Dear Ban Ki-Moon,
Those of us who remain interested have now read the UN report and seen the Channel 4 film about Sri Lanka.
And I have been looking at your website. On it there is a quote that reads:
'The role of the United Nations is to lead. Each of us here today shares that heavy responsibility. It is why the UN matters in a different and deeper way than ever before. To lead, we must deliver results. Mere statistics will not do. We need results that people can see and touch - results that change lives - make a difference.'
(Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in remarks to the General Assembly after being elected for a second term, 21 June '11.)
So the question is, what are your plans for achieving 'results that change lives' of the traumatized Tamils of Sri Lanka? Those that are left I mean.
Thus far nothing much has happened. It does not need a qualification in rocket science to see that the regime in Sri Lanka is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Some of us have known what has been going on in the country for years. Some of us (the lucky ones) left in the 60s and 70s. Like the Jews who left Germany before the Night of Broken Glass, my Tamil father saw the writing on the wall in the early 60s. I remember his staring out to sea and crying because he understood he would need to leave his home if I were to grow up in safety. He knew, too, that he would die on foreign soil far from the place where he was born. It was a price he was forced to pay in exchange for his family's safety.
In the 1960s there were no Tamil terrorists, no suicide bombers, no demands for a free Tamil state. All that was yet to come. What did exist was a deep-seated hatred for Tamil people. Those Sinhalese (like my mother) who crossed the divide were punished for doing so.
So you see, Ban Ki-Moon, you were a young man when the trouble was being stock-piled in Sri Lanka. Like sand-bags before the shelling.
The question, then, is this:
What is the UN going to do now?
The UN is good at being a bystander, trained, it would appear, not to interfere in the affairs of other countries, even when they are massacring each other. This no-interference policy can also be called indifference.
Cynthia Ozick in her book Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust (1988) wrote:
'Indifference finally grows lethal...the act of turning away, however empty handed and harmlessly, remains nevertheless an act.'
So I have another question.
How much more evidence is needed before the Government of Sri Lanka is recognised as a brutal dictatorship with the blood of crimes against humanity on its hands?
What is the purpose of the UN if it cannot save a single human life?
What lessons have been learnt since the slaughter in Rwanda? And all the other places in the world where murder is still being conducted by government forces?
And a fifth question:
Why do we have a UN Security Council?
I have been writing about Sri Lanka for years. To some in Sri Lanka, my novels have been akin to fairy tales, because what continues to go on there is denied and hidden. Now, with this extraordinary film, a wider audience is at last being reached. Yesterday, when I was talking to some Sri Lankans who have been happy to sit on the fence until now, I noticed a sea change.
Dear Ban Ki-Moon, as you know,
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyages of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
And so I ask you, dear Ban Ki-Moon, person of considerable power that you are:
Are you, recently reelected Secetary-General, going to confront the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and all the member states? Will you tell those who have put their trust in you, what sort of lead you plan to give the UN on the evidence against the government of Sri Lanka?