Foreign and Defense Policy, Asia

Sri Lanka’s moment of truth

In Thursday’s Wall Street Journal Asia, I write about the paradox of Sri Lanka’s position in the world. Three years after its military destroyed the thuggish Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the economy is booming and tourist arrivals are at an all time high.

Yet the country’s standing in the world continues to slip as human rights groups, the international media, and a well-organized Tamil diaspora batter the country for its shoddy human rights record. In March, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva voted to push for an investigation into possible war crimes committed in the dying stages of Sri Lanka’s 26-year-long civil war (1983-2009). According to a UN panel, as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed.

So far, Sri Lanka has done little to address the international community’s concerns. According to Human Rights Watch, since the war’s end it has not launched “a single credible investigation into alleged abuses.” Belying promises, it has failed to hold provincial elections in the Tamil-majority north, which is effectively under military rule by the country’s overwhelmingly Sinhalese army. (Sinhalese make up about three quarters of Sri Lanka’s population, Tamils under a fifth.)

The country’s strategy of playing for time is failing. If it doesn’t move quickly to address concerns about alleged war crimes, political devolution for the north, and declining press freedom, Sri Lanka risks long term damage to its international reputation and economic prospects. If that happens, President Mahinda Rajapaksa may go down in history as the man who won Sri Lanka’s civil war, but squandered his chance to win the peace.

20 thoughts on “Sri Lanka’s moment of truth

  1. Why worry about international reputation, We know the west wanted to save the ltte to make Sri Lanka awestern puppet state. We are not interested in pleasing the west unlike India.
    And after the US – India resolution we are more “inclined” to get closer to China which will exceed US GDP in a few years time. Playing for time is the name of the game.

    • So you want less than 6% of the population the right to vote?
      You want major corruption that leads to mass contamination of baby milk powder?
      Do you want the majority of the country living in absolute poverty wile the ruling family and its extension live with absolute power.
      Say goodbye to democracy and accept gaddaffi’s green book.

      • “So you want less than 6% of the population the right to vote?” – Proof please… instead of just excercising your fingers

        “You want major corruption that leads to mass contamination of baby milk powder?” – Again pure sensationalism, the hallmark of the Diaspora LTTE and the INGO industry. Milk Powder contamination in China led to executions of the culprits. Are you for or against that ?

        “Do you want the majority of the country living in absolute poverty?” – Pure B.S. – Sri Lanka middle class spending power has been steadily increasing by any count. Yes, we have inflation and I would much rather petrol be Rs. 12.50 like it used to be. But that is more due to the completely corrupt actions of Western financial markets and their governments propensity to create War, rather than anything else.

        “Say goodbye to democracy and accept gaddaffi’s green book.” What has democracy brought to the West ? Corruption, War, Poverty, Bailouts and Unparalleled Greed causing collapse of world economy. Thanks but No Thanks

    • Shandy, The Malayalee mafias (WikiLeaks) and Congress regime under Italian Sonia Maino have collaborated with the Rajapakse regime in committing human rights abuses, crimes against humanity and war crimes on the innocent Tamils in Eelam.

      LTTE was a product of the Sinhala racist Apartheid chauvinism and hooliganism as well as trained and aided by the famous true Indian leaders including Mrs. Indra Gandhi, MGR and Rajiv Gandhi.

      When the current corrupt Indian UPA regime is voted out in the next election, the Indian policy will change to demand for democracy, human rights, freedom, media freedom, R2P, Rule of Law, Transparency and Justice.

      The Rajapakse regime is the worst terrorist regime of the 21st Century that is responsible for the murder of 34 Journalists, 17 French Charity workers, ethnic cleansing, bombed the hospitals and safe zones, mass rape, torture and disappearences of Tamils, 5 students were gunned down and killing of several human rights activists and opposition politicians.

      Tamils, the human rights groups and global leaders like Mary Robinson, Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan, Louise Arbour, Navi Pillai, Chris Patten and several others are demanding for an independent International human rights investigation in Sri Lanka.

      Your malicious Sinhala racist propaganda against the Tamils will not work for long!

  2. It will be ok if the US accounts for its’s war crimes. For example former Senator and now Democratic candidate for the vacant Nebraska Senate seat Bob Kerrey openly admitted to a cold blooded massacre of 20 to 25 innocent Vietnamese civilians. Was he even censured ? how many civilians were killed in Shock and Awe (remember who General Tommy Franks said “We dont do body counts”?). How many innocent civilians were killed by NATO bombs in oil rich Libya? how many Vietnamese were raped and killed by Christian White American soldiers? NOT one was hauled up at Geneva. NOT ever has the US been held responsible for its war crimes. ironically Kony is being hunted by US troops for his war crimes but Democrats voted for Bob Kerrey,. Do you see the irony Mister Dhume? do you want to talk about your Indian war crimes in Sri Lanka back then or how your indian army dealt with Khalistan ? or Kashmir. Sri Lanka is becoming a pawn because of geo-political and strategic collusions between India and US fears. I dare your Liberatarian/Republican AEI will never demand Cheney be brought up on war crimes charges in Geneva or held accountable for a false war which broke the UN charter.. Did you know over 30,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in “shock and awe”? Did you know many civilians were killed or are being killed in the Predator strikes? Fair enough because that is war.. right? How about asking the UN to investigate the use of chemical weapons at Fallujah? You are basically what we say in Sri Lanka “barking for money” . Investigate India in Kashmir and investigate how they subdued the Khalistani liberation movement.

    • Manonita,
      You should be the one who writes for the American Enterprise Institute, not Sadanand Dhume. I see valid facts and points in your response while Sadanand’s piece has many factual errors depicting his poor comprehension of the Sri Lankan situation.

  3. The Rajapaksa regime’s supporters get agitated when their thuggish and murderous regime’s atrocios record is exposed in the world media. Their usual argument is america killed so many here and so many there and why are they protesting only at the Rajapaksa regime. What they fail to acknowledge is that the regime committed mass murder of 40000 unarmed and defenceless civilians under the slogan of ” a humanitariam operation”. They think that they could fool the outside world like they fool the ignorant masses of sinhala Sri Lankans.

  4. SL governments craven with ethno-relgious zealotry have never known the moment of truth since independence from 1948 to date under cover of “majoritarian democratic” governments. The figure of 6% cited says it all, down from 18% before Black July 1983 until end of war in May 2009, and yet never ending! It is a copycat version of what Slobodan Mladic and his political mentor Kradjic did in former Serbia, both facing the ICC today for war crimes committed against the Bosnian Muslims. Clearly in both cases it is ethnic cleansing and genocide bereft of even elementary justice of the right to human life. Without elementary justice reconciliation is but an empty dream. Cover ups are no substitute.

    • Writer of this article, Dhume as well as you seem to have forgotten that majority population in Colombo city are Tamils; and Sinhalese are even behind Muslims there. Also you have forgotten is that, 54% of all Tamils in Sri Lanka live among Sinhalese in the south. And less than 30% of all Tamils live in the north. Of that less than 40% voted for TNA, the LTTE proxy who demand police powers to north as a way to rid of pseudo Tamils grievances. But TNA doesn’t tell us how police power to north would help majority Tamils (54%) who live in the south to rid of their discrimination.

      Now, those who complain about army presence in the north forget that there are over 10,000 recently released LTTE fighting cadres that include hundreds of suicide bombers but freely live among ordinary people in the north. More often than not there unearth large ammunition dumps buried by LTTE. Needless to say then terrorism is still a potential threat. Peace have to be tracked for we hear Diaspora Tamils who live abroad are still talking about reviving the fight for Eelam.

      • Eelam is the Tamils homeland and the struggle for Eelam will continue until it is reached. Thanks to Tamil Nadu and Selvi Jeyalalithaa who demanded the Congress UPA regime to declare Rajapakse as a war criminal and demand for an independent international investigation in Sri Lanka.

        When the regime change that is due to take place in the next election in India, the struggle for Justice to the Eelam Tamils will gets a momentum. Congress and the DMK will lose all their seats in Tamil Nadu in the next election. Don’t forget the IPKF days in Eelam.

        Almost all released Tamil youth from rehabilitaion are missing and disappeared as probably murdered by the state forces and gangs. At the next UN Human Rights session, it is going to be fund as the Tamil Diaspora continues to work hard and demand for accountability and Justice for the victims!

  5. “Sri Lanka has done little to address the international community’s concerns”, indeed, because the so called “international community” that is vocal on Sri Lanka are puppets of the very LTTE terror group. Some of that “international community” are paid to be vocal by the LTTE coffers gathered by extortion, drug smuggling, human trafficking, gun running, … (the list is long). Then the vocal politicians, are paid by cheap votes. For example, both mayoral candidates for London (from labour and conservative parties) are pandering to LTTE members for cheap votes (even though LTTE is listed as a terror organisation in the UK). Mr. Dhume, your demands and conduct are very, very questionable! “north, which is effectively under military rule” … How else to contain a deadly terror group from drafting youngsters and regrouping? Once persons like you quit blatantly pursuing the terrorist agenda against our country, things will become normal. “Sri Lanka risks long term damage to its international reputation and economic prospects” … who cares? Who wants to appease terror cult sympathisers? No nation can appease everyone, we have to do what is good for us! Also, what “economic prospects” with terror cult sympathisers? Soon, the western nations (who are already in an economic mess) will sink. We will work with China. At the moment, Chinese industries are prospering by supplying a 300 million population in the USA. Soon, the 1,300 million population in China will have enough purchasing power to run their mills! Same with Europe too. Soon it will be Asia’s century, and western beggars will not be able to even think of any economic sanctions. Face the reality Mr. Dhume! Persons like you will face the moment of truth!

  6. Sandanad, you seem to be a puppet of LTTE. Get your facts straight. You have a lot of gossipy talk. As for human rights groups, where is the balance? Why don’t they talk about the HR violations of the US and other Western countries and those of Israel? These LTTE paid groups don’t have any validity to us.

    • @Chan, Sri Lankan regime has committed human rights abuses and wgenocide without allowing any independent media, journalists, diplomats, human rights groups and so on. Not a single individual who committed war crimes, human rights abuses and ethnic cleansing is truly investigated and those responsible is punished. There is complete impunity for the crimes committed by the stante forces and gangs. You must be a moran to compare this criminal regime with any country on earth as there is no transparency, rule of law and no justice!

      • Shiva, you said “independent media, journalists, diplomats, human rights groups and so on” … are they really independent? Aren’t they those who perpetuated the war on Sri Lankans for over 30 years. Yes, this so called “journalist” is also a LTTE puppet; pathetic. Shiva, you mentioned “ethnic cleansing” … wasn’t it the LTTE who did that? … making Sinhalese and Muslims leave the north of the country under death threats. Today all ethnic groups harmoniously live everywhere in the country. LTTE racists cannot raise their ugly head to tear those communities apart again thanks to the military being deployed.

        • Darshi, The world knows that the Sinhala racists brand everyone who demands for accountability, Justice, Rule of Law, Human Rights, Transparency and other rights as LTTE puppet. This is the best JOKE of the 21st Century. The Rajapakse regime regime has committed human righst abuses, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The western nations should kick out all those supporters of alleged war criminal Rajapakse regime. All crimes including LTTE crimes must be investigated by an independent International body and take appripriate action. The Rajapakse regime blocks every attempt to bring those criminals to face the law as they committed much more attrocities than Pol Pot, Saddam, Gaddhafi and Bin Laden. 34 Journalists have been murderd in Sri Lanka and no one is brought to justice. 17 French Charity workers murdered and no investigation to date. This is the worst criminal regime of the 21st Century that denies democratic values. Selvi Jeyalalithaa has demanded to declare Rajapakse as a war criminal and for an independent investigation in Sri Lanka and the Sinhalese who deny it as they have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes.

        • Darshi, When regime change takes place in India dumping the corrupt Congress UPA regime, the Sinhala racists will learn a bitter lesson. in the next election, the Congress and the DMK who collaborated with the SL regime will be dumped for good from Tamil Nadu.
          Truth and Justice will win at the end!

  7. The Global leaders, the International community and the most Media except Channel 4-UK and few others have failed to do their fair duty and protect innocent Tamils from being brutally massacred, terrorized, raped and murdered by the Sinhala state forces and gangs.

    This is an analyses of Frances Harrison, formerly with the BBC and an eminent journalists from Trinity Hall, Cambridge University, UK.

  8. Please listen to the video club and the Sri Lankan MP was trying to distract the discussion and not talking to the point. Further Sri Lankan has brought Sam Thambimuttu who is an agent of the Rajapakse regime like Karana.

    Recently BBC and the Hindu Newspaper released that released Tamils are disappeared, probably murdered by the Sri Lankan forces.

    Please demand for an independent international investigation!

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