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The Tamil death toll in early 2009: a misleading count by Rohan Gunaratna

by Prof.Michael Roberts

Rohan Gunaratna addressing Conference on Reconciliation in Colombo November 24 ,2011-pic: Defence.lk

Rohan Gunaratna presented a wide-ranging talk entitled “The Future of Sri Lanka’s Security: Countering the LTTE on the Western Soil” under the auspices of the British Scholars Association at the British Council in Colombo on the 16th November 2011.

In measured tone, he pinpointed several shortcomings in the government policies in meeting world-wide attention directed at the situation in Sri Lanka, such as the failure to present a White Paper on the last stage of the war and the failure to invite Ban Ki-moon’s Darusman Panel to visit the island as part of their investigation.

I focus here on his estimate of civilian deaths in the north east Vanni pocket during the last stages of the Eelam war in the first five months of 2009. He indicated that he had access to the 11,800 personnel Tiger held by the Government at the end of this struggle [and one presumes he met only some of them, not all]. As vitally, he had interviewed all the Tamil coroners from the area and all the doctors, including those in Tiger employment. These are certainly useful sources of information.

Reiterating a figure he has presented elsewhere in the public realm, he asserted that 1400 civilians had perished, 1200 by government cross-fire and 200 by LTTE gunfire. He stressed that these deaths were all unintentional [the implication being that they were not a war crime].

This is not only a contentious statistical estimate, but a flawed one. For one, we all know from UAV imagery as well as personal testimonies that the LTTE shot at people trying to break through the frontlines, while one female suicide bomber killed fellow IDPs on the run and some army personnel by blowing herself up at a reception point on one occasion – clearly as a deterrent signal to other Tamils still trapped.

That is a minor query. It is Gunaratna’s statistical estimate that I consider astounding and misleading. Two background factors immediately bring this figure of 1400 into question. For one, he did not allude to the fact that many Tiger personnel were not wearing uniforms and that this makes it difficult for anyone to identify who was civilian and whom not in some instances when the dead were buried. For another, the claim provides an impression of precision that is quite spurious. The conditions of battle and death in those last 4-5 months in Kili and Mullaitivu Districts and along the shores of Nandikadal Lagoon were such that statistical estimates by any-self-respecting reporter would deploy a range between number X and number Y or speak in terms of an “approximate” death toll. Thus Gunaratna’s exactness of count is a sleight of hand for public consumption.

As Rajasingham Narendran responded in some astonishment: “how many coroners were available during the war in the area for recording deaths? It was utter chaos. Many yet living were left for dead. There was no one to help them, unless the armed forces had stepped in.”[i] He then added: “many talked about stepping over dead bodies and having to leave the sick and injured loved ones behind to their fate. The latter was the most traumatic aspect of their experience. They had to choose between a sick father and a young child or a child and an injured husband. I am sure they are yet tormented by the choice they made, although the choice had to be made for one to survive.”

This sceptical reading is derived from his conversations with IDPs who had fled the last No-Fire Zone in April 2009 and subsequent interaction with IDPs at Menik Farm and elsewhere. Thus, in the turbulent conditions that prevailed some corpses would have rotted in the jungle or been submerged in blasted bunkers.

Gunaratna’s figure is definitely an underestimate. I immediately contacted Tamil moderates who have been talking to Tamils in the northern reaches over the last thirty months and collating probable figures. Let me present their summary estimates as a preliminary to elaborations that underline the difficulty of reaching an exact figure.

“My estimate is that the deaths — cadres, forced labour and civilians — were very likely around 10,000 and did not exceed 15,000 at most” — Rajasingham Narendran.[ii]

-[approximately] 12,000 [without counting armed Tiger personnel] – Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan.[iii]

-“roughly 16,000 including LTTE , natural , and civilians” — Dr. Noel Nadesan.[iv]

Only Sarvananthan is trained in the social sciences, while Nadesan is a veterinary surgeon in Australia and Narendran a vet who has been working as a professional food consultant abroad. Sarvananthan lives in Point Pedro and Colombo, while the other two have been visiting the north regularly because of their passionate commitment to the people residing in the island. They have met IDPs at Menik Farm and elsewhere. They have also been tapping their networks of acquaintances.

Thus, in overview, the three rough estimates indicate a total ranging from 10,000 to 16,000, inclusive of Tiger personnel. They also tell us that all estimates must disaggregate the cause of death besides differentiating LTTE personnel from those who were “strictly civilian” – a category that will be clarified below.

Nadesan inserts a critical process that has to be factored into any count: that of natural death. The point is that in any population of, say 100,000 people a number would die from natural causes of ill health or medical misadventure at child birth or operation. I am subject to correction, but believe that in Sri Lanka the death rate “has hovered around 5.8 to 6 per thousand of the mid-year population for all these years, inclusive of all deaths.”[v] Thus, in a total population of roughly 300,000 one could anticipate that roughly1800 people would die over 12 months. Divide that figure by three to cover one-third the year and one could anticipate 600 deaths.

In this instance the Tamil people held as labour pool, protective shield and bargaining chip — some willingly, some under duress – also suffered from shortage of food and went through severe stress. Thus, one can speculate that death from old age and natural causes doubled, if not trebled. To this one must add a few deaths by snake bite in a region where the incidence of such loses is not uncommon and where a large mass retreating through bush and jungle, sometimes at night, would have been subject to greater snake threats.

The significant fact is that all three, Nadesan, Narendran and Sarvananthan, are fully aware that we are groping in the dark. As Narendran informed me, “everything is a guestimate. Rohan’s figure is an extreme underestimation. You are right. It will be impossible to separate the cadres, the conscripted civilians and the innocent civilians.”

Sarvanathan’s guestimate is explicitly essayed in gross terms:

“[The] bulk of the civilian casualties would have been during the final 120 days of the conflict beginning couple of weeks after the fall of Kilinochchi town (i.e. third week of January 2009). I would guess-estimate AT MOST average deaths of 100 per day during the 120-day period, which works out to be 12,000 (120 days X 100 per day).”

In a follow-up email he indicated that this conjectural estimate excluded “Tiger combatants but includes unarmed civilian conscripts/volunteers.” In his categorical scheme “Tiger combatants” refer to “any person carrying a lethal weapon … whatever dress s/he was wearing (military uniform, sarong, shorts, salwar kameeze, etc).” Thus, in his schema “by the same token, people building bunkers, erecting bunds, or any other auxiliary duties for the LTTE (as volunteers OR conscripts / forced labour) [are considered] CIVILIANS as long as they were not armed (with a gun, grenade, etc).”

Within these terms Sarvananthan reckoned that of the 12,000 “civilian deaths” the death toll of those working as conscripts or volunteers for the LTTE in an unarmed capacity “would not [have] exceed[ed] two thousand.” For the moment let me term this latter category “Tiger auxiliaries.”

In summary, therefore, his estimate for the last 120 days amounts to 10,000 strictly civilian and 2000 Tiger auxiliaries, topped off by a further 3000 Tiger combatants.

The importance of these readings by concerned and knowledgeable Tamils of moderate political disposition is that they are alive to the presence of civilian auxiliaries and the fact that LTTE combatants did not wear uniforms. This awareness is a striking contrast to the statistics peddled by some local NGOs and human rights crusaders abroad. They emphasise a statistical figure that seems to include Tiger combatants as well. Gordon Weiss’s initial estimate of 15,000 to 40,000 had this undifferentiated sweep. It was further distorted when such an august TV compere as Kerry O’Brien in Australia[vi] as well as a whole range of media outlets, including BBC and NDTV, fixed on 40,000 as a probable estimate.[vii] This was a combination of shoddy journalism and cheap sensationalism at its worst.

One of the problems bedevilling reportage was the fact that both the Sri Lankan Government spokespersons and HR advocacy groups stomped the moral high ground by castigating the LTTE’s policy of child recruitment within a tale of their “forced coercion” of Tamil people for the war effort. The phrase “forced coercion” was used at times as a synonym for “conscription,” but at other times as if it differed.

Anyone with any historical knowledge would know that national conscription was introduced by the French Revolutionary forces in the 1790s and became a world-wide phenomenon thereafter. By definition “conscription” is compulsory recruitment. Bureaucratic demand is a force. The LTTE”s methods may have been more direct, but this is a difference within one definitional umbrella.

From the 1790s onwards the national armies in most nation states were constituted of both volunteers and conscripts who were thereafter assigned to various line-departments that were required for a huge organisation. These departments included the supply corps, the engineering corps and the catering corps. No army can survive without its cooks. Thus, I insist that all those assigned to auxiliary duties for the LTTE are not civilians simply because they are conscripts. I am alive to the fact that many of these Tamils may have thought that they were civilians because they were not wearing uniforms and because it was volunteer or conscripted work in a situation of exigency and thus implicitly short-term in duration. However, building bunkers for the LTTE frontlines and carrying supplies places them in the engineering and supply corps respectively. So, my analytic fiat locates all such personnel within the category “Tiger personnel.” This means that those referred to above as “auxiliaries” were part of the LTTE army defending Thamilīlam (a shrinking space).

Read in these strict terms, if one assumes the LTTE death toll in 2009 to have been circa 5,000, the rough estimates for “strictly civilian” deaths provided by Sarvananthan, Nadesan and Narendran work out respectively as

- 10,000 – Sarvananthan
- 6000-10,000 – Narendran
- 11,000 – Nadesan.

Within their attentiveness to the approximate character of any assessment, there is a striking agreement in their computations. Their evaluations also dismantle Rohan Gunaratna’s estimate on the one hand and, on the other, reveal the exaggerated character of the figures peddled by the Darusman Report, Channel Four and HR bodies abroad. In the latter instance it is both travesty and paradox that moral fundamentalism has encouraged extremism in factual claim in ways that serve the goals espoused by these organisations.

[i] R. Narendran to Roberts, email, Nov 22 Nov, 2011, commenting on the first draft of my article.

[ii] R. Narendran to Roberts, email, Nov 20 Nov, 2011.

[iii] M. Sarvananthan to Roberts, email 19 Nov. 2011.

[iv] Noel Nadesan to Roberts, email, 19 Nov, 2011

[v] Quoting Dr. Susiri Weerasekera, email, 22 Nov. 2011. Confirmed by the data in http://wwwindexmundi.com/g/g/.aspx?c=ce&=26.

[vi] O’Brien on the ABC Four Corners Programme on 4 July 2011 – see Harshula 2011a Media Reaction to the Darusman Report http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-Darusman-report-media-reaction.html
[vii] See Harshula Media Reaction to the Darusman Report http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-Darusman-report-media-reaction.html and Harshula “Channel 4 “Killing Fields”: Journalism, Advocacy or Propaganda?” http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-channel-4-journalism-advocacy-propaganda.html

22 Nov, 2011, commenting on the first draft of my article.
[ii] R. Narendran to Roberts, email, Nov 20 Nov, 2011.

[iii] M. Sarvananthan to Roberts, email 19 Nov. 2011.

[iv] Noel Nadesan to Roberts, email, 19 Nov, 2011

[v] Quoting Dr. Susiri Weerasekera, email, 22 Nov. 2011. Confirmed by the data in http://wwwindexmundi.com/g/g/.aspx?c=ce&=26.

[vi] O’Brien on the ABC Four Corners Programme on 4 July 2011 – see Harshula 2011a Media Reaction to the Darusman Report http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-Darusman-report-media-reaction.html
[vii] See Harshula Media Reaction to the Darusman Report http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-Darusman-report-media-reaction.html and Harshula “Channel 4 “Killing Fields”: Journalism, Advocacy or Propaganda?” http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-channel-4-journalism-advocacy-propaganda.html

20 Nov, 2011.

[iii] M. Sarvananthan to Roberts, email 19 Nov. 2011.

[iv] Noel Nadesan to Roberts, email, 19 Nov, 2011

[v] Quoting Dr. Susiri Weerasekera, email, 22 Nov. 2011. Confirmed by the data in http://wwwindexmundi.com/g/g/.aspx?c=ce&=26.

[vi] O’Brien on the ABC Four Corners Programme on 4 July 2011 – see Harshula 2011a Media Reaction to the Darusman Report http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-Darusman-report-media-reaction.html
[vii] See Harshula Media Reaction to the Darusman Report http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-Darusman-report-media-reaction.html and Harshula “Channel 4 “Killing Fields”: Journalism, Advocacy or Propaganda?” http://jayasolutions.com/slreport/sl-channel-4-journalism-advocacy-propaganda.html

61 Comments

  1. Ardneham says:

    WHO IS THIS ROHAN GUNARATNA – The Singapore base MOD Consultant of Mafia God-father
    in Sri Lanka?

  2. SL says:

    The most important part is
    “… on the other, reveal the exaggerated character of the figures peddled by the Darusman Report, Channel Four and HR bodies abroad. In the latter instance it is both travesty and paradox that moral fundamentalism has encouraged extremism in factual claim in ways that serve the goals espoused by these organisations.”

  3. td says:

    ABSOLUTELY TRUE. BUT REMAMBER MAHINDA RAJAPAKSA HAD GONE TO GENEVA AND HAD TOLD UN AUTHORITIES THAT ABOUT 60.000 JVP HAD BEEN KILLED.NO BODY KNOWS EXACTLY HOW MANY PEOPLE HAD BEEN KILLED AT THAT TIME BY JVP. MANINDA DID NOT KNOW THAT SIXTY THOUSAND BEEN KILLED OR SIXTY.THOSE PEOPLE KEEP LIYING TO THE WHOLE WORLD WITH A MITH NUMBERS

  4. Uthayakumar says:

    Dear Professor Michael Roberts,
    Rohan Gunaratna, Sarvananthan, Noel Nadesan, R. Narendran and you have been living abroad and actually over -estimated the deaths. Your vision far away from Vanni only made you people to come to such an over estimation.
    I live a few kilometers from Vanni boundary. I have spoken to a number of people who were trapped in Vanni and escaped death.
    The majority of them told me that ONLY about 150 (hundred and fifty) civilians WERE KILLED IN THE VANNI WAR. THEY ALSO SAID THAT THE SUPPORTERS OF THE TIGER TERRORISTS ONLY give over estimated figures.
    We living in the North are not fools to accept your over-estimated figures!

  5. OaO Asithri says:

    It is high time the WORLD dropped this issue and moved on to other, more pressing issues such as the Euro-debt crisis and save the planet from financial calamity/anarchy. Far more civilians, exponentially far more that is by most accounts, have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya to name a few, but we don’t see the WORLD hung up on those accounts! The difference here is that the LTTE-die-hard terrorist rump in the west is refusing to give-up on this issue and it is today dragging the whole WORLD down on this non-starter issue. Depending on whose version you want to believe in, in the last stages of the war with the horrific LTTE terrorists, civilians (i.e. not the “civilians” in non-camouflage attire and wearing only sandals – and not military boots – who had carried a AK47 or a T56 just prior to their perishing from SL Army fire!) are reported to have died from any number between 150 – 100,000!!! No go figure whose version is to be believed and who has the time/energy/resources to get to the bottom of this ghost issue – when Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (more deserving cases to name a few on this planet today) cannot even get a fraction of the attention that this Sri Lanka’s issue has got! Why do I smell a rat?

  6. dingiri says:

    Any half responsible government would have made avery attempt to account for the number of its dead citizens by either counting the corpses after the battle or interviewing the survivors while in the IDP camps and collating the number of family members lost. However the Govt. was only interested in propagating its Orwellian lie that there were no civilians killed. This in turn has led to wild speculation and they now have to contend with the improbable figure of 40,000. I hope they realise that had they told the truth in the first place and made amends in a serious way they would not be in this position. Instead they have thrown party after party for Bollywood, for the Commonwealth nations etc. wasting billions of rupees while the war affected languished in their temporary shelters. So let them now face the music. They richly deserve it. I have zero sympathy for the zero casualty Rajapakses.
    It is a good thing they cant go overseas with massive entourages and waste our money.
    It is a good thing that they cant borrow money to spend on wasteful projects and get us further into debt.
    The Tamil diaspora deserves our thanks for this great favour.

  7. Icky says:

    Ask the Islamic faith in Australia about how they exposed the sham credentials of this fake professor and made him persona non grata down under

  8. aratai says:

    .
    Hello Mr. Uthayakumar,

    Are you saying Gota is a stupid to admit that ‘only few thousands civilians’ were killed if only 150 were actually killed.

    If Gota is not stupid, then…..?

    :-)

  9. veedhur says:

    Michael Roberts,

    Why not allow a proper count to be done at least now – it is not too difficult and wont take more than 3 months and if it is done then we don’t have to depend on 3 experts, moderates or otherwise!

  10. vellaiyan says:

    Government agents of these districts have records about number of people living in those areas before conflict started, minus people immigrated to outside vanni, and final count of remaining population will give how many people were killed in the conflict.

  11. Anonymous says:

    ONLY about 150 (hundred and fifty) civilians WERE KILLED IN THE VANNI WAR. THEY ALSO SAID THAT THE SUPPORTERS OF THE TIGER TERRORISTS ONLY give over estimated figures.
    We living in the North are not fools to accept your over-estimated figures!

    do you know how many bombs were dropped and how artillery shells were fired? do you know in any conflict more 70% fatalities are civilians? GSL have claimed that they have killed more than 10000 terrorists in the Vanni war that is 30% remaining number is civilians that is around 23100 civilians died at least.

  12. Dagobert says:

    These diasspora tamils are blinded by the dollar & easy money.
    They keep the flames of LTTe & deaths during the final days burning as this slogan is a cash cow.

    Overseas tamils who have to forkout are suffering having to pour out cash into the bottomless pits of Nedviyan, Vinanayagam, Rudra & that Rogue priest S.J.Emmanuel.
    ITS A COSY LIVING OUT THERE FOR THESE GROUPS.

    This issue has become a dog eat dog situation for the Tamils…………….

  13. SL says:

    You could be more grateful for tamil diaspora if any of your family members were blown away by a bomb…
    Why don’t you lit a candle for the fat guy?

  14. Chinese Charm says:

    Have they made any efforts to gather and preserve some data which would help to Identify the vitims of Vanni including SL security forces?. What did Ban ki moon’s efforts to do this?. What did the International agencies did? What is the UNs’ obligation on the Identification of the victims and how the bodies were disposed? With a disgace to the Human dignity. Those did and supported the disgaceful disposal of our people would meet the same fate. Have they shown any evidence for maintaining the Human dignity when they disposed the bodies of the victims. What did Norway and the peace brokers or Red cross ICRC did regarding this . All these humans didn’t think that our people are humans what ever it is. Are they all partying on the death of our people? They lost their sanity on the celebration of their victory. Why any of the media Local and International did not raise or pointout this issue?

  15. Chinese Charm says:

    Every family in the diaspora has at least one reative killed in Vanni. You can make make an estimate.

  16. G.Pillai says:

    “has encouraged extremism in factual claim”

    SL do you know that the Channel 4 Killing Fields documentary was given the all-clear by in the independant regulator OFCOM? What kind of thorough international scrutiny has your SL govt put its claims about its humanitarian operation through?

  17. Uthayakumar says:

    Dear Prof. Michael Roberts,

    You have analyzed a very important issue. First of all, as a professor you must know how a reliable information could be obtained about the number of civilians got killed.

    If you can rely on the figures of the bunch of four, you have to accept the figure 150 of a person who has been living near Vanni.

    Prof. Roberts, all the Divisional Secretaries have the detail of the people got killed. The Government and Army thinking that the figures were manipulated by the Grama Niladaries, checked and rechecked these figures. First the Army was involved in getting these figures from the families. Then the Government teachers were compelled to go to each and every houses. This created problems. I do not know whether you five know about these or not. Now for the fifth time, the Police is giving a printed form to each house holder to fill up.

    I want to ask you a simple question. Do you think the figures that you have obtained from those you have mentioned will be correct? Do you think whether a scientific study could be conducted on the basis of the information you have obtained?

    I do not understand the type of analysis you have done.But now I can understand why those who obtained their Arts degrees in our Universities do not know anything about a scientific study on a subject.

    Now the ‘Vanni people’ are almost resettled somewhere in the Vanni area. Some have returned to the Jaffna District. The Grama Niladaries and Divisional Secretaries have all these details.

    Anyway, it will not take even a month or two for an independent body or organization to get the correct figures of those who are alive and died during the war.

    Why you and your bunch of four wanted to conduct now an unscientific study on the number of civilians killed?

    I know well that those who have written comments on this column will know it.

  18. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    As addendum to Prof. Michael Roberts presentation, I hereby present briefly what I witnessed with regard to the bodies of my family members and others killed by the IPKF on day 10 of their murders:

    My mother: 68 year old at the time of her killing. Slim build. Had been attacked by animals and crows and was in an advanced state of decay.

    My brother: 38 year old at the time of his death. neither obese or thin. Body intact though bloated.

    The gardener: Age approx. 60 years. Obese. All flesh had fallen off and the skeleton was clearly visibl.

    A neighbour’s Watchman: Age approx. 60 years. medium build. Only thigh bones-femurs and the skull remained. The rest of the body had been consumed or carried away by animals.

    The incident happened in the month of October, when the climate is relatively mild. Maggots and flies were swarming around the bodies.

    These observations imply that in the Vanni in the period around April’ 2009, when the summer is at its hottest, bodies would have decomposed faster. the older and the obese bodies would have deteriorated faster than those of the younger and thinner ones. Being largely an area that is in proximity to jungles and teaming with wild animals of all sorts, most of the dead would have been partially or totally consumed by wild animals.
    Flies and maggots would have accelerated the decay.

    These observations indicate that the number of dead will always be unknown and subject to speculation. It will also be difficult to statistically enumerate the dead through surveys, because many were smuggled out of camps, many left by boats and many survivors simply do not know whether their relatives are living or dead. Many who had to abandon the week and infirm yet are unsure as to what happened to them.

    I met a grandmother who had a 5-6 month old grand child on her lap in the Gamini Vidyalaya transit camp (Vavuniya). She said that both her daughter and son-in law were dead and was unaware of what happened to her other relatives. There were many with similar tragic tales. One can only have a ‘feel’ for the possible numbers dead and this feel has to be translated into probable numbers. It can be approximate or likely, but can never be accurate.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  19. dingiri says:

    The only fat guy I know of is the guy in Temple Trees.. His bank account I hear is even fatter! I now need to keep my family members’ futures safe from HIM and HIS family members.

  20. dingiri says:

    Was Prabakaran’s body terribly decomposed or eaten by the crocodiles in the lagoon? I dont think so. If there was any will to find out the numbers the army could have done so soon after the battle during mopping up operations. At least the bones would have been there. The fact is they did not under orders or did so and kept the numbers secret so the Rajapakses could crow about “zero casualties”. Now the figure of 40,000 is being thrown at them. (Twice the number that died in the Dresden firebombing!). But they have no evidence to disprove the claim as they have proved to the whole world that they are liars and nothing they say can be trusted.

  21. Siva Sankaran says:

    Many Sri Lanka war survivors recalled that they stepped over dead or dying bodies.

    We all know that Sri Lanka Army meticulously gather Tamil combatants bodies.

    Each body was photographed and counted.

    How come the civilians corpses were not counted ?

    Are those people not counted and still left to rot on battlefields?

  22. xsrilankan says:

    for god sake tell the truth.. at least now. so we all can move on with life.

  23. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    Uthayakumar,

    I will be the happiest if your figure of only 150 killed is correct. Does this 150, include LTTE cadres, conscripts and innocent civilians? There were many more deaths during the IPKF operations in Jaffna! The intent of Prof. Roberts presentation was not to bolster pro-tiger claims, but to arrive at a realistic estimate of the dead. I do not know how accurate the survey you have alluded can be. The statistics you mention can be also faulty, unless the surveys were carried out according to rigorous scientific norms. Why do you think the surveys you mention meet the criteria required? What were these criteria? Were those who were designated competent to carry out such surveys? Were they able to reach out to everyone affected by the last war? What would be the situation if whole families had been wiped out or had left their former abodes?

    There was so much confusion during the war and its aftermath. The war itself was a terrible tragedy. The confusion and the consequences of the tragedy yet continue in many areas. A figure of 80,000 war-widows in the north and east is frequently mentioned. I understand that some of them may have been widowed during previous wars. What do you think are the numbers-male and female- widowed in the Vanni during the last war? How many unmarried and those widowed by deaths unconnected to the war/s could have died in addition? How many children and teenagers died?

    I am one who does not believe that the government deliberately killed civilians during the war. I also do not give credence to the big numbers being mouthed irresponsibly. However, I have grounds to believe that very many more died than reported by you. The numbers mentioned by those whom I talked to at the Gamini Vidyalaya camp and the Chettikulam IDP camps, and subsequently with those who are being resettled, indicate numbers far in excess of those you mention.

    I agree that number referred by me are ‘Guestimates’, they are based on what was seen and heard at the end of the war, and logical extrapolations arising there from.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  24. Tamil Victim says:

    If only 1400 died or 10,000 died, how did 150,000 voters from voting list in Kilinochchi district were missing in 2011? What happened to them?

  25. Anonymous says:

    Uthayakumara might be a recent settler close to Vanni

  26. SriLankan says:

    In the south we experienced casualties in the tens and hundreds for a single bomb attack of 50-100 kg by the LTTE. So in the North when there were hundreds of high intensity bombs and shells raining on densely inhabitated areas where refugees were packed in tents and light shelters we can imagine the effects and numbers. So 200-500 casualties a day is not an improbable figure. These people were starved, sick and disabled over a period of months and years so many may have just perished due to lack of food and medicine.
    For some it just a matter of numbers and statistics.

  27. This is not true. I know several Tamil families in the diaspora (including my own) who haven’t lost relatives in 30 years of war.

  28. Saj says:

    I think it will be extremely difficult politically, for the Rajapaksa regime to fully prosecute any service personnel who acted in whatever way, in the defence of the country. No war has ever avoided the death of innocents. And how do you classify civilians being used to build bunkers and to transport supplies and ammunition etc into the front lines? Are they Innocent? Even IF these civilians were coerced into doing so, does the state have to stand by and allow them to carry on these tasks? Does it not have the duty to take action to support the servicemen that it has asked to act in defence of the state? These are all difficult questions, but they must be asked, and answered.

  29. Uthayakumar says:

    Dear OaO Asithiri,

    You say that:
    “… to get to the bottom of this ghost issue – when Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya (more deserving cases to name a few on this planet today) cannot even get a fraction of the attention that this Sri Lanka’s issue has got! Why do I smell a rat?”

    How do you decide on “more deserving cases” ?

    In Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya the situation is different.

    In our country, the civilians of our country were killed by the elected Government of Sri Lanka and its forces and we are talking about that only.

    If you argue that the Sinhala Buddhist Government of Sri Lanka killed the aliens the Tamils, then of course the ground is different.

    Further, The Iraqi population is over 25 million; Libyan population over 6 million and Afghan population over 28 million. But the Tamil population of the North and East is less than TWO MILLION.

    Therefore, we have to compare the percentage of the civilians got killed and not the numbers! 5000 Tamils of the North and east getting killed is equivalent to 15,000 Libyans getting killed and 125,000 Iraqis and 140, 000 Afghans getting killed.

    What type of gauging method you use?

    Dear OaO Asithiri. Your argument exposes nakedly who you are!

  30. Anonymous says:

    sorry for your loss.

  31. Psara says:

    We have to divided the deaths into various categories:

    Natural causes, accidents, those that died fighting for the LTTE, those that were forced to fight for the LTTE, those that died resisting the LTTE and those that died while fleeing the country illegally by boat.

    And then we have the added complication of FREEDOM FIGHTERS AND DEAD CIVILIANS:

    http://tinyurl.com/cgpqrbb

  32. Anonymous says:

    Gota has come out with figures, after his Consultant Rohan has cast his Estimate
    on the request no doubt by the Boss. The stupid world is expected to accept these
    uterings, as the “zero casualty” war without witnesses!

    What is interesting why this late? The simple answer would be that the search
    and burning of skeletons in the “no-go zone” is almost finished and incinerators
    have been moved out and the Chinese Prison labour employed have been withdrawn?

  33. Native Vedda says:

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Your personal tragedy is touching. This is the very reason why an indepentant pannel should investigate all war crimes committed by all parties to conflicts since 5th April 1970.

    The two pannels which investigated or recorded the disappearences of Sinhala youth between 1987 and 1991 were forced to cease abruptly.

    It is not about hanging Gota for the war crime tomorrow but to bring closure to unaccounted dead and the disappeared.

    As a good friend, a loyay supporter, a peacenik …. you should tell the first family that “No Truth No Reconciliation”.

    Have you had time to investigate the lost books of Jaffna library.

    I may not be able to find your furnitures that LTTE stole but I can compensate you (for a theft I never committed or approved) with bottle of honey on monthly basis. I am sorry I cannot deliver bottle of honey to your doorstep but you can collect it from my relatives who live deep in the jungle.

  34. Prasad says:

    “…..all-clear by in the independent regulator OFCOM”
    Do you know how they give the “Authentic seal”?
    They check the recording (said original) and look for any evidence of adulteration of the recording.
    If they found none, it is considered authentic. But remember, this certificate of authenticity does not extend to the contents.
    In other words, a group can video a very well orchestrated act and record it with a mobile phone and present to OFCOM without any adulteration. In this instance, it is also called “authentic”.
    So……

  35. Prasad says:

    I did a Q&D search on Wiki. From 1982 presidential elections upto recently concluded General Election, the voter turnout varies between 22% and 67% for the Vanni district. In 2001 General election, 116,000 registered voters did not turn up to cast their votes. In 2005 general election 75,000 did not turn up and in the 2005 presidential election, 165,000 registered voters abstained. The figure is 150,000 in the elections held in 2010. There are several confounding factors that would shine some light on this number. One is the last dated the electoral role was updated. In Sri Lanka there is no way of identifying whether one voter is registered in more than one place. So might have migrated abroad and therefore in in the country anymore, some might be living in another area, some have died and the other may be living in IDP camps.

  36. Prasad says:

    Native vedda,
    If you go on telling these, there will be no “Peace” at all. Because Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils have similar stories to say about what happened to them. You cannot compensate the people who lost their loved ones by atrocities committed by the LTTE by offering them Honey at doorstep.
    The best will be to move forward. If you dwell in the past, planning all the time in taking revenge, it will not beneficial to anyone, including yourself. During that time, it was not that one side lived happily by the expense of the other side. Everybody suffered irrespective of the ethnicity. The best would be to stop spreading hatred and trying to find an opportunity to give peace and happiness to people who need it most at this time.

  37. Thooyavan says:

    We are talking of purebreds not mongrels

  38. Allen says:

    Cant just forget like that buddy. 40,000 departed souls are crying for justice. what you plant in morning grows in evening

  39. Tikkiri says:

    Well said dingiri. Govt said zero casualties UN said 40,000. Now they have to slowly,slowly accept some casualty figure that will steadily,steadily rise

  40. Deva says:

    He works for you know who?

  41. Narayan says:

    Vinasa Kaley Vibareedha Buthi

  42. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    Siva Sankaran,

    From all accounts, it was impossible to differentiate between combatants, civilian conscripts and ordinary civilians. The combatants were also in civilian clothes. Further, a proportion of the dead where possible and when safe, were buried in shallow graves by those known to them. Some died in bunkers and were probably covered over. There were children who died after a prolonged stay in bunkers. They had been hidden to escape conscription. Everyone, including the soldiers, were amidst unbelievable confusion. No one knew what was going to happen next. It is thus unrealistic to expect that the priority was to count the dead and categorize them. It was largely each one for himself, in a desperate situation. I yet remember the tales I heard from those who survived the war with a sense of very deep sadness. Although I was not on the scene to see what was unfolding, the tales I have heard permit me to imagine how horrible it was for the people who had to live through it.

    It should also be remembered that hundreds of retreating soldiers killed by the LTTE, when they over ran the Elephant Pass military complex, are yet listed as missing-in-action.

    What is sad, is that we will never know how many died in this war and in those that preceded it. This is also fact we have to accept and reconcile with.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  43. Indonicus says:

    What do you think you have achieved in this article Michael? To show that Rohan Gunaratne is wrong? Do you think we need you to tell us that???

    On the other hand, if you are struggling to show that you are still alive as an ‘academic’ by producing ‘papres’ that has pretensions to being well-researched, why don’t you find a more meaningul way of doing it?

  44. Rajasingham Jayadevan says:

    Rohan came under critical review in one of my writings recently. He struggles to separate the LTTE and the Tamils in his contributions and have proved to be an agent of the government to whitewash facts, truths and legitimise falsehood. Having qualified as a expert in terrorism, he is unable to measure the state terrorism in equal length with the LTTE terrorism. To this date, he has not written a single piece about the suffering of the Tamils in the hands of state military efforts, leave aside his crocodile tears when the castigates the LTTE.

    My personal engagement is that I had access to dealings when LTTE’s Nadesan was getting ready to surrender. This is his last words (translation) before he was gunned downed when he proceeded to surrender with white flag. ‘Here it is a jungle of corpses. Even the dying bodies are crying. Every moving object is shot at by the military.’

    Death toll may be 7,000 as claimed by the UN and or 10,000, 12,000, 15,000 or even 50,000. But how this war was conducted within closed doors and the government’s unwillingness to allow independent assessment of the scale of the deaths does not allow a for fair count or assessment of the death toll. Assessing from the leaks even LLRC seems to have conveniently and miserably failed establish the facts straight.

    Further, the latest news that Defence Ministry is taking the line of Rohan Guneratne to justify a very lower number of civilian death toll in the war confirms how a criminal accused has become the judge overnight to preside over judgement over the charges against him.

  45. Purebred bastards like you? :D

  46. And the captured soldiers are also missing in action.

  47. TRN says:

    Does your count include all the souls departed during the last 30yrs due to the conflict in SL?

  48. TRN says:

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran
    What is sad, is that we will never know how many died in this war and in those that preceded it. This is also fact we have to accept and reconcile with.

    —————————–
    Very noble thought. Only a man with mahathma qualities can say this.

    However I also think the GoSL does have an responsibility to address the issues of accountability. At least put out what they believe as the death toll during the war. I’m sure many diaspora tamils will never believe the figures given by GoSL.

    Shouldn’t all of us have something call a conscience? And a collective guilt about the innocent blood that was shed in this land for more than 3 decades?

  49. TRN says:

    This is not scientifically proven facts.

    If 200-500 dead per day for 120 days death toll will be 24,000 – 60,000. As you rightly say you can ‘imagine the effects’. This is why the numbers keep swelling as imaginations are running riot.

    However there is no evidence to prove ‘high intensity bombs and shells raining on densely inhabitated areas where refugees were packed in tents and light shelters’

  50. TRN says:

    I wish you get trapped in a war zone one day. So then you will know if you are innocent or not if forced to build bunkers.
    please do not show your ignorance.

  51. Sam Livingston says:

    The origin of Sinhalees/language /history and existance all are fabricated then How can we expect any thing other than lies and fabrications,decet from this people and their appologists like Rohan Gunaratna there were ample evidence on his dis information to media during the last 2-3 decdes.

    the present story about the origin of the Sinhalese, that they were Aryan settlers who came to Ceylon from North India speaking an Aryan language entirely foreign to Ceylon and, after displacing the original population, introduced civilization for the first time into the island in the form of irrigation works unknown before, cannot be a fact and cannot be regarded as a legitimate hypothesis or even a good hypothesis. I am therefore putting forward an alternative hypothesis which is as follows:

    •No Vijaya came to Ceylon at any time, nor any Aryans from any part of India. The legend of Vijaya was invented to give the Sinhalese, who were Buddhists, an Aryan origin in order to alienate them from the Hindu Dravidians who were surrounding them so that thereby Buddhism might be safeguarded from the onslaughts of Hinduism.

    •The present Sinhalese population of Ceylon are the direct descendants of the Yakkas and the Nagas, who were Dravidians, occupying Ceylon in ancient times and of a few immigrants who might have come from India from time to time. Of the Yakkas and the Nagas, the former formed the bulk of the common people and were (probably with the assistance of Tamil artisans) the builders of the magnificent irrigation works both earlier and in subsequent times, and the latter, a more refined and cultured community, were the upper classes and became the Sinhalese kings referred to in the Mahavansa after the advent of Buddhism.

    •The Yakkas and the Nagas, who did not become Buddhist or who after becoming Buddhist became Saivites again, spoke the Tamil language throughout and the present Ceylon Tamils are their descendants. They did not come to Ceylon recently excepting for a few immigrants who might have come along with the various Tamil invasions but remain here from pre-historic times. The present Tamil inhabitants of the North and the coastal areas in the East and the Northwest are these people.

    •The Sinhalese language of today is the product of evolution from Elu, the early Dravidian dialect spoken in Ceylon, when the latter came into contact with Pali in the same way as the present languages of North India came into existence after the Dravidian languages spoken there came into contact with Sanskrit, and as the Romance languages in Europe after the contact of the indigenous languages there with Latin.

    •The word ‘Sinhalam’ was derived from the Tamil word ‘Sri Ilam’, which became in course of time Sihalam and later Sinhalam, with the elision of the consonant r and the addition of the euphonic n.

    •The knowledge of the scientific system of irrigation found in Ceylon was not imported from abroad but was already in the possession of the people of the island from very early times, as will be seen from the names of numerous tanks ending in kulam as well as from the terms used for irrigation works which are Tamil derivatives.

    •The construction of larger and more numerous tanks and elas than in earlier times was due to the fillip given by the subsequent Sinhalese kings, after the arrival of Buddhism, owing to the necessity to feed vast numbers of the Buddhist clergy, to whom lands were donated by them, and also owing to their desire to acquire merit thereby.

    •The civilization of Ceylon, except for the introduction of Buddhism, is a branch of the old Dravidian civilization of India in almost all its aspects, as will be seen; for example, in the village panchayat system and the caste system. Even in the matter of the New Year celebrations, the Sinhalese follow the Tamil practice in regard to date and other details, and not the North Indian practice which is entirely different.

    The above is my hypothesis and it appears to be the only legitimate hypothesis possible, when we examine the subject in all its aspects, linguistic, ethnological, social and cultural. In other words my submission is that the Sinhalese were Tamils up to the time Buddhism came to Ceylon, and thereafter these very Tamils became Sinhalese gradually. To put it somewhat mildly, the Sinhalese are not Aryans, but have been Dravidians right from the very beginning to the present day, and their language too has been Dravidian.

    In writing these, let me assure that I do not wish to offend anyone in the least, our Sinhalese friends and college mates included. My object is to pursue truth for its own sake for, according to Gandhiji, Truth is God. I hope that too, and also our Sinhalese friends, will pursue it similarly, without any bias for politics or a desire for the mere glorification of one’s country or community or greed.

  52. Barath says:

    Here comes the funny guy! How? Well let the UN led investigation come in and i am sure they’ll find a legitimate way to figure out the actual casualities!
    My friend, don’t break your head over this. This is probably too much for your tiny brain. How about you support a UN led investigation?

  53. Uthayakumar says:

    Dear friends,
    On the 23rd November at 1.13pm I wrote that ‘about 150′ were killed in the Vanni war.
    Please check.
    “Uthayakumar says:
    November 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm.”
    It was not because of my ignorance I wrote like that.
    I know pretty well the methods and tactics employed by Government of Sri Lanka and its ‘people’ for their defense. I expected something similar to ‘about 150 deaths’ figure would be placed before the world by the Government. Mr. Rohan Gunaratna was the forerunner. There are people the North who know well Mr.Rohan Gunaratna and his type of ‘work’ from 1980s.
    Mr. Gotabhaya on the 24th November Sri Lanka) came out with similar argument in Colombo.
    I think my claim of about 150 Deaths has tempted some of the readers of this column to place some sensible argument. Thanks a lot.For your information: I have been living continuously in the North since 1989.

  54. Native Vedda says:

    Prasad

    I wrote the following words above:

    “an indepentant pannel should investigate all war crimes committed by all parties to conflicts since 5th April 1970″

    Mahavamsa myth destroyed my island. Prabaharan myth partly destroyed the island. Rajabakse myth is in the making which would bring untold misery to the people.

    In order to put a full stop to myth making an indepentant committee should investigate all war crime from 5th April 1971.

    No truth no reconciliation. Without a credible investigation the past crimes cannot be put to rest. Sweeping under the carpet will continue to hurt people. Hurting people is not a best recipe for long term reconciliation.

    The kith and kin who lost their relatives in the 1971 JVP/state terrorism are still silently weeping after 40 years. You are confusing with two different aspect of war crime. Credible investigation does not necessarily mean automatic punishment for the perpotraters.

    South Africa is a living testimony to how reconciliation can be achieved without punishing the war criminals. No one would be demanding Gota’s neck if a credible investigation unearths truth.

  55. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    Native Vedda,

    Truth has to be absolute. It has to be unimpeachable. It has to be beyond doubt. That is why I believe God is truth and God is love. In this instance the so-called truth you call for, will be relative. It will be impossible to establish it beyond reasonable doubt. Hence, it will be acceptable to some and unacceptable to others. Should this situation continue? Should it continue to be our beggar’s wound?
    What is impossible to achieve, should be left behind. We have to move on to deal with mundane issues – shelter, livelihood, health care, education etc.-that matter to those who have been destined to live, having survived the war. When we cannot establish the truth, let us at least shower these unfortunates with our love.

    Dr. Rajasingham Narendran

  56. Native Vedda says:

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

    Oh Dear good doctor.

    How do legal systems and the courts establish truth? What is truth?

    Please help me out on these matters as I am bit thick.

    In countries where accountability is serious matter, courts and legal systems relentlessly seek truth.

    I see your point, by leaving these matters to divine intervention your friends do not have any responsibility over anything and the god will take care of truth dificit. It is a good idea which never occured to me

    I take your point. Could you now insist your friends abolish police, armed forces, courts, constitution, etc in the island so that god could play his/her role(divine inetervention) in maintaining law and order as you said “In this instance the so-called truth you call for, will be relative”.

    When these matters are left to god hoping he will perform his job to the utter most satisfaction, then Sri Lanka’s budget dificit could be easily managed without borrowing from internal or external sources.

    Dr lets bring in the god.

    I hope you have his contact details or access to his hotline.

  57. Dr.Rajasingham Narendran says:

    Native Veddah,

    Who told you the court system establishes the ‘Truth’? Even in instances where there is reasonable evidence, the legal system can create ‘reasonable doubt’ to acquit money-powered accused. Our own G.G.Ponnambalam was good at this. In the US in how many instances has justice failed in recent times?

    Please do not confuse ‘Truth’ with so-called justice practiced by a legal system that is after money and cares two hoots for truth and real justice.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran.

  58. Thamilan says:

    In that case how do you account for 89,000 war widows as given by Govt. officials?

  59. [...] Roberts, courtesy of transcurrents where it appeared earlier …. with the repetition here including a few [...]

  60. TRN says:

    the man with a larger brain,

    can’t u c that the diaspora tamil believes anything the UN says. However the present GoSL will not allow international investigations.

    So I can not c an end to the tug-o-war about international inquiries.

    I’m sure a local process will eventually begin. It will never quench the vengeance of the diaspora.

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