Final battle in Swiss capital

The final battle of the Eelam War was not merely fought in Puthukuduirippu or Vellamulliwaikkal, it was also fought in more conducive surroundings in Geneva, and just as much as the Sri Lankan military won in Puthukuduirippu, Colombo’s government emerged victorious in the Swiss capital as well.

That was when Sri Lanka was able to convince the majority of countries to support its Resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), effectively defeating a Resolution sponsored by the European Union (EU), which called for a probe on alleged war crimes during the final phases of the military onslaught against the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

With all due respect to the thousands of men and women of the armed forces, who sacrificed life and limb in the war against the LTTE, Sri Lanka’s victory in Geneva is by no means less significant than its military achievement, in terms of consequences.
Now, it is blatantly obvious that, the massive propaganda war launched by the Tigers was part and parcel of their armed struggle. In fact, it was faith in this propaganda build up which convinced LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran that, he would prevail in the tussle with the military, for he believed that, Colombo will be pressurised to call off the war, by the collective arm twisting of the international community.

We recall, with indignation, how nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom, while supposedly battling terrorism in their own countries, tried to coerce Colombo into a ceasefire with the LTTE, when our own battle against terror was nearing its conclusion.

Had their tactics succeeded, the LTTE would have received yet another bailout, regrouped, rearmed and recommenced their campaign against the Sri Lankan State, claiming thousands of more lives in the process.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government withstood that pressure against tremendous odds, with more than a little help from India, and thus ended Prabhakaran’s hopes of a last minute reprieve. Nevertheless, the propaganda war that he manipulated continued even after his demise, culminating in the events in Geneva this week.

What is noteworthy in Sri Lanka’s diplomatic triumph is that, it brought together a range of nations, often at odds with each other - India, Pakistan and China for instance - against the EU Resolution, thereby, exposing the hidden agenda of the mostly Western nations, who called for sanctions against Colombo.

Also voting with Sri Lanka were countries as diverse as Egypt and Cuba - highlighting the fact that, the UNHRC is no longer a plaything of powerful nations. There is, apparently, a sense of solidarity among the ‘smaller’ nations, who believe that, if they allowed the Western nations to dictate terms in one country’s battle against an organisation that is undoubtedly a terrorist group, it would amount to the interference in the internal affairs of that country, and that would set a very dangerous precedent.

And this, while the United States of America takes good aim at the civilians in Afghanistan and decimates them with pinpoint accuracy, with hardly a murmur from the UNHRC or the likes of David Miliband, Navi Pillay or John Holmes. Surely, the hypocrisy of this is self evident to all, except those who are so blind that they do not wish to see.

It appears that, with all the diplomatic egg on their collective faces, the UNHRC has still not given up on censuring Sri Lanka. Its deputy spokesperson Marie Okabe is quoted as saying that, “an international inquiry could still happen further down the line” because “international human rights law is quite robust -- there are different ways and means to get to the truth and provide some measure of accountability”-a thinly veiled warning, if ever there was one.

While wishing the UNHRC best of luck in their efforts, we in Sri Lanka must now turn our attentions elsewhere - towards using our military victories, to convert our country from a minefield of animosities into a nation of prosperity and peaceful co-existence.

Dengue, another terror

Sri Lanka may have won its war against the most ruthless terrorist organisation in the world but, yet another terror stalks the country now - the deadly menace of the Dengue mosquito. Already over 80 deaths have been recorded this year- most of them children-and hundreds more have fallen victim to the illness.

What is baffling is what the Ministry of Health and its various agencies have done - or, more correctly, not done - over the past few years. The country has had several previous outbreaks of Dengue in recent years and, with each outbreak, there is public clamour for suitable action.

During the last such epidemic, we heard pledges from Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, that he would enact laws to punish those whose practices encouraged mosquito breeding. Now, as yet another epidemic threatens, we hear the same noises again.
The claims of the various ministry mandarins are even more laughable. The spread of the disease is because there is no public cooperation to eradicate the mosquito, they lament. When officials smugly tell us that, the epidemic was predicted, they are only displaying their incompetence in preventing what was so predictable.

Surely, educating the public and implementing suitable deterrent penalties against practices that encourage mosquito breeding is what the Dengue control programme is for.

In public security, for instance, the Defence authorities ran well orchestrated public awareness campaigns encouraging public vigilance against bomb attacks, with commendable results. Did we see such campaigns against Dengue in recent months? Of course not - instead, we were treated to scholarly discourses on Swine Fever!

The war against terror may have been too serious a matter to be left to the Generals alone, but in this instance, the war against Dengue appears to be too serious a matter to be left to Nimal Siripala de Silva alone - he, after all, has to look after the World Health Organisation as well!