Ron Ridenour is an American journalist, anti-war and civil rights activist. He is an author of 12 books: “The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert”. https://www.amazon.com/Russian-Peace-Threat-Pentagon-Alert/dp/0996487069; Cuba at Sea: Ridenour, Ron: Amazon.com.mx: Libros; Yankee Sandinistas: Ron Ridenour: 9780915306626: Amazon.com: Books. Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka (New Century Book House, Chennai). Lived in Cuba 1988-96 (Editorial José Martí and Prensa Latina), Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Mexico, USA, Iceland, and Denmark. He is currently based in South America.
Interviewed by A.Jathindra
The report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is relatively tough. It has been termed, “a damning report on Sri Lanka”. For the first time, a High Commissioner has called on the 47 Human Rights Council member states to consider taking “steps towards the referral of the situation in Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court”.
As an observant in Sri Lankan affairs, how do you see this - especially in the geopolitical background?
This would be an especially crucial and potentially effective measure to take IF it could happen. The ICC has recently found its muscle by deciding to investigate Israel for abusing Palestinians’ human rights and then taking on the United States itself for its “possible” war crimes in Afghanistan, as well as the Afghanistan government and Taliban. However, not only will the U.S. and Zionist Israel not abide by these decisions, but their allies on the HRC will not permit such to happen given the dominating role that the U.S./Europe with Israel play in the world.
We must recall some history. The 123-member ICC was founded in 2002 by the UN General Assembly. The U.S. refused to join the ICC as did Israel, its surrogate in the Middle East. The U.S. will not allow any political body, especially an international court, to judge any U.S. citizen for war crimes or any other crime.
A similar court, International Court of Justice, found the U.S. guilty for violating the rights of the sovereign state of Nicaragua, in 1986, for mining its Managua harbors and contracting the terrorist “contras” for war crimes. The U.S. refused to participate and pay reparations.
Nothing happened. In fact, when the ICC decided to try the U.S., the Afghanistan government and Taliban for possible war crimes, the U.S. government froze any financial assets that its president and staff might have in U.S. banks or other institutions controlled by the U.S., nor will it allow the court leadership to set foot on its territory.
The current U.S. government has not announced any intention to participate in the ICC trial. It did state that sanctions against it would be reviewed. Don’t hold your breathe.
So when the High Commissioner recommended that the ICC investigate Sri Lanka for human rights abuses, and even for member states to “asset freezes and travel bans”, it is clear that no such resolution will be forthcoming by the HRC. The current proposed resolution is weak and does not include freezing Sri Lanka assets or trial by the ICC.
The High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, is a former president of
Chile. She and her family were jailed under the dictatorial rule of Pinochet. Her father was killed by its jailors, and she was abused in prison. Could her background and character be factors behind her report?
My speculation is that must be the case. No matter what our work is, our own life experiences enter into our decision-making. I believe many of her actions as the socialist president (2006-10; 2014-18) suggest she agrees with Martin Luther King when he spoke of solidarity with the oppressed: “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere”
You have a deep understanding of Latin American countries. For many years, you have closely work with many Latin American leaders. There is an observation that the Latin American countries are likely to take a stand against Sri Lanka this time as the High Commissioner of the Human Rights Council is South American. How do you see this?
If the U.S., through its proxy countries on the HRC, back a resolution without accountability by or sanctions against the Sri Lankan government, which seems to be the case, then those Latin American countries close to the U.S. will back it, and those that the U.S. opposes (Cuba, Bolivia, and Venezuela) will vote against. This is the “realistic” world of geo-politics.
When looking at your writings, one thing is well-defined: Tamils should not trust the United States and the West. Tamils, however, have great faith in the United States. On March 22, 2012, a landmark resolution was passed at the UN Human Rights Council. As everyone knows, such a resolution would not have been possible without the support of the U.S. But in the case of Latin American countries, especially Cuba, it has been a pro-Sri Lankan state. In this context, the argument of do not trust the U.S. seems logically weak. The Tamil people have faith in the Biden administration. What is your observation?
The resolution had nothing to do with protecting Tamil’s human rights. It was a grandstand gesture by the U.S. and allies within the context of geo-politics.
The resolution was totally toothless, simply a non-binding recommendation that the Sri Lanka government merely implement its own LLRC (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission), which, in itself was toothless.
The main reason why the genocidal government of Mahinda/Gotabaya Rajapaksa (once again in power) opposed it was to save face and they refused to be dictated to. That is one reason why China and Russia, as well as Cuba and Ecuador (then a Rafael Correa government), voted against it—refusal to be dictated to by colonial/imperial powers.
History shows that the U.S. and its European vassal states are hypocrites. They had provided (given or sold) to all the Sinhalese ruling governments plenty of funds, surveillance, and weapons to murder Tamils. India too supported Sri Lanka with armaments and intelligence, as did Pakistan, Iran, even Russia, and China. Israel, U.S.’s favorite Middle East henchman, even flew its Kfir jets with its own pilots to murder not only the armed resistance of LTTE but also Tamil civilians. Mossad was used to spy on Tamils.
No major power, neither capitalist nor communist, wanted the Tamils to win their own state. Look at Palestine and Puerto Rica, for instance. Had the Tamils succeeded then it would have encouraged those peoples and others to fight all the more for liberation. The U.S. only supports separate states when it meets their global domination interests as with Yugoslavia. Capitalist U.S./NATO/EU crushed the competing Serbian socialist direction. When the capitalists won that war, they separated Yugoslavia into five capitalist countries.
Sri Lanka and Cuba were two of the original 25 states that formed the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. At that time, the founders—President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Ghana President Kwame Nkrumah, Indonesian President Sukarno, and Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito (NAM’s first general secretary)—were progressive or socialist. They did not want to be under either the U.S., the Soviet Union or China. That is not to say, that NAM never compromised principles.
Sri Lanka’s President Junius Richard Jayewardene, of the United National Party, was NAM president (1978-9), followed by Fidel Castro (1979-83, and again 2006-8 when brother Raul took his place for the last year after Fidel became quite sick).
We must recall that before the 2012-3 resolutions, there was the first one right after the end of the civil war, in 2009. Seventeen countries on the 47-member Human Rights Council called for an extraordinary session about the Sri Lankan situation. U.S. allies introduced a resolution calling upon Sri Lanka to “promote and protect human rights”.
Another justice-seeking UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, spoke for an “independent and credible international investigation”. Her desire was not even discussed. That is not what the U.S./Europe wanted. They merely gesticulated for “human rights” while all along having fully supported the S.L. governments’ brutal treatment, including genocide and war crimes, against the Tamil people.
Most governments viewed Pillay, as they do Bachelet today as: too professional, compassionate, balanced, and too honest in seeking real accountability and justice. Instead, the U.S. cabal proposed only that an investigation into these charges of human rights abuse be pursued by the Sri Lankan government itself, exactly the same procedure as in the 2012-3 resolutions concerning LLRC.
As if in a knee-jerk reaction to anything that the U.S./allies want, the HRC majority, in 2009, ingenuously praised Sri Lanka’s government for continuing “to uphold its human rights obligations and the norms of international human rights law”. The key promoter of the majority resolution was, to my dismay, Cuba—the homeland of my heart and where I had lived and worked for the government for eight years.
The majority (29 to 12 with 6 abstentions) resolution only condemned the LTTE for committing terrorism. From what I have been able to ascertain, some LTTE forces did commit terrorist abuses, including killing some Sinhalese in their homes, on trains and buses. LTTE commander Karuna, who became a rival of the top leader, Prabhakaran, murdered 700 police officers that Karuna forces had captured and disarmed. These acts, while abhorrent, cannot be compared to the permanent terror treatment committed by the governments’ military and police, and not only in war but on a daily basis.
(In yet another contradiction, Karuna joined the Rajapakse government, who soon appointed this gross murderer to be his Minister of National Integration. Not even George Orwell could have foretold such despicable immoral hypocrisy.)
A key sentence in the 2009 HRC debate is what Cuba’s ambassador spoke: “Sri Lanka’s sovereign right to fight terrorism and separatism within its undisputed borders must be respected.”
Advocates of socialism believe that unity is the only way to win and that separatism can only lead to splits that prevent true liberation, equality, and peace—none of which the superpower and its vassal states are interested in.
Bolivia and Venezuela were then being pressed by separatist demands but they came not from an ethnic group, rather from a rich class of Whites-Creoles, which has no historic ethnic Homeland. China was pressed by separatist Tibetan Buddhists, which the CIA was funding and even training to conduct guerrilla warfare against China. The CIA had the Dali Lama on its payroll for two decades.
U.S./European allies lost the vote for their toothless yet seemingly critical commentary of some of the Sri Lanka army’s treatment. As if to say, it is fine that you suppress and dominate the Tamils but do so without the world seeing how brutally you do it. You know, we as the world’s superpower policeman must appear to support human rights and democracy.
See the list of who voted for and against. All in favor, except Russia, were countries that Europe-U.S. had colonialized, stolen from, and otherwise dominated. Nearly all that voted against are the historic and contemporary oppressors.
So, what we had then is the same we have now: geo-politics and economic interests without real justice. Sri Lanka’s governments have something material they can offer other governments on all sides. It is keen at pitting one power against another, including those capitalists and those socialists. Half the world’s containerized cargo passes by Sri Lanka on the Indian Ocean. By providing the semi-apartheid government with more armaments, jets, and construction materials than any other government, China was awarded a shipping port at Hambantota. Whilst Tamils only have justice on their side—no money there. Ron Ridenour: Cuba-ALBA Let Down Sri Lanka Tamils
There seems to be hope on the world stage with Joe Biden. He is expected to make headway in U.S. foreign policy. He is expected to restore ties and rebuild regional cooperation with Latin American countries. Given this background, how do you see the possibility of more Latin American countries standing with the U.S. in the future?
I truly do not understand why Tamils expect any support from any U.S. president. Besides my answer to the question above, Tamils should realize that the U.S. has been the most terrorist of all states throughout its entire existence (with the exception of the short-lived fascist European governments in the 1930-40s). My research points to 533 aggressive wars the U.S. has conducted since its founding plus only two defensive ones: WW 1 and WW 11. It started with genocide against the indigenous population. It stole half the nation of Mexico. It has invaded every Latin American country, some many times.
We must be alert and not fooled by the rhetoric, such as the slick Harvard-talking Obama spewed forth all the while murdering masses of people in seven wars he conducted, more than any other U.S. president. He had Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton by his side when he conned hundreds of millions of people into believing he stood for something decent. He took the AFRICOM plan that President George Bush had started, and convinced African leaders to accept U.S. military bases and troops in all of the continent’s 57 countries—a neo-colonial imperialist military domination.
The U.S. is interested only in one project: American Exceptionalism=AMERICA THE GREATEST. It doesn’t matter that this is shouted by a vulgar Trump, an eloquent Obama, or a stuttering Biden. World Policeman, World Domination is the name of their game.
How can Tamils, especially the diaspora, establish ties with Latin American countries? Is it possible?
When I became aware of the terrible plight of Sri Lanka Tamils—thanks to the Latin American Friendship Association Tamil Nadu—I realized that I had to support your people for moral reasons. That meant I had to criticize those ALBA (Bolivian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) governments I had always supported, because they fell into the geo-political trap of backing the Sinhalese genocide governments. In fact, I had been a media worker for Cuban media (1988-96) and thought highly of Fidel. My main hero was Che. Many Tamils also thought well of revolutionary Cuba, including the LTTE, and probably the majority of Tamils in India, at least those I came to know about.
That is also the case of the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam. I worked with some of them, including its PM Visuvanathan Rudrakumaran, who agreed at that time to try to reach out to especially indigenous peoples in some Latin American countries. I spoke with ambassadors and other leaders of Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua during the COP 15 climate summit in Copenhagen, in 2009. I worked with presidents Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez as a PR person.
I tried to get these leaders to see how their people had much in common with Tamils. Their answers to me approximate what I have answered above: The duplicitous role of the imperialist terrorist state of the United States, the important role of NAM, and the need for unity instead of separation.
My best argument to ALBA leaders was that the Tamil people had struggled peacefully to obtain equal rights with the majority Sinhalese for 30 years, before some youth got tired and engaged in the civil war. Tamils had simply been asking that their language and religions be recognized on an equal plane, and that they be allowed to obtain education and jobs equally with Sinhalese. Your people were met with murderous pogroms.
Some leading members of Venezuela and Bolivia understood that reality. The main problem for them, however, was and is today: the U.S. seems to be backing Tamils, other than the LTTE, of course, and criticizing a major member of NAM.
I could not make any headway then, and I don’t think it is possible today either. ALBA has been weakened, and the right-wing throughout Latin America, backed strongly by not only Trump but before by Obama and today by Biden, are trying to stop any progressive movements from winning power in all of Latin America, and the world. Just look at whom Biden is appointing in the most important foreign affairs post. They are all hawks and seek domination as they succeeded in doing in Bolivia and Ecuador for a time. Right now Biden is trying to prevent the socialist candidate from winning the presidency in the second round of Ecuador’s election. In Venezuela, how can anyone possibly consider a nobody politician, Juan Gauidó—who declared himself president at a news conference-rally without being election—to be accepted as president? Yet the U.S. and 70 vassal states do. It is preposterous.
Somehow or another, Tamil people must come to look at reality squarely in the face. You get nothing from the imperialists without them cannibalizing you.
Editor's Note: "An opposition shop is good even among greengrocers" as translated by Rev Percival in "Tamil Proverbs with their English Translations", Dinavartamani Press Mylapore, 1874,p241