Amnesty Amnesia about Ceasefire Violations - 17th January 2008
The Peace Secretariat is sorry that the latest venture of Amnesty International into international politics should have coincided with a terrorist attack which left 26 people dead and more dying. Amnesty will doubtless claim justification, in that it proclaimed that ‘The end to the ceasefire could unleash fresh violence’ but it seems that its main worry is that this fresh violence ‘will lead to serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions and mass displacement of civilians’. Violation of the right to life does not find mention here.
Terrorism, as Amnesty should know, is ruthless in its use of violence to take life, as was seen in the bomb attack on Buttala. Amnesty may claim that this was the result of the abrogation of the Ceasefire, forgetting the bomb attack on a bus in Colombo on January 2nd before the Ceasefire was abrogated, forgetting the bombs in Colombo and Kebetigollawa towards the end of last year, forgetting the thousands of violations against the Ceasefire which the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission found the LTTE guilty of.
In essence, the civilian population has been at risk throughout the period of the Ceasefire, with 587 adults ruled by the SLMM as abducted by the LTTE even in the period before this government, which agencies like Amnesty now seem to want to blame for everything, came into office. This was of 1206 allegations made in the almost four years that ended in 2005, whereas there were 36 allegations against the government of which 3 were ruled as established.
In the next 16 months there were 258 more allegations against the government of which only 19 were ruled violations. During the whole period (the SLMM stopped delivering rulings in April 2007), the LTTE was ruled to have abducted 253 children and to have recruited 1743, whereas the government was ruled to have abducted 3 and recruited none. In the final rulings delivered by the SLMM, in April 2007, they confirmed 160 violations by the LTTE through sniping and claymores, killing nearly 100 soldiers and civilians, over a 6 month period, while over 3 months within this period corresponding violations of the CFA by the government were ruled as seven, with four deaths.
Amnesty seems also to be ignorant that the SLMM stopped making rulings about a year ago, in part because the number of violations was increasing, but also because the number of its monitors had been cut drastically, following the refusal of the LTTE to permit Monitors from Nordic countries that belonged to the European Union. None of those who now shed crocodile tears over the plight of Sri Lankans following the departure of the SLMM stood up firmly against this most egregious violation of the provisions of the Ceasefire on the part of the LTTE. When the Sri Lankan government wanted those monitors to stay, none of this collection of hypocrites pointed out how much the people would suffer with the vehemence they are now using. At that stage it would seem they found the record maintained by the SLMM of confirmed violations by the LTTE embarrassing.
Ignorance and forgetfulness seem now to be the hallmark of Amnesty, which in the old days, before Human Rights activity became an industry, was a lone beacon of hope to the oppressed in many countries. Only an institution out of touch with reality could ‘call on the Sri Lanka government to ….. enter into immediate talks with the LTTE’. This is what the Sri Lanka government has striven to do for nearly five years, succeeding for a few days on two occasions in 2006, after three years of steadfast refusal from the LTTE. In 2006 just one set of talks was concluded, then the LTTE came to Europe as though to negotiate, and told the Norwegian facilitator early morning that they would not attend the talks scheduled for that day. Finally, in October, they talked on one day and then withdrew on the second. All efforts to persuade them back to talks, official or unofficial, met with condign refusal since.
Perhaps what Amnesty meant to say, assuming it is not as ignorant as it pretends to be, was that it wanted the Sri Lanka government to give in to LTTE conditions for talks. If so, it should say so direct. But it should also remember that the LTTE withdrew from talks with a government that, in 2003, bent over backwards to please it.
In short, whilst the Government would welcome positive assistance to strengthen its own national institutions, its primary duty is to the citizens of this country who have suffered from terrorism. It does not need sanctimonious reminders that a political solution is essential for political problems, and it will pursue such a solution to the best of its ability, regretting the failure of the sanctimonious to persuade those who refuse to talk to return to negotiations. But it cannot allow cold-blooded murder such as happened in Buttala yesterday to recur, nor can it allow the threat of this to continue to hang over this country. Amnesties are applicable only when criminality has been stopped, and amnesia will certainly not help in stopping criminality, as defined by national and international law.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process