Sri Lanka: really? this is an internal matter?

After the Sri Lankan issue being at the center of Tamil elections and after the dramatic death of Tamil Tigers leader Prabhakaran, it seems to have completely dropped out of the news cycle. The last time it made headlines here was when the Times in England reported that UN sources internally estimated the number of civilian deaths in the country at an astounding 20,000. The Times showed aerial photographs of mass civilian graves and devasatation in civilian settlements from bombs. This figure was later disputed by the Sri Lankan government, but officials commented that the numbers were still certainly “unacceptably high.”

Now it seems like things are really falling to pieces in the refugee camps, and nobody seems to be saying anything at all. Even as it voted to authorize an investigation into human rights abuses in Gaza, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution at the end of May saying that the issue in Sri Lanka was a “domestic” matter, putting much of the blame for civilian casualties on the LTTE, and commending the Sri Lankan government for its current policies. But an estimated 290,000 displaced civilians are being held in government run refugee camps that Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary-General of the UN, called “the most appalling” he has seen. This, from a man who has seen refugee camps in the most remote parts of the world! Apparently, refugees are not being allowed to leave the overcrowded camps because the government wants to ensure that they first screen for any remaining Tigers. The government is also limiting access to humanitarian groups and to journalists, so nobody really has any idea what is happening.

I expect complete hypocrisy from the government here, so the Tamil Nadu’s political leaders’ silence on the issue of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees is unsurprising to me. What *is* strange is the lack of agitation from the people here, who were so involved in this while the Tigers were still alive. In the weeks leading up to the elections, the city was electrified by the “Sri Lankan issue,” with protests, hunger fasts, and fiery speeches by political leaders demanding that the Indian government take immediate military action to protect Tamils. Where is that outrage now? Even Australians are outraged, but where are we?

  1. Arvind said:

    The UN’s silence on this matter too is not surprising. Muralidhar Reddy, writing for Frontline, says :

    Over the past few days, Vijay Nambiar’s role as U.N. envoy has come into question. His brother, Satish, has been a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan army since 2002. Satish once wrote that General Sarath Fonseka, commander of the Sri Lankan armed forces, ‘displayed the qualities of a great military leader’,” she writes.

    (from : Frontline June 6 to 19 )
    (Vijay Nambiar is the special envoy of Ban ki-Moon to Sri Lanka)

    And as you said, the silence across the Palk Strait is very surprising. You’d think, with the huge influx of refugees that will start very soon, the politicians here would be already pitching tents. Maybe they’re waiting for the next round of elections. Or maybe, the losses suffered by the overtly pro-LTTE parties make it an non-viable stand to take nowadays.

  2. Arvind said:

    Looks like Mr. Nambiar isn’t the only Indian connection to the UN motion (led by the US and the EU) declaring that the war was a domestic affair.

    India was a part of the 12 member bloc, which included China, Russia, Egypt (!) and Cuba (!!), that tabled a counter motion against the UNHRC.

    This is again from the same edition of Frontline. I think it’s worth reading the entire issue. Lots of different perspectives. The entire issue in PDF

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