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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2709

Reading between the lines, is UNHRC Chief Navi Pillai saying “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts”?

By Raj Gonsalkorale

As understood by most people in Sri Lanka, Navi Pillai, the UNHRC Commissioner commences her visit to the country on the premise that her mind is made up contrary to what she has said publicly, she is partial because she is reliant on information fed to her by the LTTE and their supporters, and has never shown a serious inclination to listen to anyone else, and she has to continue pushing for an international enquiry about the last days of the war against the LTTE because her reputation, and that of many of her close associates rests on making sure that happens because she and her associates have invested heavily in condemning Sri Lanka from day 1.

It is up to Ms Pillai now to prove otherwise.

If she is to be fair and impartial, she must demonstrate she has the ability to separate fact from fiction. She must demonstrate she understands what is war, and how one side that that has to abide by international covenants responds to the other side that does not have to abide by any covenants.

She needs to demonstrate that she understands this had been a war between near equals from a military point of view judging by the fact that the LTTE had fought the Sri Lankan military for nearly 30 years. Whatever inequality there may have been in terms of numbers and equipment and ammunition, they the LTTE, made up by fighting without any obligation to any international covenants and committing all possible human rights violations in the book.

If the Sri Lankan Military wished to commit war crimes, they could have done so long before the last war when they and the entire country were provoked endlessly by the LTTE for 30 years with over 300 attacks on civilians. The Military would have had ample opportunity to do so as the likes of Ms Navi Pillai did not care two hoots as to what was happening to innocent civilians then.

The LTTE had a free hand to do what they did as the international agencies like the UNHRC were silent about the Tamil politicians who were murdered by the LTTE. They were silent about the hundreds of Buddhist Monks who were massacred by the LTTE. They were silent about the Muslims who were massacred while paying inside a Mosque. They were silent when two Heads of State were murdered by the LTTE. They were silent when scores of innocent women, children and old men were mercilessly massacred during those terrible 30 years.

Sri Lanka’s human rights record is not pristine and needs much improvement. The law and order situation in the country is tenuous and justice in many instances seems to be available for those who “know” someone of influence. Although the Sri Lankan government, directly or indirectly may not have had anything to with the terror experienced by residents of villages near Deraniyagala, or the recent break in to a journalists house to steal documents, the government has to bear ultimate responsibility to ensuring everything possible has been done to provide a safe and secure environment for the citizens of the country to live in without fear or favour.

They need to ensure that the Police are impartial and independent, the judiciary is independent and the Military is used only when absolutely necessary, and that too only to defend the country against its enemies.

They cannot shield local thugs and politicians who have ascended the political ladder simply because they deliver the currency, votes, for the ruling party to win elections and remain in power.

However, none of these issues are the business of Ms Pillai, and her brief should relate to matters concerning the Armed Forces of Sri Lanka and the LTTE, ending with the battle at Nandikadal. It cannot however begin and end at Nadikadal. It has to commence with the murder of the Mayor of Jaffa Mr Alfred Duraiappah by Prabakaran himself in 1976. She should also examine how and why the LTTE became the ruthless armed operation and the role that India played in making this happen.

A human rights violation does not happen in isolation, and while a violation by any party has to be condemned, circumstances that led to it happening needs to be factored in. India’s role in transforming a local criminal mob to the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization has a relevance to human rights violations during the 30 year war, and this cannot be swept under the carpet by Ms Pillai.

If Ms Pillai acknowledges the atrocities committed by the LTTE during the 30 year period, the role played by India in making the LTTE what it became in order to commit these atrocities, she gives voice to what war is between two parties where one has international responsibilities and the other has no such responsibilities, where one side has no respect for human beings let alone their rights, and where the other side rescued nearly 300,000 such human beings brought in to Nandikadal as human shields by the LTTE showing complete disregard to their lives, and where post war, there has been complete resettlement of those displaced persons, and where over 12,000 former LTTE combatants have been rehabilitated (and not killed by the Sri Lankan Military forces), and she acknowledges the opportunity given for the people of the North to elect their own provincial government, then whatever concerns Ms Pillai expresses about any human rights shortcomings in the country then and now can be accepted, and should be accepted.

If her impartiality is established beyond doubt, if her ability to separate fact from fiction is established beyond doubt, and if she could demonstrate she is not a mouthpiece for sections of the Tamil Diaspora who are driving the war crimes agenda and she is willing to work with the Sri Lankan government and other relevant bodies to further improvements to the country’s human rights record, then, and only then, would her bona fides as a genuine campaigner for human rights be accepted in Sri Lanka.

The ball is really in her court. Sri Lankans are watching. They will evaluate her performance. She could sink to a new low or rise well above expectations. Most Sri Lankans would naturally prefer if the latter is the outcome of her visit as many voiceless people of Sri Lanka need a powerful, but unbiased, impartial voice to become their voice.

- Asian Tribune -

Reading between the lines, is UNHRC Chief Navi Pillai saying “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with facts”?
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