Posted on 06/01/2012


Sinhalese (Army/Police/Thugs/Politicians) are not arrested/punished when they rape/kill Tamils and other non-sinhalese???? ?

news articles…

Tangalle: Paradise Lost
By Nadia FazlulhaqThe Sunday Times – 01-01-2012

*British national who helped the limbless in Gaza Strip faces brutal death while holidaying in Sri Lanka
*Russian partner undergoes surgery, police probing charges of sexual assault
*Govt. assures justice will be done though chief suspect member of ruling party
*Tourist industry officials voice concern

Firecrackers and gunfire from a beachside hotel in the southern town of Tangalle illuminated the sky celebrating the birth of Christ. As the world celebrated this joyous day, the lifeless body of a British national lay in a pool of blood at the Nature Resort premises in Medilla, Tangalle, while his Russian partner lay unconscious on the beach, her clothes in tatters.

Khuram Shaikh Zaman, (32) who managed to survive as a physical rehabilitation manager, of the International Committee of Red Cross in the Gaza Strip, died a brutal death in Sri Lanka, while on holiday in Tangalle.

Zaman, a Salford University graduate from Minrow, Rochdale, Manchester who provided prosthetics for those who had lost limbs in the war torn Gaza Strip, died on Christmas eve trying to rescue a local restaurant owner who was being beaten up by a local politician and some of his intoxicated supporters.
As Christmas day dawned, celebrations continued at the resort with about 60 people on the dance floor, both tourists and locals. Among the locals was the 24 year-old Chairman of the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha, Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana.

Denegama Vitharana Ryan Akalanka (27), the man Zaman had attempted to rescue as a group of people including the Chairman started assaulting him said, “I am an owner of a nearby resort. I came to this place to meet a friend and was there for about an hour. While leaving I knocked against a man who was drunk. He started assaulting me followed by others with flower pots and bottles”.
“The foreigner tried to push aside those who were assaulting me,” he said.

“I managed to escape and run onto the beach. Sadly, in the morning when I came to pick up my motor cycle that I had left behind I heard that the man who came to my rescue had been killed,” he said.
According to eyewitnesses, Zaman’s partner, a 23-year old Russian national Victoria Alexandrovna was assaulted and dragged onto the beach. She was later found with her clothes torn on the beach side.
She was first admitted to the Matara hospital and then transferred to the Intensive Care Unit of the Karapitiya Teaching Hospital in Galle with severe head and bodily injuries.

Villagers say that when she was found her clothes were torn. “The Russian national was admitted with head injuries as a result of assault and underwent surgery at the Intensive Care Unit. After the surgery she was transferred to a private hospital in Colombo,” Dr. Jayampathi Senanayake, Director Karapitiya Teaching Hospital said.

When questioned whether the 23 year-old had been molested, Dr. Senanayake refused to comment stating that the medical reports would be submitted to courts. Police are however probing claims that one of those who accompanied the politician had either molested or raped the young woman.
The circled areas show the number of bullets found at the scene of the crime

After the killing: A blood-stained pool side at the resort
The body of Zaman was sent to Matara Hospital where the post-mortem examination conducted by Dr. H.T.K. Wijeweera revealed that the deceased had been attacked with a sharp weapon and shot. An automatic rifle had been used but the victim had died due to excessive bleeding caused by a slit in the throat.

Photographs taken at the scene of the crime, show blood stains around the pool area.
Eight men, including the main suspect, Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha chairman surrendered to police. The Criminal Investigation Department has taken over the investigations.

The Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, his private secretary Mohottige Saman, Nalagama Pradeep Chaturanga, Saman Deshapriya, Obada Arachchige Lasitha, Niroshan Weerakoon, Manoj Prasanna and Buddhika Pradeep are among those in custody. Those suspects were produced before courts and remanded until January 6.

Police Media Spokesman SP Ajith Rohana said, police had recovered a T56 used at the scene from a temple premises in Vitharandeniya, a village in Tangalle. Deputy Economic Development and Tourism Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena addressing the media on Thursday assured that investigations would be conducted in a transparent manner.

“Those who committed this crime will be severely dealt with even if a ruling party politician is involved. The government will not protect those involved in this crime,” he said. “As a Party we condemn the killing and believe that politicians should act more responsibly. As the opposition is split we have no problems with it, it’s our own party people who cause great inconvenience to the government. A politician has no right to keep unauthorized weapons in his possession,” he said.

Meanwhile acting British High Commissioner, Robbie Bulloch told the Sunday Times that they saw this as an ‘extremely’ serious incident and wanted it investigated thoroughly. “The External Affairs Ministry has given us the assurance that investigation will be taken forward and action will be taken against those involved in the crime. As this is an isolated incident we would not make any changes in our travel advisory,” he said.

He said the High Commission had grave concerns as close to 100,000 British tourists arrive in the country annually. Mr. Bulloch said the High Commission had contacted the victim’s family in Rochdale, Manchester and that the body was at a private funeral parlour in Colombo.
Khuram Shaikh Zaman: The victim
The victim’s brother Nasir, (40) told the Manchester Evening News, “The job he was doing took him to some dangerous places – and he was living in Gaza – so there was no concern about a holiday in Sri Lanka. He had been there on a break earlier this year and talked about how beautiful it was.”

The brother will be travelling to Colombo to help take back his brother’s body with the help of the Red Cross and the Foreign Office.

“The ICRC is grieved by the loss of Mr. Khuram Shaikh, who was killed while he was on vacation in Sri-Lanka and the ICRC is in touch with Mr. Shaikh’s family to provide the necessary psychological and administrative support,” a spokeswoman for ICRC, Colombo, said.

She said the ICRC was liaising closely with the relevant authorities- the British High Commission, the Russian Embassy, funeral directors and Mr.Shaikh’s family to ensure the speedy transport of his mortal remains to his family in Britain.

Udayanga Weeratunge, the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Russia said that the government had contacted the family of the Russian girl, presently being treated at a private hospital and offered to fly in the family members to Sri Lanka. The hospital expenses will be handled by Sri Lanka Tourism, he said.
Mr. Weeratunge said bout 20,000 Russians had traveled to Sri Lanka this year.

The incident in Tangalle sparked off immediate reactions with some of the tourists leaving the south while those involved in the trade voiced concern. The South is a favourite destination for tourists not only for its picturesque beaches but also for its relatively cheap accommodation. In a recent analysis this winter by UK’s Post Office Travel Network of day-to-day holiday costs in 28 long-haul destinations, Sri Lanka was listed as the least expensive.

By December 23, a total of 819,500 tourists had arrived in the country. The income generated from the tourism industry in 2011 was 760 million US$ and the target is one billion US$ in 2012, the Sunday Times learns.

“Britain sends over 105,000 tourists and they spend about 100 US$ a day and stay longer than Indian tourists contributing more to the economy,” said Anura Lokuhetti, President of Sri Lanka Hoteliers Association,
Tim Fiege:A disapointed tourist Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena Keerthi Wedaarachchi
He said at present 140,000 locals were directly and indirectly employed in the tourism sector and the target for 2016 was to employ about 500,000. “The Government has taken a lot of measures to popularize tourism by improving infrastructure and promotional events. Tourism is seen as the highest foreign exchange generator. This incident will certainly tarnish the image of the country,” he warned
He said it was also important to educate the local community on the importance of tourism.

“We get many complaints from tourists about harassment. We have to make sure that our people do not put undue pressure on tourists visiting the country. Authorities should ensure tourists safety and promote security which we have been doing since the end of the war,” he said.

Southern Tourist Hoteliers Association President Priyankara Wickremasekare said there were many community-based tourist resorts in the south that need to be monitored. “Tangalle was considered as a popular destination among tourists who come here for long stays. In Unawatuna, Hikkaduwa and Tangalle we see locals mingling with tourists, these kinds of incidents will definitely affect their trust,” he said.

He said that the Tourist Police did not operate in these areas that are known holiday destinations.
Chamber of Tourism and Industry condeming the attack on the British tourist in Tangalle said that such incidents would badly affect the industry which was fast developing to be one of the main foreign exchange earners to the economy.

President A.M. Jaufer in a statement said the killing of a tourist could only jeapordize the image of the country as a tourist destination. Hence it was the bounden duty of all the citizens to support the government in its efforts.

“We appreciated the immediate steps taken by the Government and officials concerned to bring to book those responsible for the attack. The Tourist Police Force too should be strengthened,” he said,
Keerthi Wedaarachchi, President Tangalle Tourist Hoteliers Association, which represents 48 registered hotels and resorts and 20 unregistered hotels said, they fear that this incident may affect the tourism industry in Tangalle.
The body of the slain tourist being taken to Matara Hospital. Pix by Mangala Weeraskera and Krishan Jayaruk
“Tangalle has about a 10 kilometre beach stretch where tourists can walk while enjoying the ocean view. But these kinds of incidents can damage the industry. A similar incident took place in Rekawa in Tangalle 10 years ago where a tourist was shot. Today the hotel is closed and tourists still fear to go to the area,”he said.

Tim Fiege, a German tourist who was in Tangalle when the incident took place has decided to leave the premises after the shooting. “I will be leaving this country with much disappointment as Sri Lanka was known for its hospitality. What happened was brutal. This news was also broadcast in British and German media. It is such a shame that a politician from the same area was involved in the killing of a tourist,” he said.

Gamini Edirisooriya, hailing from the South has been a tourist guide since 1983. “Tourists are afraid to stay on in Tangalle to celebrate the New Year. The government should ensure the safety of the tourists,” he said.

Rukman Wedaarachchi (40) a manager at a resort in Tangalle said, “This year saw an increase in German, British, French, Italian and Russian tourists. After this incident many tourists left our hotels,”he said.

A van driver from the area A.K.P.Ruwan Kumara (38) said he began as a three-wheeler driver but after the end of the war since there was an increase in the number of tourists to Tangalle, he decided to get a van.

H.Vijitha a cook at one of the resorts said, that he usually earned around Rs. 25,000 during the season but this time I feel I won’t earn as much during the New Year season.

SOURCE:  The Sunday Times (01-01-2012)



Sexual harassment of foreign women on the increase

By Chris Kamalendran

A string of incidents where tourists were sexually abused or harassed were reported from various parts of the island in recent months with the latest two incidents coming from Negombo. On Thursday night five youth who attempted to molest a 23-year-old Swedish national were arrested by Police.
The tourist was taking a walk on the beach at night when a group of young men had attempted to drag her away but she had screamed prompting people in the area and police to intervene.
E. Croos
The youth were warned by courts and released on Friday. The foreigner did not want to file a case. The incident came a week after two Italians were beaten up in the same area while they were returning to the hotel they were staying in.

They had been surrounded by about eight youth and badly assaulted in the Ethukala area, Negombo.

Paradise Beach Hotel General Manager, E. Croos told the Sunday Times that the two guests were staying at his hotel at the time of the incident and the attackers even entered the hotel lobby and attacked one of the tourists at the lobby.

“Beach traders and touts are the main culprits involved in these kinds of incidents. The main reason for this kind of unruly behaviour is that there are many who sell liquor without licence in the area,” he said adding that the police and authorities should be more vigilant.

Last month a woman from New Zealand had been harassed in Mihintale. Her husband had been away when two youth had attempted to drag her into a public toilet.

They were arrested and remanded. Two months ago a South African tourist was raped by a room boy in a hotel in Kalptiiya. But since the foreigner had left the country Police said they were unable to proceed with the case.
An unlicenced pub in Etukale, Negombo
Tourist Police Director SSP Ranjth Padmasiri told the Sunday Times that they were short on manpower. He also said that they held a discussion with the Tourism Authority on preventing any violence against tourists.

“One of our main problems is that we do not have enough personnel to deploy at tourist haunts and only handle direct complaints,” he said.

Tourist Police officer arrested on rape charges

In an ironic twist a police officer attached to the Tourist Police in the Kalutara district was arrested recently and produced in courts for allegedly raping a local woman. The OIC had reportedly arrested the woman who was with two other men on the beach and had taken them to the Police Station.

After questioning the two men they had been allowed to leave, while he had allegedly taken the woman to his rest room and raped her.

The woman, a 28 year old mother of two had lodged a complaint with the Aluthgama police. The case was due to be taken up on January 4 in the Kalutara Magisrate Courts.

SOURCE:  The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

Living in fear: Sri Lanka’s Tamil women

27 December 2011 | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

It’s been two-and-a-half years since the end of Sri Lanka’s war against the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Though the government claims to have restored peace in the Tamil-dominated Northern and Eastern provinces, much progress remains to be made. A recent report released by the International Crisis Group (ICG) highlights insecurities of Tamil women in the island country.

The 30-year-long civil war caused much suffering to Tamil women who were already part of a strong patriarchal system. The ICG’s report, which was released last week, suggests that while the decline of the LTTE has brought many positive changes in the lives of Tamil women, it has also ushered in a fresh set of challenges.

Heavy militarisation
Various independent reports studying the final stages of the war have accused the Sri Lankan government’s Sinhalese troops of using rape as a weapon of war. One of the most shocking among them was the Channel 4 documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, which showed video footage of Sinhalese troops making lewd, sexual comments over the naked corpses of Tamil women.

Horrid tales of sexual assaults by Sinhalese troops have dominated accounts of human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan government. Despite this, there still remains a heavy military presence in the Tamil-dominated Northern and Eastern provinces.

“Women often have to rely on male Sinhalese soldiers for information, goods and services… All of this compounds women’s exposure to risks,” the ICG’s report says. Heavy militarisation in the region is causing lack of security among Tamil women, who fear being sexually abused by Sinhalese soldiers.

Economic challenges
The ratio of Tamil men to women has been skewed because thousands of Tamil men died or disappeared during the war. Of those who survived, many have fallen prey to alcoholism. “[The war] has resulted in tens of thousands of female-headed households in the north and east,” the ICG reports.

The lack of a male bread winner has put the onus of running the houshold squarely on the shoulders of Tamil women, who until now were used to staying home and taking care of their families according to the old patriarchal structures. Looking for employment opportunities in a post-conflict society has become a major challenge for these women.

Sex work
The pressures of day-to-day survival have led many women into prostitution. An activist, who does not wish to be named, fearing retaliation from the Sri Lankan government, is quoted in the report as saying, “There are definitely cases of Vanni (a region in the Northern province) women being promised work in the south and ending up in brothels or sexually abused on the way to garment factories where the terms and conditions are not what they were told.”

Many reports of Tamil girls ending up in the brothels of the south have surfaced in the media recently. “Like all sex workers in Sri Lanka and most other countries, the Tamil women who find themselves in prostitution face serious risks of violence, disease and social ostracism,” the reports says.

The road ahead
Earlier last week, the Sri Lankan government issued a public release of the report of its Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). While the report is still being studied by the United Nations, the government has received an encouraging pat on the back for the move.

But critics say the report doesn’t delve deep into the truth. Groundviews, a Tamil citizen journalist forum called it “a document that looks to the future, exonerates the military, does not touch on the question of accountability and includes some touchy-feely language about the country’s need to move forward, celebrate its diversity and be grateful for the defeat of terrorism.”

Against this back drop, the prospects of a better life for women in the North and East seem a distant reality. The question remains whether a government which refuses to be held wholly accountable for committing crimes against its civilians can be expected to better the lives of its vulnerable populations.

by Gayatri Parameswaran – Radio Netherlands Worldwide

SOURCE:  Radio Netherlands

Sinhala school students attack visiting Tamil counterparts from Jaffna
[17 March 2012, 08:51 GMT]

Nations divided at the grassroot in the island despite machinations of global powers, reflected in an episode this week in which visiting students from leading schools of Jaffna were attacked by fellow Sinhala students in a cadet camp at Randamba in the Southern Province. The Sinhala military officials in the camp, rather than attending to complaints, chose to send the Jaffna school students back, with a warning not to tell anyone what had happened to them in the camp. During the decades of war, Colombo had stopped cadet programmes in the schools of Jaffna. Now as a part of its militarisation and structural genocide programme Colombo has conceived the idea of obligatory military training to all university entrants and reintroduction of cadet programme in the leading schools of Jaffna.

Accompanied by teachers, school cadets (or rather children as they are under 18) from St. John’s College, Jaffna Hindu College, Kokkuvil Hindu College and Central College of Jaffna were among those who were taken for the cadet training camp of both Sinhala and Tamil students at the Randamba SL military facility in the Southern Province.

During the camping, verbal exchanges between the two sections snowballed into an attack on visiting Tamil students by the Sinhala students, on Tuesday.

The accompanying Tamil teachers brought the matter to the notice of the military officials conducting the cadet camp. But no disciplinary action was initiated against the attackers.

Again on Wednesday, when the students of Jaffna Central College went to collect their food, they were attacked by the same group of Sinhala students in the locality of their hostel.

Jaffna Central College students returned on Thursday and principals of the other schools have asked for the safe return of their students.

Colombo restarted the cadet programme in the Jaffna schools with great fun-fare last year. The occupying Sinhala military has allocated a school building near Kaakkai-theevu in Jaffna for this purpose.

For advanced training the Jaffna students were taken to Randamba military facility.

School administrations and education officers in Jaffna are highly concerned of the indifferent attitude of the SL military towards the attack on Tamil students. In future they would resist sending their students for any training programme in the South, education circles in Jaffna said.

All the Jaffna institutions mentioned above became degraded into high schools long back, despite their ‘college’ nametags and more than a hundred years old history.

But as high schools they are monumental institutions of Jaffna society and all of them have alumni associations all over the world.

Genocidal Colombo nowadays has a particular sinister eye on the educational institutions of Eezham Tamils and their alumni associations in the diaspora.

* * *
As all school students in the island are under 18, they are children according to international reckoning.

The world establishments and international human rights organisations that are worried about child soldiers among non-state combatants never raise a finger to the cadet programme to the school children that is conducted all over the world by the Establishments to prepare and recruit soldiers.

Schools usually take in children for cadet training from 14 –15 years onwards.

The very idea of cadet programme that originates from British imperial and colonial schooling system, and that is now found pampered in the schools of India and the USA, has the motive of orientating the school children into militaristic thinking, exposing them to the military of the Establishment and luring them for recruitment.

SOURCE:  TamilNet

When Non-Solidarity Means Doom
by Kim Petersen / March 30th, 2012

The twenty-first century calamity that happened in Sri Lanka augurs unpropitiously for the Palestinians in Palestine. In 2009, the Sinhalese majority — backed indirectly by many nations of the world including Canada, the United States, China, India, Iran, Arab states,1 Israel, and (what author Ron Ridenour and other solidarity activists find most surprising) Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua — militarily defeated the Tamils.

The plight of the Tamils is chronicled in Ron Ridenour’s book, Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka (Chennai: New Century Bookhouse, 2011). The oppression and genocide experienced by the Tamils is not as well-known as the occupation, oppression, and genocide experienced by the Palestinians even though it is of much longer duration.

I had known that many Tamils lived in Canada having escaped persecution back home. However, in 1997, I became more intimately familiar with the civil war in Sri Lanka while working in Maldives. Many of the workers — and some of my colleagues — were from Sri Lanka. I heard complaints that Tamils were discriminated against because of their language and religion. Worse were the tales of bloodthirsty pogroms of Sinhalese against the Tamils, including torture, murder, rapes — all this committed by Buddhists, people supposedly seeking enlightenment.

Tamils are victims of Sinhalese, but one cannot escape the conclusion that they are also victims of themselves. This comes through in the details of Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka, although the author leaves this mainly for the reader to piece together. The solidarity of the Tamil people is underwhelming.

Ridenour holds, “The Tamils have every right and need to exist in peace and equality, and this is possible only if they have their own state.” The first clause is axiomatic from any human rights-observing person; however, the second part is more open to dissension. There are plenty of examples of different ethnicities eventually coming to a more-or-less peaceful co-existence within the same state. Sometimes autonomus regions can grant the equal human rights desired by all humans. However, circumstances certainly indicate that the Sinhalese were disrespectful of the rights of Tamils and tried to impose — violently, if need be — their nationalism, language, and religion into every nook and cranny of Sri Lanka.

Tamils, of course, had every right to resist and agitate for their rights. Would partitioning the geography of Sri Lanka solve the situation, as Ridenour alludes? Or would it have served as a durable cause célèbre for Sinhalese to reunite the island? As Ridenour notes, the Tamils had a de facto state. What if they had more earnestly negotiated from the strength of their position of de facto statehood toward securing an autonomous Tamil region within a Sri Lanka nation (as an acceptable fallback position from separation)?

Very importantly, Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka provides a historical backdrop to the Sinhalese-Tamil civil war, starting with the first humans in Sri Lanka and working forward. Ridenour writes that a Tamil presence dates back many centuries in Sri Lanka. Both the majority Sinhalese and minority Tamils have India as their origin. The European invasions and colonization of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) began in the sixteenth century, and were enabled by the lack of solidarity between Sinhalese and Tamils. During their colonial rule, the British brought over Tamil coolies to work the plantations.

The Tamils did economically better under British administration than Sinhalese causing envy and friction. The majority Sinhalese sought to exert themselves through making their religion, Buddhism, the sole national religion and their language, Sinhala, the sole official language. “The Tamils history in Sri Lanka is one of constant and widespread discrimination.” These chauvanistic moves were followed up with bloody violence wreaked on the Tamils, which Ridenour argues, fit the legal definition of genocide.

Eventually, Tamils formed resistance groups that defended Tamils and pressed for a Tamil state where they felt they could be free from Sinhalese discrimination and violence. The best known group was the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE) who were no stranger to using extreme violence and were declared terrorists by many, although Ridenour puts this label into perspective.

“Really, if I starve the Tamils, the Sinhala people will be happy.” President Junius Richard Jayewardene was quoted in the Daily Telegraph in 1983. Strangely enough, many so-called terrorists are victims of genocide.

Tamils did not just fight Sinhalese military. Tamil rebel factions fought each other; Tamils fought the Indian “peacekeepers.” The Tamils were adept at finding enemies to fight, but what allies did Tamils find?

Lack of Solidarity

Even the Marxist Janatha Vimukthi Peramu?a (People’s Liberation Front) was opposed to a ceasefire with the Tamils, calling it “part of a western conspiracy to destabilize, divide and re-conquer” Sri Lanka. Yet, if the reasoning proffered by Ridenour for Marxist reluctance to lay down arms is correct, then it exposes a gaping contradiction among the Marxists: they preferred to fight a divisive civil war to avoid being divided.

In the end, the deep divisions among the Tamils would be their very undoing. The egos of LTTE “leader” Velupillai Prabhakaran and Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan (Colonel Karuna) in the East split the Tamils further. Karuna disobeyed orders for the transfer of his fighters, and Prabharakan expelled him from the LTTE. Karuna went over to the Sri Lankan government side.

Now the LTTE was forced to fight the government troops and three Tamil paramilitary groups. It was a losing proposition for Tamils.

Ridenour attempts to answer the question: Why the Tigers failed? The question also implies why the Tamil people failed?

Among the reasons, Ridenour points to Karuna’s defection, Prabharakan’s authoritarian leadership, his reliance on conventional warfare rather than guerrilla warfare, and Prabharakan’s brutality.

The Tigers defeat was ultimately a defeat for the Tamil people. They were a house divided. There was no unity between Sri-Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils, no unity between Tamils and Muslims, and, of course, what unity can one expect from within an ethnicity that has an oppressive caste system? There was even divisiveness among Tamil fighters; they had to defend against each other as well as Sinhalese fighters. This is hardly a successful strategy for liberation.

A whirlwind of genocidal ferocity engulfed the Tamil people. The western media reported little of it; after all, it did not directly involve western fighters. The Tamils have lost control of areas they held in the north and the east. Ridenour writes of “enforced disappearances” of Tamils, maybe into the human trafficking market that opened. Sinhalese subsequently were being “settled” into Tamil areas and homes.

UNICEF spokesman James Elder spoke of the children’s “unimagineable suffering,” now no longer recruited as fighters are instead coerced into prostitution, sex trafficking, and alcohol smuggling.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called the devastation “… the most appalling scene I have seen …”

The Sri Lankan defense ministry triumphed its ”humanitarian operation” victory as one with zero civilian casualties. Ridenour pointed to the videos that appeared on UK’s Channel 4 which belie that defense ministry claim.

Where now?

There is a substantial Tamil diaspora that has begun to organize internationally. A young Tamil socialist, Sharmini Lathan, seems to know the way out of the morass. He told Ridenour: “We need to combine all our forces and struggles: Tamils, Arabs, Latin Americans… We need to help each other, [sic] because we have common problems and goals.”

That the United Nations accomplished nothing to protect humans from the scourge of war in Sri Lanka was unsurprising. Of some surprise was the non-solidarity not just among the Sri Lankans; it was among Arab states, leftist states such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia who abandoned Tamils. It leads Ridenour to a sad conclusion that “we are heading for moral collapse, and then fascism throughout much of the world.”

Clearly, the Tamils were discriminated against; they were persecuted; and they were forced to resist violently. They resisted largely with minimal support of leftists, communists, and revolutionaries elsewhere. Ridenour found out what he could about the Tamil struggle; he held to to his moral and ideological principles. This single person did not turn his back on the Tamils on the other side of the globe, and he called his fellow leftists out on their lack of solidarity.

Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka gives the background information necessary for the reader to become informed of what led to the civil war and its still unfolding aftermath. Ridenour criticizes the lack of leftist solidarity with the Tamil struggle, but how much of the blame do the Tamils themselves share? One surely would not go so far as to blame any people for a genocide against them, but part of the Tamil struggle was internecine. Readers of Tamil Nation in Sri Lanka will have a solid base to discuss, research further, and form their own conclusions.

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice.

Friday, March 30th, 2012

SOURCE:  Dissident Voice

Sri Lanka minister Mervyn Silva threatens journalists
By Charles Haviland, BBC News, Colombo
23 March 2012 Last updated at 15:24 GMT

A Sri Lankan cabinet minister has threatened violence against journalists and human rights activists who he says have been opposing the government.

Mervyn Silva also admitted forcing a journalist to flee two years ago.

The remarks come one day after the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution critical of the country’s rights record.

A police spokesman told the BBC that officers would now investigate Mr Silva’s remarks.

‘Break the limbs’
Mr Silva’s comments also come amid an official campaign to denounce people described as traitors. Many of these include journalists and human rights activists.

Despite being involved in many controversial incidents over the years, Mervyn Silva is public relations minister.

In Friday’s remarks, which were filmed, the ardent Sinhalese nationalist warned that he would “break the limbs” of some named journalists and human rights workers whom he called “traitors”.

He also mentioned another journalist, Poddala Jayantha, who fled the country in late 2009 after being severely beaten up.

“I’m the one who chased Poddala Jayantha out of this country. I am telling you about this incident today. He went because of me,” Mervyn Silva said.

Police spokesman, Ajith Rohana, told the BBC that Mr Silva’s remarks – both his confession and his threats, as he put it – would now be investigated.

Although Sri Lanka’s media minister said on Thursday that he had instructed state television to stop a series of broadcasts denouncing alleged traitors, transmissions continued on Friday.

The incidents came as the United Nations human rights chief, Navi Pillay, alleged that members of the Sri Lankan government delegation at the Human Rights Council session in Geneva had been intimidating human rights activists visiting from Colombo.

But threats have always come from both sides in the Sri Lankan conflict, and Ms Pillay’s office also said the Sri Lankan ambassador in Geneva had received an anonymous threatening letter, which police are looking into.


Sri Lanka must address war crimes charges and show respect for Tamil rights
Opinion – Editorial
The Star – Canada 21-03-2012

Three years after bringing Sri Lanka’s bitter 25-year civil war to an end, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his triumphalist government risk becoming pariahs. At the United Nations they are under fire for not fully probing what the UN calls “credible allegations” of war crimes, and for not healing the broken nation.

In Geneva this week Canada is co-sponsoring an American push at the UN Human Rights Council to demand that Rajapaksa’s Sinhala-dominated government set up a “credible and independent” probe of alleged war crimes, and seek genuine reconciliation with the Tamil minority. It’s a scandal it has taken this long.

Given that UN push, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has picked the right time to send a trio of Canadian lawmakers to Sri Lanka to gauge opinion there. They are parliamentary secretaries Chris Alexander (defence) and Rick Dykstra (immigration), and Sen. Vern White, a member of the Senate human rights committee.

While in Colombo they should deliver a blunt message that Canadians want to see the veil lifted on the ugly closing days of the war, and also more action on Tamil rights. Given that Canada is home to the largest Tamil diaspora, and that Harper declared the Tamil Tigers to be terrorists back in 2006, they have the credibility to speak out.

According to the UN, “tens of thousands” perished in 2008-2009 as Rajapaksa’s forces crushed a Tiger-led secessionist rebellion. The military shelled areas where 300,000 civilians were huddled. The Tigers used people as shields. There were grisly reports of point-blank executions, rape, torture and other crimes by both sides. None of this has been thoroughly investigated.

Now the respected International Crisis Group warns that the Rajapaksa government risks undermining long-term peace prospects. “The Tamil-majority north remains under de facto military occupation,” and efforts are underway to “Sinhalise” the region, the ICG reports. That’s a dangerously provocative policy. Going forward, Tamil regions need a degree of autonomy, not a jackboot.

Harper’s envoys should let Rajapaksa and his officials know that Canadians haven’t forgotten that Tamils were promised “substantive” regional autonomy, plus stronger minority rights and a fair share of positions in the civilian administration and military. The guns have long since fallen silent, but Tamils are still waiting.

SOURCE:  The Star (Canada)

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Clouds on the Sri Lankan horizon for China
By Peter Lee

China’s relationship with the regime of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa is rock solid. Chinese arms were instrumental in the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in 2009 that brought their insurgency to an end after 27 bloody years. China is the largest provider of foreign aid and investment to the island.

And on March 22, when the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (UNHRC) considered a resolution censuring Sri Lanka for shortcomings in its investigation of possible violations of international law during the war, and a deficit of credible post-conflict reconciliation initiatives, Beijing voted “no” – while India voted “yes”.

Thanks in significant part to India’s vote and example, the resolution – which the Sri Lankan government was extremely

anxious to see fail, and had dispatched a 72-person team to Geneva to lobby against – passed.

Sifting through the wreckage, Sri Lankan media noted that, if abstentions were counted with the “no” votes, the resolution had carried by only one vote – India’s.

As for China, as the Ceylon Daily News put it – albeit reporting on remarks of the less than influential “Listeners Association of China Radio International in Sri Lanka” – “China’s support at UNHRC highly appreciated”. [1]

By a calculus that was made with considerable frequency in the Indian media, the UNHRC vote was an own goal by India, needlessly antagonizing Sri Lanka and pushing it even more closely into the arms of China.

Some characterized the vote as little more than rather ignoble truckling to the Congress Party’s coalition partner, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), whose power base is the ethnically Tamil state of Tamil Nadu – the motherland of Sri Lanka’s Hindu Tamils, who have often been at loggerheads with the indigenous, Buddhist Sinhalese who make up 74% of Sri Lanka’s population. [2]

Supporting the narrative of Indian dithering was a letter from Prime Minister Singh to Rajapaksa stating that India had insisted that the resolution had been watered down, or as an Indian briefer told the media:
“We have always had a problem with the Western approach of telling countries that they ‘must accept’ or ‘must do’ something.” That is why India insisted that the language of the resolution be changed to remove that element,” he added. “Once we got that, we voted for it.” [3]
However, this picture of apparent Indian fecklessness is belied by the fact that the UNHRC resolution was tabled by the United States, which is eager to promote Indian interests in South Asia. The United States insistently lobbied India to vote for the resolution. The Tamil factor is virtually non-existent in American politics, so it can safely be said that the United States was not heedlessly hoisting India on a cleft stick in the service of some other American agenda.

The US initiative appears to have been a calculated effort to wean India away from fear of its neighbors playing “the China card” to extort diplomatic and economic concessions from New Delhi. What we seem to be seeing is New Delhi, under American tutelage, employing the Barack Obama administration’s preferred tactic for dealing with problematic regimes: identifying weak points to exploit, ratcheting up international and multilateral pressure on those points, and then balancing the pressure with occasional concessions and positive initiatives.

In other words, the old carrot and stick, with the stick coming first.
It means that, in a rather risky move, the United States and India are threatening to put Sri Lankan government’s intensely fraught relationship with its restive Tamil minority into play if Colombo does not direct its politics and diplomacy into channels that Washington and New Delhi deem appropriate – and Beijing regards with utter dismay.

Rajapaksa – and China – are to a large extent victims of their own success in utterly crushing the Tamil Tigers insurgency.

In 2009, the Sri Lankan army did not pursue an objective of defeat of the Tamil Tigers. Its goal was absolute annihilation.

In the end-game of the war, the Tigers – and hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamil civilians – were cornered on a tiny spit of land on the northeast coast in the region of Vanni. Military targets, civilians and hospitals were pounded with artillery; then the army moved in from three sides and, according to credible reports and evidence, fought their way in with little if any regard for civilian casualties, resulting in perhaps as many as 40,000 deaths.

Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Talim Eelam, or LTTE, and most of the top cadres died in battle or shortly afterward. For some, surrender does not appear to have been an option. Captured Tamil fighters and members of the Tiger political and bureaucratic apparatus – because the Tigers had exercised de facto control over a significant swath of territory at one time – were summarily liquidated. Victims included Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son, who was apparently executed by the Sri Lankan army, together with five escorts who were trying to deliver him to safety or surrender.

The Western world and India were willing to turn a blind eye toward the bloody excesses of the Sri Lankan army in 2009 because the Tigers were a truly nasty bunch that had worn out its geopolitical welcome.

In the early years of the movement, Tamil self-determination had developed a significant international cachet along the lines of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. In 1987, India parachuted food parcels into the Tamil stronghold of Jaffna in order to help rebels withstand a Sri Lankan army siege.

India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) trained Tamil fighters – including the Tigers and five other groups that RAW, in its wisdom, decided it could play off against each other – in camps in southern India as part of a strategy to project Indian power into Sri Lanka.

Instead, the Tigers assassinated the leadership of the pro-Indian Tamil militants and absorbed their fighters into the LTTE. In 1987, India – with Sri Lankan consent – sent a peacekeeping force into northern Sri Lanka that quickly came into conflict with its erstwhile clients, the unrepentantly militant Tamil Tigers.

India fought a bloody and unsatisfying campaign against the Tigers before withdrawing in 1990. Subsequently, Prabhakaran ordered the assassination of premier Rajiv Gandhi. The killing – ironically carried out by a militant trained in a RAW camp – guaranteed the hostility of the Indian government toward the Tigers.

The LTTE allegedly pioneered the use of the suicide vest, engaging in almost 400 attacks over 20 years, including attacks that killed Gandhi and, in 1993, the president of Sri Lanka, Ranasinghe Premadasa. The LTTE ethnically cleansed the Muslim population of the areas it controlled, expelling an estimated 72,000 people.

In a notorious incident, LTTE cadres bound, blindfolded and executed 600 Sri Lankan police officers who had surrendered to them on the instructions of the Colombo government in a confrontation in 1990 during a ceasefire period. The LTTE’s sympathizers explained these incidents as matters of military and revolutionary necessity, but the fact remains that the LTTE, a militant organization organized along Leninist principles, were not loathe to take the bloodiest path out of their challenges.

European powers, especially Norway, still tried to broker a peace deal. However, after 9/11 armed struggles of national liberation were passe and the Tamil Tigers were slotted squarely in the terrorist category, classified as a terrorist organization by 32 nations including India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union. Their sources of funding and arms were attacked and, when the end came, the UN and the Western powers made only the most ineffectual efforts to broker a settlement that would forestall the utter destruction of the LTTE.

However, it was China and not the West that played the crucial role in supporting the final Sri Lankan army campaign against the Tigers.

Major Neil Smith, Operations Officer of the US Army and Marine Corps Counter-insurgency Center from 2007 through 2009, rather enviously described the no-holds-barred “Rajapaksa Model” and the Chinese support that it relied on:
Beginning in 2005, China stepped in to provide an additional $1 billion of military and financial aid annually, allowing the LTTE to sever the strings attached to Western aid regarding the conduct of anti-LTTE operations. In exchange for the aid, China received development rights for port facilities and other investments …
China’s aid enabled the Sri Lankan government to attain the military superiority needed to defeat the LTTE. The Sri Lankan military budget rose by 40 percent between 2005 and 2008, and the army’s size increased by 70 percent, an addition of nearly 3,000 troops per month.

China provided more than simple financial support. It and several other states furnished the government with crucial political cover in the United Nations. Western countries long demanded that Sri Lanka respect human rights and avoid civilian casualties as a condition of continued aid. The government viewed these conditions as a hindrance to its ability to defeat the LTTE. The substitution of Western military aid with that from China enabled the government to disregard Western concerns about human rights and pursue its campaign of attrition unimpeded. China prevented introduction of resolutions at the United Nations critical of Sri Lanka’s renewed offensive, giving it a free hand in the conduct of its operations despite the protests of human rights groups and Western governments. [4]
Cornered in Vanni in early 2009, the LTTE used the over 200,000 civilian refugees on the peninsula as human shields, stationing cadres to shoot those who tried to escape and forcibly impressing children as young as 14 into the Tigers for use as front-line cannon fodder.

The last weeks were a nightmare as the Sri Lankan army advanced behind barrages of artillery fire that, among other locations, apparently targeted the makeshift hospitals that, at the beginning, may have had wards for Tiger fighters but at the end were scenes of total chaos and undifferentiated horror as doctors, without antibiotics, anesthetics, or transfusion supplies, and no other means to treat many wounds other than amputation, hacked off limbs of shrapnel victims with butcher knives and stacked the arms and legs in piles.

Rajapaksa made the ludicrous claim that the final battle against the Tiger stronghold was “the biggest hostage rescue operation in the world”.

The Red Cross, whose attempts to deliver aid were largely frustrated by the Sri Lankan government, described the final days at Vanni as “an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe”. [5]

Post-war, the dominant picture has been of Sinhalese dominance and Tamil subjugation.

After the fall of Vanni, 250,000 traumatized Tamil internally displaced people (IDPs) were herded into a gigantic camp called Menik Farm under miserable conditions for detention, screening, and, for the particularly unlucky, designation by balaclava-clad Tamil turncoats for harsh interrogation.


Page 2 of 2
Clouds on the Sri Lankan horizon for China
By Peter Lee

The International Crisis Group recently described the situation in the defeated Tamil territories:

The slow but steady movement of Sinhala settlers along the southern edges of the province, often with military and central government support and sometimes onto land previously farmed or occupied by Tamils, is particularly worrying. These developments are consistent with a strategy – known to be supported by important officials and advisers to the president – to change “the facts on the ground”, as has already happened in the east, and make it impossible to claim the north as a Tamil-majority area deserving of self-governance.

Deepening militarization of the province presents a threat to long-term peace and stability. Far in
excess of any legitimate need to protect against an LTTE revival, the militarization of the north is generating widespread fear and anger among Tamils: indeed, the strategy being executed runs the risk of inadvertently resurrecting what it seeks to crush once and for all – the possibility of violent Tamil insurrection. The construction of large and permanent military cantonments, the growing involvement of the military in agricultural and commercial activities, the seizure of large amounts of private and state land, and the army’s role in determining reconstruction priorities are all serious concerns. [6]
Today, Rajapaksa presides over a triumphalist Sinhalese state that is largely defined by its near-total victory over the Tamil Tigers, a heavy handed occupation of Tamil regions in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, a reputation for dispatching unmarked white vans to disappear critics, and a commitment to manipulating and intimidating the press that places it in the unenviable position of 163rd on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. [7]

Its primary public relations preoccupation is deflecting attention from the civilian victims at Vanni, since acknowledgment of their victimhood and the circumstances behind it would quite possibility implicate the Sri Lankan Army and its entire command structure up to the president in complicity in war crimes.

In March of 2011, the United Nations made a powerful effort to breach the political and legal defenses of the Rajapaksa government with its “Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka”.

In addition to persuasively documenting the suffering at Vanni, the report made the explosive assertion that, because of the inadequacies of the government’s quaintly named Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission in particular (deficient in “best practices of truth seeking”; “deeply flawed … does not meet international standards for an effective accountability mechanism” sniffed the report) and the Sri Lankan legal system in general in getting to the bottom of the war crimes issue:
The Secretary General should immediately proceed to establish an independent investigative mechanism … to monitor and access the extent to which the Government of Sri Lanka is carrying out an effective accountability process … conduct investigations independently into the alleged violations … collect and safeguard for appropriate future use provided to it that is relevant to accountability for the final stages of the war … [8]
In other words, the recommendation is that the UN conduct an independent investigation that undermines the claims of the Rajapaksa administration as the savior of Sri Lanka, openly discredits the military and threatens its personnel with prosecution … and preserves the dossier for “appropriate future use” ie criminal prosecution against Rajapaksa and his associates for war crimes if and when they leave office, no longer enjoy immunity, and are vulnerable to the judicial attentions of an unfriendly, opportunistic, or righteous successor government.

No wonder the Rajapaksa government fought the March 22 UN Human Rights Council resolution that uses the expert’s report as its foundation: if implemented, it is not only a gun to the head of Sri Lanka’s government and military elite; it is an attack on Sinhalese chauvinism that would provide desperately needed political oxygen to the Tamil opposition.

International pressure on the Sri Lankan government was intensified by the release and extensive international circulation of two documentaries in 2011 and 2012 by Britain’s Channel 4 on the theme of “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields.” Non-Governmental Organizations arranged screenings of the original program for US, British, and EU parliament politicians. [9]

The programs appeared to be the result of close synergy between Channel 4 and sources in the UN, with the documentaries replicating the narrative of the expert’s report and intensifying it through the presentation of horrific videos, including trophy footage of summary executions and the apparent aftermath of rape-murders taken by Sri Lankan army soldiers.

Chinese support in the Security Council should protect the Rajapaksa government from international war crimes prosecution. However, the main threat of the human rights campaign is political, not legal.

With the Tigers and the moral and political conundrum of their enthusiastic commitment to terrorism out of the way and the focus lasered on the brutality of the Sinhalese regime, Sri Lanka’s embattled Tamils – and the vociferous Tamil diaspora – are once again advancing their claims to improved treatment, greater political autonomy … and meaningful support from the international community.

It is a call that New Delhi, now that Sri Lanka’s Tamil community has shed the hateful incubus of the anti-India LTTE, is prepared, however cautiously, to heed.

It is a call that the United States, for its usual complicated reasons, appears ready to echo.

As the Sri Lankan situation evolved, the US State Department gently prodded the Sri Lankan government on the issue of reconciliation and kept a wary distance from Tamil politicians. As late as November 2011, the State Department snubbed a delegation from the Tamil National Alliance, which has disavowed Tamil independence and represents Tamil interests in the Sri Lankan parliament. UN chief Ban Ki-moon did not meet with the delegation, either.

This was apparently a demonstration, sincere or not, of US and UN willingness to let Sri Lanka put its own house in order before tabling the UNHRC resolution.

However, by late February 2012 the Obama administration’s key point man for Sri Lanka, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake met with the “Tamils for Obama”, a rather marginal and misnamed political grouping whose primary enthusiasm is for Tamil independence rather than President Obama’s policies:
“We also handed him a copy of our Referendum in Sri Lanka to Gain Self-determination for Tamils,” said a press spokesman for Tamils for Obama, “It is modeled on the one that was recently voted on in southern Sudan, and which led to the creation of the new country of South Sudan. We hope for a similar referendum and result in northeastern Sri Lanka.

“We also gave him a second copy which we asked him to pass along to Secretary of State Clinton. He promised it would be done, and immediately passed the copy along to a subordinate official to take to Secretary Clinton.” [10]
As to where all this combination of domestic oppression and righteous international finger-wagging might lead, maybe it is “Springtime in Colombo”, as the Lanka Standard speculated on February 20:
There is also a growing apprehension within the government that they are at the receiving end of a possible strategy of “Regime Change” propelled by external intervention. Government members have been seeing a foreign hand not only in the issue of war crimes but also behind the economic unrest that is growing amongst the general population …

In his Independence Day speech, President Rajapaksa warned against those who aspired for an “Arab Spring” type of uprising… [11]
An Arab Spring-style eruption against Rajapaksa is unlikely in the short term. Despite his government’s excesses, he still basks in the aura of the victory over the Tigers and strong support from a Sinhalese majority that has limited sympathy for the Tamils. At the same time, he is headed into a political cul-de-sac.

His government lacks the credibility, will, and resources to achieve reconciliation with the Tamils. If the Sri Lankan government’s callous policy of oppression of the Tamils and military occupation and creeping Sinhalization of the Tamil homelands backfires and a new political crisis erupts, any attempt to repeat the military solution of 2009 will be met with a united chorus of international condemnation and Chinese arms and support will avail him little.

It will be India that possesses the ability to act as an honest broker and offer a measure of protection, support, and a future to the embattled Tamils of Sri Lanka.

This Indian role – and displacement, at least in part, of Chinese influence in Sri Lanka – is something the United States will be keen to promote, using its ability to orchestrate pressure on the Sri Lankan regime.

One gets a picture of the levers available to the United States when one considers that Sri Lanka purchases over 90% of its oil from Iran and currently relies on a waiver graciously granted by the United States in order to continue its imports without suffering sanctions to its banking system.

America’s benevolence has its limits, however.

Assuming that Rajapaksa continues with his current policies of Sinhalese chauvinism and political repression, whatever he tries to do in the area of reconciliation will probably be judged inadequate by the United States – until he is enticed into a process of reconciliation that place India’s good offices, and its ability to manage the Tamil brief more effectively than the Sri Lankan government itself – at the center of Sri Lanka’s ethnic politics.

Ironically, it may be China’s contribution to the destruction of the Tamil Tigers that opens the door to New Delhi’s return to a position of significant influence in Sri Lanka and a decline in Beijing’s clout.

1. ‘China’s support at UNHRC highly appreciated’, Daily News, Mar 29, 2012.
2. Karunanidhi’s ‘Eelam dream’ is a curse on Lanka Tamils, FirstPost, Mar 23, 2012.
3. Resolution ‘balanced’, Manmohan tells Rajapaksa, The Hindu, Mar 24, 2012.
4. Understanding Sri Lanka’s Defeat of the Tamil Tigers, NDU, 4th Quarter, 2010.
5. Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, UN, Mar 31 2011.
6. Sri Lanka’s North I: The Denial of Minority Rights, Crisis Group, Mar 16, 2012.
7. Sri Lanka’s sinister white van abductions, BBC, Mar 14, 2012. Sri Lanka drops in World Press Freedom Index, Colombo Page, Jan 26, 2012.
8. Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, UN, Mar 31 2011, Page 120.
9. Sri Lanka’s killing fields, Channel4, mar 14, 2012.
10. Tamils For Obama Meets With Blake On 29th Feb, Colombo Telegraph, March 27, 2012.
11. Sri Lanka: Government fears strategy of “Regime Change” through external intervention, Lanka Standard, Feb 20, 2012.

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.

SOURCE:  Asia Times Online (

Why Canada is calling Sri Lanka to account
Human rights violations are too big to ignore, Canada and the UN now say
By Brian Stewart, special to CBC News Posted: Mar 22, 2012 5:07 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 23, 2012 1:32 PM ET

ANALYSIS – CBC News, Canada

When victims of mass abuse are ignored they are twice victimized: first by their oppressors, secondly by the world’s indifference.

That’s why few failures in the field of human rights are more discouraging than the old double standard of favouring one set of victims over another.

Just ask the ethnic Tamils of Sri Lanka. In the past three years they’ve absorbed brutality, military defeat and world indifference all at once, as other of the world’s injustices took centre stage.

In the spring of 2009, at the end of that country’s long civil war, as many as 40,000 Tamil civilians were allegedly slaughtered by the Sri Lankan military as the insurrection by the Tamil Tiger independence movement collapsed.

This number, based on estimates by the UN and respected human rights’ groups, is considerably higher than the number of Libyans or Syrians killed in their respective uprisings, yet it still receives miniscule world attention by comparison.

Western nations like Canada sent fighter-bombers to help in Libya and have even agonized (vaguely) over possible intervention in Syria.

But they have done very little until only recently about the massacred men, women and children in Sri Lanka. Why is that?

No ‘safe zone’

Of course this was not a conflict with many redeeming qualities. For over 26 years, civil war raged mainly in the north of Sri Lanka before the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) were defeated by a full government offensive.

As usual in civil wars, human rights abuses were committed on both sides. The Tamil Tigers were notorious for assassinations, for using child soldiers and for shaking down their own countrymen who lived abroad.

But now it is being widely reported that that final offensive in May 2009 turned into a giant killing machine as government forces used heavily artillery and bombings on civilian Tamils.

Shocking satellite pictures obtained by the UN show the corpses of thousands of civilians killed by shelling within a government-designated “safe-zone” for non-combatants. The dead often lay near emergency food-distribution points.

What’s more, the killings apparently did not stop with the surrender.

In the last few months alone, human rights activists and others, including a Sri Lankan reconciliation commission, have called for further investigation into widespread allegations of killings and disappearances of Sri Lankan Tamils.

Last year, a particularly searing British documentary, “Sri Lanka’s killing fields,” lit a similar fire with the international community.

Western ‘meddling’
Throughout all this the Sri Lankan government steadfastly denied any wrongdoing on its part and there have been huge street demonstrations in recent weeks, including by the country’s colourful Buddhist monks, supporting the government and attacking the West for trying to raise these concerns.

Sri Lanka’s actions, beginning with its decision not to let foreigners in to document the end of the civil war in 2009, are typical of a nation trying to get away with oppression on a huge scale because it believes the rest of the world will let them. It’s that simple, really.

“They did not believe that anyone in the international community was willing to stop them, and they were right,” says John Holmes, a British diplomat and former head of UN humanitarian operations, in the U.K. documentary.

The “they” in this case may well have been thinking of Western governments like Canada’s.

During the long conflict, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives were quick to ban the Tamil Tigers as a terrorist organization (it was one of their first actions on taking power in the spring of 2006) and reluctant to criticize the Sri Lankan government, a fellow Commonwealth member and long-time friend.

After the war was over, Canada’s roughly 300,000 Tamil-Canadians felt largely betrayed by the Harper government and perhaps even by the Canadian public.

When their massive pro-Tamil protests in Toronto tried to warn of the slaughter of civilians they were widely dismissed as being self-absorbed and criticized for disrupting traffic.

Within a very short time, it seemed, their cause faded from the headlines.

The UN takes note
Only now are we starting to see Sri Lanka called to account. Over the past year a substantial case has been put together detailing humanitarian crimes on the island that other nations can no longer ignore.

For this we can thank the quiet and dogged persistence of human rights’ groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

This week, the UN Rights Council in Geneva finally passed a tensely debated U.S. resolution calling on Sri Lanka to “address serious allegations of violations of international law” through credible investigations and prosecutions of guilty soldiers.

This particular UN council has a great deal to make up for. Right after the war it passed a resolution praising Sir Lanka’s conduct during the conflict — which was typical of the kind of easy pass that the country had received for years.

But the UN council is not the only body to reverse course.

To its credit, the Harper government has recently morphed from defender of Sri Lanka into one of its strongest critics, for refusing to investigate these alleged crimes.

Canada co-sponsored the American resolution and lobbied hard for its passage.

We are also directly urging Sri Lanka to take on serious reconciliation with its Tamil minority, and sending a fact-finding team of MPs there this week.

Another about-face
As expected Sri Lanka’s government has denounced this recent pressure as Western meddling. It has long felt safe if it could keep friendly China and, especially, big neighbour India onside.

This week, it was shocked when India abruptly switched positions and voted for the UN resolution.

India’s about-face, rather like Canada’s, was clearly connected to skilled Tamil political pressure. The main party representing the large Tamil population in southern India successfully threatened to scupper the Indian coalition government unless India backed the UN resolution.

Meanwhile, it is a good time to remind everyone that any future investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka will be messy. An inquiry will have to investigate allegations against both sides to have any credibility.

I’m not overly hopeful. I’ve been disappointed before in Sri Lanka but I am also reluctant to see its cause further ignored.

I remember Sri Lanka, following the disastrous tsunami of 2004, as an achingly beautiful country battered by war and nature and just dying to be restored to peace.

It cannot achieve that dream now by suppressing the pain of its Tamils.


Revisiting Sri Lanka’s Bloody War

March 2, 2012
The New York Times

Even as attention is riveted on the bloodshed in Syria, another conflict, far more deadly, is belatedly attracting the notice it deserves.

Beginning this week, the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva has returned to an issue that has haunted it since 2009 — the bloody finish to Sri Lanka’s civil war. That conflict ended on a stretch of beach in the country’s northeast, as the remaining fighters of the Tamil Tigers and tens of thousands of traumatized civilians were surrounded by and surrendered to the Sri Lankan Army.

Sri Lankans and many abroad rejoiced at the defeat of a force that had routinely deployed terrorist tactics. But even as the government’s military campaign was under way, it became clear that the cost in civilian lives from its attacks on the Tigers was enormous. Right after the war, the Human Rights Council, to the shock of many observers, passed a resolution praising Sri Lanka’s conduct of the war. Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, promised Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the time that he would address the question of accountability for violations against civilians.

When, a year later, the government had done nothing to carry out Rajapaksa’s commitment, the secretary general asked the three of us to study the allegations of atrocities during the last stages of the war and Sri Lanka’s response. In our report, we found credible evidence that both sides had systematically flouted the laws of war, leading to as many as 40,000 deaths — many multiples more than caused by the strife in Libya or Syria.

The bulk of that total was attributable to deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportionate governmental attacks on civilians, through massive shelling and aerial bombardment, including on clearly marked hospitals.

Rather than tackling these allegations head-on through a truth commission or criminal investigations, Sri Lanka created a “Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission,” whose mandate, composition and methods all cast serious doubt on its willingness to uncover what really happened in those fateful months.

When the commission issued its final report last November, it ignored or played down our report’s conclusions and characterized civilian deaths as stemming from the army’s response to Tamil Tiger shelling or cross-fire — as sporadic, exceptional and mostly inevitable in the heat of battle.

When it came time to proposing next steps for the government, it called for investigations by the same entities — the army and the attorney general — who have a track record of ignoring governmental abuses for decades.

The report had some welcome elements, too. It recognized some of the root causes of the war, as well as the responsibility of both the government and Tigers for civilian casualties. And it endorsed our view that Sri Lanka had a duty to provide truth, justice and reparations to victims; release detainees; and protect the state’s besieged journalists.

Yet the fact is that numerous recommendations of prior commissions of inquiry have not been implemented by the government.

The Human Rights Council’s members are currently looking at a draft resolution, circulating at the initiative of the United States, to demand action from Sri Lanka on uncovering the truth and achieving some real accountability. The United States deserves a great deal of credit for trying to get the council to move on this issue. It is time for the council to correct its embarrassing decision from 2009.

Yet such a demand is not enough. Given Sri Lanka’s unwillingness to take concrete steps, the best way to get to the truth is for the council to create an independent investigative body to determine the facts and identify those responsible, as we recommended in our report.

For Sri Lanka to experience a true peace, rather than simply the peace of the victor, truth and accountability are essential. This is the lesson from states as varied as South Africa, Sierra Leone and Argentina. The lack of much outside interest in the bloodshed while it happened cannot be an excuse for continuing to ignore the situation. The international community must now assume its duty to ensure that Sri Lanka fulfills its responsibilities to all its people and to the rest of the world.

Marzuki Darusman is a former attorney-general of Indonesia. Steven Ratner is a law professor at the University of Michigan. Yasmin Sooka is the executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on March 3, 2012, in The International Herald Tribune.

SOURCE:  The New York Times (02/03/2012)

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