Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Buddhist Sri Lanka Charged With War Crimes

Buddhist Sri Lanka Charged With War Crimes Image
Amid mounting pressure from the western nations on Sri Lanka to investigate alleged war crime during the ethnic conflict, the government today said that that the politically motivated campaign to undermine the sovereignty of the country will fail as its friends would stand by it. Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris underlined that Sri Lanka had not been internationally isolated in the back drop of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's expert panel report which accused Colombo of war crimes and called for a probe. More

Indefensible state crimes

Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)

While the sacred isle of Sri Lanka off the southern tip of India is not officially Buddhist, the majority of its Sinhalese population and most of its government officials are Buddhists. This majority waged a sustained campaign against rebel Hindu-Tamil forces attempting to secede. Keeping the relatively small island united was an admirable goal.

But there are twists and turns. The Buddhist president double-crossed his own people by secretly funding terrorist Tamil Tigers. The actions of at least one official kept the war going; Tamils eventually repaid the double cross by assassinating him. And Asia's longest running civil war continued for decades longer than it might have otherwise.

There can be little doubt that the dominant power, the Sri Lankan military and clandestine services, committed war crimes as much as it pains Sinhalese citizens to admit as much.

However, we cannot take sides with war criminals -- particularly state-sponsored actors -- simply because they espouse Buddhist values or aspirations. The civilian Tamil minority (shown here protesting in the US and UK) was wronged. This continued even after the cessation of hostilities when they were sent to detention camps and stripped of dignity and land. Unless countries and religions take the high road when they hold power, how can they ask others to take that road when they themselves are powerless?

Of course, Tamil Tigers committed atrocities of their own as a rebel force, and this cannot be justified.

But in light of their subordinated status in Sri Lankan society and the discrimination they face as a racial and religious minority, Tamil behavior is more understandable than the government counter measures taken against them. There are comparable situations in Palestine/Israel and the rest of the world versus such superpowers as the USA, England, USSR, China, and Rome.

How will anyone defend abuses by legitimate powers? At least China officially renounced Buddhism in favor of communism before engaging in a campaigns of atrocities against the citizens/subjects it claimed -- Tibetan, Taiwanese, Uighurs, and other ethnic (non-Han Chinese) minorities.

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