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May 31, 2009

Sri Lanka Tamils 'facing misery' in the world's 'largest displacement camp'

by BBC News

Tamil civilians in northern Sri Lanka, 23 May 2009
Huge numbers of civilians fled from the final battles
A senior Sri Lankan Tamil political leader has urged the government to resettle civilians back to their homes as early as possible.

V Anandasangaree described condition in camps for civilians displaced by the country's war as "horrible".

The head of the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) said hundreds of thousands faced misery and hardship.

He said there were food, health and sanitation problems in camps set up for Tamil civilians in northern Sri Lanka.

The United Nations says nearly 300,000 people have been displaced by recent fighting between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels.

The civilians have been housed in various camps, most of them in Manik Farm, near the northern town of Vavuniya.

The Manik Farm camp site, which is described by the UN as the world's largest displacement camp, houses around 220,000 people displaced by the fighting.

Health fears

Mr V Anandasangaree, the TULF leader, is one of the few remaining long-serving moderate Tamil political leaders in Sri Lanka. He has strongly supported the government's stance against the rebels.

"From the reports I get from the people [in the camps] they are good in some areas and horrible in many," Mr Anandasangaree told the BBC.

 

V Anandasangaree
V Anandasangaree has been a critic of the Tamil Tigers

"Health, water and sanitation situation is horrible. Many people are having skin diseases as they didn't get a chance to have a shower for days because of water shortage.

"Pregnant mothers and newborn babies go through a harrowing time in the camps due to scorching heat," he said.

The Sri Lankan government accepts that conditions in some of the camps are not ideal but says facilities have been improved in many other camps. It says more land is also being allocated to build new camps to decongest those already full.

The United Nations and other aid agencies have also demanded better access to the camps to carry out humanitarian work.

Sri Lanka's government is wary of aid agencies and has complained that the agencies had helped the Tigers in the past.

Sri Lanka says it plans to resettle most of the refugees within six months.

Mr Anandasangaree, a well-known critic of the Tamil Tiger rebels, the LTTE, also faulted the government for viewing every Tamil civilian in the camps as a possible Tamil Tiger suspect.

Sri Lanka has said it needs time to weed out potential Tamil Tiger infiltrators hiding in the camps.

"The civilians risked their lives while fleeing from the LTTE-held areas as the rebels were shooting at them. If the government suspects such people as Tamil Tigers, then the entire population of the two districts - Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu - should be the suspects," he said.

"Then the government will never solve the problem."

Sri Lankan officials say they have been overwhelmed by the sudden arrival tens of thousands of civilians from rebel-controlled areas since the start of the Sri Lankan military's final battle against Tamil Tigers a few weeks ago.

The government says it also requires help from the international community for post-war resettlement and reconstruction.

The TULF leader also challenged the official view that de-mining needs to be carried out before the resettlement of civilians can begin in the north.

"The theory that the area is heavily landmined cannot be accepted because I am in touch with a number of people. So, when I ask them they tell me where the landmines are placed. They are local people. According to them, 75% per cent of the area is not at all landmined," the Tamil leader said.

Mr Anandasangaree said Sri Lankan security forces were doing a commendable job in carrying out relief work for the displaced civilians, but said that was not enough.

"The government cannot address the problem fully on its own because of the size of the displaced population." [courtesy: BBC News]

Sinhala and Tamil: Let's get together and reconcile

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

These are troubling times for Tamils worldwide and many are either in a state of shock or denial.

The situation is made worse by the chauvinist, triumphalist crowing by some (NOT ALL) Sinhalese on the one hand and equally chauvinistic, unrealistic utterances by some (NOT ALL) Tamils.

In a noteworthy departure from this trend there was an email being circulated that spoke a different language. A language of realism and reconciliation.

Five different people forwarded it to me. There were also many people trying to post it as a comment on my blog.

One person who forwarded it said:

"DBS, I would appreciate if you could take a look at this letter and if you think its worth it please publish. It's a perspective that has long been silent (although a tad Colombo middle class). There needs to be space for these views as well…" [click here too read in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Pictorial: Roadside Hopper Makers in Maamangam, Batticaloa

Fresh hearty hoppers

by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”’ ~ Eleanor Roosevelt~October 11, 1884–November 7, 1962) was the First Lady of the United States of America from 1933 to 1945.

While traveling to Batticaloa, it’s very refreshing to witness the firewood carriers, trying to manage a whole load of firewood on their bicycles, and ride through the wind against them. Likewise while being in Batticaloa, we do not fail to catch the images of women making hoppers on the roadside at dusk. Most of us are used to stop by the hopper sellers to taste the instant milk hoppers.

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Sculpture of the Kopuram of Sri Siththy Vinayagar Aalayam in Maamangam

It was a cloudy and sweaty evening in April, when I stopped in Maamangam as soon as I saw the two women making hoppers. The women either individually or in pair sit on the ground and make hoppers. Kerosene, and coconut husk is used to make the fire. Unlike other places, they use fire under and above the hoppers.

“When we use fire on both sides, the hoppers get boiled properly with the steam available, and it tastes better” says Sagayarani Saravanapavan. She began to make hoppers when she was 5 years old. Sagayarani Saravanapavan helped her mother in making and selling hoppers. Now, she comes here daily with her first cousin sister to earn their livelihood. Either of them earns Rs.600/= to Rs.900/= per day. Approximately Rs.500/= is spent for the ingredients. They carry the pots, pans, firewood and the ingredients on the heads, because they cannot afford to hire a vehicle to transport the items to their business place. They have a lot of dreams for their children.

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"I have five children. I do not have any other income, other than what I earn by making and selling hoppers. I have some regular customers" said Sagayarani Saravanapavan (42)

Hoppers3.JPG

They hardly have any savings

Hoppers4.JPG

Ingredients are brought from home, and the hoppers are made here

Hoppers5.JPG

A passer by is seen buying instant hoppers

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The hearty hoppers are perfectly steamed with puffed creamy centre and crispy golden brown edges; A pair of milk hopper is sold for Rs.15/=

Hoppers7.JPG

Heating the pan from atop and below is a specialty here. The demand for milk hoppers are on the increase

Hoppers8.JPG

They stay here for long hours

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They struggle to provide a better living standard for their children

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They are to stay here, despite the hot weather

courtesy: HumanityAshore.org ~ dushi.pillai@gmail.com

The battle of Geneva was revelation of Lanka's true friends

by Dayan Jayatilleka

“Sri Lanka forces West to retreat over ‘war crimes’ with victory at UN” - The TIMES ( London ), May 28, 2009

“Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
…Mmm, I’m gonna try with a little help from my friends” - The Beatles

Was Geneva the last battle of the Thirty Years (hot) war, the first battle of the next war – a long Cold War against Sri Lanka -- or was it a combination? Only future history will tell.

When we aren’t involved, our arithmetic goes awry. We speak of four Eelam wars when there were five, because we omit the important one fought between the LTTE and the IPKF. There were five Eelam wars fought on the soil of our island: 1978-1987, 1987-1990, 1990-1994, 1995-2002, and 2006-2009.

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[Media representatives capture images as they stand beneath the ceiling painted by Spainish artist Miquel Barcelo prior to the start of a United Nations Human Rights Council special session on Sri Lanka, in Geneva on May 26, 2009-Getty images]

Similarly, there weren’t two defeats suffered by the Tigers and pro-Tiger separatism, namely military (on the Wanni coast) and diplomatic (at the UN in Geneva ), but three, military, politico-ideological and diplomatic. The political defeat actually preceded the decisive military defeat and provided the final prerequisite for the surge that overran the LTTE leadership. This was the result of the Indian election and especially the wipeout of the hardcore pro-Tiger forces in Tamil Nadu.

Geneva was the third defeat. It was not a defeat of the Tiger Diaspora alone. It was the defeat of a powerful bloc of forces: the foreign affairs apparatuses of the European Union (driven by several Western European states), the Western dominated international media, the amply endowed international NGOs, the pro-Tiger Tamil Diaspora, anti-Sri Lankan elements within the UN system, and a residual political fifth column within Sri Lanka itself.

An unintended consequence of the Geneva session was the profoundly educative and collective character of the experience for Sri Lankans, a huge number of whom watched the proceedings on the live web-cast which was picked up by at least one popular TV channel. It was a distance learning Open University on international affairs for the country as a whole.

The nation saw who our true friends were and who the friends of our separatist terrorist enemy were. Sri Lanka saw and heard hypocrisy at work in world affairs. It also saw and heard fairness, friendship and solidarity.

As a former student activist of the Independent Students Union of Colombo University, now a university lecturer in New Zealand emailed me about the support we received: “It’s a beautiful wave going through, if I start from the “west”, from Brazil, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba through Egypt, Iran, the Middle East via Russia, Pakistan, India, China to the Far East including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia etc up to the Philippines.” More prosaically, we received solidarity in the forms of vote (member states) and voice (observers) from the following states, geographically clustered by a young Sri Lankan student from Cambridge , voluntarily interning in our Mission.

Euro-Asia: Russian Federation

South Asia: Bangladesh , Bhutan , India , Pakistan , Nepal

Far East: China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Maldives, Singapore, Thailand, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Middle East: Azerbaijan , Bahrain , Egypt , Jordan , Qatar , Saudi Arabia , Iran , Syrian Arab Republic , Lebanon , Oman , United Arab Emirates

Latin America: Bolivia , Brazil , Cuba , Nicaragua , Uruguay , Venezuela

Africa: Angola , Burkina Faso , Cameroon , Djibouti , Ghana , Madagascar , Nigeria , Senegal , South Africa , Zambia , Algeria , Sudan

When I handed in my credentials here on June 1st 2007, I assembled the Mission staff and told them of the chronicle in Herodotus’ Histories of the three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae who held on against incredible odds to provide the time and political space for the rest of the Greek federation to mobilize and crush the aggressors. This, I told them, would be our task, and should animate our work and attitude. It worked and we held the line, not permitting a single move or sound out of Geneva which could reinforce the other prong of Western diplomacy – working for a “humanitarian pause” and an evacuation or “honorable exit” for the Tiger leadership-- before the Sri Lankan armed forces finished their historic task, decimating the Tiger army and decapitating the fascist enemy.

The Western Europeans had pushed for a special session for weeks, lobbying intensively in capitals across the world. Their target date was May 14th. They failed due our intense resistance, and that was our first success. The story is best told by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha in his How the West Was Sidelined (For the Moment), which appeared in The Island. Though the proffered reason was the fate of trapped civilians, a Reuters report out of Geneva on Friday May 15th, datelined 5:30 pm, and dealing with the call for a special session, let slip the truth. It leaked the text of a draft declaration to be adopted by the EU Council on Monday May 18th which would insist that the Government of Sri Lanka “desist from a final assault”. This then was the agenda, because the EU had reckoned that with the Tamil nadu elections over on May 13th, the Sri Lankan armed forces would storm the last redoubt of the fascist Tigers. They were right.

When the European Council met on Monday May 18th, it had to amend its text, dropping the obsolescent call for desisting from “a final assault” and substituting instead one for an independent international inquiry into war crimes, and urging the UN Human Rights Council to have a special session. The news leaks surrounding it clearly stated that the EU expected the Human Rights Council to be the appointing body for such a probe. Obviously someone up there wanted to punish the Sri Lankan state for pressing ahead with the offensive and finishing off the LTTE. On May 19th, after President Rajapakse’s address to the Sri Lankan Parliament, UK Foreign Secretary Miliband submitted a written Ministerial statement endorsing the European Council’s call. One simply must recall that it was after the visit of secretary Miliband to Washington that the joint US-UK statement called for a pause and negotiations, and that the remarks by Foreign Secretary Miliband and Foreign Minister Kouchner in a co-signed article in The Times, Mr. Miliband’s favorite paper ( which he commended twice to reporters at the UN Security Council briefing) concluded by sounding the note of the so-called Responsibility to protect and calling for an international inquiry, more than 18 days before the war would be over. These personalities echoed this call at their remarks at the standup microphone outside the Security Council following the UN SC Press statement on Sri Lanka .

The EU worked overtime across the globe during the weekend of May 16-17 and in an activity spike occasioned by the May 18th statement in Brussels and the written Ministerial statement in Westminster of May 19th, finally managed to get the 16 signatures (peaking at 17) by the middle of that week. The surge was assisted by vigorous lobbying by Tamil ethnic lobbies in some countries of the global South and most of all by a blitzkrieg of disinformation in the Western dominated world media.

How did little Sri Lanka first resist successfully and then prevail over, for the moment—but a decisive moment-- the concerted global efforts of old, massive, well funded and thoroughly professional foreign offices of the UK, France, Germany and Denmark, together with their access to the media, their “paramilitary proxies’ the INGOS, and their men and women seeded through the upper reaches of the UN system?

In the first place we had a political leadership, or more correctly, a politico-military leadership, in President Mahinda Rajapakse and Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse, that possessed the political will to go ahead despite the odds, and in this they were supported by the national will, the people’s will, to prevail over the Tigers whatever the external pressures.

The strategy that I adopted in Geneva was discussed and agreed upon in a one-on-one conversation with President Rajapakse at the very time he appointed me. He had sent me on the delegation for the HRC sessions in March 2007, so I could get a feel for the place. Upon returning I outlined my perspective, simply that which came authentically to me, of actively re-committing to and practicing Sri Lanka’s traditional foreign policy of Nonalignment. The President briefed me on certain unfortunate departures from this policy that had taken place, which had led to changes he had just made in the foreign relations apparatus; deviations he wanted rectified including in the disarmament realm -- and gave me the needed autonomy, saying “you know my thinking”. As for the specific scenario I anticipated, given that the EU had a draft resolution against Sri Lanka on the table since March 2006, he said “Yes, even if we lose, go for a vote.” President Rajapakse re-endorsed the strategy in two telephone conversations I had with him on the weekend just prior to the special session.

Sri Lanka’s leading analyst of international affairs, Mervyn de Silva, my father, died ten years ago this month, June. I practiced in Geneva that which I had absorbed from him. He told me of Ben Bella and Patrice Lumumba even before I started schooling. As a boy I had seen Sri Lanka ’s diplomatic stance at its best, adopted by his friends Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe, Neville Kanakaratne, Gamini Corea, and Anton Muttukumaru. Through my teens I attended the lectures, including by Sir Michael Howard, organized by the Ceylon Institute of World Affairs, of which Maj Gen ‘Tony’ Muttukumaru was President and Mervyn was Secy General, and the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies which was founded on the basis of a report by Mervyn. As importantly I was introduced to top foreign diplomats such as Cuba ’s Armando Bayo and foreign policy thinkers such as Russia ’s Evgeni Primakov. From the library at home to my father’s famous foreign journalistic friends, from our travels overseas to our conversations at dinner, the world my family inhabited was as much international as it was national. Eschewing lucrative offers of journalistic employment overseas, my father had his feet firmly in the national reality but his head in the international. I grew up with hardly any dividing line between one and the other, with my own role models and independent identifications being with a trend, tradition and experience that was internationalist and truly world-historical.

Mervyn de Silva believed firmly that Sri Lanka ’s national interests were best served by active membership in the Non Aligned movement and commitment to the policy of Non Alignment. He believed that our relationship with our neighbor should be the bedrock of our foreign policy. He was also keenly aware of tendencies towards multi-polarity and new global trends such as identity politics which transcended national boundaries (“in this age of identity, ethnicity walks on water” he said in one of his last essays). Though he avoided didacticism of any kind, something he told his staffers (as revealed in the reminiscences of one of them, the journalist and literary critic Gamini Dissanayake) was that “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything and everything”.

In Geneva we stood for something. In our hour of need, we reaped the harvest of a principled and active foreign policy practice, in the votes and supportive speeches we received from our natural constituency, variously identifiable as the global South and Russia , or the NAM plus Russia and China , or G77 plus Russia . Mao ze Dong identified the crucial question of strategy as “Who are our friends? Who are our enemies?” and commended the building of the broadest possible united front, uniting all those who can be united, neutralizing those intermediate elements who cannot, and isolating the main adversary. Without clarity in identification of who one’s friends are, one cannot build the broadest possible united front and succeed. In Geneva last week we may have applied the tactics of Zizek’s Lenin, of a high risk pushing for an endgame while we could have stopped short and capitulated in a compromise on sovereignty masked as consensus, but our approach was more Lennon than Lenin. We won “with a little help from our friends”.

As Cuba has proved, one cannot defend the national interest by being narrowly nationalist; one has to be internationalist in order to defend and protect the Patria. Geneva was a miniature diplomatic Dien Bien Phu or Bay of Pigs for the EU.

Of the many comments on Sri Lanka ’s victory (and the many congratulations that came my way) the most accurate was in an email and fax from DEW Gunasekara, who wrote both on his behalf as well as that of his party. Currently Minister of Constitutional Affairs and National Integration, DEW is the leader of the Communist Party, but more pertinently he was the International Affairs Secretary of that party when I first knew him more than three decades ago. Revealing that the Cabinet had been meeting, monitoring the Geneva HRC proceedings real time, with President Rajapakse expressing optimism at the result, reminiscing that he had known me from my days as an undergraduate at Peradeniya, and making a poignant reference to his late friend and my father Mervyn, comrade DEW correctly summed up the Geneva outcome: “it was a historic session reflecting the growing role of the new world balance of forces”. None can do a Kosovo on Sri Lanka : wrong century, wrong continent, wrong country

[These are the strictly personal views of the writer]

Sri Lanka 'will face UN inquiry'

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC says Sri Lanka will face an inquiry from the UN Human Rights Committee. [Click here for BBC Video]

Calls mount for Sri Lanka probe

Leading human rights group Amnesty International has called for an urgent inquiry into claims of civilian deaths in the last days of the Sri Lankan war.

Responding to a Times newspaper report that more than 20,000 were killed, it also urged the UN to publicise its estimate of the death toll.

UN human rights chief John Holmes said an investigation would be a good idea.

The Sri Lankan government has strongly denied the claims surrounding its recent onslaught against Tamil rebels.

The figures published on Friday in the Times newspaper in the UK - quoting official documents and witness accounts - is far higher than previously thought.

The UN says that there are no confirmed estimates of civilian casualties, and its last estimate two weeks before the end of the war said 6,500 people had died.

Claims of war crimes by both sides have arisen, including from Amnesty's Asia Pacific director Sam Zarifi.

"The Times report underscores the need for this investigation and the UN should do everything it can to determine the truth about the bloodbath that occurred in northeast Sri Lanka," he said.

Mr Holmes, the UN's senior humanitarian affairs co-ordinator, queried the figures but said the claims needed to be examined.

"I think a lot of the figures which are floating around don't have much justification behind them.

"But nevertheless, there have been serious charges against the [Tamil Tiger rebels]... for holding civilians as civilian shields for such a long time, and thereby being indirectly responsible for their deaths.

"And against the government for using heavy weapons in an area where there are so many civilians and thereby, not deliberately, but again causing many civilian deaths."

He added: "No-one was there, no-one knows and we may never know. And that's why an investigation would be a good idea."

British human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said it would take time for the true story to emerge.

Foreign journalists and humanitarian groups were barred from the conflict zone and although the Red Cross entered, it does not give evidence in international courts, he said.

"In the fullness of time, of course, you do have witnesses, you do have thousands of people who were on that dreadful strip of beach [designated as a safe zone by the government]."

He said as well as priests and doctors talking about what happened, there were also graves.

"This is the way, unfortunately, war crimes are now dealt with, through forensic investigators finding out the story by investigating mass graves.

"And there do seem, from aerial photographs, to be some."

False claims

A senior official from Sri Lanka's Centre for National Security told the BBC the accusations were totally false.

Video evidence published by The Times suggests that the Tamil Tigers established mortar positions and military encampments within camps for displaced people, which were then shelled by the military.

The paper says that it compiled its evidence using aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and expert testimony. [courtey: BBC.co.uk]

Plight of children stuck in Sri Lankan camps

Written by: Save the Children

I visited Vavuniya in early May, one of the towns in the north of Sri Lanka where lots of people uprooted by fighting between troops and rebels have arrived over the last few months.

Since my previous visit in March, the number of displaced had really grown.

In addition to the camps, transitional welfare villages have been set up to accommodate up to 800 families each. The villages are up to 100 acres - when you stand in one corner you can't see where it ends.

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[Reunited: Rohini, 10, with her mother Rajakumari in a camp in Vavuniya. Photo by Save the Children]

Although the welfare villages are spacious, some of the displacement camps set up in schools and colleges are very crowded and people are living in difficult conditions until they are moved into welfare villages. In particular I met lots of mothers who told me their children were missing. They held photos of their children and asked me: "Can you find them for us?"

I think we've registered nearly 400 children so far, who are separated or unaccompanied. I managed to follow up one story of a girl called Rohini who was separated from her parents in March. After 50 days we managed to reunite them. Rohini didn't speak to me much during our first encounter but this time she was all smiles. She was hugging her mother.

"She's stitching my uniform for school," Rohini said. "She's brushing my hair every morning she's washing my clothes and she's buying me food." Most of all Rohini said she had missed sleeping with her mother. Now she can concentrate on her studies and she's very happy.

When I met other children, who we've yet to reunite with their parents, this story was all I had to console them. I couldn't promise we'd be able to find their parents.

Many of these children have missed out on about six months of school and we, together with U.N. and other government agencies have set up temporary learning spaces. One of the most rewarding visits I had was seeing up to 7,000 children already attending school.

RESILIENCE

Recreation facilities are also now available for these children. They come together in the evening and play. This helps them forget about their traumatic experiences.

In the camps and welfare villages there are community kitchens where there's a roster for cooking. In many camps I also saw little makeshift barber shops where hairdressers or barbers are providing their service for a nominal fee.

In certain camps water was a real issue, as was accommodation. I saw one children's play area occupied by displaced people because they didn't have enough tents. It was difficult to know whether to ask the people to leave. In the end we managed to provide extra tarpaulins for shelters so the children could keep their own place to play.

I helped our team out during a relief distribution and one of the things that really impressed me was how they prioritised the injured as well as mothers with infants. These mothers told me they found the hygiene items like soap, disinfectant and buckets for bathing very useful. Vavuniya is very hot and dry - the temperature is around 40 degrees Celsius. Sometimes they throw water on the tents just to keep the temperature down.

I also saw many men and women with wounds who were still in a lot of pain. One woman had metal screws fixed into her upper arm - the bone was fractured in three places. Many had bandages and plasters, others were on crutches or in wheelchairs. I didn't see many children with injuries but it was easy to see the trauma of what they'd been through. It was clear in their eyes.

One of the striking things in any emergency is children's resilience. I saw many making toys and kites using whatever was available - polythene, paper, sticks. Going back to school and engaging in activities really helps them cope with bad memories. The children were very hopeful, especially those who had begun school. They had aspirations of becoming doctors, nurses, lawyers, cricketers and one young girl said she even wanted to become a nun.

The parents weren't sure about where they'd go next. Many didn't want to go back home. The children had very high hopes. One of the Tamil boys said he'd like to learn the other national language (Sinhala) so that he could make new friends. I saw great examples of how education can help them to see beyond conflict, beyond the war and look forward to something positive.

AT RISK

So far we've provided school kits for over 5,000 children and we're continuing to do this daily wanting to reach 50,000 school going children.

Something that I noticed, particularly in the more crowded places, was that parents were taking out their frustrations on children because they were at the end of their tether. There were so many times when I and my colleagues had to intervene to tell parents not to hit their children.

It shows how in an overcrowded place children are even more vulnerable to abuse, even from within their families. If parents are doing this you can only imagine how strangers may treat children - so it's a great concern for us.

One of the most moving experiences during my trip was meeting colleagues who had been stuck in the war zone. In September 2008, when the government asked international aid agencies to vacate the region, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam didn't allow us to move out local staff who were resident in the conflict area - about 25 remained behind.

They've been living in extremely difficult conditions. They were displaced themselves many times during the last months of the conflict but they still delivered aid and helped with activities for the children inside the war zone. These were people we knew very well and I was worried whether they would get out safely.

One such person was our deputy district manager -a very dignified man and a great example of real commitment to children. I finally met him again in the camp. It struck me really hard to see him as an internally displaced person.

Video: Prabhakaran wanted the whole country – President Rajapakse

By NDTV

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, speaking to The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s Walk the Talk.

India’s role in Sri Lanka: Three immediate priorities

by B. Raman

Many Sri Lankan Tamils were killed during the anti-Tamil riots in Colombo in 1983. In their anxiety to suppress details of the exact number of fatalities from being known to the international community, the Sri Lankan authorities allegedly decided to secretly burn the dead bodies of the Tamils killed in mass cremations without informing the relatives. Much before any agency of the Government of India, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, came to know about it and took action to stop it.

2. Her information came from Tamil families in Tamil Nadu with links or contacts with Tamils in Sri Lanka, I am mentioning this to underline that if there is any large-scale massacre of Tamils in Sri Lanka by State agencies, Tamil families in Tamil Nadu would generally come to know about it much before anybody else in India or in the rest of the world. The fact that there has been no such tom-toming across Tamil Nadu of independent stories----- and not stories disseminated by Western sources--- about large-scale massacre of Tamil civilians in the Northern Province by the Sri Lankan security forces would underline the need for caution in accepting stories being disseminated by Western media and human rights organisations about the alleged massacre of nearly 20,000 Tamils during the final weeks of the Sri Lankan Army's counter-insurgency operations against the LTTE.

3.Had there been really such massacres as alleged by Western sources on the basis of purported leaks from unidentified members of the junior staff of the United Nations, people in Tamil Nadu would have come to know of these alleged massacres long before anybody else. Yes, there was concern over the use of air strikes and heavy artillery by the Sri Lankan security forces. These concerns were voiced by political and non-political elements in Tamil Nadu. There was equally a feeling in Tamil Nadu that the number of casualties suffered by the civilians during the final days of the fighting must have been more than the figures given by the Sri Lankan Government. In counter-insurgency situations, it happens often that the authorities tend to underestimate civilian casualties. We saw it in Iraq and we have been seeing it in Afghanistan. The debate regarding the number of civilian fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan goes on without anybody being to establish the exact figure. But nobody accuses the US-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan of deliberately indulging in large-scale massacres of civilians. Nobody is asking for an international tribunal to try those in charge of operations in those two countries.

4. A campaign has been started in the West to embarrass the Sri Lankan Government and to put its senior officers, who were in charge of counter-insurgency, in the dock by disseminating unauthenticated high figures of civilian fatalities in the Northern Province. India should keep away from this campaign, which seems to be motivated not necessarily by wholly humanitarian considerations. India is uniquely placed in having a better and more objective idea of what happened in the Northern Province and should act according to its judgement without being influenced by the anti-Colombo campaign mounted in the West.

5. Now that the LTTE's insurgency is over, three issues have acquired priority. The first priority is relief and rehabilitation of the Tamil civilians affected by the counter-insurgency operations. The second is post-conflict economic reconstruction in Sri Lanka as a whole and in the Tamil areas in particular. The third is addressing the Tamil anger through an appropriate political package. The LTTE may be gone, but not the Tamil anger.

6. Since the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 and more particularly since 2002, India has been playing second fiddle in Sri Lanka. It has left it to Western powers such as Norway and the US as well as to Japan to play an activist role in helping Sri Lanka. The time has come for India to once again play an activist role in respect of all the priorities cited above. India should assume the leadership role in helping Sri Lanka in its relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction tasks.

7. The goodwill for India in Sri Lanka has never been higher than it is after the defeat of the LTTE. It is not because India played any active role in its defeat. It is because India did not try to hamper the counter-insurgency operations of the Sri Lankan security forces. This was interpreted by them as India's moral support for their operations. Many Sri Lankans with whom I have interacted in recent weeks have frankly admitted that India's moral support was much more crucial than any material support from Pakistan or China in their counter-insurgency operations.

8. India should try to build up on this goodwill and strengthen it further by taking the leadership role in international efforts to help Sri Lanka after the conflict. If this goodwill is not frittered away and is strengthened further, that could give India a moral authority to nudge the Sri Lankan Government towards a politicasl solution which would be meaningful to the Tamils and acceptable to the Sinhalese.

9. In many articles in the past, I had expressed my fears that once the SL security forces win against the LTTE, the SL Government would try to impose a dictated peace on the Tamils. Those fears remain. All the more reason for India to play the leadership role to ensure that these fears are belied. These fears, even if valid, should not be allowed to inhibit our initiatives in Sri Lanka.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

Being Captain,No 3 Batsman and Wicket-keeper Is Too Much For Sangakkara

By Nirgunan Tiruchelvam

The Sri Lankan team have misled the board and the public. Last year, the squad campaigned for the England tour to be scrapped in favour of the IPL. They said that the IPL contracts were cast in stone. No wavering could be permitted. Also, they said that the IPL was essential for the players to prepare for the Twenty20 World Championship.

Politicians were pleaded. Cricketers became activists. Some players blasted the then Board President Arjuna Ranatunga for his selfish ways. In the end, the England tour was scrapped and Ranatunga was dismissed.

But, the IPL’s contracts were not sacrosanct for the other sides. The West Indies replaced Sri Lanka in England, despite their IPL involvement. Australia played Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, underlining the supremacy of international cricket.

To make things worse, only a handful of the 13 contracted Sri Lankans actually played regularly in the IPL. Murali had a grip on his opponent as the tournament’s most economical bowler. Malinga’s yorkers were a revelation. Dilshan was the glue of Delhi’s middle order.

But, the rest barely appeared in the tournament. Mendis’s lack of flight was exposed. He got a hiding. Farveez Maharoof, Nuwan Zoysa, Chamara Silva, Angelo Matthews and Dilhara Fernando warmed the bench. Even Chaminda Vaas was humiliated with only two appearances. Nuwan Kulasekera did not manage one. Nobody even bothered mentioning them.

The two most vocal campaigners for the tour were the former captain Mahela Jayawardene and the new leader Kumar Sangakkara. Their contribution to the IPL was far from spectacular. But, they did just enough to guarantee another contract.

The result is that Sri Lanka are entering the ICC World Twenty20 completely unprepared. Only about 5 players have have had match practice. If the England tour had gone ahead, they would be much more accustomed.

The English early summer conditions are unique. The ball swings extravagantly. Several Sri Lankan forays to England have ended in tears in this period. The most glaring was the 1999 World Cup, where the defending champion was ground to dust.

The tournament will see Kumar Sangakkara’s captaincy debut. For many, Sangakkara’s anointment has been long sought after. Apart from being one of the games leading batsmen, he is unruffled. Like his predecessor, his calmness in adversity is valued. The press have been carried away by his suave manner.

But, it is unreasonable to expect Sangakkara to captain, bat at no.3 and keep wickets. Sangakkara's leadership skills have been hyped up. He should hang his head in shame for the IPL farce. Also, he should hang up his gloves.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s success as a captain and keeper cannot be the benchmark for Sangakkara. Dhoni does not bat in the top order. The Indian captain is by no means the sword of his team’s batting. Instead of Sangakkara, Dilshan should be made the wicket-keeper in Twenty20s and ODI. Dilshan’s agility and versatility in virtually any role must not be ignored.

Sri Lanka’s saving grace of the ICC World Twenty20 campaign will be its bowling. The attack is both varied and devastating.

Malinga has been shockingly successful in the shortest form of cricket. Attacking but erratic fast bowlers were not expected to prosper. But, Malinga bowls at over 140 Kmph with a very low arm. His toe-breaking yorkers have been the feature of the IPL. Malinga bowls so full that the pitch become irrelevant.

Kulasekera, the highest ranked ODI bowler, is supremely accurate. He consistently hits the seam and the three-quarter length. Thilan Thushara is tall and slippery. He can also swing the bat with great freedom.

Muralitharan, the new vice-captain, has found his voice in Twenty20. He is intent on bowling round the wicket to right-handers. The doosra has become the stock delivery and the off-break .

Despite the virtues of the bowling, the batting is lacklustre. Sanath Jayasuriya, who turns 40 next month, had a poor IPL. His reflexes are a lot slower than even a year ago. The moving ball has always been his undoing. He is likely to disappoint.

The major problem with the batting is the absence of a late-order finisher. Maharoof and Matthews are too chancy. Chamara Silva is inconsistent.

For some ridiculous reason, the selectors continously recall Jehan Mubarak. He is like a bad dream that can never be shrugged off. Not much can be expected from him, except earning the irritation of the fans.

But, cricket rarely sticks to the script. The novel format may favour attacking bowlers. If the experienced core of Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Dilshan delivers the runs, the bowlers may do the rest. They owe it to the public, after the IPL farce.

Squad : Kumar Sangakkara (capt), Muttiah Muralitharan, Sanath Jayasuriya, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, Chamara Silva, Angelo Mathews, Ajantha Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekara, Thilan Thushara, Lasith Malinga, Isuru Udana, Farveez Maharoof, Jehan Mubarak, Indika de Saram.

May 30, 2009

UK Guardian report on Tamil children interned in Ambepusse

Guardian UK has published a report by Gethin Chamberlain, about Tamil children interned "after escaping from the rebels" at the Ambepusse "rehabilitation centre":

Darchiga Kuken was sheltering in a bunker in the Mullaitivu area when a group of about 20 Tamil Tiger soldiers arrived and demanded that she went with them.

"I was sick with chicken pox. My mother and father were screaming and crying, saying that I was sick and pleading with them not to take me," she said. The men went away. And then at 5pm on 14 March they came back. They called me to come out and then they grabbed me and put me in a jeep. I started to cry. I was shouting: 'Mother, father, help me.' "

DKATC0530.jpg

[Darchiga Kuken, a former Tamil Tiger child soldier interned at the Ambepusse rehabilitation centre after escaping from the rebels. Photograph: Gethin Chamberlain]

The 16-year-old is now being held in what the government describes as a "rehabilitation centre", a jungle camp built on a hillside outside the town of Ambepusse in the south of the country. Here children like her, who were forced to fight on the front line in the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka, gave the Observer compelling evidence of war crimes committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

The camp currently houses 95 children, with another 200 on their way from internment camps around the town of Vavuniya in the north of the country.

Despite international concerns over the treatment of LTTE suspects, the children appeared to be well treated and were able to speak freely when the Observer visited the camp on Thursday. The most distressing sight was a young boy howling in pain on the floor of one of the huts; his friends said that he had recently arrived and still had a piece of shrapnel lodged in his skull from the recent fighting.

The accounts of these boys and girls who surrendered to the Sri Lankan army were shocking. They say they were dragged screaming from their families and sent into action with only a few days of basic training. The older members of the LTTE warned them to keep firing and advancing, or they would be shot by their own side from behind.

Those who did try to escape said they were fired on by their own side. Children who were recaptured had their hair shaved off to mark them as deserters and boys were beaten.

Darchiga said she was shot in the stomach by the army two days after arriving on the front line, having been forced to pick up a rifle and go forward to fight. She said LTTE cadres left her bleeding for four hours before she received any medical treatment.

According to her testimony, the Tigers had warned every family that those children who could carry a weapon were expected to join up, regardless of age. Some as young as 11 and 12 had been taken, she said. "They told families that one child was enough. If they had five children, they would take four and leave just one."

She was taken to a training camp at Mullaivaikal, where nine days of basic military training were interrupted by frequent air attacks. On the morning of 24 March, she was sent to the front.

"I was scared and thought that I would die now and would never see my parents again. They had scared us and said we shouldn't sleep because the army would come and cut our throats."

She spent the first day hiding in a bunker, then she was shoved forwards because the senior Tiger cadres said they were running out of fighters. "They gave me a rifle. It was very heavy. They threatened us that we had to go forward and shoot; if we came back, they would shoot us themselves.

"I went a few hundred yards and hid behind a coconut tree. I saw the army coming and I was very scared and I was lying down trying to hide, but then they shot me in the stomach.

"I started screaming because of the pain, but the cadres told me to shut up because the army would hear me. They gave me a cloth to put on the wound. There was a lot of blood. It was four hours before they took me to the hospital at Matalan."

On 13 April she escaped and ran back to her family. The Tigers were looking for deserters, she said. "If they caught them, they shaved their hair off and sent them back to the front line." Boys also received a beating.

She finally managed to escape with a group of civilians, but only after the Tigers had fired on them. She was separated from her family, who were sent to the internment camps at Vavuniya, and taken to a court, which ordered her to be detained at Ambepusse for a year - the standard treatment for those who confess to LTTE membership, even if they had been coerced.

Ravindram Vajeevan, 17, said he arrived at Ambepusse on 9 April after escaping from the Tigers four days earlier. He had a large scar on his left arm where he had been shot by his former comrades as he ran away.

He had been taken from his family in Mullaitivu on 29 March, as fighting raged around the shrinking no-fire zone and LTTE numbers dwindled. A large group of men arrived at the house, he said, and dragged him from the bunker where he had been sheltering.

"They hit me and my mother was crying and I was crying, but they said I had to go to fight. My neighbours tried to stop them, but they said they would shoot. Then they fired in the air," he said.

He was taken to a camp with about 70 other young boys and taught how to make a bunker, how to handle a rifle, how to escape from an ambush and how to stage an attack. They were told that if they did not fight they would be shot from behind, he said. On the fifth day, he escaped.

"In the beginning, the LTTE were fighting for the Tamils, but in the end they were just fighting for themselves," he said.

Thambirasa Jagadiswary, 20, and her brother Thambirasa Thisanandan, 17, were reunited at Ambepusse after the the Tigers took them from their family. Jagadiswary was taken in June 2008 and drafted into a mortar unit before being captured; her brother was dragooned in February this year. He had spent 15 days with the rebels before escaping and surrendering.

Afterwards he was taken to Vavuniya with his parents. "They told us there that those who were in the LTTE should register, so I did," he said. "Then they told me they would separate us from our parents."

"I was talking with my friends when they brought him in," his sister said. "All of a sudden I saw my brother and I started crying and shouting and hugging him." Their mother remains in the internment camp at Menik Farm.

These teenagers' revelations come days after the UN human rights council rejected a call for an investigation into allegations of war crimes by both sides during the 26-year conflict and accepted an alternative Sri Lankan government resolution describing the conflict as a "domestic matter that doesn't warrant outside interference". The Sri Lankan military has also been accused of committing war crimes by firing on civilians.

Among the traumatised and unwilling child soldiers of the Tamil Tigers, there is just a desire for normality to return.

"I was one year with the LTTE and I must be one year here," said Jagadiswary. "Now I would just like to find my mother and get on with my life."

How the LTTE was destroyed and power grab for the international network

by Shanaka Jayasekara

Consider for a moment if it was possible to defeat the Hezbollah or Hamas. The achievements of the Sri Lankan security forces are of a comparable scale. There were no coalition troops or hi-tech geospatial imagery or other hi-tech equipment, it was the strength and courage of the indigenously trained Sri Lankan security forces that accomplished a feat considered by many as impossible. The Sri Lankan forces militarily decimated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) regarded as one of the most dangerous and deadliest terrorist groups in the world.

The LTTE was considered a trail blazer in terms of terrorist technology and innovation. The hallmark of the LTTE, the suicide body suite was perfected by the LTTE and proliferated globally as the most lethal terror device used by terrorist groups today. The LTTE over a period of three decades progressively strengthened from a guerilla outfit, to having a conventional capability that controlled territory. At the time of the ceasefire agreement in February 2002, the LTTE had military dominance over most parts of the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

The group was founded on an autocratic dictatorship that lasted from its origins to the very end. In a way having a single leader for thirty years retarded its decision making capacity and that of the Tamil community. The group was centered around the cult of Velupillai Prabakaran and his intransigent worldview. His zero sum mindset which considered no alternative but a separate state was unattainable and unrealistic when over 40% of the Tamil population lived in the south of the island. However, for Prabakaran it was military gains that brought him closer to achieving a separate state. He mirrored the LTTE on the structures of a standing army. It had several combat formations (Charles Anthony Brigade, Imran Pandiya Brigade, Jejantha Brigade, Leopard Commando Unit), Women’s units (Malathi Brigade, Sothiya Brigade) artillery and mortar units (Kutti Shirri Mortar regiment, Victor anti armor unit), intelligence (TOSIS), suicide unit (Black Tigers), maritime (Sea Tigers), Telecom/radar unit, Shipping/logistic support (Sea Pigeons) and air wing (Sky Tigers). The support units consisted of the recruitment wing, weapons procurement (KP Department), finance (Thamilenthi group), mobile health (Theleepan Health Units), Overseas diaspora (Castro division), propaganda/publicity, satellite television (NTTE Nitharshanam), political affairs, social services (TRO), IT support (Vanni Tech), war veteran welfare (Mahaveer), internal security (TE Police) and tribunals (TE Courts)..

The military capability of the LTTE provided the space to develop the trapping of a de-facto administration in areas controlled by the group. The international network and logistics facilities provided resources and weapons for Prabakaran’s army.

The decline of the Tamil Eelam project came following the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The LTTE which was armed and trained by the Indian intelligence RAW, had lost its most important support base politically and militarily which they could never regain. The LTTE in the 1990s grew in strength due to political incompetence and rampant corruption in military procurement in the Sri Lankan government. The reversals faced by the Sri Lankan forces in Operation Jaya Sikuru and Agni Kheela, as well as LTTE operation Unceasing Waves III which captured Elephant Pass redefined the LTTE’s as a formidable military power.

The appointment of Gotabaya Rajapaksa brother of the President as Defence Secretary in November 2005 changed the military landscape in Sri Lanka. He provided decisive political leadership to the military and placed the country on a war footing. Over a two year period (2006-2008) he expanded troop numbers by almost 40%, with the induction of over 70,000 new troops to the three armed services and 40,000 new guards to the civil defence force.

The government exploited the defection of the LTTE Eastern commander Karuna Amman and the disbanding of young combatants by capturing the entirety of the Eastern Province by July 2007.

The Sri Lankan navy undertook deep sea operations in international waters and destroyed nine merchant vessels of the LTTE between March to October 2007. The regular induction of weapons and ammunitions to the LTTE using its merchant fleet was critical to maintain its military power. The destruction of the LTTE supply chain capability was the single decisive factor that changed the LTTE from being a formidable military force to a group gasping for survival. The almost complete destruction of the LTTE shipping fleet was possible due to advance technical intelligence and satellite data provided by the US Pacific Command to the Sri Lanka Navy. It demonstrated the close counter terrorism cooperation between the Bush administration and Sri Lanka prior to the Senator Leahy amendment.

The international network of the LTTE was disrupted in the five major fundraising countries. The law enforcement authorities in the United States, France, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia detained key LTTE leaders. The networks had to be reorganized, systems redesigned and rebuilt which was an unnecessary distraction to the LTTE at the time.

The Indian security paradigm had changed. Indian security was threatened by the proliferation of un-governed territory in the sub-continent. In Pakistan large areas of the FATA regions were un-governed, in Nepal the Maoist had taken control of territory and in Sri Lanka the LTTE had control of the Vanni. The LTTE had aquaired stand-off weapons, a naval force and an air wing which all had potential threat implications to India. It was in the broader interest of Indian security to permit the elimination of the LTTE.

Sri Lankan diplomacy exploited what could be called the new world order in a post economic crisis era. The raising influence of India and China as important global actors, and the decline of the west in international politics was effectively used by Sri Lanka to minimize any external intervention.

The combination of these factors and the superior ground tactics adopted by the Security Forces prevailed in the final battle. The victorious security forces not only defeated the LTTE, but also rescued over 250,000 Tamil civilians that were forcibly held as a human shield by the LTTE. The rescue operation was a turning point in war, the rush of civilians towards the safety of the security forces disproved the misinformation campaign carried out in world capitals by the Tamil diaspora.

On Monday 18 May, there were reports of Prabakaran being killed attempting to flee the battlefield, however, it was on Tuesday 19 May, when an army snippier named Priyantha took out five targets on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon that Prabakaran was killed. The snippier had shot Prabakaran in the forehead and the bullet pierced his skull. The four bodyguards around Prabakaran were also shot by the snippier. It was then that the government was able to provide conclusive evidence that Prabakaran was dead.

The security forces completely destroyed the senior leadership of the LTTE preventing any rallying point for a revival of the group. The security forces have also recovered over 11,000 T-56 assault rifles, 25 artillery guns, a main battle tank and other sophisticated weaponry of the LTTE. In addition, large quantities of files, papers and computers relating to LTTE operations have been recovered providing valuable insights into the operations of the LTTE. Over 7100 LTTE combatants have surrendered voluntarily to the security forces.

Since the 19 May 2009, the only representation of the LTTE remains among the overseas Tamil diaspora. The international network of the LTTE operated under the leadership of Veerakathy Manivannam (alias Castro) upto 30 January 2009. Facing imminent defeat at the hands of the Sri Lankan security forces, Prabakaran appointed the head of weapons procurement based in Thailand, Selvarajah Pathmanathan (alias Kumaran Pathmanathan, KP), as the new head of LTTE international relations.

Selvarajah Pathmanathan (KP) had been sidelined due to personality clashes especially with political head Tamilselvan. Furthermore, the KP Department which undertook procurement activity was sidelined during the ceasefire period with a flood of diaspora activists dealing directly with LTTE seniors in Kilinochchi. The LTTE international network that was developed by Castro (Castro network) had distanced itself from the KP network. Furthermore, in the absence of KP in the forefront, the Castro network taken control of LTTE international finances. The funds collected by the LTTE and stored in secret bank accounts by Sanna (Netherlands) and Nehrujee (UK) were being controlled through the Castro network. In addition, the LTTE had a very active overseas intelligence wing (Aiyanna network) which kept watch over diaspora activity and reported to directly Kilinochchi.

As Selvarajah Pathmanathan (KP) attempts to take control of the LTTE international network using a remote office in Oslo, the Castro network and the Aiyanna network do not recognize his authority. The most recent statement by Pathmanathan announcing the death of Prabakaran was dismissed by the Castro network (now called the LTTE Department of Diaspora Affairs). The three groups are scrambling to take control of LTTE overseas assets, there will be blood spilt and a few will benefit personally given LTTE records have been destroyed. The LTTE battle ground will shift overseas to the Tamil diaspora with each group attempting to define its territory, geographically or thematically.

The LTTE networks overseas will remain disassociated from the conflict if they do not build ground capability in Sri Lanka. Each group will attempt to revive at least a minimalist guerilla capability as soon as possible. It is imperative for the overseas elements to demonstrate control over ground operations, firstly to achieve credibility and recognition, secondly to boost the morale the depressed Tamil diaspora and thirdly discredit the government’s claim of destroying the LTTE. It is likely in the short term attacks on soft-targets could be carried out to demonstrate the continued existence of the LTTE. This will also facilitate overseas leaders to assert authority over the LTTE network.

In the Northern Ireland situation dissatisfied members of the IRA formed the “Continuity-IRA” and remained militarily active after the IRA ended hostile activity. In Sri Lanka such a scenario can develop given the stocks of weapons buried and yet undetected in the Northern Province. There is a likelihood that senior and middle level combatants will have difficulty integrating into the community due to issues of respect and status without the LTTE. Therefore the screening and rehabilitation process of the 7100 surrendered combatants managed professionally to avert such a situation.

(Shanaka Jayasekara is Associate Lecturer,Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (PICT), Macquarie University,Sydney, Australia)

Then and now: President Mahinda Rajapakse on "terrorists and insurgents"

by Phil Rees

[AlJazeera News video]

"Language has changed..this is what the difference is...they called them insurgents...they never called them terrorists..."- President Mahinda Rajapakse

Phil Rees is a British award-winning reporter and documentary film maker. He interviewed President Rajapakse earlier this year and also in 1988.

This is the second episode of "Dining with Terrorists" first aired on AlJazeera in February 2009.

Family urges Sri Lanka to release Damilvany Gnanakumar, who treated victims of conflict, from detention camp

Call to free British medic held in Sri Lanka

by Gethin Chamberlain

A British woman who was working at a hospital helping victims of Sri Lanka's civil war has been interned in one of the island's detention camps, prompting her family to plead for urgent diplomatic help to secure her immediate release.

Speaking to the Guardian, relatives of Damilvany Gnanakumar – known as Vany – said that she was detained a fortnight ago as the Sri Lankan army moved in to finish off the remnants of the Tamil Tiger rebels after a military onslaught that left thousands dead and sent many more fleeing for their lives.

DGTC0530.jpg

[Damilvany Gnanakumar, who was detained a fortnight ago, had been working in temporary hospitals in Sri Lanka's no-fire zone. Photograph: Gethin Chamberlain]

The British passport holder, who has a background in biomedical science, called the family home in Chingford, Essex, on 19 May, to beg for help.

"She said: 'I'm in this camp, you have to get me out of here,' but then the phone went dead," said her sister, Subha Mohanathas, 29, yesterday. She said that her mother, Lathaa, 45, was desperately worried, but she believed that her sister would pull through.

"Vany is one of the strongest people, she can do whatever she likes because she is not really frightened of anything.

"I just want my sister back with me as soon as possible. My mum is crying and we need her back. We didn't have anything to do with the war."

Gnanakumar had spent the last few months working in temporary hospitals in the no-fire zone, where doctors have struggled to save the lives of civilians injured during intense fighting.

Diplomatic efforts to secure her release have so far been unsuccessful and last night her family appealed to the Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to allow her to return to the UK.

She is being held in the Menik Farm camps outside the town of Vavuniya, a sprawling, sweltering expanse of tents across hundreds of acres of barren scrubland.

Gnanakumar's family arrived in the UK as refugees from Jaffna, in Sri Lanka, in November 1994. She married in 2003, but the relationship was troubled and in February 2008 she returned to Sri Lanka without telling anyone she was leaving.

The family said that Gnanakumar had been staying in Mullivaykkal - the scene of some of the heaviest fighting - and had called in January to say that she had been caught up in the conflict and was unable to leave. On 12 May they saw her on a Tamil television programme working in a hospital.

"We had not heard anything from her until then, we didn't know whether she was still alive, whether something had happened to her," said Mohanthas.

Her father, Kandasamy Kumaran, 51, who has written to his MP, Iain Duncan Smith, appealing for help, said she had come into contact with some doctors and had said she was willing to help because of her background in biomedical science. She had also had training and work experience at a British hospital, he said.

"She was recruited by the Mullivaykkal hospital to help and nurse the injured. In fact, I saw her [on television] assisting and looking after the wounded patients," he said.

Gnanukumar's uncle, Navaratnasamy Naguleswaran, said the family had decided to make a public appeal because they were concerned that attempts to secure her release through the Foreign Office had so far proven unsuccessful.

He said the family had received a call last Friday from the Foreign Office to say that it was seeking her release, but that information since then had been sparse.

In an email to the family, the Foreign Office said that staff from the British high commission in Colombo had been in touch with the Sri Lankan ministry of defence, via a military liaison officer, to arrange a phone call between Gnanakumar and her family in the UK and "to expedite her early release".

The email said that the liaison officer would send instructions to his colleagues in Vavuniya to initiate the screening process of Gnanakumar and that once that was complete, "they will be able to take a decision on her release". A British high commission spokesman said: "We are in discussions with the government of Sri Lanka and are actively seeking her release and return to the UK."

Mahinda Samarasinghe, the Sri Lankan human rights minister, was unavailable for comment last night.

But last week, he insisted that the Sri Lankan government was determined to return those held in the camps to their homes at the earliest possible opportunity.

"These are our people and we are going to ensure that they are resettled," he said.

But he added that the government needed time to screen those being held in the camps to establish whether or not they were members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). An estimated 270,000 people are being held in camps in the north of Sri Lanka. The government says that it has so far identified more than 9,000 former LTTE members.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian from the no-fire zone on 13 May, Gnanakumar described the horrors of the final days of the 26-year war. A shell had exploded at the hospital where she was working, killing 47 people.

"This is really a disaster. I don't know really how to explain it. At the moment, it is like hell," she said at the time. "For us, shell bombing is just a normal thing now. It is like an everyday routine. We have reached a point where it's like death is not a problem at all."

The Sri Lankan government maintains that civilian casualties were the result of attacks by the LTTE designed to generate adverse publicity for the military. But the UN has described the civilian toll as "unacceptably high". Estimates for the death toll this year alone range from 8,000 to more than double that number. [courtesy: guardian.co.uk]

May 29, 2009

Poem: Sufferings in the Lionland

by Dr. A.R.M. Imtiyaz

Let’s celebrate suffering of others,
Let’s rejoice slaughter of others,
from street to street,
from village to village
in our Buddha’s lionland with milk rice!
who will say you are ruthless blood-lover?
say, simply they all are vicious terrorists!
so we celebrate their blood.
And you will guilelessly collect global support
from those who perform butchery
in their own holy lands
against their rebelling groups.

YMTC0530.jpg

[A young woman lies with an injured face at a hospital in Manik Farm displaced persons camp in Vavuniya in Sri Lanka, Saturday, May 23, 2009-AP pic]

**
Let’s enjoy human blood,
Let’s celebrate human agony,
who can silence you from killing?
say, simply they are terrorists and
kill them all to protect our lionland’s sovereignty!
And you will win global praise
for your merciless massacre-
20,000 ethnic others in that bloody beach
within few days between palm trees
in this caring Buddha’s lionland!
**
Let’s organize a victory parade for bloody oppressors,
Let’s ask our Moulavis,
to lead parade and enjoy kiribath
for ethnic others’ blood and sufferings
at the hands of brutal dharmista Army
who can say you are demeaning Almighty
with your disgraced praying?
say, we are great patriots, and-
just did it to please Almighty God!
And they will say-
you are great cronies in slaughtering human meat
in this compassionate buddha’s lionland.
**
Let’s claim terrorists are gone,
Let’s plan for our hegemony,
who can challenge your planning?
say, we have some quislings in our backyard
they will love our gory scheme!
And serenely you can preach dharmista
on the sufferings of the human group
in this devoted Buddha’s lionland.
**
Let’s call for unity under bleeding lion flag,
Let’s demand others to silence their dissent,
say, we all are none-but patriots
And impose your lionland-hegemony on others.
who will dare to say
you are a ruthless (co-)participant
in wiping out human group
in this forgiving Buddha’s lionland?
**
I agree,
flow of blood slows liberatiom,
but, you need to know
sufferings of others always form a new plan
beyond the oppressors’ imagination
because they would refuse to
live as prisoners of your kingdom
in this Buddha’s dreadful lionland.
**
I refuse to celebrate this day with Kiribath
because,
I hate to get pleasure
from others’ sufferings and blood
And refuse to accept
your ruthless supremacy.
|||

May 30, 2009
USA.

UN must publicize civilian casualty figures-Amnesty International

Source: Amnesty International (AI)

Date: 29 May 2009

The United Nations must immediately publicize its estimate of the number of civilians killed by the two sides in the final weeks of fighting in Sri Lanka, Amnesty International said.

An investigation by the Times newspaper in Britain, drawing on confidential UN sources, stated that more than 20,000 civilians were killed in the last few weeks of the conflict, and suggested that most of them were killed as a result of shelling by the Sri Lankan government.

"Amnesty International received consistent testimony indicating that war crimes were committed by both sides in the conflict, and has called for an independent international investigation," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Director. "The Times' report underscores the need for this investigation and the UN should do everything it can to determine the truth about the 'bloodbath' that occurred in northeast Sri Lanka."

On Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution that ignored the plight of more than a quarter of a million displaced Sri Lankans now confined in internment camps by the Sri Lankan military. The resolution failed to call for a fact-finding mission to inquire into allegations of serious violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law by Sri Lankan forces and by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE).

Amnesty International continues to receive consistent reports of widespread and serious human rights violations facing the displaced people, including enforced disappearance, extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill-treatment, forced recruitment by paramilitary groups and sexual violence.

"The UN must address the war crimes and grave human rights violations that have occurred - and could still be occurring - in Sri Lanka," Sam Zarifi said. "The Human Rights Council's decision not to call for specific measures to protect Sri Lankans made a mockery of the Council, but it doesn't mean the end of the international community's responsibility to respond to this ongoing crisis."

Despite repeated calls and the gravity of the situation, the Sri Lankan government continues to restrict access to the camps by international humanitarian organizations, including the UN and the Red Cross (ICRC).

Amnesty International acknowledges the importance of the role of the international community in supporting the Sri Lankan people through providing humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter, health care and returning home displaced civilians. These efforts, however, also need to be accompanied by specific measures to ensure respect for the full range of the human rights.

"There are many cruel similarities in the suffering of the Palestinian civilians who were trapped in Gaza during the Israeli operation in December and January and the Sri Lankan civilians who were trapped in the so called 'no-fire zone'," said Sam Zarifi. "The Human Rights Council established a fact-finding mission which will now look at violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by both sides in Gaza. By not establishing a similar fact-finding mission for Sri Lanka, the Human Rights Council has demonstrated deplorable selectivity and double standards."

For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email: press@amnesty.org

International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK
www.amnesty.org

Journalists trying to cover fate of Tamils are threatened, obstructed

Statement by RSF

Reporters Without Borders is extremely worried by statements by Sri Lankan officials, including army commander Gen. Sarath Fonseka, that journalists who visited areas formerly controlled by the Tamil Tiger rebels will be prosecuted.

At the same time, access to refugee camps and Tamil areas in general is still severely regulated, preventing the press from obtaining information about the fate of the Tamil population. Journalists and witnesses who dared to speak out have been intimidated and arrested.

“The war is over,” Reporters Without Borders said. “There is no longer any reason for the army to impose so many restrictions on media working in the Tamil areas, including restrictions on access to refugee camps. The United Nations – which deliberately minimised the suffering of Tamil civilians, according to the French newspaper Le Monde – should make an effort to obtain unrestricted access to refugee camps for the press and humanitarian aid workers.”

A humanitarian aid worker said: “At the checkpoints installed on the roads leading to Tamil areas, soldiers always ask the same question: ‘What are you going to do there?’.” Journalists are turned back if they lack official authorisation. The few foreign journalists who have covered the Tamil camps have been targeted by the government. A TV crew working for Britain’s Channel 4 was expelled.

Most of the Sri Lankan media have not sent reporters to the Tamil areas. The press have only managed to get into these areas when there have been visits by Sri Lankan and international official such as UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been allowed to visit some detention camps.

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of three Tamil doctors – Thangamuttu Sathiyamorthi, Thurairaja Varatharajan and V. Sunmugarajah – who have been held since 18 may for providing the international media with information about the humanitarian situation in the Vanni district. ICRC representatives were allowed to see them in Colombo.

The army is trying to identify Tamils who provided information to the foreign press. A humanitarian aid worker who visited a camp near Vavuniya told Reporters Without Borders that members of Tamil paramilitary groups have been infiltrated into some camps with the aim of identifying those who are trying to get their stories to the media.

The army recently blocked the arrival of several dozen nuns who had obtained health ministry permission to visit camps to help refugees, especially those who have been psychologically traumatised.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the way Vavuniya-based journalist Mahamuni Subramaniam, a stringer for various news media including Reuters, has been treated. He was arrested on 14 May while covering the justice minister’s visit to the Ramanathan refugee camp.

Claiming that only journalists with the ITN and Rupavahini TV stations were allowed to film or take pictures of the minister’s meeting with a general, the police confiscated his expensive camera and still have not returned it to him, although he has petitioned the High Court for its return.

“During these inquiries once Major General Chandrasiri came out and verbally abused me saying I am a LTTE suspect and ordered the military to check me thoroughly. When I claimed that I am a reporter for Reuters, he vehemently said all foreign journalists are working against his homeland”, Subramaniam said in a letter.

A report in Le Monde yesterday accused the United Nations, especially the secretary-general’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, of deliberately playing down the number of Tamil casualties during the fighting so as not to anger the government and thereby jeopardise the UN’s ability to continue operating in the country. An estimated 20,000 Tamils died in the fighting.

A resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 27 May praising the Sri Lankan government was an insult to the Tamil victims, Reporters Without Borders added.

Prabhakaran: Powerful symbol of Tamil armed struggle

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The evolution and growth of the armed struggle for the goal of Tamil Eelam saw many Tamil militant groups emerge across the politico-military horizon. There was a time when nearly 34 outfits-big and small-existed.

Among all these, the single organization that kept the Tamil armed struggle alive was none other than the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) led by its charismatic leader Thiruvengadam Velupillai Prabhakaran.

From its de-jure birth on May 5th 1976 to its de-facto death on May 18th the LTTE under Prabhakaran fought on relentlessly towards its avowed objective of a separate Tamil state until the very last. [Please cliack here to read in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

London Times: 20,000 Civilian Deaths in Sri Lanka Endgame

By VOA News

British newspaper The Times is reporting more than 20,000 civilians were killedin the final push to end the rebellion in Sri Lanka.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tamils were trapped in the war zone as rebel Tamil Tigers and government forces battled around them.

The Times says its independent investigation, including aerial photographs, official documents, witness accounts and expert testimony, show more than 20,000 of these civilians were killed, mostly by government forces.

The government claimed that its forces had stopped using heavy weapons on April 27 and observed a "no-fire zone" to shelter civilians. But The Times cites U.N. documents and witness accounts showing massive civilian deaths in May - an average of a thousand per day until May 19.

They say independent expert analysis confirms the rebels were not strategically in a position to cause most of the deaths.

A spokesman for the Sri Lankan High Commission denied the allegations, blaming the rebels for civilian deaths.

On Wednesday the United Nations Human Rights Council rejected calls for a war crimes investigation. They passed a resolution condemning the Tamil Tigers for using civilians as human shields and praised the government for liberating hundreds of thousands of them.

Human Rights Watch called the resolution "deeply flawed" and "a step backward for the Human Rights Council."

The rights group said the members "undermined the very purpose of the Council" by blocking " a message to the government that it needs to hear."

The Tamil Tiger rebels began their fight for a separate homeland for the ethnic Tamil minority in 1983. The U.N. estimates that as many as 100,000 people died in the more than two decades of conflict. [VOA News]

Peculiar parallels and conclusions: LTTE and al Qaeda

Letters to the Editor, published on The Wall Street Journal on May 29, 2009, regarding its editorial of May 20, 2009:

Your editorial "A Terrorist Defeat" (May 20) draws some peculiar parallels and conclusions. It states that "the battlefield defeat of the terrorist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) vindicates one of the major lessons of September 11: Most of the time terrorists have to be defeated militarily before political accommodation is possible."

The LTTE was the de facto government of large parts of northern Sri Lanka for much of the last two decades and constructed a military force that came close to resembling a regular army, even having crude naval and air wings. The LTTE had thus created an entity that could be defeated on the battlefield. The Sri Lankan army has now done this, but it remains to be seen whether Tamil terrorism has been defeated.

Also, the LTTE was an organization that could be negotiated with, albeit that those negotiations were doomed to failure. How then was this defeat a lesson from 9/11? The perpetrators of that crime were fanatical Islamists seeking martyrdom for an organization that can neither be militarily defeated nor negotiated with in the traditional sense. However, the best the opponents of al Qaeda terrorists of the 9/11 variety can hope for is containment. If these terrorists can be isolated from their wider population then, one would hope, more moderate influences can be given a chance to flourish.

Geography has given the Sri Lankan government the chance to defeat its foe in a way denied to coalition forces in Afghanistan, and the defeat of the LTTE as an organized military force is to be welcomed. However, concluding that this is a victory over "terrorism" and equating it to campaigns against terrorists who are fighting a wildly different conflict would be a mistake. - Toby Vass, New York

Sri Lanka did not defeat the Tamil struggle by its reckless military madness. It actually won due to behind-the-scenes diplomacy using the divide-and-conquer strategy. The government won over the moderate segments of the Tamil population over the years by wooing them with promises. Had Sri Lanka honored those commitments and given moderate Tamils a voice in the affairs of the state, it would have won this battle a long time ago, sidelining Velupillai Prabhakaran. Unfortunately, Sri Lanka kept reneging on its promises and the Tamils were driven back to being destructive in frustration.

Even now, it will be shortsighted to assume that the Tamil struggle is over. If Sri Lanka continues its policy of discriminating against the Tamil population, yet another Prabhakaran will rise to take over the reins. It is in the best interest of Sri Lanka that, at least this time around, it honors its promises and gives sufficient representation to the Tamils and addresses their grievances.

So, in the end it is not military might that brought peace to Sri Lanka, but the policy of "live and let live." This would be a lesson for people who are willing to heed it, whether they are in Iraq, Palestine or Pakistan. -Prakash D. Simha - Andover, Mass.

You commit a fundamental error in drawing parallels between Osama bin Laden and Velupillai Prabhakaran and consequently between al Qaeda and the Tamil Tigers.

Though the terrorist tactics are similar, the demands are not. As you point out, if you kill the bloodthirsty leader of the Tigers, political accommodation -- meeting some requests of the minority Tamil population -- becomes possible. If Osama bin Laden is killed, who exactly will sit down and negotiate for al Qaeda? And what demands could possibly be met? The LTTE's local terrorism in attempting to effect a political change, even when tactics and language of al Qaeda are co-opted, should not be confused with that of nonstate actors carrying out global terrorist acts in the name of untenable demands. In a post-9/11 world, such confusion can lead to misguided policies. - Troy Froebe, New York

May 27, 2009

UNHRC Member States Ignore Need for Inquiry Into Wartime Violations in Sri Lanka

Statement by HRW:

The United Nations Human Rights Council on May 27 passed a deeply flawed resolution on Sri Lanka that ignores calls for an international investigation into alleged abuses during recent fighting and other pressing human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today. The council held a special session on May 26 and 27, 2009, on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, a week after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by government forces.

"The Human Rights Council did not even express its concern for the hundreds of thousands of people facing indefinite detention in government camps," said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "The council ignored urgent needs and wasted an important chance to promote human rights."

The resolution passed with 29 votes in favor, 12 against, and 6 abstentions. It largely commends the Sri Lankan government for its current policies and fails to address serious allegations of violations of human rights and humanitarian law by government forces, focusing only on the abuses committed by the LTTE.

"It is deeply disappointing that a majority of the Human Rights Council decided to focus on praising a government whose forces have been responsible for the repeated indiscriminate shelling of civilians," said de Rivero. "These states blocked a message to the government that it needs to hear, to ensure access to displaced civilians and uphold human rights standards. They undermined the very purpose of the council."

A majority of council members - including China, South Africa, and Uruguay - ignored the call for accountability and justice for victims by the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay. Instead, the resolution adopted reaffirms the principle of non-interference in the domestic jurisdiction of states, a step backward for the Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said.

During the special session, Pillay called for an independent international investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the recent fighting, including those specifically responsible. UN estimates say that more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting in Sri Lanka since late January 2009.

"The images of terrified and emaciated women, men, and children fleeing the battle zone ought to be etched in our collective memory," Pillay said. "They must spur us into action."

The rejected resolution deplored abuses by both government forces and the LTTE, urged the government to cooperate fully with humanitarian organizations and to provide protection to civilians and displaced persons, and made an appeal to the Sri Lankan government to respect media freedom and investigate attacks against journalists and human rights defenders. It also called on the UN high commissioner for human rights to keep the council informed about the situation on the ground.

Human Rights Watch said that Brazil, Cuba, India, and Pakistan led efforts to prevent the passage of a stronger resolution that was put forward by the 17 members of the council that convened the Special Session: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Mauritius, Mexico, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine, Uruguay, and the United Kingdom.

Human Rights Watch in particular commended Argentina, Chile, the Czech Republic, Mauritius, Mexico, and Switzerland for their efforts on behalf of a stronger resolution.

"These nations negotiated hard to uphold the council's mandate to respond effectively to human rights emergencies," de Rivero said. "It is regrettable that they were not supported by the majority."

Human Rights Watch said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had regrettably undercut efforts to produce a strong resolution with his recent comments in Sri Lanka. Ban publicly praised the government for "doing its utmost" and for its "tremendous efforts," while accepting government assurances, repeatedly broken in the past, that it would ensure humanitarian access to civilians in need.

Ban also distanced himself from strong language used in April by the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, John Holmes, who warned that the fighting in Sri Lanka could result in a "bloodbath." Unlike Pillay, Ban also failed to press for an international inquiry.

"Secretary-General Ban shares the blame for the Human Rights Council's poor showing on Sri Lanka," de Rivero said. "This adds to a crisis in confidence in UN bodies to speak out clearly on pressing human rights issues."

Observations on the LTTE from a Kurdish Nationalist Comrade

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

As readers would have noticed the piece "last days of Thiruvengadam Velupillai Prabhakaran" has attracted many readers and comments. Among these comments was one by A kurdish nationalist , Shexmus Amed. It was a detailed in depth comment and obviously heartfelt but well thought-out.

I feel that these observations deserve to be read widely. So I've posted it on my blog this time and hope many will read and digest what is said.

Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with some of the points it would be good for all of us to know how another observer from a "transnational Nation" struggling for a homeland of its own perceives the LTTE led armed struggle.

As for me it was quite refreshing to see a totally different perspective from that of myriad western and Indian journalist views of recent developments. [Click here to read in full~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

May 26, 2009

NY Times: No Victory in Sri Lanka

NY Times Editorial-May 27, 2009

NYTTC0527.jpg

[Recent NYT Editorials on Sri Lanka]

Even after declaring victory in Sri Lanka’s 26-year civil war, the country’s leaders seem unable to distinguish between the enemy — the brutal but apparently vanquished Tamil Tiger separatists — and innocent bystanders. Despite appeals from Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, and from others, the government has not given international aid organizations full access to government-run camps, where an estimated 280,000 civilians are said to be in desperate need of food, water and medical care.

The Tamil Tigers have a history of using civilians as human shields and the government claims it must screen out rebels hiding in the camps. But aid workers suspect other motives, including a desire to deny access to witnesses who may have seen abuses by government forces. In the last months of the fighting, President Mahinda Rajapaksa callously rejected international pleas for a cease-fire to let civilians escape the war zone, while his troops shelled the area.

We support the call by Navi Pillay, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, for an international investigation into possible war crimes committed by both sides. The United Nations Human Rights Council is debating the issue this week in Geneva.

After killing most of the rebels, including the Tigers’ ruthless leader, the government is now offering reconciliation with the Tamil minority. We hope this is more than just lip service.

It must be prepared to forge a political settlement that gives Tamil civilians, who make up about 12 percent of the population, more autonomy in provinces where historically they have lived. It must also end all abuses, including restrictions on movement, and politically motivated killings. And it must work swiftly to resettle civilians back in their villages.

The government has asked for international help to rebuild. Foreign donors should make clear that any support is dependent on an agreement to open up the camps to international aid workers.

Some experts fear that President Rajapaksa and his government view all Tamils — long oppressed by the Sinhalese majority — as supporters of the Tigers. Most were driven to the guerrillas as a desperation move after decades of abuse. Until the government treats all of its citizens fairly, there is no chance for the peace that President Rajapaksa has promised his country. [courtesy: NY Times]

India will pay heavily for Sri Lanka "policy" of revenge against LTTE

by K.P. Nayar

The death of Velupillai Prabhakaran brought back a flood of memories. If history is to determine the day when India’s pre-eminence in all of South Asia began its decline, it would be November 17, 1986. Prabhakaran, the founder of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, would be one of the characters who set in motion a process that brought about this decline. And if history is to fix the responsibility on a single individual for triggering the onset of that decline, it would be P. Chidambaram, who was then the naïve minister of state for internal security in Rajiv Gandhi’s government.

LTTETC0526.jpg

[Protesters hold portraits of slain Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran during a rally against Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the southern Indian city of Chennai May 21, 2009-Reuters pic]

On November 17, 1986, the curtain rose on the second summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Bangalore. Prabhakaran was flown in by the Indian government from his LTTE base in Chennai in the hope that under Indian auspices, he would find a meeting ground with the high-level Sri Lankan delegation at the SAARC summit led by the then president, J.R. Jayewardene. A four-member team of Indian officials, led by the then minister of state for external affairs, Natwar Singh, burnt the midnight oil in an effort to persuade Prabhakaran to agree to what Jayewardene was offering the Tamils, at least half way. But Prabhakaran was adamant, and would agree to nothing. He was flown back to Chennai without the breakthrough that India wanted.

Rajiv Gandhi was still the highly motivated, hands-on prime minister who sought quick results. He had broken with his mother’s Sri Lanka policy and wanted to moderate, and gradually end, Indian support for the Tamils on the island. Rajiv was taken in by the glib talker that Jayewardene was. The consequences of how Jayewardene, the “fox” as he was known for his cunning, trapped Rajiv into getting India embroiled on the island through the Indian Peace Keeping Force are now history.

Rajiv was petulant that his efforts at mediation in Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict had been frustrated by Prabhakaran in Bangalore, according to conversations that this columnist has had with the dramatis personae of the IPKF saga then and over the years. This was the fourth time that the LTTE leader had stood steadfast against the government in Colombo and Rajiv’s new Sri Lanka policy: he had done it twice before in Thimpu, at meetings orchestrated by New Delhi, and once in Chennai.

It was then that Chidambaram, who was part of Rajiv’s inner circle, proceeded to transform his prime minister’s annoyance into action. To send Prabhakaran a message that he cannot get a free lunch from India, Chidambaram’s ministry directed the Tamil Nadu police to confiscate all the communication equipment at their bases in the state that the LTTE was using to contact its cadre in Sri Lanka. Prabhakaran proved to be more politically savvy than either Rajiv or Chidambaram. He went on a highly publicized fast in Chennai, which evoked much sympathy among Indian Tamils.

Caught unawares, Chidambaram then foolishly issued a statement that the seizure of the communication equipment by the Tamil Nadu police was done without consulting his ministry, which, in fact, had initiated the action, according to an account of the incident by J.N. Dixit, then India’s high commissioner in Colombo, in his book, Assignment Colombo.

It was at this point that M.G. Ramachandran, then chief minister of Tamil Nadu, proved that he was more than a match for both Rajiv and Chidambaram. He had gone along with the broad contours of Rajiv’s new Sri Lanka policy and cooperated with the young prime minister whom he liked. But Chidambaram’s statement blaming the Tamil Nadu police was a bolt from the blue. It had the potential of handing over a pro-Sri-Lankan-Tamil vote-bank in the southern state to MGR’s rival, M. Karunanidhi of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. MGR simply returned all the communication equipment his police had seized to the LTTE.

Prabhakaran realized after this incident that he could no longer rely on India if he were to expand his operations against Colombo. Within a month, he began moving his operational base out of Chennai to Jaffna, according to intelligence dossiers that this columnist has seen of that period. Gradually, India began to lose control and influence on the Tamil movement in Sri Lanka.

Would the history of southern South Asia have been different if India had not attempted to force Prabhakaran into compromises he was not yet willing to consider? Would Prabhakaran have been compelled to move to Jaffna and engage in desperate acts if Chidambaram had not initiated the seizure of his vital communications equipment? Would India then have had greater influence on Prabhakaran, and perhaps even prevented Rajiv’s assassination? The prospects for historians with one of the most fascinating periods of Tamil ethnic churning in South Asia are tantalizing indeed.

There is a remarkable account in Dixit’s book about the “viceroy” — as Dixit was known in Colombo — telling the Sri Lankan president that “India would not watch idly Tamil civilians being oppressed by Sri Lanka’s security forces in Jaffna or in the eastern province”. The account continues to the point where a high commissioner warns a head of state to “consider the implications” of his prime minister’s statement on Sri Lanka. Dixit reflected the pre-eminence that India always enjoyed not in Colombo alone, but in Kathmandu, Male, Thimpu and, to a lesser extent, in Dhaka and Kabul.

The next generation of Indians will only be able to look wistfully back on those glorious days when India was not just important in South Asia but the single most important factor in regional security and diplomacy. Once Rajiv decided that what he considered fair play was more important than realpolitik, there was no stopping the slide for Indian strategic interests, beginning in Sri Lanka and spreading elsewhere in South Asia. This columnist knows of a successor to Dixit having been made to wait in the ante-room of the Sri Lankan president’s office for four hours — despite having a confirmed appointment — before the president would see the high commissioner. The president was making a point. The high commissioner’s wait merely reflected the realities of India’s waning influence.

In 1986, India completely stopped all assistance to Tamil groups in Sri Lanka. But that did not help bring peace to the island. Nor did it increase goodwill for India, either from the Sinhalese or from the Tamils on the island. More important, it set in motion a process by which India’s foothold in Sri Lanka was first reduced to a toehold before even that was lost. In 1990, the former Mossad agent, Victor J. Ostrovsky, published a best-selling account of his years with the Israeli foreign intelligence agency, By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer. The book has bizarre details of how Mossad simultaneously trained both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan army’s special forces.

Forced to the wall, once India stopped dealing with them at least five years before Rajiv was assassinated, the Sri Lankan Tamils took help from wherever they could get it. Many of the world’s notorious terrorist gangs aided the LTTE in return for money or for other quid pro quo. At the same time, the Sinhalese turned to the Pakistanis for arms and for training for the Sri Lankan army.

In recent years, led by the national security adviser, M.K. Narayanan, revenge became a substitute for India’s Sri Lanka policy: revenge for Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, revenge against Sri Lankan Tamils for exposing and getting the better of the Intelligence Bureau during the years when Narayanan led it, revenge for the successful penetration of the Research and Analysis Wing, the external intelligence agency, whose plans for Sri Lanka were known on the island and in Washington even before the prime minister’s office on Raisina Hill was briefed about them.

In the coming years, India will have to pay a heavy price for having abdicated any semblance of a Sri Lanka policy. China, which helped fund and train the effort to defeat the LTTE more than anyone else, will soon get its proverbial pound of flesh when it completes the construction of a billion-dollar port in the Sri Lankan fishing spot of Hambantota which will be used to service and refuel Chinese naval operations in the Indian Ocean. Of more immediate concern for Narayanan’s successor, however, will be the task of dealing with Sri Lankan Tamil refugees who are certain to flock to India once Colombo begins colonizing former Tamil areas, now that the LTTE has been eliminated. [courtesy: The Telegraph]

"Race" Colours Media Coverage of Tamil Protests in Canada

by Ashifa Kassam

Sunday morning. 10 a.m. While the rest of the world might be up and at it, I'm fast asleep. That is, until the church bells down the street start their fierce ringing.

Grudgingly, I wake up. And I wonder -- would my neighbourhood be so tolerant of the morning bells if they came not from a church, but from a temple? Or a mosque?

[pix by Andrew Louis]

The answer to my question may lie in the protests that ensnared Toronto and Ottawa these past months, demanding an end to the violence in Sri Lanka. The protesters garnered their fair share of media attention, but not for the reasons you may expect.

There was little focus on the cause of the protests, or on the political inaction that has greeted their months-long campaign to draw attention to the genocide through letter-writing, handing out pamphlets, parliamentary lobbying and protests.

Instead the focus has been on the instigators of the protests. And -- more specifically -- on the fact that many of these instigators are hyphenated Canadians.

While mainstream media often finds it suffice to define protests by their cause, these ones have been defined by ethnicity. These protesters have not been labelled Canadians, but Tamil-Canadians, Tamils and sometimes even just as immigrants.

Once ethnicity is established, the media coverage often veers into one of two paths. One path regurgitates the complaints of public disturbance and the implied question of what right these hyphenated Canadians have to disturb the public.

The second line of coverage is a subtle collection of lessons, courtesy of predominantly white newsrooms across Canada, on what a Canadian is, how they should act and what they look like.

Here are the lessons I've learned so far: non-white Canadians shouldn't disrupt other "real" Canadians. Non-white Canadians shouldn't care about what happens beyond our borders, and particularly in their ancestral homeland. Non-white Canadians shouldn't imagine an expanded role for Canada on the world stage. Non-whites should be more concerned about their fellow Canadians ensnarled in traffic than the slaughter of non-whites halfway around the world.

It goes on: if you came here from another country -- you will never be a real Canadian, despite what your citizenship certificate says. Simply being non-white is enough to label you as an immigrant -- those polite terms of first, second and third generation Canadians don't apply to non-whites. Democracy is voting every few years -- anything more is asking too much from your elected officials. Non-white Canadians protesting should carry Canadian flags, so that white Canadians know where your allegiances lie.

Since these protesters took to the streets, media has been openly questioning what democratic rights minority groups in Canada have and what causes they should be allowed to support.

The boundaries between "real" Canadians and the rest of us are reinforced by the "us and them" language that has strongly characterized the media coverage. The Toronto Star editorialized that the inconvenience the Tamil community was causing undermines "any sympathy that the rest of us might have felt for their cause." Exactly who were they speaking for when they evoked the "rest of us?"

In the Globe and Mail, columns have bordered on ridiculous, begging answers as to why blatant ignorance earns column space in a national newspaper. Margaret Wente boasts of not previously knowing of the existence of any Tamil communities in Canada, adding "there are many mini-nations in our midst. And most of us don't know anything about them." In a country where nearly one in five people belongs to one of these "mini-nations," what is she talking about? And where does she work, live and play that she is not exposed to any of these communities in one form or another?

For her colleague Christie Blatchford, being non-white in Canada means being potentially illegal. She writes, "we live in a country where we don't even know how many of our fellows are Tamils from Sri Lanka, but are simultaneously asked to accept on faith that they are properly and legally here and to extend to them every privilege conferred by Canadian citizenship -- and to suck it up without complaint."

These columnists are leading this racist dance, and many readers are gladly following, responding with comments urging the protesters to go back to where they came from (even though many were born in Canada), charging that they are all on welfare, chiding them for wanting too much from our elected politicians and ultimately begrudging them for not living up to the standard of Canadian-ness that the media purports.

Some of the problem lies in the weaknesses of most newsrooms across Canada to report on race and identity, particularly when it comes to the hyphenated among us.

Immigrants, as well as first, second and third generation Canadians who are visible minorities abound in big cities. Our skin colour marks us, inescapably, as another type of Canadian. For most of us, the search for our identity lands us in a tangled mess of our ancestors' homeland and Canada. Our allegiances aren't limited to one country, but instead pay homage to the myriad of cultures that form our identity.

It is this diversity that could ultimately be Canada's strength on the international stage -- but don't rely on media to report on that.

COURTESY:RABBLE

Urgent measures Needed for human rights protection in Sri Lanka - Amnesty International

by Amnesty Interantional

Amnesty International welcomes the Human Rights Council’s attention to the serious crisis unfolding in Sri Lanka. Even as the armed conflict in Sri Lanka appears to have come to an end, more than a quarter of a million civilians displaced by the fighting are held in de facto internment camps where they live in difficult conditions without adequate security, food, water, and medical care. Amnesty International is gravely concerned at receiving consistent and credible reports of widespread and serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearances; extra-judicial executions; torture and other ill-treratment, forced recruitment to paramilitary groups and entrenched impunity for human rights violations.

Amnesty International notes the pledges made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his speech of 19 May before the Sri Lankan parliament, during which he proclaimed his aim to ensure that “All the people of this country should live in safety without fear and suspicion. All should live with equal rights.” He went on to state that what Sri Lanka needs is “cooperation to bring a better life to these people. I believe that the world community will also extend that cooperation to us.”

Amnesty International encourages the Human Rights Council to consider this situation carefully and to work with the Sri Lankan government to guarantee immediate and unimpeded access to the camps and to dispatch international monitors to support efforts to halt the deterioration in the country’s human rights situation.

Amnesty International has received alarming reports about conditions facing the displaced civilians currently held in overcrowded camps. Our concerns are aggravated by the fact that the Sri Lankan government has curtailed access to the camps by international humanitarian agencies, including from the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Aid workers who have information from inside the camps paint a harrowing picture of the difficulties facing the displaced, most of whom have survived weeks under heavy combat and reached the camps sometimes badly injured, malnourished, exhausted and traumatised.

The Sri Lankan government, which is ultimately responsible for the well-being of all Sri Lankan citizens, did not adequately prepare for this exodus, despite repeated warnings from local and international humanitarian agencies. As a result, thousands of the survivors lack adequate shelter. Reports indicate that in some cases up to 12 people are sharing a tent and do not even have basic essentials such as their daily food allowance or access to safe water.

Sri Lankan authorities prevent the displaced from leaving the camps, returning home or resettling in another part of the country, in contravention of international law and standards. Civilians held at these camps suspected of LTTE sympathies are particularly vulnerable to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, both tactics that the government and its allied militias have been known to employ in significant numbers over the past few years. A recent report from the Coalition to Stop the Use of the Child Soldiers indicated that anti-LTTE paramilitary organizations are actively recruiting children inside the camps. The militarisation of camps also significantly increases the risk of sexual violence.

It is impossible to verify these reports given the restrictions, imposed by the government of Sri Lanka , on access to the camps. The importance of independent monitors to assess protection concerns at the camps holding the displaced cannot be overstated. The Human Rights Council is already aware of the difficulties experienced by UN agencies and the appeals by the International Committee of the Red Cross to be able to perform their functions adequately. The international media continue to be denied access to the north. Last week Amnesty international delegates were refused entry visas to the country. The lack of independent monitoring creates a climate which allows for grave human rights violations to be committed on a large scale.

It is important to note that the human rights issues in Sri Lanka are older, broader and more pervasive than those related to the current humanitarian crisis situation. There are many urgent and grave human rights violations related to the conduct and the aftermath of the military campaign against the LTTE. However, it is important to keep in mind that those problems exist against a backdrop of a long history of pervasive serious human rights violations, weak institutional mechanisms to protect human rights, and a culture of impunity for perpetrators. In addition, Sri Lankans living in areas under LTTE control suffered from years of abuses, including harassment, threats, enforced disappearances and the recruitment of child soldiers; the LTTE quickly and brutally silenced any critical voices within the Tamil community.

Disappointingly, Sri Lanka ’s once vibrant civil society, and in particular its media, has faced severe threats to freedom of expression over the past few years in Sri Lanka . There have been increasing instances of physical attacks on the media and other critics, including the recent assassination of the editor of the Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickramatunge. Human rights defenders and journalists across the island report increased attacks and intimidation, including death threats. Sixteen journalists have been killed since 2006 and over 10 journalists have fled the country this year alone for safety. The perpetrators of such human rights violations have never been brought to justice. These attacks take place against a backdrop of often vitriolic government statements against any criticism, accusing dissenting journalists or human rights activists of treason or supporting the Tamil Tigers.

The Government of Sri Lanka says that it is committed to winning the peace. Effective protection of human rights will be an essential element of winning the peace. The Government of Sri Lanka should welcome, not resist, cooperation with the Human Rights Council and the international community.

Amnesty International calls on the Human Rights Council to:

• Urge the government of Sri Lanka to give immediate and full access to national and international organizations and observers, including aid agencies, human rights organizations and journalists, to all relevant parts of the country to monitor the situation and provide a safeguard against human rights violations. The UN and the ICRC must have immediate and full access, according to their mandates, to critical locations - notably at displaced persons' registration and screening points, all places of detention and camps for the displaced - in an effort to prevent violations such as arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution. Such access is equally critical to ensure that much needed humanitarian assistance reaches displaced people in a timely manner.

• Set up a fact-finding mission to inquire into allegations of serious violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law by Sri Lankan forces and by the LTTE in the recent military hostilities, with a view to establishing the facts and making recommendations on how best to ensure accountability for those violations and abuses.

• Call for the establishment of an effective UN human rights monitoring mission, to assist the government of Sri Lanka in implementing legislative and other reforms that would safeguard human rights for all Sri Lankan citizens.

• Decide to remain seized of the situation in Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the Special Session, which should be the beginning of sustained attention by the HRC to the situation in the country.

(Written statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by the Amnesty International (AI), a non-governmental organization in special consultative status)

I have a dream: A holiday in Jaffna!

by Jayatissa Perera

All eyes were glued to the TV watching the humanitarian operation of the Sri Lanka Army when thousands of fleeing Tamil hostages were rescued from the jaws of Prabhakaran. Every hostage had evidently lived without a chance of mixing or living with a Sinhala or knowing what a Sinhalese looked like except perhaps through the doctored video footages shown by Prabhakaran's recruiting agencies that visited villages and schools in the Tamil areas. The impression given was that the Sinhalese were monsters and enemies of the innocent Tamils. It was a very successful recruiting trick of Prabhakaran. When the fleeding Tamil hostages were greeted by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces who saved them they were surprised to find that the so-called Sinhala people were not 'the man-eaters of Kumaon' portrayed by Jim Corbett, the British hunter in the Himalayas.

The fact is we prejudge people before we ever lay eyes on them. We commonly picture professions, nationalities, races, religions, through the coloured glasses of prejudice; that is prejudgement.

In an American university a group of students were shown several photographs of beautiful but unidentified women, and asked to rate each in terms of "beauty", "intelligence", "sociability" and so on.

Some months later the professor showed the same students the same photographs, this time with fictitions Jewish, Muslim, French and American names to each picture. At once the ratings changed. The "American" young women suddenly looked prettier and smarter!

This irrational stereotyping begins very young in life. The American child who watches TV learns to spot the Good Guys and the bad Guys. There are TV games promoting such prejudice.

The box office hit "JAWS" was a film that made children think that all sharks are man-eaters.

Prabhakaran made use of this strategy by which all non-Tamils were labelled as anti-Tamil. The Muslims and the Sinhalese, according to him, were the Bad Guys. It will take some time to bridge this gap. Our Buddhists who go to distant countries to spread the message of 'Metta' or loving kindness should begin their charity right here, at hoe, in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka. Every Buddhist monk must learn Tamil.

As President Mahinda Rajapaksa wisely said when he opened the new sessions of our supreme legislature on 19/5 there is no majority and minority in this country, and he denounced the concept among the Sinhalese that they belong to a privileged section. The only way to prevent further communal uprisings in this country is to stop conditioning, shaping, moulding, the minds of humans, especially our children, with ideologies that promote antagonism between man and man with casteism, racism or whatever that causes fragmentation in society. Where there is division in any form, psychological division as Sinhala and Tamil or Buddhist and Muslim, the mind and the heart are broken up, divided. Psychological divisions finally lead to war.

Sir Oliver Goonetilleka, a former Governor-General of this country, once said that when you meet a person face to face the enmity that existed prior to such a meeting begins to disappear. We know how during the Sinhala and Tamil New Year in April we meet all our relatives with a sheaf of betel. The idea behind it is to meet face to face and that immediately makes us forget our previous quarrels! The Sinhala way of saying goodbye is 'gihin ennam'. The translation is I shall go but will come again. Those who are snobbish about Sri Lankan English fail to realise the psychology behind our expressions like 'pavoo' in Sinhala and 'paavam' in Tamil. 'Aney sin no?' is a great healer in times of distress. Both the Sinhalese and the Tamils, unlike the British, have sympathetic hearts and you have to listen to them to observe how their expressions mirror their feelings.

Soon after our marriage, my wife Elaine and I decided to spend a holiday in the Jaffna peninsula. The Jaffna, Point Pedro and KKS resthouses were fully manned by Tamils and you won't believe that the resthouse keepers treated us not as we were visitors but as their family friends! My wife was so thrilled with the hospitality of the Tamils the next holiday was spent in Tamilnadu!

Both of us had lived in many European countries but our holidays with the Tamils were the most unforgettable.

Elaine's one dream was to go back at least to the Jaffna peninsula for a most enjoyable holiday but she passed away in 2006.

Now my dream is Elaine's dream.

Road Map to National Unity and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka

By Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

"He abused me, he struck me, he overpowered me, he robbed me. Those who harbour such thoughts do not still their hatred."

"Those who imagine evil where there is none, and do not see evil where it is- upholding false views, they go to states of woe." - (The Dhammapada)

The opportunity to re-orient Sri Lanka as a modern state, where every citizen has the same status and has equal rights and opportunities, has become possible with the end of the three decade old and brutal civil war. The war ended as brutally as both parties to the conflict had fought it. Although a major blight has been lift off the face of Sri Lanka, it has left in its wake almost 300,000 Tamils 'Internally Displaced'- euphemism for the most miserable and forlorn people on earth now. Misery of these innocent Tamils should touch the hearts and minds of every Sri Lankan, while evoking a sense of mass shame and guilt. Every Sri Lankan, dead or alive; Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher; politician and voter; rich and poor; academic and scribe; men and women; teachers and priests; farmers and workers; lawyers and judges; elite and proletariat, should bear responsibility for the series of events that unfolded since independence to culminate in the current human tragedy. None of us reacted, as we should have in the face of the unfolding and escalating evil. We are all guilty of complicity either by our silence or by our support!

While the Sinhala population is celebrating the hard-fought victory of the armed forces, the Tamil population is sullen and fearful. It is incumbent on the Sri Lankan government and the Sinhala people to allay Tamil fears and assure through their conduct and actions the Tamils too have very good reasons to be at least relieved, if not jubilant.

President Mahinda Rajapakse has rightly said in his recent speech (19/05/09) declaring victory in parliament,

"Protecting the Tamil speaking people of this country is my responsibility. That is my duty. All the people of this country should live in safety without fear and suspicion. All should live with equal rights. That is my aim. Let us all get together and build up this nation."

'It is necessary that we give these people the freedoms that are the right of people in all parts of our country. Similarly, it is necessary that political solutions they need should be brought closer to them faster than in any country or government in the world would bring."

The recently concluded war has affected their kind and their kin, to an extent, that was not foreseen by most Tamils. Their self -proclaimed messiah's have led them to hell. Tamils are also yet haunted by memories of the past, long before Tamil militancy loomed large on the Sri Lankan horizon and engulfed her. The Tamils are at their most vulnerable at present both psychologically, physically and socio-economically. They are a proud people who have been brought to their knees by forces beyond their control and for reasons they are not responsible. They are also victims of three decade long brain washing and, insidious and pernicious propaganda.

Sinhala celebrations should not turn jingoistic nor tolerate incidents that reinforce Tamil fears and fuel Tamil resentment. The suspicions of the Tamils vis-à-vis the hidden intentions of the government and sections of the Sinhala polity should be laid to rest by actions of the government starting now. Every word and action of the government and the Sinhala polity will be examined through the microscope by the aggrieved, sullen, fearful and suspicious Tamil polity. There are elements within the Tamil polity and within the Tamil Diaspora who will use these circumstances to invent and exaggerate incidents to fuel Tamil fears and suspicions. Tamils are now the most vulnerable to such dastardliness. Tamils are a people without leaders, but with many human-vultures circling above for a bite. They are a people who fear to hope.

Winning the war is going to prove relatively easy, compared to the efforts needed to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil population for the government of Sri Lanka. The coming months are bound to be the most critical, in the face of the enormity of the tragedy that has engulfed the Tamils and the nation. The government must not only act with bona-fide intentions but also appear to do so. Like Caesar's wife, the government must be above suspicion. The security of the Tamils should be foremost in the eyes of the government. There should be haste, determination and tangible outcomes in resolving the new problems that confront Tamils and those that have persisted since independence.

The following is a an outline of a road map to national unity and reconciliation in Sri Lanka, with a time frame, I think is necessary from both the Tamil and national perspectives:

A. IMMEDIATE OR SHORT TERM (6-12 MONTHS)

1. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)

a. A database for all IDPs should be established with as much details as possible with regard to individuals, their families and original areas of habitation.
b. IDP camps should be brought under civilian administration as soon as possible.
c. Reduce over-crowding in camps
d. Improve conditions – Nutrition, Health, Sanitation, and Children & Youth-education and vocational training. Pre-schools for the war-traumatized children are very essentials
e. Surgical, medical and psychiatric care, and rehabilitation programs for the war maimed.
f. Re-unifying separated family units.
g. Gainful employment for those fit and idling in the IDP camps.
h. Reduce gradually the military presence and increase police presence and patrolling.
i. Permit visitor interactions – family and friends- in specially designated areas in camps.
j. Permit those who want to leave camps to live with relatives or friends to do so, after personal undertakings and the necessary security checks.
k. Prevent access of Tamil ex-militant groups to IDP camps.

2. Reconstruction and resettlement of IDPs.

a. De-mining of war affected areas in a planned manner, starting with areas previously with large populations, first.
b. Re-building /repair of destroyed and damaged housing units.
c. Re-establishment of infra-structure and public services-electricity, water supply; schools; primary , secondary and tertiary health facilities; repair of roads; restoring public transport; and facilitation of trading activities.
d. Open the A-9 highway to Jaffna for public use and movement of goods.
e. Security and safety- Police services of the highest standards be restored and overt military presence minimized.

3. Re-settlement of IDPs in their original towns and villages.

4. Assistance to re-settled families in need for at least one year.

5. Rehabilitation of LTTE cadres in government custody.

a. Humane treatment and sympathy
b. Psychological therapy
c. Programs to re-integrate into society
d. Vocational training
e. Gainful employment
f. Re-unification with their families and social integration.

6. Program for surrender of LTTE cadres yet in hiding or mingling with general population

a. Amnesty be announced
b. Humane treatment of those surrendering.
c. Torture and forced confessions to be banned.
d. Rehabilitation
e. Vocational training
f. Gainful employment
f. Re-unification with their families and social integration.

7. Permit fishing and agricultural activities in restricted zones.

8. Interim Provincial Council with nominated membership and an appointed Management Council.

a. Should enjoy the full powers granted to the Provincial Councils under the 13th amendment to the constitution.
b. Should consist of able administrators, technocrats and emerging community leaders.
c. The ex-militant Tamil groups, who yet have armed cadres, should not be accommodated in the ‘Interim Councils’, until they are disarmed.

The inclusion of individuals from groups with armed cadres will reinforce suspicions of most Tamils that a ‘Vichy –France-like' situation is being imposed. The elections in the east and the aftermath have been an unhealthy precedent. The sensitivities of a large number Tamils, who saw hope in the LTTE and see a void without it, should be respected, if our national wounds are to be healed.

The debt of gratitude the government and the anti-LTTE Tamils may owe to these groups should not be paid at the expense of the disaffected Tamil population.

These group should preferably contest free and fair elections once 'Normalcy' returns and be endorsed by the people free from fear and intimidation.

d. The ‘Interim Council system’ to function for three years, until conditions in terms of security, population and socio-economic conditions return to normalcy.

e. The National Government should provide the resources, funding and advisory services for the ‘Interim Councils’ to carry out tasks effectively and efficiently.

f. The National Government to work through the ‘Interim Councils’ in the re-settlement, rehabilitation and re-building activities.

9. Armed groups: All groups, other than the police and armed forces, bearing arms for what ever reason, should be disarmed immediately. Armed cadres of these groups should be absorbed into the armed forces after suitable training.

10. All Colonization schemes and changes to demographic patterns:
The government should assure the Tamils and Muslims, changes to pre-war demographic patterns through devices such as colonization schemes will not be made. Clear, nationally accepted policies should be formulated with reference to land use and colonization schemes in the north and east.

11. Funding mechanisms:
Funding mechanisms constituted as joint ventures between the government and Diaspora groups should be set up at the earliest to involve the Diaspora in IDP care, re-settlement, rehabilitation, re-building and development activities.

12. Encourage organized groups from the rest of Sri Lanka (the so-called South) to participate in IDP care, re-settlement, rehabilitation and re-building programs.

13. Establish programs to permit physical/direct participation of the Diaspora in IDP care, re-settlement, rehabilitation and re-building activities.

14. Invite and facilitate private investments in agriculture, fisheries, education, health care, industry and infrastructure development.

15. Provide employment opportunities for the war-affected in rebuilding and development activities.

B. MEDIUM TERM (12-36 months)

1. Conclude the APRC process to achieve a Southern consensus and in consultation with the Tamil and Muslim polities the necessary constitutional changes should be made to,

a. Ensure equal citizenship and equal opportunities to minorities in all aspects of life
b. Greater devolution of power to ensure communities and provinces can manage their affairs to the greatest possible extent
c. Permit greater participation of the minorities at the level of the National
Government.
d. Implement constitutional provisions relating to the Tamil language to the fullest extent, as soon as possible.

2. Legislate to make words or deeds detrimental to the sensitivities and welfare of any community in Sri Lanka, a hate crime, severely punishable in law.

3. Re-settle the Muslims displaced from the Northern province and the Tamils and Muslims displaced from certain areas in the eastern province.

4. Progressively reduce the military presence among civil society, while increasing the police presence.

5. Reduce the extent and number of high security zones around military camps.

6. Restore property confiscated by the LTTE and the armed forces to their original owners.

7. Restore lands fraudulently possessed by those affiliated with the LTTE to their original owners.

8. Reinforce the principles of rule-of –law and due process in national life, to win the confidence of the disaffected, including the minorities.

9. National reconciliation and integration:

Organize activities and programs to bring about greater interaction between the different communities in Sri Lanka and educate the people at large about the need for reconciliation, mutual respect and mutual accommodation.

10. Recruitment into National Government services to be merit-based and dependent on tri-lingual capability.

11. Plan to make the tragedy that has destroyed much of the north and east, an opportunity to re- build with the needs of the 21st century and beyond in mind.

C. LONG TERM (3 years plus)

1. Elections to the Provincial Councils in the north and east to be held.

2. Military presence in the north and east to be the absolute minimum necessary to prevent the re-emergence of militancy and terrorism.

3. Tamil and Muslim youth be recruited into the armed and police services in larger numbers (at least in proportions to their populations).

4. Establish national super highways to permit rapid and comfortable travel between various points in the south to the north and east.

5. Enforce trilingual education at the elementary and secondary levels of education in every part of the island.

6. Automatic dual citizenship be granted to all Sri Lankans and their descendents who have obtained foreign citizenship

7. Create conditions for the Diaspora to return and/ or invest in Sri Lanka.

All the people in Sri Lanka should join hands with their government to build a new Sri Lanka, where the past if not forgotten is at least forgiven. The larger goals- national unity and the welfare of all people- should be borne in mind, in the face of problems and misunderstanding that are bound to arise over the coming years. The needs of the war-affected Tamils should be national priority and the efforts in this direction should be as focused as the war effort.

It is easy to find fault and destroy. It is easy to be angry and blind to consequences. It is much more difficult to be rational and objective in the face of provocations and propaganda. However, it is a crime to remain silent in the face of evil. It is a greater crime to consort with evil. Only true democracy can resolve these dilemmas. Democracy in Sri Lanka has to be genuine in every sense of the word if national unity and reconciliation are to be achieved. “Vox Populi, Vox Dei”- the voice of the people is the voice of God. If the voice of the larger population in our country is given an opportunity to be heard, justice and decency will assert themselves. We treat our people like village idiots, assuming they do not know, what is right. This has to come to an end. The system should tolerate criticism, debate, dissent and protest, within boundaries of law, and have mechanisms in place for the underlying messages to be heard and responded.

A swallow does not make a spring. Similarly, a few thugs, a few extremists and some eccentrics do not make our nation. They should not be permitted ever again to hold our nation to ransom! They are also not the voice of our people. We need to be patient and dogged to re-build our nation to become the beacon to the world. We need to be wise to pursue this lofty vision. We should evolve and support leaders who can take us towards this laudable goal. We can do it! We have to do it!

(the author was member of the Diaspora Group of 21 that visited Sri Lanka in late March ‘2009, at the invitation of the government. Inputs of a few other members of this group have been included in this document)

Govt conduct on IDPs will determine future Sinhala-Tamil relationship

by Udara Soysa

Sri Lankan government won a decisive battle against the Tamil Tigers. The thirty years of Tiger terror campaign came to a clear end. However, the next real war for the government is resettlement of internally displaced people, or IDPs, in Sri Lanka.

MFTC0526A.jpg

[Sri Lankan soldiers stand next to the queue of Tamil civilians waiting to receive food in the Manik Farm refugee camp located on the outskirts of northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya May 26, 2009-Reuters pic]

According to many media and human rights reports, the IDP camps are overcrowded. The UN chief claimed that these IDP camps are some of the worst places he had seen in his traveling. Some reports go on to castigate government of possible rapes and murderers taking place in these camps. Government clearly and firmly has denied all these allegations.

In addition, there are also reports that government had restricted access to the IDP camps. However, when the author questioned Dr. Rajiva Wijesinha, Secretary General of the Peace Secretariat, he denied the allegations: “Actually they (aid organizations) do have full access to the camps. There was much confusion last month, when there was no access to the conflict area, but Susan Rice for instance got it wrong when she asked for access to the camps, at a time when the UN and 52 agencies were functioning there.”

“Last week there was a moratorium on vehicles, since so many agencies having half a dozen vehicles each was a nuisance, in addition to a worry about some of them smuggling people out. Access however continues, and if people cannot walk in the camps, there is provision to keep a couple of vehicles inside to transport them round, but on leaving they must descend from the vehicle and go through the gate and get into another vehicle,” he further added.

In addition, a democratic Tamil activist who spoke conditions of anonymity fearing Tiger reprisals had a similar view: “IDP camps are set up under extremely difficult circumstances. Therefore having to manage thousands of refugees in the conditions they come is no joke. The western press is the most inhuman-hearted lot in the world. They want sensational news - horrible hounds that they are – and can aggravate any situation. You know what they did to Princess Diana. Then there was the danger of LTTE suicide bombers and even cadres creeping in - and you are aware arms were buried all over the Wanni with some dastardly intention.

The IDP camps were ideal for Tiger cadres to creep in. Then there are the INGOs and NGOs who haveunashamedly helped the Tigers. They would want to throw mud at the IDP camps. All sorts of elements went to action against the Government of Sri Lanka. In Tamil Nadu Tamil refugees are living in terrible camps some for twenty years or so,” he added

Meanwhile Professor S. Ratnajeevan H. Hoole, former vice chancellor of Jaffna University speaking to the author had a different view.

“My only agreement is that settling the IDPs is a challenge to the government. Look at the full picture. Tamils are suspicious of the government’s bona fides. The government has been repeatedly caught lying. It started with low numbers for the civilians stuck in the Vanni. As refugees came out these numbers were inflated without any reference to its previous claims. This was to now claim that the battle they were fighting was a hostage rescue operation".

"They also lied about the bombings of hospitals despite so many testimonies from reliable witnesses. Today it is about conditions in the camps. I am personally aware that some camps or refugee areas are out of access to aid workers and UN officials – despite the people you cite. Psychosocial care is prohibited to prevent IDP experiences from coming out. There are clear indications from government spokesmen that at least some of these IDPs are going to be locked up for years. "

"As a responsible news organization with obligations to your readers, you really need to stop quoting this government and report only what you yourself know to be true. The government by its own words and actions in this war has proved that it does not care two bits for its Tamil citizens and is just like the LTTE as far as I am concerned. Anything it says now is for propaganda purposes. Overcoming this image is the government’s real problem.

So long as these IDPs (who really have the most to celebrate about the demise of the LTTE since it treated them so badly) are to be caged with no proper care, the circumstances are ripe for another rebellion. Just look at what those at the highest levels of government tell us Tamils: ‘No more minorities. Tamils must not ask for anything. Twenty percent of you are Tigers. A Buddhist temple is to be built in Jaffna.’ I have never been so scared in my
life for our future as a people.”

Despite allegations and counter-allegations, one fact is clear. The government must resettle the IDP’s within a fixed timetable. The government conduct on IDPs during the next 8 or so months will determine Tamil-Sinhala relationships in the future, and so indicate if there really will be any change in the course of ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.

May 25, 2009

India, Pakistan back Lanka in 'rights battle'

India and Pakistan find themselves on the same side with Sri Lanka as Europe accuses Colombo of "war crimes" against the Tamils.

A special session of the UN Human Rights Council is due Tuesday in Geneva where Denmark and Britain are leading a vocal and sustained drive to pin down Sri Lanka. The deliberations could extend to Wednesday.

The meeting became possible after Denmark got together 17 of the UN body's 47 member countries to press for the special session to probe charges that Colombo violated human rights and committed "war crimes".

A minimum of 16 signatures is a must to convene a special session.

This follows the deaths of thousands - according to UN statistics - in the heavy fighting the past few months between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), leading to the decimation of the once formidable rebel group exactly a week ago.

Dayan Jayatilleka, Sri Lanka's ambassador and special representative to the UN in Geneva, alleged that a section of the West had attempted to prevent the military defeat of the LTTE and save at least a section of its leadership.
"Having failed, this (special session) is a punitive measure," Jayatilleka told IANS in a telephonic interview.

He alleged that the LTTE had enjoyed a degree of patronage in some Western countries and sought to know if these countries would ever accord a similar status to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Sri Lanka, he said, was confident of defeating any resolution detrimental to its interests with the help of friendly countries in which he listed India, Pakistan, Russia, China, Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua and Bolivia among others.

India and other countries are as much concerned as the others about human rights violations in Sri Lanka but resent the convening of a special session to discuss the issue.

The regular session of UN Human Rights Council is due in the third week of June, and Sri Lanka could have been discussed then.

The feeling in New Delhi is that some Western countries appear to be playing a larger game, perhaps setting a precedent to convene similar special sessions vis--vis other countries in the name of human rights. There is also growing disquiet over the way bodies like the UN Human Rights Council do not take seriously terror acts of powerful non-state actors such as the LTTE.

Britain, which along with Canada is home to tens of thousands of Tamils, has taken a visibly aggressive line against Sri Lanka, accusing its military of killing thousands in the name of fighting the LTTE.

A section of the West is also reportedly miffed with Colombo over the killing of a section of LTTE leaders who had apparently wanted to surrender to the army when the war was nearing its end.

Jayatilleka said it was regrettable that Sri Lanka was being pulled up when the world should be thanking it for crushing "one of the biggest brand names in the international terror market".

"They are playing a dangerous game of pandering to militarized lobbies in their own countries," he said, referring to Europe and the pro-LTTE Tamils. He warned that if Europe had its way at the special session, it would lead to "hardening of sentiments in Sri Lanka, narrowing of political space and be profoundly counter-productive".

[courtesy: The New Indian Express]

In Pictures: “I am blessed to be a deminer”

By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

“I have experienced the war. I have witnessed people’s suffering. As a result of this, I have decided to become a deminer to serve the people” said Kanagasabai Thayalachandran (31). He hails from Ezhalalai in Jaffna, but got displaced and moved to Vavuniya. He joined the Danish Demining Group in July 2004, and worked as a deminer. Now, he is a team leader and supervises 10 deminers. He is married and having a son and a daughter. He has worked in Kanniya, Vankalai, Kuchchaveli, Thiriyaai, Pulikandykulam, Mattuvil, Poonagar and Selvanagar.

DMTC6.JPG

Demined Anti-Personnel mine, which weighs 30 grams

It approximately takes half an hour to clear a square kilometer on smooth surface like beach front and almost an hour for normal soil. An hour a half is needed to clear bush areas because the shrubs have to be cleared first before beginning demining.

Kanagasabai Thayalachandran currently supervising his team, which does the demining in Selvanagar in Thoppur. It was a very hot day, when I met Kanagasabai Thayalachandran and his team. I was advised to wear the jacket and wiser all the time while being on the demining site. Kanagasabai Thayalachandran kept reminding me not to remove the wiser, as it was very difficult for me to take photos, and not to move away from the line. Kanagasabai Thayalachandran shared his experience on the site.

Why did you decide to become a deminer?

Kanagasabai Thayalachandran: I was born in Jaffna. I have suffered during the war. I have witnessed the suffering of my people. I wanted to do something different, which will serve the people in a small way. And, I have decide to become a deminer, although my family did not like my decision.

What did you think when you first went to a minefiled?

Kanagasabai Thayalachandran: I thought about my family, my wife and my children. When I first went to a minefiled I was afraid although I have undergone a proper training for three weeks. On the other hand I was confident. It was new experience for me. I wanted to clear the mines and make the space available for human habitat. I am proud that I am being part of team, which helps people to resettle after the demining.

How did you feel when you found the first mine?

Kanagasabai Thayalachandran: I was excited that, I found it without exploding. But, soon after finding it, I thought for awhile, how many lives would have been killed, if it exploded.

What is your message to the people?

Kanagasabai Thayalachandran: If they see a sign of mine or red sticks, they should not remove them. They should stay away from this area. And, if they find any Unexploded Ordnance, they should inform the demining group in their area. Especially, children should not play with them.

Will you encourage men and women to become deminers?

Kanagasabai Thayalachandran: Of course. This is not just a job, this is a service, which can be rendered to our people. I feel blessed to be a deminer, and continue to support our team. People get afraid as soon as they hear the word demining. But there is nothing to panic once we get a proper training and, be cautious on the minefield while working.

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Kangasabai Thayalachandran at the site in Selvanagar, Thoppur

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Minefield in Selvanagar, Thoppur

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Red flag and a sign board is put up at the beginning of the minefield

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Members of the team wear different colours to distinguish the task they perform in demining

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Deminer at Selvanagar

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Danish Demining Group has been working in Selvanagar since January 2008

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A kid carries a pot of water in Selvanagar

courtesy: HumanityAshore.org

Human Rights Council should demand immediate access and accountability

Statement by Amnesty International:

Amnesty International welcomes the decision by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to hold a Special Session on Sri Lanka on Tuesday 26 May.

“For the sake of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in Sri Lanka, as well as its own credibility, the Human Rights Council should ensure that the Sri Lankan government takes immediate and concrete steps to address this crisis, beginning with providing immediate, unhindered access to international aid workers and monitors,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director. “This is also an opportunity to establish an international commission of inquiry to address the long history of human rights violations by the government and abuses by the Tamil Tigers and other para-military groups.“

In its submission to the HRC, Amnesty International urges the Council to assist over 250,000 civilians who have been displaced by the fighting and are now held by the government in de facto internment camps where they live in difficult conditions without adequate security, food, water, and medical care. Many of these people have survived weeks under heavy combat and are badly injured, malnourished, exhausted and traumatised.

Amnesty International continues to receive consistent reports of widespread and serious human rights violations, including enforced disappearance, extra-judicial executions, torture and other ill-treratment, forced recruitment by paramilitary groups, and sexual violence.

“It is important to note that the human rights issues in Sri Lanka are older, broader and more pervasive than those related to the current humanitarian crisis situation,” said Sam Zarifi. The current catastrophe exists against a backdrop of pervasive human rights violations, weak institutional mechanisms to protect human rights and a culture of impunity for perpetrators that has continued for years.”

Amnesty International also points out that in addition, Sri Lankans living in areas controlled by the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) suffered from years of abuse, including harassment, threats, enforced disappearances and the recruitment of child soldiers. The LTTE quickly and brutally silenced any critical voices within the Tamil community.

Amnesty International calls on the Human Rights Council to:

Urge the government of Sri Lanka to give immediate and full access to national and international organizations and observers, including aid agencies, human rights organizations and journalists, to all relevant parts of the country to monitor the situation and provide a safeguard against human rights violations. The UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross must have immediate and full access, according to their mandates, to critical locations - notably at displaced peoples' registration and screening points, all places of detention and camps for the displaced - in an effort to prevent violations such as arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions. Such access is equally critical to ensure that much needed humanitarian assistance reaches displaced people in a timely manner.

Set up a fact-finding mission to inquire into allegations of serious violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law by Sri Lankan forces and by the Tamil Tigers in the recent military hostilities, with a view to establishing the facts and making recommendations on how best to ensure accountability for those violations and abuses.

Call for the establishment of an effective UN human rights monitoring mission, to assist the government of Sri Lanka in implementing legislative and other reforms that would safeguard human rights for all Sri Lankan citizens.

Decide to remain seized of the situation in Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the Special Session, which should be the beginning of sustained attention by the HRC to the situation in the country.

Special HRC Session on Sri Lanka Should Focus on Aid and Rights

Statement by HRW:

The United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) should use its special session on May 26, 2009, to seek commitments from the Sri Lankan government to address the country’s disastrous humanitarian situation, Human Rights Watch said today.

“By holding a special session, the Human Rights Council is acknowledging that respect for human rights is just as essential after a conflict ends,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Although the fighting has stopped, the humanitarian situation is still alarming and real improvements are needed now.”

The Sri Lankan government's recent victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signals an end to the devastating 25-year-long war in Sri Lanka. But the end of the fighting came at a terrible cost in civilian lives and suffering for which both Sri Lankan government forces and the LTTE bear responsibility, Human Rights Watch said.

Some 300,000 civilians displaced by the fighting remain intensely vulnerable. Government restrictions on humanitarian access to government detention camps and to the wounded who remain in the conflict area has worsened the already serious conditions.

"The Human Rights Council should send a clear message that all displaced persons need access to relief and protection without discrimination," said Adams.

The Human Rights Council should push for full protection of internally displaced persons and their fundamental rights to liberty and freedom of movement, Human Rights Watch said. The council also should press the Sri Lankan government to give humanitarian organizations, the media, and human rights organizations full access to areas from which they were barred during the fighting. And the council should seek specific commitments by the Sri Lankan government to address continuing human rights violations, particularly those faced by the country's Tamil minority.

Human Rights Watch received many credible reports of violations of the laws of war by both the LTTE and Sri Lankan government forces during the recent fighting. This includes the LTTE's use of civilians as human shields and child soldiers, and the Sri Lankan government's indiscriminate shelling of densely populated areas, including hospitals. These allegations demand an impartial investigation.

Human Rights Watch called on the Human Rights Council and its member states to concentrate its discussions on May 26 on four urgent needs:

* Urgently ensuring humanitarian access to internally displaced persons who are being held in closed camps or remain in the battle zone;

* Addressing the rights to liberty and freedom of movement of civilians placed in government detention camps and basic human rights protections for persons the government suspects of being LTTE members;

* Stopping all forms of harassment, intimidation, and threats against human rights defenders and journalists exposing past or present abuses; and

* Creating an impartial international commission of inquiry to investigate and make recommendations for accountability of all sides for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that occurred during the recent fighting.

"Sri Lanka's Manik Farm Camp complex now holds the dubious distinction of being the largest displaced persons camp in the world," said Adams. "The Human Rights Council should express its outrage that this camp is run by the military, its residents cannot leave, and that government restrictions on access by aid groups are putting lives in danger."

Human Rights Watch expressed special concern for the fate of displaced medical personnel who provided care to the wounded in the only operating field hospital in the war zone until they too were forced to flee. Apparently because they spoke out about government shelling of the conflict zone, the government has placed these doctors in custody in Colombo and accused them of disseminating false information. The Human Rights Council should call for their immediate release.

Human Rights Watch urged the Human Rights Council to press the Sri Lankan government to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of all civilians and alleged LTTE fighters taken into custody. This includes registering and providing public information about all persons who have been in LTTE-controlled areas, allowing international humanitarian agencies to participate in processing, and lifting the bans on humanitarian organizations and the media from the camps and conflict area. Those detained under the emergency or other laws should have prompt access to family members and legal counsel. The council should make it clear that government security precautions never justify enforced disappearances.

"The special session is an excellent opportunity for Sri Lanka to address the post-conflict situation in the right way," said Adams. "The Human Rights Council and the Sri Lankan government should not waste it."

To read a letter from Human Rights Watch to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/05/21/letter-un-secretary-general-ban-ki-moon-his-trip-sri-lanka

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Sri Lanka, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/en/asia/sri-lanka

The fate of civilians and minorities in Sri Lanka

By Kshama Ranawana

Jubilation over the military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the death of its leader, Vellupillai Prabhakaran, has gripped a majority of Sri Lankans both in that country and around the world.

Most of Sri Lanka celebrated the news of the defeat of the LTTE following three bloody decades, with lighting of firecrackers and sharing of “kiribath” (milk rice) which is traditionally prepared on all joyous occasions.

Fate of civilians lost in the celebrations

Certainly, destroying the LTTE as a conventional army comes as a relief for the many thousands who have suffered at their hands. Lost in the celebrations, though, is the fate of the civilians as well as an extension of sympathy towards those who have no news of their family and friends.

Until the end of last week, reports on military advances were always coupled with news of the civilians corralled within the area of fighting -- the so-called “Safe Zone” in the northern part of the island nation.

Trapped like hunted animals were at least 50,000 civilians of Tamil origin, confined to a five-square kilometer stretch of coconut palms and beach. Reports of dead and wounded were widely believed to have been released by Tamil doctors from a makeshift hospital in Vellamullivaikkal.

Though a Safe Zone had been declared neither party respected its boundaries. The hapless civilians were used as human shields by the LTTE to slow down the advance of the government forces. There are now reports that the three doctors have been detained, though the government denies the action.

The government meanwhile did not abide by its own declaration that its forces would not use the heavy weaponry in its arsenal and refrain from firing into the ‘Safe Zone.’ According to UN estimates at least 6400 civilians have paid with their lives in the last three months; hapless victims of both the LTTE and government shelling.

No 'Safe Zone': Brutality from both sides

The sheer brutality perpetrated on these victims by the LTTE who claim to be the sole representatives of the Tamils, and the government which states its aim is to free the country of terrorism and Tamils from the clutches of LTTE was stupifying to say the least.

The weekend of May 9 saw the biggest carnage with reports of the dead and wounded varying from the hundreds to the thousands, while elsewhere in Sri Lanka, Vesak, the most sacred day for Buddhists was being observed. The heavy fighting resulted in the International Committee of the Red Cross being forced to halt its work in the area.

Overseas, the large Tamil diaspora reacted with anger and frustration. Their demonstrations – some, lately, violent -- have shaken capitals in the West. The first such protests seemed to be devoid of a political agenda and was more a gathering of those fearful for the lives of family and friends. Emboldened by the outpouring of concern, LTTE supporters hijacked the protests, with complete disregard to the safety of the protesters, bystanders and motorists, as was apparent in Toronto.

Counter protests staged by diaspora Sinhalese, under the guise of peace rallies, supported the government’s actions.

Perhaps to the disappointment of many a Tamil, Canada, which is home to the largest number of Tamils outside Sri Lanka, seems to have adopted an aloofness to the situation. Except for issuing the usual statements calling on both parties to respect human lives, and increasing its humanitarian aid component to Sri Lanka, even defusing the agitation in Toronto on May 10 was left to the NDP and the Liberals. The Harper government has made it clear it would not discuss the matter with those connected to the LTTE, an organization it has banned.

No dissent tolerated

Both the LTTE and the present regime of President Rajapakse have never accepted dissent or criticism kindly. Throughout its 30-year history, the Tamil Tigers have spared no one, be it politician, civilians of all ethnic communities and children. It earned worldwide condemnation for its use of under aged children to fight the war.

They tolerated no dissent in their quest for a separate homeland and have assassinated and maimed even those who were once their supporters, such as Rajini Thiranagama who later opposed their violence. She was gunned down in Jaffna while on her way home from work. Muslims residing in the northern peninsula were given 48 hours to flee their homes, while LTTE cadres marauded rural hamlets murdering Sinhala villagers.

Discrimination under guise of national security

The worst pogrom since the conflict intensified took place in 1983, when following the killing of 13 soldiers the Sinhalese south erupted in a frenzy of killing and attacking Tamils. That saw droves of Tamils leaving Sri Lanka to settle elsewhere in the world.

Since the present government took power there has been a systemic erosion of goodwill between the two communities. Under the guise of national security Tamils living or migrating to the south were forced to register with the police. Homes were constantly checked, Tamils arrested on suspicion and even unceremoniously bussed back to the border areas of the north. Aid workers remaining in the north were declared terrorists as were any moderates to opposed the government. Abductions, assaults and murder of dissenters became commonplace. The worst affected were journalists.

Little comfort for minorities in Sri Lanka after ‘victory’

Addressing the nation following the military victory, President Rajapakse has stated that there will now be no minorities. Little comfort for the minorities though, since he remained silent when, not many months ago, his army Chief declared that though minorities may live in Sri Lanka they “cannot make any unnecessary demands.”

The President has also often referred to a “ home grown” solution to the ethnic issue, though once again discussions on that have been going on for nearly three years. His call now to the Tamil diaspora to return may have had a better response had a genuine process to address their concerns been put into place while pursuing a military victory.

During the past six months with the military gaining ground with scant regard for the safety of the civilians in the north, the Tamil diaspora has been galvanized into action. It has spewed forth a generation of young Tamils, many whom have not set foot in Sri Lanka, determined to carry on the fight for a separate homeland.

The government of President Rajapakse, meanwhile, is now appealing to the international community, which until as late as last week it belittled and spurned, to bring in the financial aid so vital to rehabilitate the displaced and rebuild the nation.

The Distinction Between the LTTE and the Just claims of the Tamil People

by Karu Jayasuriya

On this historic occasion, when terrorism has been completely defeated, I would like to take this opportunity to thank, first and foremost, all our brave soldiers, whose steadfast commitment freed the Sri Lankan nation from the scourge of terrorism.

I would especially like to remember the soldiers who are no longer with us, those who made the supreme sacrifice for our country. There is no bigger sacrifice than that of laying down your life for your country and the soldiers who laid down their lives in order to ensure peace and unity in Sri Lanka will live forever in our memory. The nation will be eternally grateful to them.

I would like to congratulate the Secretary, Defence, the Service Commanders and the IGP for providing the forces with the required military leadership and the President, for the political leadership, which made this victory possible.

It goes without saying that the ruthless LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan, who could best be described as a killing machine, had no respect whatsoever for human life. This man, who tried to run a totalitarian and fascist state, has today suffered a fate he richly deserved.

I would also like to point out that there are many political and military leaders who played important roles, which enabled our heroic soldiers to achieve this unprecedented military victory

President Premadasa held talks with the LTTE; so did President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Both leaders clearly demonstrated that war could be an option under certain circumstances but that it should never be the first option.

Ranil Wickremesinghe also showed to the world that Sri Lankan governments were not racist – which was what the LTTE was trying to portray – and proved the bona fides of the Sri Lankan Government’s intentions to address the just claims of the Tamil people.

Lakshman Kadirgamar played a significant role in convincing the world that the LTTE was not interested in the wellbeing of the Tamil people and ensured that almost all the countries that mattered isolated the LTTE and banned the organisation. His efforts prevented the LTTE from obtaining financial assistance from foreign countries and from the Tamil diaspora to a significant extent.

Generals like Kobbekaduwa and Janaka Perera, who fought the LTTE fearlessly, also won the hearts and minds of the Tamil people and cleared doubts among the Tamil population that the Sri Lankan Army was racist – an allegation which the LTTE made quite often.

It is these Generals who won the confidence of the Tamil people and convinced them that our military was only trying to liberate them from the megalomaniac Pirapaharan. It is the actions of these Generals and soldiers that made the world realise that the LTTE was only interested in itself and not the Tamil people.

The actions of these political and military leaders proved to the world that the LTTE was not serious about peace. This is why the whole world was eagerly awaiting the defeat of the LTTE. This is how a group of people who were initially perceived as freedom fighters by the rest of the world came to be viewed as terrorists. Therefore, the defeat of terrorism and LTTE was an united effort that made it possible.

The defeat of terrorism and the LTTE can be compared to a relay race – such a challenge cannot be won unless all those who participated contributed their might. All of the parties involved played an integral and critical role in the process to ensure the final defeat of terrorism and the LTTE.

Today, as we celebrate the final defeat, we must recognise the integral and critical role played by all past political and military leaders. If we forget them, then we are certainly not worthy of their sacrifices and efforts on behalf of the nation. All those who fought over the years against terrorism are heroes and should be remembered today.

A few try to accuse the opposition of not supporting the fight against the LTTE. In fact, speculation is rife that the UNP is resentful of this heroic victory. Rest assured that the UNP is also celebrating this great achievement and is extremely proud of our armed forces for achieving what was once considered the impossible.

They have freed this nation, to which we all belong. It is imperative that this victory be recognised for what it is – a victory for all the people of Sri Lanka, no matter their race, religion or political leaning.

The armed forces won the war on behalf of the entire nation, for all the people of this land. The war was not fought on behalf of a single political party alone. The war was fought for all the people of this nation.

It must be said that we never tried to play politics with the war. Nor did we have long marches while the forces were fighting terrorism in the north and east.

It must be categorically stated that the only thing the opposition repeatedly said was that there was a distinction between the LTTE and the just claims of the Tamil people, who are part of a united and sovereign Sri Lanka. This is why we continue to be concerned about the civilians.

The thousands of internally displaced persons are undergoing severe hardship and need to be resettled as soon as possible. The state has a responsibility by these people and should make every effort to bring an end to their suffering. They have already suffered enough over the course of the decades-long war and should be free to reap the benefits of peace now.

The army consists of people of this country from all walks of life, ethnicities and different political backgrounds but we, as a responsible opposition, have a right to know the truth and it is our duty to keep the public informed.

In our haste to celebrate, let us not forget those who made the celebrations possible – the members of the armed forces who lost life and limb in this war against terror. Let us ensure that the families of those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield are cared for; that those who sustained injuries and are disabled today are provided for; that those who died so that we could live are never forgotten.

Let me repeat that the UNP takes great pride in this victory. After all, there isn’t a single other political party that has suffered more than the UNP at the hands of the LTTE. A UNP President, Ranasinghe Premadasa, was killed by the LTTE. A UNP presidential candidate, Gamini Dissanayake, was killed by the LTTE. Several of our members too became victims. A potential president from the UNP, Lalith Athulathmudali, was killed by the LTTE. A Defense Minister of a UNP government, Ranjan Wijeratne, was killed by the LTTE. A General Secretary of the UNP was killed by the LTTE.

The list is endless, which goes to prove that there is no credibility in the allegation that the UNP has not supported the fight against the LTTE or that the UNP is sympathising and aligning with the terrorist group.

Pirapaharan, like all dictators, feared the truth. He believed in false propaganda to remain in power. All dictators eliminate people with dissenting views but eventually they dig their own graves. And that is the fate that has befallen Pirapaharan today.

Now that the war has come to an end, I would like to urge the President and his government to take immediate measures to restore democracy and press freedom, as well as the safety of journalists.

The media is the watchdog of the people and opposition members in parliament are representatives of people. The government must let both these organs live and work without fear of retribution. It should pave the way for all of us to march forward as one nation and one people.

We like to emphasize that there are still people in this country who have decided to fight for true democracy by taking tough decisions, even though easier paths beckon. They are not willing to sacrifice the basic liberties and values of the people or lose faith in fighting for the same – their intention is to create a nation which respects equality, freedom and justice. This is the crying need of the hour, so that each and every Sri Lankan can live a life of dignity in this land.

The country is also facing a major economic crisis. Now that one battle was won the war on the economic front too must be won. There must be a concerted effort and a professional, committed and transparent approach.

The country’s foreign reserves have plunged to their lowest; inflation and interest rates are high; and bad loans have risen whilst banks are finding it hard to manage, against the backdrop of inadequate returns, which has resulted in a financial crisis which we can ill afford at this juncture. And we are ill-equipped to cope, given the government’s approach in dealing with economic and financial matters.

Many manufacturing industries have either closed down or scaled down operations owing to rising costs and declining income levels. Above is the current state of the Sri Lankan economy that needs to be addressed seriously.

Under the previous UNP regime, the people experienced low inflation and higher income levels, which alleviated many out of poverty, and flourishing tourism, manufacturing, exports and services sector businesses. The country also enjoyed an inflow of much-needed foreign investment. Let us not forget that this was achieved whilst fighting terrorism on the one hand and facing global shocks on the other.

Now that the war has been won, it is equally important to win the peace and usher in prosperity for all our people. While the biggest challenge has been won on the warfront, against the backdrop of the global economic crisis, the challenges ahead are many. But together, with a well-defined and committed approach, there is no challenge we cannot overcome.

So today, as peace dawns upon us after decades of terror, if prosperity is to follow so that all Sri Lankans can live with honour and dignity, it is time for all communities to unite and march forward together as Sri Lankans – not as Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and Burghers, but as one people, as one nation, as the sons and daughters of a united motherland.

With the nightmare of terrorism now behind us, let us live the Sri Lankan dream – ensuring peace and prosperity for one and all.

(Karu Jayasuriya is Deputy Leader of the United National Party)

Some good news from Mississippi to reflect on ...and thoughts on transformation

by P. Ravindra

Arvalan, speaking from the diaspora, has made a call for "Tamils to Transcend and Transform.". I want to share some good news - don't we all need some? - and reflect on how that is relevant to the goal of transformation that Arvalan and others seek.

First the good news. Last week, James Young, an African American, was elected mayor of Philadelphia in Mississippi, a town whose legacy is as the site of some of the most gruesome killings of activists fighting for minority rights and the official cover-ups and indifference that were the norm in the 1960s USA. [For more on this story see bottom of this article.]

Philadelphia remains a white majority town, albeit with a large black minority, and a town where in the 1960s blacks did not even have the vote. Young won not only because of the advances in civil rights that have taken place, but because African Americans did not turn inwards in their struggle for rights, instead turning outwards, reaching out to work with others in the majority - Whites and Jews, to struggle together for equality.

James Young celebrates his election as mayor of Philadelphia with white and black supporters. (Photograph: Jim Prince/AP)

The basic premise of Arvalan's argument is that Tamil leaders in Sri Lanka tried for 20-30 years before turning to armed action, when that had proven a dead end. The transformation he seeks in the end is only a continuation of that same struggle for the same goals of forced separation (and as he unashamedly admits now vengeance - [quote] "It is time for the Tamils to avenge Sinhala Buddhist regime"), albeit with different tactics and through different agencies.

Arvalan is wrong on two grounds:

(i) This is not transformation, and there is no attempt to transcend the past in what he suggests;

(ii) The alternative - that of non-violent engagement - never did fail, it was just given up too early after only half-hearted efforts.

For all their sufferings, I don't believe that the Tamil community as a whole who live in Sri Lanka is as stupid as Arvalan thinks, nor as lacking in imagination or wisdom as he is.

If we want to talk about transformation, then it is worth thinking about why African Americans have moved forward, whilst the Sri Lankan Tamil community has moved backwards in Sri Lanka, especially since the 1980s.

African Americans started off in the 1960s in a much much worse situation than Sri Lankan Tamils from the north, east and south, being little different in their status to the Estate Tamils then. They mostly didn't have the vote or the civil rights that Tamils had, and lacked even a legacy of education and national participation which had given the Sri Lankan Tamil community so many leaders at the national level in Sri Lanka that they could proudly call their own.

The African American struggle succeeded (i) because it remain dogged for 40 years in its commitment to non-violence and the values of democracy and pluralism, whatever the violence visited against it, (ii) because it never framed its struggle as a rejection of the idea that African Americans were fundamentally 100% American, (iii) because it never took the position that difference and hatred required a solution of equality in separation, and (iv) because it recognized that the struggle for rights was not a parochial struggle but a universal one that had to be joined with and made with those in the larger majority community.

The northern leadership of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka failed to provide that vision and strategy (in contrast to Mr Thondaman). Yes, there were some attempts at "Gandhian non-violence" in the 1950s-70s, but it lacked any genuine commitment as it gave up at the first hurdle, and it signally failed to be inclusive enough to build allies within the non-Tamil communities of Sri Lanka.

Because of that failure, Sri Lankans - Tamils and Sinhalese - who live in Sri Lanka have paid a heavy price. Yes, the Sinhalese people have made their own contribution too in their intolerance and racism, but non-violent change needs effective proponents on both sides, and there were few if any in the Tamil community that could make a difference after the LTTE took control.

If this is the time for transcending the past and for transformation, then genuine change might best be achieved by drawing on the same thinking that underlay the successful African-American struggle. If they could have drawn, as they did on a mix of Christian and Hindu wisdom, why could not the Tamil people in Sri Lanka, with their much closer affinities to that same wisdom? It's time we ask ourselves how come that African Americans, descendants of slaves from Africa, half a planet away, were able to draw on our own cultural wisdom and make more of it, than we have? Now with the LTTE gone, this is the time to transform by taking the good that we have in our own Sri Lankan cultures and using that to build a better future in which we are all winners, and not all losers as we have been the past three decades.

For all its faults, Sri Lanka still offers more rights to minorities to work with than the USA offered its African citizens in the 1960s. Tamils (including now the Estate Tamils) have the vote, and what is more the numbers at election time, which the LTTE's stupidity in the 2005 elections aptly demonstrated, are sufficient to make a difference in choosing the governments of the country. This is something that African Americans never started with. It is also worth understanding that it is not the case that the Sri Lankan state and its polity have done nothing to redress wrongs or improve the position of minorities in the past 30 years of conflict. The decades of fighting have obscured that positive changes have occurred, and have led to those changes not being exploited or appreciated.

For all the criticism of JR, his constitutional changes, which only came into full effect in the early 1990s, made fundamental reforms in favor of minorities that want to work within a democratic system. Perhaps these are changes that the diaspora, stuck as they are often are in 1983, simply don't know. The imperfect union of post-1972 Sri Lanka did become less imperfect in critical ways. DBS Jeyaraj has noted the change to make Tamil an official language - but the failure to struggle afterwards to ensure its effective implementation is glaring.

Amongst others, I would also add in particular the switch to proportional representation in elections, and direct election to the Presidency which gave minorities far more political power, since today they do in practice hold the balance of power. These changes mean that is no longer possible for either of the two main Sinhalese-dominated parties to stay in power without the support of substantial numbers of minority voters. That is real power that the minorities can use, if they engage with the system. And they need to wake up soon and use that power, before power-hungry politicians in Colombo manage to jettison PR as they are currently trying to. Their ignorance and the conspicuous silence of many minority leaders are interestingly a reflection of how poor our national debate has been - that we can talk with one mouth about minority rights and power sharing through devolution, and then with another about removing one of the biggest gains that minorities have made, with next to little recognition from the minorities or the majority about the inherent contradiction.

Second, I would point to the constitutional clauses introduced by JR that allow citizens to take action in the courts to knock down new legislation and state action which infringes fundamental rights, in much the same way that Americans can challenge discrimination by appeal to the Supreme Court. That mechanism does work (remember even this government could not get its way in evicting those lodgers in Colombo a few months ago), but it needs to be used far more than it has been. Yes, it is true that these same clauses do not allow us to challenge old legislation as would be the case in the USA, but these are features that can changed if common cause is made with the majority communities, who also suffer from this deficiency.

People in all communities need to work together to make use of the rights they do actually have to make those rights more of a reality and to increase the rights that are available. And they need to do that by rebuilding trust between communities, and recognizing that the problems of Sinhalese and Tamil chauvinism and racism cannot be overcome solely through constitutions and political packages, since ultimately real transformation involves changing the minds of ordinary people, and creating new alliances that allow genuine protection.

Such genuine transformation may seem hard. . . . but if we are realistic, and we would learn from our past history and from that of the Americans, it might be much much faster and require less sacrifice than continuing a 30 year Eelamist struggle which has got nowhere, and will get nowhere in another 30 years.

Mississippi town breaks with its past to elect first black mayor

James Young's victory stands in stark contrast to climate which bred racism and segregation in the 1960s

Chris McGreal, The Guardian, 22 May 2009

"James Young is just old enough to remember the era that seared his small Mississippi town of Philadelphia on to the national consciousness.

The infamous murders of three civil rights activists in 1964 laid bare the bitter racism and official complicity in the lawlessness underpinning segregation in the south, and years later prompted the film Mississippi Burning.

But the racists soon lost the struggle to prevent Philadelphia's black residents from voting and this week it resulted in exactly what old Mississippi had tried to prevent “the election of Young as the town's first African-American mayor with white votes helping deliver him victory".

"Philadelphia has some of the worst history and now some of the best. This is a reversal of some of the views that have been dominant in the community," Young said today. "There was a time when this could not have happened. Now it is accepted by everyone. There's not a major riot in the streets because I'm black."

The 53 year-old Pentecostal minister's victory was perhaps more evolution than revolution in the town of 7,300 people, about 40% of them black. African Americans have been filling elected positions in Philadelphia and the state for years with white support, including Young who served on the local legislature. The old racists who controlled the council and police, and won popular support by opposing civil rights, are dying off and their successors are marginalised.

Still, Young's election has an important symbolism in a town that came to represent all that was wrong with the old south.
...

The 1964 murders of the three civil rights workers - an African-American man from Mississippi and two white New Yorkers, all in their twenties - shocked the country not only because of the crime but because of the complicity of local officials in the killing and cover up.

As the FBI hunted for the missing activists, the local sheriff... said they had gone into hiding to embarrass Mississippi. The state governor ... suggested they were in Cuba.

During the search, the FBI discovered the bodies of seven other black people who had been murdered in and around Philadelphia without inquiry by the local police. Even after the civil rights workers corpses were found six weeks after they were shot, justice was slow in coming. Mississippi officials declined to prosecute. Seven people, including a police deputy and a Ku Klux Klan leader eventually convicted on federal civil rights charges, served only light sentences.

Mississippi took action for the first time only in 2005 when Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen, a KKK organiser who is now 84, was convicted of the three murders and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

For years Philadelphia lived with the legacy of the killings. Ronald Reagan chose the town to launch his 1980 presidential campaign with a speech about states' rights, taken as a stand with southern whites opposed to federal civil rights laws.

But however Philadelphia was still seen, it was also changing as Young's own progress showed. He trained as a paramedic and rose to head the county ambulance service for 20 years. He was also elected to the local legislature four times and served on the planning board for 12 years.

That helped make him a safe choice in the election.
"A lot of barriers I would normally have had to overcome were overcome because of my work in the community," he said.

Still, Young doubts he could have won before.

"Ten years ago I think I would have had a good showing but I wouldn't have won. But changes in our nation and the age of people make it more acceptable. We're getting more diverse younger citizens," he said.

By Young's count he picked up about 30% of the white vote and won with only a 46% vote margin out of the 2,000 cast. That may not be a clear endorsement but it still represents a significant shift from the past because, while most whites did not vote for Young, he says they will accept him as the legitimate mayor of Philadelphia when he takes office in July.
...
Young's wife, Sheryl, said it is all a further reminder that the old Mississippi is dying.

"Most of the people who were so mean and hateful are dead. They're gone. Whether they instilled something in their children we don't know and we don't care," she said. "Things have changed from being openly hateful. It's a new day. Let's move on. We're not going to forget it. But do I harbour it? No. We have to move on."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/may/22/philadelphia-mississippi-race-segregation-mayor

May 24, 2009

Imagine if Serbia had re-taken Kosovo, and invited the UN Secretary General to the retaken Pristina where it made Kosovar children wave the Serbian flag

As UN's Ban Leaves Sri Lanka, Questions Unanswered, Complicity in War Crimes?

by Matthew Russell Lee

After Sri Lanka tried to compare the blown out "No Fire" zone with its barbed wire ringed interment camps for Tamils, and the UN's Ban Ki-moon offered praise and help, many troubling questions remained as the UN plane left Colombo. Is the UN assisting in war crimes?

TWTC0525.jpg

[A Tamil woman sits on a bed with her child as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is given a tour of a field hospital in the refugee camp called Manik Farm on the outskirts of the northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya May 23, 2009-Reuters pic]

At the canned press conference in Kandy, after meeting with Rajapaksa brothers who wear red sashes like blood across their chests, Ban's speech said "the Government is doing its utmost, I commend its tremendous efforts."

In the cut-off Q & A session, Ban took back what little criticism the UN had made of the killing of civilians, calling it a bloodbath. "I myself did not mention that the particular word, I want to make that quite clear," he said.

The Press was whisked by minibus from Kandy to the airport. (Inner City Press had asked for an extension of the two day visa given to cover Ban Ki-moon; it was never granted.) Along the route were hundreds of cult-like posters of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Everywhere there flapped Colombo's sword-wielding lion flag, as Tamil children in the Manik Farm IDP camp had been required to hold, along with UN flags while they sang an eerie song about Ban Ki-moon.

Imagine if Serbia had re-taken Kosovo, and invited the UN Secretary General to the retaken Pristina where it made Kosovar children wave the Serbian flag.

At the airport the government had arranged another red carpet flanked by white-clad soldiers with machine guns with bayonets leading to the UN plane. Ban Ki-moon was late, having stopped with his entourage for a final dinner with the Rajapaska's.

Inner City Press paced the tarmac, threw questions at entourage members as they belated ran to the plane. The communications director said it could be a while, he would go to the plane to sleep. Vijay Nambiar's colleague confirmed that, yes, Nambiar would be leaving with the UN plane, his week-long clean up job complete. When finally he boarded, Inner City Press joked, welcome back. I haven't been on the UN plane in a while, Nambiar said with a smile.

Inner City Pres went to the front of the VIP terminal, where Sri Lankan functionaries waited with umbrellas in case the skies opened. A UN staffer said it might be a while, Ban was in the terminal doing interviews. When finally he emerged and saw Inner City Press, camera in hand, he asked, "Are you coming back with us?" Yes was the answer, due to denied visa extension, no help from UN.

Sri Lanka's Ambassador to the UN stopped and asked if Inner City Press had been "able to talk to people." To some degree, yes -- for example, the Sri Lankan civil society member whose application to teach reconciliation in Vavuniya and Mannar has not been acted on. In the camps, the Press could speak to some of those interred, both only under the watchful eye of armed soldiers and other government minders. Some reporters even concluded that it was the UN, more than the Sri Lankan authorities, which tried to dissuade approaches to those behind the barbed wire.

On the plane, just before takeoff from Colombo, Ban stopped and spoke to the assembled Press about the suicide of his former boss in Korea, about the letter and white flowers that he sent. Inner City Press listened -- South Korea in those days was cutting edge in interactive media -- and then asked Mr. Ban, "Did you hear anything about the three doctors?" Ban stopped. Oh yes, I did, he said. I think they will address this issue.

But what about answering the questions: Why doesn't his Joint Statement with the government mention the interred doctors, or press freedom, or even the blocked NGO access to the camps? In an Orwellian construction, it has that "The Government will continue to provide access to humanitarian agencies." Why didn't Ban meet with any in the Tamil opposition or civil society? This UN is prejudiced toward governments, even when they turn genocidal. And Ban's UN so desperately wants to be relevant that regimes like Rajapaksa's can call Ban's bluff again and again.

During the flight from Colombo, at first it was said that Ban would brief the gaggle of reporters during the refueling stop in Bahrain. With the lights on and the engines off, a group assembled. But Team Ban, apparently, went another way, summoning a few reporters for one on one interviews for their local markets. Such access can better be linked to positive coverage, they seem to feel. Inner City Press was told that a Ban briefing when the plane lands in Copenhagen is not possible, as Ban has to run straight to a conference, late because of his dinner with the Rajapaksas, on which he took no Press questions. We'll have more on this.

The Rajapaksa regime, fresh from shelling and killed thousands of Tamils, used Ban Ki-moon's visit as propaganda. And Ban did not protest. As was as if, as one observer fearing death told Inner City Press, Ban's UN is so desperate to be able to say that a country wants it, "even a regime with blood on its hands," that it allows the UN "to be turned into a joke."

But perhaps today's UN system is often such a mirthless joke, speeding around what dictatorships still exist in white UNDP four by fours, sucking up to governments and excusing their massacres, even offering to clean up the death sites.

After the mind numbing helicopter tour, reporter gorged on Sri Lankan Air Force curry and looked at the photos they'd taken. These are war crimes on a platter, said one, as another reporter -- this one -- returned for a second round of cashew curry.

The next stop, before any Internet, would be President Rajapaksa in the historic city of Kandy. It contains a famous Buddhist temple, and one UN official admitted to Inner City Press that Rajapaksa was adament that Ban come to Kandy, and wanted to parade him through the Buddhist temple of the tooth. Rajapaksa's really rubbing our noses in it, the official said.

When the UN is desperate to be relevant, this is what can happen. [Read more on Inner City Press]

Death of Prabhakaran and the pathology of Tamil ultra-nationalism

by Dayan Jayatilleka

The degree of denial of Prabhakaran’s death within the expatriate Tamil consciousness is the best evidence of the pathology of Tamil ultra-nationalism. Rohana Wijeweera’s followers were fanatics, but when their leader was gone, they did not go into mass denial. The hardcore elements of the Tamil Diaspora really have to get their heads around it: Elvis has left the building. The Sun God has set, and his son won’t be rising either.

The Tigers were among the best known brands in the terrorist universe and by defeating them so completely and utterly Sri Lanka and its armed forces have made a contribution to regional and global security and stability. They have made an example of the Tigers and thus made the world a safer place. Precious little thanks we have got for it.

In the movie Lethal Weapon, when the villains take his partner’s family hostage and he plans to rescue them, Mel Gibson (playing Martin Riggs) tells Danny Glover (playing his cop partner Roger Murtaugh) “we’re going to get bloody on this one – you know that don’t you?”. Well, we were always going to have to get bloody on this one, the final battles to destroy Prabhakaran, and that’s the way it played itself out. From Berlin to Grozhny such endgames are anything but pretty but that’s the way it goes when the enemy is fascist or simply fanatical. We did it much better than most – no extensive use of airpower and no antipersonnel bombs – and the only ones I  can think of who have done better, were lead by someone that the UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto has recently called “a saint” : Fidel Castro. Fidel is an exception. (But let me not mount my favorite hobby horse – my views on Fidel’s ethics of violence are critically discussed in the current issues of Radical Philosophy and the International Journal of Zizek Studies).

Prabhakaran was a monster who laid waste to the land and tormented its people, and he was slain, as monsters should be.  It will be argued that Prabhakaran was made into a monster by the Sinhalese. That’s a cop out. As I told an audience at Jaffna university in 1982 which almost certainly included LTTE cadre, the National Guard of Nicaraguan dictator Somoza was in the habit of applying lard on the genitals of political prisoners and unleashing attack dogs on them – and yet, the Sandinista guerrillas were among the most humane and discriminating in their use of violence, which greatly contributed to their victory. Furthermore, the nature of Sinhala oppression does not in any way explain Prabhakaran’s war against the IPKF and the Indo-Lanka accord, followed up by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. In a Karmic cyclical coincidence, Prabhakaran paid the price as Rajiv’s family was swept into office and that too, just days before Rajiv’s 18th death anniversary. (By the way, the humanistic Sandinista revolution crested with the bazooka shell fired by Gorriaran Merlo, the leader of the Argentinean ERP, destroying exiled dictator Somoza in his armored Mercedes in the capital of Paraguay a year later.) Prabhakaran had piled up too many blood debts, in more than one party, community and country, and his fanatical fans overseas had made too much of what he and his core cadre would be capable of when they slipped the Sri Lankan cordon, for things to end in a less complete and final manner.

The call for “humanitarian access” must not be a cover for peaceful R2P or incremental “humanitarian interventionism”, achieving through the back door that which was repelled at the front gates. Those who dream and conspire of war crimes tribunals, which would punish Sri Lanka for having decapitated their favorite terrorists, have to dust off their political science (or at least in one case simply consult their illustrious father). Such international kangaroo courts succeed with defeated states and leaderships, or leaders of fragmented, failed or failing states -- not a strong successful unified one like Sri Lanka, which has just won a war, exhibiting steely determination.  Sri Lanka is also in the wrong continent and the wrong neighborhood for vicious nonsense of this sort to have more than nuisance value and prove anything much beyond a heuristic device to educate a nation. How can one describe and define the friends of our mortal enemy the Tigers?

So where are we now? Forget the grudging assessments of wiseacres that it is only the “conventional war “or “territorial war” that is over. The national territory of Sri Lanka has been reunified after a quarter century or more, but that is not all. The Tiger army lies destroyed on the battlefield (the stragglers are being hunted down) and the Tiger leadership has been eliminated even more thoroughly than the JVP’s was.

In 1988 I published a series entitled Unfinished War, Protracted Crisis, in the Lanka Guardian, which reappeared as a book, Sri Lanka: the Travails of a Democracy, published by Vikas, New Delhi in 1995. In it I made the basic point that while Prabhakaran always fought a total war, his enemies, the Sri Lankan state and the Indian state fought a limited war. For me, this was the secret of Prabhakaran’s success and the central weakness that we had to overcome. In these writings, and in commentaries over the last ten years in the (now defunct) Weekend Express and The Island, I drew attention to three other points: though tactically and organizationally brilliant, Prabhakaran, when viewed from a comparative international and historical point of view, was a strategic failure even in comparison with the Hezbollah, let alone the Vietnamese; the need to follow General Giap in privileging the “annihilation of the living forces of the enemy” over territorial acquisition; and the fact that Prabhakaran had never really faced simultaneous offensives on several fronts.

With the Rajapakse administration it all came together and fused: a leader and commander in chief with the requisite political will; a recomposed power bloc with a hegemonic fraction that had a strongly nationalist and even a martial tradition and came from a province with a patriotic-martial heritage and consciousness;  the leadership in all three services, especially the army, which had joined a military in combat and had matured in war; public opinion that rejected appeasement and had learned the hard way that only the military defeat of the Tigers would set the nation free at last.

Prabhakaran’s monstrosity had its roots and sources, and these are not located in Sinhala oppression but closer home. When an authentic reformist option is proffered (and in September 1987, after the Thileepan fast, the LTTE was conceded 7 out of 12 seats including the chairmanship, of an interim council of a merged Northeast, with the Sri Lankan army confined to barracks), fanatics tend to reject these and continue the struggle for the original maximum objective. However, they lose the support of the bulk of the people who then shift to the side of the ex- terrorist militants striving to work the system. The most revealing moment of Tamil ultranationalist consciousness came when the LTTE fought India and later, murdered Rajiv Gandhi. Prabhakaran was not marginalized within the Tamil community. The ultranationalist Tamil mainstream stuck by him and the Tigers in a war that was not against the Sinhala foe but against a secular quasi federal democratic republic, in which Tamils had a linguistic region.

That takes us to the heart of the problem. The self image of Tamil ultra-nationalism is such that it is hostile to India when the latter does not simply forgive and forget the Rajiv murder and extend unconditional patronage to the Tamil secessionist cause. This is clear from the demonstrations in the Diaspora to the street attack on an Indian army truck in Tamil Nadu. What the Indian people in general and the Tamil Nadu people in particular thought about it is evidenced in the voting patterns in the recently concluded Indian elections.

It is the hubristic arrogance of Tamil ultra-nationalism that saw demoniac incarnation in Prabhakaran, and brought on itself crushing defeat under the guns of the Sri Lankan armed forces.

The truth is that Tamil ultra-nationalism (even in the peaceful form of the TNA) is rejectionist, in that it rejects the limits of the possible as defined by the Indo-Lanka consensus: “maximum devolution within the Sri Lankan constitution” (as Pranab Mukherjee puts it), starting with the reactivation of the 13th amendment. Thus there is a contradiction between Tamil ultra-nationalism and the existing state system of South Asia. The former demands a rupture of and with the latter, but has no capacity of enforcing it, while the sole realistic option is the reform of and within the existing state system.

For their part the Sinhala nationalists and ultra-nationalists must know that joint Indo-Lanka press statement of May 21, 2009, which must be prudently read as almost a coda or annexure to President Rajapakse’s May 19th and 22nd speeches, also represents the minimum commitment that has to be kept, the lowest price that has to be paid, for the assurance of neighborhood and regional support without which Sri Lanka cannot offset Western pressure and the Western-Tiger Diaspora bloc.

Tamil nationalism has failed in its successive projects: 50:50, federalism and nonviolent agitation, full-on secessionist war, incarnated in the Tamil Congress, the Federal party and the TULF, the Tamil Eelam armed movement and the Tigers. No return to any of these is going to work. Even decades down the road, any attempt to revive terrorist or guerrilla war will result in a swift and decisive State response informed by the lessons of temporizing that cost us dearly. The Sri Lankan armed forces is saturated with officers and men steeled in the experience of successful warfare, and this will give us a formidable military machine for many years, even decades, to come.

This leaves the famous Diaspora option. While the Tiger army has been decimated, the Tiger movement still exists, is global, and has a higher profile than ever before.  It is a threat to the Sri Lankan state and society but it cannot deliver Tamil Eelam because a small minority really cannot carve out a separate state on a small island on which the vast majority is unalterably opposed to the idea, is willing pay a heavy price and wage war to prevent such an outcome, and will always throw up a leadership capable of doing so. If there is another Prabhakaran, as some portentously claim there will be, there will also be another Mahinda Rajapakse, another Gotabhaya Rajapakse and another Sarath Fonseka.

The details are now beginning to leak (see reports in the Telegraph, UK and the Weekend Australian) of last ditch, high level efforts in certain Western quarters to save the Tiger leadership. These pressures and conspiracies probably sealed the Tigers’ fate ever tighter. They give us a glimpse of the networks out there and the games some people play. The external danger should neither be underestimated nor overestimated. Prabhakaran’s Tigers could not prevail but they damaged our country and its prospects; distorted our lives. So also the globalized Tiger movement: it cannot prevail but it must be combated and defeated. The crisis of Sri Lanka’s external relations is a post-Kadirgamar crisis. The external threat to Sri Lanka will require the maturation of conditions and consciousness to the precise point that it did in the case of the military threat posed by Prabhakaran, which led to the evolution and emergence as a vanguard, of the most able elements available.

External pressure, especially extra-regional pressure (involving or based in ex-colonial states) hardly ever causes the widening of political space in a Third World country. In most Asian contexts it generates a backlash and de-legitimizes the cause it espouses, discrediting perhaps unfairly, the minorities and minority politicians as allies of hostile external forces. Even where the context is not one of ethnic polarization, patronage from adversarial external sources only de-legitimizes local actors.

If the Tiger Diaspora wants a separate state or a confederation, it had better seek it in one of the countries in which they are concentrated, because it is certainly not going to be achieved either on the island of Sri Lanka or the soil of India. If any elements in the West sympathize or support such a cause they had better grant it on their soil, because it ain’t gonna happen anywhere in South Asia. Overseas Tamil secessionism and its neo-imperialist patrons will find that Asia is a continent too far.

(These are the strictly personal views of the writer)

Mark of Respect for Our Supreme Leader, The Indestructible Flame of Freedom

Statement by Selvarasa Pathmanathan, Head of International Relations-LTTE:

Announcement in English-PDF File

Anouncement in Tamil-PDF file

We announce today, with inexpressible sadness and heavy hearts that our incomparable leader and supreme commander of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam attained martyrdom fighting the military oppression of the Sri Lankan Government on the 17th of May 2009. We share the sorrow and despair of all the Tamils in Sri Lanka, The Diaspora and the Tamil speaking people of the world.

For over three decades, our leader was the heart and soul and the symbol of hope, pride and determination for the whole nation of people of Tamil Eelam. He conceptualized, created and conducted the most disciplined and incorruptible organization that ever represented a nation of people. He had the courage to take on all obstacles and adversity and engineered social change to go hand in hand with the awakening of his people. The LTTE grew into the most formidable force built on the unimaginable sacrifices of its freedom fighters. Our leader gave it the strategic foresight and military direction on land, sea and sea. Through his recognition and acknowledgement he created the women’s wing and established the equality of their status and role in the community.

His love for his people, the Diaspora and the Tamils world over was overwhelming and selfless.

Since the failure of the peace process and the escalation of the war forced upon the Tamil people, the LTTE was faced to confront the Sri Lankan military that was supported by the world powers. This deliberate bias and position taken by the international community severely weakened the military position of the LTTE. Our leader confronted this threat without any hesitation. He would not waver in his desire to be with his people and fight for his people till the end. In spite of the numerous pleas from his senior commanders, he refused to leave his people and along with his fellow freedom fighters perished in combat with the Sri Lankan forces. His final request was for the struggle to continue until we achieved the freedom for his people.

Our leader epitomized the freedom struggle of our people. He raised it to a level never before seen. He defined the Tamil spirit and was worshipped by his people. His sacrifices for his people are immense and incomparable. His legend and the historical status as the Greatest Tamil Leader ever are indestructible. He will forever remain the father of our nation. He leaves behind the flame of freedom and the spirit in each and every Tamil. It is our undivided duty to keep the flame burning until the freedom for the Tamils are achieved.

We have declared the week beginning Monday, 25 May 2009, as a week of official mourning paying tribute for the supreme sacrifice by our beloved leader. During this week let us celebrate his supreme sacrifice and his contribution to the betterment of the Tamil world. Let us also mark the sacrifices of all the commanders, freedom fighters and the civilians who also laid down their lives. We humbly request that the Tamil people world over to show utmost respect and restrain from harmful acts to themselves or anyone else in this hour of extreme grief.

As we mark the life of our beloved leader let us also resolve that we will re-affirm our commitment to the goals espoused by him – dignity, equality and the right to self-determination of our people.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Selvarasa Pathmanathan
Head of International Relations -LTTE

May 23, 2009

LTTE made desperate plea to UK Sunday Times correspondent to help stave off annihilation

Tigers begged me to broker surrender

by Marie Colvin

MCTC0324C.jpgMarie Colvin, recognized as Best Foreign Correspondent in many of the British Press Awards, was wounded when she was fired upon in Vavuniya by the Sri Lankan Army in April 2001.

IT was a desperate last phone call but it did not sound like a man who would be dead within hours. Balasingham Nadesan, political leader of the Tamil Tigers, had nowhere to turn, it seemed.

“We are putting down our arms,” he told me late last Sunday night by satellite phone from the tiny slip of jungle and beach on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka where the Tigers had been making their last stand.

I could hear machinegun fire in the background as he continued coolly: “We are looking for a guarantee of security from the Obama administration and the British government. Is there a guarantee of security?”

He was well aware that surrendering to the victorious Sri Lankan army would be the most dangerous moment in the 26-year civil war between the Tigers and Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority.

I had known Nadesan and Seevaratnam Puleedevan, the head of the Tigers’ peace secretariat, since being smuggled into rebel territory eight years ago.

At that time the Tigers controlled a third of the island; now these two men were trying to save the lives of the remaining 300 fighters and their families, many of them injured. Tens of thousands of Tamil civilians were trapped with them, hiding in hand-dug trenches, enduring near constant bombardment.

For several days I had been the intermediary between the Tiger leadership and the United Nations as the army pressed in on the last enclave at the end of a successful military campaign to defeat the rebellion.

Nadesan had asked me to relay three points to the UN: they would lay down their arms, they wanted a guarantee of safety from the Americans or British, and they wanted an assurance that the Sri Lankan government would agree to a political process that would guarantee the rights of the Tamil minority.

Through highly placed British and American officials I had established contact with the UN special envoy in Colombo, Vijay Nambiar, chief of staff to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general. I had passed on the Tigers’ conditions for surrender, which he had said he would relay to the Sri Lankan government.

The conflict seemed set for a peaceful outcome. Puleedevan, a jolly, bespectacled figure, found time to text me a smiling photo of himself in a bunker.

By last Sunday night, however, as the army pressed in, there were no more political demands from the Tigers and no more photos. Nadesan refused to use the word “surrender” when he called me, but that is what he intended to do. He wanted Nambiar to be present to guarantee the Tigers’ safety.

Once more, the UN 24-hour control centre in New York patched me through to Nambiar in Colombo, where it was 5.30am on Monday. I woke him up.

I told him the Tigers had laid down their arms. He said he had been assured by Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, that Nadesan and Puleedevan would be safe in surrendering. All they had to do was “hoist a white flag high”, he said.

I asked Nambiar if he should not go north to witness the surrender. He said no, that would not be necessary: the president’s assurances were enough.

It was still late Sunday night in London. I tried to get through to Nadesan’s satellite phone but failed, so I called a Tigers contact in South Africa to relay Nambiar’s message: wave a white flag high.

I was woken at 5am by a phone call from another Tigers contact in southeast Asia. He had been unable to get through to Nadesan. “I think it’s all over,” he said. “I think they’re all dead.”

That evening, the Sri Lankan army displayed their bodies. What had gone wrong with the surrender? I would soon find out.

I discovered that on Sunday night Nadesan had also called Rohan Chandra Nehru, a Tamil MP in the Sri Lankan parliament, who immediately contacted Rajapaksa.

The MP recounted the events of the next hours: “The president himself told me he would give full security to Nadesan and his family. Nadesan said he had 300 people with him, some injured.

“I said to the president, ‘I will go and take their surrender.’

“Rajapaksa said, ‘No, our army is very generous and very disciplined. There is no need for you to go to a warzone. You don’t need to put your life at risk’.”

Chandra Nehru said Basil, the president’s brother, called him. “He said, ‘They will be safe. They have to hoist a white flag.’ And he gave me the route they should follow.”

The MP got through to Nadesan at about 6.20am local time on Monday. The sound of gunfire was louder than ever.

“We are ready,” Nadesan told him. “I’m going to walk out and hoist the white flag.”

“I told him: ‘Hoist it high, brother – they need to see it. I will see you in the evening’,” said Chandra Nehru.

A Tamil who was in a group that managed to escape the killing zone described what happened. This source, who later spoke to an aid worker, said Nadesan and Puleedevan walked towards Sri Lankan army lines with a white flag in a group of about a dozen men and women. He said the army started firing machineguns at them.

Nadesan’s wife, a Sinhalese, yelled in Sinhala at the soldiers: “He is trying to surrender and you are shooting him.” She was also shot down.

The source said all in the group were killed. He is now in hiding, fearful for his life. Chandra Nehru has fled the country after being threatened, the MP says, by the president and his brother.

Over the past few days, Nambiar’s role as UN envoy has come into question. His brother, Satish, has been a paid consultant to the Sri Lankan army since 2002. Satish once wrote that General Sarath Fonseka, commander of the Sri Lankan armed forces, “displayed the qualities of a great military leader”.

Although the Tamil Tigers are internationally banned because of past acts of terrorism, including suicide bombings, Nadesan and Puleedevan favoured a political solution to the conflict. Had they lived, they would have been credible political leaders for the Tamil minority.

It was Velupillai Prabhakaran, their commander, who built the movement into a military machine. He was paranoid and ruthless, and he remained committed to military means even as the Tamil Tigers lost ground in the face of the Sri Lankan army onslaught.

Last week, although rumours circulated that Prabhakaran had survived, the organisation was in disarray. Surviving Tamil leaders spoke of turning to a political process, while more militant representatives threatened revenge attacks.

I am in a difficult position as a journalist reporting this story. I first went to Sri Lanka in 2001 to investigate reports that the government was blocking food and medical supplies to half a million Tamils. Journalists had been largely banned from the northern Tamil area for six years.

I found people living in squalor and doctors pleading for medicine. Leaders such as Nadesan and Puleedevan told me they had reduced their demands from independence to autonomy within Sri Lanka.

As I was being smuggled out of the area at night, we were ambushed by the Sri Lankan army. I was unhurt until I shouted, “Journalist, journalist.” Then they fired an RPG at me, severely wounding me.

After intermittent contact with the Tamils since then, I had a series of phone calls from the leadership in recent months as the Tigers fell back in the face of the army’s new offensive. In one call, Nadesan said the Tigers would abide by the result of any referendum and begged for a ceasefire. His plea was rejected by Colombo.

There was dancing on the capital’s streets last week after the defeat of the Tigers. Victory has come, however, at a shocking cost to Tamil civilians. The United Nations says that at least 7,000 died in the last onslaught, although the toll is believed to be much higher. Some 280,000 who had been trapped by the fighting have been herded into “welfare” camps surrounded by razor wire where conditions are said to be deteriorating fast.

Yesterday international aid agencies claimed up to three families were crowding into each tent and being forced to queue for hours for water and food. One aid worker said there was only one doctor in a camp holding 44,000 people.

Refugees reached by The Sunday Times through aid organisations vented their fury. “Look at how we live,” said one woman in a camp with her two children. “We have no space, no protection from the sun. We are prisoners with armed guards and barbed wire. What do they think I will do – a mother and her two children? Why are we here?”

Reports were circulating that members of paramilitary gangs were seizing young people from the camps, accusing them of being Tigers and holding them in secret facilities, although this could not be confirmed.

The president has talked of reaching out to the Tamil community, unifying the country and resettling 80% of the refugees by the end of the year.

“I do not think that is realistic,” said Anna Neistat, of Human Rights Watch. “There is no procedure to release anyone.”

Whatever the declared intentions of the government, there seems to be little prospect of uniting Sri Lanka in the foreseeable future unless the Tamil grievances that enabled the Tigers to flourish are dealt with.

Additional reporting: Heather Mark, Colombo

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[London Times reporter Marie Colvin visitng Iraq mass graves, lost her eye in a grenade attack by Sri Lanka Army in 2001.-cbc.ca/Courtesy Hot Docs.

[courtesy: Times, UK]

Beach Where Sri Lankan Rebels Made Last Stand is Scene of Devastation

By Steve Herman ~ Voice of America News

Independent journalists, for the first time, have been given a brief aerial look at the battlefield where Sri Lanka defeated Tamil rebels who once controlled one-third of the island nation. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was on one of the helicopters taking the United Nations Secretary General and his delegation for a quick flyover of the last combat zone.

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[An aerial view of a former battlefront can be seen from the helicopter carrying U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during his visit, which also included a visit to the refugee camp called Manik Farm, on the outskirts of the northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya May 23, 2009.] [More Pictures on Guardian.co.uk]

I am in a Sri Lankan Air Force helicopter less than 100 meters above where the final battle took place between the military and the Tamil Tiger rebels. This is where the quarter-century civil war came to an end with the total battlefield defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

There are no signs of civilian life here. There are a few Army vehicles and soldiers combing the area, I can see a stray dog and an emptied container truck of the World Food Program.

There are rows and rows of uninhabited tents, holes in the ground from crater shells and clusters of palm trees with their tops blown off or reduced to stumps.

Civilians who escaped say they were held as human shields by the rebels, took refuge in bunkers and were shot at by the Tamil Tigers if they tried to escape. But they also reported heavy shelling during the war's final days.

What precisely happened below will be the subject of controversy for some time to come. The European Union and others want a war crimes investigation. Some also accuse the military of deliberately shelling the area and say satellite images will back up their contention. [VOA News]

How Sri Lanka's military won

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News

Few believed him when Sri Lanka's powerful defence secretary said he required three years to defeat the once invincible Tamil Tiger rebels.

When Gotabaya Rajapaksa made the assertion, the Tamil Tigers, or Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam [LTTE], controlled nearly one third of the country, had a well-organised, ruthless fighting unit, sufficient stocks of heavy weapons, a small navy and a rudimentary air force.

They had no problems of fresh supplies as they had enough resources pouring in from their supporters abroad and through their commercial ventures.

Only a handful of military analysts believed that the rebels could be wiped out completely.

Today, Sri Lanka is among the few nations that can say it has successfully quelled a nearly three-decade insurgency by military means.

The entire rebel-held territory has been captured, huge caches of weapons have been recovered and destroyed, and the entire Tamil Tiger leadership is thought to have been wiped out.

So what led to the military success of a force that had been at the receiving end for many years?

'No ambiguity'

"So many factors have contributed to the success of the Sri Lankan forces. There was a clear aim and mandate from the political level to the official level and to the military level to destroy the LTTE at any cost. There was no ambiguity in that," Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the BBC.

 

The rebels thought the international community, especially neighbouring India, would intervene looking at the civilian suffering
- DBS Jeyaraj

When the current president, his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, came to power in 2005, he made it clear that he would go all out against the rebels if they were not sincere in peace talks.

Once the peace process failed, he gave the go ahead for the war to his brother and the hard line army commander Gen Sarath Fonseka.

A massive recruitment drive for the armed forces was launched (it increased from about 80,000 to more than 160,000). New weapons, including fighter jets, artillery guns and multi-barrel rocket launchers were bought from countries like China, Pakistan and Russia and new military strategies and tactics were evolved.

"That was the time when the international community was totally disappointed with the rebels because of their insincerity in peace talks. So countries like India and the US gave their tacit support for the all-out offensive against the LTTE," says Sri Lankan analyst DBS Jeyaraj.

 

Sri Lankan helicopter
Air force superiority was a key factor for the government

Hostilities between the two sides broke out first in Eastern Province in August 2006. After months of intense battles, the government declared it had completely dislodged the rebels from the east.

One of the main reasons for the rebels' eastern debacle was the split in 2004 - when the Tigers' influential eastern commander, Col Karuna, broke away because of differences with the leadership.

"The LTTE could never recover from that. Thousands of fighters went away with Karuna and the LTTE could not recruit fresh cadres from the east, dealing a severe blow to their manpower. They struggled hard to replace fallen cadres in the subsequent northern battle," says Col R Hariharan, former chief of military intelligence of the Indian Peacekeeping Force in Sri Lanka from 1987 to 1990.

It was only a matter of time before the Sri Lankan military launched the second phase of its offensive to recapture the rebel strongholds in the north.

In the meantime, the Sri Lankan navy had also hunted and destroyed many Tamil Tiger supply ships in deep seas, dealing a crucial blow to the rebels.

Battlefield plans

The army also changed its tactics and became better able to cope with the kind of warfare waged by the guerrillas.

Small teams of commandoes were sent behind enemy lines to carry out attacks against rebel leaders and key defence lines.

 

Brigadier Shavendra Silva
Brigadier Shavendra Silva said the Tigers were taken by surprise

The military also started to stretch them thin by opening up a number of fronts in the north.

The Tamil Tigers had no answer to the bombing missions by air force jets.

"The rebels never knew about the battlefield plans. We surprised them in many areas. For example, they didn't expect me to capture the strategically important town of Paranthan, near Kilinochchi, by outflanking them," Brig Shavendra Silva, commander of the Sri Lankan army's 58th division, told the BBC in a recent interview from the frontline.

The capture of Paranthan forced the rebels to withdraw from the strategically important Elephant Pass, a small land bridge that connects northern Jaffna peninsula with the rest of the country.

From Paranthan, Sri Lankan security forces battled their way into the Tamil Tiger de-facto capital of Kilinochchi.

The 58th division, which is credited with a series of military successes against the rebels, battled hard to forge ahead from Mannar up to Matalan beach on the eastern coast in Mullaitivu district.

"It was not an easy walk. But we went ahead with a huge momentum and kept our pace and there were clear-cut instructions and leadership from our superiors," Brig Silva said.

But many argue that the military's success has come at an enormous humanitarian cost.

The UN believes that nearly 7,000 civilians may have been killed and 13,000 injured in the conflict since January.

Aid agencies say around 275,000 people have been displaced.

A number of villages and towns have either been damaged or destroyed.

Both the military and the rebels are being accused of gross violations of international humanitarian law. The two sides deny the charges.

"The Sri Lankan military juggernaut cruised ahead despite mounting civilian casualties. The rebels thought the international community, especially neighbouring India, would intervene looking at the civilian suffering and bring about a ceasefire in the final stages. When that did not happen, they ran out of options," says Mr Jeyaraj.

May 22, 2009

The last days of Thiruvenkadam Veluppillai Prabhakaran

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Thiruvenkadam Veluppillai Prabhakaran is no more!

The body of the 54 year old supreme leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) was found on Tuesday May 19th near the Mullaitheevu lagoon known as "Nanthikkadal" (sea of conches). He had gunshot wounds in the head and forehead.

[Thiruvenkadam Veluppillai Prabhakaran] [click here to read the article in full~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Remarks by UN Official Nambiar in Colombo

Vijay Nambiar’s remarks at the Press conference held on May 22nd 2009, at the Colombo Hilton

Over the past months, the situation in Sri Lanka has been a matter of grave concern to the United Nations.

As the threat of large scale civilian casualties has increased, the Secretary General had been in touch with the Sri Lankan President and various member states, urging action to prevent a possible humanitarian crisis.

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[Journalists covering Vijay Nambiar's media conference at the Colombo Hilton-pic: by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai]

For this reason, I came back to Sri Lanka about a week ago after my previous visit last month.
I arrived with the intent to consult with the leaders here on how to alleviate the suffering of civilians in the conflict zone and facilitate the evacuation of civilians as well as an orderly end to the conflict.

Meanwhile, the ground situation took a quick turn and the focus of my mission had to be adjusted when hostilities appeared to have ended as the Sri Lankan Government announced the conclusion of its military operation against the LTTE earlier this week.

There is no question that the end of the military conflict with the LTTE has brought Sri Lanka to a major turning point in its history.

At this critical juncture, choices made will determine how the country can move forward from nearly three decades of civil war.

That is why, I have suggested that the Secretary General visit the country at an earliest date. He comes here this evening for a stay lasting a little over 24 hours.

As he mentioned early this week, “now is the time for the nation to unite to build a just and lasting peace”.

We hope that the Secretary General’s visit can help begin a process of national recovery, renewal and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans.

Over the past week, I met with a range of interlocutors including senior officials, humanitarian agencies, the diplomatic corps, as well as senior political leaders including Tamil Parliamentarians. I also had a good meeting with President Rajapaksa. Later today, I will meet with members of civil society.

Meanwhile, I met with the Foreign Minister and Foreign Ministry officials yesterday to finalize details of the Secretary General’s programme.

I was also able to visit the IDP camps and what was the latest in conflict zone.

During the Secretary General’s visit, he will offer UN assistance in some of these areas and hold discussions about addressing related challenges.

My visit to the North yesterday has led me to believe that the UN may have a comparative advantage to help the Government’s efforts to heal the wounds of this long drawn conflict.

Of course, the Government’s efforts on the above should necessarily be anchored on the Government’s discussion with diverse Tamil groups and their representatives regarding the future political solution through a credible devolution of power.

The process for national reconciliation must be all inclusive, so that it can fully address the legitimate aspirations of Tamil and other minorities. It is important that victory becomes a victory for all Sri Lankans. Referring to devolution, the President has recognized it as an important part on the path to lasting peace.

We must recognize the profound pain particularly in Tamil communities affected by the conflict and among so many who lost ones to the violence.

As I witnessed during my overflight around the affected zone yesterday, the effects of the final stages of the war were truly devastating.

But, we must now pick up pieces, look ahead and move forward.

May 21, 2009

Was Prabakaran and his entire family Executed by the army?

by Dushy Ranetunge in London

The Sri Lankan States version of the last moments of Prabakaran is reminiscent of the last moments of Rohana Wijeweera, leader of the JVP.

Prabakaran, we are told was in an ambulance, fleeing the battlefield when it came under fire from troops, resulting in his death.

Rohana Wijeweera of the JVP too died while trying to “flee”. He was captured by the Sri Lankan army and handed over to the Sri Lankan State. On the orders of Minister Ranjan Wijeratna, Wijeweera was taken to the Kanaththa Cemetery in Colombo and shot by a group commanded by a senior Police Officer. The state released a “news” item stating that Wijeweera was shot while trying to flee.

It was in fact a clumsy and a crude execution by the Sri Lankan state, which likes to chant pirith from time to time and accuse the West of being hypocrites. The pot calling the kettle black.

Let us look at Prabakarans case. There is now considerable photographic evidence. The New York Times published a picture of Prabakaran?s body being carried by soldiers. It was a full body photo and there are no bullet wounds or injuries apparent on the body. Other video and still photos show his face. These show a cloth covering the upper part of his head, presumably a bullet wound.

Prabakarans face is frozen in a pose of surprise. There is no telltale evidence of him having swallowed cyanide.

If as according to the Sri Lankan state?s version, Prabakaran was fleeing in an ambulance which came under fire by troops, one would expect bullets to have ricocheted around inside the Ambulance causing far more injuries rather than one which looks like a clean single shot to the back of the head.

We were told that Prabakaran was “shot” on Monday in his “Ambulance” while trying to drive through an area blocked by a sea of canvas tents, shacks, bombed out military and other vehicles and some 50,000 Sri Lankan troops.

Must have been some Ambulance driver!

The bodies of Mathvathani Erambu, identified as Prabhakaran?s wife and a girl Duvaraka and a young boy Balachandran identified as Prabhakaran?s children were reportedly found in the vicinity of the body of LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, according to a report by the army. They all had gunshot wounds to the head.

It seems this Ambulance was not only a crowded one, all its passengers ended up having gunshot wounds to the head. Perhaps Prabakaran was in the Ambulance and received a gunshot wound to the head and his entire family was 600 meters away and also received gun shot wounds to the head?

Quite remarkable!

But all this results in undermining the credibility of the governments Ambulance story and leads one to speculate as to what could have happened.

We have been told that the UAV was used to locate the fleeing ambulance, but this footage has not been released.

But above the Sri Lankan UAV?s, British, American, Russian and Indian sattelites are watching the crime scene with far superior technology. As I write, they are also watching the bulldozers at work at present at the crime scene, attempting to wipe it all clean and digging mass graves to bury it all, like in Srebrenica, another massacre site. These tapes were later produced during the Yogoslav war crimes trials.

On Sunday, the ICRC confirmed that the LTTE expressed its intention to surrender. Later Foreign Secretary Kohona stated that the offer of surrender came too late.

The rules of war allow a protagonist to surrender at any time of engagement. There is never a “too late” or “too early” a time to surrender.

Did Prabakaran and his entire family surrender to the army and were executed by them?

There is another possibility.

It is possible that Prabakaran ordered his family and himself to be shot by his bodyguard, realising the futility of the situation. The army having recovered the bodies may have not wanted to reward Prabakaran with any heroism in death and may have came up with the Ambulance story. This is however unlikely, because if the suicide route was taken, the Chola mindset of the Ilavars would not have left even the ashes of Prabakaran for the “Sinhala” army to parade.

There is another incident, which is of immense curiosity. When Rajapakse landed at BIA from Jordan, I was at the airport on my way to London.

The route to the airport had posters of Mervin Silva, advertising his triumph over the Tigers in Rome? The cab driver on seeing the posters cursed Mervin as a tyrant.

On alighting from the aircraft Rajapakse kissed the tarmac. Now, this is a patented signature habit of Gods representative on Earth, the Pope. It is the Pope who normally goes around kissing tarmac. Rajapakse pays frequent visits to the Vatican and is photographed shaking the Popes hand, because no other head of state in Europe would like to be photographed shaking Rajapakse?s hand for obvious reasons. The first lady is also a Catholic. But to emulate the Pope to the extent of kissing tarmac is curious.

Was this irrational and highly emotional behaviour on the part of Rajapakse due to the fact that he was aware on Sunday morning that Prabakaran?s body was in the custody of the Sri Lankan forces, either dead or alive?

That would explain why he was consumed by the Pope like urge to kiss tarmac.

Ending of the war and the ability of the Sri Lankan army to capture all territory was a foregone conclusion. This knowledge was clearly not tarmac kissing material.

Although Rajapakse was previously promising Prabakaran to India for trial etc, these were political manoeuvrings and lacked any seriousness.

Prabakaran or for than matter Wijeweera “alive” in the state?s custody would have distracted the focus of victory from the victor to the vanquished. It would have also presented the State with a security, diplomatic as well as a legal nightmare.

For the Sri Lankan state, both Rohana Wijeweera and Velupillai Prabakaran being “shot dead while fleeing” is a convenient conclusion.

Although Prabakaran advocated the cult of the cyanide capsule to others, he himself would never use it at the end, and died from a “Sinhala-Buddhist” bullet to the back of the head. The ultimate humiliation to the Chola mindset, which boasted that they will not even leave the ashes of Prabakaran to the Sinhala army.

In Colombo the Sinhala Buddhist tribalists and teamsters waved their flags and celebrated. Their team had won and the captain had kissed tarmac.

The world had witnessed a carnage in Sri Lanka. Thousands of innocents had died, a sight disturbing to the hardest of minds. There was so much misery and suffering in this land of the Buddha. So many Sri Lankan soldiers had died, especially in the past few months, that the army had stopped releasing casualty figures in the fear of a backlash in the South.

There was too much death and suffering to be in a party mood, to eat kiri-bath or bring out the giant rabana?s.

The achievement of the Rajapakse administration and the Sri Lankan armed forces in particular are quite extraordinary. They have achieved what many thought was the impossible. The Tamil Diaspora is lost for words. The speed and momentum of the military assault and its conclusion has been quite stunning. Little Sri Lanka had shown to whole wide world, how to deal with terrorists and it was by all accounts an innings defeat.

But the human cost of it all was and continues to be gut churning. It has destroyed Sri Lanka?s image abroad with ordinary citizens of the world. It is pointless huffing and puffing at the British Secretary of State Miliband, accusing him of being a LTTE supporter, because Miliband is merely expressing the sentiments of millions of ordinary British and European citizens who have been appalled at the human carnage in Sri Lanka. Its also good to be mindful that Miliband may be a future British Prime Minister.

Both my teenage children at Queenswood and Winchester boarding schools in the UK are having to face the disapproval of fellow students appalled at the carnage in Sri Lanka. Miliband represents this disapproval of the British and European citizens.

Rajapakse?s speech in Jayawardhanapura Kotte was inspiring. It made the news in the West, and was welcomed. When the President said that there are those who loved this country and those who didn?t, one wondered which category the “helping Hambanthota” group that defrauded the country by millions falls into.

Hambanthota has lots of brand spanking new tarmac waiting to be kissed, but then the ten commandments of democracy includes the warning, “Thou shalt be wary of politicians who kiss babies and tarmac.”

Remarks by Ambassador Robert O. Blake at his Final Press Conference as U.S. Ambassador in Colombo

Remarks by Ambassador Robert O. Blake at his Final Press Conference as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives

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[Outgoing US Ambassador Robert O Blake addresses the media at Galle Face Hotel-Pic: by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai]

[Audio-Remarks by Ambassador Robert O Blake]

Ambassador Blake:

Thank you all so much for coming.

I invited you all here because today marks my last day as U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives. I wanted to have one last opportunity, as Ambassador, to take your questions and to share my country’s perspectives on the situation here in Sri Lanka, particularly at such an important moment in Sri Lanka’s history.

My wife, my three daughters and I have greatly enjoyed our time here in this beautiful country. We have traveled to all parts of the island, met people from all kinds of backgrounds and walks of life, and, from the people we have met, we learned a tremendous amount about Sri Lanka’s rich culture, history, and, of course, all of the people’s perspectives on the current situation.

Looking back on Sri Lanka’s history, I don’t know if I could have chosen a more eventful or defining three years to serve as Ambassador. I arrived in September of 2006, shortly after the Government began its campaign in the East to capture LTTE-controlled territory. Now I depart one day after President Mahinda Rajapaksa announced to the nation the end of the country’s decades-long battle against the LTTE and his call to all Sri Lankans to “get together and build up this nation.”

For your country, this moment marks more of a beginning than an end. For now begins the critical process of national reconciliation. The wounds of 26 years of conflict will take time to heal. The Tamils who lived in the LTTE-controlled areas of northern Sri Lanka have endured great hardships and suffered the loss of thousands of their family members in fighting over the last two years.

After getting to know countless Sri Lankans, I am convinced there is a national desire, from Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and others, to make this national reconciliation happen and to build a united, tolerant, and prosperous Sri Lanka.

Of immediate importance in beginning this process of reconciliation is ensuring that the needs of the nearly 300,000 internally displaced persons are met. We hope the Government will work hand in hand with the United Nations, the ICRC and non-governmental organizations to allow humanitarian access so that all of those organizations can help meet the needs of the IDPs.

The United States Government also is committed to help. We have already provided $21 million dollars in assistance to help meet the urgent needs of the internally displaced persons and we are assessing how we might help more.

To help these IDPs re-start their lives, one of our highest priorities will be providing assistance that enables IDPs to return to their homes as quickly as safely possible. We are encouraged that the Government has pledged to return the majority of IDPs to their homes by the end of the year. We stand ready to help the Government in those efforts.

To achieve the promise of this new beginning and to ensure a lasting end to terrorism, bold actions are needed now to share power and to assure all of Sri Lanka's communities a future of hope, respect and dignity. Through such actions, a truly united Sri Lanka can emerge---a Sri Lanka that is rooted in democracy and tolerance, where human rights are respected, where media can operate freely and independently, and where all Sri Lankans can participate freely in an open dialogue on the way forward for your country.

A successful reconciliation and healing process will help ensure a lasting end to terrorism in Sri Lanka and open the way for a future of prosperity, opportunity and hope for all Sri Lankans. The United States will remain engaged to help your country and your Government achieve this.

Once again let me thank you for coming. I would be pleased to take a few questions.

Q: The United States has said that it will block the IMF loan for the moment. What is the progress on that one?

Ambassador Blake: I don’t think we’ve said that we will block it, but let me say that remains under review so I don’t really have anything new to say to you on that.

Q: Now, as you said, there’s a will of reconciliation in Sri Lanka and everyone wants to be reconciled. In such a movement, do you think it’s wise to block or throw some kind of disturbance by the international community to Sri Lanka’s efforts? I mean blocking the IMF loan or any other war crimes tribunals. Would you think it would help the situation?

Ambassador Blake: I’ve already addressed the IMF loan, but on the wider question of international community assistance, I would say the international community is very engaged, particularly the United States. As I said, we have given $21 million in assistance this year, just for the IDPs. Last year we gave $37 million and we will continue to do what we can to help future efforts this year. We are the largest food aid donor as well. So I think the United States is very closely engaged in trying to help the people of Sri Lanka.

Does the US support a war crimes investigation?

Ambassador Blake: On the question of war crimes, we think it is important for the international community to have more information about what happened on both sides during the recent offensive in Northern Sri Lanka. That is one of the reasons that we press for access for the ICRC and for the UN, so they can better understand the facts on the ground and review the situation.

Q: Ambassador, what is your view on the situation of the IDP camps. The UN is asking for access there saying that it doesn’t have as much as it would like. What is your view on this?

Ambassador Blake: Well, we support the UN. We think it is very important that both the UN and the ICRC have access. We provide much of our assistance through the UN to the IDPs and it is a subject of regular dialogue between us and the Government. Right now of course there is a very serious problem of overcrowding in the camps as a result of the large influx of IDPs that have come down from the north. But I think that the Government and the UN are both working to try to provide shelter and food and water and sanitation for those people. Our view is that the IDPs should be given care that is up to international standards and that they should be resettled as quickly and safely as possible. That means mostly as soon as demining can be completed. So we are looking at ways that we might help to expedite the demining process and thereby expedite the resettlement process.

Q: Do you have concerns about their freedom of movement?

Ambassador Blake: Yes, freedom of movement is definitely one of the issues on our agenda. It is important that freedom of movement be allowed. We have discussed on many occasions with our friends in the Government the need for the Government to expedite the process of issuing ID cards to the internally displaced people. Once they have those ID cards they will be able to move more freely from the camps. I think the Government is committed to doing that but it is important that they expedite this process so that freedom of movement can be assured.

Q: Ambassador, what is your message for the Tamil diaspora?

Ambassador Blake: My message to the Tamil diaspora is that they have a very important role to play. We, the United States Government, have been in touch with the Tamil diaspora through frequent email contact. In addition, both Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Richard Boucher, and I recently had a dialogue with all of the major Tamil organizations in the United States so that we could better understand their concerns and so that we could also explain what we are doing to address the situation here. I think that was a very productive dialogue--one that both sides appreciated and we will continue to talk to them. We have also urged the Government to undertake its own dialogue with the Tamil diaspora. They have started some efforts, as all of you know. But I think that it is important for them to do more to talk to the diaspora in major countries like Canada, the United States, Australia and some of the European countries because the Tamil diaspora has a very important role to play and they can play an extremely important role in mobilizing funds to assist in the reconstruction of the North. It will be important for the Government to persuade the Tamil diaspora that it is truly committed to pursuing a credible reconciliation process and I think the Government is focused on that now. As I said, dialogue will be very important to move forward between the Government, between the major donors and the Tamil diaspora.

Q: (inaudible) (question about the Government’s execution of the war in the final days)

Ambassador Blake: It is difficult for me to answer that question because nobody has really had access to the safe zone to really understand the final days of the campaign. The United States on repeated occasions expressed its concern for the welfare of the civilians who were trapped in the safe zone. As you all know they were trapped by the LTTE and were effectively used as human shields. But we also called on the Government to abide by its own commitment not to use heavy weapons in the safe zone, and I think there were some violations there. I come back to what I said earlier, it is important to have better access to the region to understand exactly what happened.

Q: (inaudible) Don’t you think you should commend the Government for evacuating the civilians even at the later stages when a ruthless terrorist organization was blocking… What do you think about that? Why are you not commenting on that?

Ambassador Blake: Well, I think we have commented on it extensively. We said repeatedly that we called on the LTTE to release the civilians, to allow them freedom of movement, to stop using them as human shields. You can go back to any of our statements and you will see very clearly that we made those statements. But at the same time we also felt that the Government needed to abide by its own commitments and for us and for all of the members of the international community the utmost interest and concern was for the safety of the civilians who were trapped. I will take one more question.

Q: (Inaudible)

Ambassador Blake: Sorry, I did not understand, the co-chairs have pledged what?

Q: (Inaudible—question about $4.5 billion pledge from Co-Chairs)

A: Well, that was in 2003. So much of that money has already been released. There have not been new pledges. Each of the co-chairs individually has been providing quite considerable assistance. I’ve already outlined for you the assistance that the United States has provided. I am afraid I have got to run. I have to go off and pack and get ready to catch my plane tonight. Again, let me thank you all for your friendship and the cooperation we have had with the members of the press here. As you know I have been nominated to be Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia in the new administration. My appointment has not been confirmed by the Senate but if it is confirmed I look forward to continuing to work with our friends in Sri Lanka and with all of you. Thank you again.

Time for Tamils to Transcend and Transform

by Arvalan

“Opportunity often comes in disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.” - Napoleon Hill

The armed liberation struggled waged by the Tamils have come to a “bitter end”. The defeat at the hands of the Sinhalese regime has shaken the Tamil community all over the world. Tamils all over world, irrespective of their political affiliations, feel the pain of defeat and their pride has been hurt. However this is not the time to mourn the defeat and acknowledge “condolence messages” from the international community.

-It is time for the Tamils to reignite their struggle for freedom with more vigour and commitment.

-It is time for the Tamils to learn from the mistakes of the past and march forward towards their dream homeland.

-It is time for the Tamils to mobilise their global resources to launch a diplomatic & economic offensives against the Sri Lanka

-It is time for the Tamils to avenge Sinhala Buddhist regime which has humiliated us in defeat in the courts of justice

-It is time for the Tamils to act, act immediately and act wisely

The Tamil struggle was initiated and lead by the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) in the late seventies until the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) became the sole representatives in late Eighties. The LTTE negotiated with the Indian & Sri Lankan governments from the late eighties for the next 20 years. The 30-year-old struggle has resulted in Tamils losing many of their political leaders who are astute, articulate, committed, diplomatic, knowledgeable and visionary. Further during the Eelam War IV LTTE not only lost their military leaders but unfortunately and tragically lost many of their front line political wing leaders in, Balasingham, Tamilselvan, Nadesan and Pulidevan

It is time for a new band of leadership to take the struggle forward. I believe this new leadership should originate from the Diaspora, which has been blessed with individuals who are experts in politics, diplomacy and international relations. We need these media savvy and committed individuals to come forward to lead the struggle for liberation from a diplomatic and political front.

I believe the umbrella organisations in Canada (such as Canadian Tamil Congress), Europe (such as British Tamil Forum) , USA (such as PEARL), Australia (such as Australian Federation of Tamil Associations) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) in Sri Lanka need to come together to form a global body for the Tamils. This new global body for the Tamils could be called Tamil National Congress (TNC) and should be structured along the lines of a Tamil government in exile. TNC should be entrusted with the task of lobbying the international community and negotiating with the Sri Lankan government.

The guiding principles for the TNC will be the Thimpu principles, which are

· Recognition of the Tamils of Ceylon as a nation

· Recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils of Ceylon

· Recognition of the right of self determination of the Tamil nation

The TNC should lobby the International community, particularly India, US & EU to endorse the Thimpu principles. The TNC need to embark on “classical lobbying” in their respective countries which is vastly different from the lobbying carried out in the past. I believe some of the lobbying techniques used in US by PEARL and Tamils for Obama will be good examples of effective lobbying methods.

It is also equally important the legal experts of the TNC should actively pursue the Sri Lankan leaders in war crime tribunals. TNC will need to bring the cream of the Tamil legal minds to prosecute the Sinhala leadership in the courts of international justice for crimes against humanity.

Whilst pursuing the diplomatic & legal offensives against the Sri Lankan government, TNC should also take the lead role in alleviating the sufferings of the Internally Displaced People (IDP’s). IC should be successfully persuaded by the TNC to allow it to run the rehabilitation and resettlement efforts in North and East of Sri Lanka. This will amount to a pseudo interim administration.

In the event of TNC not seeking a lead role the rehabilitation and resettlement efforts will be managed by Karuna and Douglas, catering for the interests of the Sri Lankan government. The danger in allowing Karuna and Douglas to manage the resettlement program is it will result in Sinhala colonisation of North and East and the aid fund being diverted to South (as evidenced with Tsunami reconstruction).

Therefore it is vital for the TNC to pursue a short-term strategy to address the immediate problems of our people whilst pursuing the long-term political solution to our conflict. TNC will be launching offensives in three major fronts, political, legal and economical, which are the hallmarks of a government in exile.

I believe there will be resistance from some quarters for any moves to form a new organisation. However the concept of TNC is not about compromising the LTTE. At this critical juncture in our history Tamils need global leadership, which LTTE is unable to provide at present (they have done so effectively in the past). TNC is all about proving that leadership and exploiting the support we have harvested in the international arena with our demonstrations, rallies and lobbying.

As symbolic step for the formation of the TNC, mass gatherings should be organised in Sydney, Chennai, Geneva, London and Toronto on the same day. Tamils should participate in these rallies in mass numbers wearing the traditional dress. Participants should avoid carrying Tiger flags (even though they call it Tamil national flags) as the international media will portray any rallies with the tiger flags as Pro LTTE rally and in that process we are losing the plot in getting the message across to the wider community. The purpose of these mass gatherings are to announce to the world that

-We are proud to be Tamils & We are united

-Tamil Eelam is our homeland and we want it to be liberated.

-Declare the President of Sri Lanka as a War Criminal

The end of the military phase of the Eelam war IV has opened many doors in the international community. It is critical we exploit these opportunities and contacts for our benefit to achieve a permanent solution for our legitimate grievances. If we miss this opportunity the future generations will continue to suffer in our homeland and overseas.

We are not done yet!

Protecting Tamil people is my responsibility says President Rajapakse

(Address by His Excellency President Mahinda Rajapaksaat the ceremonial opening of Parliament,Sri Jayawardhanapura - Kotte May 19, 2009)

I declare open this fourth session of Parliament at a time the people of our country, as well as the entire world are celebrating a great victory.

I address this session of Parliament at the historic occasion when the hopes and expectations of the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Malay and all people of our country for several decades, to see a Sri Lanka that is free of murderous terrorism, have been realized.
Friends, (In Tamil)

This is our country
This is our mother land
We should live in this country as children of one mother No differences of race, caste and religion should prevail here Over the last thirty years, the LTTE has killed many people Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslims - many have been killed The war against the LTTE is not a war against Tamil people Our aim was to liberate our Tamil people from the clutches of the LTTE Our heroic forces have sacrificed their lives to protect Tamil civilians The victory we have gained by defeating LTTE is the victory of this nation, and the victory of all people living in this country.
Protecting the Tamil speaking people of this country is my responsibility That is my duty
All the people of this country should live in safety without fear and suspicion
All should live with equal rights That is my aim
Let us all get together and build up this nation (Tamil ends) .

For almost three decades the laws enacted by this legislature were not in force in almost one-third of our land.

When I won the Presidential Election in 2005 there were LTTE police stations in the North and East. There were Tiger courts. What was missing was only a Tiger parliament. Today we have finished all that forever.

Today, this session of Parliament opens in a country where the writ of this august legislature spreads equally throughout the 65, 332 sq. km of territory of Sri Lanka.
Hon. Speaker

This will give you great cause for satisfaction. The 225 Hon. Members of this House have cause for great satisfaction about this. The entire population of the country can enjoy that satisfaction. All sections of the people; and all political parties that contributed to my victory in the Presidential Election in 2005 can share this satisfaction.
Hon. Speaker

It is necessary to recall at this time the statements in the historic Mahinda Chinthana that policy statement that was placed before the people three years ago. "The freedom of our country is supreme. I will not permit any separatism. I will also not permit anyone to destroy democracy in our country ...I will respect all ethnic and religious identities, refrain from using force against anyone and build a new society that protects individuals and social freedoms" This is the objective of the Mahinda Chinthana.
Hon. Speaker

It is necessary on this historic occasion to inquire as to how it was possible to obtain the proud victory we have achieved today by defeating the world's most ruthless terrorist organization.

We are a country with a long history where we saw the reign of 182 kings who rules with pride and honour for that extended more than 2,500 years. This is a country where kings such as Dutugemunu, Valagamba, Dhatusena and Vijayabahu defeated enemy invasions and ensured our freedom.

As much as Mother Lanka fought against invaders such as Datiya, Pitiya, Palayamara, Siva and Elara in the past, we have the experience of having fought the Portuguese, Dutch and British who established empires in the world. As much as the great kings such as Mayadunne, Rajasingha I and Vimaladharmasuriya, it is necessary to also recall the great heroes such as Keppettipola and Puran Appu who fought with such valour against imperialism.

In looking at this unconquerable history there is a common factor we can see. It is the inability of any external enemy to subdue this country as long as those to whom this is the motherland stand united. That is the truth. Another common factor we can see is the inability to establish any savage or dictatorial regime on this land. In the history of my motherland, the people have always risen undefeated against any arbitrary, savage or brutal rule.

I must express my gratitude here to those heroes of our past who have given us the strength and courage to fight against savage invaders and enemies not only today, but in the future too.
Hon. Speaker

The LTTE terrorists began the march to own half of this country, having assassinated the Mayor of Jaffna in 1975, and began their journey to divide the country into two. At that time the terrorists did not hold a single inch of land in the entire north and east.

When the people handed over this country to me the LTTE had control over 15,000 sq. km or one-fourth of the territory of this country, and two- thirds of its coastline.

It was not only territory that we lost during that period. The nation lost several thousand lives and much property and assets. Hundreds of religious dignitaries, as well as national leaders such as R. Premadasa and Rajiv Gandhi, and great ministers such as Lakshman Kadirgamar, Gamini Dissanayake, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and AHM Ashroff were lost to us.

By the last Presidential Election terrorists had gone much further than anyone had believed possible. As a massive international organization, they had established an unmatched that no other organization in the world enjoyed.

They had acquired ships, aircraft, submarines, and the most advanced weaponry in the world. They controlled city administrations, international frauds and scams, banks, web sites and radio stations, and had also issued currency.

There is no one yet able to fully measure their assets. The word had so far not seen such a powerful and large organization. The biggest danger was that the north and east of this country were brought together and gifted through a deed of peace to this destructive terrorist organization.

As result, in 2005 what we took over was a country with grave challenges. Not only in the jungles of Thoppigala or the Vanni, the shadow of terrorism was also cast on all political activity in the country. You are aware that the Norochcholai Power project was due to be established several decades before this. But the construction of this power plant was delayed because of thinking of the fear that the location of this power project would some day come under the control of the terrorists. These are bitter truths to the nation. My Motherland has had to face even more bitter realities.

The terrorists worked continuously to mark the area that should belong to them on the map of Sri Lanka and establish the Eelam state. But the terrorists had created a situation under which there was even fear to respect the principle of the unitary state that has been established in our Constitution.

Even the powerful countries of the world showed fear before the terrorists; some countries were shaken and went on their knees in the face of terror.

Our people began to face a defeatist mentality, whether we could face up to a problem that many countries in the world the world did not seem able to face. Terrorism is like a venomous serpent that draws the most dangerous qualities from politics, economics, science and all subjects in the world.

What terrorism draws from politics is racism. It builds an economy through drug trafficking. What it draws from technology is the manufacture of explosives. The defeat in Sri Lanka of the world's most ruthless terrorist organization in the world that is made up of all these deadly qualities can be considered second to none.

Therefore, we did not attempt to respond to the terrorists in their own language. When the terrorists were calling for war, we responded with a humanitarian operation. Our troops went to this operation carrying a gun in one hand, the Human Rights Charter in the other, hostages on their shoulders, and the love of their children in their hearts.

That was an incomparable chapter in the history of war. It is truly a miracle to go to a battlefield where civilians have bee turned into human bombs, and carry on the battle without shedding the blood of civilians. It is a great skill to face up to the heaviest monsoon rains and major floods and not retreat a single step. It needs the ability of a Vishvakarma to defeat battle tanks and artillery with small arms.

There was no school of war in the word that could face up to the savage military strategies used by the terrorists of the LTTE. The world had not seen military sciences able to face a combination of land mines, claymore mines, small suicide vessels, light aircraft that can evade radar, and suicide killer jackets.

Through thirty years the Security Forces of Sri Lanka were compelled to find ways and means to face up to all this. By the end of its successful march the Security Forces of Sri Lanka had become the most disciplined and capable military in the world.

Our security forces were able to defeat the most ruthless terrorists in the world due to their strict discipline, commitment, and creative use of military strategy.
Hon. Speaker

What is it that we have now acquired having defeated the most ruthless terrorists of the world?

What we now have is another powerful challenge in the world.

The Tamil people who have a great history are today in a tragic and helpless state due to the terrorists of the LTTE. When did it ever happen in the history of the Tamil people that parents forced their young daughters to get pregnant to save them from being dragged into war? Who was it that brought Tamil children who are protected by the Goddess Pattini to this fate? Who was it that abandoned in tents the Tamil people who worshipped the Deity Ganesh at Kataragama, and cared for their health with the antiseptic qualities of saffron water and margosa leaves?
Hon. Speaker

It is the LTTE that has put the Tamil community to their lowest position in history. Those who raised their voices for the protection of the terrorists, and all those who helped the terrorists should now fall at the feet of these Tamil mothers and seek their pardon. Those who live abroad and supported the terrorists with funds, if they have any love for their own people, should not help terrorism again.

The day is not far when the hearts and feelings of the mothers and daughters who have today been rendered helpless became the collective conscience of the Tamil people. Their hearts are now with us who liberated from the slavery they had been forced into. Facing up to and winning this challenge is like building a strong bridge over Eelam. What was seen in the past days at Pudumathalan area should forever remain seared in the minds of the Tamil people.
Hon. Speaker

The defeat of the LTTE and the breakdown of their armed strength will never be the defeat of the Tamil people of this country. What have the Tamil people inherited from the gun that was used to assassinate Alfred Duraiyappah to the armed tanks used to attack the innocent Tamil people who were fleeing Pudumathalan, and all other weapons of the LTTE?

What was the LTTE able to win for the Tamil people from the force of its arms? The complete defeat of the LTTE is an even greater victory for the Tamil people.
Hon. Speaker

The Tamil people were never a people who had faith or trust in weapons. It would be sufficient for them to know of just one incident that took place when the LTTE was powerful.

One clause in the Indo-Lanka Accord was that the LTTE should hand over its weapons to the army. When the LTTER announced to the people of Jaffna that it would be handing over its weapons, they received a resounding cheer and applause from the people. The LTTE was also surprised by this response. It is, therefore clear that the Tamil people are not a people who like to bear weapons.
Mr. Speaker

At this victorious moment, it is necessary for us to state with great responsibility, that we do not accept a military solution as the final solution. Similarly, when we see the sad faces of the people who have been fleeing from the Puthumathalan area, we can realize that a document offered on a tray as a political solution could also not be the final solution. Therefore, the responsibility that we accept after freeing the Tamil people from the LTTE is a responsibility that no government in the history of Sri Lanka has accepted.

When we accept the responsibility for the people who have been liberated, we receive many proposals from various countries and institutions. They ask us to look after our own Tamil people well.
Hon. Speaker

All the people in the country from Dondra Head to Point Pedro are our own people.

The government saw to it that we did not shirk our responsibilities even to the people who were under the yoke of the LTTE. In brief, the terrorist leader who was killed yesterday, until that time had his meals with the food and drink that the government supplied.
Mr. Speaker

We are a country with unique precedents. According to the tradition established by kings such as Dutugemunu, we should respect even the enemy that has surrendered or been killed in combat. That is a quality of greatness that is found not only with the government, but also with the people of this country.

This is a country with a people who when thousands lost their homes and were made destitute from the Tsunami, took care of all those people, not letting even a single victim go hungry for even one meal. We who are schooled in the Buddhist tradition of loving kindness and compassion, and nurtured in the Hindu, Islam and Christian traditions, do not need to be taught how we should treat and care for the innocent and helpless. We shall resettle all those who have been freed from being hostages in very welcome surroundings. People who have not had electricity and not seen modern roads will be resettled in environments complete with all facilities. I ask you to compare the living conditions of the people in the East three years ago with what it is today.

Although we engaged in a massive struggle to defeat terrorism, we did not make that a cause to delay development and welfare services. We launched development projects throughout the country that had been ignored for 30 years. We created new employment. They were not confined to the South. While carrying out massive humanitarian operations in the North, the Vanni and the East, we were also engaged in development work in those areas.

At no time since independence have the development work now being done in the East and Mannar been undertaken. A Presidential Task Force has already been appointed to expedite development work in the Vanni and the North. As much as we defeated deadly terrorism and freed the innocent people held by terror, we are committed to carry out accelerated development in the areas that were under terrorism, within the next three years. While bringing the lives of the people within a democratic political structure, the government will also provide education and health facilities, and launch the Northern Spring by providing the infrastructure such as irrigation, highways, electricity and such facilities necessary for the agriculture, fisheries and tourism sectors.

We have now removed terrorism, the biggest obstacle that the private sector in our country faced in participating in the Northern Spring. Therefore, the environment has now been created to carry out their investments and engage in business. I especially call on our business community to make a commitment to invest in the North and East of our country. What we need is not advice; but the cooperation to bring a better life to these people. I believe that the world community will also extend that cooperation to us.

I call on all who have left our motherland due to terrorism, especially the Tamil people, to return. I made this request when addressing an Independence commemoration event on an earlier occasion, too. Similarly, I call on our engineers, doctors, accountants and other professions living in various countries abroad, to return to your motherland and contribute to its development.
Mr. Speaker

It is necessary that we give to these people the freedoms that are the right of people in all others parts of our country. Similarly, it is necessary that the political solutions they need should be brought to closer to them faster than any country or government in the world would bring. However, it cannot be an imported solution. We do not have the time to be experimenting with the solutions suggested by other countries. Therefore, it is necessary that we find a solution that is our very own, of our own nation. It should be a solution acceptable to all sections of the people. We expect cooperation for it from the international community and not obstruction. Should the international community doubt our capability to find such a solution, when we have successfully overcome a challenge that that the world was unable to achieve? No. We can achieve this. I believe that the solution that we who respect valued the qualities of Mettha (loving kindness) Karuna (Compassion) Muditha (Rejoicing in others' joy) and Upeksha (Equanimity) based on the philosophy of Buddhism can present, can bring both relief and an example to the world. Similarly, I seek the support of all political parties for that solution.
Mr. Speaker

We have removed the word minorities from our vocabulary three years ago. No longer are the Tamils, Muslims, Burghers, Malays and any others minorities. There are only two peoples in this country. One is the people that love this country. The other comprises the small groups that have no love for the land of their birth. Those who do not love the country are now a lesser group.
Mr. Speaker

This small group questions as to whose victory this is. Our answer to that is that this is not a victory by President Mahinda Rajapaksa alone. The people are gathering around the National Flag. What we have done is to make the people of this country line up behind the National Flag. Therefore, this victory belongs to the people so lined up behind the National Flag. It belongs to the mothers, fathers and wives who gave their children and husbands to the armed forces; to the people who thought not of their stomachs but of their country. The blood shed by those people have enriched the soil of our land.
Mr. Speaker

Remember this country was saved by the blood, eyes, limbs, flesh and lives of our young people. Thousands of our youth faced shells on their heads, land mines at their feet, bullets in their hearts and sacrificed their lives to protect this land. We cannot allow such a land be grabbed by thieves, fraudsters, and the corrupt. This land cannot be betrayed or allowed to be sold. We should pay tribute to the children of the motherland who protected it with such sacrifice, by ensuring peace, development and good governance in this country.

There are thousands of heroic troops who sacrifice their lives from 1980 buried in our motherland today. We remember all these heroic troops with respect. We show them our gratitude. On this special occasion, the parents, wife and children of Lt. Colonel Lalith Jayasinghe, brave officer of the Long Range Reconnaissance Unit who fought fearlessly and sacrificed his life are present here today. The immense gratitude of our nation goes out on this occasion to all parents who brought forth the heroic troops who sacrificed their lives, and to their wives who gave them strength to serve the motherland.

WE have among us today a large number of heroic troops whom suffer many disabilities since 1980. Lance Corporal Bandara, a heroic trooper who was injured twice in the northern humanitarian operation and returned to active duty, and later lost both his legs at Puthukudiruppu is also a participant at this historic occasion. I extend by gratitude him on this occasion, symbolic of the gratitude and honour extended to all disabled and heroic troops.

I also extend the honour and gratitude of the nation to Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Donald Perera, the Army Commander General Sarath Fonseka, Navy Commander Admiral Vasantha Karannagoda, Air Force Commander Air Chief Marshal Roshan Gunatilleke, as well as the Inspector General of Police Jayantha Wickremeratne, and the Director General of the Civil Defence Force Sarath Weerasekera, who worked tirelessly to give this great victory to the motherland.

All heroic troops who shouldered battle for freedom obtained great encouragement from their families. But for the help of the parents, brothers and sisters, wives, children and other family members of these heroes of war, we would not have been able to achieve any of these victories. Similarly, the blessings and encouragement from my wife Shiranthi, and my sons Namal, Yoshitha and Rohitha, as well as my brothers and sisters was a great strength to me. I thank all of them as I express the gratitude of the nation to the families of all families of our heroes of war.
Mr. Speaker

There is no era in before this when the international community has paid as much attention to my motherland as in the present times. When went to the front against terrorism with a firm determination, many foreign states made many requests of us.

But although we were able to listen to all these requests, we were not ale to implement all of them. That is because I was bound to make real the expectations offered by me and carry out the mandate given to me in 2005. This was also because we had because I considered the freedom and sovereignty of my motherland as being of more value than my life

Yet, I must state that the Sri Lankan nation will always remember the help given to our country by many countries.

We will not forget that such assistance was given on behalf of world democracy. Ending terrorism in Sri Lanka means a victory for democracy in the world. Sri Lanka has now given a beginning to the ending of terrorism in the world.
Mr. Speaker

All this time what we had to tell the world was about our great, heroic and glorious history. But today we have brought about such greatness and heroism to present day Sri Lanka. Till now we gained strength to rise as a nation from the past built by our heroic ancestors. Today, as much as we have added a new pride and honour to that past, we have created an era of new strength for the future of our nation. In the future when our nation has to engage in a glorious and invincible struggle the achievements of this era will be recalled.
Mr. Speaker

Having defeated the most ruthless terrorists who made the world helpless, we rise today as invincible citizens; as a national with a great and imposing personality.

What we thought so far was that we could not achieve success in many things. After our fall in 1815, we were unable to revive that lost nation pride and dignity. But, today, we have achieved victory in a challenge that no other country has been able to overcome. It is the both your duty and mine to safeguard that dignity. It is the responsibility of us all.

As we have been victorious in the battle to defeat terrorism, we should also take to the required successful end the struggle to build our land. It is necessary for us to take the required clear decisions for this. We must now be ready to direct our motherland to that new era of national revival.

I must specially mention here that this great battle for national revival will be waged with the aim of raising the lives of the Tamil people who live in the North an East of our land, too.

In the past several decades those people did not have the right to a meaningful life. They were denied the right to life, the right to freedom, the right to development. I shall give all of that to those people. I accept that responsibility.

Hon. Speaker I do not believe that we have a right to be engaged in politics if we are unable to accept the responsibilities thrust upon us by time. I have accepted that responsibility. We have been victorious in facing one challenge. Time is now raising a new challenge before us. It is the challenge of building the motherland. From now all, everyone should change in keeping with the needs of facing up to that challenge, too. Just as I accepted the earlier challenge, I accept this new challenge too. In doing so, I look forward very much to the fullest cooperation of all Members of Parliament and Ministers, and of my dear people in our motherland.

AS a special mark of respect to the heroic troops who contributed to this great victory I hereby declare tomorrow as a national holiday.
Mr. Speaker

I value my motherland first, second and third. This should be so to you and to the entire nation. It is only our beloved motherland that we should all cherish and value.

May you be blessed by the Noble Triple Gem.
Note: This is the English translation of the address made in Sinhala

Death of Prabhakaran and other Tamils: India has blood on its hands

by M K Bhadrakumar

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam supremo Velupillai Prabhakaran's death circa May 19, 2009, in circumstances we would never quite get to know, concludes a morality play.

As the curtain comes down and we leave the theatre, the spectacle continues to haunt us. We feel a deep unease and can't quite figure out the reason. Something rankles somewhere. And then we realise we have blood on our hands.

Not only our hands, but our whole body and deeper down, our conscience -- what remains of it after the mundane battles of our day-to-day life is also dripping with blood.

Prabhakaran's blood. No, it is not only Prabhakaran's, but also of 70,000 Sri Lankan Tamils who have perished in the unspeakable violence through the past quarter century.

All the pujas we may perform to our favourite Lord Ganesh each morning and evening religiously before we march ahead in our life from success to success cannot wash away the guilt we are bearing -- the curse of the 70,000 dead souls.

Our children and grandchildren will surely inherit the great curse. Oh, God, what a bitter legacy!

A long time ago, we created Prabhakaran. We picked him up as an urchin from nowhere. What we found charming about him was that he was so thoroughly apolitical -- almost innocent about politics. He was a simpleton in many ways, who had a passion for weapons and the military regimen. He suited our needs perfectly.

Which was to humiliate the J R Jayewardene government in Sri Lanka and teach it a hard lesson about the dangers of being disrespectful to India's status as the pre-eminent power in the Indian Ocean. Jayewardene was too Western-oriented and behaved as if he never read about the Munroe Doctrine when he read history in Oxford. We didn't like at all his dalliance with the Israelis and the Americans in our very backyard.

So, we fostered Prabhakaran and built him up as a pinprick on Jayewardene's vanities -- as a Bhindranwale of the Deccan.

Then, as time passed, we decided that he had outlived his utility as we had come to develop an entirely different outlook towards the pro-Western orientation of the Colombo government by that time. Our egotistic leader in New Delhi who detested Jayewardene was no more in power and the new soft-spoken leader didn't share his predecessor's strong political antipathies.

So, we arm-twisted Prabhakaran to tone down and fall in line with our changed priorities. But we didn't realise that by then he had become a fully-grown adult.

He resisted our blackmail and pressure tactic. When we pressured him even more and tried to collar him, he struck back. He dispatched assassins to India and killed our beloved leader. And he became our eternal enemy.

Yet, we couldn't do anything to harm him. He had already become so strong -- an uncrowned king among his people. So we waited. We are a patient lot. Who can match us in infinite patience, given our 5000 years of history? Our cosmic religion gives us a unique wisdom to be patient and stoical and to bide our time.

And then, the opportune time came. We promptly moved in for the kill by aligning ourselves with Prabhakaran's enemies. We armed them and trained them in better skills to kill. We guided them with good intelligence. We plugged all escape routes for Prabhakaran. And then, we patiently waited as the noose tightened around Prabhakaran's neck.

Today he is no more. Believe it or not, we had no role in his death. How and when he died shall forever remain an enigma wrapped in a mystery. We will of course never divulge what we know.

All that matters is that the world woke up to the death only after the May 13 polling in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Otherwise, the parliamentary election results may have gone haywire against us. Strange are the ways of the Indian democracy.�

We have had our revenge. Nothing else matters for the present.

What lies ahead? We will continue to make noises about a "political solution" to the Tamil problem that Prabhkaran championed through violent means.

Of course, let there be no doubt that we will periodically render humanitarian assistance to the hundreds of thousands of Tamil civilians who have been herded into camps and may languish there till the dust settles down. We will demonstrate that we are indeed capable of the milk of human kindness. After all, the Sri Lankan Tamils are part of our historical consciousness.

But we must also be realistic. We know in our heart of hearts that the scope for a political solution in the fashion in which our leaders seem to suggest publicly is virtually nil.

The Sinhalese will never allow the world to dictate to them a political solution. More so, they will promptly and conclusively rebuff any attempt by us to seek a role in what they will now onward insist as strictly their internal affair.

Always remember that Sri Lanka is the last bastion of Theravada Buddhism and preserving that legacy is the Sinhalese people's precious tryst with destiny. At least, that is how they feel. We have to accept the weight of their cultural nationalism.

They see Sri Lanka as the land of the Sinhalese. How would they allow us Indians who wiped out Buddhism with such ferocity from the subcontinent interfere with their keen sense of destiny as the custodians of that very same great religion? Never, never.

If we try to pressure the Sinhalese, they will approach the Chinese or the Pakistanis to balance our pressure. They are capable of doing that.

The Sinhalese are a gifted people. We all know few can never match their terrific skills in media management. They have always lived by their wits.

Equally, they are fantastic practitioners of diplomacy. We suspect that they may in fact have an edge over us on this front, for unlike us who are dissimulating from day to day as if we're a responsible regional power and dissipating our energies in pastimes such as hunting down Somalian pirates in distant seas, they are a highly focused lot.

They have the grit because they are fighting for the preservation of their country's future identity as a Buddhist nation.

Only last week, they showed their diplomatic skill by getting the Russians and the Chinese to stall a move in the United Nations Security Council to pressure them.

The Europeans fancy they can try the Sinhalese for war crimes. What naivety!

We asked the Sinhalese in private many a time how they proposed to navigate their way in the coming period. They wouldn't divulge.

But we know that it is not as if they have no solution of their own to the Tamil problem, either. We know they already have a blueprint.

See, they have already solved the Tamil problem in the eastern provinces of Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara. The Tamils are no more the majority community in those provinces.

Similarly, from tomorrow, they will commence a concerted, steady colonisation programme of the northern provinces where Prabhakaran reigned supreme for two decades. They will ensure incrementally that the northern regions no more remain as Tamil provinces.

The Tamils will be made into a minority community in their own northern homelands. They will have to live among the newly created Sinhalese settlements in those regions to the north of Elephant Pass.

All this will indeed be within Sri Lanka's "federal structure". Sri Lanka will continue to adhere to parliamentary democracy.

Give them a decade at the most. The Tamil problem will become a relic of the bloody history of the Indian subcontinent.

The Sinhalese are good friends of India. Our elite and their elite speak the same idiom. We both speak good English, play golf and like chilled beer. We should, therefore, wish them well.

As for the blood on our hands, true, it is a nuisance. But this is not the first time in our history that we're having blood on our hands.

Trust our words. No lasting harm will be done. Blood doesn't leave stains.

(M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service and served in Sri Lanka as Political secretary)

May 20, 2009

Whither the Sri Lankan Tamils in a post-war scenario?

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The Sri Lankan armed forces have registered a significant military triumph over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It seems clear that the LTTE’s capacity to wage a full-fledged conventional war against the state has been critically undermined.

There is a lot of anxiety and concern about the fate of Sri Lankan Tamils in a transformed situation where the LTTE has been downsized from its earlier position of being the determining factor in the Island’s politics. This does not necessarily mean that the LTTE “struggle” had achieved some concrete gains for the Tamil people and that its perceived decline would have a negative impact. Nevertheless it must be realised that there are many Tamils who feel insecure about their plight in a post-war scenario. [click here to read the article in full~in dbs jeyaraj.com]

Prabhakaran made "meek and mild" Tamils stand up and fight for their rights

by B.Raman

As I watched TV visuals of the death of V.Prabakaran, the head of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and read and heard accounts of the way his dead body was disfigured and rolled in dirt by the Sri Lankan Army , my mind went back to the years 1951-55 when I was a student of the Loyola College of Chennai, run by the Society of Jesus. Every class, including mine, had four or five Tamils from the Northern Province of Ceylon as Sri Lanka used to be known before 1972. Even in those days, they never considered themselves part of Ceylon. They would introduce themselves as Jaffna Tamils and not as Ceylonese Tamils.

2. Every middle class family in Jaffna would save whatever money it could and send its offspring to Tamil Nadu for higher education. The most popular colleges among the Jaffna Tamils was the Loyola and the Christian Colleges of Chennai and the St.Joseph's of Tiruchi. They were intelligent, hard-working and with a keen sense of humour. During off-class hours, they would keep to themselves and did not mix much with other students.

3. Every Jaffna Tamil, like a Tamil from Tamil Nadu, wanted to become a Government servant. The other popular profession was as lawyers. When they went back to Ceylon after completing their college education in India, they would join the Government service in Colombo. In the first few years after Ceylon became independent, the Jaffna Tamils dominated the Ceylonese bureaucracy.

4. They dominated the buraucracy even in the then Malaya and Singapore. The British preferred employing the Jaffna Tamils as bureaucrats in many of their Asian colonies. Apart from their intelligence, command of the English language and capacity for hard work, the Jaffna Tamils also had a good reputation for their integrity and honesty.

5. The Wikipedia writes as follows of the Jaffna Tamil community in Malaya and Singapore: "Ceylonese Tamils made up an overwhelming majority in the civil service of British Malaya and Singapore prior to independence.....Many of the first Asian and non-white doctors and engineers in Malaya and Singapore were of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. The world's first Asian surgeon was Dr S.S. Thiruchelvam, a Malayan of Ceylonese Tamil origin. Former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew once said: " In terms of numbers, the Ceylonese, like the Eurasians, are among the smallest of our various communities. Yet in terms of achievements and contributions to the growth and development of the modern Singapore and Malaysia they have done more than warranted by their numbers. In the early days of Malaysia's and Singapore's history the civil service and the professions were manned by a good number of Ceylonese. Even today the Ceylonese community continues to play a prominent role in these and other fields of civil life. For example in Singapore, today, the Speaker of Parliament is a Ceylonese. So is our High Commissioner in Great Britain. So is our Foreign Minister. In the Judiciary, in the civil service, in the university, in the medical Service and in the professions they continue to make substantial contributions out of all proportion to their numbers. They are there not because they are members of a minority community but on the basis of merit. The point is that the Ceylonese are holding their own in open competition with communities far larger than them. They have asked for no special favour or consideration as a minority. What they have asked for – and quite rightly – is that they should be judged on their merits and that they be allowed to compete with all other citizens fairly and without discrimination. This, as far as the Singapore Government is concerned, is what is best for all of us. I believe that the future belongs to that society which acknowledges and rewards ability, drive and high performance without regard to race, language or religion." He used the word Ceylonese, but he was actually talking of Tamils of Jaffna origin working in Singapore.

6. In my younger days, the Jaffna Tamils had a reputation for being meek and mild. We used to make fun of them by saying that if a policeman or a soldier pointed a gun at them they would tie their lungi above the knees and run. It is remarkable how Prabakaran made them shed their meek demeanour and stand up and fight for their rights. They fought ferociously because they felt degraded and humiliated by the Sinhalese majority after the British left Ceylon in 1948.

7. They put up with all the humiliation and indignity heaped upon them for 35 years. Then, they could no longer. They took to terrorism and insurgency to give vent to their anger. Their revolt against the Sinhalese might have been crushed by the Sri Lankan Army, but their anger remains---- in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka itself as well as in the diaspora. Since the LTTE-led revolt broke out in 1983 nearly one million Sri Lankan Tamils are estimated to have fled abroad. You find them all over West Europe, North America and Australia.

8. In response to my articles on the LTTE and Sri Lanka, I get a large number of personal messages from the members of the diaspora. Some are angry, but polite. Some downright abusive and threatening. Some curse India for allegedly letting down the Tamils and pray to God to punish India and the Indians for not helping the Tamils. " Just because Prabakaran killed Rajeev, you are punishing the entire Tamil community,' complains one message." Your Prime Minister has not uttered a word of condemnation of the cruelties inflicted on the Tamil civilians by the SL Army. I pray to God that all of you must suffer one day the same way we are suffering."

9. The Tamil diaspora is yet to come to terms with the consequences of the death of Prabakaran to the future of their struggle for dignity and equality. They are studying how the Jewish diaspora conducted itself in its darkest days in the 1940s. The message that is being tom-tomed across the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora is: " Let us emulate the Jewish diaspora. We will prevail just as the Jewish people prevailed"

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Dead or Alive, Prabhakaran Lingers on

By Col R Hariharan

With the death of V Prabhkakaran curtains came down on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as a viable military entity in the Eelam War IV on Sunday May 17, 2009. He had little chance of survival as troops from three divisions of Sri Lanka Security Forces swept through Prabhakaran’s last hideout in the strip of barely a few hundred metres, north of Mullaitivu. Along with him his trusted lieutenants Pottu Amman, the intelligence chief and veteran leader Soosai who had survived earlier war were also reported killed.

As expected speculation is rife about the way he died - whether he committed suicide biting the cyanide capsule, or grievously injured in operation or wilfully massacred by the security forces. These speculations are of little consequence as he is no more to lead the Tamil Tigers once again. President Rajapaksa confirmed his death in a telephone call to the Indian Foreign Minsiter Pranab Mukherjee yesterday. One can expect the Sri Lanka government to scotch the rumours when they produce the evidence of his death requested by India to close the case against Prabhakaran and Pottu Amman two of the prime-accused in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Understandably, the LTTE and its acolytes are in a state of denial of their thalaivar’s death. The Sri Lanka Tamil expatriates who had put their faith in Prabhakaran’s immortality and invincibility are in a state of shock. They had been expecting Prabhakaran to produce a miracle of sorts to turn the tide of war in favour of the LTTE. However, when S Pathmanathan, head of LTTE’s international affairs issued a statement denying Prabhakaran’s death and accused of massacring Political chief Nadesan and Pulidevan, it sent the security forces in a tizzy. President Rajapaksa pointedly omitted reference to finding Prabhakaran’s body in his long speech to parliament. And the security forces were desperately looking for the body! After all the high drama and a lot contradictory stories, around noon today security forces have confirmed Prabhakaran’s body has been found in the Nandikadal lagoon. His body was shown in the state TV with skull injuries. That should silence at least those who want the correct information on his death.

The cream of the LTTE leadership including the occupants of two rows behind the leader’s throne, have been wiped out in the last two days of the three-year old war. Among the list of identified bodies among the 200 plus recovered in the Sunday operations include apart from Prabhakaran, his son Charles Anthony, Soosai, Pottu Amman - Intelligence Wing Leader, Bhanu - military leader, Jeyam - military leader, B. Nadesan - LTTE political head, S. Pulidevan - Head of LTTE's Peace Secretariat, Ramesh - special military leader, Ilango - police chief, Sudharman - aide to LTTE leader's son, Thomas - senior intelligence leader, Luxman - military leader, Sri Ram - senior sea tiger cadre, Iseiaravi - female military leader, Kapil Amman - deputy intelligence leader, Ajanthi - female training in charge, Wardha - mortar in charge, Pudiyawan - Secretary to Prabhakarn and Jenarthan - Special military leader.

A few questions come to mind when we read of Prabhakaran’s death.

Why Prabhakaran did not escape from the battle zone?

It is not easy to answer because it depends upon the moody leader’s mindset in the last stages of battle. There were a few opportunities even as battle in Puthukkudiyiruppu was being fought. Having some knowledge of the way he operates many of us believed that he would make a get away, go into hiding, and stage a comeback to pursue once again his dogged fight to carve out an independent Eelam. This would have required a Plan B in his operational plan. He may not have had such a Plan B to execute and died on the battlefield just he advised his cadres. While this sounds in keeping with the popular image of Prabhakaran as the relentless leader ready to sacrifice his life, it raises the question, was he so desperate to do so because he could not do otherwise due to army and naval blockade. Given Prabhakaran’s penchant for security it is difficult to believe he could not have sneaked out if he had wanted to do so. Perhaps not; only time will tell.

The security forces have claimed the three leaders Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman, and Soosai were killed when they ran into a Special Forces squad while driving out in an ambulance with protection. Why would they expose themselves to collective risk by travelling together in such a fashion?

Considering the high state of secrecy and security that is always there when Prabhakaran moves, it appears unbelievable in the face of it. But battle conditions impose strange compulsions. The LTTE is in disarray in its last hideout; leaders might have been injured and were being evacuated from the zone of active firing. The area of operation was terribly restricted and there might not have been enough vehicles to carry them separately. And on way they could have run into the security forces to meet their end. So only on the basis of transportation the news cannot be discounted.

Who will don the mantle of LTTE? Can it be revived?

If one sees the heights of strength from which the LTTE has fallen, it looks a near impossible task. Apart from eliminating the leadership the war has taken the lives of 15,000-20,000 LTTE cadres, and supporters. And a few hundred thousand people – young and old – who were kith and kin of the LTTE are orphaned now. Probably some remnants of cadres are scattered in pockets in the island and overseas.

There is no experienced and charismatic leader with proven record in the horizon to rally the scattered cadres to motivate them to fight once again and build the organisation with the same vigour as Prabhakaran, because leaders like him don’t come every day. The LTTE has a lot of assets overseas – most of them in benami (fake) ownership. Prbably Pathmanathan would be in the know of these assets. Whether he has the competency and desire to play the lead role using these assets to revive the LTTE is a moot point.

Death of Prabhakaran removes the LTTE from the leadership role accorded to it by the international community when it supported the Oslo Accord. Now there is a void in the power equation; can the dissonant voices of Tamil leaders unite to demand the essential rights of Tamils? But we have been hearing cacophony than united voices; so it is difficult to say so, though I wish I could.

With LTTE no more there as a roadblock, it is for Indian leadership to decide for how long it is going to keep Sri Lanka in low profile in its foreign policy framework.

May 19, 2009

Winning the peace in Sri Lanka

By Anbarasan Ethirajan
BBC News

Supporters of the Tamil Tigers show solidarity with the rebels in London by painting their faces as tigers
Supporters of the Tamil Tigers abroad held new protest rallies on Monday

Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict has almost ended after nearly three decades with the military defeat of the Tamil Tigers but the victorious government may still need to tackle other fronts, including finding a political solution to the long-standing Tamil issue.

Apart from the Tamil minority, the international community will be keenly observing the next moves of the government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, which doggedly pursued its military objectives despite criticism from various quarters.

The dramatic events of recent weeks, including the annihilation of almost the entire senior Tamil Tiger (LTTE) leadership and the end of the military offensive, will no doubt increase the government's popularity in the majority-Sinhalese south. The military victory will be regarded as the crowning glory of President Rajapaksa's administration. But there are daunting tasks ahead.

The immediate challenge for the government is to resettle more than 250,000 people displaced by the war back in their homes in the north. At the moment, these people are housed in state-run camps with the help of aid agencies. There have been strong criticisms from human rights groups about the living conditions and the lack of freedom of movement in these "welfare camps".

"Any long delay in resettling these war-ravaged Tamil people will further alienate them," says Sri Lankan analyst DBS Jeyaraj.

"It will also attract international criticism over the government's motive in keeping these refugees in these camps beyond a reasonable period of time."

Appeal for generosity

The government says it needs to keep these civilians inside the camps under tight security in order to identify rebel fighters who might have escaped the war zone along with the fleeing Tamil population.

On the other hand, with the fall of the Tamil Tigers the government is under pressure to step up efforts to find a political solution to the decades-old Tamil issue.

The Tamils have been complaining that they have been treated like second-class citizens by the Sinhalese majority and that they need more autonomy for Tamil areas.

"Obviously the government of Sri Lanka has won the battle but has not won the peace," the Norwegian Minister for International Development, Erik Solheim, told the BBC.

"Everything will depend on whether they can prove leadership qualities in this situation."

Mr Solheim worked for 10 years with both the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government and brokered a ceasefire deal in 2002.

"If the Sri Lankan government can show generosity in victory, give a substantial devolution of power to Tamil self-government in the north-east and create an inclusive state for the Tamil, Sinhalese and Muslims, then we may see a lasting solution to the Sri Lankan problem," he said.

But the Sri Lankan government says it is working on a political solution and it requires time to evolve a consensus among political parties in the south.

Hearts and minds

"Once the LTTE terrorism and fanaticism is eliminated, which is the case at the moment, the government will work hard with the other moderate Tamil political groups... to bring a practical, sustainable political solution that will satisfy the aspirations of every community," said the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner in London, Sumith Nakandala.

However, Tamils fear that now that the government has won the war, it may not feel the necessity to come out with far-reaching political reforms, which may trigger another round of Tamil dissent.

"The future depends to a great extent on how the Rajapaksa government reaches out to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people," says Mr Jeyaraj.

While the government may be focused on solving its problems domestically in coming months, dissatisfaction is brewing in Western capitals over the reportedly high number of civilian casualties in the Sri Lankan conflict.

The UN believes that nearly 7,000 civilians may have been killed and another 13,000 injured in the war since January. The government disputes these figures. Human rights groups blame both sides for the humanitarian suffering.

Now the European Union says it is appalled by the high number of civilian casualties, which include children.

EU foreign ministers have called for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes and human rights violations during the weeks of intense fighting between the army and the rebels. [BBC.co.uk]

Appeal by a Group of Concerned Tamil Citizens of Sri Lanka

We are a group of Tamil citizens of Sri Lanka, deeply troubled by the unprecedented suffering that the war has brought upon the entire Tamil population of the North and East as well as many others including Muslims and Sinhalese. The nature and scale of the recent violence has exceeded that experienced in recent decades in our once peaceful island.

The LTTE and the armed services of the State have suffered severe losses. However, the majority of the victims – the dead, the seriously injured and the traumatized – are unarmed Tamil civilians. We urge adversaries in this war to stop causing further harm to civilians by immediately terminating the armed conflict and to take urgent and effective steps to address the physical and psychological damage already inflicted.

An estimated 50,000 to 100,000 population ( the UN estimate is 50,000; that of Mr. V. Anandasangaree is over 100,000 – vide Sunday Island of May 3 2009) caught up in the conflict zone are among those worst affected and most at risk of further injury. “These people are not only in danger from the shelling and the shooting, but they are suffering extensively due to shortages of medical supplies, food and water” (Sir John Holmes, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator as quoted in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Situation Report #4 of April 30 2009) The two sides must urgently find a way to end the war with, if necessary, the help of a mutually acceptable third party. Humanitarian aid including food, water, medical services and shelter must reach these people without further delay. The ICRC and UN humanitarian agencies need to have free access to this area and to these people to assist and monitor this process.

Apart from these 50,000 – 100,000 trapped in the conflict zone as on April 30 2009, the OCHA report records that 172,291 others had crossed over to the government controlled areas. Of these, 1,895 injured and care givers were admitted to hospitals and the others are detained in camps in Vavuniya (153,787), Mannar (52), Jaffna (11,089) and Trincomalee (5468). Very large numbers of other Internally Displaced Persons -IDPs) temporarily settled earlier are also restricted from leaving the areas in which they are located. Very many IDPs have been repeatedly displaced, have a long history of lack of food, water, medical services and shelter, and yet live under sub-standard conditions and with continuing shortages. Many of them may need to move out immediately to institutions or homes of friends or relatives to gain access to urgently needed medical or psychological therapy. Apart from lack of physical wants, their detention and lack of support from and free communication with friends, families and care givers outside is a cause of major concern to them as to their loved ones.

Another major concern is the separation of family members and the lack of access to information on this matter. If a family member is dead, or in hospital with injuries, or in another camp, or in custody as an LTTE suspect, or missing, the rest of the family have a right to whatever information can be gathered. Every family needs to be kept informed and to be re-united as quickly as possible.

While a large number of the elderly have been offered release from the camps, many of them are unable to leave because others of the family are yet in detention. The continued detention of pregnant women, unaccompanied children, the badly wounded and the physically and mentally handicapped is unacceptable.

Though the state has repeatedly proclaimed the “liberation” of civilians detained by the LTTE as civilian shields in the military conflict, virtually all those “liberated” continue to be detained- this time by the state. It is possible that those allegedly liberated may include some LTTE cadres. The state has legitimate security concerns and it may wish to register and screen IDPs released from LTTE control with the view to identifying and pursuing action against any LTTE cadres among the civilians under due process of law. But the registration and screening should be done in a transparent manner in the presence of ICRC and UNHCR. Moreover, the screening process should be speedy so as to minimize heaping further misery on the long suffering civilian IDPs. The process should take a few days or weeks at most, not several months. As soon as the screening is over those against whom no evidence is available, presumably the over whelming majority of the IDPs, should be promptly released from detention. We are happy to note the assurance given by the state that over 80% of those released from LTTE custody will be able to go back to where they were displaced from by the end of year 2009. Those who find accommodation in homes elsewhere will also need to be provided with rations, including any prescribed medications, for a period pending rehabilitation.

The recent return of 411 IDPs to Saveriyarpuram in Musali Division, Mannar district (reported in OCHR situation report # 4 of April 30 2009) and the impending return of some 3000 others to 15 villages in Musali Division over the coming weeks, though two years over due, are most welcome. It is hoped that IDPs of other areas will also be assisted to return to the lands they vacated to re-build their homes and livelihoods. It is possible that some of these areas may be currently uninhabitable on account of war ravage including land mining. The resettlement process would take time to complete but could begin very early, with de-mining given the highest priority. The Members of Parliament and other political leaders of the region as well as the IDPs themselves need to participate in the planning and reconstruction of the areas destroyed and in the resettlement process.

The manner in which the final phase of the war is worked out and the terms on which it is brought to a close are critical for the future of ethnic relations in Sri Lanka. The ending of the war will not result in the end of the conflict unless and until there is a political settlement acceptable to the people in the North East. There has been much ethnic discrimination for 6 decades, many years of civil war and many instances of ethnic cleansing Several political initiatives including the Pact of 1957 signed by Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Mr. S.J.V. Chelvanayakam, the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987, the constitutional proposals of years 1995 and 2000 introduced by President Chandrika Bandaranaike, the negotiations initiated by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe leading to the Oslo Declaration of 2002 and the yet ongoing APRC process introduced by President Mahinda Rajapaksa have not been adequately pursued. The current war has greatly increased the sense of alienation built up over the decades among the Tamil population. A just and credible offer of a political package acceptable to the population of the North and East is urgently needed and central to the task of nation building.


Dr. Devanesan Nesiah
Seelan Kadirgamar
Prof. Karthigesu Sivathamby
S.Sivathasan
L.N Balaretnaraja
S.Chinniah
Kirupa Hoole
Prof .S.Ratnajeevan Hoole
Dr.M.Ratnarajan Hoole
Dr.T.Jayasingam
Bhawani Loganathan
S.Malavarayar
Dr.Anita Nesiah
Dr.Vasuki Nesiah
V.Ponnambalam
Dr.Paikaiasorthy Saravanamuttu
Dr.Muthukrishna Sarvananthan
Dr.Selvy Thiruchandan
R.Visagaperumal

May 18, 2009

Neither side has any reason to celebrate

by Farah Mihlar

Today is a momentous day. I should be celebrating, like most Sri Lankans. I grew up as a Muslim in Colombo in fear of the deafening blasts of the Tamil Tiger suicide bombings. The Tigers ethnically cleansed 60,000 Muslims from their territory. Their campaign was horrific.

But when I travelled to Tiger-controlled areas, I realised that civilians there confronted another even more powerful enemy. I met children who drew only pictures of air force planes that dropped bombs over their homes. Hundreds of women had lost their husbands – killed, disappeared, abducted or imprisoned. It was ugly and sad and unknown to the rest of the country.

This is all supposedly history now. People are jubilant. Yet, I feel unable to share in this thrill. I cannot understand how my people, my family and friends, can blind themselves to the carnage behind this victory. In the past four months alone more than 6,500 people have died, because the Tigers brutally held them captive as human shields and government forces continued their indiscriminate attacks.

The fighting is supposedly now over, but this does not mean Sri Lanka's problems are. The country still faces a humanitarian crisis that has to be viewed in the context of the Sri Lankan government's disastrous human rights record.

This latest success on the part of the government was diplomatic and political, as well as military. Every UN official, human rights group, journalist or politician who questioned them was dubbed a terrorist. Posters covered the walls of Colombo with pictures of David Miliband and Hillary Clinton with the word "terrorist" imprinted on their faces. The government brilliantly used neo-colonial arguments in the corridors of the UN to shut out Western criticism.

This deafness to international pressure cannot be sustained – Sri Lanka has already appealed for international aid to rebuild the war-torn areas. The British Government must continue to work with the US to keep Sri Lanka top of the UN agenda. They should not be put off by Sri Lanka's wrath; there are hundreds of thousands of people in displaced camps who need support.

I do not wish to undermine the defeat of the Tamil Tigers. Having lived through their terror, I know what this means for the country. But for there to be a lasting peace there has to be justice, accountability, freedom and equality for all. [independent.co.uk]

Farah Mihlar works for Minority Rights Group International

May 17, 2009

KP, Soosai and Nadesan try for “ceasefire” while Praba and Pottu Amman become “silent”

By D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The beleaguered Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) embarked on a frantic last-ditch effort to hold off the anticipated "final" operation by the Sri Lankan Armed forces that seemed to have ended in failure by the evening of Sunday May 17th 2009.

In spite of the LTTE's efforts and international pressure to bring about a "ceasefire" of some kind , the Sri Lankan Government of President Mahinda Rajapakse resolved to stand firm in its decision to go ahead with its military operations to "finish" off the LTTE boxed into a tiny area not exceeding one sq km in area.

The Army commenced the final push on Sunday evening when its elite Special forces and commando units went into action against the last enclave of the LTTE in the Mullivaaikkaal area of Karaithuraipatru AGA division in Mullaitheevu district. [click here to read the article in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Army wants to end "stand-off" and finish off Tigers

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

There exists a “stand-off” situation between the Sri Lankan armed forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in the Karaithuraipatru AGA division of Northern Mullaitheevu district.

Large numbers of LTTE cadres and key leaders are currently “boxed” in by the army between Vellamullivaaikkaal and Vattavaakal in M’Theevu district in an area of about 2 square km.

[please click here to read the article in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

History shows us that there is always the need for a witness to war

Where are the images of horror from Sri Lanka?

by Don McCullin

Pictures of the beach near Mullaitivu, the last outpost of Tamil Tiger resistance in Sri Lanka, would have been among the greatest visual images of what war does to people. They would have been, if anybody had been there to take them.

Those pictures don’t exist. The Sri Lankan Government has been amazingly successful at keeping people away from this conflict and, as a result, appalling atrocities have been committed.

RDHS0513TC.JPG

[Pic by medical workers in the conflict zone-May 13, 2009]

There is always a need to be a witness to conflict. When the war in Sri Lanka started 25 years ago I went to Trincomalee to cover it. Journalists are usually good at getting into places where they are not wanted, but not on this occasion. Nor at any time since. This has been an invisible war.

That beach on the Indian Ocean will be a bloodbath. Families have been sheltering without food or water in holes dug in the sand, subjected to shelling for days. A doctor in the area has spoken of thousands of bodies lying unburied and the “stench of death” hanging over the war zone. For the victorious soldiers there is always the temptation to take revenge for friends killed earlier in the conflict.

Some of our most powerful images of war are from beaches. Think of the photography of Eugene Smith, war correspondent for Life magazine, who witnessed the American offensive against Japan during the Second World War. Or Robert Capa’s images of battle from the Normandy beaches.

We have nothing like this to tell us what has happened in Sri Lanka — a Buddhist country, a place that teaches us to live in peace. It is a tragedy to see war tear apart its people like this.

Governments around the world are getting more savvy about excluding journalists from war zones. The US Government partly blamed its failure in Vietnam on the freedom of the press rather than on its military strategy. That led to me being banned from reporting the Falklands war. I had dinner recently with some senior military men from that time who said “we missed you”. There are no images to remind them — and us — of what happened.

In Iraq and Afghanistan it has been convenient for governments to keep journalists away from the front line. It was in pursuit of some real pictures of the Iraq war that poor Terry Lloyd and his cameraman were killed.

I am 74 now and I have been watching this conflict in Sri Lanka unfold with the same horror I felt 50 years ago. We cannot afford to be shielded from what people do to each other in war.

Don McCullin has produced a new book for Reporters Without Borders, which fights for press access

Sri Lanka's conduct could be storing trouble for the future

Taming of Tamil Tigers threatens to breed fiercer creatures

Sri Lanka's military victory comes at a high price, and its conduct could be storing trouble for the future

by Mark Tran

Thousands of Sri Lankans are celebrating their government's military victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels, with President Mahinda Rajapaksa expected to tell the country on national television on Tuesday that the war is over. On the ground, the rebels have admitted that their 25-year struggle for a Tamil homeland has reached "its bitter end".

TC0519QP.jpg

[Tamil protesters demonstrate in a mock war zone situation at Queens Park in Toronto May 13, 2009, to protest the conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)-Reuters pic.]

However, the victory has come at a high price in terms of civilan life and damage to Colombo's international reputation. According to UN figures, an estimated 7,000 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed between 20 January, when a military offensive pushed back the rebels into a tiny enclave in the north-east, and 7 May.

Although the military largely blocked the world's media from covering the carnage in the so-called no-fire zone, some TV images have conveyed part of the horror, showing civilians making a desperate break across a lagoon to escape the last strip of land controlled by the rebels.

Doctors have recounted the cries of the wounded at a makeshift hospital thart they had to abandon because of continual artillery shelling – bombardments denied by the Sri Lankan military. UN officials and human rights groups have been horrified at the disregard for civilians on both sides, particularly in the final stages of the conflict.

Despite pleas from the US president, Barack Obama, and the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon, Colombo has zealously pursued its objective of wiping out the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) once and for all.

For Rajapaksa, military victory is the climax of his election campaign in November 2005, when he ruled out autonomy for Tamils – a harbinger of the military option.

Rajapaksa has been able to dress up the offensive as part of the global fight against terrorism. There is little sympathy for the Tigers. A ruthless group, listed as a terrorist organisation by both the US and the EU, the Tigers pioneered suicide attacks, carried out assassinations and stand accused of using civilians in the war zone as human shields and shooting those who tried to flee.

However, such tactics provide no excuse for the Sri Lankan government's blatant disreguard for the plight of civilians. While many Tamils are appalled by the Tigers' tactics, they also harbour deep grievances about their treatment by the Sinhalese majority. Analysts claim the government's conduct has hardened an already humiliated Tamil diaspora, storing trouble for the future.

"If the Tigers' leadership is removed or killed in a government assault, it's easy to imagine one of the newly energised generation stepping in to fill the void," said Robert Templer, of the International Crisis Group thinktank.

"The dream of an independent Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka resonates powerfully across the diaspora and will certainly live on even after the defeat of the LTTE as a conventional military force. The deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians – while their family members watch from afar – is a recipe for another, possibly more explosive, generation of terrorism."

For now, the Sri Lankan government has prevailed, militarily. It has a huge humanitarian problem on its hands, with tens of thousands of displaced civilians to care for, and it will need international aid. For western leaders who have urged restraint, this is the time to call on Rajapaksa to address Tamil demands for devolution of power and language rights now that the military conflict is over.

Given the increasingly authoritarian streak of the Rajapaksa government, with its crackdown on dissent – particularly in the media – the omens are not good. [guardian.co.uk]

May 16, 2009

Has LTTE leader Prabhakaran embraced death?

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Speculation is rife among knowledgeable circles in Colombo that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran is no more among the living.

It is widely believed that the 54 year old tiger supremo who was born on November 26th 1954 has committed suicide along with more than 300 of his deputies and senior cadres in the Mullivaaikkaal area of Karaithuraipatru AGA division in Mullaitheevu district.

[Velupillai Prabhakaran]

Though the Defence ministry website says that the tiger leader trapped with his deputies is planning to commit mass suicide there are reports that the "Thalaivar" (leader) and "poraligal" (fighters) have already committed "Veeramaranam" (heroic death). [click here to read the article in full~ in dbdjeyaraj.com]

Fears grow for safety of doctors who reported civilian slaughter

by Gethin Chamberlain

Fears are growing for the safety of the doctors who acted as the eyes and ears of the world during the Sri Lankan army's final assault on the Tamil Tigers's last stronghold in the north-east of the country.

Doctors Thangamutha Sathiyamoorthy, Thurairaja Varatharajah and V Shanmugarajah, and London-trained administrative officer Vany Kumar, are understood to have been detained by Sri Lankan forces as they tried to escape the fighting on Friday. They have not been heard from since. The Sri Lankan army denies involvement in their disappearance.

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[Mullivaaykkaal make shift hospital, May 13, 2009-pic: RDHS office]

The medical staff had provided a running commentary on the slaughter of thousands of civilians trapped inside the so-called "no-fire zone" while the world's media has been shut out of it.

But their reports - carried in the Guardian and the Observer, among other news outlets - have enraged the government in Colombo, which has dismissed them as pawns of the Tamil Tigers.

Last month the health minister, Athula Kahandaliyanage, accused the two most outspoken doctors, Sathiyamoorthy and Varatharajah, of "mouthing the propaganda of the LTTE" and the government has warned that they would face disciplinary action over their allegations that Sri Lankan forces had been shelling civilians.

On Friday, Varatharajah said the medical staff had been forced to abandon the last of the makeshift hospitals still functioning inside the no-fire zone to take cover in a bunker as the fighting intensified around them.

According to UN sources, they later attempted to escape from the area through the Omanthai crossing point and had not been seen since.

UN spokesman Gordon Weiss said: "We believe the doctors came out and we are concerned for their well-being. We are now trying to discover their whereabouts."

A UN official, who declined to be named, said it was hoped that foreign governments would bring pressure to bear on the government in Colombo. [courtesy: guardian.co.uk]

May 15, 2009

UN expert on genocide prevention calls for end to conflict

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Adviser on the prevention of genocide today said that “it is not too late” for Sri Lanka’s Government forces and rebels to end their brutal conflict, underscoring the toll the clashes are taking on civilians.

There is still time for the Government and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to halt their fighting and “pursue a reconciliatory and peaceful path with the ethnic Tamil population,” Francis Deng said in a statement.

UN Video:

“This polarizing conflict is identity-related with ethnicity and religion as deeply divisive factors,” he said. “It will not end with winners and losers and it cannot be ended solely through a military victory that may not be sustainable in the long-run unless legitimate grievances are addressed.”

Mr. Deng underscored that women and girls are particularly vulnerable to “excesses of conflict,” stressing that the Government is legally obligated to give them special protection. He called on authorities to allow the UN and other agencies “full and unfettered access to all civilians and detainees.”

The Special Advisor also called on the LTTE, for its part, to “immediately cease holding human shields and let civilians leave the conflict area,” a shrinking pocket of land on Sri Lanka’s northern coastline where the UN estimates that at least 50,000 people are still trapped.

Also expressing concern today was Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General’s Representative for the Human Rights of Displaced Persons, who said the LTTE is preventing civilians from leaving the area and placing military installations close to them, while the Government, for its part, has been using heavy weapons such as mortars there in recent days. “This combination of factors must have resulted in unacceptably high numbers of civilian casualties.”

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement that heavy fighting earlier this week precluded it from evacuating the wounded and sick from the conflict zone and from delivering food to civilians.

“I call on the LTTE to let the remaining civilians go and both sides to agree to humanitarian pauses for that purpose as well as to allow humanitarian access to bring in much-needed food and medicines and evacuate the wounded,” the Representative said.

Further, both sides are obligated to follow international humanitarian law, he emphasized. “Even if one party to the conflict is deliberately using civilians as human shields, the other party is still prohibited from carrying out attacks that are indiscriminate in their consequences or result in a disproportional loss of civilian life.”

Mr. Kälin also expressed his concern over the dire living conditions in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) who escaped the conflict, with the influx of an additional 110,000 people during the last 10 days of April posing further challenges for the Government and its humanitarian partners.

“Ensuring adequate humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons is first and foremost a Government responsibility, especially since the Government decided to intern them in camps, citing security concerns,” he said, adding that authorities continue to hold nearly 200,000 IDPs in temporary camps.

He also stressed the need to screen and register the displaced without delay and to restore the freedom of movement for the large number of them who are not security risks. “Prolonged internment of such persons would not only amount to arbitrary detention but it also aggravates the humanitarian situation needlessly.”

Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said today that it has started providing cooked meals at a Government screening point for thousands of people fleeing the fighting.

“For many, this will be the first hot meal they have had in days or perhaps much longer,” said Adnan Khan, WFP Representative in Sri Lanka, adding that 3,000 people arrived in Omanthai overnight.

IDPs must pass through screening points before they can move onto temporary transit centres in Vavuniya and Jaffna.

WFP, which is feeding nearly 200,000 people in northern Sri Lanka, is sending food supplies to Omanthai, where the agency, along with a local partner, are responsible for cooking and distributing food.

Since Tuesday, three attempts to deliver food by ship to the conflict zone have been unsuccessful due to the security situation, and the agency is appealing for an additional $42 million to meet the rapidly increasing needs of IDPs.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today reiterated that the loss of civilian life and the situation of those trapped in the conflict zone are unacceptable, deploring the use of heavy weapons and of civilians as human shields.

For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is helping with efforts to provide water for drinking and cooking to displaced Sri Lankans, while the World Health Organization (WHO) is providing medicines and other supplies to meet the medical needs of the displaced.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said today that it believes that an independent commission of inquiry is needed given the conduct of this war and the number of civilians who have been killed.

In a telephone conversation with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday, Mr. Ban reiterated his concerns about the protection of civilians caught up in the conflict. He is also dispatching one of his top advisers, Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar, to Sri Lanka to underscore his message and help to resolve the humanitarian situation. [UN.org]

A race against time in Sri Lanka's camps

This blog is written by Melanie Brooks, Communications Coordinator for CARE's Emergency Team. Ms. Brooks has been in Sri Lanka since May 1 working on CARE's emergency response in the IDP camps in Vavuniya for the people displaced by the conflict in Northern Sri Lanka:

I didn't notice anything different about her, at first; 10-year-old Priyana is a beautiful, perfect little girl, and her face lit up as she smiled at me.

CareTC0512.jpg

[Tamil civilians stand in line to receive food and supplies in a refugee camp located on the outskirts of the town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka May 8, 2009-Reuters pic]

Then she moved her hands. Thick bands of scar tissue circle her tiny wrists; her right hand is bent at an impossible 90-degree angle from her forearm. When she wrapped her arms around her mother's waist in a hug, her hands hung limply.

I don't know what affects me more: her injuries, or how she was injured. She and her 24-year-old sister, Vithiya, were playing a game when they were caught in the crossfire in January.

Shrapnel shredded through Priyana's wrists and thigh, and Vithiya's right leg.

On the run, they couldn't make it to a hospital for nearly two weeks. By that point, it was too late to repair Priyana's hands.

Today, her mother, Rani, is caring for two injured daughters, alone. Her husband and another daughter died in the conflict zone; her other two daughters are still missing.

As Rani tells me their story, Priyana is playing with a purple hair ribbon, holding it awkwardly with the only two fingers that work on her left hand. Despite everything, she smiles.

While the world's attention is on the final stages of the war in the north, the country's second humanitarian crisis plays out here in the camps, where nearly 200,000 people were evacuated from the conflict zone by the Sri Lankan government.

Like Priyana, everyone is damaged in some way, but they want to move on. Many of them have been displaced several times during the 25-year conflict; everyone knows someone who is missing, or who died in the conflict.

It's overwhelming. Most of the displaced people ended up here in the giant Manik Farm camp in Vavuniya, in this sudden city of tents and shelters cut into the jungle.

There are people everywhere, moving, sweating in the 38C heat of the midday sun. Men digging trenches for pit latrines. Women lining up to collect water. People stirring bathtub-sized pots of vegetable curry and rice over an open fire at the communal cooking area.

Earth-moving machines rumble in the background, clearing land for more tents, creating roads. The felled trees are piled off to the side, then hauled back into the camps to be used as firewood for cooking. In every direction, there are rows upon rows of tents or temporary shelters.

Nearly 120,000 people arrived here in the space of two weeks, stretching the resources of the camp and medical facilities to the limit. Aid workers and government workers were all scrambling to put up enough tents, dig enough latrines, install enough water stations, trying to keep one step ahead of the flood of war-weary people streaming into the camp.

Today, we're still catching up; some people are living in tents with two or three families while we build more shelters to house everyone, and we are working to replace the emergency trench toilets with something more private and secure.

But across the country, there is hope, hope that maybe this time, the 25-year-old war is really going to end. Sri Lankans, from the poorest parts of the capital city to the tourist beaches in the south, are donating food, clothing and emergency supplies for the people in the camps. Ethnicity and religion have been pushed aside, and people are reacting on a human level to the plight of "our brothers and sisters in the north".

But it's a race against time. Fighting continues in the ever-shrinking conflict zone. Tens of thousands of people are still trapped. Any day, we expect they will finally escape and arrive here, to where we are all frantically clearing new land, putting up new tents, digging new latrines.

The people still trapped have been living the nightmare of war for months now. There are more girls like Priyana out there, desperate to escape, just wanting to be little girls again. I only hope we're ready for them when they arrive.

Winning The Peace In Sri Lanka

By Ravi Nair

This weekend or early next week will see the Sri Lankan army hoping to deliver the knockout punch to the remnants of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). But President Obama’s timely intervention is a signal to Colombo that its brazen disregard of international humanitarian law – even as it still claims to be mopping up the tenacious LTTE cadres – can no longer be ignored in diplomatic corridors.

TC0515TN.jpg

[A police officer stands in front of demonstrators during a protest march against the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka, in the southern Indian city of Chennai October 24, 2008. Hundreds of Tamils marched in the streets of the southern Indian city to protest against the conflict, as a regional political group pressured the Indian government to stop the war. Protesters braved heavy rains and linked arms in the capital of Tamil Nadu. "Save the Tamils, stop the battle," they shouted-Reuters pic.]

It is now evident that Lankan security forces pulled some of their punches early this month, but not to minimize civilian casualties as they piously claimed. They did so mindful of New Delhi’s trapeze act between the desire to help Sri Lanka eliminate the LTTE as a military threat and the compulsions of Indian realpolitik. Any new government in New Delhi later this month cannot do without the support of either the DMK or the AIADMK, both of whom have taken public positions on Eelam.

The LTTE has lost the war on the battlefield, thanks to the absence of a political strategy for the negotiating table. Now the Sri Lankan Tamils, Indian Tamils, Tamils elsewhere and democrats everywhere will need to craft a new pragmatic strategy if they are to ensure that the Sri Lankan Tamil does not become the Palestinian of the 21st century, living perpetually in the diaspora, as the poor cousin in India, in the twilight zone of statelessness, or in Bantusans soon to be created by the Sri Lankan government.

First, form a circle

Any new strategy must have as its lynchpin a carefully crafted constitutional proposal that goes beyond the 1987 framework suggested by the Indo-Sri Lanka pact as also the now defunct 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution and the inadequate proposals of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC). The 1987 pact, which seems to be the mantra of the New Delhi establishment, belongs in the past, as do the other proposals. The new enhanced position must demand genuine internal self-determination akin to Article 370 of the Indian Constitution prior to 1953. Sri Lankan Tamils must avoid the false god of an independent Tamil Eelam. Giving up gods that failed is heart wrenching, but a maximalist position should be avoided if solidarity is to be achieved across India, with democrats in Sri Lanka and globally. In the event of the Colombo dispensation failing to read the accommodativeness of the average moderate Tamil, it will not need a soothsayer to predict a second coming.

The new campaign will need to hinge on five concentric circles of support and solidarity.

The first circle must bring together the Tamil in India and in the diaspora, whether in Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, Europe, North America or elsewhere. A broad civil society solidarity committee cutting across the political spectrum will need to be created. Civil society here means political parties, trade unions, chambers of commerce, community organizations, people’s organizations, women’s organizations, media organizations, student unions, Bar Associations, the film and cultural fraternity, the Tamil literary community and voluntary organizations of every stripe.

Civil society does not mean glossy pamphlet-manufacturing donor-driven NGOs. Most have no eyesight, hindsight or foresight. Illustrations abound – for example, the head office of an Tamil Nadu NGO expresses concern for the Sri Lankan Tamils even as its sister branch in Andhra Pradesh permits the circulation of some of the most jingoistic and rabid Sinhala chauvinist propaganda against the Sri Lankan Tamils on its listserv.

The broad support and solidarity committee must have as its convener a Tamil who is above the fractious political fray in Tamil Nadu, someone who has unquestioned moral authority and gravitas. Once formed at the state level, it should be replicated at the district and block levels. The State Committee should have a small but dedicated paid secretariat in Chennai to handle the work of the committee on a daily basis. Many good causes in India are lost because in the heat of the moment everyone wants to claim ownership. In time, everybody’s baby becomes no one’s baby. The rights of Sri Lankan Tamil must be an article of faith not only for every Tamil or Indian but for every democrat globally.

As soon as the newly constituted Indian Parliament convenes, this representative body must get its act together and give a call for all parties to unanimously move and pass a resolution in the Tamil Nadu state assembly. This all-party resolution must be carefully crafted and must support the legitimate demand for self-rule by Tamils in Sri Lanka. The resolution should be formally communicated to the Central Government in New Delhi in time for the first session of the newly elected Parliament.

This committee must host an international conference of Tamils within six months of its formation to craft the outlines of a substantive political, diplomatic and media campaign on behalf of their Sri Lankan Tamil brethren, in Tamil Nadu, the rest of India and worldwide. The preparation of a comprehensive background note and a draft programme of action should precede this. A cross section of democratic opinion cutting across the ethnic divide in Sri Lanka should be invited.

The newly elected members of the Indian Parliament from Tamil Nadu must, irrespective of their party affiliation, seek to do a number of things in a time bound manner. Firstly, they should move a joint resolution in both houses of the Indian Parliament asking for a diplomatic initiative that seeks to ensure self-rule for the Tamils in Sri Lanka within a specific timeframe. The timeframe must be reasonable but not elastic. They should move another resolution demanding perpetual landing and fishing rights for Indian fishermen on the island of Kachchathivu within a year. Thirdly and most importantly, all Tamil Parliamentarians must demand an official white paper from the Indian Government on India’s engagement in Sri Lanka since the withdrawal of the IPKF. This will ensure that the initiative on policy making on Sri Lanka is returned to the legislative arena. Currently, it appears to be the preserve of a cabal of official security specialists who have only served to undermine India’s interests where its neighbours are concerned. Fourthly, they must impress upon the Indian Government that the Rs. 1 billion humanitarian aid announced by New Delhi and supplemented with Rs. 250 million from the Tamil Nadu government must be routed through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other credible humanitarian organizations on the ground in the North, such as local church groups. Nothing that strengthens the civil arm of the Lankan war machine must be permitted.

The Tamil members in the Indian Parliament must also lobby to ensure that Parliament directs the Indian Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry to instruct India’s executive members in the IMF, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and all other multilateral financial institutions such as the Sri Lanka Aid Consortium to oppose any loans and credit lines to Sri Lanka unless there are iron clad conditionalities of time bound action on internal self determination for the Tamils in Sri Lanka. Colombo must also guarantee non-derogable constitutional amendments safeguarding the political, language, economic and cultural rights of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The Indian government must be asked to make demarches to other countries like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Norway and Japan to exert their influence in this regard. The Indian government must be told to formally invite and consult the leadership of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) on issues of common concern at an early date. These consultations must be held at the highest political level, not at the level of Smiley’s people and diplomats, as was the case earlier.

The Tamil Nadu solidarity committee must study the possibility of calling for a worldwide boycott of all Sri Lankan products and tourism if there is further intransigence on the part of Colombo. A small research team must look at all Indian and international companies that have invested in Sri Lanka and lobby for the divestment of their shareholding in these companies. The committee must seek the withdrawal of all Indian and other investment in Sri Lanka. Similar exercises must be conducted in Europe, North America and Australasia. And while we all love Sanath Jayasuriya’s cricket, there should be a boycott of all cricket and sporting contacts with Sri Lanka, as was done during the anti apartheid campaign.

The committee must study in particular all arms transfers that were made openly and surreptitiously by the shady merchants of death who camped in fancy accommodations on Lotus Road in Colombo, and must devise a campaign for outing these carpetbaggers. At the international level, it must track all countries that sold arms to Sri Lanka and find out the names of the companies involved. It must use the shareholder information of these companies in Europe and North America and publicly expose them in their next annual general meetings. It must urge union pension funds and sympathetic local governments to withdraw their investments in these companies.

The Tamil solidarity campaign must also start an international campaign against all Chinese products and companies based in India, since China has emerged as the largest supplier of arms and financial credit to Sri Lanka. Buy Godrej, Westinghouse, LG, Samsung, Electrolux and Siemens. Haier and Huawei must be given the 21st century version of the Boston Tea Party.

Bring in more players

The second concentric circle will need to involve a wider audience in all the states of southern India where there are affinities of language, ethnicity and kinship. One of the failures of the movement for solidarity for the Sri Lankan Tamil in Tamil Nadu was the Indian Tamil’s failure to build a wider constituency of support and solidarity for the beleaguered Sri Lankan Tamil. The New Delhi-based television and print media, with some honourable exceptions, also failed to catch on. At every stage of this conflict, Indian television news channels have unquestioningly swallowed all that was dished out to their embedded tank-mounted correspondents by the Sri Lankan military authorities. And they have fanned their delusions and misinformed the Indian viewer by bringing on air a supposed Tamil oracle, whose publication is named after an eccentric medieval ruler of Delhi and which has a minuscule readership. The professedly Marxist editor of venerable Chennai-based English daily played second violin in this orchestrated dissimulation on the Sri Lankan Tamil plight and the popular mood in Tamil Nadu. Both these worthies could hardly be called representatives of mainstream Tamil opinion.

The third concentric circle will have to enlist the average Indian in other parts of India. Indians must be reminded that Indian governmental policy since the unceremonious withdrawal of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) and the dastardly murder of Rajiv Gandhi has oscillated between masterly inactivity and the helplessness of an aged puppet master whose puppets have acquired a life of their own. The Rajapakse brothers, the Chinese, the Pakistanis and a few other interlopers have brilliantly exploited this. The official Indian establishment now croons to Cliff Richard’s “Outsider, that’s me”.

The first official policy initiative by the new government at the Centre must be to underline the rights of Indian fisherfolk. Those in Temple Trees will know that New Delhi still wields clout when they are compelled to recognize the perpetual landing and fishing rights of Indian fishermen on the island of Kachchathivu on which negotiations between the Sri Lankan and the Indian Government last took place in September 2008 and have made little progress. Remember that an establishment that screams blue murder at any suggestion of giving up any “ atoot anng” (‘inseparable part’ in the Queen’s English) of India, had generously gifted away this island in 1974 to Sri Lanka, much against the wishes of every shade of political opinion in Tamil Nadu. All extant historical records conclusively prove Indian ownership of the island.

Raising the game

The fourth concentric circle will need to involve Tamil diaspora groups which must lobby in their respective countries and network in international fora. The diaspora, left rudderless in its impotent rage, has been blocking roads in London and Toronto, losing the sympathy of the average Londoner or Canadian and causing little sweat to the Brothers Grim (pun intended) in Colombo who have been enacting so many horror stories in the North. A more nuanced lobbying policy will need to be devised to harness the understandable and legitimate sense of helplessness and anger of diaspora groups. This is a tragedy that affects their kith and kin. But they find themselves in a global clime where even uttering Article 1 of the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has come to mean high treason.

The fifth concentric circle will need to encompass all democratic Sri Lankans, Jaffna Tamils, Colombo Tamils and also the poor hill Tamils. It must actively seek to encompass the democratic Sinhalese, Muslim and Burgher. An exclusivist Jaffna Tamil position will be music to the hegemons of Colombo 7. Further, there must be open contrition and a public apology expressed to the Muslim community by the Sri Lankan Tamil. Tamil Muslims were hounded out of eastern Sri Lanka by the Quisling Karuna at the behest of a myopic LTTE leadership and used cunningly by the Sinhala ultra nationalist Buddhist fundamentalists, who in other circumstances would have had little time for them.

Fair and square

This plan is not exhaustive. It is only illustrative. There is a need to be resolute and determined, yet there must be none of the rhetoric that has been the bane of Tamil and Sinhala politics. The Tamil Robespierre is part of history. Many a good Tamil Danton, well meaning Sinhala and Muslim have died needlessly in that reign of terror. The Rajapakse brothers have unleashed a new ethno-religious authoritarian order and appear keen to usher in a militarized state. Lasantha Wickramatunga is dead, and a Vichy-like enclave is being led by a Tamil Pétain in the Eastern province. Alarmist, one may think, but read the portents and stand up now and speak out loudly in protest or forever remain silent in shame. - Countercurrents.org

Tamils should consider course correction

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

Toronto is home to the largest concentration of Sri Lankan Tamils (250,000 plus) outside that Island.

Thousands of Tamil Canadians, mainly youths, have participated in rallies, processions, vigils, picketing, street demonstrations, sit–ins, fasts, slogan- shouting and the blocking of traffic at peak hours.

[May 13 Tamil Protest-pic by vipez]

Primarily, it is an effort to draw attention to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka. [click here to read the article in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

"Trapped civilians in rebel territory will be freed by Sunday"-Govt.

By Steve Herman

Sri Lanka's army said the "final push" is under way to capture the remaining sliver of beach held by Tamil Tiger rebels. The government and military predict all of the remaining trapped civilians in rebel territory will be freed by Sunday.

Two Army divisions are closing in on the Tamil Tiger rebels from both the north and the south on a narrow stretch of coastline.

Military officials told VOA News the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, who once controlled a significant portion of the north and east of the island, now hold a mere three square kilometers.

[Channel 4 News Audio - Daying without treatment]

A top defense spokesman, Lakshman Hulugalle, said soldiers are unsure how many armed rebels they are still confronting, after days of intense fighting, because the Tamil Tigers are trying to blend in with civilians.

"They're among civilians so they can fight as civilians. So it's very difficult to say how many numbers are fighting," he said.

The military has accused the rebels of holding the Tamil civilians as human shields.

Thousands may have died in the past week due to shelling both sides blame on the other.

State television is showing scenes of fires sweeping across the tropical beach and airing interviews of those who escaped saying they were shot at by the rebels.

Some of the civilians are fleeing by floating on tire tubes and rafts across a lagoon.

Lakshman Hulugalle, who heads the military's national security media center, told VOA the rebels can not be finished off until soldiers are assured the civilians are safe.

"Almost 6,000 people have come into the government controlled area. Hopefully, next 24 hour or 48 hours, the balance of people will come into our area," he said.

The United Nations secretary-general has dispatched his top aide to return to Sri Lanka to try to safeguard the tens of thousands of civilians who may still be trapped in the combat zone.

The Red Cross, unable any longer to bring in food or evacuate the wounded and sick, said its workers are witnessing "an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe." [VOA News]

May 14, 2009

UN calls for faster screening process, greater access

The UN is calling on the Sri Lankan government to expedite the screening of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) now staying at dozens of government camps in the north.

IRIN12014.jpg

Recent arrivals set up a tent at the camp at Menic Farm outside Vavuniya
Photo: Zelmira Sinclair/UNHCR

Almost 200,000 Tamil civilians have fled the fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), who have been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland for more than two decades.

More than half have crossed into government-controlled areas since 20 April.

The government wants to screen all entrants in a bid to separate non-combatant civilians from former LTTE fighters - a process to which the UN has only partial access, at Omanthai, the final screening point before Vavuniya.

“Expediting the screening and separation of former combatants from non-combatant civilians would permit a more rapid release of IDPs from the camps and would allow them to enjoy freedom of movement, including an option of staying with host families outside the camps,” Gordon Weiss, a spokesman for the UN, told IRIN in Colombo.

The separation of families continued to be a source of anxiety and distress for many people in the camps, Weiss said. “Reunification is a priority for families already split up, and every effort must be taken to avoid additional separations.”

Overcrowding

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), almost 198,000 Tamil civilians are being accommodated in 41 camps in four districts, including Vavuniya, Jaffna, Mannar and Trincomalee, as of 13 May.

Many of the camps are overcrowded, with limited shelter, water and sanitation given the large numbers arriving, say aid workers.

Despite the efforts of the government, the military, and national and international aid agencies, minimum standards are not being met.

“The general health of the people in the camp remains extremely fragile,” Weiss said. “Conditions inside are not helping a population which has been under duress for such a long time.”

"The situation is still critical," Amin Awad, country representative of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), added.

"We are coming to grips with it, but it is critical because of overcrowding in camps. People are lining up behind bulldozers as we clear the land [to set up shelters]," he explained.

The vast majority of the displaced - close to 180,000 - are at 25 such sites in Vavuniya.

"Overcrowding is creating a problem of hygiene, of shortages of water and medical care," Awad said.

Of particular concern are conditions at the Menik farm camp, the largest, just outside Vavuniya town. Spread over 400ha, the camp houses more than 120,000 IDPs.

Overcrowding, however, was also a concern at smaller transit sites in town, such as the Gamini Vidayala, a government primary school accommodating about 700 families.

Shelters needed

"[The] first [priority] is to get the shelters and we can work from there," Menaca Calyaneratne, a spokeswoman for Save the Children, told IRIN.

According to UNHCR, shelter requirements for new arrivals could be met, provided there was not a significant influx in the coming days.

"We are still clearing land, building the roads and the shelters," Awad confirmed.

“The needs of [IDPs], who have already suffered trauma and undergone extreme hardship, are enormous,” Weiss said.

On 13 May, Michele Montas, spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General in New York, said the UN continued to emphasise the need for the camps to be managed by civilians, and reiterated the need for more civilian police, including women police and police from the Tamil community.

As part of its response, the UN and the government of Sri Lanka announced on 5 May they are seeking US$50 million to address the urgent needs of up to 250,000 displaced persons over the next three months.

As of 13 May, the Common Humanitarian Action Plan remains just 32 percent-funded, making continued donor support critical.

IRIN News - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

humanitarian assistance can no longer reach civilians-ICRC

Geneva (ICRC) – In north-eastern Sri Lanka, hundreds of seriously wounded or ill patients blocked in the conflict area have been waiting in vain for several days for desperately needed medical care.

For the third consecutive day, a ferry chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and anchoring only a few kilometres away from the patients has been unable to evacuate them because of continuous heavy fighting.

[Bernard Barrett, a spokesman for the Red Cross talks to Al Jazeera]

"Our staff are witnessing an unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe," said the ICRC's director of operations, Pierre Krähenbühl, from the ICRC's headquarters in Geneva today. "Despite high-level assurances, the lack of security on the ground means that our sea operations continue to be stalled, and this is unacceptable," added Mr Krähenbühl. "No humanitarian organization can help them in the current circumstances. People are left to their own devices."

Thousands of people remain trapped in a small area along the coast within the conflict zone. As fighting goes on unabated, civilians are forced to seek protection in hand-dug bunkers, making it even more difficult to fetch scarce drinking water and food.

An ICRC ferry, the Green Ocean, is carrying 25 metric tonnes of urgently needed food. The last time the ICRC could offload food and medical supplies and evacuate patients was last Saturday, 9 May. In addition to the ferry, a cargo ship, the Oriental Princess, carrying another 500 metric tonnes of food from the World Food Programme, is waiting off the coast north of Mullaittivu, ready to deliver the food to civilians.

"We need security and unimpeded access now in order to save hundreds of lives," said Mr Krähenbühl. "The ICRC stands ready to carry out its humanitarian work as soon as conditions permit."

For further information, please contact:
Sarasi Wijeratne, ICRC Colombo, tel: +94 11 250 33 46 or +94 77 315 88 44
Marçal Izard, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 58 or +41 79 217 32 24

Voting on Vaddukkoddai resolution and LTTE's political bankruptcy

The Call for Voting on Vattukoddai Resolution is an Indication of the Tiger’s Political Bankruptcy

by T. Constantine - London

Most of us have the experience of building sand castle while we were young. It is a fantasy and gives mental satisfaction by fulfilling our wishful thoughts and unachievable desires within our means. It could be described as a wishful-pleasure. The campaign for voting on Vattukoddai Resolution (1976) carried out by the LTTE supporters at present in Europe and in Scandinavian countries is comparable to this childish play.

For over thirty years Prabakaran, who has grabbed and shouldered the leadership of Tamil nationalism, has at no point of time spoken about the Vattukoddai resolution or about the Tamil political leaders who were the backbone of the resolution. Instead of recognising the value of those leaders, he has assassinated them one by one whenever the opportunity permitted. Had he got the opportunity, he wouldn’t have dared to even kill ‘Thanthai Chelva’ and Thondaiman, who were the founding fathers of Vattukoddai resolution. The LTTE and its subservient followers, who had always stood against the basic democratic norms and the civic rights of the people, are today dancing in bliss with the outdated Vattukoddai resolution; it is like worshiping the sun after losing the sight.

The Tamil Diaspora, who have been propagating all these days that the Tamil Eelam is at a stone throw and were partaking in Martyr’s day celebrations shouting in sheer glamour are today rallying behind Vattukoddai resolution. Whether to laugh or cry for this ludicrous action? The announcement that 98.95% of Norway people are in favour of Tamil Eelam, is similar to Satham Hussain’s announcement of massive victory in the general elections held in Iraq , few months before his downfall . In the elections held on the 16th of October 2002, Satham Hussain got 99.96% votes and was re-elected as president for another seven years. Today, the Vattukoddai resolution has got 98.95% of voting.

Let us leave aside the common public. Even the Television stations such as Deepam and GTV and IBC radio which are widely seen and heard in Europe are giving prominence in their programmes as if these ridiculous actions are day by day producing new dimensions in the political scenario. Are these media, by broadcasting these types of frivolous activities, assessing the IQ of humanity? The London based Deepam is making announcement that the European community is keenly watching the outcome of this voting.

For the only reason that they have to be the sole leadership in the Tamil Eelam, they gunned downed all the pioneers of Vattukoddai resolution and the political heads who got the mandate from the Tamil people in the subsequent elections held in 1977. Today hanging on the edge of their demise, they are attempting to correct their historical errors. It is a belated realisation. What they are attempting now, the political dynamism should have been shown long ago. Those who have dared to assassinate the heads of our friendly countries are today on a political mission when they are cornered into a stretch of 3 km land within twenty four hours; these political manoeuvring is not going to yield any results.

‘Utrop.no is an online newspaper run by youth with an ethnic minority background in Norway . The main activities are to publish news related to ethnic minorities, l addition to political and cultural issues we highlight youth who achieve a position and to take an active part in issues concerning the different communities living in Norway.

Immigrant issues, asylum, racism, refugees conditions in Norway are the main themes we write about. Current issues such as arranged marriages, racism and Islam are examples of issues we have focused on. We publish articles, commentaries, News in English section and cultural matters.’ – From: UTRCP Website

The UTRCP was behind this campaign for voting. The UTRCP is a media based in Norway and run by the multicultural communities living in Norway , since 2001. It is an online newspaper focussing on the social issues of the multicultural communities. It is not a daily newspaper and not read by the people of Norway . It is a website run with the support of European Minorities On Line (Eminol.com) and European Union. One Majoran Vivekanandan, a Sri Lankan Tamil, is holding an important position in this organization.

There were news items in Indian and Colombo based newspapers that Majoran Vivekanandan is involved in LTTE propaganda activities.

The Tamil Diaspora who is holding key positions or office in their country of domicile should use their positions and influence to persuade the Sri Lanka Government and the LTTE to arrive at a solution, rather than extending their support for the futile exercise of sacrificing the lives of thousands and to ruin the future of hundreds of thousands of people.

UN Security Council must act to save civilians in Sri Lanka

Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International's Sri Lanka expert, describes the situation in the country, 11 May 2009:

[mp3 audio-courtesy of Amnety.org]

The UN Security Council was urged to take action after at least 35 people were reported to have been killed in northern Sri Lanka in an attack on a hospital in a designated “Safe Zone" on Wednesday.

MVKLAI05.jpg

Photographs taken after the explosion on 12th May showed bodies strewn in the dirt and medical personnel struggling to help the wounded Photo: REUTERS

Amnesty International has demanded that the Sri Lankan authorities allow international monitors and humanitarian agencies access to the country's troubled areas – including the "Safe Zone", who can assess the situation first hand and help ensure that the humanitarian and human rights crisis is addressed.

In a letter to members of the UN Security Council, Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said: "The Council must convene without any further delay to discuss the latest disturbing developments and immediately require that attacks on civilians by the Sri Lankan army or the LTTE be stopped; that the LTTE allow all civilians to leave the conflict area; and that the Sri Lankan government provide immediate access to international monitors and humanitarian agencies."

Wednesday's shelling comes less than 24 hours after at least 49 people died and more than 50 were injured in an attack on the same hospital. Within the last few days, the situation in Sri Lanka has worsened, with 400 people – including more than 100 children – killed at the weekend, something the UN described as a “bloodbath."

“Both the Tigers and Sri-Lankan military have been violating the laws of war,” said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

"Over the last several months, according to witnesses, the Tamil Tigers have used civilians trapped in the conflict zone as human shields against government forces and when they have tried to flee, they have been attacked by the Tigers.

"Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan military has used heavy artillery, which is indiscriminate when used in densely populated areas, causing civilian deaths and injuries.”

There are grounds to fear that the Sri Lankan military will launch an even heavier military offensive, when general elections end in neighbouring India today. India’s regional Tamil political parties have made protection of civilians in Sri Lanka a key election issue.

In its letter to Security Council members, Amnesty International also calls for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of international law.

“The Council must recall, in unambiguous terms, that alleged perpetrators of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including war crimes, must be held individually responsible under international law," said Irene Khan.

How much is too much? The world must act to halt ethnic cleansing in Sri Lanka

by Indira Ravindran

At least 400 civilians (100 children included) were killed, and thousands were wounded in the bloodiest weekend since the renewal of the Sri Lankan civil war. Particularly gruesome was the fact that on May 11th, mortar was fired into a government-designated “safe zone”, where civilians had been urged to take shelter.

IRTC0514.jpg

[pic by: vip ez]

Just when it seemed that the situation could not get much worse, it did. Dozens of wounded who had survived the weekend’s shelling, died in a new round of fire targeting a makeshift hospital. World governments have responded to this carnage with much hand-wringing and with grave expressions of concern, but no decisive action.

The US and UK issued a joint statement calling on “all sides to end hostilities immediately”. This is not a war between two sovereign states: why this absurd pretense of parity? The LTTE is already blacklisted as a terrorist organization in many countries; and its legitimacy, like the civilian base it controls, is shrinking.

The Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), on the other hand, continues to terrorise its own citizens from the air, sea and land, with impunity. It has barred international media and humanitarian personnel from the war zone. It does so because it is the democratically elected leadership of a sovereign state, and because it enjoys excellent relations with other sovereigns who also double as arms vendors/ investors/ partners in the ‘war against terror’.

One must name names: India has yet again squandered an opportunity for principled and courageous leadership, with its confused, opportunistic involvement, first with one side, then with the other, in this decades-old war. By ignoring Colombo ’s rights violations, and by denying its proximity to the Rajapakse regime, India has alienated its own Tamil population. Others – China , Pakistan , Iran , Japan , Russia - hold leverage over Colombo , in their capacity as weapons-suppliers or as investors in massive infrastructural projects.

Some of these players are invested in the military annihilation of the LTTE, because this could send a strong signal to separatist movements within their own territories. None of these sovereigns will risk mixing up ethics with strategic / economic calculations.

The only recourse now is for the United Nations to intervene; and for this, it first needs to be empowered to act. At a minimum, China and Russia must be prevailed upon not to veto a resolution, should one be drafted.

U.N. spokesman Gordon Weiss described the weekend’s civilian death toll as a “bloodbath”, noting that the world body had predicted such a scenario. Similar predictions and warnings have been issued for the past 3-4 years from within Sri Lanka , by activists and aid workers.

Since 2006, they have tried desperately to draw the world’s attention to the government’s closing off of the humanitarian corridor linking Jaffna peninsula to the rest of the country; the routine disappearances of Tamil youth; the rape of Tamil women by Sri Lankan Armed Forces (SLAF) personnel on patrol; and the targeted attacks on media personnel. These warnings went largely unheeded. It appears that, as of this moment, the world has not grasped that ethnic cleansing is underway: one wonders why the Sri Lankan situation does not make the cut.

Not enough numbers?

UN estimates show 6500 civilian deaths since the start of the SLAF’s offensive six months ago, not including the weekend’s casualties. Up to 80 000 Sri Lankans of all ethnicities and political ideologies have perished since 1983. Hundreds of thousands of Tamils have been dispersed around the world. In India alone, there are 80, 000 refugees, spread across the state of Tamilnadu in 117 heavily-policed camps.

Not enough brutalization of rights?

President Mahinda Rajapakse and his brothers have fashioned fascist responses to internal dissent, and have steadily emerged as South Asia ’s most corrupt and ruthless political family. The social and democratic fabric of the island has been weakened, media outlets are targeted for attack, journalists are intimidated, and some like Lasantha Wickramatunga, have paid with their own lives, for their commitment to truth.

Not enough of an “ethnic” angle to render it intriguing?

Shamefully, the situation has now degenerated into what can be called an “ethnic conflict”, although it has its origins in principled struggles for constitutional rights dating to the time of Sri Lankan independence (1948). The current Colombo regime appears to have borrowed notes from 1930s Europe as well as 1990s Rwanda and Bosnia . Prior to the recent news ban, international observers had documented the widespread torture and disappearances within government-run camps for the internally displaced (IDPs). GOSL has announced plans to herd the remaining Tamil civilians into enclosures that will bear the Orwellian title of ‘welfare villages’, where they will be held captive for an estimated period of three years.

It is obvious that Tamil areas ravaged by the war will be re-populated by ethnic Sinhalese, thereby skewing the demographics. Nor are Tamils the only victims in this conflict. The LTTE - and sections of the Tamil population who remained silent onlookers – are answerable for the 1990 expulsion of ethnic Muslims from Tiger-held territory. This is a grim chapter that cannot be separated from the conflict’s history.

The question remains, how much is too much? What is the trigger that will convince world opinion-makers that this is ethnic cleansing; that it could only get worse; and that there is a still a chance to prevent full-scale genocide?

We have but few options. The UN Security Council must enforce a permanent ceasefire, and international journalists and aid workers must be allowed in immediately. The UN must negotiate with the LTTE and GOSL for the peaceful release of civilians, and government-run IDP camps must be brought under international supervision.

A long-term process of de-mining the area, tracing the disappeared, and documenting war crimes (by all parties) must be initiated, in order to prepare the climate for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict.

Any settlement must include the safe return of refugees from India and elsewhere. GOSL has flouted humanitarian law, and human decency. It has failed in its most basic duty to protect the lives of its citizens, and has sacrificed its minority population in the name of national security. It has rendered its country and the entire region insecure.

This spectacle has gone on long enough, and there is no more time to lose. The world – and this includes India – still has a chance to secure justice for the dead and the living.

Indira Ravindran teaches International law and politics in Shanghai, China.

May 13, 2009

Focus on Tamil protests by CBC “As It Happens”

Carol Off interviews D.B.S. Jeyaraj

COTC0512.jpg

Carol Off

This is an audio extract from the CBC “As it Happens” program of May 12th 2009

[Click here to listen to the 10 minute audio ion dbsjeyaraj.com]

Obama on Sri Lanka: Very welcome but is it too little too late?

Washington, DC May 14, 2009 – PEARL and HELP Advocates Sri Lanka applaud President Obama for making a statement regarding the ongoing bloodbath in Northern Sri Lanka, but appeal for further action to stop the ongoing bloodbath. The United Nations has documented over 6,000 civilian deaths and over 15,000 civilians injured in the conflict area since January 20; however this figure does not include over 1,400 civilians who were killed in government shelling over the weekend. Reports from the ground reflect the desperate nature of the situation for Tamil civilians under attack in the so-called “Safe Zone” and in the government-run internment camps.

“The Sri Lankan government is continuing its devastating attacks against already-suffering Tamil civilians in Northern Sri Lanka, despite statements of concern from the United States, UK, UN, India and others,” said PEARL representative Arvind Suguness. “We commend President Obama for making a strong statement about this humanitarian tragedy, but we need more forceful action to stop Sri Lanka’s genocide. The Sri Lankan government is intentionally targeting Tamil civilians as it attempts to end its war with the LTTE, and is committing genocide in the process. Last September, the Sri Lankan government expelled aid agencies and journalists from the conflict area to prevent the international community from witnessing the current massacres. As the government continues its attacks against Tamil civilians, hopes for a unified Sri Lanka disintegrate and its stability, along with the stability of the surrounding region, becomes increasingly threatened.”

“PEARL welcomes President Obama’s call for an immediate end to hostilities. However, President Obama’s demand that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) lay down their arms is deeply concerning, because it sends the signal that it is acceptable for the Sri Lankan government to massacre thousands of civilians if it is under the pretext of fighting terror. The LTTE is a symptom of decades of institutionalized discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka, and the structural roots of Sri Lanka’s conflict must be addressed to achieve a lasting peace,” Suguness said. “President Obama’s statement failed to emphasize that a military solution to this conflict will only further perpetuate this conflict and prevent a meaningful political solution that recognizes Tamil aspirations and their right to self-determination. Moreover, we must point out the danger in applying equal blame when the scale of atrocities is utterly disproportional.”

PEARL and HELP Advocates Sri Lanka believe that the United States should immediately facilitate a ceasefire by imposing targeted sanctions against Sri Lankan officials such as Army General Sarath Fonseka and Defense Secretary Gothabaya Rajapakse – a U.S. green card holder and a U.S. citizen, respectively. The United States should lead efforts through the UN Security Council to invoke and implement the Responsibility to Protect to immediately deliver aid to Tamils – thousands of whom will die otherwise.

###

About PEARL, HELP Advocates Sri Lanka
People for Equality and Relief in Lanka (PEARL) is a DC-based human rights advocacy group composed of over 3,600 Americans and 4,300 international members concerned about the crisis in Sri Lanka. PEARL was formed in 2005 after a group of college students volunteered in Sri Lanka and were exposed firsthand to the stories of suffering there.

HELP Advocates Sri Lanka works on behalf of all the innocent civilians in Sri Lanka who are victims of the country’s decades-long cycle of violent conflict and oppression. HELP is a U.S.-based grassroots advocacy organization committed to promoting and protecting Human rights, Equality and Lasting Peace in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has experienced a brutal ethnic conflict between the Sinhalese-dominated government and the Tamil minority, who have been discriminated against since Sri Lanka’s independence. Over 125,000 lives have been lost in the conflict, of which the overwhelming majority is Tamil. For more information, visit PEARLAction.org or HELPAdvocates.org.

May 13, 2009

Interview with aid worker, Nimmi Gowrinathan

The war for control of northern Sri Lanka has been going on for over 30 years. This past week has been one of the bloodiest on record, with hundreds of civilians killed and over a thousand injured.

NGTC0512.JPG

[Nimmi Gowrinathan with two Sri Lankan children-pic:UCLA]

[mp3 audio: Nimmi tells Dick Gordon about her most recent trip]

[The Story-By American Public Media]

Nimmi Gowrinathan is just back from the country. She works for an aid organization and she was there to check in on orphanages, refugee camps, and local communities. Nimmi can trace her family roots back to Sri Lanka, but growing up, her parents didn't share with her many stories of their native land. Nimmi tells Dick Gordon about her most recent trip, and about finding out that her own grandmother, a woman she never knew, was also working with refugees fifty years ago.

Find out more about Nimmi's work in Sri Lanka

Video: President Barack Obama calls for peace between Sri Lanka's rebels and government

May 13: President Obama speaks outside the White House, calling on the Sri Lankan government to put the lives of the country's civilians first:

Obama Calls for Halt in Sri Lankan Fighting

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — President Obama called on all sides in the Sri Lankan civil war to cease hostilities and allow the safe evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians trapped in a 2.5-kilometer conflict zone.

“We have a humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Sri Lanka, and I’ve been increasingly saddened by the desperate news in recent days,” Obama said May 13 at a press briefing in the White House.

“Tens of thousands of innocent civilians are trapped between the warring government forces and Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka with no means of escape or full access to food, water, shelter and medicine. And this has led to widespread suffering and the loss of hundreds if not thousands of lives.”

Obama said that without urgent action the current humanitarian crisis could turn into a catastrophe.

The Tamil Tigers have been engaged in an on-again, off-again civil war with the Sri Lankan government since July 1983. The Tamil Tigers, which have been identified by the United States as a terrorist organization, have sought a separate state in the north and east of the island nation, which is located about 31 kilometers off the southern coast of India in the Indian Ocean and has a population of approximately 20 million people. The government forces have been conducting operations intended to eliminate the Tamil Tigers, and currently have the Tigers cornered in a small stretch of the northeast coast, senior government officials told news agencies.

President Obama called on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, also known as the Tamil Tigers, to lay down their arms and let civilians go free, to halt their forced recruitment of civilians, and to stop using civilians as human shields protecting their fighters, which he called “deplorable.”

“These tactics will only serve to alienate all those who carry them out,” Obama said.

Obama also called on the Sri Lankan government to take several steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

“First, the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals,” he said. “The government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone.”

The government should give United Nations humanitarian teams access to the civilians who are trapped between the warring parties, Obama said.

And the government should allow the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to nearly 190,000 displaced people within Sri Lanka so they can receive additional assistance, the president said. Currently, the ICRC is the only foreign aid agency inside the war zone.

“The United States stands ready to work with the international community to support the people of Sri Lanka in this time of suffering,” Obama said. “I don’t believe that we can delay.”

Obama said that Sri Lanka must seek a peace that is secure, but also lasting.

On May 12, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and British Foreign Minister David Miliband issued a joint statement in Washington calling for an immediate end to hostilities. The two nations urged both sides to allow food and medical assistance to reach those trapped by the fighting, cooperate with the ICRC for the evacuation of urgent medical cases, ensure the safety of aid and medical workers, and permit humanitarian access to all sites where there are displaced people. [courtesy: www.america.gov]

What foreign affairs decisions should President Obama consider? Comment on America.gov's blog.

The international community is dithering over the humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka because of its need to condemn rebel fighters

by Cynthia Shanmugalingam

Not all Tamils are Tigers

A month ago my boyfriend's English mother asked me – in all innocence – if I'd been to the "Tamil Tiger march" in Westminster. She was referring to one of the many protests organised by the tenacious and active British Tamil Forum, camped 24 hours a day at Westminster for over a month now.

Given the many – and widely photographed – Tamil Tiger flags at the protests, little wonder she mistook Tamils for Tigers. Born a Tamil in England at about the same time the Tigers were founded, I know that, sadly, if you have heard of Tamils at all, you have probably linked us in your mind to a group of rebel fighters who pioneered the art of suicide bombing and once assassinated the prime minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. Separating the Tamils from the terrorists isn't just about correcting an alliterative slip or an image problem – it's at the core of the Sri Lankan conflict, and why the international community is dithering over one of the most appalling humanitarian situations of our time.

In Sri Lanka right now, around 100,000 civilians are trapped in a war zone, where they are being shelled every day by their government. A further 200,000 are in army-controlled internment camps without adequate food or water – and no sign of them being let out any time soon. They are all Tamil, like me and my family. That is about 10% of the entire Tamil population in Sri Lanka. To put it into perspective, it's about a quarter of the population of the entire Gaza strip.

There are two possible reasons why this is happening. First, that the Tamil Tigers are terrorists, and civilian deaths are unfortunate collateral damage in Sri Lanka's domestic war on terror. Or, second, that killing Tamil Tigers is a ruse for killing Tamils, and that the government is using the terrorist line to spin a sinister agenda.

While the international community grapples with Sri Lanka's insistence that it is the former, a depressing body of evidence points towards the sinister. There is the censorship – areas restricted to journalists including the "safe" zone where undercover reporters have to sneak out news of horrors. There is the witch-hunt for dissenters – Sri Lankan bloggers report that the government has now set up a hotline to report on those who question the war, and Unesco just awarded its World Press Freedom prize to Lasantha Wickrematunge, the latest Sri Lankan journalist to pay the ultimate price for free speech. And there is the state-sponsored terror – Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter argued last year that Sri Lanka should be struck off the UN human rights council for its abuses: internment, torture and abductions.

Last week the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, valiantly tried to get the UN to intervene to stop what it has called a "bloodbath" (you can witness his efforts in the face of creaking bureaucracy here). But in the meantime, the Sri Lankan regime is still getting our support – and because he and every other foreign minister caveats their calls with "the Tamil Tigers are so terrible" line, they add fuel to the Sri Lankan government's campaign – which then continues to drop bombs on hospitals and children.

Not all Tamils are supporters of the rebels – I'm certainly not. Despite all the flags, I know that many of us who are turning out in Parliament Square have a humanitarian agenda, not a pro-rebel one. But if we want the crisis to stop, we've got to realise that there's no use condemning the Tigers and trying to save Tamils, because in the eyes of the Sri Lankan government, we seem to be one and the same. The hope of the civilians facing mortal harm and starvation in Sri Lanka is that the world will not watch in silence while their lives are destroyed – and will not be fooled by the constant carping about the ills of the Tigers as a justification for throwing every last grain of humanity out of the window. [courtesy: Guardian.co.uk]

May 12, 2009

Satellite Images, Witnesses Show Shelling Continues

UN Security Council Fails to Act While Civilians Suffer

(New York, May 12, 2009) – New satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts contradict Sri Lankan government claims that its armed forces are no longer using heavy weapons in the densely populated conflict area in northern Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch said today.

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Image Analysis Area in Sri Lanka - Images taken by Digital Globe's WorldView and QuickBird satellites May 6 and May 10, 2009 ~ © Digital Globe 2009

Local sources have reported that more than 400 civilians have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded since May 9, 2009, as a result of artillery attacks on the thin coastal strip where fighting continues between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"Recent satellite photos and witness accounts show the brutal shelling of civilians in the conflict area goes on," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Neither the Sri Lankan army nor the Tamil Tigers appear to have any reluctance in using civilians as cannon fodder."

SIMT0512B.jpg

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today issued a preliminary analysis of commercial high-resolution satellite imagery of the conflict zone that shows craters from the use of heavy weapons and the removal of thousands of likely structures used by internally displaced persons (IDPs) between May 6 and May 10. The AAAS found that it was "certainly unlikely that the IDPs would have moved en masse, and so completely without a compelling reason." Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in the conflict area.

Witnesses described to Human Rights Watch harrowing days spent in shallow bunkers sheltering from artillery attacks and being prevented by the LTTE from escaping to government-controlled areas.

"K. Kanaga," a 35-year-old woman whose name is withheld for security reasons, said that around 7 p.m. on May 9, she and 15 others were hiding in a bunker that they had built under a tractor when a shell struck the tractor. "If it hadn't been for the tractor, we would have all been dead," she said. About eight to 10 shells struck the immediate area, which was populated with tents and improvised bunkers. Kanaga's 45-year-old cousin was staying in a tent nearby; she never reached the bunker and was killed in the attack. "Many other people were injured as well, but I don't know how many," Kanaga said. "I could hear their screams."

"R. Raman," 29, said that he and his family had been hiding in their bunker in Mullaivaikal - a dug-out trench without any cover - for several days. "We were being attacked from all sides," he said. "My wife and I only left the bunker to get food and water for our three children."

Early in the morning on May 9, a shell struck one of the tents closeby, killing Raman's 15-year-old nephew and wounding his nephew's older brother and sister. Raman believes that the shell came from Sri Lankan army positions and may have been targeting LTTE forces that were deployed in the jungle about 100 meters away. Several shells struck the tented area inhabited by displaced civilians.

Raman said he and his family were afraid to try to escape to government-controlled areas. When they and several hundred others had tried to leave the area in early April, LTTE fighters opened fire on them. "I saw them shoot at least 15 people," he said. "They just opened fire on the first row of people. I don't know whether they lived or died, however. We fell to the ground as soon as the firing started. When it stopped, we ran back as quickly as we could. There were children among the people who got shot as well." According to Raman, about half of the people managed to escape that day. The other half were forced to return.

According to doctors who spoke to Human Rights Watch, at around 8 a.m. on May 12 the makeshift hospital at Mullivaikkal was again shelled, as many wounded civilians were waiting for treatment. Nearly 1,000 patients were in the hospital at the time of the attack, including many wounded during attacks on May 9-10. A shell reportedly exploded in front of the admission ward during visiting hours, when many relatives came to visit patients, and doctors usually arrived for work. Doctors reported that the attack killed 49 people (26 immediately, others later succumbing to injuries); another 31 injured remain in the hospital. Among those killed was the administrative officer of Mullaitivu Regional Director of Health Services, who was arranging admission of a patient. A doctor said that the shelling came from the direction of Iraddaivaikal, where government forces are deployed. Human Rights Watch and other independent monitors have not been permitted access to the conflict area by the government, so cannot confirm these casualty figures.

The Mullivaikkal hospital, which had been newly relocated away from the front line, has been repeatedly hit by shells believed to have been fired by Sri Lankan army forces. Photographs of the hospital following the shelling today can be viewed at (slideshow link).

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised grave concerns about violations of international law by both parties to the conflict. The LTTE has violated the laws of war by using civilians as "human shields," by preventing civilians from fleeing the combat zone - including by use of lethal force - and by deliberately deploying their forces close to densely populated areas. The Sri Lankan armed forces have indiscriminately shelled densely populated areas, including hospitals, in violation of the laws of war.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call to Sri Lanka's key donors - including the United States, the European Union, India, Japan, and China - to demand that the Sri Lankan government end its use of heavy weapons in densely populated areas, particularly near hospitals. Both the government and the LTTE should permit safe humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee the combat zone.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka to be urgently taken up by a formal meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York and by a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Three foreign journalists expelled from Sri Lanka

Statement by RSF

Channel 4’s Asian correspondent Nick Paton-Walsh, producer Bessie Du, and cameraman Matt Jasper were briefly detained by police in Trincomalee in the east of the country before their expulsion. They are now in Bangkok with their journalist visas cancelled and banned from further visits to Sri Lanka.

The report broadcast on 5 May showed both the atrocious living conditions for civilians and ill-treatment they have suffered. ITN News, which produces news for Channel 4, said the report was the first independent proof of the gravity of the plight of civilians in displacement camps in an area in which access is tightly controlled. It showed bodies left lying in the open and revealed a shortage of food and water and cases of sexual abuse.

The expulsions are the latest incident in a long list of serious press freedom violations connected with reporting of the war, including murders of journalists, arbitrary or abusive imprisonment, torture, ill-treatment, censorship and expulsions.

“Reporters Without Borders considers the decision to expel these journalists was unfounded and unacceptable. Freedom of the press and of investigation is all the more vital when the situation is far from clear in the combat zone and surrounding areas. We ask that these journalists should be authorised to continue their investigation in complete independence” said Jean-François Julliard, secretary General of the world wide press freedom organisation.

Vincent Brossel
Asia-Pacific Desk
Reporters Without Borders
33 1 44 83 84 70
asia@rsf.org

Urgent international scrutiny needed in Sri Lanka, say UN Human Rights

Mr. Philip Alston, Mr. Anand Grover, Mr. Olivier De Schutter and Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN Human Rights Council experts dealing with summary executions, right to health, right to food and water and sanitation, released today the following statement:

The current humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka gives cause for deep concern, not only in terms of the number of civilians who have been and continue to be killed, but because of a dramatic lack of transparency and accountability. "There is good reason to believe that thousands of civilians have been killed in the past three months alone, and yet the Sri Lankan Government has yet to account for the casualties, or to provide access to the war zone for journalists and humanitarian monitors of any type", said Philip Alston, the UN expert on summary executions.

The continuing catastrophic situation of civilians in Sri Lanka trapped in the midst of fighting between the Sri Lankan army and the LTTE, in an area measuring less than 10 sq km, must be immediately addressed. "These civilians do not have sufficient access to food, essential medical supplies or services and safe water and sanitation. Even if they do escape death or injury at the hands of the hostile parties, their continued presence in this area without access to these basic rights is an effective death sentence," declared the Experts of the UN Human Rights Council. "The safety of civilians, including their safe passage out of the conflict zone, must be prioritized by all actors involved" said the Experts. While many thousands of civilians have now left this area, the Experts maintained their concern about the safety of more than 50,000 estimated by the UN to still remain.

Shipments of food and medicine to the "no fire zone" have been grossly insufficient over the past month and the Government has reportedly delayed or denied timely shipment of life saving medicines as well as to chlorine tablets. "As a result of the blackout on independent information sources, it is impossible to verify any of the Government's claims as to the number of casualties to date or as to the steps that it says it is taking in order to minimize the further killing of innocent civilians, and ensure delivery of humanitarian assistance", said the Experts.

"When people manage to escape, they reportedly continue to face scant supplies, entirely insufficient access to adequate medical treatment and severely overcrowded hospitals, providing no relief to the horrors they had been living," remarked Anand Grover, the UN expert on the right to health. "Access to food has also been hampered by arduous and lengthy registration procedures for the internally displaced persons; the desperation and chaos witnessed in some cases show that the situation is critical," said Olivier De Schutter, the UN expert on the right to food. Catarina de Albuquerque, the UN expert on water and sanitation, also expressed concern about "water shortages reported at Omanthai and at most of the transit sites as well as inadequate sanitation facilities, which put the health and lives of the population at further risk." The Government must take urgent measures with the assistance of the international community to ensure that security concerns do not result in unjustifiable suffering.

The Experts called upon the Sri Lankan Government to provide convincing evidence to the international community that it is respecting its obligations under human rights and international humanitarian law. It is also clear that the LTTE, for its part, has acted in flagrant violation of the applicable norms by preventing civilians from leaving the conflict area and having reportedly shot and killed those trying to flee. "There is an urgent need to establish an international commission of inquiry to document the events of recent months and to monitor ongoing developments." The Experts called upon the UN Human Rights Council to establish such a commission, as a matter of urgency, to address the critical situation in Sri Lanka, and demand full respect for all human rights. Any such inquiry should study the conduct of all sides to the conflict.

Mr. Philip Alston was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2004 by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. The Commission first decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to summary or arbitrary executions in 1982. Mr. Alston is Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University School of Law.

Mr. Anand Grover was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UN first decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to the right to health in 2002. Mr. Grover is currently the Director of the Lawyers Collective HIV/AIDS in India.

Mr. Olivier De Schutter was appointed Special Rapporteur in 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The UN first decided to appoint a Special Rapporteur to examine questions relevant to the right to food in 2000. He is currently Professor of International Human Rights Law at the Catholic University of Louvain.

Ms. Catarina de Albuquerque began her work as Independent Expert on the issue of human rights obligations related to access to safe drinking water and sanitation in November 2008, as the first Independent Expert on this mandate. She currently works as a senior legal adviser at the Office for Documentation and Comparative Law (an independent institution under the Portuguese Prosecutor General's Office) in the area of human rights.

All four experts serve in an independent capacity and addresses issues under their mandates in all countries. Further information on their mandate may be found at www.ohchr.org

Joint US/UK statement on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka

A joint statement on the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka issued on 12 May 2009 by the United States and the United Kingdom following a meeting between Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, at the Department:

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[U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets British Foreign Secretary David Milliband at the State Department in Washington May 12, 2009-Reuters pic.]

Read the statement:

During their meeting today, Secretary Clinton and U.K. Foreign Secretary Miliband expressed their profound concern about the humanitarian crisis in northern Sri Lanka caused by the ongoing hostilities. They expressed alarm at the large number of reported civilian causalities over the past several days in the designated 'safe' zone.

Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband call on all sides to end hostilities immediately and allow for the safe evacuation of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped within the safe zone. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam must lay down their arms and allow civilians free passage out of the conflict zone. The government of Sri Lanka must abide by its commitment of April 27 to end major combat operations and the use of heavy weapons.

Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband express their appreciation for the continued efforts of the United Nations and their staff on the ground in Sri Lanka. They call on the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to allow a UN humanitarian team to visit the conflict zone to facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians. They urge both sides to allow food and medical assistance to reach those trapped by fighting, cooperate with the ICRC to facilitate the evacuation of urgent medical cases, ensure the safety of aid and medical workers, and permit humanitarian access to all sites where displaced persons are being registered or being provided shelter. Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband call for a political solution that reconciles all Sri Lankans, and establishes a meaningful role for Tamil and other minorities in national political life. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

Sri Lanka Puts Obama to the Test — And He's Failing

By Romesh Ratnesar

During the campaign, Barack Obama hinted at how his future administration might act to stop suffering in the world. American foreign policy should focus on more than just killing terrorists; it needed to address "challenges of the 21st century" such as "climate change and poverty; genocide and disease." Obama and his advisers all but called for Robert Mugabe's removal in Zimbabwe and advocated more aggressive U.S. action to halt the genocide in Darfur. "When genocide is happening," said candidate Obama during the second Presidential debate, "when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us." The emerging Obama doctrine seemed to signal a new age of liberal interventionism — the idea that the U.S. has a right and obligation to intervene, by force if necessary, to protect civilians from war and ethnic violence, even in places where it has no vital national interests at stake.

That doctrine is being tested today in Sri Lanka. And unlike Darfur, where the most egregious crimes were committed long before the current Administration took office, the humanitarian disaster in Sri Lanka has unfolded within the last 100 days, on Obama's watch. (Read "Behind Colombo's P.R. Battle Against the Tamil Tigers".)

The Sri Lankan army's most recent assault on the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) has all but wiped out the militants, but at an epic cost to the Tamil population. At least 50,000 Tamils remain trapped on a two-mile-wide sliver of land, blocked from leaving by rebel fighters, who have used the civilians as shields, and targeted by government forces, who have shelled hospitals, shelters and refugee camps with impunity. Hospitals are overrun with victims. Scores of children have had limbs amputated to survive. Though it claims to be protecting civilians, the government has blocked the delivery of outside humanitarian aid to the combat zone. Over the weekend, a doctor there reported that 300 to 1,000 civilians were killed in a single night of shelling, though the government disputes the figures. The death toll in Sri Lanka is unlikely to reach levels seen in Darfur or Rwanda, but only because there aren't as many people to kill.

By the standard unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, the targeting of Tamil civilians—and the unwillingness of either side to protect them — justifies foreign intervention. The Responsibility to Protect convention obligates U.N. member-states to step in if "national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity." That's an apt description of what's happening in Sri Lanka. (Read "Escape from Hell: Refugees Flee Sri Lankan War Zone".)

So why has the situation failed to trigger louder calls to action? Several factors make Sri Lanka an inconvenient place to apply the principles of liberal interventionism. First, the Sri Lankan government has successfully cast its campaign against Tamil separatists as of a piece with the U.S.-led war on terrorism; the Tigers invented suicide bombing and have until recently continued to target civilians in Sri Lanka's capital, Colombo. Second, the civil war between Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority and the LTTE has lasted 25 years and has already claimed 70,000 lives. The world tends to view long-running civil wars as intractable and impervious to foreign intervention; only when both sides exhaust themselves, the thinking goes, can such wars be stopped. But the most vexing problem for interventionists is that in Sri Lanka, atrocities against civilians have manifestly been committed by both government forces and the rebels. There are no good guys.

See a photoessay on Tamil Tiger territory in Sri Lanka

Liberal interventionism works better in theory than in practice. No sovereign government accedes readily to foreign meddling in its own affairs, and liberals remain more reluctant than neoconservatives to insist on a moral right to intervene. Well-meaning "Never again" resolutions like the Responsibility to Protect have too often been shown to be empty gestures, since they are so rarely backed up by action. That paralysis has been evident in the Obama Administration's response to Sri Lanka. As the Colombo government's offensive intensified in April, the Obama Administration condemned both sides for disregarding civilian life — which is the best way to ensure that both continue to do so. It has since tried to stiffen its language toward the government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "the entire world is disappointed that [the government] is causing such untold suffering." On April 29, the U.S. said it would seek to delay a $1.9 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to the Colombo until the government took steps to alleviate civilian suffering.

None of it, though, managed to stop what the U.N. described as a "bloodbath" against the Tamil population over the weekend. And yet in response, the State Department reverted to its pox-on-all-your-houses neutrality. "We think that there's an unacceptably high level of civilian casualties," said spokesman Ian Kelly on May 11. "We've repeatedly urged the Tamil Tigers to lay down its arms and allow the civilians to leave the safe zone. The Government of Sri Lanka should abide by its April 27th statement that combat operations have concluded and that — and security forces should end the use of heavy weapons, which, of course, could cause civilian casualties."

What more can be done? Plenty, actually. The U.S. could press for a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding government forces adhere to a cease-fire and allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. If that doesn't work, Washington can lean on India, the country with the most leverage over Colombo, to pressure the Sri Lankan government to halt its offensive. If that doesn't work, the Administration could impose economic sanctions against Sri Lanka, with whom the U.S. did more than $2 billion in trade last year. If that doesn't work, the U.S. could push to create safe havens inside the combat zone monitored by U.N. peacekeeping troops, as exists in the Congo.

Wouldn't that amount to taking sides in the conflict? Not really — it would merely be balancing the score. The U.S. has already classified the LTTE as a terrorist organization, blocking its assets in the U.S. and making it a crime to provide funds to the group. We don't have much more leverage over terrorists. Targeting the government's interests as well would send the message that so long as the welfare of innocent civilians is ignored by the army and the rebels, both sides with feel pain. By intervening on behalf of Sri Lanka's civilians, Obama would do more than just save lives — he could help to save the doctrine of liberal interventionism before it ends up in history's warehouse of good intentions. Because if he doesn't do it, who will? [courtesy: Time]

See a photoessay on Tamil Tiger territory in Sri Lanka

May 11, 2009

Leading Sri Lanka Tamil Politician Claims 'Genocide' by Military

By Steve Herman

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Suresh Premachandran MP

Tamil Tiger rebels say Sri Lanka's military has renewed shelling Tuesday of the only remaining combat zone. The top government doctor in the rebel-controlled territory says at least 45 patients died when a mortar hit the admissions ward of the only remaining medical facility there. The military has repeatedly denied using heavy artillery to try to protect tens of thousands of civilians trapped with the rebels. It says three divisions continue advancing to rescue all the civilians in the final phase of the offensive to defeat the rebels in the sliver of coastal land they still hold. A senior opposition politician contends the Sinhalese-dominated military is deliberately targeting ethnic Tamils.

Sri Lanka's government says the impending battlefield defeat of the Tamil Tigers, regarded as a terrorist organization, will bring national reunification and return democracy to the Tamil-dominated north.

An opposition member of parliament, representing the northern Jaffna district, sees only more trouble ahead, because the government is failing to win Tamil hearts and minds.

In a VOA interview, Suresh Premachandran, of the Tamil National Alliance, blamed the military for civilian deaths during this year's offensive to retake the north and wipe out the rebels.

"Within five months, more than 10,000 killed and 20,000 injured," he said. "Definitely it's a genocide. Definitely the international community is having the duty to stop it."

Top Army commanders contend troops have not killed a single civilian during their offensive.

Government medical workers in the combat zone report hundreds - and possibly thousands - of civilian casualties in recent days.

The TNA's Premachandran blames the military for this latest artillery barrage and predicts more Tamil deaths.

"Definitely they are the people who are shelling and if they are going ahead with this sort of slaughtering, definitely within another two or three days time another few thousand are going to get killed," he said.

Government leaders accuse the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam of firing artillery, killing civilians and then blaming the military.

Premachandran says the LTTE has been fighting for a "just cause," but acknowledges the rebels - condemned for their urban suicide bombings and political assassinations - have committed "excesses."

The TNA has 22 members in parliament, representing the Tamil north and east. Premachandran says he and his party believe in negotiations and the political process to settle the Tamil question in the island nation.

But Premachandran says he has grown increasingly impatient with the political climate, describing the reaction when he and other Tamil politicians speak in parliament.

"Immediately all the people who are in the ruling party start to shout, 'You LTTE bugger' and things like that. They are not prepared to listen to us. They are not prepared to discuss matters with us," he added. "If [an opposition member of parliament] speaks the truth, if he criticizes the undemocratic matters happening in this country, immediately he will be called as an LTTE'er."

Premachandran says such accusations have a chilling effect. Three of his fellow TNA members of parliament have been assassinated.

The office of President Mahinda Rajapaksa says it is reaching out to Tamil parties to rebuild civil society in the north.

The Tamil National Alliance says it is boycotting such meetings with the government until it shows sincerity in discussing a ceasefire with the LTTE and accepts a political solution. [VOA News]

Joint Letter to Japanese Prime Minister on Sri Lanka

Robust Security Council Measures Urgently Needed to Save Civilian Lives

(New York, May 11, 2009) - Japan needs to "play a more active role" in confronting the worsening humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka, four international organizations said today in a letter to Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan. Ahead of today's ministerial-level meeting at the United Nations Security Council, the groups urged Japan, as a council member, to support urgent formal action on the situation.

Japan: Don't undermine the UN

[Placard at a vigil by Tamil Americans in NYC, May 8, 2009]

In the letter, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, Amnesty International, and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, all of which work closely on Sri Lanka, said:

"We believe that Japan, a powerful player on the humanitarian stage and the largest international donor to Sri Lanka, has an important role to play in saving countless civilian lives, as well as to implement aid policies that ensure sustainable peace, human rights and development in Sri Lanka. It is time for Japan to show that it is prepared to shoulder its responsibilities."

The organizations said that both the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Sri Lankan government "have shown wanton disregard for human life in violation of international humanitarian law." They said that the Security Council's informal consideration of the situation in Sri Lanka was not sufficient and that "formal meetings of the Security Council must be held urgently so that the Council can take the necessary measures to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis."

The organizations called on Japan "to take a more robust stance on the continuing suffering of the civilian population in Sri Lanka" and "to support action at the Security Council in New York, and to support prompt consideration of the situation in Sri Lanka by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva."

Japan - Don't be complicit in the genocide of Tamils

[Vigil in NYC, May 8]

Full Text of letter:

Prime Minister Taro Aso
Cabinet Secretariat
1-6-1 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo, Japan 100-8968

Dear Prime Minister Taro Aso,

We are writing to you in connection with the grave and worsening humanitarian and human rights situation in northern Sri Lanka. The undersigned nongovernmental organizations call upon Japan to play a more active role in confronting the unfolding catastrophe in what may be the military endgame between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

If the world continues to look away from the suffering of civilians in Sri Lanka, as it has largely done until now, it will be a failure of historic proportions. We believe that Japan, a powerful player on the humanitarian stage and the largest international donor to Sri Lanka, has an important role to play in saving countless civilian lives, as well as to implement aid policies that ensure sustainable peace, human rights and development in Sri Lanka. It is time for Japan to show that it is prepared to shoulder its responsibilities.

Tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped in the so-called “no-fire zone,” where John Holmes, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for humanitarian affairs, warned last month of a “bloodbath.” Each of the undersigned organizations works closely in or on Sri Lanka. Our fact-gathering leaves us convinced that the need for strong action by Japan and other influential nations is more urgent than ever.

According to United Nations statistics, more than 6,000 civilians have died and over 13,000 wounded from the fighting since late January 2009. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which rarely speaks out in public, has called the situation “nothing short of catastrophic.”

The UN Human Rights Council experts dealing with summary executions, right to health, right to food and water and sanitation noted in a joint statement on 8 May that there has been a “dramatic lack of transparency and accountability.”

Philip Alston, UN expert on summary executions, noted that the Sri Lankan Government, “has yet to account for the casualties, or to provide access to the war zone for journalists and humanitarian monitors of any type.”

Both sides in this conflict have shown wanton disregard for human life in violation of international humanitarian law. The LTTE is using civilians as human shields and is forcibly preventing civilians from escaping the conflict zone.

The Sri Lankan government has also committed grave abuses, none of which are excused by its claims that it is fighting terrorism. Its forces in numerous instances have indiscriminately shelled densely populated areas, including hospitals. The government has repeatedly lied to Japan and the United Nations by denying the use of heavy weapons in the no-fire zone.

Meanwhile, the Sri Lankan government has refused access to the conflict-affected areas to the United Nations, impartial humanitarian and human rights organizations and the media. It should be clear that the world needs to know what is actually happening on the ground so that it can prevent abuses and help those in need.

We know that a number of humanitarian agencies share many of the concerns expressed in this letter. For the security of their staff, they are constrained from speaking out publicly on these issues.

We urge Japan to take a more robust stance on the continuing suffering of the civilian population in Sri Lanka than has hitherto been the case. We welcome reports that Yasushi Akashi, Representative of the Government of Japan, recently urged Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to make the safety of trapped civilians the top priority, and we welcome government statements reminding all parties to respect international humanitarian law.

However, much more is needed. UN Security Council resolutions have repeatedly emphasized the importance of the protection of civilians. Resolution 1674 reaffirms the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, which heads of state adopted at the 2005 World Summit. The resolution notes that the targeting of civilians and widespread violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in situations of armed conflict may constitute a threat to international peace and security.

We call upon Japan to support efforts for the Security Council to keep the situation in Sri Lanka under close and regular review and to consider the situation in Sri Lanka formally at the Security Council. Meetings in recent weeks have been held only informally in basement rooms, deliberately kept out of the Council’s main chamber, because of the reluctance of some member states. We believe this must change and formal meetings of the Security Council must be held urgently so that the Council can take the necessary measures to address the humanitarian and human rights crisis.

We urge the Council to call upon the Sri Lankan government to facilitate UN needs assessment, lifting restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid, and ensure access for UN agencies to all government reception and screening points. The Council should make clear that both the government and LTTE would be held accountable for their actions, and create a UN commission of inquiry to examine violations of international humanitarian law by both sides.

We urge Japan to support action at the Security Council in New York, and to support prompt consideration of the situation in Sri Lanka by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The need for action is urgent, ahead of a ministerial-level meeting at the Security Council on May 11. Japan needs to find its voice in international diplomacy as a leading rights-respecting democracy. We hope that Japan will rise to the challenge.

Respectfully yours,

Kenneth Roth
Executive director
Human Rights Watch

Yvonne Terlingen
Head of Amnesty International Office at the United Nations

Dr. Monica Serrano
Executive Director
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Gareth Evans
President and CEO
International Crisis Group

Electoral Crocodile Tears For Sri Lankan Tamils

By B. Raman

The campaign in Tamil Nadu for the elections to the Lok Sabha, which comes to an end on May 11, 2009, saw copious shedding of crocodile tears not only for the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils, but also for the cause of a separate Tamil homeland as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) of M. Karunanidhi put it or for the cause of an independent Tamil Eelam as the Anna DMK of J.Jayalalitha and other Tamil parties put it.

2. Of the various parties contesting the elections, only the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress (I) and the Communist Party of India (CPI), which are national and not regional parties, made a distinction between support for the plight of the Tamils and support for the cause of Tamil Eelam. They desisted from supporting the latter.

3. There has been a certain hypocrisy in the stand of both the DMK and the ADMK. The DMK, which in the past had made no secret of its sympathies for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and its leader Prabakaran, had at the same time refrained from supporting the demand for a Tamil Eelam. It had always given the impression of supporting the stand of the Government of India of canvassing for the political and economic rights of the Tamils in a unified, but not unitary Sri Lanka.

4. The ADMK had in the past strongly opposed the LTTE and Prabakaran as well as their demand for an independent Tamil Eelam. Jayalalitha’s abrupt volte face on this subject during the course of the election campaign and her coming out in support of the totally unwise suggestion for sending the Indian Army to the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka for facilitating the creation of an independent Tamil Eelam came as a total surprise. Taken aback by the change in her stand, Karunanidhi, who has shown a lack of consistency and lucidity on the Tamil issue for over a year now, came out with his own support for a Tamil homeland without explaining what he meant. The Sri Lankan Tamils already have a homeland in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. The question is what should be the constitutional status of this homeland. Should it become an independent Tamil Eelam as demanded by the LTTE or should it become a largely autonomous state of a federal Sri Lanka as demanded by other Sri Lankan Tamil parties and as supported by the Government of India since the days of Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime Minister?

5. How can Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi come out in support of an independent Tamil Eelam or a homeland for the Tamils when none of the Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka except the LTTE has supported such a demand? Even the LTTE is now a party in its death rattle. The knee-jerk reactions on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue among the regional parties of Tamil Nadu and their vying with one another in showing whose heart bleeds more for the Sri Lankan Tamils and their cause show a calculation by all these parties that in the absence of any other major political issue of interest to the nation in general and to Tamil Nadu in particular during the just-ending election campaign the exploitation of the Sri Lankan Tamil issue might provide the magic wand to electrify the voters and get their support. Whether their calculation proves right or wrong, only the results will show on May 16, 2009. But one has to note that outside the screeching headlines of the Tamil media, one has not seen any major outpouring of public support for any of the Tamil parties on the Tamil Eelam issue.

6.One gets an impression that the Tamils of Tamil Nadu are more concerned about their own plight than over the plight of the Sri Lankan Tamils----caused by the rotten state of the infrastructure, frequent electricity shut-downs under the pretext of maintenance pauses, an administration which activates itself only a few weeks before the elections and then forgets the voters for four years, the political dynasty syndrome and a group of DMK Ministers in the Cabinet of Dr. Manmohan Singh who conducted themselves for four years as if India is Tamil Nadu and Tamil Nadu is India and as if Tamil Nadu is DMK and DMK is Tamil Nadu. The DMK Ministers held very important portfolios in New Delhi, but how many non-Tamil citizens of India had heard of them or seen them?

7. There are three aspects to the Sri Lankan Tamil issue:

a. The humanitarian plight of the Sri Lankan Tamil civilians in the Northern and Eastern Provinces due to the ruthless use of air strikes by the Sri Lankan Air Force in the Tamil areas for the last three years and the use of multi-barrel rockets and artillery pieces given by Pakistan and due to the recent brutal use of the Tamil civilians by the LTTE as human shields in order to ward off its final collapse and maintain its political relevance after having lost its military capabilities. The Government of Dr. Manmohan Singh and all political parties----national or regional--- failed deplorably all these months to condemn the use of air strikes and heavy artillery of Pakistani- make against the Tamil civilians. The humanitarian problem did not start yesterday. It started three years ago when the Sri Lankan Armed Forces brought their aircraft and Pakistani-origin artillery into action, but not a single political party in India thought it fit to condemn it. They have suddenly become aware of the humanitarian plight of the Tamils a few weeks before the elections. If this is not hypocrisy and political opportunism, what then is it?

b. The cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils, who have always been the objective allies of India. The Sri Lankan Tamil cause, which has the support of all Tamil parties in Sri Lanka, relates to a modification of the present unitary state of Sri Lanka in order to make it a genuine federal State in which the equal rights and dignity of the Tamils in the federal State are guaranteed. This cause had enjoyed the active support of Rajiv Gandhi when he was the Prime Minister. Many Tamils in Tamil Nadu, including this writer, had a legitimate grievance that as Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh deviated from the traditional policy of Congress (I) and failed to articulate energetically the Government of India’s support for this. His silence and ambivalent comments----if at all when he made some rare comments on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue--- were interpreted by the Government of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Sinhalese extremists in the Sri Lankan Armed Forces as indicating that the Government of India no longer supported the Tamil cause as strongly as it did under Rajiv Gandhi and that it could ride rough-shod over the rights of the Tamils without having to worry about any adverse reactions from New Delhi.

c. The cause of an independent Tamil Eelam. The LTTE is the only Tamil organization in Sri Lanka which supports it. Other Tamil parties don’t. Under Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister, the Congress (I) gave the impression of supporting it, but Rajiv Gandhi wisely removed this impression and came out against an independent Tamil Eelam and in favour of a federal Sri Lanka with the Tamils enjoying equal rights with the Sinhalese. After the expected death of the LTTE, this would have been a dead issue in Sri Lanka, but attempts are being made in Tamil Nadu to give a fresh lease of life to this issue purely out of electoral calculations and not out of any genuine interest in the future of the Sri Lankan Tamils.

8. Despite all that has happened till now, India still has many friends in Sri Lanka--- among the Sinhalese as well as the Tamils. There are many on both sides of the political spectrum in Sri Lanka who understand and do not misinterpret India’s interest in the future of the Tamils in view of the likely impact of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem on the Indian Tamils in Tamil Nadu. Based on this, the Manmohan Sigh Government could have worked out a comprehensive strategy for the future which would have convinced the Sri Lankan Tamils that India continued to care for them and would have, at the same time, reassured the Sinhalese that India did not wish ill of them and Sri Lanka.

9. The Manmohan Singh Government failed to work out such a strategy. Nobody knows what exactly is his strategy on Sri Lanka.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

May 10, 2009

Seven lessons on how to fight the globalized Tiger

by Dayan Jayatilleka

These closing climactic weeks of the conventional war have been accompanied by tremendous external pressure on the Sri Lankan state. This has its upside because it illuminates. It reveals to us the world as it is and how it might be. It tells us who our friends are. It tells us also who our enemy’s friends are. It educates us as to what we must and must not do, including in the coming weeks and days.

Here is the rude reality. There is a three pronged campaign to save the Tiger. One is mounted from within the overseas Tamil community, the dominant pro-Tiger/pro-Tamil Eelam stream having developed into a global movement. The second prong is the West, with some functioning as the spear-point of that prong, while others are less committed. Some Western quarters are clearly protectors and potential patrons of the Tigers and the Tamil Eelam cause. The third prong is located in neighboring Tamil Nadu, with some parties now committing themselves to the cause of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

Luckily, this external pressure comes at a time when it cannot really affect our conduct on the ground; cannot deflect our military action. Such is the resolve of public opinion, the national leadership and the armed forces. 2009 is not 1987. For the moment we can absorb this pressure while spotting and noting where it comes from and extrapolating future trend lines from these pressures and agitations.

What is the first and most basic lesson that the mounting wave of external pressure should teach us? It is this: we are seeing a number of sources, Western and sub-regional, which would easily afford patronage and succor to the surviving LTTE and the Tamil separatist project. Furthermore it cannot be ruled out that the anti-Sri Lanka /pro-Tamil Eelam elements in Tamil Nadu would have a stronger position in a ruling coalition in Delhi by early June. Therefore, it is imperative that we act decisively within the narrowing window of opportunity open to us, to eliminate the LTTE as a military force, destroying its leadership and hard core cadres who have been trapped in the Zone, after which we must wheel around and hunt down the residual terrorists who may have escaped into the jungles.

It is precisely because we are relatively weak and our enemy is relatively strong externally, while they are relatively weak and we are relatively strong domestically, that we must maximize that advantage. If we eliminate the LTTE as an army on Sri Lankan soil, we can minimize the effects upon us, of present and future patronage being offered by offshore sources. If on the other hand, we allow the Tigers to survive and escape, they will quickly regroup and be redeployed, with all the external spaces that they have access to. In short the Tigers must cease to function within Sri Lanka , and to cease to function they must cease to exist. The Tiger is a globalized creature but its head is still on Sri Lankan soil. That head must be cut off, now.

Thus the mounting external pressures on Sri Lanka must not only NOT lead to an easing of the final military campaign, but must result in its exact opposite, the determination to inflict the most complete and decisive defeat and destruction possible on the Tigers, while taking maximum precautions to safeguard the civilians.

The second lesson is that the Tamil Eelam movement is more globalized than ever; the struggle between Sri Lanka and the Tamil separatist project will continue in the global arena, on an international scale, and that the country’s future in the next stage will be greatly influenced if not decisively determined in the international theatre. This includes the preservation of the military gains on the ground.

The third lesson is that there must be a shift of national emphasis and priority, to the international front. Just as the country and state matured to the point where it shifted to the correct policy stance on the war, overhauled its military machine and placed the right personnel in the right places, the same or a similar task will have to be undertaken in the domain of Sri Lanka ’s external relations.

The fourth lesson is that we must clearly identify and build up our “natural” international defense lines. These are the Non Aligned Movement and the countries of the global South. Within and outside the developing world, Sri Lanka’s most reliable strategic friendships will have to be with those, mainly but not only Eurasian, who place high value on strong states, state sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and within this group of states, those which have no significant Tamil populations. The ties with such states must be upgraded and solidified into a structure or system. We should for example, apply for observer status with the Shanghai Organization for Security Cooperation, a structure which includes Russia and China , and focuses on counter-terrorism.

The fifth lesson is no one, even among our friends, will countenance either an insensitive or slow alleviation of the problems of IDPs and related humanitarian questions or an absence of an immediately postwar political solution based on autonomy and equality, for the Tamil people. (We have until a new administration is sworn in, in New Delhi , to get our act together on both issues, simultaneously not sequentially).

The sixth lesson is that the Sri Lankan state has to catch up, get with the new calendar and new times, and learn to speak a new language. “Bush-speak” had no acceptance outside the USA even during his administration and now it is rejected within the USA itself and has no resonance anywhere in the world. Sri Lanka ’s dominant discourse has to change or it will lose the global struggle by simple default. Macho nationalism, religious majoritarianism, unilateralism and “anything goes in the struggle against terrorism” are out; the attempt to combine ethics and power, (“ethical realism”) is in.

The seventh lesson is that if we are to compete with and beat the globalized Tamil secessionist project with its western patrons -- better exemplified by MIA making TIME’s 100, rather than by Velupillai Prabhakaran the least articulate and most corpulent guerrilla leader in the world -- we have to rebuild our soft power and smart power, just as we did our hard power. This requires that we undergo a collective transformation, amounting to a revolution, in education, culture and mentality. If anyone wants to understand shifts in US policy towards Sri Lanka , they must factor in the 80-100 young US educated Tamils working on Capitol Hill as aides, researchers and staffers of Congressmen and Senators, and then contrast that with the output of our educational system as we have debased it.

It is not that Sri Lanka had no MIAs. We had better MIAs than MIA, way before MIA. Remember Yolande Bawan at the Newport jazz festival? Right now we’ve got DeLon who I think has a far better singing voice than MIA, but who is backing him in the USA to make a breakthrough?

When a collective mentality looks to the past rather than the future, it has lost the capacity to envision and produce future excellence or achievement. As Dr Martin Luther King said in 1967, minting a phrase picked up and popularized by Barack Obama, “we are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now”.

(These are the strictly personal views of the writer)

Jaffna Library: "The burning was a cultural genocide"

Australia's Dateline reports on Jaffna Library:

REPORTER: Amos Roberts

Every building and every monument in Jaffna has been scarred by battle - None more than the town's public library. Although the physical damage has now been repaired, what happened to this beautiful building nearly 30 years ago helped spark Sri Lanka's civil war. Locals treat the library with reverence, almost as though it was some kind of temple - visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering. This is one of the library's oldest users. Sabaratnam started borrowing books from Jaffna's first public library almost 60 years ago - His membership number - 471.

REPORTER: You were one of the first members, weren't you? When did you first join the library?

SABARATNAM: 1951, I became a member.

REPORTER: So that's 58 years now?

SABARATNAM: 60 years! After that new building was put up, I was here almost a weekly regular visitor. Thousands of books and especially the latest magazines - 'Times Literary Supplement', London 'Times', 'The Hindu' - all these are collected here. So I was so happy. We had a wonderful time.

When it was built, the library was one of the largest in Asia and a source of enormous pride for the Tamil community. But its golden age came to an abrupt end in 1981. At the end of May, rioting broke out after the shooting of three Sinhalese police at a Tamil political rally. Tamil houses, shops and offices were all torched in revenge and there were reports that police were among the rioters. Then Jaffna's most-loved building was set alight.

C.V.K. SIVAGNANUM, FORMER MUNICIPAL COMMISSIONER: I was able to see the library going up in flames. So my feeling was that we are losing a treasure.

When former municipal commissioner Sivagnanum went to investigate, he says police stopped him.

C.V.K. SIVAGNANUM: I was threatened, and if I refused to abide by the orders I may be harmed or I may even be shot, he said.

97,000 books were destroyed, including many irreplaceable manuscripts written on palm leaves. The Tamil community's cultural treasures went up in smoke, leaving only a lasting bitterness and anger.

C.V.K. SIVAGNANUM: Seeing those collections in flames, and realising that the whole thing can not be retrieved, it was terrible trauma in my mind when I was standing and looking at this. It was really a cultural genocide. The burning was a cultural genocide.

In a recent Tamil documentary, Sri Lanka's former foreign minister said that Sinhalese also felt the library's loss.

MANGALA SAMARAWEERA, FORMER FOREIGN MINISTER: This was not only a blow to the Tamil people and the Tamil intellectuals. It was a blow to the whole country because it was one of our national prides - having such a library in Sri Lanka. So burning this library, I would say was a massive psychological blow to our whole country.

Rebuilding started the following year, but the library soon found itself on the frontline of a civil war, used as a sanctuary by Tamil rebels under constant attack by the army. It was finally abandoned in 1985.

SABARATNAM: When the library was shuttered and there was no-one, I used to wander along and think of the old days when it was the intellectual centre for all of us.

KPOAYSIVAM, HINDU SCHOLAR: This is one of my books - it is a religious book.

Kopaysivam is a Hindu scholar and the author of several books held by the library.

REPORTER: Oh, so this is you!

He's thrilled the library was re-opened in 2003. Now a new generation is finally getting the chance to discover Jaffna's public library.

KPOAYSIVAM (Translation): This is called the archives, old newspapers from the old days… as well as magazines, are kept here. Collected and safely preserved.

The Sri Lankan government of the time said it rebuilt the library according to the original plans as an act of reconciliation.

MANGALA SAMARAWEERA: Restoration and renovation of the library was basically a symbolic gesture, I would say. That was a way of Chandrika Kumaratunga's government as well as the people of Sri Lanka saying, we are very sorry for what happened.

But the restoration turned out to be controversial. Many local Tamils felt it was an attempt to literally whitewash the past. They thought the ruined library should have been left as a memorial.

C.V.K. SIVAGNANUM: They had made a clear, planned effort to eradicate the historic event of destroying the library in 1981.

But the wounds are not all from the past. The ongoing war and tense political climate mean Jaffna feels like an occupied city. The new library suffers as a result - it's in the middle of a high-security zone, ringed by army checkpoints, and for many locals it's not worth the time and hassle to get here.

C.V.K. SIVAGNANUM: The place has lost its importance due to the conflict. It has come to a certain place of oblivion in a way.

KPOAYSIVAM (Translation): Go and get one book each, you can get them here or there, any book you like.

But unlike their parents, today's children seem less enthralled by old books than they are by new machines.

LIBRARIAN (Translation): The librarian says kids must read for an hour… before using the computers, but they stare at us impatiently. Games… that is what they want. How long can we keep shouting at the kids? When the librarian comes and asks me if they have read yet, I say yes. I tell them “The books are laughing at you.”

REPORTER: How do the books that are here compare to what was in the library before?

C.V.K. SIVAGNANUM: You know, there are latest books both from India and other places and all the books are there. That is conceded. But the historical record of the Tamil community, collected from the elder people, senior people, and our ancestors who lived here, are no more. Our cultural heritage is not available.

Reporter/Camera
AMOS ROBERTS

Editor
AVID POTTS

Producer
AARON THOMAS

Translations / Subtitling
EDILBERT RAJADURAI

Original Music composed by
VICKI HANSEN

Additional footage courtesy of Somee Tharan

"Man made crisis" in the IDP Camps of Vavuniya

By Nick Paton Walsh

"We saw, and in our case filmed, pictures of the hungry displaced, freshly arrived in the camps from the far worse hell of the no-fire zone. It looks like another war-related crisis, where internatonal aid must flood in to help. But this is different, many aid workers told me: it's man made, a crisis born of the decision to detain much of the population of the country's northern Vanni area indefinitely," writes Channel 4 News's Nick Paton Walsh after his deportation from Sri Lanka.

NickPatonWalshTC0510.jpg

[Britain's Channel Four television network journalist Nick Paton Walsh (R) walks with cameraman Matt Jasper in Colombo May 10, 2009, as they leave their hotel for the airport to be deported-Reuters pic]

Full blog entry by Nick Paton Walsh: Crossing the line in Sri Lanka, as follows:

It's not often that the most powerful man in the country rings you. I'd spoken amicably to defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa 45 minutes earlier about getting some better access to Sri Lanka's 25 year war. But this time he was calling me, and seemed to have remembered something.

"Who is this? You rang me earlier? Is this Channel 4? You have been accusing my soldiers of raping civilians? Your visa is cancelled, you will be deported. You can report what you like about this country, but from your own country, not from here". I'm missing out my interjections, but that's pretty much how you get deported in Sri Lanka.

To make the next flight out, we tried to leave the port of Trincomalee, where we had been, but were pulled over at a police roadblock, and eventually taken back to the police station.

There, our vehicle was searched and a man typed statements from the three of us, which we had not actually given and had also refused to sign. We were then driven back to Colombo through such traffic that, despite repeated assurances from the defence minister's media handler, we missed our flight. We turned down the police's offer of a "bungalow" for the night, and headed for a flight to Singapore at 7.25 am.

As we passed through immigration, the police again tried to get a statement from me, one plain clothes officer asking me what my name was and when I arrived in Colombo, what I had reported on since I got there. He told me our job was "to help Sri Lanka", whilst explaining, almost by way of an apology it seemed, that he was following orders and had been trained in Scotland Yard.

Where did this outburst of government anger come from? The only explanation I can find is that my phone call to the defence secretary reminded him about a report we did last Tuesday.

In it, aid workers at a number of the internment camps for the displaced in the northern town of Vavuniya spoke openly of conditions there. As a journalist you can only get to these camps with the army, they escort you wherever you go. But someone working for us had managed to get a camera into the camps and have a series of interviews taken for us. Those who spoke did so anonymously.

The allegations were startling both because of their content but also because of the extreme reaction they provoked from the government. Bodies left for days; children crushed in the rush for food; the sexual abuse of women; disappearances.

All things that have regularly blighted Sri Lanka's brutal war and most other conflicts across the world. The accusations of abuse had been taken seriously by the UN, as 3 dead female bodies had been found in the bathing area of part of the camp.

They told me they had asked for a change in the guards at the bathing area (from soldiers to female police) and that civilians, not the police and army, be asked to investigate allegations of abuse. This statement made to us the claims of aid workers at the camp all the more credible and something we surely should air quickly.

We went out of our way to get a government response: the army spokesperson, Brigadier Nanayakkara, refused twice a request to go on camera, so in the end we pushed through the foreign ministry and got a cabinet minister, Keheliya Rambukwella, who on camera accepted that if such things had happened, the perpetrators should be punished, but reminded us this was a new camp and instances of such abuse could be expected in any population of a hundred thousand people.

The next day I went into the foreign ministry and the Media Centre for National Security to try and clear the air. The MCNS, sort of the military's tool for censorship, is run by Lakshman Hulugalle.

He explained that I had damaged the country's image and would later hear of their "measures" against me. He did not discuss the truth of the allegations at all. It took another 3 days for me to learn what those measures were. After a clumsy but polite 10 hour detention by Sri Lankan police, I am now I am back in Bangkok. Mr Hulugalle claims I have admitted to a "crime".

That is nonsense. I am accused, I understand, of damaging the image of the armed forces, which is apparently an offence. But I can't recall where or when I would have had the opportunity to admit to that.

There is a reason why the government is so extraordinarily sensitive about this topic, bar the usual protectiveness of a nation for its armed forces. They need western money to fund these IDP camps, places government officials openly accept are "technically" internment camps. They will hold part of the country's ethnic Tamil population for as long as 3 years, many involved say.

The government has spent a lot on the war and needs the UN to fund and manage this "resettlement" project, ostensibly the detention of up to 230,000 people for long enough to filter out any remaining militant sympathisers.

Claims about the camp's impropreities, the squalor, children trampled under feet, sexual abuse, disappearances, refocus the attention of the international community back on whether these camps are ethically a good idea or even beneficial to the humanitarian problems at the end of this bitter war.

We saw, and in our case filmed, pictures of the hungry displaced, freshly arrived in the camps from the far worse hell of the no-fire zone. It looks like another war-related crisis, where internatonal aid must flood in to help. But this is different, many aid workers told me: it's man made, a crisis born of the decision to detain much of the population of the country's northern Vanni area indefinitely.

An aid worker told me how a Tamil woman in the camps had approached - tired of wearing the same diry clothes and eating meagre handouts. She had money and asked the aid worker just to go outside the camps barbed wire fence to buy her a change of clothes and some food. "She had money, she had relatives to stay with. But they would not let her out."

This is a man-made humanitarian disaster, the aid worker explained. "I am in the strange position of just keep telling all our donors when they come here to NOT to give money".

But there is a broader reason why deportation, not rapid rebuttal, was the chosen method in dealing with our allegations. The government is intolerant of a critical press. Journalists get killed, most notoriously Lasantha Wickrematunge, an editor assassinated in January.

One writing for an international publication begged me not to tell anyone else they had this high-profile role. "I was close to the line a few years ago, but now it seems OK again", they said.

The line for our crew was at passport control, but you realise what crossing the line for Sri Lankan journalists means.

At least 378 killed and 1,122 injured in shelling and bombing

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

The unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Northern Wanni reached tragically high levels today May 10th 2009 as a result of intensive artillery shelling and aerial bombardment by the Sri Lankan Armed forces.

According to medical sources at least 378 people were killed and 1122 injured as at 4.00 pm , Sri Lankan time today Sunday.

[May, 10, 2009-Mullivaaikkaal, pic: RHDS]

While this figure is based on the number of bodies brought to and number of persons treated for injuries at the makeshift hospital in Mullivaaikkaal, further casualties in their hundreds were also reported. [click here to read the article in full ~ in dbsjeyaraj.com]

UN Security Council asked to indict Rajapaksa regime on crimes against humanity

A leading human rights network in India, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) has sent in a strong appeal to the UN Security Council with copies to all its Members, asking the UN Security Council to immediately investigate and report Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Courts (ICC) for committing crimes against humanity.

PUCL claims it is not affiliated to any political party and that it is an independent, non partisan, non governmental organization, which as a policy does not accept any funding from any institutions or governments. "We are only a human rights group and we are not interested in taking sides in the issue," says Mr. K G Kannabiran, a leading High Court lawyer, President of the PUCL.

The PUCL in its representation to the UN Security Council says, there is hard evidence of artillery and aerial bombings of civilian safety zones, large scale deaths of Tamil people due to the conflict in these safety zones, total lack of food supplies to the civilians in the Wanni, indiscriminate shelling of hospitals and a serious denial of medical aid to civilians in the Wanni with camps for the displaced turned into virtual detention camps under military supervision.

Apart from these serious allegations that amounts to crimes against humanity, the PUCL has cited attacks, abductions and killings of journalists, stifling of media freedom and a continued climate of impunity in carrying out crimes out side the war zone as well, that clearly defines the present regime as one that consciously commits crimes against humanity.

The conditions warranting military intervention to protect human rights was elaborated in the "2001 Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty" which formed the basis for the adoption by the UN General Assembly of the 'Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine, notes the PUCL representation and then notes, If either or both of the conditions below are satisfied,

"i. large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or

ii. large scale "ethnic cleansing," actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape." the "just cause" component of the decision to intervene is amply satisfied. (para 4.19)

The PUCL wants the UN Security Council to,

a) immediate UN military intervention for human protection in Sri Lanka under the `Responsibility to Protect’ Doctrine;

b) monitoring of the camps of the Internally Displaced People (IDP) by independent United Nations agencies and

c) reference to the International Criminal Court for prosecution the crimes against humanity and the war crimes committed by the present Sri Lankan regime.

They have named Resident Mahinda Rajapaksa, Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa and the Army Commander as responsible.

PDF File: PUCL: Representation to the UN Security Council on Sri Lanka

Tears on the ‘Teardrop Isle’!

by M.G.Devasahayam

As the ‘end game’ to the quarter-century old war in the ‘Teardrop Isle’ is being trumpeted, there is a savage premonition from STRATFOR, the US based strategic security organization: “Due to the long history of conflict in Sri Lanka , we do not share the assessment by some in the Sri Lankan government that the Tigers are all but dead. They may be severely damaged as a conventional military force — for a time at least — but the group’s cadre of dedicated, zealous militants will certainly spill a lot more blood in their quest for independence and vengeance against the Sri Lankan government.”

Going further, the report predicts small Tamil Tiger units resuming operations to massacre civilians, in particular Sinhalese Buddhist and Muslim civilians. The Tigers also probably will attack crowds of civilians and commercial centers. Attacks against passenger trains and buses also can be expected. Tigers are also likely to strike at the Yal Devi Express, a train that runs from Colombo to Vavuniya and is of great symbolic value to Tamil-Sinhalese coexistence. A-9 road that leads from Colombo to Jaffna could be subject to numerous attacks and ambushes aimed at both military and commercial targets, blending terrorism and insurgency.

In the assessment of STRATFOR, for a militant group to effectively wield terrorism as an asymmetrical weapon, it must gain mastery of a range of tactical skills referred to as terrorist tradecraft. These skills include abilities to operate without being detected, to collect intelligence on potential targets, to procure munitions, to recruit operatives, to plan effective strikes and to construct reliable improvised explosives devices. Tigers are credited to have all theses capabilities in full measure.

Sum and substance is that what is being described as the ‘end game’ of the conventional war of Tamil Tigers against the Sri Lankan military could turn out to be the ‘start game’ of insurgency and terror leading to ‘blood-bath’ of the unprotected Sinhalese civilians who venerate the well-protected war-mongers as heroes. For the Tamil Tigers this would take far fewer resources to sustain than it does to fight a conventional war. Conducting terrorist attacks requires even fewer resources than insurgent attacks. When properly conducted, terrorist attacks are the ultimate exercise of asymmetrical warfare – a thousand Tamil Tigers against a fifty thousand strong Sri Lankan Army!

This is the tragedy of the ‘Teardrop Isle’. Tourism brochures hail Sri Lanka as ‘a natural paradise lapped by the warm waters of the Indian Ocean; a landscape of verdant mountains, rainforests, paddy fields, tumbling waterfalls and sweeping gorges.’ I had the pleasure of visiting the island twice. Without a shadow of doubt the island is a wonderful getaway. It’s a Pearl . A Raindrop. A Teardrop. A Shangri La!

But alas, also a land beset by sadness imposed by cruel, greedy and egotistic men and women who refuse to understand the fundamental rationale of human existence – freedom, dignity and equality. This is the tragedy of Sri Lanka , afflicted with a long festering man-made conflict.

To understand the festering conflict in Sri Lanka one has to go back to the Resolution unanimously adopted at the First National Convention of the Tamil United Liberation Front held at Vaddukoddai in May 1976 Chaired by its founder S.J.V. Chelvanayakam listing out several grievances of the Tamils that pertained to “placing the stamp of inferiority on Tamils and the Tamil Language”; “denying to the Tamils equality of opportunity in the spheres of employment, education, land alienation and economic life in general”; “systematically cutting them off from the mainstream of Tamil cultures in South India while denying them opportunities of developing their language and culture in Ceylon” and “imposing on the Tamil Nation a constitution drafted, under conditions of emergency without opportunities for free discussion”.

These grievances continued to fester resulting in a strongly-worded unanimous Declaration in July 1985 by all six Tamil Liberation Organisations following the Thimpu ( Bhutan ) Talks facilitated by the Government of India. This Declaration clearly stated that any meaningful solution to the Tamil national question must be based on the cardinal principles of recognition of the Tamils of Ceylon as a nation; recognition of the existence of an identified homeland for the Tamils in Sri Lanka; recognition of the right of self determination of the Tamil nation and recognition of the right to citizenship and the fundamental rights of all Tamils who look upon the island as their country.

India’s efforts to follow up the Thimpu Declaration were arbitrary in nature as reflected in the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement entered into between Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President J.R. Jayawardene with the stated objective of bringing 'peace and normalcy' to Sri Lanka.

Velupillai Pirabaharan, the leader of the LTTE, with whom consultations had supposedly been held while drafting the Agreement, gave only conditional support when he declared: "The set of proposals envisaged in the Indo Sri Lanka Agreement for the settlement of the Tamil National question has serious limitations and falls short of fulfilling the aspirations of our people. Hence we pledge to extend our cooperation to the implementation of the Agreement only in so far as it upholds the rights of our people."

In fact, this hastily drafted Agreement did not structure a federal constitution where power may be shared equally between the Tamil and Sinhala political entities. The Agreement did not even create a 'Tamil Nadu like' constitutional structure for the Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka . The Agreement sought to 'devolve' power on nine provincial units, and thereby enable a Sinhala dominated Central government to control and regulate the exercise of such 'devolved' power. In the critical area of finance, provincial councils were to depend on the largesse of a Sinhala dominated Central Government. What the Agreement contemplated was no more than an administrative decentralisation which would in fact increase the power of the Centre to manage the provinces.

On 10 October 1987, Indian Peace Keeping Force, which had arrived in Sri Lanka immediately after signing the Agreement 'to keep the peace', launched a widespread, indiscriminate and sustained attack on the Tamil people with the objective of securing their unconditional support for the Peace Agreement. A reward of one million rupees was offered for the capture of Velupillai Pirabaharan, dead or alive. Rest is history.

Grievances of the Tamils continued to remain unresolved leading to ‘militarisation of the conflict’ and the war that has been raging for the last quarter century resulting in death, destruction, untold hardships and grave humanitarian crisis. Over 100,000 are dead and several more wounded. Sri Lanka has 800,000 internally displaced persons most of whom living as refugees in their own country! Lakhs of Tamils have left their homeland for safer havens. In Tamil Nadu alone there are about 1,00,000 refugees from Sri Lanka.

India and the international community have been repeatedly stating that there is no military solution to the raging conflict in Sri Lanka . Yet, this is what is being precisely attempted under the very nose of India , UN and the International Community.

It is time India stopped playing ostrich and stepped out forcibly to put an end to the ‘genocidal war’ and facilitate a ‘negotiated political settlement’ with a mutually acceptable blueprint aimed at resolving the conflict, which led to the war. The conflict was anterior to the war. The conflict that needs to be resolved is not the war. It is the historic, linguistic, ethnic and economic grievances of the Tamils that led to the war. What is needed is an inclusive, reconciliatory, solution based approach not a ‘fight to the finish’ aided and abetted by India , which is a shame.

A multi-pronged approach to resolve the Sri Lankan conflict would require the following steps:

-De-escalation of war and military disengagement,

-Demilitarisation of the ethnic conflict,

-Ceasefire,

-Resumption of negotiations leading to an abiding settlement acceptable to all communities.

Getting the Sri Lanka Southern polity to engage in a healthy discourse in power sharing is an important part of the multi-pronged approach involving all communities. This is first the responsibility of the ruling party and the Sri Lankan President. They have to convince the Southern Sinhala polity of the positive aspects of ‘power sharing’ based conflict resolution that would lead to abiding peace and resultant prosperity. Till now they have been touting the bogey of ‘South is against power sharing’ without involving the Southern Sinhala society in any worthwhile discussion. This sham cannot go on because in the emerging scenario Southern Sri Lankans have far more at stake than the war-mongers ruling the island.

Sri Lankan Tamils cause has gained wide sympathy and support in Tamil Nadu, and if the STRATFOR report is to be believed Tamil Tigers could use India in much the same way that the Taliban and al Qaeda use Pakistan . In the event, security of India in general and Tamil Nadu in particular is at serious risk. China has no such risk and their agenda in Sri Lanka is to use Tamils as ‘cannon fodder for commerce’! There is no need for democratic India to play second fiddle to an autocratic China.

If India fails to perform their prime responsibility of ending the raging conflict and bring abiding peace, terrorism and insurgency could explode in Sri Lanka making it a truly ‘Teardrop Isle’ beset by sadness, agony and anguish with no hope for prosperity and future. Added to this could be tears of blood dripping from Mainland India !

(The writer is a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who had held many important positions nationally and been in a very high position in the TN State administration, before retirement. Presently chairs the Chennai Intellectuals' Forum and was a member of the Chennai team that met with President Rajapaksa to discuss possible power sharing mechanisms as a solution to the present conflict.)

May 09, 2009

Media Bytes – LTTE Activity in Tamil Nadu

by Col R. Hariharan

The STRATFOR, the US strategic security organisation, has assessed that the support in Tamil Nadu for the LTTE means they can exploit the international border to their advantage. Logistic-wise and infrastructure-wise India is best place for them. It said, I quote “The Tigers use India in much the same way that the Taliban and al Qaeda use Pakistan. The Tigers' logistical and training infrastructure in India is especially important during times (like the present) when the Sri Lankan government is hammering them.” It says the LTTE is more dangerous than al Qaeda. What are your comments?

For a long time India knows that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is a very dangerous terrorist group. It is for this reason that it has been repeatedly banned for over a decade and a half whenever the issue came up for review. So it is nothing new. However, there are some disturbing indications; three things have taken place all over the world that indicates possible LTTE moves.

The Tamil Diaspora was originally agitating for ceasefire to save the civilians trapped in the no war zone. However, lately this agitation has been taken over by the LTTE. Now these protests are sporting LTTE flags [suitably modified to avoid confronting local laws], displaying Prabhakaran’s pictures and shouting slogans like ‘Prabhakaran is our leader’.This is an important indication. After their take over, the agitations have turned violent directed particularly against the embassies and high commission offices of Sri Lanka, India and China in UK and France. These are not stray incidents; LTTE organises these protests.

Secondly, there had been agitation against army [building up] in India. [On May 5, 2009, a large group of pro-LTTE Tamil political activists blocked a convoy of Indian army trucks near Coimbatore because they believed the trucks were carrying supplies destined for the Sri Lankan military]. A lot of disinformation is being spread about Indian army’s involvement in Sri Lanka. Fake CDs [to support such allegations] are being circulated. For some mysterious reason Government of India has not refuted these allegations. Nobody knows why it is so.

Thirdly, all political parties in India, including the ruling coalition, are soft pedalling the LTTE related issues [apparently not wanting to take on the issue during the election time]. So a lot of things are required to be done in India because the LTTE has large reserve overseas assets in many countries. All these assets will be activated now. Such assets exist in India also. So the danger is very much there. Government of India is well aware of this. Our intelligence agencies are perhaps the best equipped in the world to know what is happening in the LTTE. But the question is what action the Government of India has taken on such information? It remains a mystery because the government is very reluctant to share such information with the public.

An Imprisoned Sri Lankan Journalist

by Jim McDonald

In “Sri Lanka’s Dirty War” (editorial, April 30), you point out that the Sri Lankan government has barred journalists from the war zone since last year. Sri Lankan journalists face other challenges as well.

The Sri Lankan government has created a climate of fear, through killings, harassment and threats, to silence journalists and other critical voices. The journalist J. S. Tissainayagam, for example, could have told the world what is happening in Sri Lanka now. But he has been imprisoned for more than a year now, and is considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Last August, he was indicted under terrorism legislation for having published two articles in a monthly magazine in 2006 criticizing the government’s military offensive against the opposition Tamil Tigers. He remains in prison while his trial is continuing.

The Sri Lanka government must respect the right to freedom of expression. J. S. Tissainayagam should be released immediately and the charges against him dropped.

Jim McDonald is Sri Lanka Country Specialist, Amnesty International USA, Chicago, May 1, 2009; this letter to the edtor of New York Times appeard in the paper on May 9, 2009

May 08, 2009

Repeated Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes

30 Attacks Reported on Medical Facilities Since December

(New York) - The Sri Lankan armed forces have repeatedly struck hospitals in the northern Vanni region in indiscriminate artillery and aerial attacks, Human Rights Watch said today. Commanders responsible for ordering or conducting such attacks may be prosecuted for war crimes.

KNTC0508.jpg

Kilinochchi hospital buidling after SLA shelling on on Christmas day

Sri Lanka: Shelling of Hospitals Evidence of War Crimes-[More pics]

Patients, medical staff, aid workers, and other witnesses have provided Human Rights Watch with information about at least 30 attacks on permanent and makeshift hospitals in the combat area since December 2008. One of the deadliest took place on May 2, when artillery shells struck Mullaivaikal hospital in the government-declared "no-fire zone," killing 68 persons and wounding 87.

"Hospitals are supposed to be sanctuaries from shelling, not targets," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "While doctors and nurses struggle to save lives in overcrowded and underequipped facilities, Sri Lankan army attacks have hit one hospital after another."

Human Rights Watch has criticized both the Sri Lankan armed forces and the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for numerous violations of the laws of war during the recent fighting. Tens of thousands of civilians have been held as "human shields" by LTTE forces on a narrow strip of land on Sri Lanka's northeast coast.

As Sri Lankan army forces have advanced, the LTTE has unlawfully forced the civilian population along with them in retreat. Hospital staff have increasingly been compelled to leave permanent hospitals to set up makeshift hospitals in LTTE-controlled areas. Several independent sources informed Human Rights Watch that each time a hospital was established in a new location, the doctors transmitted GPS coordinates of the facility to the Sri Lankan government to ensure that the facility would be protected from military attack. Medical staff said that, on several occasions, attacks occurred on the day after the coordinates had been transmitted.

An aid worker described to Human Rights Watch an aerial attack on Valayanmadam hospital in the no-fire zone on April 2:

"I was in the hospital. Right after 12:30 p.m., I noticed a Sri Lanka military drone conducting reconnaissance above the hospital. The people in the hospital suspected that an attack was imminent, so they lay down on the ground. Shortly thereafter, we heard a loud explosion in the air, followed by several smaller explosions on the ground. One of the explosions took place only a couple of meters from me. One of the doctors, who was lying just next to me, was killed by a shrapnel piece that hit him in the head. Four or five people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in the attack."

Medical staff said that makeshift hospitals that have been hit were clearly marked as medical facilities. For example, after repeated attacks on the hospital at Puthukkudiyiruppu, an LTTE stronghold, the hospital was evacuated to a school in Putumattalan, across the Nanthikadal lagoon in the no-fire zone. Witnesses said the hospital was marked with a large red cross on one of the buildings facing Sri Lankan army positions across the lagoon, and a red-cross flag flew at the entrance. A person who fled across the lagoon in late March told Human Rights Watch that the red-cross signs were clearly visible from the government positions across the lagoon, about a kilometer away. Yet, the hospital came under attack on several occasions.

A medical worker told Human Rights Watch that when the Putumattalan hospital came under heavy shelling around midnight on April 20, he immediately sought cover in a bunker. He described what he saw after he left the shelter early in the morning:

"The roof of the building was destroyed and tiles had fallen into the room. The operations ward had disappeared completely. There were eight dead bodies in Ward 5, and five dead bodies in the admission ward, all of them patients who had been admitted with injuries from previous attacks. Injured people were still coming to the hospital, but the medical staff was not able to provide any medical treatment. I have no idea how many dead and injured there were in total. I just counted 13 dead bodies in two of the five wards and then I left."

Since mid-February, the International Committee of the Red Cross has evacuated more than 13,000 wounded and their caregivers from the war zone by sea. Permanent and makeshift hospitals within LTTE-controlled territory continue to receive hundreds of patients daily. Many arrive wounded from the fighting, while others are sick due to inadequate sanitation, and acute shortages of food and clean water.

Witness accounts suggest that in some cases the Sri Lankan military attacks may have been targeted at LTTE forces present in the vicinity of the hospitals, yet in other cases witnesses said there were no LTTE forces anywhere near the hospitals.

Hospitals, whether permanent or temporary, are specially protected under international humanitarian law. Like other civilian structures, they may not be targeted. Under the Geneva Conventions, hospitals remain protected unless they are "used to commit hostile acts" that are outside their humanitarian function. Even then, they are only subject to attack after a warning has been given setting a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has gone unheeded. The presence of LTTE medical workers or injured combatants does not affect the civilian character of medical facilities.

LTTE forces who deploy among civilians or near hospitals are violating the laws of war by unnecessarily placing civilians at risk. However, violations by one party to an armed conflict do not justify violations by the other.

Under the laws of war, parties to a conflict must take all feasible precautions to ensure that a target of attack is a military objective and not a civilian object. Attacks that do not discriminate between military targets and civilian objects are prohibited. Individuals who order or carry out unlawful attacks willfully - that is, deliberately or recklessly - are responsible for war crimes. States are obligated under the laws of war to investigate alleged war crimes and prosecute those responsible.

"Repeated Sri Lankan artillery attacks striking known hospitals is evidence of war crimes," said Adams. "The government cannot hide behind LTTE atrocities to justify their own unlawful acts."

Human Rights Watch said Sri Lanka's key donors - including the United States, the European Union, India, Japan, and China - should strengthen calls for the Sri Lankan government to cease the use of heavy weapons in densely populated areas, particularly near hospitals. Both the government and the LTTE should permit safe humanitarian corridors to allow civilians to flee the combat zone.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka to be urgently taken up by a formal meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York and by a special session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Communalists are Like the Drop of Urine that Falls Accidentally into Milk

by Samuel Ratnajeevan.H.Hoole

Background

Babu Thomas’s piece (“Columnist accuses Christians for Sri Lanka war”, 5 May, 2009) touches on the currents of aggressive self-aggrandizing communalism in Sri Lanka now spreading to India. This paper examines communalism in the Sri Lankan context where, whether Tamil or Sinhalese, Christians are increasingly under attack, and Hindus from India are joining in the fray. A lesson in restraint is drawn from the experiences described, avoiding generalizing what a small but effective communal minority does to the larger populace.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s civil war has been building up between the majority Sinhalese (mainly Buddhist) and minority Tamils (largely Hindu with a significant Christian minority to which this writer belongs) since independence in 1948. Sinhalese communalism has held sway over Sri Lankan institutions such as the media and textbooks and teaches Buddhist stories as history. Tamil school children learn that they came from India as invaders while the Sinhalese came as settlers (Educational Publications Department (Isurupaya), 2003, Social Studies and History – Year 8, Bataramulla: The Ministry of Education, Sri Lanka). Sustained discrimination in language, employment, education and land settlement has marginalized and unsettled Tamils

As peaceful Tamil demands for equality were ignored and responded to by state violence, the totalitarian Tamil Tigers with a northern leadership under V. Prabhakaran violently took over all Tamil civil organizations and ran a de facto state in the Tamil North-East. Unlike previous governments that were restrained in fighting the Tigers because of civilian death, a determined Sinhalese government was elected to power in 2005 with the backing of ultra-nationalists. Prosecuting the war without any care for its Tamil citizens, the government has brought the Tigers close to military defeat although their capabilities at guerrilla warfare are intact.

At the time of writing, they hold thousands of Tamil civilians as hostages while the government bombs them despite hostage deaths. Tiger overseas activists are crying genocide as the government bombs areas that the government itself declared no fire zones; but are silent on the Tiger use of the civilians as hostages. The precarious state of civilians has fired up the Tamil Diaspora and Tamil Nadu. The agitations in Tamil Nadu have made Sri Lanka an election issue in India.

Genocide

The aggressive assertion of the Sinhaleseness of Sri Lanka has led to genocide. The Burghers (of European descent) have nearly all left in the 1960s as they recognized Sinhalese assertiveness. Many Tamils of recent Indian origin have been deported to India with the latter’s connivance. Many other Tamils have left as refugees because of the large scale military massacres and communal riots targeting them. Many Sinhalese Christians have converted to Buddhism.

Christians at 9% at independence were 7% at the last census in 1981 and are probably much less today because of the exodus of Vellala Christian Tamils after the pogrom of 1983. In contrast, the Tamils at 22% at independence were down to 18% at the 1981 census and are probably around 10-11% today largely through Tamil emigration induced by state violence and discrimination. This genocide, leaving aside the ongoing massive massacres of civilians by the army and internal killings of dissidents by Tamil Tigers, is evident from the numbers alone.

After decades of inexorable suppression of Tamils, Sri Lankan anti-Tamil communalism is about to succeed as the Tamil Tigers face defeat. We Tamils lost the world’s sympathy by using methods of terrorism after the cataclysmic events of 1983, rather than a rights-based framework for making our just demands; especially by the Tamil Tiger assassination of Rajiv Gandhi who was a Tamil benefactor although his reasons might have involved Indian strategic calculations.

On the throes of victory over Tamils, Sinhalese communalism is now focusing on marginalizing other minorities, in particular the Christians. Legislation ostensibly to stop so-called unethical conversions but seeking to prevent almost any conversion has been repeatedly revived. However good sense has prevailed so far. As the US State Department’s human rights report details, Christian churches have been damaged with impunity and pastors attacked,

Sinhalese = Buddhist

The claim that Sri Lanka belongs to Buddhists and that Tamils are evil is rooted in The Mahavamsa, a quasi-historical religious document of the 7th century AD. It narrates the 1st Century BC story of the Dutta Gemunu who had defeated the Tamil king Ellalan. Gemunu as a Buddhist has gone into a depression because of the karma of killing millions of Tamils. As the Mahavamsa records it (Ch. 25: 98, 103, 107-112), eight Arahants (i.e. those who had achieved nirvana) are sent to counsel him not to worry about “any hindrance in [his] way to heaven” since he had killed only a human and a half – the Tamil who “had come unto the three refuges” and the other who had “taken on himself the five precepts” – and the rest of the Tamils are “not to be more esteemed than beasts”! Mahavamsa also records Gautama promising to preserve pure Buddhism in Lanka.

It is this promise of pure Buddhism in Lanka and the idea that Tamils are no better than beasts – an idea borne from the experiences of the South Indian Saivite revival when many Tamil Buddhists and Jains were slaughtered by Tamil Saivites – that are at the crux of the Sri Lankan attitude to anyone not a Buddhist; a true Sinhalese now had to be a Buddhist. Therefore Sinhalese Roman Catholics in 1983 have, as pointed out by Stirrat (C.R.A. Hoole, “Sri Lanka at 50,” World Pulse, April 17, 1998, Volume 33:8, pp. 1-2; also [3]), joined mobs in attacking Tamil Roman Catholics as if to prove their Sinhaleseness.

Attack on Leaders

The hysteria of war has made many people of good sense lapse into silence. Communalists have a field day and the vermin is seen crawling out of the rotten woodwork of Sri Lanka to write things that most of us would have been ashamed to verbalise as recently as 2 years ago.

Turning on Christians, Father Caspersz, that venerable apostle of nonviolence and a peace activist, was accused by writer Ruwan Weerakoon (“Why they lie in the name of …”, April 29, 2009) of being “known to be a diehard Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) sympathizer” and of lying for the Tigers. The story was with the imprimatur of the Sri Lankan government’s Ministry of Defence [4].

The actual statements attributed to Father Caspersz had been issued by some other priest whose name sounded a bit like Caspersz. Why Father Caspersz? Because he stands for peace between the communities and vocalizes it. Targets are people of potential leadership. So he is fair game for these new writers who stand for a Sri Lanka that is mono- everything.

Likewise consider the treatment of The Rt. Rev. Thomas Soundranayagam, the [Roman Catholic] Bishop of Jaffna. He is a leader among the Tamils of Jaffna and a man of God best known for speaking the truth with Christian economy of words. Despite attempts by the Tamil Tigers to use him for propaganda purposes, he has never knuckled down.

Of note is his defiance in Oct. 1995 when the Tigers forced everyone to vacate the Jaffna peninsula and retreat with them when they ran away; just as they have done now in 2008-9 in taking civilian hostages in the Vanni by forcing villagers to march with them as they retreated as the army gained ground.

And yet, this very same Bishop was targeted in The Asian Tribune by one Dr. Edward Perera in his article titled “Tamil Diaspora and the Church: What comes next?” on March 18, 2009 [5]. In that diatribe Dr. Perera, claims that “Except for the hierarchy in the Catholic and Anglican Church [sic.] in Sri Lanka, nobody would tolerate the leader of this terror group, Velupillai Pirabhakaran.” Perera further alleges that the Bishop of Jaffna (misnamed as Emmanuel) compared the Tiger leader V. Prabhakaran to our Lord Jesus.

The fact however is that another high cleric of the Church by the last name Emmanuel, a Vicar General, did make that untenable comparison several years ago and was moved out discretely by Bishop Soundranayagam because he was an embarrassment to him, the Church and indeed all of Christendom. To twist that old story to defame the good bishop is a new turn in Sri Lanka’s labyrinthine communalist processes as with Father Caspersz.

When this writer wrote a correction in the comments section of Asian Tribune, like a pack of wolves there were several people behind Dr. Perera who started name calling and Dr. Perera asserted that the Bishop’s name is indeed Emmanuel. It took this writer some weeks to contact Jaffna and verify that Emmanuel is not a part of Bishop Thomas Soundranayagam’s name and by then the malicious article had gone off the main page. Contacting Asian Tribune to make a correction as a separate article describing the real bishop and his work, there was no reply.

Tamil Hindu Communalism: Tamil = Saivite

While Ceylon Tamil Teachers’ Association protested against Sinhalese distortions of school texts based on The Mahavamsa, the objections were often not principled. While school texts in all subjects were controlled by Sinhalese, Tamil language texts specific to Tamils were left to Tamil committees. These texts by Tamil teachers pioneered jingoist paths just like the texts by Sinhalese. C. W. Thamotharampillai, this writer’s ancestor and a great contributor to the Tamil language and literature, was claimed to be a Hindu who pretended to be a Christian for privileges in the school text studied by Christian and Hindu children in Grade 6 (Educational Publications Department (Isurupaya), 1993, Tamil-Year Six, Government of Sri Lanka, Bataramulle, Sri Lanka).

The fact however is that he was born to Assistant Pastor Cyrus Kingsbury, a Tamil convert of the American Mission and his baptismal records still exist (See S.R.H. Hoole, C. W. Thamotharampillai, Tamil Revivalist: The Man Behind the Legend of Tamil Nationalism, Colombo: International Centre for Ethnic Studies, 1997).

Similarly, Arumuga Navalar, the Saivite revivalist who countered the missions is said to have authored (sic.) the Bible – whereas he knew neither Greek nor Hebrew and the translation was by a committee of missionary scholars who did the actual translation and then used Tamil Pandits of whom Navalar was just one to put their Tamil rendering into better Tamil. And the texts do not mention that the Christians of Jaffna rejected this translation after 50 years for the Indian one which is what is in use today.

And worse, the agricultural Vellala (or Pillai) leadership of Tamils – really Sudras who claim high caste because Brahmins were not allowed to cross the seas, thereby leaving the Vellalas at the Lankan caste pinnacle – teach school children of all castes that it is only those who live tilling the land that truly live. The lower caste children recite this innocently. No one seems to notice.

As we Tamils insist on our right to equality, some have come forward to assert that Saivism is the religion of the Tamils and that Tamil = Saivite and vice versa. This mirrors the Sinhalese phenomenon where some Tamils want to prove they are more Tamil than others. While the Tamil Tigers, despite their unacceptably violent response to Sinhalese aggression and Tamil dissent, have not openly endorsed this view, many of their supporters have.

Satyendra Nadesan, one of their top spokemen running the rankly communalist TamilNation.org has been making this claim at many public events. I have addressed this claim in the article “The Tamils of Sri Lanka: The Problem of Religion and Identity” (Indian Church History Review. Vol. XXVI, No. 2, pp. 88-135, June, 1992). Much more has since come to light based on the architecture of many ancient Saiva temples being built in several stages, the oldest stages being wooden.

Professor Paul Younger of McMaster University, an authority on South Indian temples, in a private communication says these wooden bases are of Christian origin and that Siva worship among the Tamils is much more recent than is often claimed. These affirm this writer’s position that there is no one religion with claims to being Tamil.

Any correction of these bigoted teachings is labelled religious zealotry [6] so that most people are scared to take on the bigots. The Vellala domination of the Diaspora institutions ensures that the other side of the coin is not brought out and those who dare try are seen as traitors to the Tamil cause because it is said to divide us when we are down. Thus the teaching of falsehoods continues. Tamil communalism, however, without state power, has been limited in the damage it can do. Its main mischief is in isolating those who do not accept its ideology.

Repercussions in India

Today, the near death of thousands of Tamils held as hostage by the Tigers even as the state bombs them has made their plight a worldwide issue. The Northern Tamil leadership which seemed not to care as the supposedly lower-caste Tamils of the East were lined up and shot by Sri Lanka’s Special Task Force (STF) in the 1990s and bombed as the army retook the East in 2006, and were chased down streets by the Tigers and slaughtered for belonging to other militant groups in 1986, went into quick action.

Major intersections in Canada, UK, US and Australia saw massive demonstrations. Just the way the Tigers forced school children to show up at demonstrations in Sri Lanka, school children chanted at demonstrations in the West, illegally cutting school. Northern Vellala women and children testified to gullible western reporters about that aunt and this cousin being decapitated in government bombings while coming out of trenches to mix milk for their baby or look for a wounded family member – such decapitations are real but not of relations of these well to do northern Vellala elite who have few connections in the Vanni where the battle is on; in fact they will not even marry there.

Their sudden concern is not for the Vanni population since if so they would demand that the Tigers let them go instead of shooting anyone who tries. The real concern is for the hostage-takers – saving the northern Tiger leadership hiding behind civilians. A Free Church pastor and three Brothers (Pastor Janson A. Jacob and Brothers David K. Karunakaran, Barnaba Thiruvarudselvam, and Uthayakumar) of the Vanni have died in the bombings with total silence from the Diaspora. Much has been made of two northern Roman Catholic priests who lost limbs.

Naturally with large scale Tamil deaths, Tamil Nadu got fired up. The Tigers, terribly unpopular after the Rajiv Gandhi assassination, earned a new lease on life there. Sri Lanka has become a big issue in the ongoing elections. It was inevitable that Hindu nationalists would enter the fray. The opposition BJP came out strongly against Sri Lanka while the ruling Congress initially expressed sympathy for Tamil civilians but not for the Tigers but on May 8 (The Hindu) did a volte face expressing openness to the possibility of a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka.

Like many vendors of passionate communalism, Rajeev Srinivasan the Hindu rights activist referred to by Thomas has come out against the Tigers, trading in untruths and half-truths – “Endgame and Tragedy in Sri Lanka,” May 4, 2009 [7]. Trying to blame Christians for everything, he lists Sri Lanka’s Prime Ministers as being Christians or Christian converts or being married to Christians -- some on his list do not qualify as Srinivasan avers. Nor does he allow for converts to Buddhism from Christianity being hostile to the Church.

Likewise the Tiger leader V. Prabhakaran is a Hindu of the fisher caste of smugglers, with his biographers and the Tigers hinting at descent from the Chola Emperor Karikalan and other military castes of Vellala origin as the first step in rewriting history. For his Vellala biographers, accepting him as leader means saying that caste does no matter. This not being acceptable to their world view of themselves, they have chosen to make Prabhakaran Vellala. He is not a Christian as Srinivasan claims. Srinivasan who would be expected to be an ardent Tiger supporter because of his ideological make up, seems against the Tigers because of his belief that Prabhakaran is a Christian.

In fact the Methodist Church to which Srinivasan assigns Prabhakaran is one of the least politicized Churches. One wonders if Srinivasan, mistakenly thinking that Prabhakaran is a Christian and opposing him, is trying to play the caste game of raising prejudice against Prabhakaran.

I recall how my ancestor Charles Winslow Kingsbury with the “home name” Thamotharam, despite his accomplishments as one of Madras University’s first 2 graduates in 1857 (and of getting the higher mark of the two [8]) renamed himself Chirupitty Wairawanathar Thamotharampillai when he went to Madras Presidency. This ensured that a) he had access to the Sangam-era Ola manuscripts in the mutts that he is credited with restoring, b) he kept his original initials and c) he removed obstacles to his becoming Rao Bahadur and, as chief justice, Regent in Puthukkottai.

To maintain this farce he only had to whisper to his Jaffna friends on arrival in Madras not to let on that he was a Christian in Jaffna. (See S.R. H. Hoole, 1997; ibid.). Such was the disadvantage of a Christian in India in learned circles.

The point is that Tamil nationalism is as evil as the Sinhalese nationalism it opposes. It is therefore not surprising that Hindu communalists are joining the fray by laying it on thick on the Christians. Like Rajeev Srinivasan, on April 29, 2009 we find one B.R. Haran writing in The Sri Lanka Guardian: “Is ‘Tamil Eelam’ a Christian agenda?” [9]. Besides his atrocious claims against Christians and the Church, he too pronounced Prabhakaran a Christian. (Is this an ongoing conspiracy?)

The identity of Prabhakaran is clear in Sri Lanka. Everyone in Sri Lanka knows that Prabhakaran is a Hindu and that his wife is a Hindu and that they worship regularly at temples. He is even worshipped by many of his followers as an avatar of Muruhan – a psychiatrist has testified how his patients take soil from Prabhakaran’s home for their shrines “like collecting water from the Ganges” [10].

Lessons from Sri Lanka – A Restrained Response

Given the violent conundrum that Sri Lankan society has become, it is important not to over-react or to generalize. Even as rabid communalists wreak their havoc, there are thinking Sinhalese who raise their rational voices above the din.

The numerous examples include Lasantha Wickrematunge who was murdered for speaking out against the war [11], other journalists who do likewise and even people in secular jobs who are moved to speak out like Prof. A.N.I Ekanayake [12]. It is also good to note that despite attempts at passing the religious conversion bill, it has not been passed because many Sinhalese are not for it. To over-react would be to lose thinking friends, whether Sinhalese-Buddhist or Tamil-Hindu.

On the Tamil side too, it is important not to generalize and offend the majority who are minority friendly. For instance, when this writer was appointed Vice Chancellor of Jaffna University in March 2006, the Tamil Tigers and many others opposed the appointment.

Kyoto’s University’s Sachi Sri Kantha, an obsequiously adulating biographer of Tiger leader V. Prabhakaran’s who is on the US Government’s no-fly list and others raised objections in Oru Paper, a tabloid of that is tasked with keeping communal passions high so that the Tamil Diaspora can be whipped up for demonstrations and the like. Oru Paper is best known for cooking up absurd quotations that their writers then attribute to those they wish to attack so that the target is devalued among its readers.

One of the objections to this writer’s appointment as Vice Chancellor of the secular, government-run University of Jaffna was that: "[T]here are a few Christian who are unable to reconcile their minds to the fact that they had deserted the religion of their forefathers [emphasis mine]. This grievance they carry against the whole community. The Hoole brothers, Lakshman Kadirgamar [Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister murdered by the Tigers] and D.B.S. Jeyaraj [a widely respected journalist] of Canada belong to this category. As for Ratnajeevan Hoole as Vice-Chancellor of Jaffna University, this much has to be said. He should not be allowed to roam free in Jaffna’s Tamil Hindu society, particularly in the university campus where there is even a Saiva temple [Emphasis as in the original]” (Oru Paper, April 7, 2006; Jan. 19, 2007).

These Tamil writers who have sought refuge in Canada and the UK (where the paper is registered) and other democracies on the grounds that they are an abused minority in Sri Lanka, have no shame in threatening minorities within the Tamil community with murder.

However, to place things in context, this writer’s election with 2 others for the post of Vice Chancellor was, as prescribed by law, through a nomination of three persons by the Tamil University Council of University of Jaffna followed by appointment by the President from these three persons. Of the then Council of 25 leading Tamil citizens with 22 Hindus, 15 had cast their vote for this writer at great danger to their lives as the Tigers put up posters threatening with death those it thought had voted for this writer; indeed, many of those 10 persons who did not vote for this writer would likely have had non-communal reasons for not voting so.

To generalize the putrid, jealous hatred spewed out by a few to all Hindus would be to dismiss the great sacrifices made by the Hindus who stood up for their convictions. It was simply a case of a small minority trying to whip up communal hatred just the way a small minority of Sinhalese object with their loud mouths when a deserving Tamil gets a plum appointment. Unfortunately, this minority is dominant as the majority is silent.

Christian Response

So what do we Christians as minorities do in the face of this unprecedented assault in a time of turbulent nationalism when anyone not fired by nationalist hatred is put down as a traitor? The answer is not to raise the temperature. Patient prayer in the example of Jesus Christ is the only solution. It is far more important lost in a worldly sense than to insult all good people in making generalizations.

Communalists are a minority like that drop of urine that accidently falls into the milk. Unfortunately this murderous minority spreads its virulence as thinking people feel embarrassed to draw the attention that comes in countering them. Although these rabid communalists may have their field day as they do at present, we need forbearance and the courage to counter them publicly with grace and no malice. But we must not allow ourselves to be cowed into silence or verbally hit out wildly at the innocent in responding.

(Samuel Ratnajeevan H. Hoole fled under Tamil Tiger death threat from his post of Vice Chancellor of University of Jaffna in 2006 and is now a Professor of Engineering and Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the United States. This appeared in "Christian Today")

China and India compete which each other in Propping up Rogue States

by Kusal Perera

This is pretty interesting in a way, but certainly, disgusting to see how the two emerging politico-economic powers in Asia, one, the largest country in the world governed by the largest Communist Party in the world and the other, the largest modern democracy in the world with a giant electoral process, compete silently in trying to increase their regional influence and power by assisting and supporting "rogue" States, while also improving trade between them selves. It would be difficult to believe that during the past 06 years, these two countries, China and India generally explained as long time rivals, had between each other traded to the value of US $ 40 billion and that is a stunning eight fold increase in trade.

The present Chinese regime in fact is accused of propping up rogue States, especially in Africa . In 2007, the Chinese President Hu Jintao went on an African odyssey that covered 08 countries. In terms of their new strategic partnership with Africa, the Chinese leadership made several promises last year including that of doubling aid to Africa to a billion dollars per annum. According to the Chinese government, up until 2006 it had given US $ 5.74 billion in aid to Africa . This figure certainly excludes debt relief, which China considers as anything else but aid.

Sudan , apart from Zimbabwe is a lucky recipient of Chinese aid. They are both notorious for the roles they played in the past in setting up plundering, totalitarian States that has left thousands of innocent civilians displaced and destitute. Sudan alone has left " Darfur " as a new word that defines "human disaster" in political language with an estimated death toll of over 200,000 civilians. In Zimbabwe , the self styled President RM would simply mean a "Republican Monster".

Chinese President nevertheless says China respects principles and purposes of the UN Charter and they do not interfere in internal affairs of other countries, adding that China does not impose its own ideology, political system or mode of development to any other country. That seems plain enough to understand that Chinese aid, loans, grants or even debt relief would not talk about human rights violations, crimes against humanity or even war crimes, leaving them aside as "meddling with internal affairs". China has thus chosen to ignore sanctions imposed on Sudan . All of it has given China other advantages. So far, Chinese largesse has secured long-term concessions in oil and mining rights in Africa.

There is not much less or any difference between Myanmar and Sudan or Zimbabwe in terms of plunder of resources, vulgarising society and chopping off human life in bulk. In Myanmar , with the advent of the Military Junta in 1962, gross human rights abuses including the forcible relocation of civilians and the widespread use of forced labour, which includes children are common place occurrences.

The Muslim majority in the Arakan (Rakhine) province called the Rohingya Muslims have been ruthlessly forced out from the country since 1982. In Myanmar , they can not even get married without special permission and over a million are now herded as refugees within Bangladesh for over a decade and a half.

And Myanmar is financially supported by China . In 2007 China started work on a port capable of handling large cargo ships o­n the island of Ramree . This port at Kyauk Phyu will be connected to a new 1,950-km highway to be built through Myanmar directly to Kunming , the capital of China ’s Yunnan Province , according to China 's Xinhua agency. Given the Chinese approach in establishing its authority in poor countries as a new giant with enough human rights violations within its own borders, Tibet also counted, its support to Myanmar should not be any surprise.

But India ?

India was not considering assistance to Myanmar in the first years of the Military Junta rule. Even up to late 1980's India was supportive of the pro – democracy movement in Myanmar . But not present day India . Present day India has changed its position completely, to one of "constructive engage­ment" with the Myanmar military junta. In mid 1990s and more recently, India sought to counter growing Chinese influence in Myanmar with sale of arms and weaponry. India also planned to establish trade ties for oil and gas with Myanmar . In 2007, Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and other Indian companies that tried to enter into deals with the Myanmar junta were thwarted by Chinese pressure on the military rulers.

India nevertheless could not let the dhoti fall down in the face of the September 2007 Myanmar crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. It was too open and too loud to ignore. India thus placed arms sales to Myanmar under temporary "review". Yet, six months later, Prime Minister Singh hosted the second-in-command of the military junta General Maung Aye in New Delhi and announced a deal to modernize the Sittwe port as part of a larger project justifying that it would allow sea access to India's North - Eastern States. Sittwe port is in the Arakan province that was ethnically cleansed of Rohingya Muslims. India is expected to finance this project to the tune of US $103 million.

India has got into a race with China to wrest more influence in the region by assisting any neighbour irrespective of its human rights and democratic status to hold power as a big brother. With China pledging an annual increase of 50% in aid to Nepal, especially after Prachanda's Maoists government took over Kathmandu, India has also piggy backed with its aid package that would now stand at NR 317.5 million for 2009, up from NR 165 million in year 2008.

With the disadvantage of being a land-locked country, Nepal has historically depended on India for its external trade and India has used it very covertly. It did use that power during President Premadasa's period to have the SAARC summit postponed, so that SL would not be the host.

This is precisely what India is doing in Sri Lanka too. The Indian State does not mind the carnage that would unfold in the North – East, it wouldn't mind the type of terror State that is now evolving as long as it could have the advantage over China and Pakistan in Sri Lankan politics.

Therefore in competition with Pakistan that's providing arms and training SLAF pilots to fly Chinese fighter planes, India supports the war with satellite intelligence, military training and even hardware, labeled as "non-combative" to pacify Tamil Nadu sentiments against the war. It beats any sane mind in understanding how teething and strengthening of an army at war could be non-lethal or non combative.

India 's immediate and impatient "development" package to the Eastern Province after a totally fake and brutalized election for the provincial council also shows how irrelevant the democratic and human rights status of the government is, for India to be present. The Indian HC Alok Prasad hastened himself with an official team to the Eastern province after the EPC elections, to see the potential for development. That under a para military leader accused of many brutal acts against civilians.

The Indian supported bilateral trade between the 02 States in every way is no different to Chinese business with African governments. In 2008, this trade between India and SL increased from US $ 658 million in 2000 to US $ 3.2 billion and India remains one of SL's leading foreign investors. It is also said, the Indian telecom giant Airtel entered Sri Lanka despite the GoSL's unwavering condition to have modern phone tapping equipment installed with its network before the market launch.

Telephone tapping and scanning of individual communication at the expense of privacy is part of the repression that is now a major issue in violation of human rights and democratic life in SL. The much respected news paper editor Vidyatharan's FR petition to the Supreme Court has mention of such phone tapping and scanning. India has never felt shy in supporting and financing repressive rules in its neighbourhood. It had never been decent in its approach towards gaining geo-political mileage. It simply walked into East Pakistan to establish Mujibur Rahman in power at the expense of thousands of civilian deaths and hundreds of thousand Bangladeshi refugees.

It trained, financed and armed SL Tamil groups to wage war against the legitimate government of SL. There was no issue of sovereignty of neighbouring countries when it came to Indian interests. It wasn't different from China supporting Khmer Rouge in Kampuchea or walking into Tibet to oust the Tibetan leadership.

What then is the difference between China and India in helping terror States and rogue governments ?

Hardly any ?

The world's largest Communist Party in power and the world's largest democracy aren't very different when it comes to pushing one's selfish agenda at the expense of human rights violations and democracy in the neighbourhood.

[quote] In the 1980's, the Russians and Americans turned Afghanistan into a war zone. Meanwhile the Saudis and Iranians, two rival powers within the Muslim world – Iran propagating the Shia Muslim sect, Saudi Arabia promoting the Sunni Wahabi faith – have been fighting a Muslim cold war in Afghanistan . Two other competing enemies, Pakistan and India have used Afghanistan as a battlefield for their power struggle. Afghanistan has lost more than 02 million lives for the benefit of presidents and kings, policy makers, criminals, arms manufacturers and dealers, not to mention the new "war against terror" [unquote].

"A Bed of Red Flowers" - in search of my Afghanistan by Nelofer Pazira ; page 333

Musali Tamils and Muslims Must be Re-settled Together to Foster peaceful co - existence

The Government has recently commenced re- settling displaced residents of the Musali AGA division in the south of Mannar district. A group of civil society has called for effective measures to ensure that all people originating from the region , both Muslims and Tamils. should be re-settled together so as to promote peaceful co - existence.

The full text of the appeal and list of signatories are given below -

"While welcoming the Government’s initiative to resettle Musali Division in Mannar District, we the undersigned civil society groups call upon the Government to take effective measures to ensure that all communities originating from the area, be they Tamils or Muslims should be resettled together so as to promote coexistence.

The Government initiated the Musali resettlement on April 30 2009 in Saveriyarpuram, numbering 122 families (105 Tamil Catholics, 10 Tamil Hindus and 07 Muslims). The Government with the assistance of a number of mine clearance organisations have carried out de-mining with the UNDP certifying a number of areas. Return to these areas will take place in a phased manner. It has been reported that on May 11th a further 4 villages (Pottkerny, Koolakulum, Ahaththimurippu and Pandaraveli) will be resettled.

It appears that all the IDPs who will be resettled during these phases are those displaced in September 2007 and currently living in Mannar District, effectively delaying the resettlement of IDP families displaced from Musali currently living in other districts.

Prior to the military operations in September 2007 some 147 Muslims families had resettled in the division. Following the military operations 36 of whom moved to Rasoolputhuveli in Nanattan DS division in Mannar but the majority settled temporarily in camps in Puttalam District but have not been informed that they will be immediately resettled. There are also long-term displaced such as the Muslims forcibly expelled from Musali in 1990. It is estimated that there are many thousand families from Musali who are living in displacement in Puttalam, Kurunegala and Anurdhapura. The initial step of resettling only displaced people living within the Mannar District has created significant and unnecessary fears among the expelled Muslims who are concerned that there will be serious repercussions especially in terms of land ownership issues unless steps are taken to avert such a situation and to allow them to resettle.

We call upon the authorities to ensure that all families originating from Musali and who were displaced from the division should be allowed to resettle.

Prior to 1990 Musali was a multiethnic area, home to Muslims and Tamils, both Catholic and Hindus. It was the only Muslim majority divisional secretariat in the North with some 3,925 families of which 3,275 families were Muslims. As a result of the LTTE’s forcible expulsion in October 1990 the Muslims were forced to leave.

A majority of Musali’s expelled Muslims yearn to return but like many long-term displaced communities are holding out for a sustainable peace when they will not be re-displaced.In the interim, the scrub jungle has taken over, buildings lie in waste, demarcations between individual properties have become virtually indistinguishable and new claims to land ownership have been made. In addition to this, returnees have security concerns and are nervous that the resettlement process may not be equitable to all communities.

Musali has suffered significantly as a result of the war, hence communities have multiple experiences of displacement and violence. Numerous families, mainly Tamil and a few Muslim, who were living in the Musali Division were forced into displacement in September 2007 and have been living mainly in camps or with host families.

Living on rations and restricted livelihood opportunities in unfamiliar and uncomfortable environment this displaced community has been determined to return and rebuild their homes, livelihoods and communities. The conflict has also stymied development, with only limited infrastructure development, hence there is a need to improve transport, health, education and irrigation facilities.

The Government and humanitarian actors have taken key steps to supporting families who are being resettled in Musali, but we are concerned that if the resettlement does not proceed in a manner that promotes coexistence it could create new set of problems.

We call upon the Government, humanitarian agencies, religious institutions and local actors to take steps to ensure that

• All communities originating from and displaced from Musali are incorporated into this current phase of resettlement. Special measures may need to be taken to inform and transport the expelled Muslims from their current displacement sites.

• Each phase of resettlement should ensure equitable assistance and access to resources.

• Go-and-See visits which are currently being carried out by the Government need to incorporate members of the expelled Muslim Community.

• There should be a free flow of information on this resettlement and coordinated effort to register the Musali Muslims who wish to return and who are currently live in Puttalum, Anuradhapura and Kurunagalle.

• A peace and coexistence committee is created with respected individuals representative of Musali’s ethnic make up who can take up and mediate issues such as land conflicts.

• Assistance to be provided at the level of the family, the community and the division to ensure an effective rehabilitation and development of the area.

• Priority should be given to revive the livelihoods of returnees to make return sustainable. While livelihood support is key, the Government needs to balance security considerations with measures to support livelihoods such as relaxing fishing restrictions and for the opening of the Puttalum –Mannar road.

• The Musali Resettlement we hope will be followed by resettlement in the rest of the North, once the security situation improves of all communities who once lived there,

Dated: May 4th 2009

Signatories

All Mosque Federation of Ampara District
All Mosque Federation of Batticaloa District
Centre for Policy Alternatives
Citizens Committee for Forcibly Evicted Northern Muslims
INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre
Jamyathul Ulama, Ampara District
Jamyathul Ulama, Kinniya
Majisul Soorah, Mutur
Mannar Women for Human Rights and Democracy
Mothers and Daughters of Lanka
Musali Teachers’ Association
Muslim Council of Sri Lanka
Muslim Information Centre
Muslim People’s Federation - Batticaloa
Muslim Women’s Research and Action Forum
Order – Sri Lanka
People’s Forum Mutur

May 06, 2009

Tigers, Tamil Diaspora and the Tamil civilian plight

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

IN 1989, this writer attended a conference organised by the pro-Tiger publication Tamil Voice International in London. Among the participants were politicians,journalists and bureaucrats from India such as P. Upendra, S. Unnikrishnan, Aladi Aruna, N.V.N. Somu, K. Veeramani, A.P. Venkateswaran and Samantha Datta Ray.

Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabakaran sent a felicitatory message to the conference. The delegates, consisting mainly of members of the worldwide Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, were shocked by a reference in that message. Prabakaran described the diaspora as tholaintha santhathi or "lost generation". The diaspora representatives were seething with anger but were unable or unwilling to challenge the Tiger supremo's poor opinion of them.

[Demonstrator chants slogans, during a protest at Trocadero Plaza near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Wednesday April 22, 2009-AP pic]

Despite members of the diaspora playing an important role in the affairs of the LTTE, that organisation regarded those who had "left the homeland" (pulam peyarnthor) generally with contempt. The LTTE described them as people who had deserted "Tamil Eelam" at a critical juncture. [click here to read the article in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

An Urgent Need for UN Action on Sri Lanka

by Steve Crawshaw

More than 6,000 civilians have died in Sri Lanka in the past few months as government forces seek to end the 25-year-long war with the separatist Tamil Tigers. More than 90 civilians are reported to have died over the weekend in the shelling of a hospital inside the government's tragically misnamed "no-fire zone." And still the killing continues. The international reaction to this spiraling disaster can be summed up as: don't bother us now, we're a bit busy.

This failure to react is extraordinary, and culpable. The United Nations and influential governments have known all along that civilians have been used as human shields by the Tigers in their dwindling stronghold, while government forces have repeatedly shelled the area indiscriminately. Human Rights Watch and others have in recent months repeatedly documented the bloodshed and the reckless disregard for civilian life shown by both sides in the sliver of land where tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped.

The Security Council, with responsibility for international peace and security, has made endless commitments to protect civilians, women and children in conflict. Three years ago, a summit of world leaders agreed to share responsibility for protecting populations at grave risk of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

And yet, veto-wielding China and Russia insist that it is inappropriate for the Security Council to meet and draw attention to the scale of the unfolding catastrophe. They use their diplomatic muscle to protect sovereignty at the expense of human lives. Japan, Sri Lanka's largest donor, has also opposed Council action.

Things have become so twisted that when the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, dared last month to talk about how many had died, some at UN headquarters reproached her for indelicacy. Unlike, say, in Gaza -- where the high civilian death toll was rightly publicized -- the UN continues to treat its own casualty estimates in Sri Lanka as if they were a state secret.

Briefings to the Security Council on the situation in Sri Lanka have been unofficial affairs, held in a basement room instead of in the Council chamber, to avoid any suggestion that the Council might -- perish the thought! -- take formal notice of the constant violations of the laws of war and the massive humanitarian need. By shutting themselves out of their own official chamber, the members of the Security Council ensure that no action can be taken; these "informal dialogues" are not allowed to produce even feeble action.

China, Russia and others have done all they can to block united international action to save these civilians; Japan has been almost equally reluctant. Others have worked for "humanitarian pauses" in the fighting, yet have stopped short of insisting on a Security Council response. David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, rightly warned of a "war without witness" in northern Sri Lanka, after his brief visit to the country last week. But the UK has not pressed for the Security Council to take up the issue formally; nor have France or the United States.

Even at this late stage, the Security Council can act to save lives. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon can call for an international commission of inquiry, which could help end the cycle of killings with no fear of consequences. The UN can release all information it has on civilian casualties and humanitarian needs, including satellite photos that show the devastating impact of bombing and shelling into the no-fire zone.

The Sri Lankan needs to give humanitarian agencies access to the conflict area. The shelling of areas where civilians are trapped needs to end -- not just with empty promises, but in reality. There should be international monitoring of screening at reception points for fleeing civilians, to prevent the widespread "disappearances" that we have seen in the past (Sri Lanka has one of the highest numbers of forced disappearances in the world). The Security Council and the Human Rights Council in Geneva should both make clear that crimes on this scale, committed by both sides, will not go unpunished.

Even now, despite the obvious urgency, the phrase "let's see how it goes," can repeatedly be heard in New York. That approach could hardly be more wrong. The failures of the past few months are clear, including the naive or cynical ability of politicians to boast of Sri Lankan "reassurances" that all will now be well. There is still time to act, to prevent yet more senseless deaths. But every day and every hour count.

Steve Crawshaw is HRW's UN advocacy director [HRW.org]

The challenge to salvage buddhism from misappropriation

By Asanga Welikala

The Tamil press this week reported an ominous incident from Rakwana which might portend things to come. Picturesque Rakwana in Sabaragamuwa is a plantation area with a large population of Tamils of recent Indian origin. The annual festival and procession of the Muthumariamman Kovil has been held there, according to the Thinakkural, for nearly two hundred years.

This year though, self-appointed representatives of the Sinhala Buddhist interest in Rakwana paid visits to members of the kovil organising committee to put it to them bluntly that the procession should not be held, because it coincides with the month of Vesak. The police attempt at mediation came to nought: the meeting with representatives of both sides to settle the dispute was decided when a mob of some 500 turned up on behalf of the Buddhists.

Mano Ganesan M.P. has written to the President asking for intervention, and it would be interesting to see what form this will take, if and when it happens.

This episode may be an isolated one, but it is symptomatic of several serious political challenges facing Sri Lanka today.

Argument

The argument, enforced with the threat of mob violence, that minority groups cannot peacefully exercise their constitutionally protected right to freedom of religion because it offends a peculiarly defined notion of celebrating Vesak is so blatantly repugnant to any conception of a free society that it almost requires no response. However, it is an early sign that the military victory in the north over the LTTE is going to be interpreted, at least among some sections of the Sinhala-Buddhist polity, as the stamp of supremacy over minorities. By this chauvinistic logic, Sri Lanka is the property of Sinhala-Buddhists.

Minorities exist at the sufferance of the majority community, and the temerity to exercise anything so exalted as a right guaranteed under the Constitution can be legitimately suppressed. This is the implicit justification for the spate of violence in the recent past against Christians and their churches.

This kind of incident poses a challenge for more thoughtful Buddhist Sri Lankans. How is it that this most reflective, unworldly and tolerant of religious philosophies has been transmogrified into a political ideology of misanthropic narcissism, in the service of thuggish behaviour? There is a significant doctrinal and liturgical challenge to salvage Buddhism from this misappropriation.

Political challenge

It is also a political challenge in that Buddhism is the religion of the democratic majority that enjoys a constitutionally privileged status, which carries with it the responsibility to treat minorities and their religions with the decency that should be the hallmark of the good Buddhist.

It is also an illustration once more of the debilitation of the rule of law in this country. As we saw in the murder of the JVP’s Nandana Balage in the Western Provincial Council election campaign, the police feel unable to enforce the law and to do their duty when faced with politically motivated assertions of illegitimate authority in the community.

If minorities in Sri Lanka cannot expect the protection of the Constitution and the law enforcement authorities, what hope do they have? This is precisely the kind of majoritarian intolerance that made such a disaster of our post-independence nation-building experience, and which led eventually to militant separatism and civil war.

For those who argue, from self-interest or naivety, that the military defeat of the LTTE presents a political opportunity for sustainable peace, it is exactly this kind of behaviour among those who think they are the President’s political vanguard, that should give pause for thought.

Question of faith

How can Sri Lankans who believe in an inclusive, pluralistic Sri Lanka and a rights-respecting society underpinned by the rule of law have any realistic faith that the avowed defeat of terrorism in the north heralds a new era? This is why it would be interesting to see how the President responds to Ganesan.

It is an opportunity for him to send a strong message to potential vigilantes that minority-bashing will not be tolerated, and to give a measure of reassurance to the minorities that his government’s anti-terrorism programme is also not an anti-minority programme.

The ‘Sandy Strip'

The military conflict between the state and the LTTE is coming to an end, and although the end now is inevitable, it certainly cannot come quickly enough for civilians who are undergoing a truly horrific experience. The international press’s euphemism of the ‘The Sandy Strip’ in Mullaithivu has come to typify both the defeat of the LTTE’s nationalism, as well as the attendant possibility of a humanitarian disaster.

The imminent end, for now at least, of the military phase of the conflict gives rise to several issues. The past weeks and coming days will see the unfolding of a terrible humanitarian tragedy for citizens of Sri Lanka who have already experienced decades of conflict, with people dying of disease, starvation, dehydration, and violence.

The LTTE’s notion of nationalism also involves a macabre mythology of death and martyrdom, and it seems determined to ensure that its final showdown is the equivalent of an epic sacrificial ritual. It is a deliberate attempt at myth-making through which it hopes to sustain Tamil nationalism over and beyond the present defeat. It is inconceivable therefore that it will heed any call to surrender and let the civilians go.

Incapable of understanding

What the LTTE and its diaspora supporters seem incapable of understanding – just as they were unable to see that separate statehood or indeed autonomy was not possible through exclusively violent means and without political transformation – is that this attempt at pinning the state with the stigma of genocide will simply not hold. Should a large number of civilians die in this final phase as a result of military operations, any objective observer will see the LTTE’s complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity is as much if not more than that of the state.

The charge of genocide, even if one understands the sense of outrage that people like Arundhathi Roy, Maya Arulpragasam, and Anita Pratap have, is an easy one to make, less so to prove. In a context in which future responsibility for war crimes or crimes against humanity is not a clear cut matter of one or other party, it is better that the gravity of these offences are not devalued by injudicious and hysterical use of words like genocide, especially where the LTTE is in the best position to avoid such a catastrophe befalling its own people by surrendering.

At risk

Having said that, the government is at serious risk of winning the war but losing the peace. Its attitude of smug complacency that its ‘humanitarian / hostage rescue operation’ is the best thing to happen to the people of Mullaithivu is belied by the fact that conditions are only little better in ‘welfare camps’ than in the ‘safe zone,’ which in any case are an example of the mass internment of citizens that should have no place in a free society.

Naturally, no one is suggesting the government provides five star treatment to these people, but with the help of the international community and humanitarian organisations, the government can do far more to ensure that its provision of basic services to them better meet international standards governing this type of situation. Instead, the government’s general attitude has been one of confrontation and belligerence especially towards the West, and one of aggression towards the media and civil society.

These attitudes stem from what seems like paranoia and defensiveness, especially when arguments about sovereignty and national self-respect are marshalled in its favour. For example, the acrimony surrounding David Milliband’s visit this week only caps weeks of fractious relations with the UK, in which Britain has been frequently reminded that it does not rule Sri Lanka anymore.

Embarrassing posturing

Quite apart from the fact that we can confidently agree Britain harbours no secret ambition of re-colonising Sri Lanka, this is the kind of embarrassing posturing that surely undermines our international standing as a small but respected member of the international community.

One of the most disturbing factors in what is happening in the north’s humanitarian situation is the government’s close management, indeed manipulation of information with regard to it. It allows no independent verification or reporting and stubbornly refuses more open co-operation with the UN and other organisations. The political dimension to this of course is that the people in the south only hear what the government tells them.

This is critical in maintaining popular support in the south, especially in regard to the electoral strategy of staggered provincial elections (and presidential and general elections to come), which are deployed as periodic referenda for the government’s war achievements. Thus for example, while the outcome of the Western Provincial Council was never in doubt in the present political context, it might have been interesting to see how margins in especially Colombo District may have been affected should the electors here had the benefit of a more complex understanding of what is happening up north.

This is at least a partial explanation how, fully allowing for the invertebrate quality of opposition it has ever been the UNP’s misfortune to offer, that the Colombo constituency that voted consistently for peace and constitutional reform seems to have been won over by the government.

Prospects for devolution and constitutional reform

Beyond the immediacy of the humanitarian issues, however, is the big question about the constitutional settlement the government hopes to introduce to address the root causes of the conflict. This is what will ensure that diversity and pluralism in Sri Lanka will be protected and celebrated, rather than becoming a source of future conflict. The government’s stated position in this regard is that it will fully implement the extent of devolution under the 13th Amendment, until the APRC reports on a scheme of further devolution to an extent consistent with the unitary state.

Notwithstanding the well-known flaws of the 13th Amendment, it can be argued that some of these may be ameliorated through implementation in a way that respects provincial autonomy, and this was what was expected of the government in its great test case, the Eastern Province.

The East Provincial Council marks one year this month, and the story there offers interesting insights into what the government means by full implementation of the 13th Amendment, and thereby indications as to its commitment to deliver more devolution in the future.

Lack of progress

Chief Minister Chandrakanthan has publicly made known his complaints about the lack of progress with regard to transferring competences that his council ought to be exercising in terms of the constitution, including critical subjects like policing. The provincial councils spend next to nothing on capital expenditure and investment, even though there are several devolved subjects that require such expenditure.

Instead, this seems to continue to be done by the central government, with the massive Nagenahira Navodaya programme (administered by Basil Rajapakse) for the Eastern Province taking centre stage. The Eastern Provincial Council has passed several statutes in the exercise of its legislative power, that have not received the assent of the governor because the latter has referred them for review by the Attorney General’s Department.

This of course is one of the oldest impediments to the exercise of devolved legislative power experienced by all provincial councils. The governor delays assent by referring provincial statutes to the AG, even though this is not required by the Constitution, resulting either in unnecessary delay or in some cases, the withholding of consent.

Experience of devolution

Therefore, if this is the experience of devolution in the Eastern Province, the centrepiece of the government’s devolution policy, taken together with the SLFP’s May 2007 constitutional reform proposals to the APRC, it is difficult to be optimistic about what the future holds in respect of devolution as a strategy of securing the peace through constitutional reform.

This is why the militarily created political opportunity seems likely to be squandered (adding to the tiresome litany of lost opportunities in this country), and the government’s victory is a victory for the status quo.

May 05, 2009

Grim scenes at Sri Lankan camps

By Nick Paton Walsh

Channel 4 News reports from a camp in the northern Sri Lankan city of Vavuniya, where Tamil refugees have been taken.

I

II

Shocking claims have emerged of shortages of food and water, dead bodies left where they have fallen, women separated from their families, and even sexual abuse.

This programme obtained the first independently filmed pictures from the internment camps set up by the Sri Lankan government to house Tamils who have fled the country's civil war.

Some thoughts on Reconciliation and Nation-building in Sri Lanka

by Somapala Gunadheera

The article of Lynn Ockersz on ‘Nation-building: Sri Lanka’s untouched task’ deserves the serious attention of all those who are interested in the future of this country. The truth of Ockersz’ claim is self-evident and does not need canvassing. It is also a timely reminder at a time when the ethnic conflict is supposed to be nearing its end.

It is heartening to hear the assertion of President Mahinda Rajapaksa that he would not pass on the present war to future generations. Although current developments vouch for the dependability of that promise, there is no guarantee that future generations would not inherit another war, unless concurrent action is taken to uproot the causes that have led to the present impasse. The causes can be uprooted only by a bold and committed attempt at nation-building.

Judging from the temerity and perseverance with which the President tackled the war, it is evident that the President has the courage needed to lead the country towards a united nation provided that he is genuinely convinced that such is his unavoidable duty. To accomplish that mission, the President needs the guidance of wise men of vision, who would act with professionalism and not stoop to the attractions of chauvinism and sycophancy.

The exercise of nation-building has to be organized on a logical plan. Fundamentally it is a challenge to synchronize the essence of democracy with the legitimate group rights of the minorities based on two essential parameters. The end product has to be a democracy and the minorities have to be assured rights and dignity equal to those of the majority.

A Model for reconciliation

It is generally agreed that Democracy has five models in relation to ethnic minorities:

i. Ethnic Democracy
ii. Individual Democracy
iii. Republican Democracy
iv. Consociational Democracy
v. Multicultural Democracy

Ethnic Democracy is ex facie a misnomer. It is based on the primacy of the majority. ‘Civic equality’ and ’civic nation’ that characterize other democracies are absent here. A classic example of this type of democracy is found in Israel which claims supremacy of the Jewish population but allows individual and collective rights to a reluctantly acquiescing Palestinian-Arab minority. The vagaries of this system are too well known to need elaboration and its survival depends on the military power of the ruling majority. It has failed elsewhere in ethnically divided societies, as evidenced by the experience of North Ireland.

Our own ethnic conflict appears to stem from the ‘ethnic democracy’ our post-independence leaders tried to impose on the people, with their short-sighted policies on language, religion and preferential treatment. The present generation that has had to bear the brunt of such policies should learn from their experience and discard the elusive attractions of communalism and plug their ears to it like Ulysses against the songs of the Sirens.

Individual Democracy is not concerned with group rights. Its focus is the individual and it is blind to his culture and his affiliations. This is the brand of democracy that prevailed in the West before the Industrial Revolution. Republican Democracy is an outcome of that Revolution and Globalization. It is the product of a movement to build an integrated nation through a state-selected language, religion and culture. Western democracies achieved this objective through coercion, exclusion and intermarriage. They adopted a stance of neutrality towards group cultures. The hidden autocracy under this brand of democracy has come under criticism with the advent of post-modernism. Currently, the tendency is towards democracy that recognizes group rights and culture as mandated by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

The fourth choice is Consociational Democracy. It is the most favourable from the point of view of minorities. Consociationalism is based on the concept of co-nation between the majority and the minority. It recognizes group differences, extends collective rights and guarantees the generational preservation of cultural communities. While maintaining proportionality in resource allocation and power sharing consociational democracy grants veto power to the minority to block encroachments on their basic rights. Belgium, Canada and Switzerland are among the few countries practising consociational democracy so far.

There is no doubt that consociational democracy would be the first choice of any minority. The fact that it is still limited to a few states, understandably reveals the complications involved in the model, the most obvious being vigorous opposition of the majorities. Judging from the vociferous resistance of our ‘nationalists’, reaction to consociationalism is not going to be different in this country. The worst apprehension would be that this model easily lends itself to disintegration in scenarios where powerful minorities are concentrated geographically.

However strong our personal preference for consociational democracy may be, it is pretty obvious that the modality is not a pragmatic feasibility at the present stage of development of our civic liberality. Far more politically developed countries than ours are still fighting shy of the model. Maybe, it will someday become the most popular model as maturity of political accommodation reaches its apex. But it is foolish to idle until that ideal becomes a reality. Political wisdom demands that we start with the optimum modality that is feasible at the present moment and that would appear to be Multicultural Democracy.

Multicultural democracy falls in between republican democracy and consociational democracy. It recognizes cultural differences unofficially but does not institutionalize essential concomitants of consociationalism such as regional autonomy, proportionality and veto power. Nevertheless multicultural democracy is working effectively in countries like post-apartheid South Africa and the Netherlands. Besides many liberal democracies in the West are progressively leaning toward this model. Pragmatically multicultural democracy appears to be the watershed from which nation-building has to begin in Sri Lanka. Of course, certain structural adjustments may have to be written into it by consensus in order to allay the fears of the minorities.

Methods of reconciliation

How nation-building is implemented is as important as the model of reconciliation. Reaction of the majority to the ultimate defeat of the LTTE is a crucial consideration here. The ethnic affinity of the Tamil people to that organization, despite their personal experience with it, should not be lost sight of. Triumphalism on the part of the majority at this juncture may be easily interpreted by the Tamils as an attempt to rub the defeat into them. Here the Sinhalese have to take a cue from their greatest national hero, King Dutugemunu. This is how the Mahavamsa describes Dutugemunu’s reaction to his slaying Elara, his adversary at war:

"When he had thus been victorious in battle and bad united Lanka under one rule …….he caused the drum to be beaten, and when he had summoned the people from a yojana around, he celebrated the funeral rites for king Elara. On the spot where his body had fallen he burned it with the catafalque, and there did he build a monument and ordain worship. And even to this day the princes of Lanka, when they draw near to this place, are wont to silence their music because of this worship."

People who pride themselves of being inheritors to the great Dutugemunu tradition should do well to emulate this noble strategy of reconciliation. That should set the stage for the arduous task of nation-building that should follow the war, if the sacrifices made by thousands to put an end to it, are to be meaningful.

A first step in conflict resolution is to convince the antagonists that it is worth talking to the people on the opposite side, that stable peace is a realistic possibility and that a mutually satisfying agreement is plausible. This initially calls for initiatives that impact direct on the parties to the dispute. For example projects that bring Sinhalese and Tamil children together at school would give them a better appreciation of each other’s culture and values.

This link would naturally spill over to the adult population and eventually facilitate agreements between political leaders. Thus a primary need of the hour is to create opportunities in all aspects of public life for members of the respective communities to interact socially. All ministries, more particularly Education, should include this type of linkages in their programmes. The greatest need is to alter relationships among the groups through engagement of all sections of the society in the task of reconciliation.

The on-going IDP crisis is a blessing in disguise for bringing about a substantial reconciliation between parties to the ethnic dispute. The enthusiasm with which the people of the South engage themselves in supplying the basic needs of the IDPs, the campaign of the media to organize such supplies, donations made by poorly paid wage-earners towards the Fund, cannot be lost on the displaced and their kind.

Scenes of Buddhist monks, who are supposed to be ‘ultra-nationalists’, begging on the road to collect supplies for the IDPs should go a long way to counteract the propaganda that had hardened the hearts of the people of the North. The Government should be astute enough to make use of these heart-warming experiences to bring the communities together.

Failure of the APRC

Up to now we have neglected the precondition of development and nurturance of local organizations which will articulate the needs and concerns of their community and local-level interaction and cooperative relationships between people from different groups. Our approaches to peacemaking have been exclusively confined to the state and political leaders who have been pretending to labour like the proverbial mountain but they have failed to produce at least a mouse so far.

The APRC has been in existence for a number of years. There have been several announcements of the final meeting. The main opposition and Tamil parties were to be invited to participate. The final draft was being submitted to them. None of these has happened so far. It has been a percentage game with an eternal ten per cent always left to be done. This kind of dilly-dallying has created such a credibility gap that the Committee has made a farce of itself. In a brave act of professionalism, a consultant attached to the body resigned in disgust many months back, complaining that the APRC was dragging its feet and acting under dictation.

International pressure for a cease-fire from all directions end up with the invariable request for a political solution. The ‘pressure’ derives its justification from the ‘request’. If the APRC had accomplished its task with diligence and tenacity on a time-frame, there would have been no occasion or need for such intrusion. Let us hope and pray that the APRC would take note of their embarrassing failure, at least at this late stage and produce their Final Report finally, so that Parliament may work out a nation-building package, the lack of which has been the cause for thirty years of death and disaster.

Related: Nation-building: Sri Lanka’s untouched task ~ By Lynn Ockersz

Nation-building: Sri Lanka’s untouched task

By Lynn Ockersz

On the face of it, the challenge should not prove daunting. The subject of ‘nation-building’ is currently shared by at least two ministers and a marshalling of their capabilities and the resources at their command could help in putting the hitherto untouched enterprise of nation-building in Sri Lankan into motion.

The raising of this issue is bound to cause some puzzlement among many.

After all, has not a ‘Sri Lankan nation’ already been established? Did this not happen on February 4, 1948, when Sri Lanka gained ‘political independence’. Aren’t we one people, inhabiting a single, undivided land; a separatist war in the North-East, which raged for some 30 years notwithstanding?

Hopefully, this article would lead to a comprehensive exploration of these issues and help focus public attention on the content of the concept of nation-building. The concept of nation-building has and is being bandied around by a range of ‘public persons’, particularly politicians, but it is open to question whether the concept has been understood in its fullest, substantive sense.

It is vital that a consensual and clear understanding of this concept is achieved by the local polity, now that the notion is gaining ground that ‘terrorism’ is on the verge of being eliminated and that the Lankan state should forge ahead with ‘reconstruction and rehabilitation’ operations in the North-East. In other words, ‘post-conflict’ issues are coming to the fore.

Nation-making

"From nation-making to nation-breaking’: this was one way in which the separatist upheavals of South Asia were described by some Western observers years ago. They probably had in mind the establishment of Pakistan out of India and the subsequent breakaway of East Pakistan from West Pakistan and the constitution of the former as the independent state of Bangladesh, when they chose to use the catchy pronouncement.

An attempt was certainly made to forge the numerous ethnic and cultural groups of India into a single, undivided nation or an united collectivity on the basis of the principle of democratic equality, by the founding fathers of Independent India and, therefore, a nation-making process, in the fuller sense of the phrase, could be said to have been tried out on the subcontinent in the early post-colonial years. Reduced to its essentials, nation-building is all about establishing social cohesion and unity within a polity on the equity principle and it should be said to the credit of the founding fathers of modern India, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, that they were actuated by such visions. The ‘cement’ which was to effect the desired social cohesion was none other than the principle of the equality of citizens in every conceivable respect and their fundamental oneness.

Thus, a fully participatory, accountable democracy is integral to the flowering of nation-building, for, it is when all sections of a citizenry perform a meaningful role in self-governance that their allegiance to the state is strengthened.

For the Mahatma, for instance, democracy was ‘the art and science of mobilizing the entire physical, economic and spiritual resources of all the various sections of the people in the service of the common good of all’. The emphasis here is on ‘the common good of all’ and not on the ‘greatest good of the greatest number’, as the essence of the democratic system is popularly perceived to be. For Gandhi, democratic rule was not a matter of elected rulers respecting a ‘mandate’ which a perceived ‘majority’ of electors handed over to them, at the expense of the wishes of the rest of the electors, but a question of serving the legitimate interests of all by drawing the latter into the decision-making process at all levels of the state, to the greatest extent possible.

The same points were driven emphatically home when Gandhi said: ‘The only real dignified human doctrine is the greatest good of all’, ( ‘Thoughts of Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore’ by Brij Kishore Goyal, CBS Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi ).

A survey of post-colonial societies would reveal that this golden Gandhian norm in governance has been observed more in the breach by most Third World governments over the years. Third World scholarship, in particular, devoted to post-colonial issues, has been voluminous over the decades, but no one seems to have broached and probed the issue of nation-building as perceptively, objectively and lucidly as Frantz Fanon has done in his seminal work ‘The Wretched of the Earth’. Writing on the post-colonial African situation in the early sixties, particularly with reference to Algeria, Fanon says:

‘National consciousness, instead of being the all-embracing crystallization of the innermost hopes of the whole people, instead of being the immediate and most obvious result of the mobilization of the people, will be in any case only an empty shell, a crude and fragile travesty of what it might have been. The faults that we find in it are quite sufficient explanation of the facility with which, when dealing with young and independent nations, the nation is passed over for the race, and the tribe is preferred to the state. These are the cracks in the edifice which show the progression that is so harmful and prejudicial to the national effort and national unity. We shall see that such retrograde steps with all the weaknesses and serious dangers that they entail are the historical result of the incapacity of the national middle class to rationalize popular action, that is to say their incapacity to see into the reasons for the action’, ( ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, chap. 3, Penguin Books ).

These insights of Fanon help in illuminating the principal problems in governance which have been bedeviling countries such as Sri Lanka in their post colonial years. Basically, the ruling classes or power elites in these societies have failed to conceptualize and implement democratic governance on the Gandhian principle of empowering all sections of their publics, disregarding currently divisive factors, such as, ethnicity, religion and social class. Certainly, in Sri Lanka, we have had a semblance of democratic governance, but this structure has, in the main, only helped in advancing the interests of the social and political elite, some of whom have been championing majoritarian chauvinism. . Consequently, forces within the state are very much alive which give pride of place to serving their community or ‘tribe’.

This process had the effect of heightening ultra nationalist sentiments among sections of the minorities and very soon majoritarian chauvinism and minority chauvinism came to reinforce each other, causing ethnic tensions within the Lankan state.

Westminster-style ‘democracy’, with its reliance on the ‘first-past- the-post’ electoral mechanism, which has been seen as helping the majority community mainly, has only helped in alienating the minority communities from the state. Sri Lanka’s current presidential cum parliamentary hybrid system of governance has done little to change this situation.

Nevertheless, it would be relevant to emphasize that in the Sri Lankan case too, what has gone wrong with regard to democratic governance, is, to use the words of Fanon,’ the nation is passed for the race’ and ‘the tribe is preferred to the state’.

One of the most troubling consequences of this self-serving process on the part of hegemonic interests is that a national consciousness fails to develop in the polity. Put simply, the feeling that ‘all Sri Lankans are one’ or nation-building proper, fails to take root. There grows a legitimate anxiety among sections of the minorities, as the process of self-aggrandizement gathers pace among the hegemonic interests in the majority community, that they are sidelined by the state and are not considered by rulers as legitimate stake holders in the state. Thus are the seeds of national discord sown, thanks to the country’s rulers, over decades, failing to weld all sections of the people into a single, united people on the basis of equality in all its dimensions, including parity of status among religions.

Where to go from here

So, in a sense, Sri Lanka has to start all over again in constitution-making. The constitutional groundwork has to be laid for a fully participatory democracy, in which all communities would be stake holders. In this scheme of things, the ‘nation’ cannot be ‘passed over for the race’ and the ‘tribe’ cannot be ‘preferred to the state’. If such tragic lapses recur, the stage would be set for further national discord. It is not clear whether the mere implementation of the 13 th amendment to the present constitution would help in rectifying these distortions.

In this constitutional endeavour, Individual Rights would prove vital but would not satisfy all the requirements of nation-making. Group Rights are as important as Individual Rights and the needs of minority communities as collectivities would need to be addressed also. Land, for instance, is an important Group Right and substantial geographical regions where minority groups could enjoy land rights and practise their cultures, would need to be envisaged. ‘Panchayats’, having purview over relatively small land areas, may not serve the purpose, however well intentioned these schemes may be. It needs to be borne in mind that the bulk of communities needs to be resident undisturbed in sizeable geographical regions if they are to satisfactorily practise their cultural rights and progressive constitutions should ensure these requirements. This does not amount to making a case for exclusive ethnic enclaves and ‘homelands’ but is a recognition of the fact that without stable habitat space, it would be difficult to perpetuate cultures. If nomenclature, such as ‘Regional Councils’ are anathema in some ears, they may be dropped and acceptable alternative terms used. Such issues have been thoroughly debated over the years but, apparently, the desired attitudinal changes have been very slow in coming.

The ‘bottom line’ is that the legitimate and vital needs of all may have to be met by the state if nation-building is to be forged ahead with. This is the path to the establishment of an all- inclusive Sri Lankan identity that commands the allegiance of all sections of the people. It is the answer to the virulent sub nationalisms which have been tearing this country apart.

At this crucial juncture, the state would need to guard against confusing ‘rehabilitation and reconstruction’ of the North-East with nation-building proper. Certainly, they are part of the nation-building process but nation-building without political empowerment at the individual and group levels is unlikely to meet the need for long-term national stability.

Related: Some thoughts on Reconciliation and Nation-building in Sri Lanka ~ by Somapala Gunadheera

Will Prabhakaran, Pottu Amman and Soosai negotiate surrender through ICRC?

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Would LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, his intelligence chief Pottu Amman, Sea Tiger leader Soosai and their families surrender to the government through the ICRC? Although the government has ruled out negotiations with the LTTE leaders now trapped on the Mullaitivu coast or any third party mediation to bring an end to hostilities, the enemy could take advantage of the ICRC to negotiate their surrender, well informed sources said.

The ICRC chartered ship Green Ocean deployed to ferry wounded persons from the LTTE-held area now down to seven sq. km to Pulmoddai, south of Mullaitivu could evacuate them.

The ICRC remains the only INGO allowed to send expatriate staff to the LTTE-held area since Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered all other agencies out of the area last September.

With both land and sea routes cut off and the government turning a blind eye to international calls for immediate suspension of the ongoing offensive, the LTTE would have no other option but to give in. The international community should explore the possibility of sending a message to the LTTE through the ICRC immediately as the ICRC-led civilian evacuation operation is nearing completion. The bottom line is that the LTTE leadership wouldn’t get another chance to surrender before the army overruns the Tiger-held area in the next few days.

Under a tripartite agreement negotiated among the government, the ICRC and the LTTE, the ICRC is allowed to evacuate the sick and the war wounded along with some of their relatives. The LTTE has allowed the ICRC to evacuate over 11,000 men, women and children since the launch of the operation in the second week of February this year. Initially, they were taken to the Trincomalee harbour but since the Indian government set up a medical facility at Pulmoddai, the ICRC has been moving them there. Although the evacuees had been categorized as civilians, there is no doubt that among them were wounded LTTE fighters and families of senior LTTE cadres.

This writer was in Pulmoddai last Tuesday (April 28) shortly before Green Ocean anchored about one nautical mile off the coastline. Although a group of journalists taken by the navy on a conducted tour was aware that small fibre glass dinghies were used to move people from the Green Ocean to shore, no one believed that scribes, too, had to take the same route. Believe me, there was no way one can comfortably board a dinghy from a Dvora Fast Attack Craft (FAC) due to sharp difference of the height of the vessels. Two FACs carrying journalists discharged them about one nautical mile off the coastline to fishing boats operated by Sinhala fishermen. Choppy seas made our short journey traumatic with photographers desperately trying to protect their equipment.\

Let me emphasize that the war wounded and the sick, too, are transferred in dinghies by fishermen under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions. Operating in several boats, fishermen took several hours to evacuate exhausted people under the watchful eyes of the navy.

Captain Samantha Wimalatunga, the senior officer in charge of the SLN deployment at Pulmoddai, told The Sunday Island that they had in place security measures to minimize damage and loss of life in the event one of the evacuees turned out to be suicide cadre. "Fortunately we haven’t come across a suicide cadre or anyone carrying a weapon so far," he said, adding that people brought by the ICRC were quickly directed to medical facilities after they undergo rigorous security checks.

All evacuees including children are photographed before they are moved to medical facilities in the area. One of them is run by Indian personnel. Responding to our queries, Wimalatunga, who had been decorated for commanding an Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) involved in the destruction of the LTTE’s largest vessel sunk about 2,600 km south of Dondra head in early October 2006, acknowledged that SLN personnel tasked to carry out checks do their duty at the risk of their lives. Pointing at four box shaped security posts made of sand bags on the beach, he asserted that they would minimize damage in the surrounding area if an LTTE cadre triggered a blast inside a security point.

Obviously some of the freshly bandaged war wounded persons arriving at Pulmoddai were LTTE cadres. Well built men who hadn’t faced a food shortage before being evacuated by the ICRC could be Prabhakaran’s men given the opportunity to escape before the army moved in. The LTTE, on the verge of collapse, would have taken advantage of the ICRC operation to evacuate some of its wounded and families of LTTE cadres.

Wimalatunga said that apart from people brought in by the ICRC, a large number of men, women and children had reached Pulmoddai on their own. They had come in fishing boats at the risk of their lives, he said, adding that the navy assisted hundreds of boats to reach land. He acknowledged that those who coming on their own too were being subjected to security checks. "We’ll not take a chance," he said, revealing that the navy had recovered one cyanide capsule from a woman and handed her over to the army.

A group of soldiers tasked with escorting evacuees from Pulmoddai to Padaviya said that Sinhala civilians would attack convoys if the army didn’t provide escorts. "People are aware of the presence of wounded LTTE cadres as well as Mahaveer families among the evacuees. Many families in this area have lost their bread winners in the fight against the LTTE," a soldier said. People would go on the rampage if they come across unescorted buses carrying civilians, he said.

Standing next to a locally built Unicorn armoured personnel carrier, the NCO said that they were glad major battles were coming to an end. Had Mahaveer families and LTTE cadres really believed lies propagated by the LTTE leadership and the Tamil Diaspora they would have been shocked by the treatment received at Pulmoddai. The army, too, had met the challenging task of looking after over 100,000 Tamils, he said. Responding to our queries, he said that they had imposed severe security measures to thwart people from walking out of hospitals and IDP centres.

Earlier in the day, we observed a large scale SLN deployment off the no fire zone on the north-eastern coast. Captain D. N. S. C. Kalubowila accompanying us on board an Israeli-built Shaldag Class Dvora explained the measures in place to thwart an escape bid by the LTTE. As we approached the coastline, a major fire fight erupted between the army and the LTTE. The expatriate ICRC staff on Green Ocean at that time anchored a little distance away from Farah III would have seen what is going on the ground.

Kalubowila, the commanding officer of the 4th FAC Squadron, said that over 80 craft including Offshore Patrol Craft had been deployed to neutralize any LTTE threat. The Special Boat Squadron (SBS) and the Rapid Action Boat Squadron (RABS) had been deployed closest to the LTTE-held land. The Dvoras and locally built FACs had been positioned in between the SBS-RABS and the OPVs deployed on the high seas.

There had been a spate of confrontations between the navy and Sea Tigers off the no fire zone during the past three months. Responding to questions, he said that before taking over the new assignment, he had commanded passenger ship Jetliner extensively used to move troops between Trincomalee and Kankesanthurai. He said that Sea Tigers almost succeeded in hitting Jetliner carrying well over 1,000 troops as it approached the Trincomalee harbour in the first week of August 2006.

"Had I tried to move away from land to escape explosives packed suicide craft and artillery fire, they would have most probably succeeded in their attempt. I was given an opportunity to decide and opted to go into the harbour," he said. The navy fought fiercely to save the ship, he said. Had the LTTE succeeded it would have caused irreparable damage to the war effort.

He said that the naval blockade on the no fire zone with a coastline of about six kms-three each on the either side of Farah III which had run aground in December 2006 - was evidence that the LTTE had lost the war.

The army had restricted the LTTE to a seven sq. km. area. Since my visit, the army had brought another km of coastline under its control.

Kalubowila said that with the re-opening of the A9 by the army, the navy had stopped using Jetliner to move troops. He said that the vessel was capable of carrying over 3,000 personnel. Escorting the chartered vessel had been a massive task, he said, adding that the navy had no option but to provide a very heavy FAC escort to thwart an attack. The SLAF, too, was invariably involved in measures to meet the LTTE challenge, he said.

We were transferred from Dvoras to Inshore Patrol Craft and moved to Chundikulam where the navy had established a base to direct small boat operations at the LTTE now making a desperate bid to dominate the sea close to the no fire zone. Navy spokesman Captain D. K. P. Dassanayake on a temporary assignment in the northern theatre explained the measures taken to prevent Prabhakaran from fleeing. Dassanayake is based at Chalai, the other small boat launching point involved in the operation.

He said that the LTTE had placed a 37 mm weapon on Farah III to direct fire at the navy. The SLAF had recently bombed the ship, he said, dismissing the possibility of LTTE leaders escaping in a submarine. Says Commander Northern Naval Area, Rear Admiral Somathilaka Dissanayake, ‘their so called submarines found on the ground weren’t submarines in a real sense of the word. They couldn’t submerge totally."

Dissanayake who was on an inspection tour of area said that those craft would have been built to carry out suicide attacks on SLN vessels both out at sea and anchored in harbours. He rejected the possibility of a foreign submarine or surface vessel coming to Prabhakaran’s rescue due to permanent SLN presence on the high seas.

Dissanayake, a former navy spokesman, told this reporter that the availability of high tech equipment had made things easier. "Today we have the capacity to monitor LTTE movements both on land and sea 24 hours a day. They’ll never be able to surprise us or take the initiative again," he emphasized.

The recent acquisition of Israeli-built rockets mounted on IPCs had given the navy the upper hand in sea battles. The IPCs could comfortably take fast moving enemy boats from a distance of over 3 kms. But, the SLAF remains ready to provide additional gunfire support. On May Day, the Mi 24 helicopter gunships were deployed in support of the navy. The SLAF also has shifted some jets from Katunayake to Trincomalee as part of the overall strategy to meet the LTTE threat.

To the credit of the government, it has launched a re-settlement programme as the 58 and 53 Divisions commanded by Brigadier Shavindra Silva and Major General Kamal Gunarathne fought the final battle. The first beneficiaries would be those who abandoned their villages in areas west of the A9 road. The government last week moved over 400 persons from 122 families to Savariarpuram in Mannar.

‘Boat People’ Recount Horrors of No-Fire Zone

UN Security Council and Human Rights Council Need to Take Urgent Action

(Kakinada, India, May 6, 2009) – Horrific accounts from refugees fleeing the fighting in Sri Lanka by boat show the wanton disregard for civilians of both Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on both the United Nations Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council to make the situation in Sri Lanka a priority to avoid further loss of civilian life.

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[M. Aruldas played with his 8-month-old nephew, Kuberan, as they recovered in a government hospital in Kakinada, India, on Monday, after drifting on a boat for nine days with other Sri Lankan refugees-pic: NY Times.com]

"The Sri Lankan government is doing everything it can to keep these stories of suffering from reaching the world," said Meenakshi Ganguly, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. "These accounts must be multiplied tens of thousands of times to capture the full horror of those who remain trapped by the Tamil Tigers and shelled by government forces."

Human Rights Watch interviewed a group of Sri Lankan refugees in Andhra Pradesh in India. The refugees were rescued on April 29, 2009, from Indian waters, where they had been lost at sea for nine days after fleeing from the government declared "no-fire zone" in northern Sri Lanka's Mullaitivu district. Accounts by refugees are especially important because the Sri Lankan government has long refused independent access to the combat zone for journalists and human rights monitors. The refugees' detailed statements contradict claims by the government that it is not using heavy weapons in the "no-fire zone."

A motorbike taxi driver, S. Indra Kumar, told Human Rights Watch that his family went to Putumattalan, on the coast, after the Sri Lankan government declared the area a safe zone: "We were living in such fear. There was constant shelling. On April 5 or 6, our neighbors were injured in the shelling. A shell landed inside the bunker. Ten people were injured, and of them, five died. There was no anesthesia. The doctors had to cut off a girl's hand without any anesthesia. My small daughter was crying and scared. I decided then that we had to leave."

He said that sometimes the shelling lasted so long that people could not come out to use the toilets: "Whenever there was shelling, we were in the bunker. There was heavy shelling, and the people were easing themselves in the bunker. I would take a bucket to clean up the mess and bury it in the sand."

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[A 25-year-old former computer student, S. Indra Meenan, drifted on a boat for nine days with other Sri Lankan refugees. © 2009 Courtesy of Ruth Fremson/The New York Times]

His brother, S. Indra Meenan, a 25-year-old hardware engineer, described long periods of shelling: "In the village, every house had a bunker. Five or six people sitting inside, sometimes for three or four hours." He said that the Tamil Tigers sometimes fired from areas close to where the civilians were living, putting them at risk from retaliatory fire. "We left [by boat] on April 20 because we were scared. There was so much bombing and shelling. Every day, at least three or four hours, there was shelling. The firing was coming from the Sri Lankan army."

A mason, Sivadasa Jagdeshwaran, whose wife and 4-year-old son died on the boat journey to India, described his family's ordeal: "In the beginning, before we came to the safe zone, the government hospital was still there. My wife just had a baby, so she needed medicine. But there was no medicine at the hospital. I waited a whole day for medicines.

"The ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] was giving tents, but they could not cope with the demand. We built a shelter with coconut thatch. And when it rained or there was shelling, we ran to the bunker. There was shortage of food. One day, I was waiting in queue for food and there was suddenly shelling. I ran away, but later heard that 40 people had died."

Jagdeshwaran described trying to bury his father, who was hit by a shell in the safe area when he was riding his bicycle: "Many people have died. Whenever they heard there were bodies, they would collect for burial. Two months ago, my father went missing. I went to the hospital to look for my father. I found his body. The entire back of his head was missing. Only his face was there. We asked the doctor to do something to his head so we could bury him, but they said we should just be grateful that we had a body to bury."

The refugees described conditions along the sandy coastal strip where the fighting currently is ongoing. Some were able to use tents provided by the ICRC, while others huddled into makeshift shacks made of sheets and coconut fronds. They found it difficult to dig bunkers into sand. Some of those who had boats buried them in the sand to provide a base, and then created a roof of coconut tree logs and leaves. This was the only protection they had from the shelling. They also described shortages of food and medicine. S. Indra Kumar, the motorbike taxi driver, said: "The government was sending some grain. But if the need was for 100 kilos, they were sending 25 kilos. There were no NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], no medicines inside."

The refugees detailed to Human Rights Watch their harrowing journeys by boat to India, in which many died. The boat owner, Mariyada Yesudas, whose father, sister, nephew and two brothers and his uncle, the captain of the boat, died during the journey, said they felt they had no choice but to leave the safe area: "The army was really close. The LTTE was also very close. We thought the fighting had reached us. So we decided to leave before it was too late ... The army is very powerful and the LTTE was running away. How could it be safe for us?"

The accounts show the urgent need for safe humanitarian corridors for civilians to flee the fighting.

S. Indra Meenan, the hardware engineer, said: "We left at night when the shelling stopped. We were 21 people. No one saw our boat. Not the LTTE, not the army. No one tried to stop us. The boat driver had said that he would take enough food and water for us."

He said that the boat driver told them the trip to India would take nine hours. But they got lost, the motor stopped running and they ran out of fuel. They just drifted until they ran out of food and water: "We were drinking salt water. One by one, the people started dying. First it was the children. My brother's little daughter died."

Jagdeshwaran, the mason, told Human Rights Watch about the journey by boat that included his wife and two children and his wife's relatives: "My son died on April 24, four days after getting on the boat. He was 4 years old. We had no water, no food on the boat. Then her father died. Her two brothers jumped into the sea. My wife was in shock. She was weak and not even able to move. That morning, April 29, she asked for some water. We gave her seawater. She vomited and then she passed away."

Their 8-month-old son, having been fed on breast milk until his mother's death, survived.

Human Rights Watch called on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to hold a special session on the current situation in Sri Lanka. Human Rights Watch also reiterated its call for the UN Security Council to place Sri Lanka on its agenda and to create a commission of inquiry to investigate violations of international humanitarian law by both sides.

"While the Human Rights Council has sat on its hands, the Security Council has repeatedly failed to discuss Sri Lanka in a way that would permit even the mildest action," said Ganguly. "Given the gravity of the situation, both UN bodies need to come to grips with the scale of the disaster."

Related: Sri Lankans, Seeking Safety, Perish, By Somini Sengupta

A Paradise turned into Kingdom of Vultures!

By Richard Dixon

People of Vanni in the Northern part of Sri Lanka once had their barns full of grains, children played in the parks and on beautiful golden beaches, fishermen went to the seas, farmers went to their farms and the mothers worked hard at homes. They had the money, resources more than enough even to send their children abroad for education. They were neither prisoners nor hostages.

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President of Sri Lanka and the Defence secretary are busy with their Buddhist rituals while killing thousands of innocents in the North

All came to an end when the Buddhist Sinhala rulers of the country decided to destroy the lives of the minority Tamils in the disguise of “War on Terror”. [Read "Sri Lanka: A Paradise turned into Kingdom of Vultures!" in full - on The Daily Telegraph-UK]

May 04, 2009

The U.N. Security Council's shameful failures in Sri Lanka.

By Gareth Evans

As the whole world watches the continuing calamity in Sri Lanka, with thousands of civilians dead and tens of thousands more at risk as government forces try to quash the last of the insurgent Tamil Tigers, the United Nations Security Council remains mired in debates over whether or not to even discuss the issue, with a minority of member-states obstructing any collective action in response to the crisis, or even an official review.

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[A mother and her child stand in a line with other Tamil civilians in a refugee camp located on the outskirts of the town of Vavuniya in northern Sri Lanka May 4, 2009.-Reuters pic]

As the Sri Lankan army continues its assault on what is left of the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped inside a shrinking conflict zone, at risk not only from the fighting but from starvation and lack of water and medical attention. Despite the government's April 27 announcement that the military had been ordered to cease using air attacks, artillery, and other heavy weapons against remaining LTTE-held areas, such attacks have carried on with increased intensity.

The trapped civilians are not the only ones at risk. More than 170,000 who have managed to escape the worst of the fighting remain imprisoned in desperately overcrowded camps and medical centers. Scores are reported to have died after fleeing the conflict zone, and the military has been overwhelmed by the number of civilians flooding into reception areas.

Moreover, the government's screening process for those fleeing the conflict zone is both highly chaotic and without any international monitoring presence. Given a not-insignificant history of government-linked disappearances, the safety of those suspected to have LTTE ties is also of grave concern.

The reality is that both the LTTE leadership -- a murderous bunch of extremists for whom no tears should be shed by Tamils in Sri Lanka or by anyone anywhere -- and the Colombo government have abdicated their responsibility to protect Sri Lankan civilians from mass-atrocity crimes.

And the tragedy is that they have now been joined in this abdication by the Security Council itself, notwithstanding the unanimous resolution of the General Assembly, meeting at the heads of government level in 2005, that it should take "timely and decisive" action when "national authorities are failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity."

To their credit, France, the United States, Britain, and a number of other proactive Security Council members have ratcheted up pressure in recent weeks. They have pushed -- albeit cautiously -- for the council to review Sri Lanka as an official agenda item, and carefully negotiated a series of informal remarks on behalf of the council.

But because of consistent obstruction by a handful of member states, the issue continues to be relegated to informal statements and unofficial meetings -- not in the Security Council chamber -- but in the basement of the U.N. building. Those signaling varying degrees of opposition to council engagement have been China, Russia, Libya, Vietnam and --most surprisingly and disappointingly, given its role in advocating human security generally and civilian protection specifically -- Japan. While the tacit approval of a military endgame against a terrorist group is understandable enough, looking the other way as tens of thousands of innocent civilians are imperiled in the process is indefensible.

Since February, four U.N. envoys have been dispatched on missions to Sri Lanka to assess the deteriorating humanitarian situation, the status of displaced persons, and to discuss political solutions to the current crisis with President Rajapaksa and senior government officials. Despite obtaining a series promises from Colombo, no U.N. needs-assessment team has been received, humanitarian access remains limited, and the shelling continues.

Well aware of the absence of determined and united international action -- by the council in particular -- the government has defaulted on its promises and paid mere lip service to calls for restraint, all the while pursuing its military onslaught. But Colombo's intense efforts to prevent a review by the Security Council, with much lobbying in member state capitals, show how much weight effective council action would have.

Immediate -- and official -- action by the Council should include securing a U.N. needs assessment, the lifting of all restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid, and open access for the ICRC and U.N. agencies to all reception and screening points. The council could also facilitate steps toward an internationally-supervised surrender of the LTTE and a lasting political settlement.

It must be made crystal clear to both the Tigers and the Sri Lankan government that they will be held accountable for their actions. The council could consider a U.N. commission of inquiry to examine the likelihood of war crimes committed by both sides.

The longer the Security Council delays taking action of this kind, the longer atrocities will continue. Its relative silence is a matter for growing shame with each passing day.

Gareth Evans is president of the International Crisis Group and author of The Responsibility to Protect: Ending Mass Atrocity Crimes Once and for All.

Lasantha Wickrematunge and his contribution to Journalism in Sri Lanka

by
by Sunanda Deshapriya

4th May, Kathmandu.

(WPFD South Asia Conference organized by UNESCO and Federation of Nepali Journalists)

I consider it a privilege to speak a few words on the theme, “Lasantha Wikrematunga and contributions he made to journalism in Sri Lanka ” at the announcement of UNESCO press freedom award with which the slain editor was honoured just yesterday.

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[Elderly Sri Lankan women hold photograph of the Sunday Leader newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge during his funeral procession in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009-AP pic]

It is exactly 125 days today since his assassination on. 8th January 2009. Lasantha Wickrematunge was on his way to the Sunday Leader office, the newspaper he gave birth to and the newspaper he cherished and considered to be his life. The time was around 10.30 in the morning and he had noticed that he was being followed. In a few minutes it was all over

Two motor cyclists followed him while two motor cyclists were waiting at the place he was killed to block his path. All were wearing black. We still do not know how he was killed. The post- mortem report states he died of gun shot injuries. Doctors who examined him as he breathed his last couldn’t find any evidence of external bullet wounds. Nor did the police find any empty cartridges. It was by all means a very very professional job. They came to kill him at any cost.

Why did they kill him? What was the contribution he made to Sri Lankan media that his killers wanted stopped? Yesterday and today, we are gathered here to celebrate journalism. It is a profession which we all know should be about accuracy, balanced and fair story telling.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, Editor of The Sunday Leader is remembered today for his professional courage - that is journalism. The killers are in hiding. Not only from society but also from themselves. They will never ever admit that they killed him. Most probably his real killers too may have publicly condemned the killing.

Lasantha is not the first journalist to get assassinated in Sri Lanka in recent times. And I am afraid that he may not be the last. But his killing sparked off a fear that no other journalist's death generated. It was like a final warning. Death was the penalty for airing dissenting opinion.

Just two days before he was killed, a popular TV and radio station, the MTV/MBC net work was set on fire. Two weeks after the killing of Lasantha, on 22nd January an attempt was made on the editor of the Rivira newspaper, Upali Tennakoon. A month later on 24th February, the editor of the SuderOli newspaper, N. Vithiyatharan was abducted and assaulted. The government later announced that he was in their custody. Five weeks later, on 1st of April, the Editor of the Vaara Ureikal M.I. Rahmahetulla was attacked with long knives and his office was destroyed. During the same period a number of editors were summoned to police intelligence units and questioned on war related issues and demanded to reveal their sources.

Suppression of media freedom and threats to journalists increased in Sri Lanka during the first three months of 2009. Over the last three and half years 20 journalists and media workers have been killed in Sri Lanka . Other news and alternate points of view became rare. The official government line was repeated again, this time sternly "Criticism and dissent in times of war is treason."

It is in this context that we must place Lasantha's contribution to media in Sri Lanka - that is media behavior in times of war. Of course there are many other contributions he made, such as his pioneering efforts in investigative and campaign journalism. His courageous advocacy of a negotiated political settlement to the conflict as opposed to a military option. To understand his contribution better, what we need to do is to look at media in Sri Lanka today, post Lasantha.

We all know that Sri Lanka is going through a humanitarian tragedy of untold proportions. The international media covering the Sri Lankan conflict does attempt to have a diverse and inclusive coverage. It is due to their efforts that the world came to know of the suffering of our people in the Vanni in recent weeks.

We journalists in Sri Lanka failed in the basics of journalism, we failed to do our duty by the suffering people in Vanni. Most of us who watch BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN have seen the footage of mothers soaked with the blood of their infants, fathers who carry their dead children, and hundreds of Tamil civilians killed in the battle field. Those are powerful images which show the horror of war that could have evoked a public response and even an outcry against the execution of a bloody war that victimizes mostly the non combatant civilians. Tamil civilians were being killed and injured in the hundreds everyday. This is a fact of life that no one can deny.

The Sri Lankan media has hit an all time low at present. This is true of the printed word as well as the audio visual media in covering the conflict and offering diverse opinion. Not a single Sri Lankan newspaper or a TV station prints or telecasts the horrifying images of the war zone today, the same we get to watch on international television coverage and in foreign newspapers.

A vast majority of Sri Lankans only hear and see war propaganda. For example, on a day that more than a hundred civilians had died in the war zone, one newspaper carried only one news item on civilian deaths: "three children killed by Tiger fire". Of course, the LTTE indiscriminately uses civilians as a human shield and there are credible reports to prove that they are shooting at people who are trying to escape. But those of us journalists who have witnessed this war for decades, know the other side does it too. Government fire also kills. Bullets do not discriminate. And whoever uses more firepower kills more.

Do we have a right to report when government fire kills? Do we have a right to investigate and report when charges are leveled against the government on the use of cluster bombs? Do we have the right to report on casualties of both sides? Do we have a right to investigate and report when hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in a war zone without basic human needs? Finally, when we report, as journalists do we have the right not to take a side in this war? If you look at Sri Lanka today the answer is a big NO!

Today, Sri Lankan media is practicing an unprecedented level of self -censorship. This war is a war without witness. War propaganda is what is dished as news. This is true for both sides. In suppressing media both sides have become mirror images, complementing each other.

A culture of silence prevails when it comes to reporting the horror of war and the humanitarian tragedy. A culture of impunity prevails when it comes to crimes against media and journalists.

As journalists we are aware that we are exercising self-censorship. Those of us who believe in publishing the truth, talk about that need amongst ourselves. But who amongst us is prepared to take that risk, after Lasantha's killing. His death had silenced many. Post Lasantha, the space for alternate news and another point of view is scarce. When people do not have fair access to information that is relevant to their lives, such a society becomes one of blind followers airing and printing the voices of the political masters.

This is where Lasantha made his mark. He pushed the limits set by the authorities. He dared to go beyond. He dared to challenge. He was fearless in performing his duty as a journalist. He never gave in to the pressure of self censorship. He dared to dream. Given the current military/ political context of the country, I think Lasantha's central contribution to media in Sri Lanka was his courage and capacity to challenge the censorship within and outside. Official and unofficial.

Under Lasantha Wickrametunge, The Sunday Leader imbibed the true spirit of journalism, covering all sides of the war and often giving expression to the civilians' point of view. Lasantha reported on war casualties of both sides. He covered the unfolding humanitarian tragedy. He investigated and reported on military procurements. He challenged those in authority continuously and unrelentingly. He lived by the codes of the fourth estate and played the role of watch dog through public spirited journalism.

No doubt this is why he was killed.

Journalism is not a mere vocation but a service. Journalism driven by public service values encourages democracy, pluralism and respect for diversity. In the name of Lasantha Wickrematunge we all need to strive for qualitative journalism, which is- accurate, balanced and fair journalism. Hopefully, this period of darkness over the media in Sri Lanka will end sooner than later allowing journalists to practice their vocation without the shackles of today. I live in hope and I live for that day.

Thank you.

A river for Jaffna – the Arumugam Plan

by D. L. O. Mendis

Eng. S Arumugam published A River for Jaffna in 1954 which became known as the Arumugam plan. His son Eng. Thiru Arumugam provided a synopsis of the plan for a Pugwash workshop on “Learning from ancient hydraulic civilizations to combat climate change”, Colombo, Nov. 2007, as follows: Jaffna Peninsula with an area of about 400 sq. miles, is relatively flat and has no rivers.

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It is dependent for recharge of the water table in the underlying limestone aquifer on annual rainfall of about 50 inches, of which about 87 percent is in the NE monsoon, during October to December.

In the past, water was drawn from wells by well sweeps, “which fed market gardens like those in Fulham and Chelsea” (Tennent 1855). From 1950s pumps have been used and over-pumping has drawn down the fresh water in the limestone aquifer resulting in sea water intrusion into wells. Now about 30 percent of wells are saline.

Rainfall

To increase availability of fresh water in Jaffna we must look at sources alternative to rainfall in the peninsula.

South of the peninsula, the relatively shallow sea water Elephant Pass lagoon has a surface area of about 30 square miles. It’s catchment area of about 363 square miles in the mainland Vanni consists of the Kanakarayan Aru basin and three smaller streams.

During the NE monsoon these streams discharge surplus water from the Vanni into the Elephant Pass lagoon, which water flowed to waste in the sea through the Eastern end at Chundikulam and through the Western end Elephant Pass bridge.

Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons with surface areas of about 30 and 10 sq. miles respectively in Jaffna peninsula, cover a significant 10 percent of the peninsula’s land area of about 400 square miles.

These salt water lagoons have access to the sea, but during the NE monsoon some rain water from their catchment areas also feed into them. A River for Jaffna, Arumugam Plan proposed to utilize monsoon rain water from the mainland streams running to waste through the Elephant Pass lagoon, for the benefit of Jaffna.

Key points of the scheme and details of work done are as follows:

* Openings in the road and rail bridges in Elephant Pass causeway at the Western end of Elephant Pass lagoon were closed to prevent fresh water going to the sea from this end.

* A bund was built in the 1950s, at the eastern end of Elephant Pass lagoon at Chundikulam to isolate Elephant Pass lagoon from the sea, with a spillway provided to discharge excess flood water to the sea.

Elephant Pass lagoon became a fresh water lagoon, but unfortunately the Chundikulam bund was soon breached by heavy floods, thus allowing sea water inflow to Elephant Pass lagoon since then.

* A 40 foot wide two and a half mile long channel, called the Mulliyan Link Channel was proposed from the North Eastern side of the Elephant Pass lagoon to convey fresh water from the Elephant Pass lagoon to the Vadamarachchi lagoon at its Southern end, including regulatory gates to control the flow. Unfortunately only about two and a quarter miles of channel was completed in the 1960s, when funds ran out and the work was never completed.

Thondamanaru Barrage at the Northern end of Vadamarachchi lagoon where it joins the sea, was also built, starting in 1947 and completed in 1953, to make Vadamarachchi lagoon a fresh water lagoon. Windmills were also provided to draw water for cultivation.

Following the 1945 Webb proposals, Arialai barrage was built in 1955 where the Upparu lagoon connects to the sea, to make Upparu a fresh water lagoon.

A link channel was built between Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons so that fresh water from Elephant Pass lagoon can be supplied to Upparu lagoon via Vadamarachchi lagoon. The present condition is that the gates are no longer watertight and sea water enters Upparu lagoon.

Fresh water lagoons

In the brief period that Vadamarachchi and Upparu were fresh water lagoons, the benefits to the peninsula were noticeable and many saline wells became potable water wells, thus establishing the rationale of the River for Jaffna.

The scheme was thus only partially completed in the 1960s and the key Mulliyan link channel to convey fresh water from Elephant Pass lagoon to Vadamarachchi lagoon was never completed.

In January 1983 a report was submitted to President J.R. Jayewardene urging completion of the scheme. President directed his officials in May 1983 to implement the scheme. But due to the July 1983 disturbances and its aftermath this did not happen.

In April 2003, Minister for Irrigation and Water Management, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera wanted to visit Jaffna to learn more about the River for Jaffna, when the A9 road was opened. This did not happen and he went by air to Pallai instead. He inspected Thondamannar but could not go beyond Muhumalai to the Elephant Pass lagoon. He had described the project as an “all embracing solution for water problems in Jaffna”.

At the Annual Sessions of the Institution of Engineers, Sri Lanka, (IESL) in October 2007 a Resolution was passed recommending to Government to undertake early implementation of the project. When the resolution was submitted to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, a sum of Rs. 100 million was released for restoration of Thondamannar barrage and this work has since been done.

The benefits of completing this project include the following:

Agricultural use

About 20,000 acres of land is cultivated with paddy in the Jaffna peninsula. This cultivation is entirely rain fed unlike paddy cultivation on the mainland which is fed by irrigation channels. As it is rain fed, the yield per acre in Jaffna is very poor and is only about one-third of the average yield per acre on the mainland.

If the Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons become fresh water lakes, the water table and water quality in the wells will improve, and using lift irrigation it will be possible to irrigate these paddy fields without depending purely on the rain. The potential for improvement in the yield is staggering.

About 11,000 acres of land bordering the Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons are uncultivable at present as they are saline. When these become fresh water lagoons, after the salt is leached from the soil, it will be possible to cultivate this 11,000 acres with cash crops and paddy.

There will be a dramatic improvement in the water quality of the 30 percent of the Jaffna wells which are now saline. In many cases water will become suitable for domestic use and agricultural use, increasing the acreage under agricultural cultivation.

In the existing wells it will be possible to increase the amount of daily pumping without the water going saline, thus increasing agricultural cultivation and livestock production.

Fresh water prawn farming can commence on the banks of the lagoons, with potential for export earnings. Converting the Elephant Pass lagoon into a 30 square mile fresh water lagoon will provide fresh agricultural possibilities on both sides of the lagoon i.e. the Jaffna peninsula side on the North, as well as the Vanni side on the South, once the salinity has been leached from the soil.

Work needed to complete the scheme

Step 1: Recondition Thondamanaru Barrage. Replace and repair perished wooden gates and lifting devices etc.

If this barrage is made watertight Vadamarachchi lagoon will become a fresh water lagoon fed with rain water from its 115 square mile catchment area. As stated this has already been done on the instructions of President Rajapaksa.

Step 2: Recondition Arialai Barrage

Repair and replace perished planked bays and replace with screw operated gates. Repair breaches in separation bund between Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons as required. This will make Upparu lagoon a fresh water lagoon fed with rain water from its 85 square mile catchment area.

Step 3: Complete Mulliyan Link Channel

When completed it is a possibility that water in Elephant Pass lagoon in the NE monsoon may be sufficiently low in salt content for diversion to Vadamarachchi and Upparu lagoons as described.

Step 4 : Complete Spill cum Causeway at Chundikulam at the Eastern end of Elephant Pass lagoon. When completed Elephant Pass lagoon will become a fresh water lagoon.

Proposed Water Supply for Jaffna project - National Water Supply and Drainage Board

Meanwhile, without any reference to the River for Jaffna project, the NWS & DB in association with SMEC International Pty Ltd of Australia and Ceywater Consultants (Pvt) Ltd had prepared a Jaffna Water Supply and Sanitation Feasibility Study. (Ref. Final Report, March 2006). This may be an example of conflict between regional interest groups and central State authority. A loan of US $ 80 million equal to Rs 9 billion at present rates, has been negotiated, with a local component of Rs 3 billion making Rs 12 billion total.

A submission has been made to President Rajapaksa that much of this sum of money can be saved if the River for Jaffna project is completed as planned. A part of these savings may then be transferred to manufacture single super phosphate at Eppawala, and save on imports of fertilizer.

Post conflict rehabilitation of people and restoration of water and soil conservation ecosystems, including the River for Jaffna.

Sri Lanka lost two opportunities to restore its ancient water and soil conservation ecosystems, first in the modern mega Accelerated Mahaweli Development project, and later in the post-tsunami rehabilitation program, PTOMS that was fortunately not implemented.

IDPs

Post-conflict rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and demobilized services personnel largely from rural areas outside the conflict areas, may now be a last chance to restore stable and sustainable water and soil conservation ecosystems, to achieve a durable peace. The River for Jaffna project, one of a very few modern projects without ancient origins, must be an integral part of such rehabilitation based on ‘Water for people and nature’.

In a separate study, a basis for resettlement of IDPs with special reference to restoration of Commons and highland cultivation (not new irrigation systems) has been prepared based on the model of Dr. Ray Wijewardena’s Kohomba coconut estate in Kakapalliya.

References: A River for Jaffna by D.L.O. Mendis, Sri Lanka Pugwash References for A River for Jaffna - from Water Resources Development, Jaffna Peninsula by Eng. K. Shanmugarajah, Fast Books, Australia, 1993 Twyneham (GA Jaffna) 1879 Report - to convert Elephant Pass Lagoon, Vadamarachchi lagoon and Upparu lagoon to freshwater reservoirs. Horseburg (GA Jaffna) 1916 Report - on implementation of above proposal Balasingham (MLC) & Webb (DIE) 1930 Report - proposed barrages to stop salt water intrusion into the lagoons. Balasingham proposed Mahaweli diversion to Jaffna. Webb proposed two barrages at Thondamannar (built in 1953) and at Ariyalai (built in 1955). Arumugam Plan 1954 - Elephant Pass lagoon scheme.

May 03, 2009

War is Violation of "Mahinda Chintanaya" and Mandate from the People

by Kusal Perera

The issue of a legitimate government was on the cards when two high profile Ministers from the UK and France were here in Colombo for just one day, trying to persuade the Rajapaksa government to consider a pause in its military operations in the Wanni so that Tamil civilians caught in the conflict could leave for safety and receive aid. The reason why such appeals are made to this government over and over again is because it is considered a legitimate government in power. One that has a legitimate right to air raid its own citizens and herd them within barbed wire fences. One that had been constitutionally elected by a sovereign people and therefore could wage war. This legitimacy is perhaps what the Defense Secretary had stressed on, when he answered British and French Foreign Ministers David Milliband and Bernard Kouchner on LTTE information. But, is it legitimate, for a fact ?

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[In this handout photo released by High Commission of India, Colombo, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, left, shakes hands with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa as Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan looks on in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, April 24, 2009.]

Here is a government, whose "Legislative power" was installed with the parliamentary elections in April 2004, when it contested the elections as the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Its "Executive power" was decided by the people, with a hair's breadth majority in November 2005 at the presidential elections. If that is all that decides a legitimate government, then its legitimacy has completely eroded within just two years the most.

Legitimacy of a government does not stop simply on the argument that it was elected at public polls. It has to represent the will of the "Elector", the people, apart from the majority it is provided with. That is where the legitimacy of this government is hugely challenged. Added is its violations of the Constitution that it is expected to uphold. Does it now represent the people, or has a right to represent those people who elected it to power ?

The formation of the UPFA at the 2004 April elections was that it had the SLFP as the major constituent of the alliance with more than 05 other teeny weenie political entities sitting and standing with it. This alliance thereafter went into an electoral pact with the JVP to contest the elections with their "Common Programme" called "Rata Perata" (Country Forward). The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) opposed this alliance as much as the other political parties like the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the Ceylon Workers' Congress (CWC) and the Upcountry People's Front (UPF) including the main United National Party (UNP). Without doubt, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) opposed this alliance, while the EPDP was within and part of the alliance.

Thus the government that was "legitimately" elected to power, was the UPFA which included the 39 members of the JVP within its 105 elected members and the single EPDP member. Within this lot, party wise the mix represented a total that added up as follows.

SLFP – 61 ; JVP – 39 ; NUA – 3 ; LSSP – 1 ; SL CP – 2 = 106 seats

This isn't even a simple majority in a parliament that has 225 members. On a voter count, it had only 4.2 million votes as the UPFA which is 45.6% of the total votes polled plus the 24,955 votes the EPDP polled which is only 0.27% of the votes, making a total of 45.9% in all. Though the JHU contested alone calling for a "Dharma Rajya" (A Holy State), it was from the very beginning anti – UNP and was also anti – devolution, anti – peace and anti – negotiations, thus supporting all attempts at dismantling the cease fire agreement signed under the previous Wickramasignhe government. Basically, the 552,000 votes the JHU received had the same mandate as that of the UPFA and the JVP together. Therefore, although the JHU was out of the government proper, they too represented the ideological representation of the UPFA government. The UPFA government had good reason to receive support from the JHU that had 09 members and thus gained the required simple majority.

To that extent the UPFA government was a legitimate government representing the will of the people that elected it to power. But in 2005 May, the JVP walked out of the government and that left the UPFA as a minority in parliament with only 67 members as the government. President Kumaratunge as Executive Head of the government became the constitutional strength on which the government was held together. The JVP with its holy slogan of being anti – UNP also kept the government going by voting with the UPFA in parliament, proudly promising that it would not allow the UNP to come to power, although it disagreed with the UPFA. Therefore they still remained part of the political power.

Such was the legitimacy of the UPFA government at the time of the 2005 November presidential elections. A minority in parliament kept in power by 02 political groups on an ideological alliance that opposed devolution and negotiations. That allowed the JVP and the JHU to come into formal alliances with the UPFA at the presidential elections once again to defeat everything from the CFA, Tamil separatism, negotiations and devolution of power to the concept of a "United Country" led by their "Common" candidate, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Since that presidential election in November 2005 which was decided by the "Sinhala South" with a hair's breadth majority of 186,000 votes, while the Tamil vote was called for a boycott by Prabhakaran and Jaffna polled only 1.2% (a little over 7,000 votes), out of over 700,000 registered voters, the legitimacy of this UPFA government, kept fast eroding.

The mandate received from the people at both elections, at the 2004 April general elections and at the 2005 November presidential elections, was to negotiate peace and not to wage war. Where it differed with the UNP in this regard was on the character of the State, which was a principle difference, when they stuck to its "unitary" form. That difference apart, the presidential campaign of Mahinda Rajapaksa, denied it would resort to war when accused of campaigning for a "war agenda" by the Opposition.

In his presidential election policy statement that is now introduced as the handbook of his leadership ideology and popularly quoted as the "Mahinda Chintanaya" (Mahinda's Thinking) he has very clearly promised his approach would learn from the lessons of previous failed negotiations and thus would be very inclusive. (Sinhala edition - pages 28 and 29). In that booklet he promises he would conclude all negotiations with all political parties that represent parliament, political parties not represented in parliament, all clergy including Buddhist monks, civil society organizations and in particular with special stress given to "Tamil and Muslim people's organizations in the North and East", within 03 months of coming to power. In his thinking, he has made special mention of "traditional homelands and right to self determination" and says, he would not get bogged down in such theoretical semantics in devolving maximum power to the people. The best is the concluding, two sentence paragraph of this two page explanation on how he would solve the ethnic conflict, titled "Undivided country – Majority consensus – Honourable peace". It reads thus. "While the above process is underway, I would start direct discussions with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, that has not entered the democratic stream yet. For which I intend meeting its leader as well." (page 29)

This war that seeps with savage execution is thus a violation of the mandate President Rajapaksa received from the people. Taking into account that 4.7 million people who voted against Rajapaksa and thus for Wickramasinghe, also voted against any war, over 98% of the people did not want any war. This was the position President Rajapaksa maintained even during his first official visit to India in December, 2005. "Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, who is on a four-day visit to India , said the resumption of peace talks was essential if a civil war in Sri Lanka were to end." (moneycontrol.com Wed, Dec 28, 2005) said news reports from India . This UPFA government has therefore gone totally against the mandate it asked for and also received for a very inclusive negotiating process that included direct talks with the LTTE, as against any war.

Its not only the mandate it received the government has violated, but the Constitution as well. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution which is a vital inclusion for democratic governance was completely violated on the strength of the immunity the Executive President enjoys from the same Constitution. The Constitutional Council that has to be appointed was never appointed and thereby blocked the appointment and functioning of "Independent Commissions" that administer and regulate the Police, the Elections, the Public Service and Human Rights as required by the Constitution. Thereafter the "Independent Commissions" were appointed by the President on his own choice, completely violating the Constitution. This UPFA government thus remains as one that executes power after violating the very Constitution it has pledged to uphold and safeguard.

All that and the very making of the UPFA legislative power in parliament violate the mandate of the people. Although the JHU was in its fold with the presidential elections, since 2006 June, the make up of the majority in parliament is completely different to what the people voted in. There are 18 UNP members, who have with thick skins reneged on the verdict of their voters and now sit with the UPFA government holding ministerial portfolios. They have accordingly forfeited the sovereignty of over 25% of the 3.5 million voters who used their vote against the UPFA. From the SLMC 02 MPs crossed over to join the UPFA government and they in turn have reneged on their voters' mandate. So have those from the CWC who stood against the UPFA and also against Mahinada Rajapaksa as presidential candidate and now sit with the government against the very mandate of their voters. From the JVP ranks, now there are 05 MPs who have come back to the fold of the UPFA government.

In a simple equation, this government is now run by those who were mandated to sit in the opposition and opposed by some who were mandated to be part of the government. In numerical terms, 18 from the UNP, 07 out of 09 from the JHU, 02 from the SLMC, 03 from the CWC and the only 01 from the UPF, totaling 31 MPs who should according to the voters, sit in opposition now sit with the government. From 39 JVP MPs who should actually sit with the government on the mandate they received from the people, 32 now sit in the Opposition. This only means, 63 MPs are not representing the people who elected them to parliament. This parliament therefore is no more the parliament the people elected in 2004 April. It has been turned into a parliament with a totally different constitution that no more represent the decision of the people. It is now, just plain mockery of the people's decision.

The question therefore is, how legitimate is a government that is no more the government, people elected to parliament ? How legitimate is a government that lives by violating the Constitution ? How legitimate is a government that contradicts the people's mandate given for peace ? How legitimate is a government that violates and contradicts all of it ? If such a government is still a legitimate government, what is the basis of this "new" legitimacy ? Perhaps it is now a different authority that has evolved through a very repressive regime, but taken for granted to be the same government that was elected at the previous elections. Pity if that too is accepted as legitimacy.

Sri Lankan Tamils And India ’s ‘Responsibility to Protect’

by M.G.Devasahayam

ADMK supremo, J. Jayalalithaa has set the cat amongst the pigeons when she declared the other day: “If a government that listens to me is formed at the Centre, I will take action for the dispatch of the Indian army to the island nation and create a separate Tamil Eelam.” This demand had been raised earlier by her alliance partners - Dr. Ramadass of PMK and Vaiko of MDMK.

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[All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief Jayalalitha, center, holds hands with Communist Party of India leader A.B.Bardhan, left and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Prakash Karat during an election rally in Chennai, India, Thursday, April 16, 2009-AP pic]

Prof. K.Anbazhagan, the intellectual face of DMK, responded: “Tamils are being destroyed in Sri Lanka . The place is full of widows who have lost their husbands, widowers who have lost their wives, and people who have lost their arms and legs. This has been going on for a long time. Sinhalas are making Tamils into heaps of corpse. But theirs and ours are different countries. The laws of that land are different. We cannot intervene”.

He was only echoing what UPA Government, Congress party and Chief Minister Karunanidhi have been repeating ad nauseam. This is the concept that carries the benign nomenclature of “sovereignty” wherein the international system is structured to entitle states to impunity within their borders. Sovereignty enables states to determine for themselves whether human rights are indeed universal, or whether international standards and conventions can be omitted from their jurisprudence and conduct.

What does this mean in the context of Sri Lanka ? That the Tamils there are urchins and orphans to be deserted on the streets and cast to the vultures and wolves to destroy and decimate as they wish? Can a civilised society tolerate this?

On similar lines UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had posed a challenge to the Millennium General Assembly in April 2000, asking “If humanitarian intervention is indeed an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica – to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?” This challenge was the catalyst for the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which was launched in September 2000, and published a report in December 2001 introducing and championing the principle of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P). Commission was hosted by Canada and headed by Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister.

Heads of state and government from 150 countries, meeting as the UN General Assembly, unanimously accepted not only that sovereign states have a very explicit responsibility to protect their own people from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, but when they manifestly fail in that responsibility – as a result of either incapacity or ill-will – the responsibility falls upon the wider international community to take whatever action is appropriate, including in the last resort, and if the Security Council agrees, military action. This was contained in Articles 138 and 139 of the UN World Summit Outcome Document 2005. This commitment has been reaffirmed in UN Security Council Resolution 1674.

According to Gareth Evans, R2P is intended to apply to mass atrocity crimes, which refer to “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.” State sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself. Where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international R2P.

There is a ‘Just Cause Threshold’ for military intervention under R2P - large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended, with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed state situation; or large scale 'ethnic cleansing', actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape.

Under Article 24 of the UN Charter, the Security Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security. It has the power to impose sanctions, establish peace keeping missions, and authorize military action. As a signatory to the UN Charter, 1948 Genocide Convention, and the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, India is bound to invoke the UN Security Council to halt the crimes against humanity and gross violation of human rights and civil liberties taking place in Sri Lanka . When Security Council fails or is prevented from performing this critical role concerned countries acquire the right under R2P.

Sri Lanka situation is the ideal one to invoke the R2P. It has been horrendous and conscience-shocking crying out for action. The world Tamil Diaspora is wailing in distress and agony but the UN Security Council is merely indulging in meaningless semantics and bureaucratic procedures. China is reportedly blocking all efforts to even bring this issue on the discussion agenda of the Security Council.

It is clear that in Sri Lanka UN Security Council has failed to discharge its responsibility of protecting innocent civilians in ‘conscience-shocking situations that has been crying out for action’. It is imperative therefore that India as the concerned state has to consider ‘other means’ including military action to meet the gravity and urgency of the situation.

As parens patriae (parent of his country) for the Tamils in Sri Lanka , being the original homeland for the Tamils, India has an added responsibility. In this capacity India has the moral right, the legal obligation, and the standing under international law to intervene directly and bring the genocide to an end as per Professor Francis Boyle, an international law expert.

In the event, Ms. Jayalalithaa and her alliance partners are on a strong wicket as far as India’s direct intervention to halt the ‘racist genocide’ and evolving a just and fair political solution to bring this long-festering conflict to an end.

As to the ‘creation of a separate Tamil Eelam’, the Sinhalese seem to be facilitating it more than the Tamils. How else does one interpret the Western Province election results wherein the Sinhala people have given full mandate to Mahinda Rajapaksa to go ahead in the war against ‘Tamil terrorism’. The same can be seen in any forthcoming elections under the Sri Lankan state system.

With a ‘military victory’ of Sinhalese over Tamils achieved by an Army General who has openly declared that ‘Sri Lanka belong to the Sinhalese’ and near total political polarization of Sinhalese vs Tamils engineered by a President who wants to ‘rule for ever’ with that linguistic majority in tow, ‘Tamil Ealam’ looks like an agenda that has self-generated itself!

(The writer is a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who had held many important positions nationally and been in a very high position in the TN State administration, before retirement. Presently chairs the Chennai Intellectuals' Forum and was a member of the Chennai team that met with President Rajapaksa to discuss possible power sharing mechanisms as a solution to the present conflict.)

May 02, 2009

Sri Lanka needs to offer access to UN and NGOs-David Miliband

from the blog of David Miliband~Foreign Secretary, UK

I repeated at this morning's press conference the need for the fighting to stop. But now en route from the IDP camp to the president I'm thinking too about the basic deal for those who have escaped the conflict zone: the Sri Lankan government want aid but for that they need to offer access to the UN and NGOs.

The need is evident: three and soon to be four camps for 115,000 people (at least) is an overwhelming flood and the only way to meet that is with help, and for help there needs to be transparency and openness (for the media too). - 29, April, May 2009

Going to Sri Lanka

Thank you to those who commented on my last blog on Sri Lanka, from Britain and around the world. As the comments show, the roots of the current crisis are very deep: Tamils who feel this is the last chapter in decades of repression, others who feel that LTTE terrorism is an open and shut case for government crackdown. I recognise that - but there is also a simple fact: innocent lives are at stake now.

I am going to be in Sri Lanka on Wednesday with the French foreign minister. We can think of no better way to highlight our concerns with the short term civilian situation, which UN chief John Holmes described yesterday as dire. We will be pressing the case on the government of Sri Lanka to live up to the case made by the UNSC President on Friday to the press and repeating that the LTTE should facilitate exit from the conflict zone. There are the civilians in the conflict zone; but as the comments bring out, there are also the conditions outside the zone for anything up to 200,000 IDPs.

Britain has pledged more money the Prime Minister announced an extra £2.5 million on Sunday and France a field hospital, but without political will to allow aid workers to do their work there will be further suffering that will compound rather than resolve the fundamental conflict.

"Relations between the world and governance in Sri Lanka are not the best is not news"

from the blog of Carl Bildt,Foreign Minister of Sweden

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[Carl Bildt, Sweden Minister of Foreign Affairs-Photo : Sandro Weltin © Council of Europe]

The relations between the world and governance in Sri Lanka are not the best is not news. UN humanitarian co-ordinated John Holmes completed in days their visit with real disappointment.

Now, the man from Colombo finally announced its decision not to receive me in the common journey that David MILIBAND, Bernard Kouchner and I have planned and announced.

The notice has been given without any reported motif. And no one seems to understand what may be behind this, in truth, extremely strange maneuver. All just shake their heads ...

The situation created is the best after all that David and Bernard go - while I return to my original plan to participate in the discussions between the EU and Russia here in Luxembourg and then go to Tromsø and the Arctic Council.

To cancel the whole trip would not have been responsible of the serious humanitarian and political situation in Sri Lanka. EU foreign ministers made a very clear statement on the issue yesterday when we discussed, among other things, the planned trip.

That this incident will have significant impact among others on the bilateral relationship is obvious.

We come today to RECALL our Chargé d 'Affaires to Sri Lanka on consultations, which is a powerful diplomatic marker.

***
Translated using Google translate

Continued killing of civilians higlights need for humanitarian ceasefire

by The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)

Bhavani Fonseka, Senior Researcher at the Centre for Policy Alternatives, highlights grave humanitarian concerns in the Vanni and notes that despite the Government's assurances that it had put a halt to heavy artillery fire, hospitals were still being targeted and civilians were being killed. Backing growing local and international calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, she also speaks of civilians held hostage by and under fire from the LTTE. Bhavani goes on to outline what civil society and the international community can do to stop the on-going military offensives and help with the needs of the displaced.

This interview complements A Profile of Human Rights and Humanitarian Issues in the Vanni and Vavuniya, a report published in March 2009 with several key human rights and humanitarian issues presented through a rights framework. It discusses the situation in the Vanni; the security and humanitarian issues in Vavuniya; screening, separation and medical care in government controlled areas; the situation within IDP camps in Vavuniya; the humanitarian response and the level of disaster preparedness; and concerns over long term plans for the Vanni IDPs.

Journalist J.S. Tissainayagam, "Guilty of nothing more than a passion for truth" - President Obama

In a statement issued by the White House in honor of World Press Freedom Day, President Barack Obama expressed his concern for Sunday Times Journalist J.S Tissainayagam and said his case was "emblematic of the hundreds of journalists who face intimidation, censorship, and arbitrary arrest." Tissainayagam and journalists like him are "guilty of nothing more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a free society depends on an informed citizenry," said President Obama in his statement.

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[Tamil journalist and columnist J.S. Tissainayagam arrives at the Colombo High Court in a prison bus in the Sri Lankan capital, March 23, 2009-Reuters pic]

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Statement by the President in honor of World Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom Day is annually observed on May 3 to remind us all of the vital importance of this core freedom. It is a day in which we celebrate the indispensable role played by journalists in exposing abuses of power, while we sound the alarm about the growing number of journalists silenced by death or jail as they attempt to bring daily news to the public.

Although World Press Freedom Day has only been celebrated since 1993, its roots run deep in the international community. In 1948, as people across the globe emerged from the horrors of the Second World War, nations saw fit to enshrine in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights the fundamental principle that everyone "has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Even as the world recognizes the central and indisputable importance of press freedom, journalists find themselves in frequent peril. Since this day was first celebrated some sixteen years ago, 692 journalists have been killed. Only a third of those deaths were linked to the dangers of covering war; the majority of victims were local reporters covering topics such as crime, corruption, and national security in their home countries.

Adding to this tragic figure are the hundreds more each year who face intimidation, censorship, and arbitrary arrest - guilty of nothing more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a free society depends on an informed citizenry. In every corner of the globe, there are journalists in jail or being actively harassed: from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, Burma to Uzbekistan, Cuba to Eritrea. Emblematic examples of this distressing reality are figures like J.S. Tissainayagam in Sri Lanka, or Shi Tao and Hu Jia in China. We are also especially concerned about the citizens from our own country currently under detention abroad: individuals such as Roxana Saberi in Iran, and Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea.

Today, I lend my voice of support and admiration to all those brave men and women of the press who labor to expose truth and enhance accountability around the world. In so doing, I recall the words of Thomas Jefferson: "The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

Ranil Wickremesinghe and the future of the U.N.P.

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

"Sacrum Romanum Imperium" (Holy Roman Empire) was a misnomer according to some historians. Even at it's zenith the so-called Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman. It was not even an empire.

Likewise the United National Party in Sri Lanka too has neither been United nor truly national in recent times. Given the internal turmoil and external unpopularity some feel it may soon cease to be even a party.

[Ranil Wickremesinghe-AP pic]

While the downslide of the UNP has been visible for quite sometime, two recent developments may be perceived as harbingers of a doomsday scenario that may envelope the grand old party very soon if remedial action is not taken quickly. [Please click here to read the article in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Colombo excludes humanitarian pauses

By Frederic Koller

Close to defeating the Tigers, the government no longer wants to negotiate.

Now that the final battle against the LTTE is on, Colombo will not make any concessions. "There will be no humanitarian pauses,” said the Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva, Dayan Jayatilleke, at a press conference held last Friday. “It will not work. The facts show that the Tigers use these pauses to launch new attacks and recruit new fighters." On 17 April, the UN made an appeal for a humanitarian pause in order to allow civilians to flee. The Sri Lankan diplomat argues that civilians do not flee during these cease-fires, but mainly during military operations. He observes: "The civilian population of Cambodia was not saved by a humanitarian operation, but through the intervention of an army."

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[Geneva Press conference]

On the ground therefore the fighting continues. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the fighting has killed and injured several hundreds of people during the past few days. According to the High Commissioner for Refugees, on Thursday alone, 11 000 people have fled the combat zone. The fact that the refugee camps are becoming more and more crowded "has become a growing concern."

Demonstration in Geneva

Friday, thousands of Tamils demonstrated in Geneva and in other European cities denouncing the "massacre" of civilians. Has not the Sri Lankan army been heavy-handed? Dayan Jayatilleke’s response: "Our military operations are surgical. When compared with other recent military operations in the world, you’ll see that we are being careful. We do not carry out air attacks and do not use phosphorus bombs."

According to the United Nations estimates, more than 6,500 civilians have been killed and 14000 have been wounded since the beginning of the year. After many failed negotiations in the past, the Sri Lankan authorities believe that there can no longer be a political solution with the rebels. "Velupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Tigers, is the Pol Pot of South Asia," says the Ambassador.

Link to the original article in French in Le Temps :

http://www.letemps.ch/Page/Uuid/d1a7a78c-310f-11de-aa95-bcd5cb55b730/Colombo_exclut_toute_pause_humanitaire

May 01, 2009

More civilians killed and injured as fighting continues

by D.B.S. Jeyaraj

At least 27 civilians were killed and 126 injured as fighting continued between the armed forces of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in areas of Karaithuraipatru AGA division in the Northern district of Mullaitheevu.

Dr. V. Shanmugarajah, displaced medical officer from Mullaitheevu hospital who is currently attached to the makeshift hospital in Mullivaaikkaal told the BBC "Thamilosai" that there were twenty-seven bodies lying at the premises by the evening of Friday May 1st.

[UN Satellite images indicate shelling in no-fire zone]

Some had died after being admitted to the hospital while other bodies were of those who had died prior to being brought to the hospital. [clicke here to read the article in full~in dbsjeyaraj.com]

Superman and Batman: Sachin and Sanath

by Nirgunan Tiruchelvam

Marvel comics once had a rare issue where Superman and Batman appeared together. For many readers, it seemed odd to think of these icons occupying the same space. No room was big enough for the two of them.

Last week in Port Elizabeth, a similar pairing took place at the IPL. Sanath Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar, two cricketing superheroes, blasted a 100 run opening stand in just 52 balls. In the first IPL season, Tendulkar scratched around and then was injured. Jayasuriya revelled in the format, outshining Tendulkar. So, the dream pairing took a long time coming.

The wait was worth it. The Mumbai Indians' openers were ruthless, but thoroughly entertaining. Tendulkar took the bowling by the scruff of the neck. He hit as many 4 sixes in the first five overs. There was an astonishing pulled six off Ishant Sharma, that showed that aging hero's relexes were in tact.

With the floodgates open, Jayasuriya took centre stage after the fifth over. He had been starved of the strike and had added just 8 in a 45 run stand.

What followed was carnage, even by the hyperbolic stands of the IPL. Jayasuriya played his traditional drives over the legside boundary. Ganguly and Gayle were exposed as mediocrites. The pair never played a crude and contrived shot. No cross bat heaves were seen. Every step was as measured as in the old days of ODI cricket, when openers just blocked.

There was a poignant moment when Jayasuriya whispered advice to Tendulkar about Ajantha Mendis' tricks. Mendis was not spared by either. Mendis looks a misfit in 20-20 cricket. Though he has vast variations, he lacks the crucial ingredient of spin bowling - flight. His inadequacies outside the subcontinent were made cruelly apparent. He was lifted for 2 sixes by each of the batsmen in his second over.

Also, Mendis' fielding is clumsy. He looks lazy and uncoordinated, belying his 23 years.

On the surface, these two have many things in common. Their longevity in the game is striking. Both Tendulkar and Jayasuriya (who at 39+ is nearly 4 years older) made their international debut in 1989. 1989 is a year that will always be associated with the fall of Berlin Wall. The Cold War may have ended in that year, but the debuts of these batsmen may linger longer.

Both were the dominant batsmen in their sides for a generation. Tendulkar has a far superior test pedigree. Jayasuriya's record overseas is several planes below Tendulkar's. But in ODI cricket, there is little to choose. In fact, Jayasuriya has delivered in tournament finals, much more often than the Indian.

They are similarly built. Both are short, stocky and with powerful upper bodies. Jayasuriya seems fitter and stronger than Tendulkar who bears the burden of recurring knee injuries.

But that is where the similarities end. The two have vastly different origins. Sachin Tendulkar's rise was facillitated by the patronage of powerful godfathers in Bombay. Ever since, he raised a world record 664 run stand with Vinod Kambli in school cricket, he was singled out for a great future. At 14, he was already thought of as a batting genius. A trip to the archives of the India Today and Indian Express in the late 1980s will reveal early eulogies of a pubescent maestro.

He did not disappoint. As a 15 year-old, he hit centuries on debut in each form of first-class cricket - Ranji trophy, Irani trophy, and Duleep trophy. In fact, was bitterly disappointed to be excluded from the 1989 tour to the West Indies at the age of 15. When he made his debut against Pakistan in late 89, a permanent place was certain. The rest is history.

While Tendulkar took the elevator to stardom, Jayasuriya took the stairs. Jayasuriya struggled in obscurity. His humble origins in Matara, a minor town in a minor Test nation, stunted his early growth. In the 1989 Sri Lanka B tour, he ravaged Pakistan with two successive double centuries. This achievement caught the attention of the selectors, who picked him for the tour of Australia that year. But, it took a long time for him to cement a place. He lacked the connections in Colombo.

Eventually, justice was done. By the late 90s, Jayasuriya had not only become the leading batsman, but also the captain. He struck fear in bowlers and was billed the 'Matara Marauder'.

Jayasuriya has the added asset of left arm spin. In fact, with nearly 100 Test and over 300 ODI wickets, Jayasuriya could have commanded a place as a spinner. He is a superior all round fielder. Most of all, he excelled as a leader. He led Sri Lanka to nine test wins in a row and won the ICC trophy. Tendulkar's intensity was his failing. His spells as Indian captain were unhappy. Tendulkar may be a better batsman, but Jayasuriya is the better cricketer.

President Rajapakse must create democratic space for Tamils

by Shanie

The election to the Western Provincial Council concluded last week confirms what the earlier elections in the Central and North Western Provinces had indicated. The main issue which has influenced the electorate appears to have been the conduct of the war in the Vanni. People voted according to their perception of how the Government was conducting the war. In the absence of any independent reporting, public opinion in Sri Lanka has largely been framed by state media spokespersons and second-hand reports filed by journalists.

Not many had access to eye-witness accounts from affected civilians. All this resulted in a propaganda war that has divided our people, both here as well as among the Sri Lankan diaspora. Although this has been going on for several decades, the current war has accentuated the divisive process. The propaganda war is at its worst in all countries where substantial numbers of Sri Lankans live - Australia, Canada, UK and USA. Web sites and online communications are used to circulate exaggerated, and sometimes totally false "news".

Propagandists, some for chauvinistic and others for political reasons, make vitriolic comments based on this manufactured ‘news’, fanning communal feelings among a not-too-discerning expatriate community.

Within Sri Lanka, the position is not much different. Threats and intimidation from the two sides have pressurized the media into selective reporting. But more tragic than disinformation has been the systematic creation of a mindset among the people that has condoned violation of human rights, tolerated abductions and extra-judicial killings, the curtailment of journalistic freedom and the demonisation of the ‘other’ or the ‘enemy’. It is a mindset created by a propaganda war which unfortunately our Sinhala and Tamil media, and to a lesser extent English media, have somewhat uncritically accepted. Uncritical because, as C P Scott so aptly stated, it is the duty of the journalist to make sure that the source of his "news" is not tainted. If the source is partisan, propaganda often passes for "news".

It is this kind of propaganda that has over the years divided our people. In the Central Provincial Council Election, it was clear that the ethnic minorities, Tamil and Muslim, voted against the Government. This was despite the Ceylon Workers Congress, by far the largest of the parties representing the Tamil plantation workers, fielding their candidates on the UPFA slate. It was remarkable how much lesser known candidates supported by Mano Ganeshan’s Western People’s Front were elected over candidates from the two main plantation workers’ parties – Thondaman’s CWC and Chandrasekeran’s Up-country Peple’s Front, both of whom contested under the UPFA umbrella.

It was a repeat of that in the recently concluded Western Provincial Council election. The Colombo District has perhaps the largest concentration of minorities, outside the North and East. It was clear that, as in the elections held during the past year, the overwhelming majority of the Sinhala electorate voted for the UPFA whilst almost the totality of the Tamils and Muslims have voted against the Government. We say voted against the Government pointedly because the UNP cannot claim that the minority vote was a vote for the UNP. Any discerning analyst will realise that the minority votes – Muslim, Sri Lankan Tamil and Tamils of recent Indian origin – were effectively a protest vote against the President Rajapakse’s Government for its surrender to majoritarianism.

To unite our divided people, a new approach to ethnic politics is required. The country simply cannot carry as a divided nation. A new approach is required to reach out to the hearts and minds of the minorities. As this column has repeatedly urged, that new approach needs to be a bipartisan one with the participation of both major national parties. President Rajapakse needs to take the initiative in this regard. Bipartisanship is the only way we can overcome the current humanitarian issue for the trapped civilians in the Vanni corridor without a massive loss of lives, the longer-term issue of rehabilitation, the immediately pressing economic crisis and the more important need for uniting our divided people.

Pluralism and Democratic Space

President Rajapakse has been repeatedly saying that the current war is against the LTTE and not the Tamil people and that he acknowledges that there is no military solution to the grievances of the Tamil and Muslim people. It is three years since he came into power and over two years since the current conflict began. The minorities have seen no indication of those words becoming accepted policy. The population of the North and East feel threatened by fascist groups who are part of President Rajapakse’s government. Neither the Sinhala supremacists nor the Tamil Fascists are likely to allow, though each for different reasons, President Rajapakse to allow genuine democratic space for the Tamils and Muslims of the North and East. A political solution will remain in the very distant horizon, even if the current military operations are concluded.

The recovery by the security forces of the territory controlled by the LTTE, even without that little corridor of land on the Mullaitivu coastline, presents President Rajapakse with a big opportunity to reach out to the Tamil and Muslim people of the North and East. In the East, after recovery of all territory controlled by the LTTE, there is commendable infra-structural development taking place. But abductions and killings still continue. Police spokespersons will refer to "unknown persons" as committing these acts of violence. But the people of the East blame them on an armed group with access to power.

Similarly, in the North, another armed group, also with access to power, is reportedly responsible for ongoing robberies, abductions and killings. For normalcy to return, the Government must rein in these armed groups and create a democratic space for the people of the North and East.

For over twenty five years, the people of the North have lived under the jack-boot of fascism. President Rajapakse has everything to gain if he seizes the present opportunity to provide some democratic space for the people of the North to have the freedom of movement, freedom from fear and the freedom to earn a livelihood of their choice and to develop their economy. Along with this must be political freedom.

All these freedoms have been denied to them over the years. Political leaders like Anandasangary, and some even within the TNA, have been politically marginalised; Muslims have been ethnically cleansed; a whole generation of Tamils and Muslims are growing up in refugee camps, not having known the lands and homes of their parents. And let not another generation of refugees be created in the newly set-up "welfare villages".

President Rajapakse now has a unique opportunity to put all these right. But he must make the right move. His agenda must clearly be to create a democratic space for the Tamil people. He must not succumb to the easy temptation of promoting armed groups to replace the LTTE. Nor must he succumb to the triumphalist rhetoric of the Sinhala supremacists.

The internally displaced persons, both the long-term Muslim and Tamil refugees as well as those recently displaced from the Vanni, need to be re-settled in their original lands. Now is the time for statesmanship. If ‘diplo-lunacy’, to borrow Izeth Hussain’s phrase, can be replaced by professional diplomacy, there is much support that will be available from the international community for re-settlement and rehabilitation.

There is no denying that our economy is facing an unprecedented crisis. If, as we have urged, a bipartisan approach is taken to creating democratic space, we would also have adopted a new approach to diplomacy and constitutional government. That, and only that, will help us overcome the economic crisis that is already hurting us.

M.I.A. Makes the TIME 100

MIATC0501.jpgProducer, DJ, singer, fashion designer. Sri Lankan pop star M.I.A. has global influence across many genres. That put her on this year's TIME 100: [Click here to see video]

By Spike Jonze

It's funny to think of M.I.A. as influential, because I don't think she ever set out to be influential. The great thing about her is that she doesn't have some global plan. She just has things she cares about and is interested in, from all over the world. She hears huge beats from Angola. She finds a DJ doing amazing stuff in Baltimore. She hears about Aboriginal kids rapping in Australia and thinks nothing of getting on a plane to convince them to do a verse on her song. She reacts to whatever's in front of her: "Those are booming Indian drums," "That is a dope producer," "Those kids are making sick beats."

And she has great taste. Anyone can hear all this stuff, but to be able to curate it, you have to have taste, and Maya Arulpragasam, 33, has it.

I met her right before she put out her first record, in 2005, and she insisted she wasn't a musician. To this day, she doesn't consider herself a musician. She has this wide range of talents and influences — she's a Sri Lankan refugee who didn't speak a word of English before she was 10, yet she's also a child of Chuck D and the Pixies and Fight Club and MySpace. There are no borders for her. She made me realize that you don't have to be from the West to have a favorite Biggie song. We are all listening to the same music.

Last summer she was performing in Philadelphia, and she showed up at the venue, and it was an armory building. She felt kind of weird about it and decided she wasn't going to perform there unless she acknowledged that, so she found a group of Army veterans against the Iraq war and had them come and speak as her opening act. That's her mission — it's personal and evolving, focused but totally spontaneous.

She's always for the underdog. And no matter how many times she's on the Grammys, she'll always see herself as the underdog.

Jonze is a director and producer of feature films, music videos, commercials and documentaries

Fast Fact: M.I.A.'s first show of paintings was in 2001. Jude Law was an early buyer of her art [Time.com]

Awaited "end" of LTTE brings "new" tourists to Sri Lanka

By Lucien Rajakarunanayake

The tourism industry is suddenly doing much better than expected. All hopes were that with the end of the war against terror and the defeat of the LTTE, tourism would bounce back in Sri Lanka. The inquiries from the travel trade abroad were increasing and many expected that the industry would be in good shape by the coming Kandy Esala Perahera.

But all of these projections suddenly appear to have been too much on the conservative side, to judge from what is happening today. If the LTTE and its terror drove the tourists away from the country, the news of the imminent defeat of the LTTE has given a wholly unexpected boost to the industry. Visitors are pouring here literally in their hundreds, and if not checked it may be a surge that will almost match the Tamil civilians escaping to freedom from the LTTE.

These are not the cheap Charter Flight tourists that have been the bane of Sri Lankan tourism for many years. Those who are coming here in droves today are heavy spenders. They occupy the best suites in the choice hotels. Their stay may be short, but they bring quite a big entourage to make up for that.

The new smile on the faces of those in the tourism industry comes from the large number of diplomats, from UN personnel, foreign ministers, national security advisors, secretaries, foreign secretaries, journalists, TV crews and all those who are being attracted by the death throes of the LTTE.

There is the flip side to this new trend of Ghoul Tourism, too. Those who profit by these quick turn tourists are only the big hotels in Colombo. The traditional attractions of Sri Lanka such as its ancient cities, beaches and wildlife are not what have drawn these new hordes of those singing jeremiads for Prabhakaran and the LTTE. What draws them to the country is the No Fire Zone, and the conditions of the IDPs in their temporary shelters, be they camps or welfare villages.

Both diplomats and journalists, especially from the West, demonstrate a great deal of daring in their current visits to Sri Lanka. They are all eager to get to the No Fire Zone. Words of caution from those that know better about the threats that may be in store for them from what is known to be the world’s most ruthless terrorist organization, do not deter them. The journalists claim they want to tell the world the truth; the diplomats say they are keen to save the civilians still held by the LTTE from the clutches of the tiger. They are not the type to take no for an answer easily. Although experienced diplomats, politicians and journalists, they seem to have never heard of anything called a "No Go Zone".

No matter that the Green Zone in Baghdad is a No Go Zone for most Iraqis, they expect the No Fire Zone in Sri Lanka to be open to any visitor from the West, ready with the mantra of a ceasefire, temporary pause in fighting and the freedom of civilians, but never even a whisper about throwing a life line to terrorists struggling for survival.

The next attraction is the IDP centre. They go there expecting to be shocked, and return with all expectations fulfilled. The conditions are always bad; there hardly sufficient water, the people live under cadjan, sanitation is poor, and to make things worse there is barbed wire all round. What a truly shocking experience.

Those who talk of a shortage of water do not observe how often people bathe in these places. Little do they know that cadjan is part of the traditional roofing in this country, as much as thatched roofing is in the rural parts of the West. One is truly surprised when people destroy so much of forest cover for super soft toilet paper, are shocked at the standards of sanitation in places where people use water for their daily ablutions. Not surprisingly, there was one diplomat who had suggested to a friendly NGO that arrangements should be made for an immediate airlift of toilet paper for use in these camps.

As for barbed wire, their only knowledge of it is to do with concentration camps. Little do they know that most people who have private property use barbed wide for fencing, which is not to prevent those from within from getting out, but to prevent the unwanted and even dangerous from getting in. But all of these laments are the stuff of media, hungry for anything that will hide the bloodlust of the LTTE, and focus instead on the horrors of a genocidal Sri Lanka.

Although some sections of the tourism industry must be wanting this last phase of terrorism in Sri Lanka to be extended for as long as these hordes of bothersome do-gooders may what to keep it alive, there is some hope that this tide of ghoulish tourism can be turned. It comes from the new threat of a pandemic of swine flu that is sweeping the world. It is reliably learnt that the health authorities here are considering the introduction of compulsory quarantine of persons who come from countries already identified as having patients with swine flu.

Somehow all of these countries happed to be the same as those from where this new wave of tiger kissing diplomats, journalists and others come from. There is an urgent need to save the IDPs who have fled the terror of the tiger, from a certain epidemic of swine flu, after all the dire warnings of various other outbreaks of disease and looming epidemics, from the prophets of doom in diplomacy and the media have come to naught.

As one wag put it, this looks like a tsunami of diplomats and a hurricane of journalists. As we all know it, both tsunamis and hurricanes leave destruction in their wake. It could be just the time to put the quarantine rules in place.