30 January 2012

The pots and kettles of accountability

A friend of mind on Facebook asked an interesting question.  It is a question and comment and too interesting to truncate. 

‘Why does Malinda Seneviratne’s learned friend Dr Paikiayasothy (Saravanamutu) urge attention to certain matters (missing parts and disappointments) after the LLRC report is released and NOT before when he had the opportunity (to make representations to the LLRC)?  He says "because he had some reservations about mandate and composition of LLRC commission’ (and he had NO RESERVATIONS about mandate and composition of UN Ban Ki-Moon's panel). If he truly wanted justice, he would have gone any commission. He wanted to boycott LLRC and prepare grounds for an international war crimes tribunal for Sri Lanka. He is disappointed about the success of the LLRC and fears that there would be no international investigations if (the) international community was satisfied with the LLRC report and rejected (the idea of) an international investigation. Frankly said, these NGOs and human rights organizations must be held accountable for civilian casualties (in any conflict). They encouraged LTTE terrorists to use civilians as human shields to avoid a defeat of LTTE (lose two state option). They never asked the LTTE to lay down arms or surrender in order to avoid casualties. These HR orgs are like maggots, they live in carnages. They are like foxes sniffing for conflicts and dead bodies. Their cash inflows increase when dead bodies pile up.’

The going word then is ‘disingenuous’.   Saravanamuttu talks accountability, but fails to account for his considerable contribution to the myth that the LTTE was invincible, which of course laid an argumentative platform for all kinds of accommodation proposals.  He has not accounted for rupees and cents (or dollars and euros) issues where the integrity of his outfit, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, has been severely compromised.  You can’t demand accountability from anyone if you are not ready to answer accountability queries. 
It is the same with the other NGO personality who urged the Government and the people of Sri Lanka to play into the hands of the LTTE, Jehan Perera.  He has commended a statement issued by a prominent group of Tamil civil society leaders who argued that with the end of the war, it has become important for all ethnic communities of Sri Lanka to re-examine and re-evaluate their actions, in particular the complicity in the horrendous crimes of the LTTE.  While endorsing this, he does not feel any compulsion to come clean himself. 
Then there is the Tamil National Alliance (TNA).  TNA MP M.A. Sumanthiran has stated that the LLRC Report ‘has failed to address the accountability issue’.  Now if no one can produce any credible evidence of systemic violation, then the LLRC cannot be faulted for omitting the non-existent.  The LLRC was not mandated to transcribe an LTTE rant and if Sumanthiran thought this was what the LLRC was about it says more about him than about the LLRC.  One can say, for example, that Sumanthiran is impotent because he is yet to hatch eggs.  That would be a silly statement, but that’s Sumanthiran-talk.
More importantly, Sumanthiran (and the TNA) fail to understand that the moment the accountability query is raised, the complicity echo is also heard.  Crimes were committed.  Some known and some unknown.  Some systemic and some not.  In terms of the ‘known’ and the ‘systemic’, there is one party that Sumanthiran refuses to mention: the LTTE.  The TNA was the LTTE’s proxy.  The TNA knew what the LTTE was doing. The TNA was silent on all that but as loud as ever in its praise and endorsement of the LTTE.  The TNA’s manifesto (2004) clearly indicated that it was an adjunct of the LTTE.  Sumanthiran cannot claim ignorance.  He cannot (just as Saravanamuttu and Perera cannot) ask for accountability from the Government without applying the same logic to the LTTE, which is alive and kicking in the form of various ‘Tamil’ outfits in various parts of the world. 
The LLRC clearly states that the humanitarian operation that rescued some 300,000 hostages was not without its moments of shame.   It is incumbent on the Government to investigate each and every incident where in spirit and deed its own ‘Zero Civilian Casualties’ policy was violated.  That is more important that ranting about the composition, reliability and unprofessionalism of the panel of ‘experts’ appointed by the US Secretary General to advise him on Sri Lanka.  It is only after this is done that the Government’s right to scoff at the half-tongued utterances of the likes of Saravanamuttu, Perera and Sumanthiran. 
On the other hand, if these individuals insist on being ‘partially-memoried’ they will only further antagonize the necessary and necessarily major (due to sheer weight of numbers) partner in a peaceful future, the Sinhalese.   What all these individuals and organizations fail to understand is that they cannot expect the Sinhala people to take them seriously unless they account for their acts of omission and commission, and also state clearly and without caveat what they believe the LTTE did and did not do.  The longer they are silent, the more entrenched the following kind of position will be:
‘Sinhalese in their thousands died to save hundreds of thousands of their Tamil brethren who had been held hostage by the LTTE.  If Tamil politicians refuse to acknowledge this fact it means that their love for the LTTE must be great indeed.  If this is how they are, then they cannot be interested in peace and reconciliation. ‘
The kind of politicking and brinkmanship that the TNA is playing belongs to 30 years ago when rabble-rousing and provoking rapturous cheers by espousing aspirations that are unlikely to materialize brought in votes and took out lives.  Asking for ‘third party mediation’ in the aftermath of several such attempts that only irked the Sinhalese and didn’t yield any tangible results will only help hardliners across the political divide. 
It is time for the TNA to get serious if it really wants to better the lives of Tamil people.  The way it’s operating will only push a critical mass into extreme positions on either side.  It could end up in a return to a gunfight which will end in a new Nandikadal and nowhere else in all likelihood.  That’s not re-inventing the wheel, it is re-digging a rut. 
The Government must call the TNA’s bluff and implement the LLRC recommendation to the full.  It must go ahead with the PSC with whoever wants to come. Those who deliberately want to be footnoted can scream all they like, but defaulters don’t win brownie points. 
As for Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu and Jehan Perera, this much can be said: ‘it’s sad, really.’



beautiful sunshine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...




Anonymous said...

The TNA report says the doctors were forced by the Government to 'recant' their original statements. But the doctors say that their original statements were made under the threat of the LTTE's guns. That seems more than possible, after all the doctors knew that The LTTE massacred 600 unarmed policemen for no reason. Refusing to obey their orders would have been suicide.

Anonymous said...

In analyzing what the TNA says about accountability, it will be useful to look at the Goldstone Report http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldstone_Report
and the comments of two combat experienced military officers responding to the said Report:
Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, addressed the UNHRC at October 2009, speaking on behalf of UN Watch. He said that Hamas is "adept at staging and distorting incidents" and asserted that during the conflict the Israel Defense Forces "did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare" and that Palestinian civilian casualties were a consequence of Hamas' way of fighting, which involved using human shields as a matter of policy, and deliberate attempts to sacrifice their own civilians. He added that Israel took extraordinary measures to give Gaza civilians notice of targeted areas, aborted potentially effective missions in order to prevent civilian casualties, and took "unthinkable" risks by allowing huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza during the fighting.[144] Goldstone stated that Kemp was not interviewed "because the report did not deal with the issues he raised regarding the problems of conducting military operations in civilian areas".[145]
Australian Major General Jim Molan (retired), who served as chief of operations of the Iraq multinational force in 2004–05, stated that "The Goldstone report is an opinion by one group of people putting forward their judgments, with limited access to the facts, and reflecting their own prejudices. The difference in tone and attitude in the report when discussing Israeli and Hamas actions is surprising." ... "as a soldier who has run a war against an opponent not dissimilar to Hamas, facing problems perhaps similar to those faced by Israeli commanders, my sympathies tend to lie with the Israelis." ... "But having stated my prejudice, I think I may be more honest than Goldstone, who seems to pass off his prejudices in a report that cannot be based on fact, and uses judicial language and credibility to do so. It comes down to equality of scepticism: if you refuse to believe anything the Israelis say, then you have no right to unquestioningly accept what Hamas says'
and Mr Goldstone's subsequent statement:
'that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes'
The full detatils are availble on Wikipedia.
The TNA seems to be 'forgetting' that the LTTE was killing civilians who were trying to escape.