The Height of Cynicism: Sri Lanka Government Appeals For International Aid for Refugees

What to say...they disproportionately cause an enormous humanitarian catastrophe (yes, LTTE assisted) on a (politically) timed schedule, don't allow international observers, journalists, and many others to monitor it, secure an IMF loan, and are now asking for humanitarian assistance for the refugees...

This is not an issue of 'Tamils' or the 'Sinhalese', but of basic human depravity.  And where is the IMF on all this?  Where are conditionalities now?  I am opposed to imperialism, even humanitarian imperialism, on a deep level, but I find it appalling that AGAIN in the one instance in which some pressure could have made an immediate short term difference in the lives of over 100,000 people, all we got were mild statements and massive amounts of money to the primary force causing the emergency.

What to say...


By: on 23 Apr 2009


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Allow me to make a brief

Allow me to make a brief remark about the I.M.F.  In crude terms, an important role of the I.M.F. is to be the credit bureau of finance capital.  They do have one useful role, viz., the collection of economic data but this aspect is relatively unimportant. 

Moreover, I wish to caution against the application of political pressure on the I.M.F. with the aim of imposing humanitarian conditions on the proposed loan to Sri Lanka.  This has been tried in other contexts and in my view been an error. To reiterate, the I.M.F. is basically the credit bureau of finance capital.

Such a tactic is a slippery slope. (I do not mean to suggest Dr. A was proposing such a move. My intent is to caution against it.)

Hi epoliticus - I agree with

Hi epoliticus - I agree with you about these types of slippery slopes - you can see it in the arguments for use of military power to stop human suffering and how that played out in the buildup to the iraq war.  However, I think these situations have to be looked at in greater detail - my point about IMF conditionalities was mainly to express my bitterness at WHAT those conditionalities get used for - and how that illustrates the structural role of IMF.  So in a sense, I was making a similar point to you, although put far less clearly :)

Anyway, thanks for your comment - please keep them coming :)

Dr A., there is substantial

Dr A., there is substantial scope for agreement between us on this point with the qualification that it probably depends on what you meant by "these situations have to be looked at in greater detail."  We might readily go from apparent agreement to disagreement depending on what you mean exactly.  I do not believe that there is any scope for negotiations with the IMF.  To believe otherwise, is simply to not understand the politics of the IMF.

hi e-politicus, This is

hi e-politicus,

This is among the most succinct and effective responses I have ever seen to a slippery comment.  It has helped me think abotu this in a bit more detail.  The call to pressure the IMF for me is a) felt - it 'fits' somehow b) does not rely on the idea that anything will come of it except as a social organising tactic; c) is linked to other agendas such as anti-imperialism / anti-poverty /restructuring of how capital is organised and controlled; d) comes out of desperation and is highly reactive given a dearth of options; e) as you imply will probably create too much of a gap between the aims of a long term social democratic or radical strategy and short term protective aims.

This is a long discussion and I will get a bit off topic here in order to flesh some things out as i continue to thinik through themn.   Structures of power (ideas, ideologies, material factors, e4conomic control, etc.) both a) exist and b) are essentially equivlaent to the source of abuse, for lack of a better word.  This is a tautology to me, but it somehow doesn't seem to be well integrated into political discussions that I have seen and heard.  This may be a function of my social position or my own current deafness and inability to transition out of the last era of politics rapidly enough, but for now I think the point about power is worth reiterating.

If you take these assumptions -t hat power is evil, and that abuses are the product of power/powerlessness (this is clumsily put but the best i can do), then the resulting problem is the standard one for non-utopian leftists dealing with short or medium term problems- how do you you  figure out how to interact with these structures of power after attempting to understand their dynamics on a very specific and concrete level.  In this context, that includes the IMF, the U.S. government, multiilateral institutions, the Goverment of Sri Lanka, Tamil nationalist diaspora, etc.   You have seen it in the debates here and elsewhere on how leftist humanists ought to relate to Tamil nationalism and teh LTTE and subsidiary groups like TRO right now, and you see it with the IMF issue as well.   Another way to say this is that you have to simultaneously analyse the effectiveness of strategies and tactics in changing how power behaves and the morality of those actions (taking responsibility for one's own power and what one produces with it).

For me, for those of us outside Sri Lanka and personally invested but not socially connected, anythihng we do hast he danger of promoting imperialism (i.e. fostering the myth of actual equality of power among states and helping the4 u.s. and india and other countries and aspects of their civil societies or global civil society impose an agenda on less powerful states). .  So the hardest thing is to realise that I'm not willing to give my lfie up or the comforts of my social position enough to, say, go to Sri Lanka, go live in the war zopne, and get killed - and encourage others to do the same.  It is a choice I have made.  My other choice is to use the resources that are directly available to me such as nudging institutions like my trade union or the readers of this blog to push forward a little bit more than they have already without slipping into the metastisization of the two-communtiy narrative on Sri Lanka to a global scale as has happened with israel/Palestine.  I believe this is happening in the discourse to some extent, but there is not as much danger in the West because peopel simply don't care that much about brown people killing torturing raping or otherwise mistreating other brown people (you can replace brown with other words like 'female', 'black', 'LGBT', etc. and likew9ise with 'the West') .

So that's on the morality of it all.  The effectiveness of the effort - well, I don't understand the IMF that well, but I do believe that IF the IMF were forced to hold back its loan, the only way that could happen is either the IMF or the government of Sri Lanka or both received an enormous amount of negative attention.  I don't think it's very likely, but then, I am too much a pessimist sometimes.  I am also too much a sloppy thinker in that I haven't though through the other consequences of the action on the IMF and finance capital and global human rights discourse well enough to feel confident in this action - for example, how would it affect people in Western Sahara or Tibet or Zimbabwe even if it were practically feasible?

That's it for now.  I am sure you are relieved and I am feeling a bit like I wish I had made more sense and could find another way to numb the pain of emotional inarticulateness on this issue than overintellectualising it.  I feel that I simply have nothing to say and too many words to say it in.  but I am really tired, so please bear wtih me.

First before I go to the next

First before I go to the next point, I will restate the importance of R2P or the Responsiblility to protect in this crisis.  For those who are not clear about what this is:

"The Responsibility to Protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity is an international commitment by governments to prevent and react to grave crises, wherever they may occur. In 2005, world leaders agreed, for the first time, that states have a primary responsibility to protect their own populations and that the international community has a responsibility to act when these governments fail to protect the most vulnerable among us."( R2P engaging civil society website)

I have seen people who are concerend about this issue and not able to articulate this legal obligation.  So essentially, the UN and the international community has failed to carry out this legal obligation by failing to intervene and prevent this crisis. 

To pressurise the UN to fulfil this commitment and follow this doctrine, is far more important than putting pressure on the IMF.  The two key people to contact/write to are: 1 the UNHCR chief Navaneetham Pillai and 2. Gareth Evans.  Navaneetham Pillai's predecessor, Louis Arbour, made a visit to Jaffna just before she left the UN, without asking for permission from the Sri Lankan government, as she was entitled to under the circumstances.

Regarding the IMF (not an expert in economics and finance!), what I have been told is that one of the conditions would be to increase interest rates, which is most likely to cause inflation, which would take the people in the south outside their comfort zone, and expose the government for what they are.

This article, which I provided a link to in another comment provides more details about R2P and the crisis in Sri Lanka.

Two important documents that

Two important documents that are relevant to the above are as follows:

GCR2P--Open Letter to the Security Council on the situation in Sri Lanka


GCR2P--Press Release: Leading human rights’ advocates urge the Security Council to uphold the responsibility to protect 100,000 civilians at risk of mass atrocities in northern Sri Lanka


Someone sent me this youtube clip from a campaign that is asking Britain to intervene:

This appeal is supported by something more tangible, which is R2P.

Dr. A & Anon, please allow to

Dr. A & Anon, please allow to apologize for my tardy response to your comments. I had just completed a response to your thoughts, but accidently hit the "back button" on my web browser. Thus, my comment was lost & I cannot retrieve it. I will re-type & re-post. Sorry.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.