While suppressing the evidence it had commissioned from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Amnesty produced yet another report to denigrate Sri Lanka during the sessions of the Human Rights Council, and has been actively canvassing against us in Geneva. Its normally urbane representative, Peter Splinter, has been scurrying around like a headless chicken, and using language that he would not normally stoop to.

I met him as I went to the Palais on the 14th, and he did not stop to speak, understandably so for he had a meeting with the Sri Lankan delegates led by Dr Saravanamuttu of the Centre for Policy Alternatives who have been in the forefront of the campaign against Sri Lanka. Interestingly, when most people in Sri Lanka were positive about the LLRC report, it was CPA which followed the American line of criticism, which sadly the TNA also took up. While Peter was deeply upset about what he claimed was characterization of his friends as terrorists, and this of course is nonsense, the congruence of their agenda with that of the LTTE rump that has now come to the Palais in increasing numbers is truly worrying.

Peter engaged in his own insults when he described the session at which Jeevan Thiagarajah and Javid Yusuf and I spoke about taking Reconciliation forward as a Dog and Pony show. I do not think he intended any particular insult to Mr Yusuf, but it is this type of cultural insensitivity that Amnesty would have been careful about in the old days when people committed to Human Rights without a political agenda, such as Anne Ranasinghe and Javid himself worked for it.

The political agenda is clear in the latest report issued by Amnesty, with its claim that unlawful detention practices continue. In the past I used to think Amnesty was genuine in its commitment to human rights, and I have no objection to it drawing attention to practices it sees as illegal or improper. What I object to is its use of particular instances to engage in generalizations that shore up the impression it seeks to propagate, of Sri Lanka being a militarized state where abuses are the norm. I am sure Amnesty is aware of the vast number of deaths in police custody in Britain in recent years, and I am sure that it will draw attention to these, albeit less dramatically than it does to problems in countries it dislikes – but I do not see it claiming that such abuses in Britain are endemic and indicative of state policy.

The particular instances Amnesty draws attention to in its current assault are largely taken from the past. All case studies as far as I could see were of people arrested in 2009 or earlier, and several of them had been released. While I have no doubt that, like any country under threat from terrorism, arrests sometimes erred on the side of caution, several of the studies indicate that there was good reason for the arrest, ranging from the foreign national who came out to work in an orphanage, as he claimed, and was then recruited by the LTTE (whether forcibly or not is not indicated) to the cadre who had lied under interrogation about his work for the LTTE though he has readily admitted it to whoever interviewed him for Amnesty.

Amnesty also ignores the fact that, whereas we did have large numbers in detention in 2009, those have been significantly reduced. While at the Ministry of Human Rights we would urge that cases be expedited, we could understand that while LTTE terrorism was still an active threat in Sri Lanka, we had to be cautious. Shortly after the war ended however the President appointed a Committee which I chaired to ensure that cases were dealt with, and I had complete cooperation from the prison authorities, the police and the Attorney General’s Department. Though we would complain that this last was slow in dealing with files entrusted to it, the number was halved by the time the Committee ceased to function with the election of 2010.

Since then the Attorney General worked expeditiously to reduce the numbers, and the figure of 2000 cited by Ambassador Godage, cited in the Amnesty Report from the LLRC hearings, is now down to a few hundreds. It should be noted too that ICRC has been visiting such detainees since 2007. I remembered that we used to get reports when I was at the Ministry, but I checked again and ICRC has confirmed that its visits have continued throughout.
Amnesty also devotes a chapter to what it terms, with insidious inverted commas and a question mark, ‘Rehabilitated?’. The chapter does not in fact spend much time on the rehabilitation programme, which it is generally agreed has been swift and successful, with almost all the 11,000 former combatants it took responsibility for initially having been released. Now some of those who had been detained elsewhere have now been transferred to the rehabilitation programme.

This chapter is perhaps the shoddiest in a generally shoddy piece of work. It uses an extract from a 2009 report on child soldiers, and completely ignores the programme implemented for these victims of LTTE terrorism, a programme that has even won high praise from the UN. It ignores the actual rehabilitation programme, and cites as though it were gospel truth one American student who claimed that the rehabilitees felt aggrieved. Such an anecdotal approach is ridiculous, given the general plaudits the programme has received. One anecdote can be trumped by several, including the reports of the volunteers I sent in to teach English and the representatives of Business Consultatncy Services who ran four entrepreneurship programmes for the youngsters, but it will suffice to ask where else has such a programme gone ahead so smoothly and swifty? Sadly, Amnesty is a bit like the Sri Lankan urban activist who claimed, when fifty couples amongst the rehabilitees were married, that they had been forced into marriage. I should note that I checked, and over 100 had asked, but the Commissioner General had only gone ahead with ceremonies for those whose families too had agreed. Sadly, when perverse prejudice is endemic, nothing positive will be seen.

The International Crisis Group is similar. Its effusions, in two large documents this time, need to be studied in greater detail, but once again they have engaged in suggestiveness and suppressions that are at variance with the facts. One issue on which they have corrected themselves is in declaring that the LTTE expulsion of Muslims was the only instance of ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka, in contrast with the sleight of hand they tried to use in 2007 when they wanted to claim that Sri Lanka was a situation where the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect, developed by its then President Gareth Evans, should be applied. They referred there in general terms to ethnic cleansing – which is one of the few reasons for trying to invoke R2P – as though it were happening in Sri Lanka. When I challenged Gareth Evans as to what he meant by this, he turned to the man who had written his speech, since clearly he had no idea what he was talking about, and had merely regurgitated what he had been fed.

That man was Alan Keenan, who has since continued with his vicious campaign against Sri Lanka. He admitted then that the ethnic cleansing was what had occurred in 1990 with the LTTE, but despite promising to correct the misleading elements in their pronouncement, neither he nor Gareth answered letters later. When I next met Gareth he told me he thought he had done so, but then revealed the truth when he told me that I was a dangerous man to deal with. I was flattered at this nervousness expressed by a former Foreign Minister, but that is no excuse for prevarication.

This time round the ICG reports once again rely on generalizations which are not borne out by the facts, nor indeed by the substance of the report. The theme of the first report is that the North of Sri Lanka is being subject to Sinhalisation, but what this amounts to seems to be only Sinhala on some nameboards and the resettlement of Sinhalese in the villages in the south of the Northern Province, where they had lived previous to being driven out by terrorism. Keenan obviously is not aware that government now has nameboards in all three languages in Colombo, which many of us welcome, though I suppose there are some who like him want to continue our citizens in the monolingual straitjacket in which previous educational policies confined them.

One remarkable instance of Keenan’s relentless prejudice is his claim that there is a museum only for Sinhalese. He must know that no checks are made on those entering such places. When I went there, I found the place in fact filled with a couple of Muslim groups. Perhaps some Tamils might not want to see evidence of the range of LTTE weaponry, but any who do would be welcome. Unfortunately the fact that most Sri Lankans, and in particular the Tamils of the Wanni who suffered under LTTE rule, are relieved that the LTTE threat no longer looms within Sri Lanka, is not to Keenan’s taste. That alone can explain the manner in which he writes, the timing of his publications, and the role these play in the agenda of the LTTE rump abroad which is still trying to fan the flames of separatism and terror. It is tragic that others have fallen in line with their agenda, but selfishness has always trumped morality in the field of international relations. What is sad is to see the rhetoric of rights being used to pursue blatantly hypocritical agendas, and to see the army of paid activists who provide auxiliary services for such agendas.

The Island 20 March 2012 – http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=47923