Protection of Human Rights in Sri Lanka: Duplicity of the British

Lakshman Indranath Keerthisinghe | Published on September 26, 2011 at 12:49 am

Who made thee ruler and judge over us?

‘The West won the world not by superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non Westerners never do.’ Samuel. P. Huntington as quoted by J.B. Muller in his dissertation Anglophiles, Eurocentric Arrogance and Reality –The Island November 5, 2010.

J.B. Muller in the above dissertation refers to the General Order issued in 1818 during the British Colonial Rule in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to

put down the rebellion in Uva-Vellassa as follows: ‘Kill every man, woman and child including the babes suckling at their mother’s breast. Destroy all dwelling houses. Burn all crops. Cut down all fruit trees. Slaughter all cattle; take what meat is necessary to feed the troops and burn the rest. Destroy all reservoirs, canals and channels. Poison the wells. Lay waste utterly the countryside denying any relief whatsoever to the rebels.’ Muller further states: ‘This order was carried out, laying waste Uva and Vellassa, a destruction from which it is yet to fully

President Rajapaksa speaks at the General Assembly in New York amid allegations of war crimes

recover.’ British writers commented that every tree from Ratnapura to Badulla was devastated with hung bodies of rotting human beings that gave off a revolting stench. The word ‘genocide’ was coined in the 1940s meaning the wiping out of a people, but if this wasn’t genocide then, what is? This is the manner in which the British who have now become human rights crusaders against Sri Lanka dealt with a rebellion by the Ceylonese people at that time.

It was reported recently in the print and electronic media that the Eighth Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee (FCO) of Session 2010-12 titled Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs presented in the House of Commons, the lower House of the British Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs by command of Her Majesty in September 2011 from paragraphs 137-141 inter alia contained the following recommendations concerning Sri Lanka: Recommendations 38 and 39.

Paragraph 137: We recommend that, in its response to the Report, the FCO explain more fully why it does not regard an international accountability mechanism as appropriate to the Sri Lankan situation at this stage and under what conditions it might change its position. (Paragraph 160)

Paragraph 138: We commend Channel 4 for its documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, which showed horrific scenes of crimes carried out in 2009. We reaffirm the view of our predecessor Committee and call on the UK Government to press for the setting up of an international war crimes inquiry to investigate allegations of atrocities carried out by both sides in the Sri Lankan civil war (Paragraph 161).

It further states, ‘We share international concern about the credibility of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission process, but the Sri Lankan Government has indicated that the Commission will consider the allegations contained in the Channel 4 documentary. We will consider all further options in light of the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations.’

If the British are to sit upon judgement here’s what they should also do

It is well known that the British are methodical and meticulous in their dealing with any situation and that they strive to do justice in all given circumstances. If the British are to sit upon judgement on the Sri Lankan Government’s dealings during what they term the ‘Sri Lankan civil war’, the British should first establish a Committee of Inquiry to investigate their own vicious scorched earth policy they used to put down rebellions in the colonies in the British Commonwealth and human rights violations committed by the British troops under the General Order given in 1818,and the historical evidence available on the devastation they caused in 1818 (193 years ago) in Uva Wellassa during the rebellion. Wellassa (Wel lakshaya in Sinhala) was composed of hundred thousand paddy fields yielding a substantial crop, which has not yet recovered from the scorched earth policy of the British.

Horrific scenes from the British Raj

If the Channel 4 video were present at that time they could have recorded horrific scenes of babes suckling at their mother’s breast being snatched by British soldiers and their throats being slit in the presence of their wailing mothers, who were then shot. Setting fire to acres and acres of golden paddy fields resplendent with crops resulting in the wanton destruction of the fruits of hard labour of the poor Sri Lankan farmers all of whom were killed then would have met the eyes of the Channel 4 team. The strategy of destroying the food supply of the civilian population in an area of conflict has been banned under Article 54 of Protocol I of the 1977 Geneva Conventions. The relevant passage says: ‘It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.

British left trail of human rights violations

The British were never invited to Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, They invaded this peaceful little island, known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean and robbed it of all its wealth in the form of tea, rubber, coconuts and coffee. They improved the infrastructure in the form of roads, railways etc, not for the love of the local population but to improve the economy to fill their own pockets. They terrorized the local population and made them their slaves. J.B.Muller in his dissertation referred to above further states: ‘In the plantation Raj I met a man in his sixties by the name of Kalu Banda .He had a sinister furrow curved diagonally across the face from above his right eye to below his left ear lobe. He told me that the road on which we were standing was once a horse-track and the European who owned a tea plantation a few miles away was to ride this way often. He met him one day and failed to remove his turban and bow. For this act of ‘disrespect’ the European struck him across the face with his leather riding quirt, drawing blood and leaving a huge gash which healed slowly. He told me tales of labourers being tied to trees and whipped until their backs were shreds of torn flesh. There was no one to complain he said. Then, pretty women or girls as young as 12 years from the Labour Lines or the village were ordered to be brought to the bungalow at dusk – properly bathed and with the coconut oil in their hair washed out thoroughly. The plantation areas have many bastard children-some with blue eyes and blonde hair-the result of the sexual exploitation of the voiceless in ‘the good old days.’ The British left a trail of similar human rights violations all over the world in the countries they subjugated in their quest for expanding the British Empire. The term ‘commonwealth’ implies, though unintentionally, that the British plundered the wealth of all the countries they brought under their rule.

The deeds of the British

Those were the deeds of the British, who have now become the greatest protectors of human rights in Sri Lanka. The Bible states, ‘No man should sit upon judgement on another lest he be judged.’ This saying is more relevant when applied to a wrongdoer assuming the role of a judge over others. As that great British Jurist, then Master of the Rolls Lord Alfred Thompson Denning once questioned: ‘Who made thee the ruler and judge over us?’ repeating the saying in Exodus 7.27 –The Bible, the Sri Lankan Nation can now question the British in the same manner. How could the British sit upon judgement on Sri Lankans when their forefathers have committed blatant unmentionable atrocities and human rights violations in our country and in all the other countries that came under their rule? The British have no right whatsoever even to debate such matters concerning Sri Lanka being well aware of the atrocities and human rights violation committed by their own forefathers during the British rule in Sri Lanka.

The duplicity of the British becomes evident from Recommendation three found in the Eighth report under reference, which is follows:

Recommendation 3

We conclude that the events of the ‘Arab Spring’ should stand as a reminder to the FCO that failing to take a stronger and more consistent stance against human rights violations by overseas regimes can carry risks for the UK, In particular, any suggestion that the FCO downplays criticism of human rights abuses in countries with which the UK has close political and commercial links is damaging to the UK’s reputation, and undermines the department’s overall work in promoting human rights overseas. We recommend that the FCO takes a more robust and significantly more consistent position on human rights violations throughout North Africa and the Middle East (Paragraph 21).

The British human rights crusaders while admitting their partiality in their dealings have by their omission of USA from this recommendation, while specifically referring to North Africa and the Middle East, indicated their fear even to mention the name of that powerful nation, which has committed substantial human rights violations due to the fear of reprisals. This indicates the limits of British independence of justice and fair play and exposes their duplicity in dealing with the protection of human rights in the world.

British should pay suitable compensation

The Sri Lankan Government should establish a Commission of Inquiry into the human rights violations and economic devastation caused in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, during the British Rule and based upon the findings of such an inquiry call upon the Government of the United Kingdom to pay suitable compensation for those atrocities committed by the British during their rule in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon. Much publicity has to be given to the findings of such an inquiry supported by historical evidence available in many documents so as to expose the barbaric manner in which the Sri Lankans were dealt with by the British. In the alternative the Sri Lankan Government ought to call upon the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs of the United Kingdom to initiate such an inquiry and display their genuineness on accountability in such matters.

The British members of Parliament are acting in this manner due to the fact that their electorates consist of the members of the Tamil diaspora whose franchise is needed to come to power. Their actual selfish intention is covered up by crocodile tears that they are shedding regarding alleged human rights violations in Sri Lanka. If the British wish to open old wounds that are best forgotten then Sri Lanka could also open older wounds that would expose the true barbaric nature of the British themselves who were indeed the initial human rights violators in this country to their dismay and utter disgrace.

The British, with their dubious history on protection of human rights should mind their own business and leave the other Sovereign Nations in the World to find their own solutions to any human rights violations in their lands. Sri Lanka is in a process of reconciliation and there is peace and tranquility in our country. Our people regardless of any differences whatsoever should unite and through a process of consultation, compromise and consensus reach our own solutions to any conflicts or disputes that we may have without inviting foreigners, especially those who have devastated this country once, to intervene again and let history repeat itself.

In conclusion let me repeat the saying in Psalms in the Bible thus: ‘Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.’

Lakshman Keerthisinghe, LL.B., LL.M. is an Attorney-at-Law and a former senior consultant in the Law Reform Project funded by the UNDP for the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka


2 Comments to “Protection of Human Rights in Sri Lanka: Duplicity of the British”

  • I agree with this

    • Jordan has been cited by Amnesty International as the country with best human`s ihrgts record in the region.The political authority in Jordan is the chief contributor to the advancement of women in Jordan. Jordan`s constitution protects women `s ihrgts by stating that all Jordanians are equal befor law, have the right to assume puplic office and the right to work.The Jordanian women have made remarkable achievements in many fieids, but these achievements are still below their level of education and ambitions and more needs to be done.Even though, women in Jordan represent about 48,5% of the total population, yet there are gender gapes in some fields between men and women. In spite of the high enrollment of females in the educational sector but their participation in the labour force and in decision making are still low due to some social barriers. Statistics revels that the unemployment rate among the male population for (15+) is 10% while the female rate is 24%. Jordan signed the (CEDAW) agreement in 1980, ratifying it in 1992 and published it in the official Gazette in 2007, Jordan has reservations on some artiles that are against Islam and the Jordanian Law. Jordan has signed and rafitied all major documents that are related to human ihrgts to ensure legal equility between men and women and to prohibit any discriminations against women. However,there are still some laws that need to be amended and the government is working on them.



Protection of Human Rights in Sri Lanka: Duplicity of the British

Who made thee ruler and judge over us? ‘The West won the world not by superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by ...