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Sinking Tigers and the straw of human rights

There was much ado about the UN Human Rights Council election at the time of going to press. Sri Lanka was trying her best to retain her seat. Her desperate struggle to avoid defeat was due to prestige and domestic political compulsions of the ruling party rather than anything else. Her defeat or victory will hardly signify anything, unless it is viewed through political glasses.

Sri Lanka has had negative ratings from the self-appointed UN watchers. But ironically, whether or not Sri Lanka retains her seat, two nations, Gabon and Zambia, which have been given the same bad name as Sri Lanka, will retain their seats in the two-year-old Council, sans much credibility. (The US voted against its formation albeit in vain and has chosen to remain off it.) For, there are no contenders for their seats from Africa.

Those behind the media hype about the election seem to believe if Sri Lanka loses, their human rights campaign to save the Tigers will get a fresh impetus and they will be able to have a UN human rights monitoring mission here. A defeat will also be made out to be the present government’s failure on the international front.

But, will the pro-LTTE lobby succeed in taking the Tigers off the hook even if the government loses its Human Rights Council seat?

It is a supreme irony that Prabhakaran, who practises the very antithesis of human rights by killing opponents, massacring civilians and forcibly conscripting child combatants has finally come to depend on a human rights campaign to save his skin. It is like a homicidal killer taking refuge in a temple to avoid being hunted down! Any port in a storm, they say. But, it is only wishful thinking that he and his cohorts will be able to achieve their objective.

The devil cannot pass for a priest by merely quoting Scripture. The discerning are capable of seeing through the wiles of the LTTE lobby. That’s why India openly backed Sri Lanka at the Human Rights Council election. The fact that India stopped dithering and pledged support openly is a victory for Sri Lanka even if she loses her seat. For at the end of the day what really matters in the on-going war against the LTTE is not that council seat but India’s backing. In 1987, it may be recalled, what stood in the way of the JRJ government’s near successful attempt to account for Prabhakaran was India’s intervention.

Things are moving here in the direction India desires. An alternative Tamil leadership capable of standing up to Prabhakaran has emerged in the form of the TMVP led by Pillaiyan. The Sri Lankan State has proved its readiness to devolve power the way India wants.

Today, India has achieved in Sri Lanka like a friend, what it failed to in the late 1980s through gunboat diplomacy. Its remedy—the 13th Amendment—is being implemented without the presence of a single Jawan on the Sri Lankan soil!

Instead of a weakling like Vardharaja Perumal, who took the next boat to India after the IPKF left, Pillaiyan is a strong leader who means business. He has already joined his counterparts in other Provincial Councils in demanding devolution as envisaged in the Constitution. Thus, India is in a position to support Sri Lanka’s politico-military approach to resolving the conflict much to the disappointment of the Eelam lobby.

At the present rate, nothing is going to help the LTTE, however hard its apologists may try to use the bludgeon of human rights against the State. Prabhakaran’s empire is shrinking and the leaders of his generation are crossing the great divide one by one. Kittu, Shanker, Balasingham, Tamil Chelvam, Mahattaya, Balraj et al are no more. Some of them have perished in battle or fratricidal violence and others have died natural deaths. None of them died happy and content, as, at the time of their demise, their movement was nowhere near achieving its goal in spite of the sacrifices they had made.

Time was when there were long queues of youth to join the LTTE but today it has come to such a pass that it is forcibly conscripting children and ageing people into its fighting units. Balraj, the man behind mammoth military victories of the LTTE such as the capture of Mullativu and Elephant Pass, spent his last few years as a sick man in hiding while his outfit was on the defensive clutching at the straw of human rights for survival after over two decades of fighting.

It is against this backdrop that the rise of an alternative Tamil leadership in the East should be viewed. The gap between Prabhakaran and Pillaiyan is one whole generation and there is a world of difference between their approaches to resolving the conflict. The path that the new generation has chosen seems to have yielded tangible results, if the recently concluded Eastern PC polls results are any indication.

Some members of the international community misled by the Eelam lobby may be looking askance at the TMVP and its way of politicking but if the outfit behaves, those countries are bound to soften their stand. Even if they don’t, they cannot come to the LTTE’s rescue without India’s backing.

Therefore, whether Sri Lanka loses her Human Rights Council seat or not, nobody will be able to help the Tigers wriggle out of the mire of their making in the Wanni.

They are sinking under their own weight!

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