Does microfinance make up for war crimes?

Well, no. When there are 300,000 Tamils languishing in IDP camps, even a $26 million investment in microfinance loans won’t erase the human rights violations that many of these civilivans faced in Sri Lanka’s frenzied campaign against the Tamil Tigers.

But, even if Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resettlement plan (180 days) is a little uncomfortably ambitious, microfinance seems a reasonably good idea — better, at least, than simply pretending that ethnic distinctions don’t exist, and that there are “only people who love their country and people who don’t love their country.”

Then again, on the more cynical side, it seems that Rajapaksa is pretty eager to pick up tactics favored by his Western trading partners, without dealing so much with the attendant difficulties. He’s followed George W. Bush’s maxim to root out terrorists pretty much to the letter, and his military offensive steamrolled over supposed values of freedom of the press, proportionality, and the human rights of civilians.

Is providing microfinance loans a gambit to stay in the West’s good graces? I wouldn’t be that derisive, because it does seem like a good step forward.  But I do wish that Rajapaksa was more willing to look backwards, at his own military’s conduct; it’s difficult to hold a truth and reconciliation process when he doesn’t want to “dig into the past.”

(image from flickr user aquaview under a Creative Commons license)