By Satheesan Kumaaran
The UN has become a refuge providing employment and protection not only to war criminals but also to the abettors of war crimes, an explicit irony of the principles for which it was founded. Since the end of Eelam War IV (the final phase of a ‘civil war’ in Sri Lanka – Ed), the United Nations Organisation has been keeping mum over what had happened to the victims of the genocidal war instigated by the Sri Lankan State. Despite the call by human rights groups that Sri Lanka’s head of State should be punished for war crimes for the deaths of tens of thousands of people, he has always been given a red carpet welcome by the international community including the officials of the UN. Just to give credibility to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan war criminal Shavendra Silva (a Major General of the Army – Ed) has been accepted as the SL UN representative. This clearly shows how the UN has become a home to the most notorious war criminals. This is indeed a sad reflection on the stewards of the UN like Ban Ki-moon coming from a corrupt background spelling the doom of the UN.
Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry has confirmed that the Sri Lanka Army Director of Operations Major General Shavendra Silva had been appointed Sri Lanka’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Silva (aged 46) was the commander of the Sri Lanka Army’s 58 Division in the final phase of Eelam War IV in which nearly 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed on a day and night exercise with even patients in hospitals, animals, cattle and other pets not spared from the barbaric attacks of the Sri Lankan armed forces.
The ex-military commander Silva was instrumental in the military capturing several former LTTE strongholds including the Mannar, Nachchikuda, Devils Point, Pooneryn, Kilinochchi, Elephant Pass, Vishvamadu and Puthukudirippu. During these military operations to take control of these areas, the Sri Lankan armed forces used bombs including white phosphors bombs which are prohibited by the international community. Sri Lanka, however did not heed the appeals made by the international community.
Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Ministry officials claim that Silva, who was a frontline commander during the battles, is believed to have been capable of sorting out the issues raised by the UN and its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Silva filled the vacancy created by Bandula Jayasekera who was recalled.
UN becomes hostage to war criminals
As a weak global body without even the ability to take actions against its own member-states for violating its own Charter thanks to Ban Ki-moon, the UN is now a refuge to war criminals who stood in the frontline and took pictures of dead bodies.
During his tenure as the military commander of the 58th division, Silva did not release the LTTE’s political leaders including P. Nadesan and Pulithevan who surrendered although they were asked to surrender by these top military commanders and subsequently shot and killed. Many other civilian and former LTTE cadres were arrested and taken into secret locations and an unaccountable number of them were tortured and eventually feared to be killed by the military.
Despite all the allegations put forwarded by the international human rights groups including Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch, the UN has maintained silence. Rather, its Secretary-General, who once visited the scene of the war last year, said he would do every possible thing to bring the perpetrators of the crime through impartial inquiry. However, things have changed since then.
Ban Ki-moon appointed an expert panel which was strongly opposed by the Sri Lankan government. After a diplomatic manoeuvre, Rajapaksa agreed to let the experts conduct their investigation and submit the report to Ban. Months later, the panel was named and conducted its initial activities, but the panel was weak. Just few weeks ago, Ban clearly stated that the panel would not interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka and the UN would not harm the sovereignty of the State. Perhaps Ban Ki-moon conveniently failed to realize the significance of term sovereignty when it came to Sri Lanka because of his obligations.
This leaves no doubt that the Sri Lankan State has no interest in holding abusers of human rights accountable as is demonstrated with the latest appointment of a war criminal as a deputy permanent UN representative and abetted by the UN.
While keeping tens of thousands of Tamils in jails under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act, and even thousands of Tamil youths being incarcerated or being killed by the State, the Sri Lankan government is playing a double-game to show the world that normalcy has returned after the end of the war. This is to hoodwink the world, and it is a pity that the UN, willingly becomes an accessory.
Is it possible for the UN to investigate on the war criminals?
Despite having acknowledged the fact that the Sri Lankan State is a signatory to the UN Charter, the UN has the right to intervene in the
internal affairs of its member-state in order to bring peace and security not only to the global community but also the citizens of the country. As such, Sri Lanka is a great example of violation of the UN Charter by killing innocent Tamils who are a visible minority in the island of Sri Lanka, and they are the majority in their homeland for which they were fighting for the last 60 years since the island gained independence from the Britain.
The Trusteeship Council, which is one of the six main bodies of the UN, suspended its operation on 1 November 1994, with the independence of Palau, the last remaining United Nations trust territory, on 1 October 1994. By a resolution adopted on 25 May 1994, the Council amended its rules of procedure to drop the obligation to meet annually and agreed to meet as occasion required — by its decision or the decision of its President, or at the request of a majority of its members or the General Assembly or the Security Council. It is a pity that this body was instrumental in conducting investigation and for the freedom of many nation-states.
The Tamils as a sovereign nation, who have the right to self-determination under international law, meeting all the requirements of nationhood, were not seen as important to the Trusteeship Council. This is because the outside world was not aware of the history of the Sri Lankan Tamils, a distinct nation on their own right. The Tamils on the island of Sri Lanka have lived there from time immemorial. They had their own kingdoms consisting of the North and East of the island. “Eelam” was the ancient Tamil word for Ceylon later to become Sri Lanka. For administrative convenience, the British brought together the Tamil kingdoms and the Sinhalese kingdoms. When the British left the administration in the hands of the Sinhalese, Tamils became second-class citizens through various state-sponsored conspiracies and agendas. This is a clear example and can be traced back with the record of the Portuguese, Dutch and British administrations.
With the most corrupt steward at its helm it gives welcome to war criminals with full diplomatic immunity showing that it is turning a blind eye towards the power and leaving the voiceless to sink into further misery. If the UN does not take necessary steps to take action against its member-states it will lose its credibility creating chaos for its own survival.
The New York Times, on November 21, 2010, carried an article written by Brad Hamilton captioned ‘War criminal gets a UN job”. It is rather an eye-opening one. Hamilton wrote: “Human-rights groups are outraged that Shavendra Silva, 46, a top ex-military commander, was named Sri Lanka’s deputy permanent UN representative in August, after which he moved to New York…His arrival came a year after his troops defied international pleas and shelled a no-fire zone packed with women, children and elderly refugees, according to observers…Silva also stands accused of mowing down a group of separatist political leaders who agreed to surrender and were waving white flags when they were shot.”
Hamilton quoted a human-rights group expert who asked not to be identified as saying: “It’s a slap in the face, said an investigator familiar with Silva, who last year oversaw the final months of a brutal 26-year civil war against Tamil separatists on the island nation off India’s south-eastern tip. The war started in 1983 after the Tamils, a Hindu ethnic minority, were denied power by the ruling Sinhalese, Buddhists, and formed a violent resistance group, the LTTE with thousands killed or starved. There were massive human-rights violations No. 1 suspect.”
The New York Times article further said: “Silva claims 11,000 friends on Facebook. The barrel-chested former major general also maintains his own site, shavendrasilva.com, filled with photos of himself in combat garb and a list of his battlefield successes.” A typical Sri Lankan megalomaniac.
Will Ban Ki-moon realize anything?
Every single individual who gives respect to human rights and wanted to maintain peace and security will say that it is time for Ban Ki-moon to shed his crocodile tears and to realize that Rajapaksa gave false promises and misled him when he promised a serious national investigation and to do what he has done elsewhere [as in Africa] and establish an independent commission to investigate possible war crimes. Ban to date has been impotent in addressing the Genocidal issues with the recent Tamil Humanitarian crisis. Ban Ki-moon has been playing a very dangerous game with Sri Lanka by not addressing the Tamil Genocide, War Crimes and real causes of the conflict — racial hatred.
The western democratic countries are powerless to bring the world together to work for peace and development, based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well being of all people because the rest of the countries in the UN joined hand-in-hand with the “Axis of Evil” to defeat the democratic system of the modern world.
The UN and the international community have been avoiding labelling the Tamil conflict as genocide and to recognize their struggles of the last 60 years or more. It is time for Ban to reject Silva who has displayed barbaric human characteristics being directly in-charge of the massacres of Tamils. Even Sri Lankan soldiers know how cruel he was and how many LTTE fighters were dead tortured in the hands of Silva. He was on the front line in the final stage of the war and he himself urged the Sri Lankan soldiers to sadistically remove the clothes of murdered female cadres and take pictures to instigate racial hatred within his ranks. Many of the soldiers or local commanders felt sorry when Silva ordered to “Smash” the Tamils and urged soldiers not to take any chance of losing the war. His orders of indiscriminate attacks killed everyone from old men to unborn babies, which should be condemned strongly. He on many occasions gave orders and his team was involved in the “White flag” case. He himself has given statement that he was in charge at the time when Tamil political leaders surrendered.
With whatever was being said about Silva, Ban himself knew the facts as he was a visitor to the scene of the war crime last year, he met Silva, too and hence, it is important for the sake of maintaining impartiality to set the personal loyalties and gratitude for favours received aside and come forth objectively to secure the existence and the continuance of the UN as a global body.
The UN has the obligation to stop any person who is believed to be involved in crimes against humanity in order to prevent the flood gates of war criminals and mafia entering the UN offices as diplomats as a way out for such groups to be given credibility to escape from their inhumane and wanton acts. Even if Ban Ki-moon failed to evict the war criminals like Silva, it is the responsibility of the democratic powers to come forward to save the UN from individuals like Silva.
(The author can be reached at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)