South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

By Dr Telli C Rajaratanm

The subject is wide in scope so I shall confine my analysis to the current trends in international affairs relating to Sri Lanka with the war against terrorism and how the world looks at us owing to the accusations made against us by vested interests and whether we have overcome the difficulties and convinced the world that we were justified in doing what we had to do.


We must take effective measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the developing nations and work towards a new international political and economic order that is fair and rational. First, it is imperative to promote democracy in international relations. To respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all countries and resolve internal conflicts. The affairs of each and every country should be left to its own people to decide. Global challenges should be tackled through international cooperation and co-ordination.

All countries should foster a new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation and fully respect the diversity of world civilizations, and should seek consensus through dialogue, co-operation through consultation and development through exchanges.

It is imperative to work towards stability and development of the developing nations. World peace hinges on stability of the developing nations, and global prosperity rests, on growth of the developing nations.

Complicated as they are, many of the issues today may have their roots found in development. Development should be the top priority of governments of all developing nations in their efforts to govern and build up their countries. It is imperative to ensure a full play of the UN’s important role in international affairs. As the most important inter-governmental organization in the world today, which represents the fundamental interests of all member countries and the aspirations of all peoples in the world, the UN has a lot to do and accomplish under the new situation. Therefore, it is our common responsibility and is in everyone’s vital interests to strengthen its role, safeguard its authority, increase its efficiency and promote its reform.

History tells us that solidarity means strength, progress and success.

Peace, co-operation, development and progress are what the entire international community is hoping and striving for.

The developing nations must continue to work closely together in the spirit of solidarity and co-operation and raise their voice and strengthen their position in international affairs if they are to secure their fundamental interests.

One of the magnificent achievements of the UN has been the transformation that has taken place in global opinion on the relationship that should obtain between the governing and the governed, between the government and the citizen. It was on the basis of the moral authority of the General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the determined endeavors of the Commission on Human Rights, that this transformation was achieved. The dignity of the individual has now, largely as a result of UN leadership in the field of human rights, been placed, as it should be, amongst the primary priorities of national and international attention.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights is not limited in scope to ensuring the observance of human rights by Governments alone.

The Declaration has a far wider purpose: the observance of human rights by all governmental and non-governmental alike.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration, which requires that everyone has the right to life; and the provisions of article 30 of the Declaration prescribes that: “Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein”.

An act of terrorism by a non-governmental entity against civilians is surely a violation of the human rights of its victims and, surely, a crime against humanity as well.

We know the horrific consequences of terrorism: the horror; the thousands of unsuspecting innocent lives lost or maimed, the thousands of families then left to grieve; the countless personal tragedies that terrorism leaves. The horrors of Terrorism has devastated the country and have cast a heavy burden on successive Governments and the Nation including all of us and on humanity as a whole. There are also the larger disruptions of national stability and order as well: of the economy and the customary ways of life.


There should be no forgiveness. They should be tried by the Law. The innocent Tamil civilians have suffered at the hands of Tamil militants. How can they now hold sway with power and recognition whilst those whom they misled suffer? This is where the international formula has a narrow and confused attitude.

LTTE= Tamil Militants=Tamil Politicians with Tamil Eelam tags

We remember the bombing of the Central Bank, the adjacent Buildings, the Temple of the Tooth Relic and other Temples, the buses and trains in Sri Lanka where numerous people of all communities were killed, injured, the numerous innocent civilians who were killed and each of us would have a story to tell about the injuries sustained or the deaths of our loved ones. The assassination of President Premadasa, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Presidential Candidate Gamini Dissanayake, Cabinet Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam and Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar were some of the many victims. However, during the 30 years of Tamil Terrorism not one Tamil Terrorist Leader was killed by the Terrorists. This reveals that there was conspiracy between the Eelam Militant Groups who conveniently registered their organizations in the same name of their militant Groups as Political Parties. Recent history and present observation reveals to us they never changed their attitudes.

The Terrorism of the eleventh of September, in the USA gave rise to a “coming-together” of the people, in the finest traditions of humanity. On the twelfth of September, the Security Council and the General Assembly convened to express: their collective condolences; an unqualified condemnation of the terrorism: a determination that those responsible should not go unpunished; and firm concurrence that terrorism threatened the foundations of human society and order and would need to be, and must be, globally removed.

Humane attitude

We have to revive and resuscitate the morale of the people affected by the war, and their relatives all over. So, instead of talking about the unfortunate dead let us help the living who are dying in the IDP camps.

Let us get together and support them. The Government is doing everything possible to help them. Let us hope that such a deep sense of the “togetherness” of all of humanity will continue to be pervasive.

Terrorism is, sadly, very familiar to Sri Lanka. We, in Sri Lanka know terrorism, unfortunately, only too well. We have shown that we could eradicate it but the process is not over.. Have we eradicated Terrorism or the LTTE? Were all these terrorist activities carried out by the LTTE alone or was there a conspiracy between the other Tamil militant groups who pay lip service to democracy? The US State Department Report on Human Rights 2008 and 2009 suggests that a great number of Tamil militants in Colombo and beyond have been responsible for abductions, extortion and murders.

Lakshman Kadirgamar is remembered to have said “A criminal organization – whether involved in rebellion against a State or not – must depend for its sustenance outside the law. For its massive operations and massive weaponry, massive collections of funds are continually required.

The many disparate forces for international terrorism do not come together in one monolithic whole. They are variously interconnected in numerous ways and their international networks are extensive. They are mutually supportive and communicate through the global underworld of crime when special missions are afoot. If international terrorism is to be ever removed from our midst, we must begin with the recognition that international terrorism is a form of global criminality. We must not let ourselves be deceived by the artfully crafted cloaks of false pretensions.

It is the method of terrorism as in the murder of innocent civilians and the defiance of the sanctity of life – that defines terrorism.” We should therefore not be surprised that allegations of civilian casualty in the present times generates from certain corporate interests involved in international terrorism and their complex trade beneficiaries. These allegations may continue as the Tamil Political Parties who consist of various militant groups and Parties which supported the LTTE at some stage are due to contest the local authority elections in the North and they would have their own reasons to make allegations.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces took a patriotic and bold decision as he is morally and legally bound to protect the nation from all forms of terror. Military Intervention was a necessity in the interests of the Nation.

It is in this connection that President has liberated the Tamil people.

The Exodus was like Moses giving freedom to the Jews from Egypt. But the difference is that the Tamil people were liberated not by their Tamil Leaders who misled them but by President Rajapaksa, whilst some of our friends overseas have from time to time been misled by those marketing terrorism for their own corporate interests.

We have from time to time seen the invitations extended to former terrorists to join the democratic scheme but recent history reveals that they have not changed at all. Instead they have been allowed to legalize their Militant Terrorist Groups as legitimate Political Parties and they enjoy continuing their criminal activities with ease enjoying the perks of a democratic society as a democratic party with state protection which undermines the very norms of democracy.

Military action

Over thirty years or more we were not able to solve this problem. We require a balance between the need to achieve a military victory and the needs of humanity. In this sense, necessity has been viewed as a limitation to unbridled barbarity.

Sri Lanka’s war against terrorism was won solely because of the able directives of Dr.Gotabhaya Rajapaksa – the man who saved the Nation from the brink of disaster under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa

The means and methods of conducting war operate to achieve a particular military objective, which consequently assists in achieving a larger political objective.

While necessity might determine the legitimacy of the armed attack, proportionality determines the amount of force that might be used. In a sense, necessity operates at a macro level, while international humanitarian law operates at a micro level, though both might lie on the same continum given the difficulties in the transition.

Conventions. The development of these conventions and the application of these principles require some consideration if one is to arrive at an understanding of their application in a modern armed conflict. The distinction in the Sri Lanka situation is that it is within our territory.

Military necessity has been described as “a basic principle of the law of war, so basic, indeed, that without it there could be no law of war at all.” The acceptance that, while the object of warfare is to achieve the submission of the enemy, which may require the disabling of as many enemy combatants as possible, this should only be achieved in a manner that does not cause any unnecessary suffering or damage. This limitation to the means of waging war is not, however, necessarily humanitarian in nature, and much of the early restraints were based on economic, political, and military considerations.

Military necessity admits of all direct destruction of life or limb of armed enemies, and of other persons whose destruction is incidentally unavoidable in the armed contests of the war; it allows of the capturing of every armed enemy, and every enemy of importance or of peculiar danger to the captor; it allows of all destruction of property, and obstruction of the ways and channels of traffic, travel or communication, and of all withholding of sustenance or means of life from the enemy.

The ‘principle of distinction’ is fundamental to humanitarian law, but its precise content varies according to the kind of conflict. In national liberation struggles – and international armed conflicts – the distinction is between ‘civilians’ and ‘combatants.’ Combatants have no right to life under humanitarian law. Every individual is classified as either a combatant or as a kind of protected person, such as a prisoner of war (a captured combatant) or a civilian. An individual’s rights change when his classification changes. A civilian has the right not to be targeted for attack and the right to receive some protection from attack. If the civilian joins the armed militants, he exchanges the rights of a civilian for the rights of a combatant. A combatant has the right to take part in hostilities.


But there is no diplomacy with some of those opposed to us. We do not consider them opponents but they oppose every conceivable move we make to develop the country. Sometimes, there is no compromise with such people, no meeting of minds – no point of understanding – so we would have a just choice -defeat it or be defeated by it. This is where there was a necessity for military intervention. We learnt that however much we strive for peace, we need a strong defence capability where a peaceful approach fails. Whatever the dangers of the action we take, the dangers of inaction are far greater.

Laws will have to be changed not to deny the basic liberties but to prevent their abuse and protect the most basic liberty of all – freedom from terror. The people are terrorized by certain vested interests in their vile pursuits for power committing crimes and targeting a reflex scenario as if the Government was responsible. Some Patriotic citizens suggest that all Tamil Political Parties with the name “Eelam” should be banned forthwith and all Tamil Militant Groups should be disarmed and tried for their crimes against humanity. For indeed they are criminals, every one of them without exception who was a militant.

We are a community of people, whose self interest and mutual interest at crucial points merge and that it is through a sense of justice that community is born and nurtured. This is the moment to bring the faiths closer together in understanding of our common values and heritage a source of unity and strength. By the strength of our common endeavor we achieve more together, than we can alone. We must reach beyond our fears and our divisions to a new time of great and common purpose. Let us trace the roots of affirmative action. Let us determine what it is and what it isn’t. Let us see where it has worked and where it hasn’t and ask ourselves what we need to do now.

Need of the hour

Private media freedom is running amok. The news that millions of people in this country including foreign correspondents who convey news overseas receive each night is determined by a handful of men responsible only to their corporate employers. The State should have control not to permit abuse of the freedom of the Press.

We must not permit a contaminated moral environment. Let us not negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. We cannot restore peace unless we can find some way to bring the nation close together. We must be Patriotic. We must uphold and defend the Constitution and the Head of State-the President. We owe allegiance to the President and the Constitution as Citizens of Sri Lanka. We must uphold the norms of the Constitution, apprehend and prosecute those who terrorize us by their actions and threats, then economic prosperity will follow suit. Our destiny lies in our hands.

Source:  The Sunday Observer – 07. 11.2010