U.S. editorial advocates confederation, urges arms embargo against Sri Lanka
[TamilNet, Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 12:12 GMT]
Advocating arms embargo against Sri Lanka, Boston Globe in an editorial appeared Wednesday, quoted Human Right Watch's letter to members of the U.S. Congress that "there has been a significant jump in abuses by government forces such as indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances," recommended that "arms sales to Sri Lanka be conditioned on that government improving its human rights record and accepting a United Nations monitoring mission to protect civilians caught in the conflict," and pointed out "current US policy contradictions," in U.S. donating military hardware to Sri Lanka Navy while urging Sri Lanka to seek a negotiated peace.
Full text of the editorial follows:
ONE OF THE world's most vicious and intractable conflicts has produced a spike in violence in recent days. After a bloody clash last week in the north of Sri Lanka between government forces and the rebel fighters known as the Tamil Tigers, the government boasted of killing 60 Tigers, while the Tigers claimed to have repulsed an attack by helicopter gunships, killing more than two dozen Sri Lankan troops. This battle came a week after government forces killed the Tigers' lead peace negotiator and three weeks after the Tigers attacked a government air base and destroyed several military aircraft.
This is the latest flare-up in a conflict that pits the government, dominated by Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority, against minority Tamils who live mostly in the island nation's north and east. During the past two decades more than 70,000 people have died in recurrent warfare, many of them noncombatants who fell victim to war crimes or wanton human-rights abuses. While the geopolitical repercussions of this conflict may be limited, its humanitarian consequences have been dire.
A recent letter from Human Rights Watch to two members of Congress cites past rights violations by the Tigers, including attacks against civilians and the use of child soldiers. But since the collapse of a cease-fire last year, the letter notes, "there has been a significant jump in abuses by government forces such as indiscriminate shelling, extrajudicial executions, and forced disappearances."
The letter sensibly recommends that arms sales to Sri Lanka be conditioned on that government improving its human rights record and accepting a United Nations monitoring mission to protect civilians caught in the conflict. The Sri Lankan army has displaced some 300,000 civilians during its current offensive into the Jaffna peninsula, a predominantly Tamil region.
Current US policy contradictions were on display Thursday when, during a ceremony accompanying an American donation of a maritime surveillance system and inflatable boats to the Sri Lankan navy, US ambassador Robert Blake urged the host government to pursue a negotiated settlement of the conflict. It will take more than well-meaning sentiments to end Sri Lanka's long internecine warfare.
There ought to be an international arms embargo on Sri Lanka. If President Rahinda Rajapaksa wants to end the conflict, he could point to the damaging effects of such an embargo to persuade Sinhalese nationalists they must accept a meaningful devolution of power to the Tamil areas. As a gesture of good will, the government should reopen the vital highway connecting the Tamil north to the rest of the island. And then Rajapaksa should back constitutional changes that would allow for Tamil self-government in a confederal Sri Lanka. This would be a solution in the interests of all Sri Lankans - Sinhalese and Tamil alike.
08.11.07 HRW endorses restrictions on arms sales to Sri Lanka