Perpetrators as preachers-The Island Editorial

Monday 7th June, 2021

A recent meeting between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and British High Commissioner Sarah Hulton has received much publicity. They reportedly discussed the Geneva resolution against Sri Lanka, among other things. Interestingly, their meeting took place close on the heels of Germany’s apology for the colonial-era genocide in Namibia, and France’s admission of its role in the 1994 ethnic cleansing campaign in Rwanda, where about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutus perished; France has confessed that it did not heed warnings of the impending carnage.

While discussing the Geneva resolution with the British HC, the Sri Lankan side should have raised the following human rights issues with her and inquired whether the UK would tender an apology for its crimes against this country. In 1817-18, the British resorted to the scorched-earth policy to crush the Wellassa rebellion. Tens of thousands of people were massacred and all fruit-bearing trees felled. Farm animals were wiped out, and over one hundred thousand paddy fields, from which Wellassa has derived its name, reduced to rubble. All males in the area including children were put to the sword by the marauding British troops. What the British perpetrated were genocide and gendercide. Moreover, the UK government, which HC Hulton represents, has allowed a senior LTTE leader, Adele Balasingham, who brainwashed and trained female Tiger cadres responsible for massacring civilians and other crimes, to live in London as a free woman while the British leaders are calling for action against war crimes. Adele’s late husband, Anton Balasingham, who justified LTTE terror and strove to gain international legitimacy for it, was also a British citizen.

The British HC should also have been asked why any UK defence attachés should be stationed here because the British governments do not heed their advice, observations, etc. The Johnson administration has refused to take on board the views of British defence attache, Lt. Col. Anthony Gash, on the final stages of the Vanni war. The same goes for the US defence attaches, for Washington has also rejected as worthless its defence attache, Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith’s observations on Sri Lanka’s war.

While discussing the resolution adopted by the UN human rights arm against Sri Lanka, President Rajapaksa should have taken up with the British HC the UN public health arm’s criticism of the rich countries including the UK for vaccine hoarding. The People’s Vaccine Alliance has also lashed out at the developed nations for stockpiling Covid-19 vaccines at the expense of 70 lower-income countries. The Global North does not have to give away vaccines; if it stops stockpiling them, they will be available in other parts of the world.

The Sri Lankan side should also have discussed with the British HC the international human rights situation, and inquired from her why former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had not been brought to justice yet for his role in killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians including half a million children in an illegal war for oil waged on the basis of falsified intelligence dossiers. The British HC should also have been asked when the thousands of Chagossians, who were forcibly evicted by the UK for the construction of the Diego Garcia military base of the US between 1968 and 1973, would be allowed to return to their homeland. This question should also be posed to the US, which pontificates to others on human rights. The UN General Assembly has, in a 116-6 vote, affirmed a 13-1 International Court of Justice verdict that the British rule in the Chagos Archipelago is unlawful. Shouldn’t the UK and the US, before asking others to respect human rights and UNHRC resolutions abide by UN decisions and lead by example?

President Rajapaksa can raise the aforementioned issues with the British HC when they meet next and ask her when the UK will tender an apology for massacres here and make reparation.

It is wrong to say that the UK, Canada, the US, etc., have no right to champion democracy and be critical of human rights violations in places like Sri Lanka because they themselves are perpetrators of grave crimes. They do have a right to defend democracy and human rights. But they must apologise for their own crimes including genocide, gendercide and the plunder of resources in other countries and pay compensation, and thereby demonstrate that they feel remorse for their brutality. That is the least they can do to prevent themselves being seen as a bunch of hypocrites.

Meanwhile, whenever Sri Lankan leaders representing either the government or the Opposition meet foreign leaders or envoys, they invariably ask for financial assistance, thus reducing themselves to the level of mendicants near the Colombo Town Hall, where beggars hare in droves, seeking alms when a car pulls over. If these worthies who are leading ‘whiskey lifestyles’ on the country’s ‘toddy income’, as someone has rightly said, refrain from wasting and stealing public funds, perhaps there will be no need for foreign assistance. They also have huge amounts of leftover campaign funds, which are either invested through various fronts or stashed away in offshore accounts. Instead of panhandling, why can’t these grandees donate a fraction of their ill-gotten wealth so that the country can buy vaccines, PCR machines, ICU beds, etc., and provide economic relief to the poor they shed copious tears for?

 Courtesy: The Island (island.lk)

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