Chennai: The British foreign secretary, William Hague, may be headed to CHOGM in Colombo (Nov. 15 to 17) along with his Prime Minister, David Cameron, but he has not hesitated to accept that thousands of innocent civilians were killed in the war against the Tigers in 2009 and that there have subsequently been grave violations of human rights in Sri Lanka Hague writes in The Telegraph UK of Thursday — “I am among the first to want to see change in Sri Lanka.
While we should not regret the end of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s campaign of terrorism, no one can forget the bloodshed and horrific images that accompanied the end of the long conflict between them and the government. The final push in 2009 saw thousands of people killed — many of them innocent civilians — and appalling alleged violations of human rights.”
Going on to enumerate the reasons why Britain, as head of the Commonwealth, must keep the dialogues going, Hague, however, packs a punch as he hits out strongly at the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka. In a crucial message, Hague says that Sri Lanka is still a country in which civil society is suppressed and where NGOs and media are routinely intimidated. Not only have media people disappeared but many have been killed in cold blood, like Lasanth Wickrematunge of the Sunday Leader.
Importantly, no one has been held accountable for rape and pillage and Hague himself concedes this. No one needs reminding that in the two clear and proven cases, the Sri Lankan Army murdered civilians in cold blood and then claimed they were killed in the war.
Prabhakaran’s minor son Balachandran and the LTTE news reader Issei Piriya were both in the custody of the Army when they were disposed of. Much the same has been said of the infamous end of the leader of the Tigers, Velupillai Prabhakaran himself.
In the course of his visit, British PM Cameron will also go to Jaffna and has also promised to listen to ‘other voices’. There are also indications that the UK team will give time to people who have stories to tell of forced disappearances, which are quite common in the island.
Sri Lanka may have taken some steps to resettle displaced civilians, rebuild infrastructure in the North and integrate former combatants into civil society. But, in a recent announcement after TNA was elected to power in the Northern Province, the federal government emphatically said that there would be no police or land powers for the chief minister in the north.
Much the same ‘diplomatic’ escape route of a visit to Jaffna is being offered to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in order to preclude India from downgrading its participation in CHOGM.
The point opponents of the Sri Lankan regime are making is should India be going at all to CHOGM when the island government has done nothing about devolution of powers and harassment of Tamil Nadu fishermen in the four years since the war ended.