Electoral politics has an uncanny way of grabbing the least expected of opportunities in the battle for votes. The General Court of the European Union would have had little knowledge, if any, of how its recent ruling on the designation of the LTTE as a terrorist organization by the European Union, in 2006, would impact on the politics of Sri Lanka.
The EU has issued a statement that in understanding the implication of the Court's Ruling it is important to remember that it is a legal ruling of a court; it is not a political decision taken by the EU Governments. That does sound good, but one cannot ignore the fact that the LTTE, even after its defeat in May 2009, remains very much the stuff of politics in Sri Lanka, especially considering all the pain and suffering it put the people of Sri Lanka through for nearly three decades.
An election is now on the cards here and it is inevitable that the European General Court's annulment of the measures taken by the Council of the EU against the LTTE, namely its designation as a terrorist organization and the freezing of its funds, would impact on the campaign that is getting under way. Both the Government and the much divided Opposition see in this an opportunity for high decibel politics in the weeks ahead. The UPFA is strong in the view that the decision has come as a result of the influence of the anti-government and pro-regime change forces in the West, who would like to see the ouster of President Rajapaksa and this government that defeated the LTTE. The key opposition groups seek to show this decision as a sign of weakness of the government in the pursuit of an effective strategy in foreign policy, and also accusing it of benefitting from this by way of better economic resources in the future - if the LTTE funds are finally released.
The debate will certainly gather momentum as the campaign heats up. Apart from these rival positions about the EU Court's decision on the LTTE, there are also other views that are not directly connected to the coming election, but are worthy of consideration. One is the view of Mr. V. Anandasangaree, President of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), who has warned the government that the European Union Court's annulment of the EU's ban on the LTTE will be a push to revive the separatist and terrorist outfit in Sri Lanka's Tamil-majority of the Northern Province.
"Pro-LTTE groups both within the island and overseas have received a shot in the arm, and will now openly propagate the LTTE's cause of separatism and terrorism. The TNA will now up its ante reflecting the LTTE's demands," Anandasangaree told The New Indian Express, which shows the impact of this on the politics in the North, and certainly on the coming election.
There is also the thinking of Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore who has said: "The court did not conduct a substantive assessment of classification of the LTTE as a terrorist group."
Judgments on imputations
While there will be more interesting views, with an increasingly direct impact on the politics of the coming days and weeks ahead, a matter of real interest is the reason for the relevant decision of the EU General Court. It is the opinion of the EU's lower court that the original decision to designate the LTTE as a terrorist organization and freeze its funds had been based on "imputations derived from the press and the Internet" rather than on direct investigation of the group's (LTTE's) actions, as required by law. These are the procedural grounds on which the decision to annul the ban on the LTTE was arrived at.
While the decision of the Court will be no doubt be subject to appeal, what is interesting here is how this decision matches with that of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to carry out an international investigation into the Human Rights situation in Sri Lanka, limited to the final period of the battle to defeat the separatist terrorism of the LTTE.
There is hardly any doubt that the decision to launch an international investigation into what happened in Sri Lanka, as proposed by the US and its supporters in the UNHRC in Geneva had little to do with a proper and direct investigation into what took place in this country at the given time. It is also most evident that much of the charges against Sri Lanka were based on media reports, both print and electronic, and had little to do with actual inquiry that can stand the test of probity.
The countries that were led by the US to call for the international investigation into Sri Lanka showed very clearly that they were much more influenced by what they had seen on the Channel 4 video programs, allegedly on the final stages of the battle in Sri Lanka - where the "Sri Lanka Killing Fields" did play a major role. There was little heed paid to the judgments by those knowledgeable on electronic media and video recordings that much of what was shown by those videos lacked in integrity, and pointed to deliberate distortion of the truth.
The fake figures
The alleged figures of the numbers killed in this stage of the battle were widely differing from one source to another as to make the attempts to make such assessments absurd. The United Nations had no figure higher than 7,000, with its office functioning here during the entire conflict and was engaged in coordination of relief operations throughout. But even those who worked for the UN and gave this figure, later raised it to more than 40,000 at the stage of book publication for profit. There was another journalist who had spent some time in Sri Lanka, before the time of this stage of the battle, who was ready to publish a figure of more than 140,000 in another book for profit. Newspapers such as the London Times (UK) were ready to go with highly inflated figures while not making any attempt to verify the information obtained.
The one document that was being waved about for authenticity was the report of the Panel of Experts appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, better known here as the Darusman Committee, who said there were claims of 40,000 killed, which the report itself could not substantiate. This was not an official UN report, but intended to for Ban Ki-moon. The situation in this regard was made worse by the decision that names of those who gave evidence that led to such an estimate would not be revealed for 20 years. Those who voted against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC were ready to ignore another report; that of the Secretary General's Internal Review Panel on UN action in Sri Lanka - the Petrie Report, which found considerable fault in how the UN handled the crisis in Sri Lanka, reported on it, and raised doubts on the figures of killed being bandied about.
The UNHRC is certainly not a court of law, and one would not expect it to require the stringent rules on evidence that a court would require. But it is certainly an international body from which one would expect even the minimum of commitment to accuracy in coming to decisions that affect a member nation, and impact adversely on its attempts to strengthen peace and reconciliation after such a long and bloody conflict. To judge by what the General Court of the EU has stated in annulling the EU's ban on the LTTE, it is quite clear that the pro-US members of the UNHRC had acted on imputations derived from the press, videos, and a highly questionable report that cannot stand even the least judicial probe due to the hiding of alleged witnesses.
It is now the task of the members of the EU to show its General Court or a higher judiciary that its decision was not based on "imputations derived from the press and the Internet", but on much more substantial evidence of the LTTE's brutality that compelled other countries, the US and India included, the two largest democracies in the world, to ban the LTTE, and to also name it as the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world.
Terror in Canada
Canada has been struck by terrorism. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was quick to condemn this brutality. His message said, "It is very disturbing to see increasing terrorist acts in many countries, now even in Canada. We must unite as equal partners to fight this menace."
This no doubt came with Sri Lanka's own experience of the horrors and brutality of terrorism. It is particularly contemptible that this outrageous display of terrorism affected the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, which is the centre of the democratic process in Canada and has always been known as an open house to the public.
Sri Lanka would be particularly concerned about these acts of brutality as they have taken place in a country that is a fellow and founding member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and being well aware of the contemptible acts of terrorism that our own country and people faced for nearly three decades.
The Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, said "This week's events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world," in his address to the nation. "We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and our institutions of governance are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our values, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all. But let there be no misunderstanding. We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated."
Shocking and contemptible as it is, no doubt Canada will now accept the reality of terrorism, and the threat it can pose to countries that have succeeding in coming out of the grip of terror, and remain cautious and ever vigilant about the machinations of pro-terrorist groups around the world that are keen to restore terrorism in place of peace. Never being intimidated by the forces of terror is the best response to these agents of savagery. Canada would now have to reconsider the role of its politicians in vying for the votes of those who support separatist terror in their former homelands, and the necessity to unite as equal partners to fight the scourge of terror.