Peace and Conflict

Western baloney on “human rights”

The following article, which is a commentary on HLD Mahindapala’s speech given recently at the BMICH, arrived in my inbox earlier today.

It was sent to be by someone who had received it from someone else. Googling the title suggests the commentary was originally produced by a Janaka Perera  and published at the Lanka Herald.

I normally wouldn’t cut and paste such a text – but I feel the commentary below raises some interesting issues, some of which we may be familiar with, but worth revisiting and reconsidering again.

Western baloney on ‘human rights’
Written by Janaka Perera
Saturday, 01 December 2007

In a scathing attack on Western double standards on human rights, veteran Journalist and Editorial Adviser Asian Tribune, H.L.D. Mahindapala last week accused Western Powers of pulling the wool over the eyes of the world on human rights. He charged them with jettisoning their HR proclamations as an when the necessity arose for them to defend their nations, their interests and their way of life.

” Their double standards not only give human rights a bad name but also placed the future of human rights in jeopardy.  Their arrogant actions, riding rough shod over the human rights of others whom they seek to subdue from time to time, give credence to the claim that the place for human rights in contemporary human affairs has been exaggerated and the abuses of institutions set up to safeguard human rights – including the UN – have devalued the promise held out to guide and serve the larger interests of humanity”

Mahindapala was delivering the D.A. Rajapaksa Commemorative Oration titled, ‘Man does not live by rights alone’ at the BMICH, Colombo on November 29.

He further said, “”The sophisticated theories they tout to push their agendas have come under fire from countries selectively targeted by their think tanks, academia, NGOs and above all, Western media who have a tendency to demonize nations ear-marked for condemnation by the foreign offices in Western capitals,”

Mahindapala attributed the crisis facing human rights to Western leaders debasing the credibility and the viability of human rights by using these selectively to serve their interest.

“Whatever their high-sounding theories and principles may be, in practice, the universality and indivisibility of human rights tend to disappear when the Big Brothers use it as a stick to bring the little ones to heel.”

He noted that the United States with its commitment to “life, liberty and happiness” had not hesitated to destroy the life, liberty and happiness of selected segments of American society (Afro-Americans and Native Americans) as well as other nations when it suited their interests.   He recalled the murder of Salvador Allende -the first democratically elected socialist leader of Chile (1970-73) and the destruction of Chilean democracy – did not confirm to any known principles of “life, liberty and happiness” let alone basic human rights.   The U.S. while creating an image of itself as the most powerful and voice defender of human rights, argued vehemently to exclude its citizens from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.   Washington had feared that it generals and its commander-in-chief, the President, could be tried like Slobodan Milosevic for violations of human rights.

Referring to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of a Western naval cordon around Iraq with United Nations approval, Mahindapala said:

“What the 500,000 Iraqi children would never know is that the very institution set up to protect their rights turned against them, under cover of multilateral consensus, and starved them to death. Mercifully, they would never know that the rich and the mighty used the citadel of human rights to violate their right to live. If the UN lends its seal of approval to kill children in their cots why should Kofi Annan, Bush, Blair and their allies be left off the hook of committing this crime against the innocent children of Iraq?   When you consider the scale of crime committed in Iraq under UN approval, Idi Amin looks more respectable than Kofi Annan.”

Asked Mahindapala “who is there to take these culprits to the International Criminal Court or cut off aid? Certainly, not the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner, which is exceedingly busy looking for small fry!”

He recalled that the overall trend points to the dismal fact that the dispossessed and the powerless have not been the primary beneficiaries of any set of rights throughout history. Whatever the benefits they had received came to them like the crumbs that fell off the tables of those who had the power to draft, interpret and dictate either the extent or the limits of rights.

Mahindapala observed: “The history of Western ideologies is studded with the artificial glitter of manufactured theories – from Nazism, Communism, and Apartheid to exploitative liberalism – to justify and/or to cover-up the crimes committed against humanity. Mankind has paid dearly not only to give birth and sustain these theories but also to bring down the institutions built on those theories each time they fail to live up to their promises.”

Recalling the past roles of today’s human rights champions in the West he said that during World War II when British and American interest were threatened Britain had fire-bombed Dresden to rubble and the U.S. reduced Hiroshima and Nagasaki to cinders. In Hiroshima , 140,000 died instantly and 80,000 died later. The worst of was it was that the perpetrators of these horrendous crimes knew that these were no military targets and the people were non-combatant civilians.

And these were the very people, he said derisively, who had the gall to condemn the Sri Lankan state for the violent deaths of some 60,000 persons in an internal conflict that has continued for the past 25 years.

“The West seems to claim and act as if they are the sole guardians of human rights. This also implies that they own the monopoly to interpret and dictate terms to the rest primarily with the aim of pushing their political and economic agendas. Of course, they have the resources and the power to dominate and dictate which country should have their blessings to get away with violations of human rights and which should be pressured to obey their diktats.   They even hire a global army of NGO policemen to monitor the conduct of others who do not confirm to the political standards stipulated by them. Some of the reports are cooked up to suit the agendas of the funding masters abroad as seen in the case of Iraq.”

He charged professional rights activists in NGOs with pocketing heaps of money by living off the plight of the poor, women, and even victims of war.

“Theirs is a money-making business. Rival NGOs compete with each others to grab the dollars pouring out of the Western cornucopia.   These NGO activists are mercenaries posing as rights activists to make themselves a name and win some awards while making pots of money on the side.”
Mahindapala stressed the need for reviewing the reporting mechanism comprehensively to prevent the abuse of human rights in the hands of these questionable political activists.

“Reporting human rights violations should not be left in the hands of those handpicked from Western nations with a biased agenda or the local NGOs funded by these nations.   Some of the UN rapporteurs fly in and out of war-torn countries picking up only the bits and pieces that are useful to their prejudices or their agendas.”

On the issue of genuine human rights and duties he drew attention to Mahatma Gandhi’s illiterate mother as a universal figure who made history, anonymously and unobtrusively, and remarked:

“She did not write applications in triplicate to funding agencies pushing her claim for funding, most of which goes in this age of rights to maintain the luxury life-style of NGO bosses. Without romanticizing the humble but noble services of Gandhi’ smother, it can be averred that in the age of duties the moral sense reigned supreme.”

Mahindapala emphasized:

“No one has a monopoly on human rights. It is part of the human heritage which must be shared in common by all. Maximizing the universality and the indivisibility of human rights is the primary task of those who champion human rights. And this can be achieved only by balancing human rights with traditional duties”