By Shenali Waduge
Sri Lanka’s success story comes after suffering 3 decades of terrorism, loss of close to 80,000 lives, rejection of numerous local and international bids of ceasefires and peace talks, refusal to stop killings of innocent civilians, continuance of child conscription to finally decide on a military solution to ending the conflict. It took just 3 years to complete the military elimination of the LTTE including its ground leadership in May 2009 becoming the first nation to eliminate terrorism from its soil freeing the people from suicide attacks and indiscriminate LTTE bombings. It took just 3 year to achieve another feat – that of resettling all the 295,873 IDPs who were all rescued by the armed forces in a humanitarian rescue operation that left 5000 soldiers sacrificing their lives to bring Tamil civilians to safety. This last resettlement of 1186 persons from 361 Tamil families puts Sri Lanka on top of an exclusively single position of being the only country to resettle its IDPs given that there are 27.5m internally displaced people worldwide. The number of refugees is said to be over 62m more than half of whom have become refugees because of war.
IDPs in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghantan …..differs from Sri Lanka
At the outset it is extremely important to understand that the IDP situations that arose in Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and a host of other nations throughout the world has been solely as a result of foreign invasion and foreign military intervention. The situation in Sri Lanka arose as a result of a terrorist organization functioning within Sri Lanka on a killing rampage that lasted 3 decades eliminating people of all ethnic groups and religions including their own.
We do not need to tell the US or NATO since it has been involved in many foreign invasions of the need to plan how to proactively program for the issue of population displacement and refugees. That they have failed to look into this all important area even after every invasion foretells its lack of concern for these natives. The situation in Sri Lanka when it took the bold decision to militarily defeat came not suddenly but after 6 foreign backed peace negotiations and countless ceasefires which had been ignored or abused by the LTTE. Alongside the military onslaught using land, naval, air forces the military also designed an indigenous program to cater to the people who were likely to be displaced. That program incorporated the objectives of Reconstruction, Resettlement, Rehabilitation, Reintegration and Reconciliation. Despite being a Third World country the merits of that achievement in so far as detailing out what needed to be done must gain applause over lack of planning by First World nations in the countries they have invaded.
Too often we are mesmerized into thinking that all of the invasions have been solely to bring about democracy to nations demonized by dictators.
Unfortunately, of the 18 regime changes US has advocated during the past few decades its success rate is less than 30% success to nations they have invaded – it is not a record to be proud of for a First World nation. The failure of successfully rebuilding Iraq and reforming it weighs heavily and is now used against the US and its allies by the Muslim world. A confidential UN report by the UN Commissioner for Refugees Rudd Lubbers warned that 5.4m Iraqi’s would require food and basic needs, 39% would need portable water in the first months of the war. The Center for Humanitarian Cooperation claimed that 100,000 Iraqi’s would need immediate food on day 1 of the invasion and the numbers would rise by the day – what NATO did was to bomb the railroads, bridges, ports, electricity and the water systems that Iraq depended upon. If a humanitarian crisis occurred in Iraq, US and NATO were solely responsible. This same type of infrastructure destroying was used by NATO in Libya most recently. It is poignant to know what timeslines the UN bodies have placed upon these nations to resettle the natives that they have unsettled due to the foreign invasion. This type of IDP resettlement has to take precedence over cases like Sri Lanka because most often the invasions have been without global or UN consent and purely as a result of corporate motives to plunder the natural wealth and resources of these nations.
Internally Displaced Person (IDP)
What is an IDP? An internally displaced person (IDP) is an individual who like a refugee is fleeing from persecution or violence, but the difference is they stay in their country of nationality.
List of Countries with a considerable amount of IDPs:
· Africa has 11.8 million IDPs in 21 countries
· Sudan: 5-6 million
· Iraq: Over 2.5 million
· Colombia: 2-3 million
· The Democratic Republic of Congo: 1.5 million
· Pakistan: 1 Million
· Azerbaijan: 1,000,000
· Uganda: 869,000
· Cote d’Ivoire: 709,000
· India: 600,000
· Burma (Myanmar): 503,000
· Zimbabwe: 560,000-960,000
· The Philippines (US invaded in 1945): 300,000
· Kenya: 250,000-400,000
· Serbia: over 225,000
· Georgia: 220,000-300,000
· Cyprus: 210,000
· Indonesia: 200,000-350,000
· Ethiopia: 200,000
· Israel: 150,000-420,000
· Gaza and the West Bank: 2 million
· The Central African Republic: 197,000
· Chad: 178,000
· Afghanistan: 132,000-200,000
Sri Lanka’s other achievements
While attempts to belittle Sri Lanka’s achievements continue through propaganda campaigns that finds its strength from the illicit funds raised by foreign LTTE representatives, it is important to sieve the lies by recognizing the achievements.
The success of Sri Lanka’s post-conflict includes the completion of demining 5000sq.km of land, rehabilitating and reintegrating 11,989 surrendered LTTE combatants. Only 636 LTTE combatants remain who are not ready to be reintegrated while 383 ex-combatants are likely to have formal charges filed against them for terrorist activity under Sri Lankan law. Of this number 594 were child combatants and a policy decision was taken by the Sri Lankan Government not to take legal action against them. Today these reintegrated children are continuing their education or following some vocational training – these were children who were taught nothing other than to hold a gun and nothing more than to kill. In another first, 53 LTTE couples were married in a mass wedding ceremony organized by the military.
Can anyone doubt there is normalcy in a country that knew nothing other than to expect bombs and suicide missions!
Can anyone visiting the North today deny that these towns and villages have been brought to a level on par with the rest of the country when during LTTE de facto rule not a single road, infrastructure, school or hospital was been built despite LTTE making $300m annual profits. LTTE lived off confiscating state provisions sent to the people of the North inflating population figures to ensure more provisions are sent. In the East too various programs for development has been launched with industries coming up and people slowly picking up the pieces.
Civil services as well as military involvement has enabled the restoration of irrigation infrastructure, canals, tanks and the revival of agriculture and farming. Over 1000 schools have been restored and healthcare facilities upgraded. The military personnel have together renovated and even built several new kovils and gifted them to the people of the North. The soldiers most of whom do not have proper homes themselves have built hundreds of houses for the Tamil civilians.
The number of checkpoints has reduced from 2000 in 2009 to hardly a handful. Despite calls to reduce the military in the North the people feel far safe having them stationed there visible by the popularity of the services in North especially in the Mullaitivu areas – the main hub of LTTE activity. In a sovereign country, no one has the right to dictate where it chooses to locate its military given that the security of the country remains a key concern until the full reconciliation process is over. These achievements for a developing country is something that should not be brushed aside based on the power of money that the LTTE proxies are extending.
The journey is not over ….we are talking about decades of distrust that needs to be rebuilt and that journey cannot be done according to time lines or be remote controlled be foreign Governments or international bodies. It must take place internally by society itself and even the Sri Lankan Government should not involve itself too much in this process because healing must take place slowly with people traveling North to South and South to North learning to re-appreciate the other and to change their perceptions on their own. It cannot be legislated and it cannot be dictated.
Therefore it is extremely important that the people of Sri Lanka be given time to heal on their own at their own pace. The world wanted the elimination of terrorism – Sri Lanka has achieved just that. Sri Lanka has moreover resettled all of the IDPs which should earn this small island nation the appreciation it deserves.
The views expressed are the author’s own.