|Assessing the analysis of the University Teachers for Human Rights|
|Monday, 15 June 2009|
The University Teachers for Human Rights has issued yet another report on the situation in Sri Lanka which, as with its previous reports, merits serious attention. I have always admired their commitment and efforts at objectivity and, even when I disagree with what they say, I have noted their sincerity. It should also be noted that they are amongst the few such organizations to admit it when they have been mistaken, as with their accounts of what happened to the ACF workers in Muttur. Their assertion that inquiries into that event and similar ones should be expedited cannot be challenged. Though I have pointed out that delays have arisen because of the prejudging that has taken place elsewhere, as well as the bad faith of some of the assistants to the International Eminent Persons, I too hope very much that the Commission of Inquiry will produce a report soon on the cases they have dealt with, and that action is taken as appropriate.The current UTHR report is in the same serious vein, and its efforts at objectivity should be lauded. At the same time there are a couple of issues that need to be clarified. Though there are general accusations against the Sri Lankan forces, the details supplied testify to the humanitarian concerns of the forces, and indicate that many of the tragic deaths that occurred were inflicted by the LTTE. One principal complaint, that the government should have made clear its conditions for stopping hostilities, ignores the fact that the government did precisely that, in asking for surrender, and it was those who discouraged such surrender, or tried to introduce different modalities, who in effect encouraged the LTTE to go on fighting. In this regard clearly the British Foreign Minister, and British journalists associated with his position, have much to answer for.
The simple fact is that there are those who believe the doctors conveyed false information which was damaging to the government. This may or may not be true, and even if it were, I believe there were mitigating factors. Certainly the revelation by the Guardian that they had their own different sources of information suggest that some of the falsehoods at least came from people fraudulently described as officials, and not from the poor doctors. In any case we know of instances earlier, when the doctors were not under such pressure, when they actually corrected some falsehoods that were attributed to them. But the simple point is that, as for instance the British felt with P G Wodehouse, there is a case that must be investigated, and it is not correct for anyone to assume either absolute innocence or guilt in accordance with their own predilections.
UTHR here ignores completely the simple fact that successive Sri Lankan governments have themselves deduced that, given the pressures of combating terrorism, it is important to guard against possible violations of human rights. Therefore they have developed training programmes in this field that have continuously been refined and strengthened. This has been an ongoing process, dating back several years, and has nothing to do with what UTHR thinks are current pressures. It would be useful, and in line with the scientific methods UTHR endeavours to employ, if this fact were noted, and if UTHR allowed at least some credit to the Sri Lankan government and its forces for what is rightly recognized as a remarkable achievement, far in advance of what we have seen in other countries that assume the pressures they might selectively apply are more important than our concern for our people.
It is sad therefore that UTHR seems to have adopted the agenda of some of these countries that, with less attention to evidence than UTHR, are trying to put Sri Lanka in the dock for its achievement in getting rid of terrorism from Sri Lanka. Such efforts may well strengthen terrorist forces elsewhere, and since UTHR well understands the horror of LTTE terrorism, I hope that it will not lend its voice to stratagems that the rump of the LTTE now promote so assiduously.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
Secretary GeneralSecretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process
|Last Updated ( Monday, 15 June 2009 )|
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