by James Sarda
Kota Kinabalu: No one should accuse Sri Lanka as bitterly as they do just because there had to be casualties in the process of ending that island nation’s civil war.
Stating this to Daily Express in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the 59th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, recently, its Secretary General Dr William Shija, said in the case of Sri Lanka, it would be unrealistic to suggest that there have been human rights violations just because there had to be a decision to end the terrorism (waged by the Tamil Tigers for three decades).
“You had a group of people who had completely captured a portion of that country through violent means. That is anarchy. That is terrorism.
“What do you expect the Sri Lankan Government to do? What would any nation faced with this situation be expected to do? Sit and negotiate?
“That is similar to what we heard about, for example, in the Falklands (when Argentina temporarily seized the island in the early 1980s).
“Why would Britain then go to the extent of trying to protect the Falklands which is so far away. It can’t be terrorism if you are protecting your nation or your people,” said the former Tanzanian Minister.
Shija also said it was ironic to even attempt to suggest that Sri Lanka had violated human rights when actually there are more serious human rights violations taking place even right now in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq (by the western troops).
“Those are examples that need to be examined in the proper perspective,” he said, obviously referring to the countless civilians killed by US, UK and Nato forces in these Muslim countries. Thousands of innocent civilians have been killed by US drone attacks in Afghanistan alone.
Shija added that there were also plenty of human rights violations during colonialism and during times of slavery. “If people want to talk about human rights violations we might as well go into history,” he said.
He said looking at the situation today, “you can’t have countries or even the Commonwealth dictate to Sri Lanka what to do.
“Who are you coming from the Commonwealth or otherwise to tell these guys what to do.
In fact, there are even smaller countries within the (53-member) Commonwealth who flex their muscles when it comes to their own country’s decisions.
“The world has moved on and no longer do you have an unipolar system where one member can dictate to another. So the best way to keep the family together is to be flexible and accommodate the variances and rather contribute on what should be done.”
Malaysia has confirmed participating in CHOGM despite calls by Barisan Nasional component MIC and the opposition DAP to boycott the event. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib would lead a delegation and Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said that Malaysia’s participation was “relevant and significant”.
Critics of Lanka have alleged that its government was responsible for the deaths of up to 40,000 civilians in the civil war there that ended in 2009 with the killing of the entire Tiger leadership. There have been no more killings since.
It made Sri Lanka, reportedly albeit with Chinese help in logistics, the first and only nation in the world to have successfully defeated terrorism.
The Tamil Tigers have also been accused of drafting child soldiers and killing innocent thousands, including its own people that did not side with it during their campaign for a separate state in the island’s north.
There is evidence that in the last stages of the war their besieged leaders tried to use fellow Tamil civilians as human shields and killed those who abandoned them.
The Tigers also became infamous for introducing suicide bombings that has seen been adopted by other reactionary groups as a means to achieve their objectives, especially assassinating key people.
Their most high profile victim was Indian Premier Rajiv Gandhi when they sent a woman strapped with a bomb inside her sari to greet him when he visited Lanka during the early stages of the bloody conflict.
James Sarda is the Editor-in-Chief of Daily Express an Independent National Newspaper of East Malaysia