One of the few nations in modern times to militarily defeat a terrorist Movement, Sri Lanka now faces criticism by self-appointed guardians of Human Rights in the West.
From the viewpoint of organisations like New York based Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, Sri Lanka’s recently concluded war against the LTTE terrorists should have been fought like a cricket match on the playing fields of Eton.
"The Sri Lankan government" claim Kenneth Roth, Executive director of Human Rights Watch and Yvonne Terlingen, Head of the Amnesty International Office at the United Nations in a letter written to Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, "has committed grave abuses, none of which are excused by its claims that it is fighting terrorism."
If these self appointed Human Rights advocates had their way, the Sri Lankan Air Force should have resorted to precision bombing that identified LTTE gun positions and personnel from thousands of feet above and then dropped bombs on them with such accuracy - like a radiotherapist targeting a brain tumour - that collateral damage would have been completely avoided (unlike in Iraq in 2003).
The US War on Terror
All these rules about avoiding casualties in war are conveniently applied to Sri Lanka - while other countries are permitted to fight Real Wars where civilian deaths (such as in Baghdad, Heart, the Swat Valley and even Hiroshima) are blithely accepted as a regrettable consequence!
Two million IDPs in Pakistan are not a major issue - but 300,000 IDPs in Sri Lanka are. The Taliban and Al Qaida are demonized as heartless Terrorists that have to be wiped out (even at the cost of thousands of innocent civilian deaths) but the LTTE that had killed thousands - including heads of government like Rajiv Gandhi and Ranasinghe Premadasa - are painted as idealistic freedom fighters.
Nuclear bombs in Japan, napalm in Vietnam, 270 million mini bombs dropped on Laos, the deaths of over 800,000 human beings in Iraq, the bombing of wedding receptions in Afghanistan - all this is not considered brutal but simply an ‘inevitable consequence of a righteous war’ against that nebulous entity that George W. Bush termed "Terror".
LTTE Members in IDP Camps
With the war ended, these Queensberry rules are now focused on our IDP camps, while the self appointed guardians of Human Rights continue to bleat about how Sri Lanka fought the war. Brutal, atrocious, inhuman, an excessive use of force are just some of the descriptions used.
The government would be failing in its duty to the rest of Sri Lanka if the hardcore LTTE members living within the camps are allowed to leave and get back to a life of terrorism. As they are no longer wearing their distinctive tiger-striped uniforms, the government has to subject everyone in the camp to efficacious screening. The fact that the LTTE recruited women, children and older men and women as combatants makes it necessary to check everyone of these IDPs.
Such screening has already resulted in several hardcore LTTE terrorists (for example Lt-Col. Thabo Ruben, the man who masterminded the bombing of Anuradhapura airport in October 2007) being "discovered" amongst innocent civilians within the camps. It is to the credit of the government that such screening is taking place and is netting LTTE members who have been directly involved in terrorist activities. Critics from the West will not be around to protect our citizens if these folk are allowed to escape, regroup and resume their fight for Eelam.
It must also be remembered that there is the matter of clearing thousands of mines buried by the LTTE in the areas they occupied. Sending the IDPs back to these mined areas would result in loss of lives and limbs - as still happens in Cambodia and Laos - and one could imagine what the western media would say if this were to happen!
LTTE’s Human Shields
It is forgotten that these IDPs were marched from their homes and villages to provide human shields for the LTTE when they were retreating to the strip of land in which they were finally cornered by the army. Many were living in makeshift tents and under trees when they were rescued. They were short of food, water and medicines when they were held captive by the LTTE, and several already had diseases like Hepatitis long before they were rescued.
It is a pity that our government has not brought these facts to the notice of the world. Western governments could do more to provide assistance to us, initially to improve conditions in the camps, and then to make sure areas occupied by the LTTE are de-mined and houses built for these people so that resettlement can be expedited.
We in Sri Lanka expect our government to continue the screening procedure to make sure hardcore LTTE elements are identified and charged wherever appropriate in a court of law or isolated for purposes of rehabilitation. This may appear unkind or callous to the outside world, but the consequence of not doing this would be a neglect of duty on the part of the government towards its law abiding citizens.
"With the end of hostilities", says the Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, "considering the next steps for the people involved in this conflict becomes even more acute. Thousands have been conscripted by the LTTE over the years, while many others may have joined up in the belief that fighting the State was the best option available, for themselves personally and for the Tamil people of Sri Lanka in general. Reintegrating people like this into society is going to be a massive challenge - but it is work that the Government will have to do well if a lasting peace is to be achieved."