UN and EU riding together


by Eymard de Silva Wijeyeratne

Hurling personal insults at Ban Ki Moon, Louise Arbour, Lyn Pascoe and Bernard Savage, with the use of puns on their names, is not a solution to the problem that Sri Lanka faces. Yet, the conduct of these foreign functionaries and many others including Mr. Robert Blake, former US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and David Miliband leaves room for us to query their motivations in condemning Sri Lanka’s military defeat of the LTTE. Their current attitude must be examined in conjunction with their earlier position that the LTTE was invincible. Though the government of Sri Lanka should exercise restraint in dealing with these questionable interventions, the citizens of Sri Lanka enjoy the inalienable right (necessarily human) to condemn moral turpitude that parades itself under the guise of a rubric of divinely ordained righteousness. The decision of the EU to withdraw the GSP + concession is not based on a rational and fair analysis based on purely trade-related considerations. It is a deviously contrived argument used by a colonial mentality that is hell-bent to act in concert with the United Nations, the United States, The Dublin Tribunal, the International Crisis Group (ICG), the Diaspora domiciled in Europe and the US, the local self-disinherited Diaspora who are ever ready to sell their birthright for a mess of pottage, and NGOs both foreign and local. The insidious aspect of this intervention is that it implicitly declares a preferential option for the LTTE, with total disregard for Sri Lanka’s sovereignty.


European Union and GSP+


We need to bear in mind that GSP+ is a concession that amounts to an oblique form of foreign aid that has given a boost to Sri Lanka’s exports in general and the garment industry in particular. Whilst admitting that the garment industry has reaped benefits from this concession due to easier access to European markets, we also need to concede that the European Union is using this concession as a lever to dictate how Sri Lanka should be governed, by stating that the GSP+ preferences could be extended for a limited additional period (6 months) subject to a clear commitment by Sri Lanka to fulfil all 15 conditions set out in an attachment to its letter dated 17th June, 2010). The EU certainly enjoys the prerogative to withdraw this concession, which was granted in the form of Tsunami relief, without assigning reasons and thereby merit the response of the GOSL as well as its citizens in the following words "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes" (Virgil Aeneid II 49), which in translation reads as, "I fear the Greeks even as they bear gifts". Yet, it has no legal right to demand compliance with the aforementioned 15 conditions. As Douglas Jayasekera (DJ) in his very professional analysis (The Island, 9th July, 2010) has pointed out, "The EU action on GSP+ issue may be in conformity with European law but could contravene GATT/WTO rulings, in which case EU actions are illegal. It is best to seek a WTO ruling on this matter". As DJ has suggested, seeking WTO arbitration under its dispute settlement provisions would be more dignified and productive than engaging in the victim-procedure of a fast unto death and the blockage of the entrance to the UN office. While a majority of humans hunger for justice and food, the powerful nations of the world hunger for victims. This appetite must not be satisfied but treated with a combination of negotiating skills, which ensure that there is no loss by default, and an attitude of polite disdain. The Declaration issued in Brussels by the High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the European Union in support of the Appointment of a UN Panel of Experts on Accountability Issues in Sri Lanka, is a clear indication of its determination to extend its tentacles to act in collusion with the UN, Norway, the US and other non-governmental organizations.

If GSP+ is withdrawn, not only will Sri Lanka’s export earnings be adversely affected, but its reputation too will be irreparably tarnished, without any demonstrable evidence to support allegations that are based on colonially fostered prejudice and implicit support for a ruthless terrorist organisation. Bernard Savage has argued that the decision to suspend and subsequently withdraw GSP+ has not been politically motivated. Ban Ki Moon too has also made a similar statement. There appears to be a language problem inherent in these statements. Surely the European Union is a political entity and the reasons it has proffered to withdraw GSP+ are politically motivated. The question that we need to ask is whether this motivation is morally tainted with a preferential option to support a ruthless terrorist organisation. My answer is that it is morally tainted. In an article (The Island, 28th June, 2010) Minister Peiris had outlined why many of the conditions laid down by the EU constitute a deliberate and unprincipled repudiation of Sri Lanka’s Sovereignty. In another article he quotes a statement made by the European Union’s Commissioner for External Relations, to a delegation from Sri Lanka, in March 2007. It reads as follows: "The war is never, never, never going to solve any problems for your country. We have been telling you this for a long time. You have chosen to ignore us. We have now in our hands a powerful weapon which we will not hesitate to use against you" (see EU’s GSP+ Conditions: A Travesty of Justice", Minister of External Affairs, Prof. G.L Peiris, The Island 29th June, 2010).


The Triumvirate of the UN, the EU and Norway


Norway is not a member of the EU because its people rejected the proposal to join the EU, at a referendum. Yet, its genetic make-up is thoroughbred European, when it comes to dealing with Third World countries. Mr. Erik Solheim (ES), the Norwegian, who in his role as peace-monger has been vending acrid grapes of wrath and discord, has in a recent statement revealed his partiality for the LTTE in a confused state of mind (Sunday Times, 27th June, 2010). He begins his speech by saying, "We called upon the LTTE to come to an organised stop (or surrender). If it happened thousands of lives would have been saved. The war would have ended under the supervision of the UN, the United States, India or someone else. However the LTTE rejected that call". As a matter of both foresight and hindsight, Sri Lanka would never have accepted either the mediation of the US considering the well articulated anti-Sri Lankan attitude of Hilary Clinton and Robert Blake or that of Ban Ki- Moon and his subordinates. ES says that he was in constant touch with President Rajapakse to stop the fighting, by getting a UN representative to talk to the LTTE. He then proceeds to say that this offer was rejected by the LTTE as well as the government of Sri Lanka. Mr. Solheim’s logic then fizzles out in zigzag motion like a damp squib. He expresses his response to the appeal made by two LTTE leaders in the following words. "We told the two leaders that their offer came too late". In the same breath he claims to have told these gentlemen to raise white flags and give themselves up, but alas in a few hours he learned that they were dead. Mr. Solheim claims that he communicated the offer of surrender to the GOSL but he declines to name the persons to whom he had passed this information. The sleight of hand of white flags emerging out of the hat of a conjurer evokes the image of deceit functioning in defence of warriors who were once declared to be invincible. Past experience makes it abundantly clear that a suicide bomber may well have come forward waving a white flag. My response to Solheim is that the word ‘surrender’ has no meaning in Sri Lankan English. Around 600-700 policemen who had surrendered to the LTTE on the orders of the government were slaughtered by the LTTE, in 1990.


Ban Ki- Moon and his Advisory Panel


On 22nd June Ban Ki Moon announced that he had appointed a panel of experts that would advise him regarding alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed during the final stages of the war. The panel was entrusted with the task of "looking into the modalities, applicable international standards and comparative experience with regard to accountability processes, taking into account the nature and scope of any alleged violations in Sri Lanka". As a parting gesture of generosity he also stated that the findings of this panel would "be available as a resource to the Sri Lankan authorities, should they wish to avail themselves of its expertise in implementing the commitment". While the language used by Mr. Moon amounts to no more than senseless jargon, his explanation that the words ‘looking into’ does not mean investigation’ is either a serious problem in the use of language or cover up of devious intent.

Article 2(1) of the Charter of the United Nations (1945) reads as follows: "The Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members". Furthermore, Article 2(7) states: "Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters, which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII "to determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression". This clause would have applied to the US invasion of Iraq and would now apply to the current invasion of Afghanistan, but certainly not to Sri Lanka.

Both Mr. Moon and Mr. Darusman are on record delivering a post-mortem face-saver to the effect that the human rights violations of the Tamil Tigers during the last stages of the war will also be investigated by the panel. Why may I ask should this investigation be confined to the last stages of the war when the leaders of that group are not in the land of the living? Bearing in mind that Tigers were burning bright in the eyes of the international community in general, and the Norwegians in particular as a virtual government in waiting and as the sole representative of the Tamil people, what alas does this panel have to say about the LTTE’s massacres of sleeping villagers, Buddhist monks, Muslims in prayer in a mosque and thousands of other civilians travelling in buses and trains. I request Mr. Moon and his panel to consider the difference between these two incidents:

1. Brazilian electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead at Stockwell Tube Station by the Metropolitan Police, without proper investigation. According Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, the police acted to protect the lives of the public: a travesty of R2P.

2. On January 5, 2000, a brave Sri Lankan policewoman who fearlessly body-searched a suspicious LTTE woman suicide-bomber, near the Prime Minister’s office without shooting her at sight, was killed along with other policemen and civilians.


I do admit that developing a sense of shame and honing one’s conscience to a high level of sensitivity are not easy tasks when one is confronted with compulsions imposed by powerful nations. Yet, I suggest that Mr. Moon and his panel of colleagues engage in a long vigil in Iraq and Afghanistan to witness the human rights violations of an invading army of the Coalition of the Willing. Hypocrisy is a butler-in-attendance with nothing to offer but "Yes Sir, No Sir". He will not tell you that two bags full of nuclear explosives were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ban Ki Moon who has no specifically sanctioned authority to investigate alleged war crimes or human rights violations in Sri Lanka is fully aware that his cherished dream will not be fulfilled. He expects the EU, which has no right to intervene, to use the crude bludgeon of withdrawing GSP+ to fill that void. What Sri Lanka needs today is an atmosphere that promotes reconciliation and healing. Ban Ki Moon, the UNSG and the EU have acted in a manner that would only serve to further lacerate the wounds that await healing. In fact Mr. Moon has violated Chapter I, Article I, Section 1 of the UN Charter, which reads as follows: "To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace…".

All that has been written by many fine men and women about the genesis of this crisis is conclusively revealed in summary by the following statement made by the Leader of the Opposition. "Civilian deaths in a war situation were not unusual but the question was whether the government had been able to minimize the killings during the final stage of the conflict" (Ranil Wickremesinghe, UNP won’t allow foreign interference", The Island, 9th July, 2010). Is he the man that the US, Europe and UN want in the saddle?

I take this opportunity to congratulate the Editor of ‘The Island’ for several fine editorials he has written on this subject. Though, together we sigh that good governance is an elusive pimpernel in Sri Lanka, we abhor those who are born of the soil and reap a rich harvest from the soil but yet stoop to spoil the soil to which they must inevitably return.

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