ast week the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was in Colombo -- on his second visit to Sri Lanka since the end of the civil war seven years ago and his second trip to the country. His first was in May 2009, shortly after the bloody end of the civil war. The UN Chief over-flew the war zone on that occasion and saw some of the devastating effects of the war from the air then.
A fact-finding committee appointed by the UN Chief estimated over 40,000 civilian Tamils may have been killed in the final months of fighting. The then government however insisted there were zero civilian casualties! Refused to co-operate with Moon’s committee and made a hue and cry claiming the UN Chief’s action infringed Sri Lanka’s sovereignty. Politicians of various hues and a number of Buddhist monks too raised their voices in support of this official line.
If the government of the day is to be believed, the multi-barrel rocket launchers and the mortars launched at the LTTE (Tiger) positions, the firepower of military men and women attacking the retreating Tigers and the aerial bombardment of the isthmus of Nanthikadal targeting LTTE positions -which according to the then government’s own figures counted around 250,000 men, women and children held hostage by LTTE terrorists -- hit only LTTE members without harming a hair on any of that mass of humanity being held hostage by the terrorists!
During Moon’s visit this time around too, the same band of bankrupt politicians, hangers-on and monks, whose bellicose behaviour brings shame to the very robes they wear attempted to block roads to protest at the visit of the UN Chief and UN inaction, when LTTE terrorism was directed against Sinhalese civilians during the height of the ethnic conflict. But what this lunatic fringe is missing out are the reasons, which forced the UN to take notice of, what these folk like to term ‘our internal problems’.
Other than those who died directly from battlefield actions, hundreds if not thousands of civilian Tamils were abducted off the streets in broad daylight, many of them tortured and most of them never to be seen again. Hundreds more were incarcerated in prisons with no charges being brought against them. Media outlets that exposed some of these nefarious activities were attacked with impunity, openly backed by State Ministers leading mobs, more often than not. In the aftermath of the ethnic war, war-weary citizens expected to enjoy the benefits of peace. But these hopes were dashed. Sri Lanka witnessed what appeared to be State-backed attacks on religious minorities -- the Christians and Muslims. A few among the attacks were:
*The destruction of a centuries-old Islamic shrine at Anuradhapura by a mob led by Buddhist monks. The culprits still roam freely.
*The vandalising of the Dambulla Mosque in April 2012, and to make matters worse, the then Prime Minister ordered the Mosque be destroyed and rebuilt in another area!
*Muslim-owned businesses attacked in the presence of the Police, who remained inactive.
*Attacks on Christian prayer centres by mobs claiming they were illegal and aiming to take Buddhists away from their religion.
*Attack on The Assembly of God Church on Christmas Eve in the presence of Police personnel, who were stationed outside the church,
*The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka reports that attacks continue even after the advent of the Yahapalanaya regime.
The aforementioned hate attacks are, but a few of many heaped on minority communities of this country for no fault other than being of different faith, religion or ethnicity. When victims of hate-attacks are members of minority communities and the attackers are seen to be State-sponsored or State-backed; these minorities have no option but to seek protection from international bodies such as the UN.
They are not being UNPATRIOTIC; They became helpless because of acts of the very State which was expected to protect them. The ethnic war ended over seven years ago; we have not as yet been able to bring the different parties to the conflict and other minorities around a common table to seek a political solution to the crisis which confront us. This is PATHETIC, while are still dithering, Myanmar just emerging from a military dictatorship is bringing together its estranged communities in a search for solutions which are keeping its citizens apart. But then, we suffer a major difference, while Myanmar produced Suu Kyi, South Africa, Nelson Mandela, the US, Martin Luther King and India, Gandhi, sadly, Sri Lanka produced only politicians.