|Generalizations from the Asian Centre for Human Rights|
|Tuesday, 05 August 2008|
By: Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha
On Sunday August 3rd, I issued a press release entitled 'Further Generalizations from the Asian Human Rights Commission'. I was in fact responding to a report from the Asian Centre for Human Rights, and must apologize unreservedly for the error to the Asian Human Rights Commission.
In mitigation, though this is not an excuse, both these institutions, which purport to speak for Asia as a whole have very similar initials, and I was responding to a report read on my blackberry, over the weekend when I was not in office, and the initials ACHR seemed all too familiar. The release has been altered to make clear the reference, and I hope AHRC will forgive me for this lapse.
I will pass over the suggestion they have made in their letter to me, pointing out the error, that it might have been deliberate, since I can understand that a sensitive soul might have been hurt by my unwarranted strictures.
The Peace Secretariat notes with sadness an effusion from the so-called Asian Centre for Human Rights, which asserts that ‘With 52 points, Sri Lanka is South Asia's worst human rights violator.’ This is yet another example of a game that has now become fashionable, to develop lists which show how bad particular countries are. Sri Lanka has figured prominently on such lists recently, though it is interesting that it seems to depend on the whim of the list maker how many years are taken into consideration in making the list.
Thus, Human Rights Watch, which earlier presented records of a year, has decided to extend these to two year terms, thus allowing for the desired denigration of Sri Lanka. Thus, what was undoubtedly a bad period, in 2006, for reasons which are readily comprehensible, is used to perpetuate the attack on a country everyone now seems, also for comprehensible reasons, given the political use made of these lists, to want to place in the pillory.
This does not mean that Sri Lanka does not have problems with regard to the protection of Human Rights. These are exacerbated by the difficulties of dealing with a particularly ruthless and insidious terrorist outfit, but that does not make it any less important to reduce them. That is why we engage with institutions that can assist us, that is why we have set up Task Forces on the subject, that is why we try to clarify and deal with particular situations. For this reason, we have no quarrel with for instance the Asian Human Rights Commission when it draws attention to particular cases, it is then the duty of officials to investigate these and take remedial action as possible.
What is objectionable is blanket generalizations, and these interminable lists. Sadly too there is confusion which takes attention away from the real problems. For instance, ACHR renews the canard about indiscriminate attacks on civilians. If it is talking about problems with regard to abductions, or attacks on journalists, it has a point, but here it suggests that these attacks occur in the course of military operations (a canard first spread by HRW), and that is just plain false, as any analysis of the operations of our forces will show. Their record is excellent, not only in comparison with that of other forces engaged in struggles against terrorism, but in absolute terms too, and we can challenge anyone to provide any evidence to the contrary.
Again, we have again the old story about child soldiers, so assiduously spread by the LTTE after 2005. This time ACHR even brings the EPDP into it, though this has not figured in previous allegations. Rather, it has been shown clearly that the Karuna faction released its cadres in 2004, the LTTE then began killing them or re-recruiting them, and the Karuna faction’s recruitment was claimed to have been in response to this. Whether that is wholly credited or not, all those with them have now been released, and UNICEF has been invited to check on the accuracy of this assertion.
ACHR’s extrapolations are quite extraordinary in their fraudulence. They are said to claim that an entire ethnic group is excluded from the nation’s capital, obviously not knowing that minorities constitute over half the population of the capital, and that security checks are of those travelling to Colombo. Given the number of incidents of terrorist attacks, it is understandable that those unable to give good reasons for their presence are checked carefully, and in any case, the Supreme Court ruling when this was not done appropriately makes clear that there is recourse to judicial review when obvious violations of rights occur.
Sadly, it is this type of generalization that will catch the eye of the media, and be avidly disseminated by the LTTE and its surrogates, as well as other political forces within Sri Lanka that resent the strategy of the current government in dealing firmly with terrorism whilst encouraging democratic pluralism through political interaction with moderate Tamil forces. Whilst assistance would be welcome in helping Sri Lanka deal with all its problems, terrorism as well as violations of human rights, indiscriminate attacks on all aspects of government can, at this juncture, only contribute to self-justificatory pronouncements by terrorists as well as more naive organizations.
Prof Rajiva Wijesinha
(Courtesy : SCOPP)
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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