By Malinda Seneviratne -
It is claimed that there is new footage about terrorist leader Prabhakaran’s younger son’s last days. There’s nothing ‘new’ though. A photograph of the 12 year old Balachandran ‘surfaced’ just before the UNHRC Sessions in Geneva in 2012 and now, just weeks before the 2013 Sessions, another picture has ‘surfaced’. The ‘new’ photograph shows Balachandran alive in a bunker. The jury is out on whether or not this was an Army bunker or an LTTE bunker. There’s nothing to show that the man who pulled the trigger was a soldier or if the boy was captured and shot dead.
We do know that the environs of the Nandikadaal Lagoon were certainly not a place where anyone would loiter around. Only a fool would set up a holding-facility anywhere close to where bloodthirsty terrorists were holed up. We do know that people died. We know that there was a lot of gunfire. We know that when the US targets a Taliban or Al Qaeda hideout, there is no consideration of whether there are non-combatants, children included, in the vicinity. We know that the LTTE was holding hostage hundreds of thousands of civilians. We know that the LTTE fired at civilians who tried to flee. We know that families get separated. We know how Balachandran died, but we don’t know where and under what exact circumstances except that this was the end-point of a 30 year struggle against a brutal, merciless terrorist outfit.
There is speculation though. There is treatment of speculation as established fact. There is a politics of ‘revelation’, evidenced by the strange coincidence of surfacing and UNHRC sessions. There is also the larger issue of the politics of proportionality and selectivity. The accusers (who would censure Sri Lanka in Geneva once again) are guilty of established (not speculated) crimes against humanity and in particular ‘targeted killing of children to the tune of 4000 plus!’ There is also the silence about context, especially the contribution of the LTTE to the circumstances, before ‘Nandikadaa’ and during ‘Nandikadaal’.
The following extract from a Facebook exchange would throw light on the relevant politics. It is between Rasika Jayakody, well-known journalist, Kath Noble, a political commentator and Rifkha Roshinara, a student of international politics.
Rasika: Clinically speaking, is there a way of substantiating that Balachandan, Prabhakaran’s son, was in military custody when the leaked pictures were taken? The same picture could also have been taken at a tiger camp/bunker, prior to his death in a cross-fire during the final stage of the battle.
Rifkha: Simple logic, but some are blind, that they cannot see the ‘other’ side or they simply refuse to use their common sense. And my question is why do they come up with such pictures and videos only when UNHRC sessions are round the corner? Have they able to prove the credibility of the videos they have come up with on previous instances.
Kath: They say that on the basis of the claim that the two pictures were taken with the same camera.
Rasika: There are truths, half-truths and lies. In the same way, there are facts, factoids and fabrications. But any allegation should be proven beyond reasonable doubt before prosecution.
Rasika (to Kath): Claims who? Is the person who took the pictures willing to give evidence?
Kath: Claim those journalists.
In the end, we are left without source (like the claims made by Channel 4, the International Crisis Group, the Darusman Committee and such, and regurgitated by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regarding 40,000-80,000 having being killed in the last days of the battle).
But a little boy did die. A little boy was in fact shot dead. Few would not be moved by the photograph of this chubby, cuddly, little boy with bullet holes in chest, dead. Few fathers and mothers would not look at those eyes and that still body and not have their thoughts stray to their own children. A little boy the photograph of whose dead body is bandied in international forums but the hundreds of little boys and girls his father kidnapped and turned into child-soldiers are un-remembered, just like the hundreds of little boys and girls slaughtered upon the same father’s directive. Or the boy who was sent to an Army ‘Receiving Center’ loaded with explosives in order to dissuade the Army from ‘receiving’ and hostages from escaping. That’s politics. But that politics doesn’t make his death any less tragic. He need not have died and need not have died in this manner.
Who killed Balachandran?
First: The person who pulled the trigger, either directing gun at the boy or spraying a larger target (fleeing civilians or terrorist hideout). AS YET UNIDENTIFIED, in terms of name and group.
Second: The person who have the order to shoot. AS YET UNIDENTIFIED, in terms of name and group.
Third: All those who by errors of omission and commission did not allow the terrorist menace to be eradicated by arguing that the LTTE was invincible, that ‘the economy cannot handle it’, that ‘the international community will not allow it’ and so on, and thereby sped things along to Nandikadaal by May 2009. IDENTIFIED: India (from dropping Dhal and giving Prabharakan a lease of life in 1987 with the Indo-Lanka Accord), Norway (bending over backwards to give the LTTE parity of status vis-à-vis the Government of Sri Lanka, USA (doing their utmost to evacuate Prabhakaran even at the last minute), I/NGOs, ‘journalists’, ‘academics’, ‘priests’ and others who consistently gave the LTTE the benefit of the doubt and tried to undermine military efforts.
Fourth: All those who directly or indirectly helped the LTTE by way of providing funds, arms, training and legitimacy through comprehensive white-washing or downplaying of crimes against humanity. IDENTIFIED: India, first and foremost. IDENTIFIED: pro-LTTE sections of Sri Lankan Tamil expatriates, including current chest-beaters who pump ignorant/pernicious human rights outfits (AI and HRW) and unscrupulous media outfits (Channel 4) with tall stories. IDENTIFIED: Successive Governments that believed the LTTE could be talked out of war, most significantly, the Ranil Wickremesinghe regime of 2001-2004.
Fifth: All those who failed to listen to Tamil leaders when they first articulated grievances and made claims regarding traditional homelands, those who could have said ‘prove what you can and we’ll redress’ but did not. All those who did not have the heart, wisdom and guts to acknowledge that every citizen belongs to this land and vice versa. All those who refused to treat query with respect that demands answer. All those who responded to chauvinism with chauvinism and those who did not need chauvinism to be chauvinistic. IDENTIFIED: That’s us, all of us, folks. We couldn’t save Balachandran. We couldn’t save Mahinsa. We failed. Sixth. This is long.
The man who deliberately dragged the boy along, when the wives and children of other terrorist leaders such as Thamilselvan and Soosai were allowed to flee into the safety of the Sri Lankan security forces. The man who put every civilian, every man, woman and child not engaged in battle, at risk by holding them hostage as per the need for a ‘human shield’. The man who on countless occasions refused to engage in dialogue for conflict-resolution, banking on military capability to deliver the impossible. The man who killed so many Tamils, Sinhalese and Muslims in cold blood that it would be a tall order for any soldier who has seen comrades die and children slaughtered to show any mercy if he was chanced upon (not to mention the fact the practical stupidity of taking the risk of believing him to be unarmed). A man who made it impossible to see any Tamil child anywhere close to LTTE fighters in anyway other than a ‘child soldier’. IDENTIFIED: VELUPILLAI PRABHAKARAN.