If the General Assembly resolutions are legally non-binding of UN Member states except the resolutions of the UN Security Council, it should also mean that the UN Human Rights Council Resolutions are also legally non-binding except carrying political weight over & above their recommendation. If so, why have Sri Lanka’s government co-sponsored questionable & country-specific resolutions by the UNHRC which commits to change sovereign laws to align to the UNHRC resolution demands since the UN has no legal powers to do so? This faux pas should be immediately reversed with a change of government given that the present government has been installed by a regime change orchestrated by the very parties presenting the resolutions through the UNHRC!
The UN General Assembly comprises 193 member states. The UN Charter does not grant the General Assembly (or the International Court of Justice) authority to enact or amend international law.
Article 10 of the UN Charter states:
“The General Assembly may discuss any questions or any matters within the scope of the present Charter or relating to the powers and functions of any organs provided for in the present Charter, and, except as provided in Article 12, may make recommendations to the Members of the United Nations or to the Security Council or to both on any such questions or matters.”
“affirmation” means merely a declarative statement of sentiment. It is not a directive. It is not law.
Thus, UNGA lacks legislative powers.
When the Philippines delegation proposed in 1945 to vest the UNGA with legislative authority to enact international laws which are binding of its member states after its approval by the UNSC, the proposal was rejected 26-1.
The General Assembly has no power to compel action by any government. However, the resolutions do pose political weight and soft diplomatic pressure. However, though there is no legal status to the UN Resolutions, they can reinforce rules of customary law. Resolution 217 on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights though not legally binding, does influence national constitutions, treaties and/or international laws.
Article 10 -17 outline the powers & functions of the UN General Assembly. General Assembly passes resolutions but all of them are merely recommendations and NOT LAWS thus they are NOT BINDING of any member state. None of the UNGA Resolutions have a legal obligation for UN Member states to implement them. No UN Member state is even bound to even consider these resolutions. Resolutions are simply a diplomatic bullying tactic. Isn’t this why Israel has ignored all of UN’s resolutions!
Inspite of the non-binding nature of the UN Resolutions when such resolutions are drafted and passed, the General Assembly becomes aware and are made conscious of issues. However, what is emphasized here is that unfair, impartial & biased resolutions are being passed as a result of money & lobbying that creates a wrong world opinion against member states. Member states must seriously address this in the light of increasing country-specific resolutions being drafted by powerful nations who are engineering conflicts to justify their R2P interference.
However, in accordance with Article 25 of the Charter, UN Security Council Resolutions are binding & legal. Any decision of the Security Council is legally binding upon all U.N. member states, whether or not the text of the resolution explicitly references Chapter VII.
The UN Security Council has 15 members, five of which are permanent (US, UK, Russia, China & France) The UN Security Council is tasked with ensuring peace & security. Resolutions of the Security Council unlike the General Assembly are binding of all states as per Chapter VII which confers it authority. The example of UNSC action against Yugoslavia UNSC Resolution 820 in 1993 can be cited.
International law is law that governs the legal relations between or among states or nations. International law is found in Treaties, Judicial Decisions, Customs or General Principles.
According to Sir Hersch Lauterpacht, a former member judge of the International Court of Justice:
“… the General Assembly has no legal power to legislate or bind its members by way of recommendation.”
Professor Judge Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice, states that:
“… the General Assembly of the United Nations can only, in principle, issue ‘recommendation’ which are not of a binding character, according to Article 10 of the Charter of the United Nations.”
Another former ICJ judge, Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice rejects what he labeled the “illusion” that a General Assembly resolution can have “legislative effect.”
Professor Julius Stone points out:
“In his book The Normative Role of the General Assembly of the United Nations and the Declaration of Principles of Friendly Relations, Professor Gaetano Arangio-Ruiz5 is led to conclude that the General Assembly lacks legal authority either to enact or to ‘declare’ or ‘determine’ or ‘interpret’ international law so as legally to bind states by such acts, whether these states be members of the United Nations or not, and whether these states voted for or against or abstained from the relevant vote or did not take part in it.”
If so, it questions why Sri Lanka’s leaders & diplomats have spent unnecessary money to lobby the UN without simply challenging the UN & its associate entities & their officials to produce evidence before drafting resolutions & embarrassing a member state. UNHRC is simply an inter-governmental organ within the UN system. If the UNGA does not have legal jurisdiction with resolutions that it passes, how can UNHRC have legally binding resolutions?
Why have Sri Lanka’s leaders & diplomats allowed Sri Lanka to be coerced by UN officials knowing the legal status while foolishly changing Sri Lanka’s internal laws in line with the UN Resolutions that put into legal action what the UNGA Resolutions are unable to do?
A complaint must be filed with the UNGA & UNSC bringing to light these legal arguments & questioning the manner that the UNHRC/OHCHR has abused & violated the spirit & Charter of the UN against Sri Lanka. The manner that other abused states & where bias & manipulations have led to collapse and chaos of nations like Libya, Syria etc warrant UNGA Members to demand that the UNHRC stop the witch hunt against Sri Lanka as these actions create precedents that will affect & apply UN interference to other countries as well.
– Shenali D Waduge
Whatever countries of the West preach, their record speaks volumes and should be nothing they or their citizens can be proud about. The question is, knowing that these countries of the West have lied, created false reports, false flag stories/campaigns, secretly trained & dispatched ‘rebels’ to stir trouble to justify their interference….can these countries be allowed to use the same formula and destroy Asia after destroying Africa, South America, Middle East & parts of Eastern Europe?
There is a basis to reject the US-sponsored resolutions against Sri Lanka. The US has produced manuals which are replicated in different countries. They proudly produce films showing off their ability to destabilize nations. Can such a country be a genuine friend? Can such a country be trusted? Can such a country who uses the hall of the UN to promote its plans using the terminology & Charters of the UN be allowed to ruin yet another country? Anyone defending the US, please produce a single country that the US has helped develop & prosper after militarily intervening in their internal affairs!
The CIA has been the key agent used in destabilizing operations worldwide. When anyone is termed a CIA agent, it is because CIA recruits influential intellectuals & charismatic personalities, the agency is also famed for threats, kidnappings, torture, enforced disappearances & even assassinations. Declassified CIA documents provide evidence. CIA has been associated with uprisings, military rebellions, economic chaos and even able to cause scarcity of food & water.
US bombing of countries
- Only country to use atomic bomb twice against Japan
- America dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016 – Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria & Iraq. In 2015, the U.S. dropped 22,110bombs in Iraq and Syria.
Regime Change / overthrowing democratically elected leaders & replacing with US-friendly puppets
- Hawaii 1893 – overthrowing Queen Lili’uokalani & annexed Hawaii to US by 1898.
- Syria 1949 – overthrowing democratically elected al-Quwatli centred around the construction of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline which the President-elect opposed, thus the reason for his ouster & approved by the junta leader US supported (these are all lessons for Sri Lanka)
- Iran 1953: overthrowing democratically elected PM Mosaddegh with the help of UK (Operation Boot/TPAJAX Project). US turned Iran to an authoritarian state.
- US regime change for Syria meant funding Syrian Opposition Groups to help topple President Assad though internationally denying involvement in any regime change. From 2013, US provided training, weapons, cash to Syrian Islamic & secular rebels.
- USAID’s twitter campaign (“ZunZuneo,”) in Cuba
- In Paraguay, Obama administration staged a ‘soft coup’ to get rid of the democratically elected leader Fernando Lugo simply because he upheld land rights of the peasants!
- When Brazil’s Goulart attempted reforms to combat illiteracy, transfer profits by multinational companies, reform tax laws & redistribute lands what did US do? It carried out a military coup helped by then US envoy in Brazil, helping transport arms secretly!
Panama 1903 – seceded from Colombia helped by US (the secession was helped by a private company that wanted to control the Panama Canal – this is relevant to the issue of Trincomalee Harbour)
US was key player in Kosovo liberation & independence
US also helped South Sudan independence
Military interventions / Invasions & Occupations
- Cuba 1898 – (1898 to 1902), 1906-1909, 1912, 1917-1922
- Peurto Rico 1898 – sea & land attack
- Philippines 1899
- China 1898-1901 (Boxer Rebellion) US & 8 countries (Japan, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary) with 20,000 troops defeated Chinese army & captured Beijing
- China 1946-1949 – US helped Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) against the Chinese communist party forces as well as sending US troops. KMT had been given $4.43billion!
- Honduras – 1903, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1919, 1924, 1925 – (Banana Wars) to defend US corporate interests (United Fruit Company/Standard Fruit Company)
- Nicaragua – 1912-1933
- Mexico 1914 – Veracruz city occupied for 6 months)
- Haiti 1915-1934 –US banks requests US Govt intervention. US installed a new government, dictated how Haiti’s new constitution was to be and cancelled the previous ban on foreign ownership of land (notice the identical changes happening in Sri Lanka)
- Dominican Republic 1916-1924
- Russia invaded in 1918 – by US & Japan
- South Korea 1945-1950 – After People’s Republic of Korea declared itself independent in August 1945, US sent forces to Korea & established the US Army Military Government in Korea to govern Korea South
- Greece 1946-1949 – on request of Britain
- US militarily invaded Grenada in 1983 to get rid of the government that the Reagan Govt opposed. All that the UNGA did was to call the invasion a “flagrant violation of international law’ and US vetoes a UNSC Resolution. So what good is a UN?
- In 1989, US invaded Panama and deposed leader Noriega.
- Use of “all necessary means” adopted by US & Coalition forces against Iraq in 1991 known as the Gulf War. Saddam claimed he invaded Kuwait upon approval of US.
- US assisted Haiti’s military to oust elected leader Aristide. The coup leader Cedras & Francois received military training in US.
- Iraq invasion & occupation 1998 based on fake news & false allegations
- Libya military intervention by US & coalition in 2011. US & British troops fired over 110 cruise missiles.
Interfering in foreign elections
- Italy – 1948-1970s: CIA acknowledges giving $1m to Italian parties for the 1948 election (same scenario in Sri Lanka). CIA had also published forged letters/radio broadcasts, books, articles to discredit leaders. $65m had been spent to help elect politicians (the well-funded campaigns that brought about regime change in 2015 in Sri Lanka)
- A 2016 study by Dov Levin claims US intervened in 81 foreign elections between 1945 & 2000. Levin says “60 different independent countries have been the targets of such interventions,”
- 1950s Japan – according to former US envoy Douglas MacArthur II, US sent secret funding for Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party
- 1952 Iran – US state department declassified documents reveal US plot to undermine Mosaddegh wherein multiple methods were adopted by CIA (bribing media, civil society, false propaganda, false flags)
- 1964 Chilean – US funded candidate Montalva against Salvador Allende as well as funding to tarnish Allende’s reputation (methodology probably applied in Sri Lanka too).
- 1970 Chilean – Church Committee report claimed CIA supported kidnapping of Chilean Army Commander Gen. Schneider who died of wounds.
- 1996 Russia – Boris Yeltsin is said to have received assistance from US media & PR experts. There was wide speculations of election rigging too (isn’t this the case in Sri Lanka’s recent elections)
- 2002 Bolivian – US envoy warned Bolivians against voting for Evo Morales but the move backfired.
US support for dictators/Opposition Groups/assisting military coups
- Nicaragua – US supported groups rebelling against President Zelaya who was opposed to foreigners taking Nicaragua’s natural resources.
- Any democratically elected leader attempting to bring land & economic reforms to benefit the citizens will not go far as Brazil experienced in 1961-1964 when US Govt insisted Brazil impose a program of economic austerity refusal meant US would cut off aid and if that is not adhered to, it is ouster & installation of a military pro-US head.
- CIA working in tow with Indonesia army in 1965 to oust President Sukarno & replace with Gen. Suharto.
- US helped lead military coup using Gen. Banzer & toppled President Torres of Bolivia (1970s) another US-propped dictator. Under US-propped dictators the calls for freedom of speech, torture, disappearances never made it to any international forum or calls for action. Torres was assassinated in 1976.
- The US that talks on ‘war on terror’ is silent about how It secretly provided weapons & funding to the Mujahideen of Afghanistan in the 1970s to overthrow the Afghan government.
- Similarly the US has also been accused of secretly arming, training & funding the Contras in Nicaragua. CIA is accused of distributing ‘terror manual’ instructing how to blow up public buildings, assassinate judges, create martyrs, blackmail ordinary citizens (Psychological Operations in Guerilla War) – good for Sri Lankans to read this book & see how many have been enforced in Sri Lanka!
- CIA recruitment of Ayad Allawi head of Iraqi National Accord who opposed Saddam Hussein of Iraq & began a sabotage campaign including bombing against the government. Allawi was installed as PM of the Iraq Interim Governing Council in 2003. Has the US tapped military personnel in Sri Lanka?
- in Venezuela, US is said to have spent $90 million funding opposition groups against late Hugo Chavez.
Interfering in internal affairs of sovereign countries
- 1903, 1904, 1914 – Dominican Republic military interventions by US installing its personnel to key positions in government & controlling Dominican Army & Police (Is this not what is now happening in Sri Lanka)
- 1941 – Panama using US contacts developed in Panama National Guard which US trained to orchestrate a coup against the Govt when the Govt refused US over 130 new military installations inside & outside the Panama Canal Zone (has Sri Lanka’s leaders considered the possibilities that their ‘friend’ could be our ‘worst enemy’?)
- 1955-1960 – Laos – US Govt funded military budget & even paid salaries of the Laos Army. US also set up an office to field its civilian personnel with military experience. US also sent commando units in civilian attire to train the Royal Lao Army.
- US pressuring the Fatah faction of the Palestinian leadership to topple the Hamas government of PM Haniyeh whom people elected in 2006. Since Fatah faction had the blessings of the US the whole world was quiet when Fatah kidnapped, tortured civilians and even set fire to the university of Gaza!
Failed coups & lessons for Sri Lanka
- 1957 Syria – coup attempt to assassinate key Syrian officials & blame on Syria government as pretext to invade by Iraqi & Jordanian troops. The operation failed when Syrian military officers who were paid to stage coup revealed the plot to Syrian intelligence. US denied & US media accused Syria of being a satellite of USSR.
- Overthrowing democratically elected leaders like Guatemalan President Arbenz & installing US-friendly puppets became a model US to be used across the world
- Countries wishing to charter their own independent foreign policy not militarily committed to any side will end up like Indonesia in 1957-1959 when US staged a coup with rebel Indonesian military officers resulting in bombing of commercial shipping to frighten foreign merchant ships & weakened Indonesia’s economy. Of course US denied any involvement
- 1959 Iraq – US intelligence in collusion with Egyptian intelligence attempted to assassinate PM Qasim & recruited Saddam Hussein. Qasim ended up only wounded. Saddam Hussein an one-time US asset was eventually killed by US.
- 1961 Cuba – US training of Cuban exiles to invade Cuba to overthrow the Govt is another CIA-mastered tactic. The Bay of Pigs invasion of April 1961 failed.
- The US & its intelligence have been infamous for assassinations, economic warfare, embargoes, sabotage, working hand in glove with all types of mafia, diplomatic isolation, psychological operations that use multiple modes of media to turn people against their elected government and these are factors that every country dealing with the US need to take serious stock of.
Sanctions against countries
- US influenced sanctions on Iraq through UNSC in 1991 Resolution 687.
- Oil embargo imposed on Syria in 2011 as well as Libya ahead of the military interventions.
State sponsored terrorism
- 1981-1991 US provided weapons, training, financial & logistics support to Contra rebels in Nicargua.
- US provided training, arms & funds to Cuban exiles
- US assistance to the Kosovo Liberation Army ahead of Kosovo independence after the war KLA became Kosovo Protection Corps which worked with NATO to patrol the province! Many of the KLA leaders are now political leaders of independent Kosovo – it is a replica of the scenario unfolding regarding LTTE & TNA & their quest for self determination helped by US & EU too.
- US is also alleged to have direct links to ISIS, Al Qaeda & numerous other linked terror groups.
The US record against sovereign nations speaks volumes of why Sri Lanka’s leaders & even officials need to be well read & aware when dealing with American envoys & realize that what we see is certainly not what we are going to get.
Shenali D Waduge
At the peak of the war against the LTTE, then defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the most feared and powerful man in Sri Lanka. The UN Human Rights Council had asked Sri Lanka to probe war crimes in which Gotabaya was accused. Nearly a decade later, the 68-year-old is being talked about as a possible presidential candidate, with brother Mahinda Rajapaksa not able to contest again due to the constitution’s upper limit of two terms. He lives in a small two-storey house in Colombo, guarded by not more than two security personnel.
In his first interview since 2010, Gotabaya spoke about the geopolitical situation in the region, the changing character of Indian diplomacy, the meaning of peace, and his own role in the war:
India helped Sri Lanka during the war, but there is a feeling that Colombo is betraying India by moving closer to China.
If you read Shivshankar Menon’s book (Choices — Inside the making of India’s foreign policy), the former Indian National Security Adviser has categorically said that Sri Lanka had given India assurance and shown that it was concerned about any threats to Indian security concerns. Our government never allowed Sri Lankan soil to be used by any foreign country against India… Diplomacy is an art of reciprocity, it is about engagement, conversations and mutual trust. In diplomatic relationships, you cannot replace empowered diplomats with intelligence officers. India has to come out of this ‘China phobia’ with regard to its relationship with Sri Lanka.
But will India’s concerns lead to a change in your approach?
We had a very good understanding with the Congress government in India, especially its bureaucrats. We were able to get their fullest support in defeating the LTTE. But the new government, especially the bureaucrats of the Narendra Modi government, look at Sri Lanka in a different way… Without understanding it properly, without knowing the real facts on reports about submarines being docked at a Sri Lankan port… even the Indian media played it up. Bureaucrats should have (talked to us).
There are concerns here too, such as among Sri Lankan patriots about India working against the interests of Sri Lanka. For example, it is a known thing that (Indira) Gandhi supported and trained the LTTE in India. That created a huge anti-India feeling… The Sri Lankans feel there is unnecessary influence by Indian governments in its internal affairs. That was seen at the time of change in the last government too (in which Mahinda was defeated, and Maithripala Sirisena became President)… The Indian government has to be more concerned about this and study the situation, rather than act in haste.
Are you in touch with India?
No, they don’t talk to us (laughs). That’s the other problem. During our time, it was normal for diplomats to meet opposition leaders here. Not only diplomats but even visitors from India would meet opposition leaders. But now, even the Indian High Commission is frightened to meet us. I don’t understand why. I don’t know why the Sri Lankan government is also worried about them meeting us.
A decade after the war, do you think ‘peace’ is at hand?
The war lasted 30 years. I consider the post-war developments in Sri Lanka a bigger victory than defeating the LTTE. But that has not been recognised by international organisations as well as the international community. Within a short period of 2009 to 2014, we achieved a lot. Not only infrastructure development, but political achievements too. In 1998, the provincial system was introduced, elections held in the north after the war (2013) were not mere polls but free and fair elections.
There were many friendly groups who fell out of favour with the LTTE, like the EPDP (Eelam People’s Democratic Party), Karuna (Amman, former LTTE commander)… Before the elections, we disarmed them. We could have conducted the polls without disarming them. If we allowed that, the Tamil National Alliance wouldn’t have come to power. That means Mahinda Rajapaksa would have remained President. But we ensured a fair election process. We knew we were going to be defeated, still we gave them a chance to select their own people…
By the end of 2013, about 90 per cent of houses and land had been released to the people. Massive development works such as roads, railway, electricity projects were completed. We also rehabilitated almost all the terrorists who surrendered…
You have to understand that peace doesn’t come overnight after three decades’ long war. There are people who were brainwashed ideologically. I won’t say wounds are healing now, as I don’t know what has happened in the last three years. But I strongly believe that what is important is economic freedom for people, before talking about political freedom. Political freedom is necessary, but what they are talking about is devolution and all that. That is secondary. What people needed was food, employment and basic necessities to rebuild their lives… But Tamil politicians put their political interests above these essential needs of people.
Are these going to be major priorities if you come back to power?
Yes. We will continue to do what we were doing… To give them opportunities, to make them feel they are equal, like the rest of the country.
Tell me about your two brothers (Mahinda and Basil, who served as advisor to Mahinda when he was president). How often do you talk to each other? What is the secret behind this relatively tussle-free relationship in power?
We always work as a team (laughs). We think about the country. (But) we rarely talk (laughs again). During the war, we used to interact more often.
This unity comes from our (earlier) days. Unity is strength, that is what our father (D A Rajapaksa, the founding member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party) taught us… It is the basic principle for all countries as well. If you divide with ethnicities and religion and all that, outsiders and foreign powers can influence your country. Our aim must be to forget other things and unite.
Many believe that you have blood on your hands. That as defence secretary during the war, you defeated the LTTE but were also behind the killing of thousands of civilians. What do you say to these charges? And how did war affect you personally, did you have sleepless nights?
I know I haven’t done anything wrong, I know I have done the correct thing. My conscience says that. When you ask about civilian killings, you must understand that war is not a rosy thing, whether it is in Sri Lanka or Afghanistan or India or Pakistan or Iraq. War is not a good thing, it is not a nice thing. But in Sri Lanka, I didn’t create the war, I ended the war. Ending the war was much better than what it was. Our country is a better place without the LTTE. Today, the President of Sri Lanka can go to Jaffna and speak there… Today it (Jaffna) is a free country.
It is not only soldiers but innocent people too died due to terrorism. Bombs do not understand who is enemy and who is friend, or if it is a civilian or military van. So I do not regret. I used to sleep every day during the war too.
Were there any last-minute negotiations with the LTTE before the end of the war? Did LTTE leader Prabhakaran reach out?
I didn’t believe in negotiations with the LTTE, I still believe it would have been a waste of time. Prabhakaran was not a wise (enough) man to call me, but look at KP (LTTE No. 2 Selvarasa Pathmanathan, widely known as Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP). When he was brought to Colombo from a foreign country, he was shivering, he thought it was his final moment… He is living very happily still because we were willing to understand his past and mistakes, and we allowed him to lead a normal life. The rehabilitation of KP was a great thing. We still believe in that.
Dr. Nalaka Godahewa on Wednesday spoke at the 37th session of the UNHRC on the seminar topic of ‘The UN’s relentless pursuit of Sri Lanka’. The following are excerpts of his address.
Not long ago Sri Lanka was a victim of terrorism. The people of Sri Lanka were terrorised for almost 30 years by one of the world’s most brutal terrorist organisations the world has ever seen. They were known as the LTTE or the Tamil Tigers. Peace returned to this island nation only in 2009 when the Sri Lankan forces succeeded in defeating the LTTE in an armed battle, thus ending one of the darkest periods in the history of Sri Lanka.
The key objective of the LTTE was a separate state for Tamils in Sri Lanka which they wanted to name Tamil Eelam.
The Tamil Tigers sustained an armed conflict concentrated in the North and East of Sri Lanka for almost three decades. At the same time they engaged in a terror campaign that didn’t spare any part of the country.
The LTTE’s modus operandi was twofold – infiltrating civilian areas and engaging in mass killings in order to create fear and panic amongst public, thus exerting pressure on the government was one of the tactics. The other was periodically attacking the security forces and the military establishment using semi conventional guerrilla attacks.
The LTTE carried out attacks on civilian targets throughout the country using human bombs, vehicle bombs, time bombs, claymore mines and also its military cadres. It was the LTTE which introduced the concept of human bombs to the world in the early ’80s as a means of spreading terror. Hundreds of men, women and children were trained by the LTTE to be suicide cadres. National leaders of two countries, a prime minister of India and a president of Sri Lanka, lost their lives due to the suicide attacks of the LTTE’s human bombs.
The LTTE’s rise to power was gradual and systematic. First, they eliminated their potential threats within the Tamil community. Every Tamil leader who was seen as a potential threat to the LTTE leadership was killed. They also eliminated all other Tamil militant groups to become the sole representative of the Tamil community.
Starting in the early 1980s, the LTTE drew out the Sinhala community from the Jaffna peninsula. More than 500 Sinhalese were killed in the attacks carried out in the North and East. More than 200 innocent civilians living in border villages were also killed during this period
According to the 1981 census, 19,334 Sinhalese lived in the Northern Province. However, due to the ethnic cleansing program carried out by LTTE, there were no Sinhalese residents left in these areas by the mid-90s.
The focus then turned to the Muslims. In October 1990, the LTTE ordered over 75,000 Muslims who were living in the Jaffna Peninsula to leave their homes within 48 hours. The LTTE also carried out several brutal attacks on Muslim villages in the North and East, massacring more than 600 civilians.
The attacks on civilian targets in majority Sinhalese areas continued for almost three decades. The LTTE used these attacks to put pressure on the government. They also expected majority Sinhalese to retaliate and attack Tamils living amongst Sinhalese so that they could get international publicity to that effect. But despite continuous attacks on Sinhalese, there was no racial violence in any part of the country since 1983.
Large-scale civilian attacks
- On 14 May 1985 a group of armed LTTE cadres travelled to the sacred city of Anuradhapura in a bus and shot dead 120 worshippers. The attack took place near the sacred Sri Maha Bodhi. The primary objective was to provoke the Sinhala-Buddhists. Though the LTTE strategy didn’t work out, it was the beginning of a series of large-scale attacks on civilians:
- On 17 April 1987, the LTTE massacred 121 people travelling in a passenger bus in Habarana. 44 were injured.
- On 21 April 1987, the LTTE exploded a car bomb at the central bus stand of the capital killing 106 people. 295 people were injured. That created an enormous amount of fear and panic nationally.
- Even the clergy was not spared by the LTTE. The most horrific incident was when 33 young monks travelling in a border village were chopped to death by Tamil Tigers on 2 June 1987
- On 6 October 1987, the LTTE set fire to the Batticaloa mail train killing 40 people and 24 people were wounded.
- On 9 November 1987, a vehicle bomb in Maradana killed 23 and injured 106 people
- On 13 April 1989, a car bomb in Trincomalee killed 51 civilians and injured 43
- On 3 August 1990, the LTTE killed 147 civilians at a mosque in Kattankudy, Batticaloa where 70 people got wounded.
- On 6 August 1990, at Ampara, 34 unarmed farmers working in a paddy field were killed by LTTE militants
- On 10 April 1992, a parcel bomb in a bus killed 28 people in Ampara and 36 people were wounded.
- On 24 October 1994, a suicide bomber killed 54 people at Thotalanga and 72 people were injured.
- On 7 August 1995, a suicide bomber killed 23 people at Independence Square and 40 people were injured
- On 31 January 1996, LTTE suicide cadres drove a lorry full of explosives into the Central Bank building at Fort, killing 80 people and injuring 1,202 people.
- On 24 July 1996, a bomb at the Dehiwala train station killed 57 people and 356 people were injured
- On 25 January 1998, the LTTE attacked the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. This is one of the most sacred places of worship for Buddhists. Once again a vehicle full of explosives were driven into the temple.
- On 5 March 1998, a vehicle bomb killed 36 people at Maradana and 270 got injured
- On 29 September 1998, a domestic passenger aircraft was shot down killing 54 civilians
- On 18 December 1999, a suicide bomber at an election rally in Colombo killed 16 people and 106 people were injured.
- On 7 June 2000, a suicide bomber killed 24 people at Ratmalana and 60 people were injured
- On 28 November 2000, a claymore bomb killed 16 people in Anuradhapura and 36 people were injured
- On 15 June 2006, at Kabithigollawa two claymore bombs killed 64 civilians and 87 people were injured
- On 25 April 2007, a bomb in a passenger bus in Ampara killed 14 people and injured 25 people
- On 16 January 2008, a claymore bomb killed 27 people in a Bus at Monaragala and 65 got injured
- On 25 April 2008, a bomb explosion in a bus at Piliyandala killed 27 people. And 67 people were injured
- On 6 June 2008 at Katubadda, a bus bomb killed 23 people and 28 people were injured
- On 6 October 2009, a suicide bomber killed 27 people at a political rally in Anuradhapura and 84 people were injured.
Apathy of international community
But throughout this long period, the international community virtually kept a blind eye. The LTTE stormed through border villages, slit the throats of innocent people, slit opened the bellies of pregnant mothers, exploded bombs all over the country killing civilians, but no human rights organisations came forward to speak on behalf of the victims.
No UN Secretary General thought of appointing a panel to appraise him of the gruesome crimes the LTTE were committing. None of the LTTE’s extra-judicial executions qualified to enter the UNHRC records. No resolution was ever passed condemning the LTTE’s atrocities.
When 600 unarmed policemen who surrendered to LTTE on the orders of the President of Sri Lanka during peace negotiations were killed in a mass murder in 1990 it was not called a war crime by any expert.
Once the Secretary General of the UN Mr. Kofi Annan went out of his way to issue a message of condolence to a dead LTTE cadre. However, none of the LTTE’s victims ever received a single message of condolence from a UN head.
The military option to defeat the LTTE was finally chosen after numerous peace talks, negotiations and ceasefires failed. It was never called a war. It was called a humanitarian operation because the government forces were fighting to free Sri Lankan citizens from the culture of terrorism. Close to 300,000 Tamil civilians who were used as a human shield by the LTTE were rescued during this humanitarian operation.
During its hey-day, the LTTE had become one of the most powerful terrorist organisations in the world thanks to its international network of members. This network handled the fundraising activities for the LTTE. In addition, to arms procurement, they also handled the global propaganda for the LTTE. The Tamil diaspora living in western countries were forced to contribute willingly or unwillingly.
The network comprised a number of front organisations and had spread to over 32 countries around the world. These front organisations, which worked through radicalised elements of the Tamil Diaspora, enabled the LTTE to lobby foreign governments, non-government organisations, media outlets and opinion makers. LTTE also owned a number of television and radio stations, websites and printing facilities in European capitals.
This international network of the LTTE was a huge source of funds, which was controlled by a few individuals and organisations. Since the elimination of terrorism in Sri Lanka, the millions of dollars that were spent on arms procurement are no longer required but the funds keep coming. If Tamil Eelam is a forgotten dream that could be the end of a highly lucrative business for some individuals.
Today, the handlers of this business empire have to spend only a fraction of the money they spent on the war earlier, to keep the Eelam propaganda live. With large sums of funds available this group of people, they can continue to lobby powerful politicians and officials whose voices matter globally.
This is the reason why the international community is not allowed to leave Sri Lanka alone. Without most people realising, invisible hands continue to be at work. While the people of Sri Lanka are trying to rebuild a nation devastated by a three-decade long war, the UNHRC is being used as tool to reopen the old wounds.
Not only the international opinion makers but the current government Sri Lanka is also a pawn of these powerful manipulators. The current leadership of Sri Lanka that came to power in 2015 acts as if they have some strong obligation to these radical elements of the Tamil Diaspora. That is why Sri Lanka made history in 2015 by being the only government in the world to co-host a UNHRC resolution against its own country.
It is very important for one to understand that the majority of Sri Lankans are not racists. Our nation comprises Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and a few other ethnic groups. The country belongs to all of them. A citizen of Sri Lanka, irrespective of religion, race or creed, should enjoy the same rights and no one should act superior to another.
Unfortunately a few people are trying to create a divide amongst the peace-loving people of Sri Lanka to attain their own objectives. We urge the international community not play into the hands of these isolated groups. Instead of supporting these extremist elements and their sinister agendas try and understand what the vast majority of people in Sri Lanka want. They want peace, they want to live in dignity enjoying equal opportunities and they want economic freedom.
With a written history of more 2,600 years, we are quite capable of looking after our own interests and our people. Therefore, we request the international community not to support sinister agendas of extremist groups to force external solutions on a sovereign nation.
The speech delivered by Dr Nalaka Godahewa at the 36th session of the UNHCR in Geneva on 27th September 2017
A myth has been spread over the years, that there is discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Out of a population of 22 million people in Sri Lanka, 11.2 % are Northern Tamils while the upcountry Tamils who came to Sri Lanka during British colonial times, are about 4.1%. But these are not the only minority communities in Sri Lanka. 9.3% of the Sri Lankan population are Muslim. Several other minority communities such as Burgers and Malays amount to 0.6 % of the population. The majority community is obviously Sinhalese at 74.9%.
Since we gained independence in 1948, we have been repeatedly hearing this complain that there is discrimination against Tamils. But interestingly, no other minority community in Sri Lanka seems to be complaining about discrimination based on ethnicity. Why?
That is because, discrimination based on ethnicity, is a myth, created and successfully promoted by the Tamil political leadership for so many decades. It is pure political propaganda with an ulterior motive.
Let me explain what I mean here.
Since the colonial rule, we have always had Tamils holding very high positions in our country whether it is in Politics, judiciary, academia, in the government service or in the private sector.
Every Sri Lankan government since independence has had high profile Tamil Ministers in the cabinet. A very good example would be our former foreign minister Mr Lakshaman Kadiragama. When he was killed in 2005, by the Tamil separatists, Mr Kadiragama was a strong contender to be the next prime minister of Sri Lanka. Who knows – He could have even been the president of the country had he lived.
The chief justice of the country who recently retired is a Tamil- Mr K. J. Sripavan.
The current Governor of the Central Bank is a Tamil – Dr Indrajith Kumaraswami. Even his predecessor was a Tamil – Mr Arjun Mahendran.
The last president of the Sri Lanka Bar Association was a Tamil- Mr Geoffrey Alagaratnam
One of Sri Lanka’s most popular sportsman, Mr Muththayya Muralidaran who holds the world record for the highst number of wickets in cricket is a Tamil.
Mr Rudra Rajasingham a Tamil, was a former inspector General of Police
The Current Navy Commander Tavis Sinnaiah is a Tamil
The Election Commission of the country has only 3 members and one of them is a Tamil – Professor Ratnajeevan Hoole
Two members of the 10 member Constitutional Council are Tamils – Mrs Radika Kumasawami and Mr R Sambanthan.
The Opposition Leader in the parliament is a Tamil – Mr R Sambanthan
There are 33 Tamil MPs in a parliament of 225 members.
The present chief minister of the Northern Provincial Council Mr C V Vignashvaran is a former Supreme Court Judge.
The Director General of Customs , Ms P S M Charles is a Tamil
The immediate past chairman of the Colombo stock Exchange is a Tamil – Mr Krishan Balendra
Mr R. Theagarajah, a Tamil, was the CEO of the Sri Lanka’s largest Development Bank , NDB until recently.
The largest media network – MTV, Sirasa are owned by the Maharaja family who are Tamils
The largest supermarket chain – Cargills is owned by the Page Family who are Tamils.
The largest brewery in Sri Lanka – Carsons is owned by the Selvanathan family who are Tamils
I could go on and on ……!
So where is the discrimination based on Ethnicity in Sri Lanka?
To understand the truth behind this false propaganda, we must understand the history behind it.
The colonial rulers were well known for their policy of ‘divide and rule’. In order to create division amongst the communities, they offered the minority, administrative positions over the majority. As a result, when the independence was granted in 1948, the minorities, Tamils in particular, were holding most of the senior administrative jobs. The high caste, western educated, English speaking Tamils, who were holding senior positions in the government under the British rule, did not want to lose their positions of power when country gained independence. That’s how the 50-50 power sharing demand was put forward by the Tamil leaders though they represented less than 10% of the population.
Wouldn’t that have been discrimination against the majority Sinhalese if 50:50 power sharing was granted as Tamils political leadership requested?
Let us now see what is the actual position with regard to the minority communities in Sri Lanka.
Even in our National flag, while the Sinhalese are represented by the maroon colour background, the saffron colour stripe represents the Tamils and the green colour stripe represents the Muslims. How many other countries in the world have given such recognition to the minorities in the national flag it self ?
All public documents carry both Sinhala & Tamil languages– the marriage certificate, the death certificate and the immigration forms are examples
All Sri Lankan currency and notes are in Sinhala & Tamil
All communities receive the same free education and free medical facilities in the country with no discrimination what so ever.
There are no places anywhere in Sri Lanka that is allows only Sinhalese to enter. Tamils, Muslims and all other communities enjoy same access to public utilities. Public transportation is common to all.
There is no race based discrimination is participating in sports or representing the country even at national levels.
So where is the so-called discrimination?
Having said that, I must also point out that discrimination still exists in Jaffna where there is a specific land law called Thesavalami. This law does not allow anybody other than a Tamil to buy land in Jaffna. But Tamils have no restriction what so ever to buy properties elsewhere in the country. Then this is clear discrimination against the other communities.
You should also know that the real discrimination of Tamils actually comes from within their own community.
For example, the Jaffna Tamils think they are superior to the rest of the Tamils. The Trinco Tamils think they are superior to Batticoloa Tamils. Tamils in the North and the East have no regard for Estates Tamils.
This discrimination apparently existed even within the LTTE who fought for a separate land for Tamils. Colonel Karuna, the former Eastern commander who defected the LTTE in 2004, has repeatedly mentioned in his interviews, that the northern cadres treated the eastern cadres as an inferior lot.
Can any one deny that even today, the high cast Tamils discriminate the low cast Tamils in Sri Lanka? Do they sit and eat together; Are their intermarriages between the high caste Tamils and Low caste Tamils? Isn’t it true that those who mix-up are shunned by the rest ?
There was a time even the places of worship did not allow the low castes Tamils to enter. There was a famous incident in 1957, when Mr C Sunderalingam, a former cabinet minister slept in front of the gates of Nallur Kovil to prevent the low caste Tamils being allowed to enter the place of worship.
Today the Tamil politicians cry about an imaginary discrimination based on ethnicity. But it was a Sinhalese leader, former Prime Minister SWRD Bandaranaike who passed a bill in the Parliamentary in 1957, allowing equal rights to all Tamils. The bill was needed because the high caste Tamils were denying their own low caste Tamil people the basic human rights.
‘The Social Disabilities Act 21’ which was passed in 1957 had to define some very interesting offenses. It says…
– No person can be prevented admission to a school because of the caste
-No person can be denied employment because of the caste
-No person can be prevented of entering and being served in a restaurant because of the caste
-No person can be prevented or denied from using water from public water supply because of the caste
– No person can be prevented or denied entering a public cemetery because of the caste
– No person can be prevented or denied wearing any kind of clothes because of the caste
– No person can be prevented from worshipping at any place of worship because of the caste
The list goes on…
Isn’t it shocking to even imagine that those people who have been propagating false propaganda about ethnic discrimination were actually denying the basic human rights of their own people?
Is the situation different today? Sadly the answer is no.
The caste based discrimination is very much alive in Jaffna. That is why the Jaffna blood bank has to repeatedly seek support of Sinhalese to find blood for Tamil patients. There are always blood shortages in Jaffna hospitals because most of the residents are reluctant to donate blood thinking it will be given to some one from another caste. During the war, it was government soldiers who donated blood to Jaffna hospitals from which even the terrorists benefited. Just two months ago in June 2017, more than 200 soldiers and officers from the three armed forces donated blood in Jaffna responding to a special request from the Blood bank.
When the post independent Sri Lanka started offering equal rights to all citizens, the English speaking, high caste Tamil politicians did not like it. When they couldn’t prevent it happening, they started poisoning the minds of ordinary Tamils with false propaganda that it is better for the Tamils to have a separate rule. The objective was very simple. The elite wanted to go back to their age-old practice of suppressing and exploiting their own people.
Unfortunately as it always happens, a lot of people were successfully misguided by these politicians. The emergence of terrorism, which brutalized the country for more than 30 years, was a result of this false propaganda.
Let us therefore be clear that Sri Lanka eventually faced a Terrorist problem and not an Ethnic problem.
Sri Lanka has now wiped out terrorism. The people of all ethnicities now want to live in peace and in harmony. They have nothing against each other. We accept Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and all other communities of Sri Lanka as citizens with equal rights. The Sinhalese have already extended their hands of brotherhood to the people of the North and the East. Since the end of the war, bulks of the government development expenditure were routed to the North and the East. The economic development opportunities are now available to all Sri Lankans.
Yet the sinister forces have not given up. They continue to spread hatred. They continue to preach separatism. They continue to mislead the international community false information.
It is up to the ordinary Tamils now to assess the true situation and decide how far this bogus ‘self-determination’ bid will lead them to. The must figure out whether this cry for separatism is for the benefit of all Tamils or to give power back to the elite who are unhappy with the equal rights regime?
There was a time when all Sinhalese, Tamils Muslims and other communities lived in peace and harmony. It was the colonial rulers who disturbed that peace first. Now it is continued by some Tamil Elite who have ulterior motives.
We must come together once again to rewrite our history books. The older generation needs to separate the realities from the lies. The younger generation should not be taught to carry the aspirations of the old and must be encouraged to live in peace & harmony.
Let us therefore say no to ethnic based solutions. Let us say no to the external forces who only want to divide us.
In conclusion, I like to emphasize once again that no minority is discriminated by any constitutional, legislative or judicial provision in Sri Lanka. Ethnicity based discrimination in Sri Lanka is a total myth. Whether Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims we are all citizens of equal rights in a unitary state.
Dr Seetha Arambepola speaking at the launch of the Eliya Seminar series aimed at defeating the conspiracy to change the constitution