26 July 2011

Let’s talk about innovation and creativity Ms. Clinton

US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has voiced concern over the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sri Lanka and said that the United States was looking at some innovative and creative ideas to break the impasse over the Sri Lankan Tamils issues.  This was in Tamil Nadu, where she was being hosted by Chief Minister, Jayalalitha, once an LTTE sympathizer and a willing approver of Delhi’s policy of arming, funding and training Tiger terrorists.   Clinton, for the record, received campaign funds from a pro-LTTE group in the USA, let us not forget.

These are lovely and thought-provoking words and sentiments, though.  It is good when anyone expresses concern about fellow creatures; ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’, ‘may all beings be happy’ and all that comes to mind.  Let’s start with the IDPs.

When it became clear that the LTTE would be militarily crushed and that the hundreds of thousands held hostage by that terrorist organization, the Government of Sri Lanka knew there would be an ‘IDP-situation’. This is long before anyone in the West thought ‘IDPs’ or had their hearts bleeding on account of the same.   Not only were facilities to accommodate them constructed, it was done with the input of available expertise and maximum deployment of resources.  True, the numbers exceeded expectation but adjustments were made to make sure that things were manageable.  

The security forces at great human and material cost rescued some 295,000 from the clutches of the LTTE in what is clearly the greatest hostage-rescue operation in recorded history (and this number does not include the millions rescued from the fear psychosis that the LTTE had produced over thirty long years).   From the moment people started fleeing LTTE terrorism, the Sri Lankan authorities worked closely with UN agencies and key INGOs in the matter of making sure that relief facilities were adequate and all needs were met to the extent possible.  The whole of Sri Lanka contributed.  The voluntarism evident was nothing less than magnificent.    

The Consultative Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (CCHA) was set up in September 2006 to provide assistance to the conflict-affected population on lines suggested by the co-chairs of the so-called ‘peace process’ (Japan, USA, Norway and the European Union).   Chaired by the Minister of Disaster Management and Human Rights, this committee included representatives of all relevant line ministries, the Commissioner General of Essential Services, Divisional Secretaries of the Northern Province, the US Ambassador (Robert O. Blake), representatives of the EU Presidency, Ambassador of Japan, UN Resident Coordinator, all heads of UN Agencies and the heads of ICRC and ECHO.  The CCHA was fully aware of the ground situation and provided relevant guidelines for the provision of immediate, medium term and long term relief, right up to war-end and thereafter.   If Hillary really wants to know, she can ask her Deputy Secretary for the South Asian region.  In fact, she can compare and contrast the Sri Lankan case with the situation following Hurricane Katrina and of course the endless miseries that those displaced by US adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to suffer.  Now if Hillary has some excess creativity and innovation, that’s the geography she should be looking at.  I must caution, though.  US ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ included the illegal invasion of Iraq over non-existent weapons of mass destruction (ref: confession by Deputy Prime Minister of UK), crimes against humanity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a Mother of All Mess-Ups in Libya. 

For the record, only 3% of the hostages rescued by the Sri Lankan security forces remain in IDP facilities or welfare villages, and this out of choice.  They are free to leave, but have no place to go to until all demining operations are completed.  Hillary and Jayalalitha can thank the LTTE for their extended IDP status and while they are at it, can pass a thank-you note to Father (sic) S.J. Emmanuel of the Global Tamil Forum and other LTTE-backers, fund-raisers, propagandists and facilitators of gun-running, human-smuggling, drug-trafficking, extortion and money laundering who are offered tea and cookies or wine and cheese in Washington by the likes of Blake.

Hillary has said there’s an ‘impasse’ regarding ‘Tamil issues’.  She doesn’t spell it out.  If she’s talking about citizenship anomalies, then she might be talking about constitutional reform to enhance the worth of citizen vis-à-vis the politician.  If she’s thinking ‘devolution’, she probably needs to take lessons in demography and history. 

If ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ is Hillary-speak for a re-enactment of ‘Libya’, ‘Grenada’, ‘Haiti’, ‘Panama’, ‘Iraq’, ‘El Salvador’, ‘Nicaragua’, ‘Afghanisatan’ etc etc (I pity these recipients of US largesse, by the way), not to mention poetic silence about Gaza,  then she might as well spell it out.  We are used to threat and are not unaware of global power imbalances. We know what we can do and what we need to resist.  We know that nations get bulldozed by the powerful and that it is often done in the name of things like democracy and civilization.  Hillary need not be cute about it, not least of all because we know how ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ she was during her campaign for the US Presidency, when she talked of disembarking from a plane and having had to run for cover dodging a hail of bullets, her gaffes in Russia and about change one can Xerox (photocopy). 

Come visit, Hillary.  This is a wonderful country, doing its best to recover from a 30 year long engagement with the world’s most ruthless terrorist.  I heard you say that Sri Lanka ought to take a leaf off India’s book with respect to multi-ethnic democracy.  I think you should ask the Muslims and Sikhs in that country and while you are at it, the Dalits, the tribals, the people of Kashmir, the Christians persecuted by ‘Hindus’ and Hindus persecuted by ‘Christians’ (quotes deliberate).  So, thank you, but no.

Yes, come visit.  There’s a lot to see here that you won’t see in India, Hillary.  You might even pick up something useful about civilization, come to think of it.

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com
[Courtesy 'Daily Mirror', Sri Lanka, July 26, 2011]