At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo on November 15 — boycotted by India and Canada in protest against the Sri Lankan regime's crimes against humanity towards the Tamil people — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said of the regime's crimes: "Sometimes in difficult circumstances, difficult things happen.”
Abbott does have a point. Genocide is a lot more difficult than most people realise. Seriously, the Sri Lankan Army was estimated to have wiped out 20,000 Tamil people in one night in May 2009. Do you know how much military and human resources that takes to organise? It is not as simple as it sounds.
And it was a very difficult situation. Having crushed the forces fighting for an independent Tamil state in 2009, the regime still had to deal with hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians living on Tamil land.
Getting them off the land and giving that land to settlers from the Sinhalese ethnic majority is a complex task. For a start, you need to organise the internment camps to jail the civilians indefinitely while their land is stolen, which requires finding a lot of barbed wire. It can be a real logistical nightmare.
Abbott said the fact that Sri Lanka was willing to host this year's CHOGM summit demonstrated its commitment to “principles of the Commonwealth charter” — democracy, human rights and rule of law.
Because if there is one thing that shows a commitment to human rights, it is willingness to host a meeting. Little things like not torturing dissidents or killing journalists are really quite secondary.
In fact, most serious analysts agree that if there was one issue that sparked the Arab Spring pro-democracy uprisings, it was the blatant refusal of Arab dictatorships to host a CHOGM summit.
Abbott did acknowledge that it is “not always easy to live up to those ideals”. It is so very true. A bit like trying to cut down drinking — you can work so hard and then you slip up at a Christmas party and next thing you know it's 5am and your staggering down the street wearing a traffic cone on your head having been thrown out of a late-night pub for dispossessing an entire ethnic minority.
I am really with Abbott on this one. Not massacring people is an ideal I often find extremely hard to live up to, especially on Saturday mornings, like today when I have to walk to the train station, hungover, to get to work, past endless smug, relaxed bastards with all their loud, small children and barely being able to move for all their goddamn prams.
I am amazed I don't get awards for my self-restraint, or at least the right to host the odd international summit.
And it is not that Abbott is unconcerned about the safety of the Tamil people. This is why when Abbott announced his government would be gifting two patrol boats to the Sri Lankan regime to help it prevent persecuted Tamils fleeing its crimes, he said: “People smuggling is a curse. It is a curse, it is an evil trade.”
Abbott's moral code is clear. Torture and mass murder are “difficult things”, but assisting the victims of this torture and mass murder to escape to safety is “an evil trade”.
So never let it be said Abbott does not have a moral compass. It just so happens, his points straight down to Hell.