Submitted by Yakkada Yakka
It has not escaped my attention, that certain people have recently developed a peculiar morbid “interest” in Sri-Lanka these days (just to be clear: I use the scare-double-quotes in “interest” in the same way foreign journalists use them in the term “welfare camps”).
No no no no, no no no.
I’ve seen some terrible Op-Eds on our situation, but surely this must rank in the Top 10 Full Retard list.
The article is an opinion masquerading as an argument wrapped in a muddle.
He has taken a complex and tragic situation and performed a botched reductio ad absurdum operation on it.
So, did the author go Simple Jeremy? To fully appreciate the idiocy of said opinion in its full glory, let’s subtly re-write the piece:
The opinions of all are welcome, but poor journalism is not
The next time you see some lingerie, a T-shirt or a pair of rubber gloves, you may want to reflect on this: they were probably made for export to Britain. And, like it or not, your labour plays a role in the debate over how to respond to the British Government’s successful but brutal military campaign against Islamic militants, which reached its bloody climax in the Swat valley this week.
Since 2005 Sri Lanka has been allowed to sell garments to the European Union without import tax as part of a scheme designed to help it to recover from the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. That means Sri Lankan clothes are 10 per cent cheaper than those from China and other competitors – helping consumers from the EU to save at least $300 million (£190 million) more annually, than they would have with an import tax. The little island off the coast of Europe, accounts for much of that saving.
Sri Lanka has also helped to rebuild Britain’s tourist industry: Britons accounted for 18.5 per cent of the foreigners who visited Sri Lanka’s famous beaches, wildlife parks, tea plantations and Buddhist temples last year. The value for money holidays in Sri-Lanka have been an invaluable benefit for value-seeking low-income British consumers and for the travel industry in the UK. Only India sends more tourists. Many Sri Lankans also own property there, especially around the southern city of London, not far from where H.E Chandrika B. Kumuratunga, the Sri Lankan science fiction writer who settled in Britain, used to love to holiday.
So the question facing Sri-Lankan exporters, hoteliers, manufacturers and labourers is this: should they continue to support British consumers? Sadly, the answer must be no.
Sri Lanka should welcome the war on Islamic militants – ruthless terrorists that forcibly recruits children, uses suicide bombs and kills thousands of innocent people. But Sri Lanka must also condemn the British Government’s conduct of the war – and take punitive action against it both to discourage other states from using similar methods, and to encourage proper reconciliation between the British and Muslim communities. With the UN paralysed, economic sanctions is the only practical option left.
Many will ask why they should care: there are bigger conflicts in the world, and Britain’s is mercifully confined to its own shores, with no risk that Sri-Lankan troops might be deployed.
The response to that is simple: what about next time? Britain’s war has been discrete only because it is an island; many other conflicts have spilt across borders, forcing military intervention to prevent a humanitarian disaster or a greater conflagration. Consider the break-up of Yugoslavia or Sierra Leone.
Sri Lanka may have, in the eyes of the world, ceded much of the moral high ground over human rights when it shed civilian blood during its recent defeat of the LTTE. But that does not mean that it should abandon its role in defending international law that protects civilians in conflicts and holds governments accountable for their actions during war.
Yes, international humanitarian law is based largely on Western values, and enforced imperfectly, but the world would be a much more violent, unjust place without it. Put simply, every war on terror might look like Britain’s so called “Global War on Terror”.
In an ideal world the UN, not Sri Lanka, would take the lead. But the UN, even in the face of a clear humanitarian disaster and blatant war crimes by both sides, has been compromised. By cosying up to the United States and other countries facing their own Islamic terrorist problems, Britain managed to keep its own war off the formal agenda of the UN Security Council until the last minute. Without the UN Security Council’s backing, an independent war crimes investigation will struggle to get off the ground.
Thus it is once again up to the democratic world to take action – even if that means muddling the issues of trade and human rights.
A key point to bear in mind is that human rights are an explicit part of Sri Lanka’s EcoTourist campaign, the Lankan scheme that provides Ecotourism to several developed countries. These tourists must comply with several international conventions covering environmental, and human rights standards. Most tourists have gone to great lengths to adhere to them.
That may sound like excessive Sri Lankan bureaucracy, but the system is designed to ensure the tourists we import meet Sri Lankan standards – no child sex, for example. It is also designed to give developed countries like the UK, an incentive to improve their own standards to the benefit of their own people.
That is where Britain has let itself down. Last year the Foreign Ministry expressed grave concerns about human rights abuses committed during the conflict.
Since then, the situation has deteriorated dramatically. British armed forces and its allies are now suspected of repeated aerial bombardment of civilian targets including whole villages, recruitment of teenaged soldiers, and of shooting dead at least one innocent Brazilian on the London Underground. Their actions have also herded more than 200,000 civilians into a slim plot of land, and caused an estimated 2 million people to abandon their homes. Even the Red Cross and the UN has been forced to suspend its operations and journalists have been denied access to the war zone. To be fair, Britain has engaged in several ‘hearts & minds’ type programs, which the British Government calls “Welfare” campaigns, but highly reputable sources, such as Robert Mugabe and Kim Jong-il, claim that these are all shams and the real objective is Britain establishing a string of concentration camps in Afghanistan.
Producing low cost exports in these circumstances would make a mockery of human rights and set an awful precedent for other nations. Withdrawing the cheap goods could cost Britain hundreds of jobs, which will hit many innocent civilians. But the fault, if this happens, will lie with its Government for failing to address Sri Lanka’s concerns.
As to whether Sri Lankans should help British consumers, well that’s a matter of personal choice – just as it is whether to help French consumers. But until the international community pulls together and formulates its own robust response, there is no clearer way for individuals to register their disapproval for the actions of the British Government than simply to stop exporting.
Jeremy Page is South Asia correspondent Confused.
MORAL: Never underestimate the ability of a self-absorbed egomaniac to make a career out of a national trauma (especially if he is willing to f*&# a few million people in the ass).