the Jews, forcibly taking people from their homes, HRW thus sought to persuade the world that the civilians the LTTE were forcing to go along with them would suffer just as much if they succeeded in escaping.
This year the campaign continued, with vicious falsehoods about conditions in the welfare centres, and claims of shortages of food and medicine in February, when we were looking after fewer than 40,000. No one else made such claims, so HRW obviously had an ulterior motive in continuing to insinuate that people would suffer if they succeeded in getting away from the LTTE.
Despite this dissuasion, nearly 30,000 more fled to us in March, and over a 100,000 in April. Finally now the penny seems to have dropped, that conditions of life with the LTTE are much worse than those in Government welfare centres. But even so, HRW manages to write a whole article on the horrors of the No-Fire Zone without a single mention of the fact that the LTTE will not let people leave.
This is evil evasion. HRW provides a description of refugees who left the No-Fire Zone on the 20th of April, and spent nine days at sea, but omits to mention that that was the day on which the Sri Lankan forces managed to breach one of the walls the LTTE had built, enabling 40,000 people to flee to safety with the Government, followed by another 70,000 on the next two days.
There is no mention of this rescue operation in the article, no demand that the LTTE set free the hostages it has taken. Instead HRW’s senior Asia researcher, yet another in the band of mercenaries paid to denigrate Sri Lanka, claims that ‘The Sri Lankan government is doing everything it can to keep these stories of suffering from reaching the world.’
Nonsense. The Sri Lankan government knows there is suffering, suffering because the Tigers ration the food we are sending in as those who have fled to us make clear (but HRW will doubtless claim that we are starving them in internment camps); suffering because the Tigers have piled up heavy weaponry in the zone and are using it in particular against civilians trying to get away (but why should anyone want to get away, according to HRW, since conditions are equally bad everywhere); suffering because of the landmines the Tigers have strewn in profusion, and which caused the bulk of the injuries of those who succeeded in fleeing to us (and also a number of the deaths TamilNet declared occurred on that day).
According to Human Rights Watch, in its latest bombshell, timed to explode as its mentors strive to rouse feeling against Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council, just as the LTTE flag waving demonstrators are doing in Western capitals, all this is the fault of the Sri Lankan government. Even the one mention of LTTE firing is accompanied by the assertion that this puts civilians at risk from retaliatory fire.
The story of the boat people is truly horrifying. The owner of the boat lost six members of his family, a mason lost five, and seems to be left with just his 8 month old son. But it never occurs to Human Rights Watch that the root cause of this suffering is the wickedness of the LTTE, in holding these people for so long, in firing at those who tried to flee by land, in building walls and laying mines to stop them getting away.
But there is more to it than this. There is also the contribution of Human Rights Watch, which strove so hard for so long, in its bitterness against Sri Lanka, to deny the magnitude of the LTTE horrors. They may find it easier to continue to blame Sri Lanka. But if they are at all bothered about their immortal souls, they should stop to consider how their connivance with an LTTE agenda has helped that terrorist organisation. Human Rights Watch has thus contributed to the immeasurable suffering of the Tamil people trapped by the LTTE, seeking to escape, dying so tragically even when in sight of freedom. The LTTE may be appallingly evil. Human Rights Watch exemplifies the banality of evil, as Hannah Arendt described it, the triviality and self-centredness that has contributed to so much destruction in this world.
Posted on July 24th, 2009 No comments
By Chandrani Gunaratna
19 May 2009-New York-based right organization Human Rights Watch yesterday (19) released yet another report on demanding to stop the “war” on civilians in Sri Lanka. The report quotes James Ross, legal and policy director at HRW as saying “This ‘war’ against civilians must stop. Sri Lankan forces are shelling hospitals and so-called safe zones and slaughtering the civilians there.”
In a way it is comical how Human Rights Watch (HRW) beats the same drum over and over again when clearly there is evidence to show otherwise.
Within the last few days the ICRC and the UN openly accused the LTTE Terrorists shooting and killing the civilians who are trying to flee the murderous grip of LTTE. The UN and ICRC both said shells fell on the Puthukkudiyiruppu hospital but they were not certain who fired them. In one report the UN said shells killed 56 civilians but quietly retracted the report later.
Little by little the aid agencies are beginning to realize who is killing who especially after a suicide bomber blew herself at the IDP registration center in Dharmapuram killing 10 civilians and 19 army personnel who were treating the civilians and after LTTE Terrorists fired at a bus carrying the refugees.
UN on Monday (16) blowing the genocide charges against the government accused the LTTE Terrorists of trying to prevent civilians leaving. UN said the Tigers have shot and sometimes killed a growing number of people trying to leave the war zone. Not only that, the UN charged the Tigers of forcibly recruiting children as young as 14.
Trying to show that the report is unbiased Ross says “With each battlefield defeat, the Tamil Tigers appear to be treating Tamil civilians with increased brutality. They’ve shot at those trying to flee and stepped up forced recruitment and forced labor.”
But then the accusations fly right back at the government attempting to justify the “war” on civilians charge. The report says “The Sri Lankan government has indicated that the ethnic Tamil population trapped in the war zone can be presumed to be siding with the LTTE and treated as combatants, effectively sanctioning unlawful attacks.”
The Sri Lankan government repeatedly has said the civilians are of utmost concern and the soldiers are specifically instructed not to fire into the safe zones and also not to fire heavy artillery or mortar into the battle fronts. The soldiers are paying the maximum price with their lives to rescue the civilians trapped in the LTTE controlled area.
In any conflict there are civilians who get hit by the crossfire and the Sri Lankan soldiers are trying their best to handle the Terrorists on one hand and rescue the civilians who are being held as human shields by the Terrorist on the other hand. British medical journal, The Lancet puts the civilian casualties in the US invasion of Iraq at a whopping 655,000 and some accounts cite the figure as high as 1.3 million.
Throwing another fire ball at the government HRW says that “the plight of the civilians has been made worse by the government’s decision in September 2008 to order most humanitarian agencies out of the Wanni. Government efforts to bring in food, medical supplies, and other relief – with a minimal role for the United Nations – have been insufficient. Continued fighting, lack of oversight, and the manipulation of the delivery of aid by government forces and the LTTE have all contributed to the continuing humanitarian crisis.”
It is very transparent that either HRW is hell bent on attacking the Sri Lankan government or totally ignorant of the current developments in the embattled land.
Last year Sri Lanka government has dispatched nearly 8000 metric tons of essential food items to the displaced civilians in Wanni region. In December of 2008 World Food Program sent 4,120 tons emergency food supplies to an estimated 200,000 IDPs trapped in the region. Just this week the government dispatched two shipments of 40 metric tons of food by the sea route as the roads are heavily mined in the area.
The barrage from HRW doesn’t stop yet. It adds another charge.
“Displaced persons in the Wanni who escape to what they hope is safety within government-controlled areas are instead put in internment centers masquerading as “welfare villages” in Vavuniya and nearby locations. The displaced persons, including entire families, detained in these military-controlled, barbed-wire camps are denied their liberty and freedom of movement,” Human Rights Watch says.
The legal and policy director continuing the attack says “All civilians who manage to escape the Tamil Tigers are held by the government in squalid military-controlled camps and hospitals with little access to the outside world,” said Ross. “The government seems to be trying its best to keep its role in their ordeal away from public scrutiny.”
The director seems to be unable to hold LTTE accountable for the plight of the civilians without attacking the government first. He seems to be trying his best to satisfy his organization’s paymasters.
Two leading Tamil rights activists, Rajan Hoole and K. Sritharan of the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR-Jaffna) in an interview to Indian media said that “Many have had the experience of being shot at by the LTTE as they escaped or (by) the army personnel at the entry points, deliberately provoked by LTTE fire.”
In contrast, “generally the behaviour of soldiers at entry points has, in the cases known to us, been exceptionally good,” they said.
HRW should get its facts right. Sri Lankan government doesn’t wage a war against civilians; it wages a war against a ruthless terrorist organization that killed thousands and thousands of people not just Sinhalese, Muslims, Buddhist monks, world leaders, political leaders but also their own people whom they claim to be representing, their own young children and continue to kill the their kith and kin who wants to find a better life on the other side of the battle lines.
The biased attitude of HRW is certainly not helping to alleviate the suffering of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka. It is even hindering the progress of the resettlement and rehabilitation of the IDPs as foreign governments rely on these lopsided reports to decide on the aids to Sri Lanka. Why HRW is distorting the truth is a question right-minded international community should ask.