|On those ‘humanitarian tragedies’ that are to unfold in Kilinochchi|
|Monday, 22 September 2008|
by: Malinda Seneviratne
And didn’t you know that terrorists are called rebels if they are foreigners?The directive issued to NGOs, INGOs and UN agencies to quit Kilinochchi has disturbed some people. We’ve heard a lot of whining on account of this. Humanitarian concerns or livelihood issues? The arguments and those who make the arguments tell us a few stories about what lies under the surface of the whines, the horror expressed and the concerns about tragedies that are supposed to unfold once these last great men and women leave Kilinochchi.John Ball. Paul O’Callaghan. Kim Howells. Joined by a few common threads. They are all foreigners. They all love Sri Lanka. They are all humanitarians. They are all concerned about the plight of civilians in the Wanni. And many of them are appalled about the ‘Relocate now!’ directive. They are not alone, of course. Jehan Perera as well as other two-bit players in the federalist/Eelamist lobby, who have set up various ‘peace’ outfits in Colombo, is as appalled.
They want these agencies, some of who have a more than dubious track records in their dealings with the LTTE, to remain in the Wanni. Brave of those who want to stay of course, one might think if they were not and have not been so arrogant, self-righteous and downright stupid.
Indefinite house arrest
Let’s take the ‘plight of the civilians’ or the ‘non-combatants’ as Mr. Bull likes to call them. First of all, only a moron will advocate subjecting the people in Kilinochchi to indefinite house arrest by the LTTE. The walls of that particular illegal prison have to be brought down, sooner rather than later. That’s ‘non-negotiable’ because it is the responsibility of the state and because ‘negotiation’ is anathema to Prabhakaran. Sadly, these gentlemen get tongue-tied and cross-eyed when the issue of the LTTE using people as a ‘human shield’ is brought up. Apart from the footnoting of forcible conscription, especially of children, the humanitarian tragedy orchestrated by the LTTE in the Wanni is largely absented in the heart-wrenching petitions they author and pass around the world. In all this, the example of the East looms large as a spectre pointing an accusing finger at the naive-by-choice (to put it mildly). The bogey of a ‘humanitarian disaster’ is a common ploy used by such people.
The reason has less to do with a good-hearted help-the-suffering disposition than a real, felt, bread-and-butter issue: humanitarian workers, human rights advocates, avowed pacifists and such also have families to feed, aspirations to strive for and bills to pay. Take out ‘disaster’ from the project proposal and it is likely to be trashed by the donor it has been presented to. When the security forces took Mavil Aru and moved to Sampur too, we had this ‘humanitarian disaster’ thrown around. Anticipating a lot of gravy pouring into the country, the Peace Club broke into pieces, each little piece wanting a bigger serving from the ladle. Just as happened after the tsunami. Did I hear someone mutter, ‘vultures!’? Jobs were advertised.
Project proposals were churned out in their hundreds. What happened? After Sampur, came Vakarai. After Vakarai, Toppigala. Maximum damage to the LTTE, minimum losses to the security forces and close to zero civilian casualties. ‘Refugees, refugees, refugees, hundreds of thousands of them!’ screamed our do-goody brethren. They were going to be abused and neglected by a Government that didn’t care about Tamils. That was the story then. Didn’t happen. Check the ‘Employment opportunities’ sections of the Sunday papers over this period of time. See how the bottom fell out of the labour market for relief workers. Today, all INGOs and NGOs working in the Eastern Province have grudgingly accepted that the nightmare scenarios neatly worked into project proposals did not quite materialize.
They’ve fallen in line. Now, what is it to say that a Government, which, for all its faults, launches a massive and comprehensive development programme which is already yielding positive results in the Eastern Province, will not replicate the model in Mannar, Vavuniya, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu? Only a strong and subjective antipathy to the Government will persuade a person to insist that the Government would treat shabbily the civilians in the Northern Province or, in the very least, with less commitment and less delivery than shown by the LTTE. Third. There is strong reason to suspect that ‘brave-hearts’ and ‘brave-heart advocates’ mentioned above are not only uninterested in civilians in Kilinochchi being held prisoner by a terrorist, they actually yearn to be part of Prabhakaran’s human shield! In other words, the objections and proposals smack of politicking and not pure, unadulterated humanism. If they are complicit, then, in a political project, then they must necessarily play within the rules of the game and expect to be treated as interested players and not impartial referees or player-versions abstracted from the ethics of St. John’s Ambulance.
Caught in crossfire
What happens if Mr or Ms. X, local or foreign, belonging to one of these organisations gets caught in crossfire or if he/she is shot by the LTTE and then a tag attached to the corpse with wording such as ‘killed by security forces’? The relatives, friends and co-workers of Mr/Ms. X will miss him/her just as the loved ones of every victim of a conflict mourn the particular and tragic passing away of a fellow member. For the LTTE, another cadaver to be photographed and (ab)used in its desperate international propaganda drive. Happily, though, the world has little patience for the cock-and-bull of the Bulls, Paul O’Callaghans, Howellses and their ilk who are wont to launder rubbish for the LTTE.
However, it is imperative that the Government investigates all organisations either affiliated with or funded by outfits that such individuals are associated with. O’Callaghan, for example, has a history that is thick with the TRO. Bull is clearly ignorant of ground realities but full of the Viceroy mind-set, telling Sri Lanka how to do things. Many of such hot-air experts are pretty deflated when it comes to pointing fingers at ‘villains’ close to home. My contention is that this whining is indicative of a different kind of stomach ache, especially when they come from local ‘peace’ outfits. What they are seeing on the ground is that the big donors have more or less accepted that relief, resettlement and rehabilitation funds are best channelled through the state.
Some of their ‘analyses’ are veritable laments. They are virtually dying to see that the LTTE does not and engage in all manner of fantasizing. Today they don’t say that the LTTE’s days as a ‘conventional’ fighting force are numbered. They take refuge in promising that the LTTE will transform itself into a guerrilla outfit. This is puerile political science. There is a qualitative difference between an aspiring military adventure doing the hit-and-run number and one which, after transforming itself into a strong and conventional force and thereafter being scrambled, decimated and politically marginalized, doing the same. At one point, the LTTE did manage to get the subscription of significant sections of the Tamil community. They did not deliver and only the absolutely naive and brainwashed will re-subscribe. This is a political reality that they consciously refuse to acknowledge.
It’s all about funds, isn’t it?
The spectre of the LTTE losing out in the North as well, probably gives Prabhakaran less nightmares than it gives these mom-and-pop ‘peace’ NGOs headquartered in Colombo. It’s all about funds, isn’t it, children? Isn’t this why they cannot club together now, that they cannot do lunch together? Isn’t this why they’ve taken to bad-mouthing each other? Names can be named but why bother when they’ve splintered so much that they are at the gates of a barren land called ‘Oblivion’? Doesn’t it mean something, however, when even that ardent “Fedetic” (short for ‘Federal Fanatic) Kumar Rupasinghe now sounds like a veritable ‘war monger’ as per the definitions he and others referenced when commenting on those who realised long ago that negotiation was not possible with the LTTE.
I am willing to wager that many ‘peace’ NGOs are even at this moment busy translating the interview he gave to the Lankadeepa (September 18) and emailing it to all donor organisations whose largesse Kumar has enjoyed for a long time now. Soon the currently behind-closed-doors bickering will be out in the open as a free-for-all shouting match, each vying with the next to claim the ‘most peaceful’ label. Sad.There will always be some John Ball, Paul O’Callaghan or Kim Howells camouflaging preferred political outcome in humanitarian language. Reason must prevail over crystal-gazing mouthings, however. Such jaundiced pundits should be treated for their ailments and happily, this is being done.
As for our ‘peace’ mallis and nangis in Colombo, they should do the NGO thing: adopt the vocabulary that has currency. ‘Conflict resolution’ is now going out of fashion. The buzz word in the donor-street these days is ‘climate change’. Renewable energy is also ‘in’. ‘Good governance’ has quite a few backers. And ‘development’, I hear, is making a come back. A lot of scope in all these things. Good luck!
(Courtesy : Lakbima News )
|Last Updated ( Monday, 09 March 2009 )|
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