Signs Are Ominous For Lanka At Geneva
BBC’s Channel 4 produces annual editions of documentaries on the Sri Lankan armed forces alleged war crimes against the LTTE around February – March. The latest edition is out, timed for the UNHCR sessions to be held soon. A main objective appears to make an impact on the Indian political establishment. This new edition includes new photographs on the alleged killing of Velupillai Prabakaran’s 12-year- old son. The bare bodied boy is shown eating some kind of bun in one photo inside an army bunker and the other is of his body with bullet wounds lying on the ground. The commentary says the second photograph was taken some 20 minutes after the first photograph with the same camera. The suggested inference is that the boy was in army custody and killed soon after.
These photographs of the new edition was shown on India’s NDTV on Tuesday in a talk- show, the subject being the stand the Indian government should take on resolutions against Sri Lanka at the forthcoming sessions. Maverick Indian politician Subramaniam Swamy and a disabled former colonel of the IPKF that operated in Sri Lanka took much of the sting off the documentary with their realistic comments.
India and its terrorists
The Indian government which voted against Sri Lanka at the last sessions of the UNHCR on the issue of violation of human rights in Sri Lanka would find it quite embarrassing to take high moral ground on executions of Sri Lankan terrorists when compared with their own record of treatment of their convicted terrorists. The prisoners were sentenced to death in judicial proceedings, no doubt, but the long delay in carrying out the death sentences, the secrecy involved in the executions and the apparent joy at the executions among the majority of the masses, reflected on the political advantages that could accrue in forthcoming elections, cast a shadow on Indian democracy itself.
Last week, almost all business establishments in the Indian controlled state of Kashmir put up their shutters, the army was called out and a strict curfew imposed for three days following the execution Mohamed Afzal Guru who was sentenced to death in 2002 by the Supreme Court for carrying out an attack with others on the Indian Parliament which resulted in the deaths of 14 others including 5 of the attackers.
There were widespread criticism in India itself about the execution. Leading journalists regretted it. Questions were raised even about the fairness of the trial. The accused had been in jail for 12 years – 3 years short of the death sentence being commuted to life imprisonment. No provision had been made for his wife and son to see him before execution and the letter informing of the event had reached the wife 2 days later! Kashmir was agog last week demanding the body of Guru be returned to Kashmir. At the NDTV Talk show an attempt was made to project Afzal Guru as a terrorist while Prabakaran’s son was only 12 years old. The IPKF Colonel who had lost one eye and a limb said that the Prabakaran’s son too could have been a combatant.
Rajiv Gandhi assassins
Even of greater embarrassment are the three convicts of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination – Perarivalan, Santhan and Murugan – who were sentenced to death in 1999 and still under the sentence of death. One of the accused Nalini who gave birth to a child in prison had her death sentence commuted to a life sentence on intervention by Sonia Gandhi, President of the Congress Party. In 2011 the President of India rejected the clemency pleas of the three accused sentenced to death and they are still being held in Vellore jail but the chances of them walking to the gallows today are remote.
Even though there was little or no sympathy in Tamil Nadu for the LTT – at least overtly – soon after the assassination of Gandhi, the wheel has now turned a full circle and today Tamil Nadu politicians of all varieties are in competition to show sympathy and support for the LTTE. Both DMK leader Karunanidhi and his rival Chief Minister Jeyalalitha are trying to outdo each other in their efforts to have Sri Lanka government condemned for alleged war crimes committed against Tamil civilians.
The Congress government of Manmohan Singh, still dependent on the seats held by the DMK in the Lok Sabha and in the elections scheduled for 2014, will be hoping for backing from Tamil Nadu parties for a parliamentary majority to form a government. Hanging the three assassins of Rajiv Gandhi will be tantamount to Congress walking to the gallows in next year’s election. Thus the three assassins can be optimistic about their release from prison soon citing their incarceration for the last 20 years.
Meanwhile, it is apparent that Justice is politics today in the world’s biggest democracy.
When the United States moves another (new) resolution against Sri Lanka at the forthcoming UNHCR sessions there is every likelihood of India, now an ally of the United States, supporting the resolution, as it did last year.
South Asian solidarity, SAARC and adherence to the Panchaseela, – the five principles propounded by Jawarhalal Nehru one of which is non interference in the internal affairs of other countries – have all gone with the wind. They seem to have been replaced with the new Western philosophy in international affairs, The Right to Protect (R2P) which in reality means the Right to Intervene.
The clouds gathering over Geneva seem ominous for Sri Lanka and the Rajapaksa government. There is a simplistic solution albeit though somewhat late. Follow the New Delhi policy: If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em.