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Sunday, 29 August 2010

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Protect nations combating terrorism

Former United Nations' diplomat Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala has stressed the importance of introducing a new international protocol to safeguard Armed Forces fighting terrorism.

In his submission to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in Colombo last week, the retired top UN diplomat said that the legitimate Armed Forces of a sovereign nation should not be charged with war crimes when they launch offensives against terrorists.

It is a well-known fact that certain countries and international organisations brazenly interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. They even go to the extent of aiding and abetting terrorism, funding terrorists and promoting terrorism. Some of these countries and INGOs are instrumental in channelling funds to support terrorist organisations. In the circumstances, Dr. Dhanapala has stressed the necessity of introducing a protocol to safeguard Armed Forces fighting terrorism.

Sri Lanka is the best example in eradicating terrorism and the world should take a cue from Sri Lanka as a role model and introduce a mechanism to combat global terrorism. Instead of supporting Sri Lanka in the reconciliation and development process after eradicating LTTE terrorism, a section of the International Community is now attempting to take Sri Lanka before international war crimes tribunals. Isn't this an indirect attempt to support terrorism?

As disclosed by the former Chairman of the United Nations Disarmament Committee, the bravery of Sri Lanka's soldiers helped avert the holocaust of 300,000 civilians. The tragedy would have reached alarming proportions had the Security Forces not exercised restraint in attacks to avoid civilian casualties. Those soldiers faced major risks to avoid a holocaust of 300,000 Tamil civilian deaths in the final stages of the battle against terrorism.

Some countries and INGOs tend to ignore how the LTTE held thousands of innocent civilians as a human shield and fired mortars at the advancing Security Forces, who unilaterally gave up using heavy weapons in the final stages of the battle. This was done by the Security Forces to maintain zero civilian casualty rates but in doing so, they lost more security personnel and suffered more casualties.

The tragedy would have definitely reached alarming proportions in the event the Security Forces did not exercise utmost restraint in attacks to avoid civilian casualties. The Government sent essential food and medical supplies to those who were held captive by the LTTE, although it knew that a major portion of it would go into the hands of the Tigers. Thus, Sri Lanka was the only country to feed a terrorist outfit which waged a relentless war against its Security Forces.

Taking a lesson from Sri Lanka's experience, the International Community should implement a mechanism to protect countries combating terrorism. The Armed Forces of an independent country should not be charged with war crimes when they launch offensives against terrorist organisations. Terror outfits and legitimate Governments should not be treated on equal terms.

As Dr. Dhanapala has rightly said, it is the responsibility of the International Community to protect nations victimised by the 'export of terrorism'. The International Community should also take action against those countries assisting terrorism in other countries. The UN should declare that such interference is a clear violation of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

The concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) should be enhanced by innovative ideas to assist vulnerable nations confronted with difficulties in their fight against terrorism unleashed by non-state actors. There is a number of Non Aligned Movement member countries faced with this situation who will definitely support it if there is a move to improve the provisions in the R2P concept to safeguard such nations.

Dr. Dhanapala has advocated that the Government enacts a Race and Religious Relations Act to promote reconciliation. He has also suggested that punishment should be meted out for hate speech and action against acts or speeches against other races and religions.

At a time the Government is taking every possible step to strengthen and foster ethnic harmony and build greater confidence amongst all ethnic groups, the International Community must demonstrate its sincerity in the well-being of the Tamils by supporting the development and reconciliation efforts. Those who preach vociferously against international terrorism and the need to eradicate it ad nauseum must prove their sincerity. Sri Lanka has set an example to one and all by becoming the first country to eradicate terrorism. This is the most opportune time for the International Community to prove how genuine they are with their clarion call to eradicate global terrorism.

The Government has set another example, worthy of emulation by resettling the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in next to no time. Certain countries and international organisations which shed crocodile tears on the IDPs during the battle against terror did precious little to help Sri Lanka's resettlement process and infrastructure development of the North and the East.

Nevertheless, Sri Lanka, with the help of friendly countries, stood on its own and found a safe haven for those innocent civilians who were pawns in the hands of the Tigers. None of these countries or international organisations spoke about those laudable achievements of the world's largest human rescue mission.

As a responsible Government, Sri Lanka has paid much attention on the rehabilitation of ex-combatants too. Under the direction of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka has already initiated the rehabilitation of ex-LTTE combatants and getting them absorbed into the country's development drive.

The Government under the direct supervision of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa has drawn up a comprehensive program to rehabilitate ex-combatants at the Rehabilitation Centres set up in Jaffna and Vavuniya. Special education programs too have been launched for the ex-combatants to pursue their studies and prepare them for the GCE Ordinary Level and Advanced Level examinations. Is the United Nations blind to such a sincere commitment by the Government?

Those countries and international organisations which attempt to push Sri Lanka towards an international war crimes tribunal must first and foremost evaluate all these factors before jumping to conclusions. They must respect and commend those unparalleled achievements by Sri Lanka's valiant Security Forces.

 

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