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Rajapaksa to address Oxford Union for second time, another chance to lie to world

[Press Release, Thursday, 14 October 2010 17:13 One Comment]

By Satheesan Kumaaran

The Sri Lankan President Office released a statement to the government-controlled media, and thereafter private media outlets which were once victims of President Mahinda Rajapaksa for reporting the truth, carrying the story with the caption “President Rajapaksa invited to address Oxford Union”.  This Oxford Union is none other than the one that invited Rajapaksa in 2008 while Rajapaksa’s armed forces were launching brutal military attacks on civilian targets in the guise of fighting terrorism with the blessings of the international community.  He is widely accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

When Rajapaksa spoke at the Oxford Union Society – the world’s most prestigious debating society established in 1823 — on May 13, 2008, where many renowned leaders, including the Dalai Lama, have spoken previously, he used the occasion to call upon the International Community (IC) to brand the LTTE as a terrorist outfit, saying that it was one of the worst the world has ever seen.  

Rajapaksa addressed the society on the invitation of the Oxford Union and the Sri Lankan Society of Oxford University.  In his speech, Rajapaksa stated that if Sri Lanka failed in the war against the LTTE, the world would fail in its fight against terrorism and democracy would be the victim.

Rajapaksa’s repetitive rhetoric

As always, Rajapaksa continues with the same rhetoric while addressing forums globally as if he was the saviour of democracy, fighting for freedom for all communities.  In reality on ground in his home country, he does totally the opposite to what he claims in the International Community.  Wherever he addresses, whether it might be the Oxford Union, the UN, or during meetings with world leaders, he talks of (remembers to mention) world democracy, terrorism, freedom, etc. 

It is a pity that he does not give even a single penny value to any of these.  He said in 2008 while addressing the Union that the LTTE was the most brutal terror outfit the world had ever seen and defeating them required global support. He said: “What Sri Lanka is doing is fighting the terror outfit single handed to ensure that democracy and respect for human life prevail in the world.”

He further said: “As our forces seek to defeat and disarm the LTTE we are firm in our resolve to have a negotiated solution to the crisis in Sri Lanka. I do not believe in a military solution. We have attempted talks with the LTTE on several occasions — thrice since my election as the President — but they have not reciprocated. They have always left the talks with lame excuses. We are still ready to talk once we are certain of their genuine intent for a political solution and their readiness to give up arms.”

One who is a well versed in the double entendre of Rajapaksa and Co. would say that all the statements Rajapaksa makes globally are malicious and totally fabricated lies.  Even the proponents of terrorism will agree that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime conducted illegal war on Tamils with the aim to defeat the minority Tamils.

Some of the prevailing conditions created by the Rajapaksa regime and his real image can be seen from the following list:  Large tracts of previously occupied lands being demarcated as high security zones, the publicly announced resettlement benefits to internally displaced persons not being distributed equitably and in line with the announced scheme, building of new permanent military cantonments with residential facilities for military personnel and their families, plans to settle majority Sinhala families in order to change the traditional area demography other than by natural development oriented migration, arbitrary arrests and detention in the post war period in Tamil dominated areas still continue, continuing active engagement of unauthorized armed groups, continuing disappearances of civilians, failure to assist families in tracing missing persons, list of persons in custody, camps and detention centres not being made public, unease of single women headed families fearing for their safety in the presence of large number of armed personnel of the forces, some important cultural, religious and remembrance sites being damaged and destroyed, and free availability of liquor, cigarettes and narcotics in Tamil areas to spoil the younger generations as well as blue films sold at every corner.  These are the things Rajapaksa is doing in the post war era. 

Rajapaksa’s constant claim about terrorism, democracy, freedom, plural society, etc., are just the rhetoric to hoodwink the International Community to seek financial help to recover from bankruptcy.  In reality, Rajapaksa is an authoritarian with views totally different from what he says.  His presidential opponent, Gen. Sarath Fonseka, who joined hands with Rajapaksa to kill tens of thousands of Tamils, is being incarcerated by Rajapaksa for contesting him in the presidential election. Fonseka was threatened, intimidated, and even arrested by the Rajapaksa regime to force him to withdraw from candidacy, even though he won.  But the Rajapaksa government does not respect the people’s mandate and instead, Fonseka was sentenced by the martial courts to rigorous imprisonment for 30 months in the notorious Walikada prison for financial misconduct. The Rajapaksa regime is now studying whether he could be kept for a longer term. This is the beauty of democracy in Sri Lanka.

Rajapaksa – Ban ki-Moon nexus continues

When addressing the 65 sessions of the UN General Assembly in New York, on 23 September, 2010, Rajapaksa called for a rethink on international rules governing the conduct of war. He requested of the UN to explore the feasibility of international humanitarian law embodied in the Geneva Conventions, which among other things, govern how prisoners of war should be treated and how civilians should be protected in conflict to meet today’s needs, and was evolved for conflicts between states and not for non-state actors such as terrorists.

He added: “We, along with many others, made repeated attempts to engage the LTTE in constructive dialogue, but the attempts were rejected”. Probably Rajapaksa thinks that he is smart enough to fool the rest of the world with lies, but it is an acknowledged fact through various foreign missions and media that Rajapaksa, soon after he came to power, engaged in war efforts rather than engaging the LTTE in constructive dialogue.

During the UNP government led by Ranil Wickremesinge, he entered into ceasefire agreement with the LTTE, only after heavy pressure from foreign countries, and the LTTE itself declared ceasefire as a gesture during the festive season in 2001, and the government itself embraced it with the aid of Norwegian government. 

As per the ceasefire agreement, both warring parties agreed to set up the monitoring mission led by Scandinavian countries.  However, after Rajapaksa came to power, he annulled the ceasefire agreement and disbanded the monitoring mission in 2006.  Even before he did all this, he launched military attacks in the eastern province to take control from the LTTE.  As per the ceasefire agreement, both sides should not launch military attacks on the respective controlled territories or capturing areas controlled by the warring parties as violation of the ceasefire agreement.  However, Rajapaksa did. 

Just to brainwash the countries, most of the countries’ representatives did not hear what Rajapaksa said at the session.  Some of the countries, which are supporters of the Rajapaksa regime since he came to power, were in the session where Rajapaksa spoke further saying that the leaders who have been chosen by their people faced difficult decisions; they must be entitled the goodwill and confidence of the International Community, and the results of their decisions needed to be evaluated objectively and allowed to speak for themselves.

It is sad that the South Korean former Foreign Minister turned UN Secretary General, who is having a good relationship with the Sinhala-Buddhist leadership, has been supportive of the war efforts of Rajapaksa despite what he says in public, that he is doing his best to investigate human rights abuses in Sri Lanka during the final phase of war which came to a stop after the LTTE announced that they had no choice but to silence their guns for the sake of protecting Tamil civilians who faced enormous causalities in which over 30,000 Tamil civilians were killed within matter of days from the government forces banned weapons such as white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

After seeing the scenes of war just days after the war was ended last year, Ban ki-Moon announced that he would investigate the human rights abuses committed by both sides of the war.  He then appointed a three-member Advisory Panel, but Sri Lanka strongly protested it saying that the UN was poking its nose into the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, which causes disturbance to the sovereignty of an independent sovereign State.

However, Moon said later on that he was not going to disband the advisory panel.  Moon and Rajapaksa were holding talks on the sideline of the session in New York.  After the meeting, the UN Spokesman issued a statement, which said:  “Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa met today (September 24th) for talks focused on political settlement, reconciliation and accountability…In discussions at UN Headquarters, held on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual general debate, the two officials talked about the need to move forward expeditiously on outstanding issues covered in the joint statement of May 2009…Mr. Ban underlined that the President’s strong political mandate provided a unique opportunity to deliver on his commitments to address the issues of political settlement, reconciliation and accountability…Mr. Rajapaksa, for his part, underlined that development and education in the north of Sri Lanka were integral to national reconciliation. He gave examples of progress made on reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts in that regard…The President also updated the Secretary-General on the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission.”

There is no idea what these two dignitaries are discussing.  Rajapaksa has never broached political settlement to the Tamils as yet.  He has not produced the LTTE suspects numbered over 7000 with their whereabouts unknown.  Over 300,000 Tamils being kicked out of their homes in Vanni and are not able to return home.  Many Sinhalese are colonizing the Tamil homeland.  The recently introduced 18th amendment does not allow the government to offer powers to the Tamils, but it states about granting powers to the municipal councils.  In other words, the 18th amendment is undemocratic and does not embrace the minorities in the island.  So, the Rajapaksa and Ban ki-Moon nexus does not bring any reconciliation to the Tamil national question, rather they are trying to hoodwink the world, including calming the Tamils who are the victims of the ethnic conflict.

Inner City Press does not leave UN alone

Despite Ban ki-Moon’s failure to take meaningful actions in regard to Sri Lanka, the Inner City Press (ICP) is putting increasing pressure upon the UN to find out what is going on with the Sri Lankan issue.  The ICP, dismayed at the UN’s slow response on Sri Lanka, said even the statement on the meeting between Rajapaksa and Ban was delayed.

It questioned: “While Ban met with Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan just before he met with Rajapaksa, the UN’s summary of the Nigeria meeting was issued hours before the Sri Lanka one. Does this reflect greater checking with or push back by Sri Lanka? Or, as some ask, ineptitude in the UN’s Sri Lanka team?”

On September 29, Inner City Press asked Ban’s adviser, Nicholas Hayson, why Ban’s statements minimizing the mandate of the UN panel on war crimes in Sri Lanka, about which Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa later bragged, had not been included in the UN’s summary of the Sri Lanka meeting, which alone among the 100 summaries included a summary of non-Ban statements. 

Hayson admitted this was “abnormal,” but said that one in ten or one in twenty of Ban’s meetings also had a tête-à-tête (or one on one) segment, not included in the summaries. He said these might involve “staff issues” or other private issues.

ICP has taken the Sri Lanka issue seriously and it raises the matter with the UN, but on most occasions the UN officials ignore them.  UN officials, on the other hand just to ease the tension, issue statements that they are doing something to investigate the matter, but now the UN itself is saying that they cannot do much to bring the perpetrators of the war criminals.

Oxford Union should not repeat the same mistake

The prestigious Oxford Union has sent an invitation to Rajapaksa to address the society.  The President of the Union, James Kingston, sent the invitation to Rajapaksa to attract him to give a speech to the society.  It is pity that this Union is making a horrendous mistake by inviting a war criminal who launched genocidal war upon a community as Hitler launched on Jews. 

In the invitation to Rajapaksa, Kingston said: “Your successful conclusion of this 30 year military conflict ranks as one of the most significant acts seen by the world in recent years; and, in conjunction with the Sri Lankan Society of Oxford, we humbly wish to use the occasion of your visit to present you with a mark of the Oxford Union’s respect for your accomplishment in fostering lasting peace.”

It is frustrating that Mr. Kingston has been praising a war criminal with such congratulatory remarks. This is not a good reputation for the Union itself.  Even the Sri Lankan government challenged the British government when it was raising voice when the Tamils were killed by the Sri Lankan soldiers on the order of the Rajapaksa’s regime.

It is doubtful that Mr. Kingston has had the opportunity to read the statements of numerous global organizations, including Amnesty International.  The Peoples’ Tribunal Chairman Francois Houtart read the preliminary findings of the Peoples’ Tribunal on the war in Sri Lanka and its aftermath. There were four findings read out by the People’s Tribunal on the war in Sri Lanka, which are: (a) That the Sri Lankan Government and its military are guilty of War Crimes; (b) That the Sri Lankan Government is militarily guilty of crimes against humanity; (c) That the charge of genocide requires further investigation; and (d) That the international community, particularly the UK and USA, share responsibility for the breakdown of the peace process.

Harrowing evidence, including video footage, was submitted by eye-witnesses of the use of heavy artillery and phosphorous munitions, and of the continuous violation of human rights by military activity to a panel of ten international jurors over two days.

The Irish Forum for Peace in Sri Lanka welcomed the preliminary findings of the Tribunal. Responding to the findings, the Forum issued five demands: (a) We call on the Sri Lankan government to allow the United Nations to conduct an inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated during the final stages of the war between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE, and during the war’s aftermath; (b) We call on the Sri Lankan Government to release all those being detained in concentration camps and the estimated 11,000 people being held secretly at unknown locations; (c) We call on the Sri Lankan government to end the use of extra-judicial killings, sexual violence, and the deprivation of food and water as weapons against the civilian population; (d) We call on the Sri Lankan government to end the suppression of political dissent by violent or other means; and (e) We call on the Sri Lankan government to fully implement human rights for all citizens of Sri Lanka, and the political solution involving the full participation of the Tamil population, ending the systematic historical discriminatory measures of the Sri Lankan state against the Tamil people.

The above statements are clear examples for the individuals like Mr. Kingston to send out invitations to people like Rajapaksa.  The reputation of the Union will definitely deteriorate if a person like Kingston, with the position as the president of the Union, is allowed to deliver a speech fomenting frustration as this Union was really a fascinating one.  If the Union allowed the Dalai Lama, who fights through non-violent means against China, to speak, how is it fair for the Union to allow Rajapaksa to speak at the same fora?

People who fight for human rights and want the Tamils to live in their homeland with dignity and freedom should send their comments to the Union through: enquiries@oxford-union.org, james.kingston@chch.ox.ac.uk, treasurer-mt@oxford-union.org, president@oxford-union.org as well as a copy to David Miliband: milibandd@parliament.uk.

The President Rajapaksa administration wants the foreign countries to forget what happened during the last year’s war.  Rather, Rajapaksa wants European countries and others to start contributing their aid as they did for the development of Sri Lanka, especially in the name of reconciliation and reconstruction after the three-decade old war.  Without finding a long lasting solution to the Tamil national question, there is no way a permanent peace can be returned to the Tamils. Tamils are living under tight security of the Sri Lankan armed forces.  Sri Lankan armed forces are wandering around the streets of Tamil-dominated North and East despite the Sri Lankan government declaration that they destroyed the LTTE and peace has reigned after the LTTE were completely wiped out.  However, the government has opened up a front in the international arena where the government is saying that the remnants of the LTTE have sought shelter in western countries, and they are regrouping to fight back the Sri Lankan State. 

Rajapaksa will use the Oxford Union to showcase to the world that war has ended and there is no problem for the Tamils, and thereby seek out the International Community for monetary aid and other benefits which have been halted by the European Union after the Rajapaksa regime was blamed for rights abuses.  It is the hope of thousands that the prestigious Oxford Union shall not blunder by inviting Rajapaksa for the second time to deliver speech.

(The author can be reached at e-mail: satheesan_kumaaran@yahoo.com)

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One Comment »

  • Jay Pathbey said:

    Who is this dumb fucker Satheesan Kumaaran who writes all this trash.

    Wa he born tomorrow? If this is the kind of news TAMILNEWS NETWORK can publish it is better that all the tamils in this planet follow Satheesan Kumaaran and live in a hole in the ground.