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Is Sri Lanka turning into a rogue state?

Ameen Izzadeen is the deputy editor of the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka and International Editor of the Wijeya Newspaper Group, Sri Lanka !e also writes a weekly "olumn for the #aily $irror, Sri Lanka

Ameen Izzadeen

The "urrent Sri Lankan %o&ernment is tryin% hard to a&oid an international human ri%hts pro'e

report suggests that the Sri Lankan army tried to cover up evidence of mass graves [AP] As international pressure mounts on (resident $ahinda )ajapaksa to laun"h a "redi'le pro"ess to in&esti%ate war "rimes alle%ed to ha&e taken pla"e durin% the last sta%es of the war, the people * lar%ely the

Sinhalese who form 75 percent of the "ountry+s population * rally round him Sin"e the Sri Lankan armed for"es defeated the Li'eration Tigers of Tamil Eelam ,LTTE- in $ay .//0, )ajapaksa has 'een winnin% almost e&ery ele"tion 'y whippin% up patrioti" emotions that make people for%et his failures and see him as a sa&iour It is their way of payin% 'a"k for 'rin%in% pea"e to the "ountry and restorin% their freedom In the pro"ess, the skyro"ketin% "ost of li&in% 'e"omes a non*issue So do "orruption alle%ations, nepotism, authoritarianism, e"onomi" mismana%ement and a de"adent "asino "ulture that %oes a%ainst the 1uddhist pre"epts E&ery international effort aimed at pressurisin% the Sri Lankan re%ime to pro'e war "rime "har%es is interpreted 'y the )ajapaksa re%ime as an international "onspira"y laun"hed to%ether with pro*LTTE elements in the Tamil #iaspora to defeat the %o&ernment And the people 'elie&e him )ajapaksa says the war the Sri Lankan troops fou%ht was to prote"t li&es * and as "ommander*in*"hief, he reje"ts the war "rime "har%es le&elled a%ainst them 'y &arious human ri%hts %roups, the 2nited Nations, the 2nited States, 3anada, 1ritain and the 3hannel 4 tele&ision Their reports, whi"h make Sri Lanka appear as thou%h it is a ro%ue state in the eyes of the world "ommunity, "ite eyewitness a""ounts, &ideoes and photo%raphi" e&iden"e Tamil grievances Weeks ahead of the "ru"ial 2N !uman )i%hts 3oun"il sessions due in $ar"h, an Australian law poli"y %roup5 International 3rimes E&iden"e (roje"t ,I3E(- issued a damnin% report a%ainst the )ajapaksa re%ime The report, titled 6Island of Impunity6, "laimed that e&iden"e su%%ests that Sri Lankan se"urity for"es systemati"ally destroyed mass %ra&es of "i&ilians 7/7 East * S"ars of Sri Lanka This report only makes the )ajapaksa re%ime+s effort to defend its human ri%hts re"ord more diffi"ult, as the 2S prepares to present a third resolution a%ainst Sri Lanka at the 2N!)3 sessions in Gene&a ne8t month Sri Lanka+s military spokesman )uwan Wani%asooriya hasrubbished the I3E( report as 'aseless and "ast dou'ts a'out the a""ura"y of the do"ument whi"h 9uoted eyewitnesses as "laimin% that the military remo&ed e&iden"e of war "rimes Go&ernment leaders are likely to dismiss the report as yet another western "onspira"y Their "ampai%n to dis"redit the 3hannel 4 and its documentaries is itself worthy of a do"umentary )e"ently )ajapaksa told a pu'li" %atherin% in the southern town of :alutara that Western "ountries were conspiring to deny Sri Lanka the hard*won &i"tory a%ainst the LTTE Then, in his address to the nation on Independen"e #ay ,on ;e'ruary 4-, he said< "It is necessary for the people in the North to be aware that certain foreign forces are attempting to use them as human shields. [] They interfered in these countries putting forward claims to protect human rights, establish democracy and the rule of law [] I see the attempts to level charges of war

crimes against us in eneva today as the triumph of those who are not in favour of peace" Sri Lanka is an ethni"ally di&ided nation, e&en thou%h the .//0 war &i"tory restored the "ountry+s territorial inte%rity The aspirations of a majority of the Tamils who make up 14 percent of the population are different from those of the Sinhalese * and of the $uslims who "onstitute 10 percent of the population A 2nited Nations report "har%es that 4/,/// people died in the last sta%es of the war * and almost all of them were Tamils Thousands ha&e also %one missin% * a%ain almost all of them were Tamils This is not to say that the Sinhalese and the $uslims did not suffer in the =/*year "onfli"t 1ut the Tamils+ sufferin% %oes deep and "ontinues despite the %o&ernment+s welfare and re"on"iliatory measures and mo&es to de&elop the Tamil*dominated northern and eastern re%ions of Sri Lanka The Tamils, on the other hand, seek justi"e If that justi"e "annot 'e found in Sri Lanka, they want the international "ommunity to inter&ene >n ?anuary .@, the Northern (ro&in"ial 3oun"il * "ontrolled 'y the Tamil National Allian"e ,TNA- whi"h was on"e a""used of 'ein% an LTTE pro8y * passed a resolution, "allin% for an international pro'e into the war "rimes alle%ed to ha&e 'een "ommitted durin% the last sta%es of the war Dodging an international probe $u"h to the "ha%rin of )ajapaksa, the TNA leaders have met human ri%hts en&oys, in"ludin% 2nited Nations !uman )i%hts !i%h 3ommissioner Na&i (illay and 2S am'assador at lar%e from the >ffi"e of the Glo'al 3riminal ?usti"e, Stephen ? )app The latter posted a "ontro&ersial pi"ture on his twitter a""ount sayin% 6St Anthany+s Ground * site of ?an .//0 killin% of hundreds of families 'y army shellin% 6 The 2S em'assy refused to withdraw the tweet when Sri Lanka protested The stories these en&oys hear are different from what the %o&ernment says Nisha 1iswal, the 2S Assistant Se"retary of State for South and 3entral Asia, told a Colombo news conference at the end of her two*day &isit< "!e heard about individuals and organisations that continue to feel threatened and intimidated. !hen such a climate persists five years after the end of conflict, then I thin" there is some cause for those individuals to feel that an international process is needed."

Inside Story * #ou'le standards in the 3ommonwealthA Thou%h )ajapaksa seems to put on a 'ra&e fa"e, he feels the pressure and tries all his "ards to pre&ent an international war "rimes pro'e from takin% shape !esent his Se"retary Lalith Weeratun%a, Sri Lanka+s num'er one "i&il ser&ant, to Washin%ton in ?anuary to lo''y the support of politi"ians "lose to the 1ara"k >'ama administration In yet another mo&e, )ajapaksa, despite his "redentials as a "hampion of (alestinian ri%hts, made a &isit to Israel last month, the first 'y a Sri Lankan leader >ne of the purposes of the &isit, politi"al analysts here say, was to ur%e Israeli (rime $inister 1enjamin Netanyahu to use his influen"e with the >'ama administration and defer any

2S resolution a%ainst Sri Lanka The irony of it is that the international war "rimes pro'e is )ajapaksa+s own makin% It has its %enesis in a oint statement )ajapaksa and the &isitin% 2N Se"retary General 1an :i*moon issued in the aftermath of the end of the war in .//0 Its last para%raph said< "#ri $an"a reiterated its strongest commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, in "eeping with international human rights standards and #ri $an"a%s international obligations. The #ecretary& eneral underlined the importance of an accountability process for addressing violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. The overnment will ta"e measures to address those grievances." It was on the 'asis of the "ontents and spirit of this para%raph, the 2N Se"retary General appointed an e8pert panel to ad&ise him on Sri Lanka+s human ri%hts &iolations after he found there was no effort 'y Sri Lanka to initiate a "redi'le domesti" pro'e 2nderestimatin% the resol&e of the 'i% powers on the war "rimes issue * as they themsel&es are a""used of "ommittin% su"h "rimes in pla"es su"h as Ira9 and Af%hanistan * and hi%hly o&erestimatin% its own diplomati" power, the Sri Lankan %o&ernment "ommitted 'lunder after 'lunder It failed to stren%then its demo"rati" institutions and win the "onfiden"e of the international "ommunity Sri Lanka has ne&er 'een a ro%ue state Its "ontri'utions to international law and international pea"emakin% are well known in the "orridors of the 2N Still it is not too late to a&ert a ro%ue state la'el, 'ut it needs "oura%e to free demo"ra"y from all "onstraints Ameen Izzadeen is the deputy editor of the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka and International Editor of the Wijeya Newspaper Group, Sri Lanka !e also writes a weekly "olumn for the #olom$o%$ased &aily 'irror !e is also a le"turer on international relations and a journalism trainer !e holds a 'aster of Arts de(ree from the )ni*ersity of #olom$o and has "ontri$uted resear"h arti"les to $ooks and journals on so"io%politi"al issues ;ollow him Twitter< !ameeni""adeen The views e'pressed in this article are the author%s own and do not necessarily reflect (l )a*eera%s editorial policy.