Excerpts from Dr. Rajan Hoole’s Acceptance Speech
This is a war against so-called terror
Contd. from yesterday
In order to carry on with our work, we were forced escape from Jaffna after the war started in 1990 and to lead a semi-underground life in the South.
With a change of government in 1994, there was another opportunity for a negotiated settlement. Instead the LTTE chose war. Another change of government resulted in another round of talks brokered by Norway in 2002. Although the Government and the LTTE committed themselves to a federal settlement, the LTTE proceeded with the conscription of children. Simmering conflict, largely engineered by LTTE provocations, made it clear to many people on the ground that it was using peace talks as a respite to prepare for a more severe round of war. The Government too responded, not by outflanking the LTTE politically by reforming the State to be more democratic and accountable and seeking a political settlement which would satisfy Tamil democratic aspirations, but simply bought time by covering up the LTTE’s violations and conscription of children. These became the major focus of our reports at this time.
The LTTE`s simple programme is to undermine any healthy development in the Sinhalese south for a political settlement, and by some foul act of violence to provoke the State’s inherent harshness towards the Tamils. It was in character for the LTTE to abet the election of a president with nationalist leanings and then deliberately provoke war. It saw this as the most promising way to a separate state. We thus have the picture that while the LTTE continued immovable at its habitual worst, the State too showed no serious intention of moving away from the debilitating status quo that had kept this nation of promise a stunted object of derision for five decades. Whenever we saw a humane and enlightened approach by some military officers, we documented these so that these exemplars would shine a few lights in unmitigated darkness and a catalyst for reform and re-evaluation. Although we are aware of the institutional nature of the State, during the two decades of war, when people were many times left at the mercy of military officers by deliberate actions by the LTTE inviting the Army to massacre for the benefit of its propaganda, we saw these exceptions in the worst of times as important.
After more than three decades of conflict, the country still continues to bleed. Democratic institutions are fracturing beyond a point of repair, while the leaders are blinded by the arrogance of power. Their short term political interest helps the LTTE to thrust and hold the Tamil civilians in a regime of war claiming with some logic that there is no alternative.
Ours is another tragic instance where identity politics has taken a devastating toll on communities in a multi ethnic and multi religious country through a combination of lack of visionary leadership and political opportunism tied to an exclusivist majoritarian agenda. We have also seen that in the name of liberation and right to self determination, groups with a narrow nationalist agenda have opportunity to impose on them a regime of unlimited destruction where the people stand to lose everything. Monitoring human rights and making oppressors accountable are in reality very difficult and Humanitarian Law has limited impact in arresting the situation once the war dynamic is in place. Now we are seeing how in the name of “war on terror”, the human rights paradigm developed after the pervasive devastation of the Second World War is called into question. The limitations of human rights mechanisms, including those within the UN, are evident today and are subject to manipulation and appropriation by the larger powers. In several instances, those struggling for democracy and justice in the Third World, are caught between the machinations of global powers and the reactionary politics of fundamentalism and narrow nationalism. The local practitioners of the latter find a novel pretext for their behaviour towards their own citizens in what big powers do half way round the globe.
Once emotions are heightened, individuals lucky enough to flee their war-torn homes often lost all feeling for those they left behind, romanticised their plight, glorified the LTTE and covered up its crimes even against their own fellows. Other foreigners even found career opportunities writing anthropological articles and one-sided human rights narratives in the name of academic research and human rights campaigns. Their critiques of the State are valid but they besmirched rather than enhanced the potential for peace in our country and co-existence among communities. They completely threw a veil over the suffering of the people from internal terror. In this environment, our work, although called suicidal, was essential to keeping alive the voices of sanity and preserving dissent against heavy odds.