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A displaced Tamil woman holds her baby aThe dream of an independent Tamil Eelam has been crushed on 2009, buried with 140 000 innocent Tamils. In few months 4 years will be passed from then. The Tamil diaspora is convinced that justice will prevail, because the world cannot be so deaf and blind to such a tragedy. I’m wholeheartedly advocating this cause. I’m persuaded that this was a genocide and that the international community will be harmed by ignoring this carnage. What about the UN’s mission? What about the protection of innocents? What about the principle of human rights?

At the same time I’m fully aware that time is precious. Any year that passes, brings a veil on the events. In the hearts and minds of the Tamil will stay forever, not so for the international community. Other tragedies crowd the world stage, other victims, other innocents. The more distance Rajapaksa is able to put between him and the crimes, the easier will be to walk away. So far he’s doing well.

But I don’t give up to the historians, I still believe that the Sri Lanka’s massacres are open wounds, they are still bleeding and because of that, we can still hope in justice. When historians will study those events, even if they will recognize the magnitude of the carnage, they won’t bring justice. When scholars and academicians debate about the causes and the figures from a purely theoretical perspective, justice is dead.

mullivaikalIf we are not able to highlight the case until is alive, we will condemn those victims to die twice.

For this reason, time is running out.

This is an appeal to the Tamil community, especially the diaspora: give up your intrigues, give up your pride, give up all the obstacles that are impeding a real process of accountability.

If you think you have done everything, let me explain. You want to believe in an independent Eelam, you want to worship the heroism of the Tigers, you want accountability for the Sri Lankan government, you want to help the Tamil still suffering in the Northern and Eastern provinces. You want all of this and you are surprised that the world is not listening. This is the point. The Tamil diaspora never entered in a critical process. And they woke up with the entire international community against their side. Is everybody in the world a Tamil hater? Is everybody against the idea of an independent Tamil Eelam? Is everybody so happy to support Rajapaksa? Of course not, it is just the blindness of your convictions that push everybody against you.

rajapaksa godfatherWhat is your priority? Revenge against Sri Lanka?Or Justice? Independent Eelam? Or helping the Tamils in Sri Lanka?

Decide. And act. Otherwise you’ll spend the next 50 years discussing, arguing and fighting within the community. Sri Lanka and Rajapaksa will find a fragmented front, with nobody able to present a decent request. Even too easy to sweep away the question from the table.

What do you want?

Do you want to consider the Tigers a heroic army, that righteousness fought with principles? OK, the Sri Lankan government fought the same battle, with the same principles. And it won. Do you want to consider that army criminal? Then you must accept that LTTE adopted criminal means.

A-young-Sri-Lankan-refuge-001Are you fighting for the Tamil people or for your aspirations and ambitions? When you were living a pleasant, comfortable life, your brethren in Sri Lanka were fighting, often in the last years, against their will. Are they a bargain chip, expendable on the battle field as well as in current political debate? Or they are the last inhabitant of Eelam and deserve all the attention and the efforts that you can put together? Is it better to have the flag of Eelam or better, decent conditions for the Tamil people?

Decide. But do it quickly. The international community won’t wait the Tamil age of discussion. They will forget soon. And leave you with your internecine polemics. Time is running out.

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Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met US foreign secretary HIllary Clinton.
Courtesy Reuters/Cameron

In the last two years Myanmar embarked on a series of reforms that promise to bring democracy and to open up the country. The Burmese people are in desperate need of involvement from the international community, but it is very likely that the first who will come in Myanmar will be the usual suspects. The country is blessed with natural resources, from oil to gems, not to mention its strategic position. In fact China already built port facilities for what the US called “the String of Pearls”. So it is very important to monitor the way investors are coming in Myanmar. In this article1 , civil society groups express their concern for the pace of development, too fast, with no attention for the humanitarian cost. Norway in particular is leading the way in funding peace-building in community affected area. The head of the Norwegian mission, Mr Petrie declared:

 

Charles Petrie, Head of MPSI in Myanmar.
Courtesy: UN Photo / JC McIlwaine

The real concern [of activists and civil society groups] is the fact that the political process hasn’t started or has not been developed sufficiently far enough… On the part of government officials, there does seem to be a commitment to dialogue, but I think that some of the groups want a clearer idea of how that is going to proceed,”

According to Petrie, MPSI’s aim is to provide immediate support for the tentative ceasefires through humantiarian relief as well as building trust between the government and ethnic minority communities through development projects. MPSI is funding projects in Rakhine, Chin, Shan and Mon states.2

Petrie criticized severely the government in 2007 and was expelled. His words are an important warning. And everybody should listen, including Norway. Indeed as recently as a couple of weeks ago, Norwegian prime minister Stoltenberg, vowed to strength cooperation about energy, hydropower, oil and gas, fishery and communication3. This angle of the news came from the Chinese agency Xinhua. Other sources are of course highlighting the Norwegian effort in building peace and easing the tension amongst minorities.4

Norway’s Prime Minister Stoltenberg visits Burma’s President Thein Sein.
Courtesy Myanmar Government

The lesson is that Norway is coming to Myanmar with a real concern for human rights and a real interest in the country’s natural resources. It is a good way to bring attention for the humanitarian aspect when dealing with economic development. You can call it best practices. Yet the Norwegian endeavour is far from being dispassionate. And we must remember this. Very often the West criticized action of other countries, in primis China, but they rarely debate the fact that we are talking of a competition, that the race for natural resources must be win. And one of your tool can be the humanitarian groups, but it is crucial to recognize that is a tool, for the real purpose of economic exploitation.

Petrie led the internal report on the UN action in Sri Lanka.
Courtesy: Sky News

Otherwise the objectivity of the debate becomes very questionable. It is worth to mention that Petrie issued a very critical internal report against the UN agency in Sri Lanka during the end of the civil war in 2009. The UN intervention in Sri Lanka was a massive failure, missing the very purpose of its presence, namely protecting civilians. So it is more than welcomed the internal review of such misconduct. Yet, the fact that Petrie was appointed to lead the committee raised some question about conflict of interests5. Especially if you consider the past involvement of Norway in the Sri Lankan peace process. If you advocate for the principles, then be careful to follow your own preaching.

The international community faces a curious challenge with regards of Sri Lanka. In fact we are in presence of a massive violations of human rights, happened during the end of the war, not to mention also the continuous incidents of unlawful abductions, suppression of press freedom and abuses from the military and organized thugs. The point of the clash is about sovereignty on internal affairs; the argument from Sri Lanka, China and Russia is that any state is absolutely sovereign in disputes within its borders. The way to deal with internal dissent, discontent or even open revolt is entirely national. So not matter how disproportionate can be the reaction against these dissenting forces, it would be always regulated by internal mechanisms.

The West challenges precisely this notion, that any kind of violence is admissible. But it is a opposition largely on principles. In fact it is always too well known that the West screams loudly against violations of rival countries, whilst with allies and friends the protests are definitely quiter.

People’s unrest in Bahrain has been stopped with brutality
courtesy BBC

The example of Lybia and Syria on one side and Saudi Arabia and Bahrain on the other. You don’t need to be a genius of geopolitics to see that the cases are precisely the same and only a decision of convenience makes them different.

You can consider Sri Lanka as a test. Colombo is leaning very clearly towards the non-Western front of China and the World South (Africa, Asia and Latin America), but is not yet a enemy. And this indecision is becoming an accusation against the West. Evidences of violations and war crimes during the end of the conflict are there. Even the UN, even Ban Ki Mon is (almost) tempted to say something. Satellite pictures, mobile footages, Wikileaks reports are so in front of your eyes that it seems almost a joke their denial.

The killing of civilians in Syrian civil war has been firnly condemned by the West and largely publicized.
REUTERS/Shaam News Network

And now we come to the point. Why it is so difficult to make a move and tarnish Sri Lanka with the same accusations? The main justification is about diplomacy: it will cause more harm than help to the victims and to the refugees, such a direct confrontation. It is better to wait. Why? In Syria and Libya you didn’t need any time to wait. With Saudi Arabia and Bahrain the case is already closed. The supect is that you can really decide whether Sri Lanka is an open rival or a distant friend. Only when it will be sorted out, then you’ll know whether Sri Lanka committed the crimes or not. In other terms the violations are against the alignment with the West, not the human rights.

If you can’t decide whether a violation has been committed or not, because you can’t decide on the alliance, then you reinforce the arbitrariness. The defence of human rights is becoming more and more a soft power of the West against China, Russia and other countries of the World South.

China’s vote in the United Nations’s security council
Xinhua

But rapidly this hypocrisy will backfire. The protection of human rights is a principle; if it can be bent to arbitrary necessity, then it is not a principle any more and countries like China are entitled to see these accusations merely as an intrusion.

The case of Sri Lanka reflects even too much this duplicity: the pressure is directly proportional to its distance from the West. The paradox is that if you raise the tone, the country will quickly move far away, so the necessity of escalating the case will make duplicity even more patent. If you remain silent, you’ll gain “points” in other cases, but then you’ll reinforce the negotiable nature of your battle for principles. This is the paradox of Sri Lanka, that prosecution on its violations will uncover the hypocritical fight of the West.

The solution to paradox is of course very simple: you need to stand for human rights always. It is a principle, therefore is not negotiable. The argument is that those principles are better protected by the West, even when they are violated. I don’t know your opinion, but to me this sounds dramatically unconvincing.