Tamil Armed Resistance & Sri Lanka’s Genocidal Onslaught

Posted on 06/01/2012


The failure of peaceful parliamentary means led to the rise of the armed resistance of the Tamil people.

The armed resistance of the Tamil people arose in response to decades of an ever widening and deepening oppression under alien Sinhala rule.The question whether that armed resistance was lawful or not falls within the domain of international law. At the same time, it may be helpful (and, indeed, necessary) to heed the words of  Dr Colin J Harvey

“…International law is political. There is no escape from contestation. Hard lessons indeed for lawyers who wish to escape the indeterminate nature of the political. For those willing to endorse this the opportunities are great. The focus then shifts to interdisciplinarity and the horizontal networks which function in practice in ways rendered invisible by many standard accounts of law… We must abandon the myth that with law we enter the secure, stable and determinate. In reality we are simply engaged in another discursive political practice about how we should live..”

At the same time, an armed resistance movement brings in its train certain predictable consequences. Jean Paul Sartre’s Statement ‘On Genocide’ at the Second Session of the Bertrand Russell International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam, held in Denmark in November 1967 remains valid today:

 “…Against partisans backed by the entire population, colonial armies are helpless. They have only one way of escaping from the harassment which demoralizes them …. This is to eliminate the civilian population. As it is the unity of a whole people that is containing the conventional army, the only  anti-guerrilla strategy which will be effective is the destruction of that people, in other words, the civilians, women and children…”


In Sri Lanka, the Tamil armed resistance was met with wide ranging retaliatory attacks with intent, to compel the Tamil people to accept Sinhala rule. In the late 1970s large numbers of Tamil youths were detained without trial and tortured under emergency regulations and later under the Prevention of Terrorism Act which has been described by the International Commission of Jurists as a `blot on the statute book of any civilised country‘. Torture was almost an universal practise for the Sri Lankan authorities.


In 1981 the Jaffna Public Library was burnt whilst several high ranking Sinhala security officers and two cabinet ministers were present in Jaffna town. The widespread attack on the Tamil people in 1983 was described in the Review of the International Commission of Jurists in the following terms:

“The impact of the communal violence on the Tamils was shattering. More than 100,000 people sought refuge in 27 temporary camps set up across the country. The evidence points clearly to the conclusion that the violence of the Sinhala rioters on the Tamils amounted to acts of genocide.” (The Review, International Commission of Jurists, edited by Niall MacDermot, December 1983)

” Communal riots in which Tamils are killed, maimed, robbed and rendered homeless are no longer isolated episodes; they are beginning to be become a pernicious habit.” (Sri Lanka – A Mounting Tragedy of Errors, Paul Sieghart, Chairman, Executive Committee, Justice, International Commission of Jurists.1984)


In the subsequent years, the Sinhala dominated Sri Lankan government continued with its efforts to conquer the Tamil homeland and rule the Tamil people. The record shows that in this attempt, Sri Lanka’s armed forces and para military units have committed widespread violations of humanitarian law.

In the East whole villages of Tamils were attacked by the Army and by the so called Home Guards. In the North aerial bombardment and artillery shelling of Tamil civilian population centres by the Sri Lanka armed forces was undertaken on a systematic basis.

The attacks on the Tamil homeland were coupled with the declared opposition of successive Sri Lankan Governments (including that of President Kumaratunga) to the merger of the North and East of the island into a single administrative and political unit and the recognition of the Tamil homeland.

Sri Lanka continued its genocidal attack on the people of Tamil Eelam with impunity despite hundreds of statements of grave concern expressed at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

In August 1995, 20 Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) declared at the UN Sub Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities in Geneva:

“Our organisations are gravely concerned with the impunity with which the Sri Lanka armed forces continue to commit gross and inhumane violations of human rights and humanitarian law…In April this year , President Chandrika Kumaratunga declared that it may be necessary to launch an all out attack in the Jaffna peninsula and that this `would mean a lot of civilian casualties’ and the `place would be wiped out’. .. .(Thereafter) the Sri Lanka armed forces launched a genocidal onslaught on the Tamil people in the Tamil homeland in the North-East. …The aerial bombardment of (Tamil) civilian population centres and places of worship follow a pattern set by the Sri Lanka armed forces over the past several years..

During the past twelve years, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Sub Commissionhave heard hundreds of statements expressing grave concern at the situation prevailing in the island of Sri Lanka.

The record shows that it was the oppressive actions of successive Sri Lanka governments from as early as 1956 and in 1958, and again in 1961 and again with increasing frequency from 1972to 1977 and culminating in the genocidal attacks of 1983 that resulted in the rise of the lawful armed resistance of the Tamil people.

We are constrained to condemn the actions of the Sri Lanka government as gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law, intended to terrorise and subjugate the Tamil people.”

The Norwegian sponsored ‘Peace Process’ secured an uneasy peace but war continued by other means.

“…many peace agreements are fragile and the ‘peace’ that they create is usually the extension of war by more civilised means… A peace agreement is often an imperfect compromise based on the state of play when the parties have reached a ‘hurting stalemate’ or when the international community can no longer stomach a continuation of the crisis. A peace process, on the other hand, is not so much what happens before an agreement is reached, rather what happens after it… the post conflict phase crucially defines the relationship between former antagonists…” – Walter Kemp, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, reviewing ‘After the Peace: resistance and reconciliation’ by Robert L.Rothstein, 1999

This ofcourse opens up the question as to what it is that leads the so called ‘international community‘ to conclude that it can no longer stomach a continuation of the conflict.

The ‘international community’ is not without its own ‘security’ interests, whether they be linked to the control of oil resources or nuclear non proliferation or control of the currency in which world trade is conducted – and these may not be unrelated to that which the international community can no longer countenance at any particular time.


Source:  TamilNation.org

Posted in: Tamil