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In 2009 the Sri Lankan army crushed the Tamil insurgents, the LTTE. More than 360000 Tamil civilians were trapped in the fighting theatre. The Sri Lankan government established a “No Fire Zone” to protect the civilians. According to the UN Panel report, more than 40000 civilians died. Less conservative figures put the toll at 80000. This footage was taken from the No Fire Zone on 10th of May 2009.

The government of Sri Lanka claimed that it pursued a “Zero civilian casualties” policy; in an interview with NDTV, Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa stated that no more than 100 civilians died[1].

Any possible debate about Sri Lanka can start only after the vision of these images. They are crude, but they are testimony of what happened.

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Protest againts Vedanta for its operations in India.

Protest againts Vedanta for its operations in India.

It was a quest for survive that pushed Vedanta to find another, lucrative business. In fact its plan for more than $5.8 billion to increase the Aluminium production has been rejected by the government, due to mounting international pressure to protect the Adivasis in Niyamgiri Hills[1]. The repercussion of that failure is big enough to be the mover for the challenge against Ambani’s Reliance.

 Cairn main assets in India are in Rajastan, a huge field estimated in billions of dollars. That was the jackpot for a small venture like Cairn; But to compete with Reliance, you need to be much bigger and much linked to political power. Requirements that Vedanta matches. On the other hand, to exploit Vedanta’s economy of scale, Agarwal needed to grab any possibility on the market.

The Mannar Basin oil fields were ideal. Unfortunately the Sri Lankan civil war was a major obstacle, with the fierce LTTE ready to go all way for the cause of independence. The Sri Lankan government lacked the political will to annihilate the rebels.

A march of the Balck Tigers, the LTTE special forces for suicidal attacks.

A march of the Balck Tigers, the LTTE special forces for suicidal attacks.

In fact 20 years ago, when the Indian Peace Keepers intervened in the fight, Colombo incredibly re-armed the rebels, just to kick out New Delhi from the island[2]. In 2005 the parties were close to a peace treaty. But while Sri Lanka was ready to devolution, the LTTE wanted a clear path to secession. Meaning: conflict could last for another generation.

So the new President Rajapaksa changed the strategy[3]: now it was complete destruction of the rebels. Why this stance wasn’t adopted earlier? Two reasons: civilian casualties involved in chasing the guerrilla forces. And India. New Delhi never really approved the elimination of the LTTE (though responsible of the killing of Rajiv Gandhi). But in 2006, the Indian position changed. Suddenly New Delhi offered complete support: maritime patrol, electronic surveillance, military and political backing (the Tamil nationalist sentiment in Tamil Nadu were controlled by the then Chief Minister, Mr Karunanidhi, a hard-core supporter of LTTE, but involved in a personal scandal during that period[4]).

In 2009 80000 Tamil civilians have been massacred on the shores of Nandikadal lagoon and in Mullivaikal.

In 2009 80000 Tamil civilians have been massacred on the shores of Nandikadal lagoon and in Mullivaikal.

The rest is history: from the bloody shores of the Nandikadal lagoon, 280 000 Tamil civilian come out, leaving behind possibly more than 80000 dead. The fate of the Tamil population in their land now is the one of an occupied country. The military presence is strangling any activity.

But the Mannar Basin fields are blooming. In 2013 Sri Lanka launched another bidding round, this time everybody in the sector was queuing: Exxon, Total, Gazprom, Eni[5].

Clearly the news of Cairn-Vedanta success reached the big players of oil and gas.

The question now is: who could provoke a radical change in the Indian policy towards Sri Lanka? Cairn is out of the question.

Vedanta entered the game only in 2011, when the war was over since 2 years. If you believe in conspiracy, you could suspect that Vedanta chased the deal much earlier, convinced the Indian government to intervene in its favour and Cairn to spearhead the negotiation to avoid attention.

Of course this is just an exercise of speculation.

The signing ceremony of the agreement of petroleum resources between the Government of Sri Lanka and Cairn India (Pvt. Ltd) . President Mahinda Rajapaksa,  Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources A.H.M. Fowzie and Indrajith Benerjee, Chief Finance Officer and Ajay Gupta Head of Commercial and New Business of Cairn India . Photo Sudath Silva

The signing ceremony of the agreement of petroleum resources between the Government of Sri Lanka and Cairn India (Pvt. Ltd) . President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Minister of Petroleum and Petroleum Resources A.H.M. Fowzie and Indrajith Benerjee, Chief Finance Officer and Ajay Gupta Head of Commercial and New Business of Cairn India .
Photo Sudath Silva

chavezIt is nice to have legions of commentators, punters, analysts to discuss and to deconstruct the international relations of states. All this convoluted deployment of intellect is a way to entertain the public opinion, which is growing more and more educated and can be fooled easily.

Take the Bolivarian revolution of Chavez in Venezuela: roaring speeches on one side, “world public enemy number one” on the other. 70% of Venezuelan oil goes to the US; Chavez has been Swissly through and precise in the repayment of Venezuelan bonds: Goldman Sachs and the other made a fortune with the socialist revolution[1].

In Sri Lanka, the government of Rajapaksa is strenuously resisting the siege of Western powers; Sri Lanka stands the assault of foreign interference in national sovereignty. But the substance of the critics is: where are the 80 000 civilians missing. Of course nobody mentions this; the confrontation in the diplomatic sphere is about government-sponsored recommendations that the government doesn’t implement. President Rajapaksa is using the international stage to re-affirm the right to develop: de-colonized nations to choose their own destiny. Standing ovation.

Cairn India Chairman Sundeep Bhandari and Executive Director/CFO Indrajit Banerjee presents the documents to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and Petroleum and Petroleum Resource Minister A. H. M. Fowzie are also in the picture.

Cairn India Chairman Sundeep Bhandari and Executive Director/CFO Indrajit Banerjee presents the documents to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake and Petroleum Resource Minister A. H. M. Fowzie are also in the picture.

In private he sold at bargain prices concession for oil exploration. Cairn-Vedanta will pocket 90% of the sales from the Sri Lankan oil[2]. Now, if you are a colonial power, will you prefer to have a hard confrontation on the matters that count, like oil or empty speeches about principles and human rights?

Rajapaksa is working hard for colonial powers and the colonial powers are benefitting with sound, material profits. In public they accuse each other, reinforcing the perception of a clash: European citizens are satisfied of fighting (diplomatically) the right cause and unknowingly (?) pocketing the money; Sri Lankan citizens are happy of maintaining their independence and unknowingly (!) to be stolen once again by the Europeans. When the two parties are extremely happy of the contract, either the deal is very good or it is a scam.

Tamil civilian victims in Mullivaikal, 2009 Sri Lanka.

Tamil civilian victims in Mullivaikal, 2009 Sri Lanka.

In Geneva the UNHRC discussed a very funny joke: the Sri Lankan government doesn’t want to listen to its own recommendations.

Of course the tragedy of the Tamil people is not about that. The UN ( even the UN!) realized that something of heinous magnitude happened in Sri Lanka. In their report, it is alleged that 40 000 civilians died. And these are the conservative figures of the UN.

The government agent for Mullaitivu Imelda Sukumar testified for the LLRC that the population under her control in January 2009 was 360 000.

When the Tamil civilians started to reach the Sri Lankan army after the defeat of the LTTE in May, the official figures were 280 000.

Even a UN official can realize that there are 80 000 missing. If you visit and talk to the survivors, they will tell you of a carnage.

The Sri Lankan government chased like wild beast almost half of a million of Tamil civilians. The Sri Lankan government exploded the full blast of its fire power against those civilians, starving them of food and medicine. This to me is something we should discuss in Geneva.

tamil slaughter

Tamil civilians killed in Nandikadal Lagoon

When in May 2009 the Tamils in the Nandikadal Lagoon and opened fire, what they were expecting? It is a fact that in that area there were more than 300 000, so many come out. When you are bombing with heavy shelling a strip of beach with that multitude of children, elderly and women, the casualties cannot be but enormous.

The Western countries have no interest in dealing with this serious subject because they have a biggest concern in other issues. India needs to exercise its sphere of influence on Sri Lanka, including the economic exploitation of its position and side. The oil exploration in the Mannar Basin is benefitting Indian companies, which are listed in London, so the UK is mild against real pressure on Colombo. Besides, London sells weapon to Sri Lanka and has no intention of losing a client. Similarly France is just entering the oil scene in Sri Lanka and had already paid its fee (allowing the murder in Paris of LTTE leader Parithi). But also the Tamil leadership has some responsibility: they keep on hanging accountability and justice to the causes of Eelam. They don’t really ask for justice, unless is coming with independence. And of course nobody at present has the minimal intention to give them a new state. So it is really nobody’s intention to discuss what really happened in Sri Lanka.

Let’s talk instead of LLRC and its implementation; this is really a topic, which will bring no harm to anybody. You have a case of genocide and in Geneva your discussion is about LLRC. Sad.

tamil massacre

Tamil civilians were massacred by the Sri Lankan attacks

no war franceFrance became the global defender of peace and international justice when it antagonized the USA for the war in Iraq. Legions of citizens looked at Paris as the guardian of civilization: again the nation of liberte egalite fraternite stood against the brutal, warmongering forces which regularly try to strangle the universal values of citizenship and human rights. Very well, nice, lovely. Only, France didn’t oppose USA for those reasons; it is true that they considered the war in Iraq as unlawful: but the big problem was that they were excluded from the loot, not the war itself!

In fact France is not against colonial imperialism: it was one of the major colonial forces in the past; what France object is to be left behind in the race. In Iraq Paris could clearly see that the Iraqi oil was going all in American pipes. Mon Dieu! Never again!

france warSo when the Arab spring shook the region, France was more than ready to invade another country and to plug French pipe in the Libyan oil wells. The war in Mali signifies a new commitment of France in Africa. Mali’s undersoil is supposed to contain uranium, oil, gas and gold[1]; it is also a neighbour of Nigeria, which has an increasing agitated scenario by its own Islam groups[2]. Whatever the reason, France is on the move to re-assert its sphere of influence[3].

kouchner milibad

France and UK foreign ministers Kouchner and Miliband meet Sri Lanka’s President Rajapaksa.

So I have a rule of thumb: if you see a French diplomat on the move, ask yourself what business is in sight. During the last days of the Eelam War, we saw Kouchner and Miliband (respectively France and UK foreign ministers) running to make pressure on Colombo’s government. What kind of pressure? Well some photographic posing, speeches in favour of human rights and the rule of law. In brief, absolutely nothing. Now, Great Britain has very clear economic interests: they sell weapons to Sri Lanka and they are actively involved in the oil exploration in the Mannar Basin. Cairn and Vedanta are listed in London, though they are Indian companies. But France will remain seated while others are making money in the usual colonial way? Mon Dieu, impossible!

Parithi killing in Paris

LTTE member Parithi Killed in Paris, 2011

Last year a former LTTE leader (the secessionist Tamil movement, defeated in 2009 with the massacre of 80 000 civilians),  Nadaraja Matheetharan alias Parithi was killed in Paris by agents of the Sri Lankan secret services[4]. My big question was: how France can allow such a move on its soil? Especially after Sri Lanka should maintain quite a low profile with the international community and the West… What happened?

Well Cairn and Vedanta don’t hold an exclusive of exploration: they have concession for ONE zone. In the 2013 Sri Lanka will organize another round of auctions. Which are the front-runners? Exxon and Total[5]. I think we’ll hear a lot of noise in Geneva about committee and votes, and alignment, and new resolution and all this sort of empty talking. I suspect that the murder of Parithi was a “gesture of good will” from France in the perspective of the oil exploration rights bidding. totalHuman rights declaration is not worth the paper is written on if you don’t have the political will to enforce it. Mon Dieu, colonial times are over, can can’t interfere in internal matters, we only give wise, impotent advices. Of course the farcical clash of interest is merely superficial: the government of Sri Lanka can show its citizens and supporters that they stand against the old colonial power, the European countries can show their own citizens, they stand for the right cause, but diplomatic route will take time. And we have plenty of time, don’t we? History is not written in a day, oil contracts are. Anything else left to discuss in Geneva?

UNHRC and Sri Lanka

UNHRC and Sri Lanka

The upcoming UNHRC will very likely vote a resolution against Sri Lanka. The US had made clear it is a procedural on and we can expect India to align itself with the Western countries. What does it mean? Absolutely nothing. This is the masterpiece of diplomacy by US, Europe and India, to support the criminal regime of Sri Lanka. In fact all this manoeuvring in Geneva, all this supposed actions against Sri Lanka, in reality are nothing. The 2013 resolution will be merely procedural: it means it won’t bring any novel fact, only it will require to implement the 2012 resolution. It is the case that 2012 resolution, the big betrayal of India against Sri Lanka, was in fact another joke. In 2012 the US sponsored resolution asked the government to implement the LLRC. Now, LLRC was the recommendations for the government by a committee nominated by the government. As you can image, the most serious allegations and issues weren’t touched even marginally: the LLRC was a toothless instrument.

rajapaksa smilingThe focus on LLRC is a diplomatic mirror to elude the reality of fact: the US, Europe and India can confront Sri Lanka on that irrelevant field. Sri Lanka will respond, UN will make more pressure, finally they will find a compromise. Everybody is happy, the West shows it has forgot Sri Lanka, India can say that they fight for the Tamils on the international stage and Colombo can cry on this fake diplomatic defeat.

Can we remind ourselves that the problem in Sri Lanka is not burocracy, or the implementation of a recommendations made by the government to itself, but the serious allegation of war crimes and genocide.

Can someone tell the Tamil diaspora that fighting these risible battles doesn’t make any difference? That if you “defeat” Rajapaksa on this, you are actually losing? Rajapaksa will accept this pressure after long negotiations: do you know that after such compromise, you can’t start to ask something else immediately?

You will win the Geneva vote in 2013 and that will have zero consequence in the process of accountability and even less in the protection of the Tamils in Sri Lanka now.

sri lanka military presence 3The Tamil and Sinhalese community are still two divided community. Heroes of one side, are executioners for the other, terrorists here, liberators there. Every propaganda presents heroes as people who sacrificed their life for a cause, fighting. Until you’ll find a hero with guns, bullets and grenades, Sri Lanka will never converge towards a common name. In fact grenades for the cause were thrown against the other faction. The ideals of one side had to crash against the skull of people from the other side. One shared hero based on bullets and guns in Sri Lanka is a contradiction.

Unless you resort to people who were fighting with the sole courage of their words and ideas. These people can really become the light of rebirth for Sri Lanka. One of these heroes of justice and truth was Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Lasantha Wickrematunge (5 April 1958 – 8 January 2009)

Lasantha Wickrematunge (5 April 1958 – 8 January 2009)

He was a thorny journalist, from the Sinhalese side but undeterred to speak against his president and friends. He was fighting for a better society, for a Sri Lanka more inclusive and just. He attacked a ruthless and brutal regime also because he was part of the same community. Rajapaksa was a family friend and he started to criticize him as an old mate. He could say more than anybody else, because he knew the people very intimately. He reached the line and he was told so. When he crossed the line, he was eliminated. But with his death he was reborn a hero of Sri Lanka.

In fact he didn’t challenge the authority because of arrogance or imprudence. He didn’t die because of a miscalculation of risk.

On the contrary, he was perfectly aware of the offence committed against power. He confronted a violent despot with perfect conscience that he wouldn’t survive this trial. He decided to sacrifice his life, in a state of pure clarity of mind.

In one of the most touching article in the history of journalism, the day after his death, he wrote a posthumous editorial. He accused his killers and left his legacy. It is a testament for all the people with heart and mind, with the will to change society for the better. He gave his life intentionally, choosing truth and justice for a happy life with his son and daughters, his wife

Wickrematunge family

Wickrematunge family

.

When you renounce to your existence for a cause, you deserve respect; but sometimes your sacrifice takes also the life of others and when they are innocents, your gesture is compromised. But if you give your life in a pure manifestation of generosity, of love for truth and justice, then you really become a light and an inspiration.

Lasantha Wickrematunge is an example for all Sri Lanka, the ultimate hero for a united sense of justice. If you think that justice must prevail in the country, if you think that violence must be left behind, if you think that the war is over, (but not oppression), if you think that guns should leave the way to words and ideas, if you think that heroes are those who lead the way, then please remember Lasantha and his sacrifice.

When enough Sri Lankans will consider true heroes people like him, when they will take him as their hero, the country will automatically become a better place.

Procession at Wickrematunge's funeral

Procession at Wickrematunge’s funeral