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Tuesday, 18 September 2018
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New Zealand parliamentarian Honourable Locke is anything but honourable PDF Print E-mail
Vinodhini Karalasingam for Sri Lanka Watch

On Monday June 16, 2009 the Honourable Keith Locke, Member of Parliament representing the Green Party rose from his bench and made a speech that was everything a South Island Kea (Nestor notabilis) would have uttered had it flown to Wanni or had conversations with the pro-LTTE Diaspora in New Zealand.


He had certainly not made his research before reflecting whatever that was told to him obviously from the pro-LTTE Diaspora and the LTTE people he met during his visit to Sri Lanka. In the same circumstances, this is what the virulent Tiger supporter in Canada, the Honourable Jim Karigiannis Liberal Member of Parliament for Scarborough-Agincourt would have done in the Canadian Parliament too.

In fact, Mr Karigiannis once addressing a pro-LTTE meeting in Toronto presided by a de-cassocked Catholic priest, suddenly turned his back to the audience, dropped his trousers and dedicated his posterior to the Government of Sri Lanka.

The charges pointed against the Government of Sri Lanka and the country’s Armed Forces are not original at all. Mr Locke has gone back to the days of Adolf Hitler and borrowed some dreadful events of his domination of Germany and pathetically transposed them on Sri Lanka. Unless he is very bad in his mathematical concepts and numbers are a nightmare for him, he would not have dared to make such foolish and stupid claims that will never stand the test of scrutiny.

The LTTE for over four months have been force-herding the people of Wanni through the districts of Mannar, Kilinochchi to the coastal end of the Mullaitivu district where they had set up a fortress-style cantonment headquarters with escape facilities to the Indian Ocean including even an underwater pathway into the ocean using submersibles.

The herding of civilians as human shield has been part of the weaponry of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and they have used this on many occasions in various engagements both big and small. In the last and final one, people were forced to abandon their homes, their livestock and whatever they valued in their habitations and just move on exposed to the elements and absolutely no privies even for nature calls.

Like sailors of olden times carried fowls, pigs and tortoises on long voyages for fresh food, the LTTE marched the civilians for their needs, comforts and protection and in this case the LTTE are Tamils and the civilians are Tamils whose sole voice they demanded as their own and asserted even at gunpoint that they are, and none other.

Furthermore, the main objective was to have the civilians as their insurance against attack by the Armed Forces and as it turned out in the end as their means to save their lives too. Just like Prabhakaran, as a final desperate move to save his life sent a band of armed cadres most of them in their teens along with his son in a direction where the Armed Forces would encounter them with deadly consequence, to enable his safe flight; both operations had horrendous ends because this so-called military genius and terror bluff simply walked into a trap laid by the Armed Forces who having saved the last group of some 50 to 60 thousand civilians ensured the LTTE leadership was wiped out that day.

On two earlier occasions the Armed Forces moved in such a way, over 225 thousand civilians held hostage were saved. All that the LTTE wanted and also the pro-LTTE Diaspora whether in New Zealand, Australia or in other countries where they have settled now was a massacre of the civilians held hostage so that some countries would intervene and demand a ceasefire to give Prabhakaran and his terrorists another lease of life. This QED dream was dashed.

Who are these 20 thousand killed the Honourable Locke is locked on against the Government of Sri Lanka? Is he aware that the LTTE had armed cadres of some 15 thousand and over and auxiliaries of 10 to 12 thousand apart from children and young people force-conscripted along the terror march and in the No Fire Zone which the Tigers never observed?

Is he also aware about 10 thousand armed Tigers, threw their arms and cyanide pellets and escaped to the army territory masking themselves as civilians? Is he aware too that in preparation for this march with the hope there will be ceasefire and a chance to regroup and re-form, the Tigers had squirreled all over Wanni especially in the jungles vast caches of arms some of them with terrifying potential?

The Honourable Locke talks about his visit to Wanni and his meeting with Nadesan and Pulidevan classifying them as the civilian political side of the LTTE. How naïve this New Zealand parliamentarian can be to believe that these two guys are political and civil? He has not done his homework and Nadesan would never have shown his torture cells; horror knew no such extremity as those practised by the Tigers.

The Honourable Locke is also quite ignorant of the brokered peace and all that happened and how Prabhakaran was determined not only to set up a terror state but also to terrorize the rest of the country and in all these most of the victims were the Tamils themselves. It is time he goes back to the drawing board and tries to understand the Sri Lankan issue, the massive task of organizing the return of the civilians to their habitations that have been totally devastated by the LTTE.  The IDPs are mainly farmers and farm-based livelihood dependents.

They are not political pawns the LTTE used with deadly consequences and now the pro-LTTE Diaspora is continuing with this chess game with their chessmen riding on the horsebacks of parliamentarians and others. Honourable Keith Locke is anything but honourable.

We present here the Keith Locke contention in the New Zealand House of Representatives:

Human Rights, Peace and Conflict
KEITH LOCKE (Green): I wish to speak on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's budget and explain some matters that the Government should be paying particular attention to. There are too few Governments on this planet that treat matters of peace and human rights with the attention they deserve.
One of the matters that I think our Government should give immediate and ongoing attention to is the horrific situation facing the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. Their aspiration for an autonomous Tamil region within the Sri Lankan State has been crushed by massive force. This year anything up to 20,000 Tamils have been killed by huge air and artillery bombardment of the territory that for some years has been under the administration of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, known as the LTTE. Most of the population of that territory-around 300,000 people-has been herded into what can best be termed concentration camps. I think that term is apt because what is happening to the Tamil people in those camps is similar to what happened in Hitler's concentration camps, but without the mass extermination programme.
The Sri Lankan Government aims to use these camps to destroy all traces of the former Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam administration, in the same way that Hitler used concentration camps to eliminate the German communists and socialists as political forces. All those associated with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam will either be imprisoned long term, "re-educated", or perhaps they will disappear. There have already been reports from the camps of "white van disappearances" of young Tamil Tiger activists. Hitler believed that anything was justified in the war against communism, and the Sri Lankan Government proceeds as if anything is justified in the so-called war against terrorism. It need not have been this way.
There was a chance of negotiated autonomy for the Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka during the 2002-2005 ceasefire. I toured Sri Lanka in October 2003 to monitor this process, and it was going well. I talked to both the Government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam negotiators. They were all quite hopeful and indicated respect for each other. While I was in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam capital of Kilinochchi, a Tamil proposal for an interim self-governing authority was presented to the Norwegian peace negotiators and was covered by the international media, but substantive discussions on an autonomy solution never eventuated.
There was probably blame on both sides for that, but most damaging was the failure of the international community to keep the pressure on the Sri Lankan Government to go down the negotiating track and to not resort to war again. To do this, the international community should have consciously taken the conflict out of the context of the Government on one side and the terrorists on the other.
During the 2002-2005 ceasefire, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was made a legal organisation by the Government of Sri Lanka and could freely operate anywhere in that country, yet the US, British, and Australian Governments kept their designations of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam as a terrorist organisation and the European Union added the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to its terrorist list. Of course, it is true that the Tamil Tigers have engaged in terrorist actions in the past, including political assassinations, and so has the Sri Lankan Government on an even larger scale according to the statistics of civilian deaths in the reports of human rights monitors like Amnesty International.
In 2003 and 2004 the two sides that had done such bad things to each other and to civilians were talking and could have reached a solution with enough pressure and involvement from the international community. But the negotiating process lost momentum, and when President Rajapaksa came to power in 2005 he decided on a military solution. The tragic consequences for the Tamils are for all to see.
As for New Zealand's responsibility now, this Parliament took a good step in passing a resolution on 2 June " That this House notes its deep concern at the dire humanitarian situation in northern Sri Lanka and call upon the Sri Lankan Government to exceed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for UN agencies to be given ‘immediate unhindered access' to the internally displaced persons camps on order to bring aid to those who desperately need it, and ask the Sri Lankan Government to allow media access to the camps." However, the New Zealand Government must take the next step and engage both directly with the Sri Lankan Government and through United Nations organisations to enable full access to the camps for international humanitarian organisations, human rights monitors, and the media. At present the media is only allowed into the big detention camps on guided tours, and is not allowed to talk freely and privately with camp inmates. I think it is appropriate to use the prison term "inmates".
We must insist that all members and former members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, whether combatants or non-combatants and their families, be treated fairly and without discrimination. Surely it is now time for reconciliation, not punishment and further suffering. People should be able to leave the camps and return to their homes if they so wish. Yes, war crimes have been committed by some on both sides of the conflict, but the identification of these and the prosecution of those responsible will have to be done with the direct involvement of the international community.
Human Rights Watch rightly called for an impartial international commission of inquiry to investigate the alleged crimes that were committed during the war, including the repeated bombing of civilians crammed into the small amount of territory held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the last phase of the war and accusations that Tamil Tiger fighters prevented civilians from leaving its territory.
The tragedy of Sri Lanka is very personal to many people in the New Zealand Sri Lankan community. Many have lost family and friends back in Sri Lanka, or are desperate to find out their fate. We have a responsibility to them, as citizens of our country now, to take up the humanitarian and political issues involved, to help the Tamil people here find out what has happened to their relations, to help those in northern Sri Lanka who survive return home to their towns and villages, and to help survivors to get welfare assistance through international agencies.
We also should not forget the underlying cause of the conflict and suffering: the failure of successive Sri Lankan administrations to allow the Tamil people their full rights, including their right to an autonomous area in the north of Sri Lanka. That issue arose from the time of independence, well before the Tamil Tigers were ever thought of. The personal stories of Tamils living in New Zealand include terrifying stories of earlier times during the repeated pogroms in places like Colombo when Sinhalese militias, one might call them, went door-to-door with knives and people were hiding in cupboards trying to prevent being killed.
I feel sadness myself because when I visited Sri Lanka in 2003, two of the people I met, Mr Nadesan and Mr Puleedevan were key in the political side of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's involvement in the negotiations. At the very end of the recent conflict, they phoned the international contacts and one of the reporters they talked to, Marie Colvin relayed the whole story to us in the Dominion Post on May 25. Contact was also made with the Red Cross, the Sri Lankan Government, and the United Nations trying to work out a way to surrender and Mr Nadesan and Mr Puleedevan were told to carry white flags to the Sri Lankan Government's line, which they did. As they were carrying these white flags, they and their families were gunned down.
It is a very tragic situation we face today and we want to engage with Sri Lanka's politicians to help find a way forward, including the 22 Tamil MPs who are under some siege at the present time.
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