Neelson accuses NGO of supporting "dictatorship masquerading as democracy"

[TamilNet, Thursday, 11 June 2009, 11:35 GMT]
"When even the then supporters of the GoSL [Government of Sri Lanka] in Berlin, Paris or London have demanded an enquiry into war crimes and violations of human and humanitarian law in view of the estimated 20,000 mostly dead civilians during the last few weeks, when even the established media question the internment of 300,000 Tamil IDP, there is no way for any self-respecting intellectual or the critical public in general in the country concerned to pretend that the only problem left to be tackled is "humanitarian," said Prof. John Neelsen of Institute of Sociology in Tuebingen Germany in response to appeal for relief funds by the head of the NGO Foundation for Co-Existense's Dr Kumar Rupesinghe, accusing the NGO of supporting a "dictatorship masquerading as democracy."

Prof. John Neelsen
Prof. John Neelsen
"Instead of rising against the root causes, mobilizing the Singhalese public to fight against chauvinism, the security state, the dictatorship maskerading as democracy, for the rule of law and against the "culture of impunity", for a democratic, inclusive, participatory polity and society, you call for hand-outs, for charity implicitely justifying the present state of affairs," Prof. Neelson said in his letter.

"But, the plight of the Tamils is not due to a natural disaster, not another tsunami, but the result of the conscious policy of a government that had no calms of bombarding people that it claims as its own citizens with heavy artillery, according to some reports even illegal chemical weapons," Neelson said.

Funds appeal leaflet
Funds appeal leaflet
"You speak -echoing the official government line - of '300.000 temporarily displaced Tamils being 'sheltered in welfare centres'. This is but typical Orwellian language trying to turn reality upside down in light of the razor sharp barbed wires surrounding these camps, of the military controlling all access to and exits from them, of the prevention of independent outside observers, journalists and NGOs from entering them, of official announcements that a new prolonged phase of "counter-insurgency".

"The'welfare centres' are but internment camps, the 'rehabilitation in the camps' is but a racist policy of collective suspicion, intimidation, witchhunt, and impoverishment. When you talk of the "fear and anxiety of the people undoubtedly brainwashed by the LTTE" you seem to forget Bindunuwewa or Chemmani or the numerous reports by UN agencies and Human Rights organizations that have castigated the massive human rights violations, such as disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and torture committed for decades by the security forces especially against the SLT [Sri Lanka's Tamils]," Neelson said in his letter.

Full text of Prof. Neelsen's response:

    Dear Mr.Rupesinghe,

    allow me to reply to your appeal for financial contributions for the construction of 1000 latrins, and (earlier for) educational materials for Tamil youngsters in the camps in the Vanni. To state my position clearly at the outset: I am totally opposed to your proposal and hope to convince at least some of the other recipients of your appeal!

    Only in passing, I like to remind you of the high sounding speeches, including yours, on peace, negotiations, and reconciliation at the April 2006 conference in Zurich/Switzerland ("Envisioning New Trajectories for Peace in SL") or your similarly titled volumes. With the armed resistance defeated, the LTTE decapitated, today these sentiments and arguments appear light-years away. I wonder how you (and the other, particularly Singhalese, participants) read -and defend - your respective contributions now...

    Anyhow, today you are seemingly assuming a purely humanitarian viewpoint and, indeed, the door has been thrown wide open for all manifestly similarly minded people in NGOs and governments all over the world.

    But, the plight of the Tamils is not due to a natural disaster, not another tsunami, but the result of the conscious policy of a government that had no calms of bombarding people that it claims as its own citizens with heavy artillery, according to some reports even illegal chemical weapons.

    When even the then supporters of the GoSL in Berlin, Paris or London have demanded an enquiry into war crimes and violations of human and humanitarian law in view of the estimated 20.000 mostly dead civilians during the last few weeks, when even the established media question the internment of 300.000 Tamil IDP, there is no way for any self-respecting intellectual or the critical public in general in the country concerned to pretend that the only problem left to be tackled is "humanitarian".

    Just the contrary! You speak -echoing the official government line - of '300.000 temporarily displaced Tamils being 'sheltered in welfare centres'. This is but typical Orwellian language trying to turn reality upside down in light of the razor sharp barbed wires surrounding these camps, of the military controlling all access to and exits from them, of the prevention of independent outside observers, journalists and NGOs from entering them, of official announcements that a new prolonged phase of "counter-insurgency". The'welfare centres' are but internment camps, the 'rehabilitation in the camps' is but a racist policy of collective suspicion, intimidation, witchhunt, and impoverishment. When you talk of the "fear and anxiety of the people undoubtedly brainwashed by the LTTE" you seem to forget Bindunuwewa or Chemmani or the numerous reports by UN agencies and Human Rights organizations that have castigated the massive human rights violations, such as disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and torture committed for decades by the security forces especially against the SLT. Apart from their own experiences, these terrified people may also have heard of the situation on the ground following the 'liberation' of the Eastern province in mid-July 2007. What the government euphemistically describes as a "Nagenahira Navodaya or Eastern Awakening" programme, has nothing to do with "post-conflict reconstruction" but is a nightmare of violence, political instability, repression, and land expropiration according to the International Crisis Group (Asia report No 165 of April 16, 2009 entitled "Development Assistance and Conflict in Sri Lanka - Lessons from the Eastern Province"). And this is only the tip of the iceberg when viewed against the appropriation of the state by the majority coupled with the systemic oppression, including pogroms, of the Tamil people and the minorities in language, education, public employment or land colonisation.

    Against this background, your appeal is anything but well-minded and humanitarian, it is highly political, in fact legitimizing the racist policies of the GoSL. Instead of rising against the root causes, mobilizing the Singhalese public to fight against chauvinism, the security state, the dictatorship maskerading as democracy, for the rule of law and against the "culture of impunity", for a democratic, inclusive, participatory polity and society, you call for hand-outs, for charity implicitely justifying the present state of affairs.

    As a former Dy.Director of SIPRI, Oslo and coordinator of the UN Programme on Conflict Resolution, you know that in a conflict each and every action can not be viewed in isolation, but has to be seen in its socio-political context. In the concrete situation: A camp is a camp, to put a whole people behind barbed wire is racism.

    The unambigous struggle for the immediate dissolution of the camps and the return of the IDP to their homes must be the absolute priority, and not to make life somewhat easier for the inmates...

    Such a political commitment is, by the way, also in the best long-term interest of the Singhalese and all the other people living on the island.

    Prof. John Neesen


The text for appeal for funds by the Foundation for Co-Existence:

    WINNING THE PEACE

    Kumar Rupesinghe.

    The territorial battle between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE is at an end. Over two hundred and eighty thousand people have come into government controlled areas with fear and anxiety in their eyes, some maimed and injured and some separated from their kith and kin.

    The rehabilitation of the Tamil people in the camps is a major challenge, for they look a defeated people, undoubtedly brainwashed by the LTTE and shell shocked and emaciated.

    This is why I am keen to ensure these young people to obtain English training and training in information technology. Once this program gets going then other vocational training skills can be imparted to them. The young people should not be allowed to be idle for 24 hours is a very long time in a camp. Therefore they should be given reading material in Tamil and the books, magazines and journals should be carefully whetted. A strategic plan must be created with a long term vision. We owe this to a desperate and troubled mind of a future younger generation in the camps. We must not let history repeat itself.

    During any war terminations, people must pick up the pieces and rebuild their societies. In Sri Lanka too such a moment has arisen.

 

Latest 15 Reports
 
Find this article at:
http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=29575