Tamils: What Price the Moral High Ground?
“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” - John 8: 7
Christians all over the world are observing holy week of the lent season. The holy season will end with the Good Friday and Easter Celebrations. One of the more famous stories in the Holy Bible relates to the woman who had been caught in adultery. The Scribes and the Pharisees brought the woman and made her stand before Jesus Christ. They said to him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”
This story came to mind when I read the statements issued by the Tamil Diaspora organisations welcoming the UNSG Panel report on Sri Lanka. For example, the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (TGTE) urged United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to refer the ruling class and the armed forces officers of Sri Lanka to the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor.
Interestingly the former UN spokesman in Sri Lanka Gordon Weiss told Channel 4 News that "I bare my portion of the responsibility and blame for that.", when asked about why UN didn’t divulge the casualty figures during the last phase of the war, which could have brought sufficient international pressure to stop the war.
In my view the partially leaked executive summary of the UNSG Panel report has captured the last phase of the war accurately and without bias. The report was based on eye witnesses’accounts and representations made by NGO’s. The contents of the leaked report are consistent with the reports issued by ICG, UTHR (J), HRW and Amnesty.
Whilst emphasising that the UN and the International community need to act on the recommendations of the Panel to investigate and prosecute the culprits, the purpose of this article is to urge the Tamil community to use this historic opportunity to critically self-assess itself, with the motive of moving forward and not to be bogged down in the past.
According to the leaked report which was published in The Island, the Panel found credible allegations that comprise five core categories of potential serious violations committed by the Government of Sri Lanka:
(i) killing of civilians through widespread shelling;
(ii) shelling of hospitals and humanitarian objects;
(iii) denial of humanitarian assistance;
(iv) human rights violations suffered by victims and survivors of the conflict, including both IDPs and suspected LTTE cadre; and
(v) human rights violations outside the conflict zone, including against the media and other critics of the Government.
The above segment of the report has been given wide publicity in the Tamil media and highlighted in the statements released by various Tamil Diaspora organisations.
However, the following segment of the Panel’s report has been blacked out in many Tamil organs and the Diaspora organisations have turned a blind eye to its contents. The Panel’s determination of credible allegations against the LTTE associated with the final stages of the war reveal six core categories of potential serious violations:
i) using civilians as a human buffer;
(ii) killing civilians attempting to flee LTTE control;
(iii) using military equipment in the proximity of civilians;
(iv) forced recruitment of children;
(v) forced labour; and
(vi) killing of civilians through suicide attacks.
Tamils in Sri Lanka waged an armed liberation struggle for their legitimate political rights. That armed struggle was termed as “Terrorism” by the international community with the LTTE being banned in many countries. The Tamil diaspora supported the struggle financially and through political lobbying believing that the armed liberation struggle will restore peace, prosperity and justice to their brethren who live in their traditional home lands in Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. The Tamil Tigers were fondly called “our boys” in the early stages of the struggle and that affinity continued until the end.
The leaders and cadres of the LTTE were Tamils. They were our brothers and sisters, friends and class mates, neighbours and relatives. Tamil Tigers waged a war for the Tamils, with Tamil soldiers and with arms bought from Tamil diaspora funds. The Tamil Tigers and the cause of the Tamils were not supported by a single country in the world. The Tamils were all alone in their struggle for independence.
The victims of the atrocities committed by both the Government and the Tamil Tigers are our fellow brethren, Tamils. The wound, death and destruction inflicted on our people, Tamil people, didn’t differentiate between the bullets fired from a Liberation fighter to that of the Government soldier. Acts committed by the warring parties caused loss of lives, limbs, mental trauma and destruction of an entire society. UNSG report clearly articulates that both parties have not conformed to the norms of the civilised world. It doesn’t matter that one party’s non-conformance is greater than the other, the fact remains that both parties committed crimes against humanity. At the end of the day the victims were Tamils, for whose betterment a liberation struggle was waged.
In my view, the Tamil community at large needs to seek reconciliation with itself. The Tamil community, particularly the Diaspora, need to come to terms with the current reality and the events of the past. The Tamil community need to acknowledge that members of its community have committed crimes against humanity and as a community we take moral responsibility for those actions. I do not foresee any member of the Tamil community being prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) formaking the above statement and taking a moral high ground for the betterment of the community.
This act of solidarity with the Tamil Tigers and their leadership will be a genuine tribute the Tamil community could offer to more than 30,000 young lives, who sacrificed their life for the liberation struggle. The collective ownership by the Tamil community will also allow us to take the moral high ground compared to the Government of Sri Lanka which has rejected the report. The act of collective responsibility will also generate the sympathy we lost in the International community.
The victims of the war needs reconciliation, they need healing. Before expecting reconciliation from our enemy it is prudent that the Tamil community seeks reconciliation within itself and heals the wounds created within. This process of intra community reconciliation and healing will unite the community both in Sri Lanka and abroad.Holding the moral high ground can be used to legitimise Tamil’s political aspirations as well.It will allow the Tamil leadership in Sri Lanka and in the Diaspora to take the struggle for peace with justice, forward with renewed vigour.
"Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering--
remembering and not using your right to hit back.
Its a second chance for a new beginning.
And the remembering part is particularly important.
Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened."
— Desmond Tutu