The Weekend Leader - The 'Voice of America' in the Eelam imbroglio

The 'Voice of America' in the Eelam imbroglio

Pradeep Kumar


Gareth Evans, a former President of the International Crisis Group, does not favour international intervention in Sri Lanka on the basis of the universally recognized ‘Responsibility to Protect (R2P)’ doctrine.

He continues to toe a pro-Sri Lanka line, defending a genocidal government. According to him, the argument of "structural genocide" does not apply to Sri Lanka.

The Rajapaksa regime has killed an estimated 2 lakh Tamils, but the international community does not want to invoke R2P against it  (Photo Courtesy: War Without Witness)

He stated recently that “the Sri Lankan government is not behaving well owing to its repression in Tamil areas, but it is not genocide.” In his view, “it is premature to be talking about R2P right now as the atrocity situation at the moment does not exist in Sri Lanka.  

“But it is perfectly possible that the moment would deteriorate if the political aspirations of the Tamil people are not recognized by the government of Sri Lanka. I refuse to speculate on deterioration situation which would call for invoking the third pillar of the R2P.”

It is amusing to listen to Evans lecturing about R2P, as an instrument of justice. The hypocrisy surrounding his arguments is so profound that his loyalty to the imperial powers is blatantly clear.

In answering questions regarding guidelines to enforce R2P at a UN General Assembly session, Evans replied, "The R2P doctrine defines itself in the sense that genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing are all inherently conscience-shocking and by their very nature of a scale that demands a response, whether preventive or reactive...... "

He added, "It's really impossible to be precise about numbers here. In some case you're fearing scores-of-thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of casualties.... In other cases the numbers are much smaller.

“We remember starkly the horror of Srebrenica ... [7000-8000 deaths] compared to millions. Was Racak with its forty-five victims in Kosovo in 1999 sufficient to trigger the response that was triggered by the international community?  

“I take the view that once you cross a certain threshold, you're in the realm of just conscience shocking catastrophe which demands a response one way or the other... There's no cookie-cutter approach I'm afraid you can adopt to any of this stuff."

Perhaps there is a cookie - cutter approach which Evans and his ICG has internalized so completely that the double standard inherent in their imperial perspective and politicization of choices no longer pricks their consciousness.

The incumbent president of ICG, Louise Arbour, in 1999 as the chief of International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia cried massacre demanding "immediate and unimpeded access" to Kosovo and planned to travel there within forty-eight hours when New York Times reported about "bodies of 45 ethnic Albanians... found shot or mutilated".

For the likes of Evans and Arbour, this was sufficient to trigger an international response for the simple reason that it helped advance NATO's agenda of breaking Socialist Yugoslavia.  

But can Evans explain why there was no such triggering in the case of Indonesia’s genocidal occupation of East Timor resulting in estimated deaths of 200,000 on a population base of 800,000?

The question never arises for Evans for the simple reason that in his capacity as the Foreign Minister of Australia, he had worked with the Genocidal regime of Suharto in sharing the oil rights of East Timor by signing the 1989 Timor Gap Oil Treaty.

It is interesting how 45 victims of Kosovo or 8000 victims of Sebrenica can cause a conscience shocking realm and demand a response from "international community," but death of nearly two lakh people in East Timor or in Tamil Eelam never does. The scale at which the ethnic cleansing and structural genocide of Tamils has been vigorously carried out since 2008 somehow fails to cross ‘the threshold’ for the likes of Evans and his ilk.

Contrast the long-standing impunity enjoyed by the Rajapaksa regime with Ban-Ki-Moon's and Navi Pillay's quick condemnation of Gaddafi regime in Libya to a foreign-sponsored insurgency in eastern Libya and NATO’s subsequent intervention in that country.

Edward Herman and David Peterson's Study shows that "database of the same wire service and newspaper universe for mentions of "Sri Lanka" or "Libya" in relation to "responsibility to protect" find that the doctrine was mentioned roughly once in relation to Sri Lanka for every fifteen times it was mentioned in relation to Libya.  

Such differences in word usage by the establishment media reflected the differences in political agendas at the center of global power, but clearly had nothing to do with concerns for real world violence against civilians, or the protection of civilians from harm.  

Also the 2012 'Petrie Report’ clearly details the extent of knowledge of the crimes perpetrated by Rajapaksa regime against the Eelam Tamils and the lack of international intervention in the face of such knowledge to protect their interests.

One can also easily guess the political reason behind people like Evans calling the human rights violation in Sri Lanka as "Acts of war crime" rather than "Acts of structural genocide".

The imperial powers want to see a unified Sri Lanka to protect their geopolitical interests by suppressing any genuine demand of referendum for separate nation. Louis Arbour’s Article on Feb 28,2014 in New York Times spells out this strategy quite clearly while calling for an international investigation into war crimes:

"A commission is also likely to uncover evidence of abuses by the defeated Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in a form that would be hard for Tamils and Tamil organizations to deny. That would deflate a romanticization of the Tigers among Tamils that keeps alive Sinhalese fears that the Tamil insurgency might resume, and also gives the government an excuse for continued militarization and repression.

By showing survivors of wartime abuses that the international community hasn’t abandoned them, a commission mandated by the council could also undercut growing calls by Tamil diaspora organizations for more radical measures, and encourage victims of rights abuses from all of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and religious communities (the country’s main faiths are Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim) to continue seeking an end to institutionalized impunity."

A closer look at these so called NGO's like International Crisis Group, Amnesty international clearly reveals their deep ties with the US State and NATO.

People like Gareth Evans, Louis Arbour, Ban ki Moon, Navi Pillay help in maintaining the imperial power structure by providing their service as opinion makers, controlling the nature of debate on crucial issues like genocide.

The development of R2P and Humanitarian Intervention, post-Soviet Union’s collapse, providing a moral cover for imperial violence must be understood in this context.  Thus political solution to Eelam Tamils is possible only by understanding this power structure, confronting and exposing it.

Pradeep Kumar is a member of May 17 Movement. He can be reached at [email protected]

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