INGO ‘concerns’ and their ‘unimpeachable’ sources
Words are interesting things. They can be used to communicate. They
can be used also to lie, to distort, misrepresent, vilify and obfuscate.
All words subject the communicator to appraisal. All words should be
taken with a pinch of salt, I believe.
The amount of salt employed depends on one thing: clarity in the
statement of bias.
If stories are lies, then a good story-teller is also a good liar.
Does this mean that no one is honest? No, there are honest people and
there are dishonest people.
The better human beings are those who clearly state their bias, who
are willing to admit fault and who have the humility to correct
themselves when proven wrong.
Let me state mine. I am a Sri Lankan and I entertain healthy
suspicion of all NGOs, local and international, and not without reason.
As a citizen, to me, the greatest threat to my citizenship is the LTTE.
To me it is eminently logical for a Government to thwart the
terrorist, especially since all other avenues of settlement have been
exhausted thanks to the LTTE’s intransigence regarding negotiations. I
believe that in times such as now there will be inevitable curtailing of
certain freedoms I used to enjoy. I stand with the state.
Do I stand with the Government and do I give it a blank cheque? No.
There are excesses and yes, the state has not been 100% successful in
reining in errant elements in the enforcing agencies.
However, by and large, the state has prevailed, is robust in ensuring
justice and freedom, and exemplary in all these given constraints
including the fact that Sri Lanka is a developing country, has a
relatively weak economy and is under siege by terrorism.
I have just finished reading a document authored by a group of
International Non-Government Organizations and addressed to all member
states of the United Nations urging them to stop Sri Lanka’s bid for a
UN Rights Council seat.
Reading through one would think that they have travelled to every
nook and corner of Sri Lanka, investigated thoroughly her institutions,
and interviewed thousands and thousands of people before concluding what
they have concluded and recommending what they have recommended.
The arguments are familiar. In a nutshell, if we are to believe them,
Sri Lanka is a living hell, especially for minorities. One is asked to
believe also that the Sri Lankan Government doesn’t give a damn for the
UN, has nothing by way of institutional structure to ensure that
universally approved norms pertaining to human rights are adhered to.
There is more. Sri Lanka has so many things to hide in these matters
that the Government will not allow any outside agency to play watch-dog
over its operations. In short Sri Lankan is a barbaric state and one
that is so rabidly uncooperative with the UN that it does not deserve a
seat in the UN Rights Council.
There are two ways to respond to all this.
One, do a comprehensive assessment of all members of the Rights
Council and indeed the Security Council, the movers and shakers, in
terms of track record on human rights within those countries and in
their involvement outside; comparing them all against Sri Lanka’s
performance giving appropriate weight to Sri Lanka’s ground reality of
having to deal with the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization
with sparse resources while doing the regular tasks that are required of
states including the protection of all citizenry.
The good people in the INGO community would not I believe entertain
the notion that people in Sri Lanka or elsewhere live in Utopia and
perforce, given also their good-heartedness, enthusiastically do the
relevant mathematics that they’ve failed to do in this plea.
There is another way.
Since this is after all a story and a story written by organizations
that do not have any real on-the-ground presence is Sri Lanka, we can
investigate their sources.
Hearsay is not fact, we need to understand. Claims, exaggerations etc
are the meat and gravy of any account and the ratio of meat to gravy is
easily obtained by investigating the sources, their political
predilections, their alleged neutrality and throwing in the true,
verifiable facts and figures.
Gravy, sad to say, only adds flavour; contains little nutrition,
contains little or no ‘body’. Reading through the document and the
references therein is indeed an entertaining exercise in the archaeology
It all comes down to some local organizations and a handful of local
Are these organizations politically value-free? No. Are they
No. Do they not have political lives outside worrying about human
rights, democracy, justice and so on? Yes, they do. Are they
No they are not. Do they not have party loyalties? Yes, they do. Do
they not have preferred political outcomes in the play of power
politics? Yes, they do.
Are they absent in the equation of party politics? Are they engaged
in a pure, remuneration-free exercise?
No, they are not.
Are there ‘hundreds of extra-judicial killings’? Yes, in directly
combating armed terrorists, one doesn’t have the luxury of arrest and
How many ‘extra-judicial’ killings have taken place outside of the
conflict zone and wherever such killings have taken place, outside of
the general culpability of the state in not preventing them, in how many
cases has it been proven beyond a shadow of doubt that there has been
deliberate intent and execution on the part of the Government?
The onus for providing such naturally falls on the distinguished
ladies and gentlemen of these INGOs sitting in judgment.
‘Hundreds of enforced disappearances’ have taken place, it is
alleged. Yes, people have disappeared. I know for a fact that all such
cases have been recorded and have been or are being investigated. Some
of them have been found to have ‘fled’ the country to the proverbial
greener pastures abroad. Some have ‘disappeared’ into LTTE-held areas.
Some have eloped with their lovers. Take those out and the ‘hundreds’
diminish into a handful and even among them the so-called
hand-of-the-state is not established.
Who are the ‘human rights defenders’ and ‘humanitarian workers’
denounced and threatened by the Government, pray? Does not a Government
or anyone else have the right to denounce those who are actively
undermining the state and overtly and covertly aiding terrorism? Should
the fact that such persons wear a ‘humanitarian’ and
‘human-rights-defending’ costume provide them with some kind of immunity
Employees of UN agencies, employees of NGOs and INGOs have been found
guilty of providing material and other support to the LTTE.
No one should be provided with blank cheques in Sri Lanka, not the
Government and not NGOs and INGOs. Terrorists can wear a priests
cassock, can disguise themselves as Buddhist monks, can come as a Police
Officer, can wear the paraphernalia carried by a journalist, can work
their way into UN agencies and INGOs and so on. This is the reality that
has forced the State to take extraordinary measures to protect the
Louis Arbour, Allan Rock, John Holmes and others are no doubt
inspired by the highest ideals of human decency but with all due respect
they too are humanly frail and in the case of Sri Lanka they have been,
unfortunately, mislead by informants whose credentials are utterly
suspect, informants who have carefully crafted human-rights-advocacy
resumes but who have publicly slipped and even slipped in wordage,
admitting, ‘we are not sincere’.
(Names of organizations and individuals and their complicity in all
this can be provided if necessary).
As for ‘cooperation’ with UN agencies, effort to implement
recommendations, the Government has certainly not done nothing. One can
quibble about amount of sincerity but on the other hand no sovereign
state is contractually bound to implement each and every proposal, and
especially not those offered by admittedly well-meaning but clearly
Those living in the comfort zone outside of immediate and violent
terrorist attack can of course pontificate but there are honour-bound to
appreciate the lived realities of ordinary citizens in Sri Lanka.
These are not easy times.
These INGOs want Sri Lanka out of the Rights Council. In the
worst-case scenario, that kind of ‘punishment’ for crimes not committed
will only compromise the Rights Council, the member states and the
petitioners in the eyes of the general citizenry of Sri Lanka. The
petitioners will no doubt be applauded, but only by a small coterie of
intellectual frauds adept in language, rhetoric and elitist
The rest of us will of course appreciate that it is a blow to the
country but given our understanding of the long-run, will shrug our
collective shoulders and battle on.
These INGOs have every right to appeal to the member states of the UN
to ‘say no to Sri Lanka’s bid for UN Rights Council seat’. We reserve
the right to say ‘no’ to anti-intellectualism, misinformed buffoonery
and everything and everyone that is patently anti-Sri Lanka and anti-Sri