Transitional justice: From reconciliation to vengeance

| by Eymard de Silva Wijeyeratne


( April 18, 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The word ‘reconciliation’ is being abused to a point and pitch that makes it a vehicle for wreaking vengeance. The UNHRC has acted in a manner reminiscent of Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (perhaps unfairly called the mad monk). There is a song about him (sung by Boney M), where expressions such as, “he could preach the bible like a preacher”, “full of ecstasy and fire”, are found. There is another phrase in this song that has struck me, “Russia’s greatest love machine”. Considering the fact that it is ecstatically and hysterically concerned with human rights, would it be unfair to call the UNHRC “the world’s greatest love machine”?
File Photo
Over the last thirty years the term ‘peace process’ was bundled together with other words like, ‘conflict resolution’, ‘negotiation’ and ‘mediation’ while innocent civilians sound-asleep in their huts or travelling in buses or trains, or working in offices, were being blown to pieces with the use of plastic explosives. The UNHRC has now introduced a procedure that may be referred to as mock-adjudication that calls for what I call reconsillyation. I use this spelling to stand for a strategy that is designed to make people silly to the point of voluntarily accepting the dictates of the West. Genuine reconciliation will never be achieved unless and until as long as the threat of terrorism is eliminated and third party intervention stopped.

Moral Degradation
There are reasonable grounds for accepting the hypothesis that moral development is lagging far behind developments in science and technology, across the globe. One example, that indirectly demonstrates the validity of this point is that colonial occupation of a country by another country and the racial discrimination and pillage that accompanied it, were never deemed to require justification or defence. The same attitude applied to the practice of slavery. The implicit argument was that some people are, by nature’s design, inferior to others, both in the matter of pigmentation and intellectual capacity. The response of victims who were subjugated was involuntary, because they were helpless to resist. The victors occupied high moral ground with bell, book and candle in hand. As time passed, both colonisers and slave drivers, realising that these practices could not be pursued for very long, entertained an unconscious fear that political violence could wipe out the gains they had enjoyed in the game of direct exploitation. They felt a need for a subtle revision of their policies to induce colonised people as well as slaves to accept them voluntarily. The methodology they adopted was as sinister as it was simple, namely to:
1. Make use of the agencies of the UN to meddle with the internal affairs of other countries, even though that organisation was primarily designed to maintain international peace that was threatened by wars between major powers. Benito Mussolini had argued that its predecessor, the League of Nations had done very well when sparrows shouted but was no good when eagles fell out.
2. Replace Bell, Book and Candle (BBC) with a namesake that can be manipulated to carry out propaganda that includes fabricated video material.
3. Build a shrine to the goddess of Human Rights, on the sacred grounds of keeping Church and State apart, and induce traditional Christian clergymen to celebrate a new rite in this shrine.
4. Replace shameless colonial occupation and plunder with a knight in shining armour – Globalisation.
5. Baptise new epistemic communities in the waters of a stagnant Pierian spring, so that hey would sing psalms in praise of the Western economic, social and political ethic, The graces derived from this baptism are so powerful that black, coloured, and Asian persons who were subject to Apartheid ostracism are now a part of this community. This community includes NGOs, INGOs, UN personnel and assorted fora (some of them operate only on given weekdays, while others are lined up seated on pews). The activists in these organisations are called intellectuals, but are by the very nature of their calling unemployable in any productive activity either in the government or the private sector. They are not accountable to anyone but are determined to make others accountable to them.

The Character and Tentacles of Terrorism
Anyone who is interested in getting a full grasp of this LTTE terrorism should read Peter Chalk’s comprehensive survey of this deadly network that was published in The Island newspaper of 2nd, 3rd and 4th May 2000. A short passage from this report will highlight the insidious character of foreign intervention in Sri Lanka. “With globalisation, the events that affect the affairs of one state can have important implications for governments, both regionally and globally. The movement of refugees, arms transfers, terrorism, money laundering and drug trafficking all of which are by-products of the LTTE’s war in Sri Lanka have repeatedly demonstrated their potential to disrupt national and international security in the post–Cold War era. By appeasing groups like the LTTE, Western states are helping to undermine not only the viability of their own borders, but also the integrity of the global system they represent”. The following extract from item 43 of that report makes interesting reading. “A small island in the Andaman Sea also serves as an important LTTE naval base used to train the group’s Sea Tigers. It is alleged that Norwegian ex-special forces instruct LTTE frogmen at this base, providing particularly useful lessons in the techniques and tactics of underwater demolition”. The scourge of terrorism is described by another writer in the following manner. “Terrorists are evanescent, fleeting. They come and go. Their whereabouts are not known. They hide among innocent civilians, They roam about, dressed up like any other civilian…There is little use if the laws of armed conflict that do not, in reality, address some of the grave problems encountered by soldiers who are directly involved in countering terrorism”(Alfred Thompson Denning, Sunday Island, January 13, 2008). The writer concludes his analysis as follows: “The armed forces are fighting the most ruthless terrorist organisation. Suicide terrorism perpetuated by the LTTE is second to no other. It exceeds the ferocity of groups as Hizballah, Hamas, the PKK and the Al Qaida in the area of suicide terrorism. Hizballah started suicide terrorism in 1983, but the LTTE which started its suicide campaigns in 1987 has made Hizballah look amateurish” (sic). “The task, therefore, of combating LTTE terrorism is extremely arduous” (ibid).

The UN and its Agency, the UNHRC
After the LTTE was destroyed with the use of the military option that Lord Malloch and other lordships argued would never lead to the defeat of the LTTE, a new player came on stage: the UN Secretary General (UNSG), Ban Ki Moon. He must realise even at this late stage that the letter and spirit of the UN Charter has limited his authority to that of being the coordinator and administrative head of the UN Secretariat and in that capacity is only permitted to implement the decisions made by the General Assembly, and the Security Council. Neither the UNSG nor the heads of the various UN agencies are empowered to act on their own. They have not been entrusted with the task of establishing a Utopia in any part of the world. Mr. Moon has acted ultra vires the provisions of the UN Charter, because he has, bowed to the pressures exerted on him by a few powerful nations of the world:
* He has openly despised the cardinal principle on which the UN is founded. “The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members” (Chapter 1, Article 2, (1).
* He has converted a matter that is subject to the domestic jurisdiction of Sri Lanka, into one that involves a threat to international peace. “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII”. (Chap I, Article 2, (7)
* He has appointed a panel to investigate the conduct of the GOSL in respect of matters that are outside the scope of the mandate given to him, by bowing to the direct pressure of the US, UK and the EU and other fringe organisations. “In the performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization. They shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization” (Chapter XV, Article 100, (1)).
* He was not authorised to select persons who are not employees of the UN to form a Panel of inquiry, because such persons are not accountable to the UN. “The paramount consideration in the employment of the staff and in the determination of the conditions of service shall be the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity. Due regard shall be paid to the importance of recruiting the staff on as wide a geographical basis as possible” (Chapter XV, Article 101, (3)).
* He has defended his action by arguing that the panel was appointed to advise and enlighten him on standards and benchmarks. Thereafter he reneged on that promise by using the report of the Panel as a public document for direct action against Sri Lanka.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa (TRCS)
The attempt to draw a parallel between the task entrusted to the TRCS, and that which should be undertaken by the LLRC is a criminal travesty of justice. Apartheid was a publicly declared policy of racial segregation used by the South African government from 1948 to 1994. It was a shameless denial of the human rights of, what the government described as, ‘Black’ and ‘Coloured’ and Asian peoples. The policy of segregating these people as subhuman creatures was a crime against humanity and thus the height of depravity. Though the motives of Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu (especially Mandela, whose entire life was that of a victim) were noble, the overall achievement of the TRCS is contestable. The proceedings were marked by a gush of maudlin emotions and epigrams. The leaders of the Apartheid regime demanded the guarantee of an amnesty, before the elections that brought Nelson Mandela to the presidency that was held in 1994. Nelson Mandela agreed to this demand because he did not want the suppurating wounds caused by Apartheid to lead to gangrene that would infect the entire nation. The TRCS worked on this basis and the culprits were no longer liable for their crimes against humanity. Apartheid was never practised in Sri Lanka. While the Tamil people were never subjected to the humiliation of segregation, their personnel occupied high positions as public servants and Ministers of government. They shared their destiny in parks, buses, towns, villages and, public places and places of worship with members of other communities. In retrospect, it may be said, that the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ was somewhat in the nature of an English Morality Play that used moral sentiments to let the practitioners of Apartheid off the hook and that too in the name of the Christian theology of reconciliation. The manner in which the case of Steve Biko was handled does not recommend the use of TRCS as a model to be applied elsewhere.

The Moon Panel Report
Mr. Ban Ki Moon must have been overcome by an uncontrollable sense of humour when he thought it fit to include a South African national in the panel, who has evidently not learned the lessons taught by the TRCS. The following recommendations made by the Panel demonstrate that they were merely manicuring a script presented by the LTTE diaspora.
* The recommendation made by the Panel that the government should accept and demonstrate its accountability, by investigating alleged violations is both naïve and presumptive. A government that has spent nearly thirty years of national energy on fighting and defeating a vicious terrorist organisation is by no means morally obliged to rue the sensible decision it had taken to protect its people.
* The Panel has recommended that the UN Secretary General (UNSG) should immediately establish an international mechanism to monitor the domestic process undertaken by the LLRC and simultaneously conduct independent investigations into alleged violations. No government will ever subject itself to such an arbitrarily vengeful voyage of discovery that has no precedent in the history of the UN.
* The Panel recommends that the GOSL should make a formal acknowledgment of its role in and its responsibility for extensive civilian casualties in the final stages of the conflict. Even the worst war crime in the history of mankind, the dropping of two Atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which caused widespread and horrific death of civilians, did not result in a demand for investigation and punitive action. Can we compare the civilians who were killed, maimed, and made to live with the bizarre effects of radiation, with the civilians who were forced to form a human shield by the LTTE, in an intense battle? Is the Panel of the opinion that there are specially designed bullets and other missiles that will not target civilians but only combatants: like weedicides that target only weeds. The judgement of the Panel on this issue reveals a selective imagination that performs a function similar to a heat-seeking missile. The heat is on Sri Lanka.
* The Panel has severely criticised the LLRC for the manner in which it has conducted its work, and even gone to the extent of challenging its independence and impartiality. This accusation is an act of gross misconduct, because the very constitution of the Panel was a contravention of the UN Charter. Though the Panel states that it had no opportunity to meet with the LLRC, the true position is that it declined the offer to present itself at LLRC sessions. How can the GOSL be morally obliged to implement the recommendations of the LLRC, when the Panel has questioned the validity of its report?

The Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission was evidently overcome by the pressing need to sue for reconciliation. Unlike the members of the Moon Panel who were seeking vengeance on an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth basis, the Commission decided to err on the side of being circumspect in passing censure on parties to the conflict. Their views on the fake Channel 4 videos for example should have been more dismissive not only on the evidence provided by Siri Hewavitharana and Professor Yfantis of the Nevada University but also because this morally degrading material had been used as sensational propaganda before the UNHRC sessions started in Geneva. The BBC, which claims to be an autonomous body, reflects the position of the British government. The US realising that a war crimes charge could not be established, decided to get Sri Lanka entrapped in a net of its own making: the LLRC report. They now have the stage set for prolonged harassment. On what basis did Britain initiate action in presenting the US resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC, when it was not among the 47 members of that entity during the period under review? Has the right to meddle and manoeuvre been de-linked from the right to vote? Mr. Moon may do well to consult Mr. Noel Mudalige who had no right to vote in Sri Lanka but the right conferred by aliens to meddle in Sri Lankan politics.


Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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