By Ron Ridenour*
HAVANA TIMES — “Sri Lanka is fully able to undertake the tasks set out by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and to guarantee the rights of its citizens”, Foreign Minister G. I. Peiris told Prensa Latina in an interview by Alberto Salazar, published by Prensa Latina December 26 this year.
The LLRC is a commission appointed by the Sinhalese Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to look into any possible wrong doing that government forces are accused of having committed in the last months of the civil war between it and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Tamil Eelam is an idea for a sovereign state desired by the vast majority of the Tamil minority. Critics of the Sinhalese government, which includes most Tamils in and out of Sri Lanka, view the LLRC as a white wash of government war crimes, and the seizure of Tamil lands, homes and businesses.
Upwards to 100,000 Tamils were killed in this civil war; some 40,000 in its final few weeks. There are as many dead, disappeared and in exile as the two million remaining in Sri Lanka.
The Cuban international news agency does not state why it interviewed the spokesman for the Sri Lankan government accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity by United Nations high authorities and its special panel of experts, in 2010, as well as by international human rights organizations, including the Bertrand Russell and John Paul Sartre created Peoples Permanent Tribunal.
PL simply lets the Sinhalese spokesperson speak unchallenged. PL did comment that the last two UN Human Rights Council resolutions have called upon Sri Lanka to speed up reconciliation with Tamils, but downplayed its significance by stating that only Western countries (that is, capitalist giants US-EU) sought an international independent investigation.
Firstly, that is not true. The Western countries only ask Sri Lanka to comply with its own LLRC commission’s request for slight reforms that would not allow equality and redemption for Tamils. Secondly, a majority of Latin American and other “third world” governments voted for the slightly critical UN resolution alongside Western governments.
From the beginning of Sri Lankan independence from Britain, in 1947, and for 30 years the Tamil people struggled peacefully to obtain equal rights with the majority Sinhalese, asking simply that their language and religions be recognized on an equal plane, that they be allowed to obtain education and jobs equally with Sinhalese.
They were met with legalized discrimination and murderous pogroms. Some Tamil youth took up arms, in the late 1970s, and a civil war ensued for three decades until the Tamil forces were defeated in May 2009. One of the long term and key war suppliers for Sri Lanka’s military is Israel, as is the US, UK, India, and more recently China, Iran, and Pakistan.
At the time of Tamils’ defeat, Cuba led the majority members on the Human Rights Council in praising Sinhalese Sri Lanka for its “humanitarian” efforts and for defeating “terrorism and separatism”. It made no mention of war crimes and continuous human rights abuses committed by Sri Lanka governments and its military forces over decades, the internment of hundreds of thousands of civilian Tamils, routine rape, disappearances, torture, murder and mutilations of Tamils, the seizure of their homes, businesses, and temples in their traditional homeland, which continues to this day.
See more at: www.havanatimes.org/?p=56447
The Peoples Permanent Tribunal found Sri Lanka guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes, in 2010, and is currently investigating assertions by Tamils that they are subject to genocide. The United Nations expert panel on the matter found grounds for an independent international court investigation into these assertions. Sri Lanka rejects all these initiatives and is supported by the Cuban government, once the vanguard of internationalism.
As Tamils in exile were gathering forces in 2009-10, they were surprised and disconcerted that Cuba and other new progressive governments in Latin America sided with Sri Lanka at the May 2009 sessions of the Human Rights Council. Not only did these leftist governments take sides against the guerrilla movement but also against the Tamil population’s survival interests.
“Tamils always looked upon Fidel and Che as heroes,” Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran told me. “Our people are shocked by Cuba’s position since May 2009. Perhaps it is due to poor communication. We want to send a delegation to Cuba, to Venezuela and other ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Latin America] governments to explain our position and to engage in dialogue.”
Rudrakumaran is Prime Minister of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE), and a prominent activist in the Diaspora. ( See more at: www.havanatimes.org/?p=52152
“Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies.” Fidel Castro told Lee Lockwood in “Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel”. (See more at: www.havanatimes.org/?p=72890
(*) Ron Ridenour worked for eight years in Cuba for Prensa Latina and the Editorial Jose Marti publishers. The journalist and author has published six books on Cuba and one on the Tamils “Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka” as well as several others. He lives in Denmark. See his website at www.ronridenour.com