One may have lost whatever respect one had for the British Parliament after reading a report on the proceedings of a debate on Sri Lanka on Tuesday. It was not so much because of prejudice that some MPs exuded in their speeches oozing with loathing and bile against Sri Lanka or their bias for the LTTE. The reason was that they ventured to debate something that they were not au fait with and thereby cut very pathetic figures. If only they had done a little bit of homework and backed their arguments with facts and figures without wheeling out unsubstantiated claims and charges to appease a bunch of terror backers who happen to be voters in their home boroughs!
Several MPs betrayed their partiality to the LTTE by regurgitating blatant propaganda lies they had been fed with in advice surgeries by LTTE activists. Anti-Gordon junior Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Modern) let the cat out the bag when she admitted that her diatribe against Sri Lanka, her advocacy of its expulsion from the Commonwealth and her call for a UN Security Council resolution against it were based on mere hearsay: `Every Friday, I hold an advice surgery for about five hours. As is the case for many MPs, barely a week goes by without me meeting constituents who have family members back home in the Tamil region of Sri Lanka. More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict the numbers are so big that the crisis is almost impossible to comprehend. Each week I meet constituents face to face who tell me their stories and fears for their families, which makes a complex international crisis very personal.`
McDonagh was merely bandying about diabolical lies drilled into her head by LTTE lobbyists. Could she say how she arrived at the number of lives lost in the conflict, which she conveniently places at 70,000 or, worse, with no reference to any time period? Irresponsibility at its worst!
Labour MP Keith Vaz known for his pro-LTTE stance had to confess in public recently, when confronted by a group of anti-terror Sri Lankans in London, that he was unaware of the other side of the story! A responsible person like MP Vaz, who is a former Europe Minister, we believe, should have known better than to go public without knowing his facts.
The prime movers behind Tuesday`s debate seem to think that Sri Lanka is fighting a war to derive some kind of sadistic pleasure by spilling blood and not to neutralise a threat to its national security. The debate was so lopsided that neither the real nature of the LTTE nor its crimes received adequate exposure. MPs only disported themselves in bashing Sri Lanka to their heart`s content. They need to be educated on the LTTE crimes which they will never hear about from the LTTE lobby groups.
The LTTE is responsible for over 200 massacres of civilians, ethnic cleansing, bombing of civilian targets, decimating the entire Tamil democratic political leadership save a few, eliminating rival Tamil militant leaders except one or two, assassinating a Sri Lankan President (Ranasinghe Premadasa) and a former Indian Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi), killing a large number of ministers including Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, taking UN workers hostage and recruiting their children into fighting units, violent suppression of dissent, forcible child conscription and extortion.
The misguided British MPs should also realise the threats that the LTTE poses to global democracy and peace. It is engaged in training foreign terrorists, narcotics trade, gun running, money laundering and human smuggling. But for the on-going military offensives, the LTTE would have completed its submarine project and all the sea routes around Sri Lanka would have become extremely vulnerable to terror attacks. Its crude air capability sent shockwaves not only in Sri Lanka but across the Palk Strait as well. The nuclear power plants in South India had to be provided with air defence systems and it was only recently that the airports in Kerala were warned of a possible `punitive` LTTE attack.
Doesn`t an all out campaign by a group of British lawmakers to have a country battling such a brutal terrorist outfit which is banned in the UK penalised through sanctions, expulsion from the Commonwealth and a UN Security Council resolution against it, amount to aiding and abetting terrorism?
When the battered LTTE told a British newspaper recently that it was willing to have talks without preconditions, we said in these columns it had made that offer in view of the British Parliamentary debate on Sri Lanka. Labour MP Joan Ryan (Enfield, North) lost no time in calling for expelling Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth if it did not respond positively to the LTTE`s offer, which became the leitmotif running through Tuesday`s debate.
MP Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con) went a step further. He called upon the British government `to impress on the Sri Lanka government that the ceasefire must include not only the LTTE but all sections of the Tamil community . He said, `There is a role for the Tamil National Alliance and other democratic people in that process`. How uninformed he is! He doesn`t even know that the TNA is the LTTE`s puppet alliance! This brings us again to the question of homework. Hammond needs to do a little bit of background research before making speeches. He needs to be told that the LTTE did not allow any other party to be included in previous peace talks not even the voiceless Muslims.
Hammond, Ryan, McDonagh et al must study the history of Sri Lanka`s peace processes at least perfunctorily. It was the LTTE which torpedoed all the past peace efforts, beginning from the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord which paved the way for Provincial Councils. Not even India could make the LTTE agree to that solution. The LTTE rejected both Regional Councils (2000) and federalism envisaged in the Oslo Declaration (2003). These facts were clearly stated in a resolution the EU Parliament passed in 2006 in justification of its decision to list the LTTE as a terrorist group.
The LTTE used each and every peace process as a springboard for the next phase of Eelam war and scuttled it in the process. In 1990, it shot down a peace process by massacring 600 unarmed policemen. In 1995, it ended peace talks by destroying two Navy gunboats. In 2003, it walked away from the negotiating table under the UNF government. Later, it stepped up attacks on military and police personnel killing scores of them before reverting to full scale war in 2006.
That is why people are averse to any more talks with the LTTE. The internationally renowned human rights activists and university dons Rajan Hoole and Kopalasingham Sritharan of the University Teachers for Human Rights (UTHR) told IANS last month that peace parleys had only given a free run to the LTTE. They said, `Presently, the indications we have are that the people want an end to the war but are wary of any more peace talks with the LTTE.`
Some British MPs on Tuesday repeatedly accused Sri Lanka of committing genocide. They have obviously shut their eyes tight to reality. If the Sri Lankan military is perpetrating genocidal violence, how is it that thousands of Tamil people are fleeing to the army-controlled areas braving LTTE bullets, machetes and bombs?
It is heartening that many British MPs took exception to a campaign to give oxygen to the sinking Tigers. An irate McDonagh told the House, `I have gone around the House to ask Members from all parties to sign early-day motions asking for the suspension of Sri Lanka from the Commonwealth, but hon. Members in the Chamber would be amazed by the number of people who want nothing to do with the matter and do not want to talk about it. They believe that the Tigers are terrorists and therefore they are not willing to engage on the issue. The Sri Lankan Government have been incredibly successful at propaganda and that is why we have to be witnesses to what is going on and we have to say what is happening.`
She got it all wrong!
They were not deceived by any propaganda. They only took up a principled stand on terrorism without being swayed by pecuniary benefits, freebies, blandishments and votes of the terror backers.
Hammond, Ryan, McDonagh, Vaz and others ought to be told that the real problem is not Sri Lanka`s war on terror but the fact that the LTTE has taken civilians and UN workers hostage.
They must do something to secure their release without barking up the wrong tree. And fast!