The Untold Side on War Crimes

“When one kills another he is sentenced to the gallows. When another kills 20000 he is re-elected President of the US’       Rawalpindi Joke, circa 2004

 After the carnage they are welcomed as honored guests in Geneva, Berlin, Oslo, Sattaship and Hakone for peace negotiations. That’s like inviting your own killers for dinner for a chit- chat.

Colombo Joke, circa 2004 

Is the choreography being reset for a second coming after a failed bid to enter by an armed intervention on a beach front near Nandikadal Lagoon? This time it is not an amphibious landing by US Marines in camouflaged fatigues but well-oiled inmates from judicial homes of elders in moth balled suits, entering a courthouse with a blinded scale of justice and a sharpened hatchet in either hand: impatient to tweet a judgment.

Attempt for a military intervention failed by a narrow squeak. Roberto Blake made a thrust on the Ministry of Defence – deflected with a neat glide of a possible blood bath with an unpredictable Prabhakaran and of geo-political complications surrounding the seas around India; undeterred Blake rushed to India House to meet High Commissioner Alok Prasad to place a proposition to insert the Marines.

New Delhis South Block were aghast of an American military flotilla berthed in their private swimming pool in this part of the Indian Ocean. Mildly put, Blake ended with egg in face. Embassy Street, twitters, Blake did not take the rebuff well and holds it against Sri Lanka for sending him down a blind alley to look a silly. That probably speaks for his attitude on Sri Lanka.

After a transition from an authoritarian to a democratic regime or from war to peace, to supposedly test accountability, provide justice and foster reconciliation, a mechanism branded ‘post conflict justice a.k.a transitional justice’ has been designed.

 This is a ‘on your marks-get set’ position to await the sound of the starters gun to fire, to run for an international judicial intervention. In a nutshell to create an opening for foreign interference (post conflict) in the domestic sphere in the name of humanitarian laws now compressed and canonized as R2P.

This time there is an eerie silence on the part of the normally local-vocal NGO stalwarts to raise a clarion call, leaving it to their mentors and sponsor’s abroad to sound the bugle. Local names and faces calling for international intervention normally raises blood pressure levels of native residents just as raising a red rag would do to infuriate a resting bull.

In military terms its ‘tactical withdrawal for strategic reasons’ that reads in humanitarian mumbo-jumbo as ‘making a hasty retreat to a safe house.’ Can local NGO chapters walk the streets carrying a board called traitor? It’s safer to be a rabbit resting in a warren hiding in a corner nibbling an imported acorn.

There are two forms of tribunals to deal with such situations-international and domestic. It’s a toss up between restorative and retributive justice. The school that favours retributive justice places the chopper at the feet of individuals or a gun at head of governments and security services. The purpose is accountability to deter future conflict but the eventual striving is to reach peace and reconciliation. 

The conflict in Sri Lanka is unique where one side to the conflict was wiped out without a trace. Mind you, it was a universally recognized terrorists outfit that refused any peace overtures. Therefore elimination was a pre-requisite to commence a meaningful reconciliation process. Negotiation was word the LTTE never understood especially after the death of Balasingham.

 In the reconciliation process the accountability factor will attract only Sri Lanka as a party, the minimal offender by the harshest yardstick of the two contenders, alleged of evils. The same party has made- a once war thorn nation, secure in peace and the most stable in region with total control in the acts of reconciliation.

How realistic will a reconciliation process be where the reconciler stands alone in the dock to face charges for ushering peace and democracy and ending terrorism? Will an arm be extended if the head is to be chopped?

Sri Lanka has experienced foreign interferences to prevent the elimination of terrorism. The accusers insistence, to seek a peaceful resolution instead of being engaged in an armed conflict, established as a proved failure, after exhausting it to the maximum while suffering the consequences of its ill-fated attempts, reveal where the heart and mind lies. Those that can give such ill-advice are the same that cry for foreign judicial intervention. Where is their credibility? Where is the confidence in them? 

Any foreign judicial intervention will be resisted by the people who would look upon it as a punishment for ignoring the commands of West that were in their view, made mala fide as subsequent events proved.  In Sri Lanka, even those that opposed war (except for a few hardline leftists and elamist) are now celebrating the war victory overwhelmingly. Even the political parties opposing government will raise both hands to keep foreign elements out of war crimes for their own political survival, except for the TULF/TNA, living it up on the Diaspora diet.

A call for a referendum (with foreign observers present to determine it is a free and fair) to determine the need for inquiry on war crimes, will display a mammoth negative reaction- the trump the President holds in his hand. For an affirmation on the need for reconciliation both hands will be raised. The need for genuine reconciliation precedes all other considerations –the prime norm of international humanitarian laws in dealing with post war conflicts.

Sugarcoated capsules or arm-twisting threats coming from foreign sources may send saccharine levels high or shivers down spines but the predominant factor is to maintain sustainable peace and drive hard towards reconciliation. 

This does not absolve the obligation of the government to create the environment for reconciliation, where much has to be done. They have failed to assuage the Tamils of their grievances sufficiently, most of which remain untouched. Look and Learn Commission from whom much is expected has failed to issue an interim report outlining the required avenues of reconciliation. Why are they failing to Look at the prime issue and give the benefits of their Learning after hearing the sayings of the People for so long? Are we twiddling thumbs as foreigners are trying to scorch us on tires after we put out the fire?

Come September we will be in more trouble if unattended.

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