Friday, October 23, 2009

Sri Lanka Pressed to Investigate Possible War Atrocities - NY Times.

By LYDIA POLGREEN and VIKAS BAJAJ

International pressure is mounting on Sri Lanka’s government to investigate atrocities that may have been committed during the final stages of its war with the Tamil Tiger insurgency as two new reports from the European Union and the State Department detailing alleged human rights abuses were released this week.

The reports come as Sri Lanka also faces intensifying criticism for its decision to keep more than 250,000 Tamils who were displaced by the fighting in closed camps that critics have likened to internment camps. The government says it plans to allow 80 percent of these people to return to their homes by the end of January, but insists that it must first weed out any remaining Tamil Tiger rebels hiding among them.

The European Union report in particular, which could lead to the withdrawal of trade concessions worth tens of millions of dollars to Sri Lankan garment and fisheries industries, represents the first time the Sri Lankan government has faced a serious sanction as a result of its conduct of the war.

Economists and business officials said the loss of the trade concessions, known as GSP-plus, could be a serious blow to an already ailing Sri Lankan economy. The country’s large garment industry will likely bear the brunt of the impact because as much as 60 percent of the country’s apparel exports go to the European Union.

Tariffs on some products could go from zero or near zero to between 5 percent and 18 percent, said E. M. Wijetilleke, the secretary general and chief executive of the National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka. Such increases could sink smaller companies that cannot cut costs to match bigger and lower-cost producers in China and India, he added.

“Some small-scale firms will not be able to survive and they will have to lay off the workers from their jobs,” Mr. Wijetilleke said. “There will be a huge impact on the economy.”

The garment industry in Sri Lanka employs about 270,000 workers directly and an additional 50,000 indirectly, according to estimates by Oxford Analytica, a research firm.

The State Department report , which was released Thursday, was largely a catalog of mostly unverified abuses by Sri Lankan forces and the Tamil Tigers based on reports from the American Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka’s largest city and commercial capital.

Because of limited access to the war zone by independent aid groups, human rights investigators and journalists, the report does not draw conclusions but urges the Sri Lankan government to investigate the allegations.

Questioned why the report did not take a tougher line, a State Department spokesman, Ian Kelly, defended the conclusions at a briefing with reporters this week.

He said the Obama administration was calling on the Sri Lankan government to open the closed areas to international scrutiny, to investigate the allegations and to bring to justice anyone responsible for atrocities.

So far, the Sri Lankan government has proved adept at eluding international scrutiny and seemingly indifferent to even the harshest criticism of the Western countries on human rights issues.

It successfully maneuvered its allies on the United Nations Human Rights Council to transform a stern demand for an international war crimes inquiry into a resolution celebrating its triumph over the Tigers. Efforts by Western countries to stall a $2.6 billion loan to Sri Lanka from the International Monetary Fund also failed.

International efforts to press Sri Lanka to release Tamil civilians from a vast network of army-run camps in the country’s north have borne little fruit. More than halfway to the government’s self-imposed deadline to let almost all of the displaced people return to their homes, fewer than 10 percent have been allowed to leave, according to the United Nations, human rights organizations and aid groups. And some who have left the camps have been settled in other camps rather than being sent home, according to Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch.

“I think it is fair to say now they never intended to keep their commitment to return the displaced because they have consistently reneged on their promises,” Mr. Adams said. “Their promises are not to the international community, they are to the people in the camps.”

Sri Lankan officials denied this, saying that the government had in the past few days begun relocating 41,685 people from the camps to their homes in what was the battle zone. They rejected the notion that the Tamil civilians were being held prisoner.

“It is not a concentration camp where they are, and they are not being taken to a lesser concentration camp anywhere else,” said Lucien Rajakarunanayake, a spokesman for Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

8 comments:

Bhairav said...

Slowly but steadily, it is coming, My Friend.

Pottu said...

Bhairav,

Be careful coz it may come from behind and bugger your rear.

Veeram Than Engal Swasam said...

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new article posted!

Veeram Than Engal Swasam said...

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I'm not Bhairav said...

>> Slowly but steadily,
>> it is coming, My Friend.

(ex)tiger guys have used this same remark to warn Sri Lankans about the

1) counter attack by the tigers

2) Economy crash of Sri Lanka happening before the troops beat the hell out of the LTTE

3) BJP winning Indian elections and sending troops to assist LTTE

4) EU and Americans coming to the rescue of the tigers due to the pro-LTTE protests

etc etc..

Ashok Kumar said...

Prf.Charles Sarvan:

...leaving aside political calculation and military strategy, the attempt here is to ask whether the defeat of the Tigers can justifiably be described in military terms as the great victory it is trumpeted to be.

To begin with numbers: exact figures are hard to come by, but it is thought that, at their height, the Tigers perhaps numbered 30,000. Towards the end, down to a few thousand and then a few hundred, they faced an army of perhaps 250,000. Then there is the matter of resources. The Tigers did not have jets and helicopters. Their propeller planes were slow and clumsy and of no real military value. Rejected by foreign governments, the Tigers were as isolated internationally as they were totally surrounded geographically.

In contrast, the Government of Sri Lanka received help and advice from several countries. The Taliban fight in mountainous, inaccessible terrain, while the Tigers occupied flat land – albeit forested. Sri Lanka being an island and the government of the nearest country, India, implacably hostile, the LTTE did not have borders over which they could easily slip to re-group, recover and return to continue the struggle.

Fitting all this together, it seems to me the wonder is not that the government eventually won but that it took so long for eventual victory to be achieved. In short, the defeat of the Tigers cannot be classified as ‘a great military victory.’

Bhairav said...

AK,

Whatever said about the great military victory of GoSL wouldn't be achieved without the constant shootings of his own foot by VP in the final stages of the war.

Eric said...

VP reminds me of Hitler. Hitler and VP are nationalistic. Both are good at surprise attacks. Both are good at getting land quickly. Both are good at losing land at a quick rate. Both refused to leave their land. (Berlin and Vanni). Both never achieved anything.