Human Rights and the Sri Lankan Pinochet

70 years ago, during the WWII, when Japan bombed Madras and Cyclone, the ethnic divide between the Tamils and Sinhalese was hardly pronounced. Both were victims of great power politics that was being played out in the region.

In the 1980s the hegemonic politics once again attacked the region. This time, instead of jointly facing the imperial wrath, the Tamils and Sinhalese were victimizing each other on behalf of a new empire in global politics.

The trans-Atlantic alliance opened the flood gates of money and arms for Sri Lankan Tamils and their terrorist organization LTTE to give the world the gift of suicide bombing and 20th century’s first terrorist navy.

Like in so many third world civil-wars, America and the West played a dubious role in Sri Lanka too. They first ignited the war – let it simmer – granted a sudden victory to Sri Lanka after 26 years and finally vanquished the victors by making them slit each other’s throat.

General Sarath Fonseka
General Sarath Fonseka

In this entire game, America had all protagonists playing for them. Both General Fonseka, the Sri Lankan chief of army staff during the war and his boss secretary of defense Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, were US green card holder and US citizen respectively.

Fonseka was and continues to be a US green card holder and enjoys the status of a resident alien. His two daughters reside in US with moveable and immovable assets. Being in the army, the general must have acquired the card surreptitiously. Forget being a card holder of a foreign country – or having a foreign spouse – most militaries even debar their serving men from officially interacting with foreigners without proper permission. Needless to say, the General agreed to compromise his office to swap for a green card with the CIA.

Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa
Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa

Gotabhaya, after quitting the army as Lt Col had become a US citizen in 1990 under the Sri Lankan dual citizenship scheme that began in 1988 and was suspended on January 28, 2011. However, it is intriguing as to how a US citizen can be the defence secretary of a sovereign nation situated miles away from the US.

With all the key players in their pocket it was easy for the US to halt the civil-war at the time of their choosing and also plan the post war care of its stooges.

After a big lull, in 2008, a full-scale war broke out in the Sri Lanka’s north., the most dreaded LTTE tiger, Velupillai Prabhakaran,who had been sustaining the war for more than two decades, unexpectedly got eliminated without offering much resistance.

It would be naïve to imagine that the Chinese arms and some tacit support from India delivered the victory for Sri Lanka. The LTTE’s defeat was possible because America and Europe stopped supporting Tamil terror. The question is why did they suddenly end the war?

The LTTE leader and his brand of terrorism had become redundant in the era of pink revolutions. With the LTTE gone, the US needed some leverage in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan trio (Rajapaksa brothers and Fonseka) is no different from Augusto Pinochet, the dictator of Chile from 1973 to 1990.

After committing all the crimes against his own people, Pinochet the foot soldier of American capitalism, went on to stay at his masters den at London. Probably, if the Sri Lankan leaders have some more role to play for their American mentors, they will continue to be in Sri Lanka, else they will be shifted to the US and undergo some sham trial.

Strategically, the ruse of human rights offers much better options for America to intervene in Sri Lankan affairs. Beating the human rights drums helps the US keep the two main political actors, Fonseka and Rajapksa, ostensibly in opposition.

Sri Lanka has been cleaned up to offer itself as training ground for American led naval forces in the region. During the 1950s up to about 1962, Trincomalee in Sri Lanka was the hub of joint naval exercise, where the navies of United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Pakistan, India, and Canada used to meet annually. Strategically, the US wants to use Sri Lanka as its biggest naval base in the Indian Ocean region and prevent China from acquiring any sea space in south Sri Lanka.

Lastly, by challenging Colombo’s human rights record, the West and the rest have once again attacked the international order. They have reiterated that the US Empire governs the use of force on planet earth; sovereign nation’s monopoly over violence within their own territory is not absolute.

The author is an international relations expert based in New Delhi. An Alumnus of King’s College, London and currently, a Research Scholar at School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, and Delhi. He can be contacted at or through his blog

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    One Comment
    1. This reading is very far away from the reality of Sri Lankan situation. It is hard to understand how the author missed the role played by India in Sri Lanka by supporting LTTE initially given that he is from India. The west was dragged into the SL conflict through Norwegian peace process. And it is a fact now that USA and Norway along with their partners in NATO tried to save LTTE leadership at his final moment.

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