The international community, namely the Western countries, have proved quite eager in their attempt to accuse the Sri Lankan Government for heinous war crimes during the 30-year-long civil war in the country.
This can be seen from the recent media attacks towards the Government, such as the recent airing of ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ on Channel 4 in the UK. The presenter, Jon Snow, stated on this programme that ‘both the Government and the Tiger rebels committed serious war crimes’.
This represents a large proportion of the allegations that the Sri Lankan Government has been facing.
One main fact that many people seem to repeatedly fail to recognise is that the LTTE did not represent the Tamil people. The Tigers were a separate entity that operated under their own agendas. In fact one of their first assassinations was that of the Mayor of Jaffna in 1975, who was a Tamil politician.
The LTTE was a terrorist organisation that can be linked with the Al Qaeda. The US hypocrisy is symbolised by what former US President George W. Bush described as the ‘war on terror,’ which refers to an international military campaign led by the United States and the United Kingdom with the support of NATO against terrorism.
While the Obama administration has opted for the euphemistic phrase: ‘Overseas Contingency Operation,’ showing the way that the West has taken a similar defensive stance towards terrorism, even to this day they seem to continue to contradict their allegations through their own actions.
It should be said that Sri Lanka should only have to answer to these allegations of war crimes, after similar action has been taken towards those performed by countries of a greater scale (for example the US involvement in Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.).
Learning from the past
It was once said that ‘the smart man learns from his mistakes, but the wise man learns from the mistakes of others’. Perhaps this is applicable to the situation today, and Sri Lanka, along with the international community, can learn from the past.
The Sri Lankan Government seem to have done this and this can be seen from the improved standards of life for civilians affected by the war. Indeed they have now been provided with education, food and shelter. Children have benefited from school uniforms and the opportunity to study and continue their education.
Reliability and integrity
During the progress of the Channel 4 programme, the presenter had to admit that the LTTE was guilty of ‘conscripting child soldiers and pioneering the use of suicide bombing’. Furthermore, concerning the treatment of civilians, the LTTE was described as ‘increasingly prepared to use them as pawns or human shields’.
The Western media seems quite overzealous in its efforts to advocate the opinion that the video footage shown in the Channel 4 programme provides definitive, unquestionable proof that the Sri Lankan Government committed war crimes.
The main bulk of this ‘proof’ is based on the video footage that allegedly depicts Sri Lankan soldiers shooting civilians. Many people have been very critical about the Government discrediting this footage after analysis by experts.
The Army uniforms are said to be definitive proof, however in the light of past events this seems unlikely. The Tigers have had a history of utilising Army uniforms to carry out their attacks.
For example the Habarana massacre in 1987 saw the terrorists, clad in Army uniform, stopping vehicles and shooting civilians, resulting in 127 deaths.
The reliability and integrity of these Channel 4 programmes are constantly being questioned. For example a few years ago the Crown Prosecution Service in the UK accused Channel 4 of distorting footage shot at a number of mosques across Britain.
The reviewing lawyer stated that “we have been dealing with a heavily edited programme”.
The Government of Sri Lanka has proved to be encouragingly enthusiastic about strengthening relations in Sri Lanka, which have only been further strained by Western involvement that has yet to provide any real assistance for the future of the country.
If the priority of the West truly lies with the lives of the Sri Lankans who were affected by the war and encouraging positive ethnic relations, the fundamental questions that they must ask themselves is what they can do to assist the country in achieving this and whether their current approach is contributing to this in any way whatsoever.
A focus on the past can only prove detrimental to Sri Lankan society as a whole and now the onus lies with the people as well as the Government to take steps towards an undivided nation, via a strong reconciliatory process.