Blake’s bona fides to deliver Tamil justice questioned
Robert Blake, U.S. assistant secretary of State for South Asia, and former Ambassador to Sri Lanka and India, is widely known to be the architect of the U.S. policy on Sri Lanka which has resulted in Sri Lanka’s massacre at Mu’l’livaaykkaal where more than 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed. Key activists in the Tamil diaspora are increasingly convinced that Tamils are unlikely to obtain justice and accountability under Blake’s tenure where Blake is forced to face challenges to provide sustenance to his Sri Lanka policy – a policy which requires accommodating Rajapakse rule amid soaring rights violations, continuing structural genocide of Tamils and an authoritarian governance where war victims are further subjected to State sanctioned military violence.
Recent release of documents by Wikileaks revealed that diplomats of western nations, including Ambassador Blake, were aware of the use of heavy weaponry in the indiscriminate shelling of heavily populated No-Fire-Zones by the Sri Lanka military that resulted in the civilian killings of arguably genocidal proportions.
Blake’s past ambassadorial record provides convincing evidence of how Ambassador Blake shaped the US policy towards Sri Lanka which underscored the willingness of US to overlook serious violations of international norms of conducting a war to defeat “terrorism” in Sri Lanka.
Robert Blake’s February 2009 memo, found in the Aftenposten-Wikileaks, shows that ‘counterinsurgency’ was more important to Blake than a political settlement.
According to Tamil circles, Blake’s decision to provide full support to a counterinsurgency policy appears to have started in early 2006 as revealed by a Hindu article which said, “two international ‘contact groups’, one each to check LTTE fund-raising and arms purchases were initiated by the U.S, in the first half of 2006,” and adds, “[a] cable sent in August 2006 from the US Embassy in New Delhi discloses the composition of the contact groups for the first time: representatives of Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Another confidential cable of Blake, in which he calls the Tamil diaspora as ‘paymasters’ of the LTTE, to satisfy whom the LTTE in the island was fighting the war, shows Blake’s lack of understanding of the decades-old crisis in the island, his incurable bias against the Tamil diaspora.
While debilitation of the financial and material strength of the LTTE was achieved through Blake initiated combined actions by the Contact Group across continents, and the anticipated defeat of the Tigers was near, the cables show, the West was neither able to arrange a third-party surrender righteously asked by the LTTE, nor was it able to guarantee the life and self-respect of the people it meekly watched getting into the hands of the military of Colombo, diaspora Tamil circles pointed out.
A cable originating from Robert Blake in March 2009 reveals that neither the Co-Chairs nor the peace facilitators were prepared to arrange third party options for the surrender or to receive the civilians, but they planned to pressure the diaspora to make demands with the LTTE to send civilians into the hands of the SL Army.
The March cable also reveals that Norway and the USA, without the knowledge of others, worked secretly in persuading the LTTE to send civilians, but without meeting the LTTE expectation of UN or ICRC evacuation of civilians.
Mr. Blake’s complicity in defending Rajapakse government on the use of sexual violence and rape by Sri Lankan security forces is telling, and the impunity enjoyed by Sri Lanka by such defense can also be argued as the reason for the current emergence of the Grease Devils phenomenon, widely believed to be orchestrated by Colombo, diaspora Tamil circles said.
Wikileaks cable of May 18, 2007 to the State Department shows that Blake was informed in detail about the extensive use of sexual violence and rape by security forces, with the help of paramilitaries under Devananda and Karuna. In the same cable, Blake also lists other serious crimes being committed by security forces against Tamil and Muslim civilians, including killings (including members of Parliament), disappearances, kidnappings etc, and of the compliity and direction of senior leaders, including Mr. Gotabhaya Rajapkse. However, Blake makes light of the information as “no smoking gun,” and took no meaningful action to protect the victims, except to exhort the Government to observe” international norms.”
While sexual violence and rape were being used as a tool of war in Sri Lanka as Secretary Clinton noted this in a statement to the UN Security Council in September 2009, when she said that “We have seen rape used as tactic of war before in Bosnia, Burma, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere,” after vehement protests from Sri Lanka, the State Department quickly issued a “clarification”– “while there had been significant levels of rape through 2002 – 2003, in the most recent phase of the conflict from 2006-2009, we have not received reports that rape and sexual abuse were used as tool of war, as they clearly have been in other conflict areas of the world.”
This episode is symptomatic of Ambassador Blake’s role in Sri Lanka.
Further, Mano Ganesan, the recipient of US’s Freedom Award, in a recent article expressed his disappointment saying the award was only a propaganda blitz to show US as the savior, and that the US was not concerned about the casualties during the war, diaspora Tamil circles pointed out. Ganeson reiterated that during the current visit Blake should not mislead Tamils again, as he allegedly did earlier, “preaching” the notion of implementing the [defective] 13th Amendment after the war, and failing to ensure implementation of even that once the war was concluded.
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