Saturday, May 30, 2009

Good UN / Bad UN

Nobody is perfect, and few organisations are irredeemably corrupt or evil. The UN is no exception.

On the one hand, the UN refugee agency has been trying to do good work on the ground in Sri Lanka in the face of a huge refugee crisis, when the government allows them. (They also do vital work in Pakistan, the Sudan / Darfur, Iraq, and elsewhere).

A refugee camp in Sri Lanka -UNHCR/B.Alan

On the other hand the UN Human Rights Council has ducked the question of human rights abuses and possible war crimes during and after the conflict in Sri Lanka, calling it an internal matter. But as I mentioned before, considering who is on the UNHRC, and their sensitivities about their own "internal" affairs, we should probably not be too surprised.

At least parts of the UN are aware of the need for rapid resettlement of refugees, and the importance of not indiscriminately shelling concentrations of civilians.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On not being involved in a land war in asia?

It seems that the war is over in Sri Lanka, and that Sri Lankans are all one nation now - at least that is the official story. Certainly I've seen lots of flags and public celebration in the streets of Colombo. People are delighted that the brutal and ruthless LTTE (the Tamil Tigers) no longer hold territory in Sri Lanka.

Not so much public concern though for the hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan refugees being held in internment camps in their own country, without adequate shelter, food, clothes, health care, communications, or access of any kind to the outside world. Private concern, to be sure. From some at any rate. But not so much in the local press. I even saw one article that claimed the West, egged on by the Christian Church, had been training Tamil suicide bombers. But back to reality.

Now that the war is over, it might be a good time to allow international relief workers back in, reunite families that have been divided, and take care of those Tamil menbers of the one nation of Sri Lanka who are enduring such terrible conditions.

If you're interested in the crisis there, a site with more voices and more information than the mainstream media are able to provide is Ground Views: a Sri Lankan citizen journalism initiative, as it calls itself. Check it out!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Aristophanes would have been proud

2400 years ago, Aristophanes wrote his play Lysistrata, in which the women of Greece tried to force their husbands to end a war by withholding their affections. No sex, basically. On strike.

Fast forward to Kenya, 2009. The BBC reports that the Women's Development Organisation, backed by the Prime Minister's wife, called for a similar boycot, to last for a week. They want to force Kenya's political leaders to break the current deadlock and work together. There has been a troubled and ineffectual coalition government since the 2007-2008 election violence.

Will it work? I've no idea - but one Mr Kimondo is not happy. He is suing the organisers of the boycott, claiming it has "interfered with his happy marriage".

Monday, May 04, 2009

Website Assassinated

The Register reports that the Sri Lankan Army's site was "assassinated" by pro Tamil Tiger hackers. Apparently they put "horrible and gruesome images" up instead! The hackers were accused of terrorism.

One commenter at the Register cut through the claim and counter claim:

Let's hope the "horrible and gruesome images" are quickly replaced with the images of picnics and children playing with puppies usually associate with the ongoing artillery barrages upon concentrations of civilians and land wars in Asia in general.
- TW Burger
Could it be that the images the hackers added reflected the "horrible and gruesome" reality of war?

By all accounts both sides have perpetrated horror and grue in huge amounts.

Here is a UN report on the effects of the Army shelling [large 13M pdf document] - published then un-published, apparently because they thought it might damage dialogue with the government. The SL Army accuse the Tamil Tigers of firing at them from the civilian safe zones. The Tamil Tigers have also recruited child soldiers, and fired on civilians who try to leave the conflict area. Of course, when the civilians at last manage to escape they are concentrated into camps with inadequate provisions, and no provisions for reuniting families.

In this disaster, as always, civilians suffer dreadfully.

If you're curious, here are some of the gory details from the hacked website: