Angry Lanka delays visas for Amnesty
Amnesty has been told that this was not the right time to visit Sri Lanka, reports PK Balachandran.Updated: Apr 17, 2007, 15:48 IST
Angry with the London-based Amnesty International (AI) for organising a campaign against Sri Lanka during the on-going World Cup cricket tournament in the West Indies, the Sri Lankan government is delaying the grant of visas to an Amnesty team wanting to visit the island.
A top official of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Hindustan Times here on Tuesday, that government had not decided to deny visas, but Amnesty had been told that this was not the appropriate time to visit the country.
Amnesty had asked people watching matches in which Sri Lanka was playing, to sign white balls carrying the legend "Play by the rules" (ie: "Don't violate human rights").
In a pamphlet distributed simultaneously, it also asked both parties to accept an International Human Rights Monitor.
But this campaign triggered a very bad reaction back in Sri Lanka.
While the LTTE was silent, the Sri Lankan polity fumed with indignation.
In a political climate in which NGOs and the international peace and human rights lobby were being looked at as tacit and behind the scenes supporters of the "terrorist and separatist" LTTE, Amnesty's campaign was seen as a brazenly anti-Sri Lankan move, a move which showed no sensitivity to the sentiments of the majority of Sri Lankans, who were backing the Mahinda Rajapaksa government's strong anti-terror line.
In a hard hitting article on Tuesday, the state-owned Daily News wondered why Western organisations like Amnesty were picking only non-Western countries for criticism and campaigns, as if there were no violations of human rights by Western governments.
Amnesty's use of the World Cup tournament to carry its message across, was also seen as a sinister Western move to demoralise the Sri Lankan cricket team and prevent it from winning the Cup.
Even human rights activists in Sri Lanka slammed Amnesty for the thoughtless use of the Word Cup venues for the campaign.
The brilliant performance of the Sri Lankan team has been bringing much joy to the masses in the island, who are currently in the midst of gloom created by the escalating war and the spiralling prices of essential commodities.
Like the elite, the masses too believe that Amnesty and the peace and rights lobbies are essentially conspirators against Sri Lankan nationalism.
Amnesty tried to douse the fire by pointing out that the appeal to play by the rules and observe human rights was made to the LTTE too. But this did not cut ice with Sri Lankans.
Sri Lankans, especially the majority Sinhalas, hate those who equate a legitimate, democratically elected government with a terrorist group.