11 December, 2019

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After Sri Lanka’s Civil War – ABC Radio National’s Rear Vision

Many people greeted the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka between government forces and Tamil separatist rebels in 2009 with jubilation but although the fighting stopped, the restoration of the rule of law and the proper investigation of rights abuses and alleged war crimes by both sides has not occurred.

Around 300,000 people were driven from their homes during the final bloody stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Most of them ended up in camps controlled by the Sri Lankan military where they were kept against their will, with restricted access to the media and independent aid organisations. Under international pressure for an inquiry into the conduct of the civil war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) in May 2010 but even its modest recommendations have not been implemented by a government increasingly intolerant of dissent.

Broadcast:Sunday 10 March 2013 12:05PM

Guests

Jonathan Spencer
Professor of Anthropology of South Asia
University of Edinburgh
Bruce Matthews
Professor Emeritus of comparative religion
Acadia University
Nova Scotia
Canada
Gibson Bateman
His commentary on Sri Lanka has appeared in East Asia ForumGroundviews, and CounterPunch.
Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena
Independent lawyer and media columnist
Dr Laksiri Fernando
Former professor of political science and public policy at the Faculty of Graduate Studies
University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Transcript

Journalist [archival]: Residents took the streets near the presidential palace. They came out to celebrate the end of the war against the Tamil Tigers.

Man [archival]: Everyone is very happy, the civilians are very happy for this moment. We were looking for 30 years for this moment. We were looking for freedom and now we have freedom!

Journalist [archival]: Some of the revellers crammed onto the back of trucks, some rode in auto rickshaws, waving the Sri Lankan national flag. Others let off firecrackers in the street.

Keri Phillips: Many people greeted the end of the civil war in Sri Lanka between government forces and Tamil separatist rebels in 2009 with jubilation, yet the number of Sri Lankans seeking refuge in Australia by boat surged last year, according to the Australian Department of Immigration.

This is Rear Vision on RN. I’m Keri Phillips, and today we’ll dip into Sri Lanka’s longer history and also find out what’s been going on since the fighting ended.

The Sri Lankan government crushed the Tamil Tigers in a bloody endgame that caused death and misery to hundreds of thousands of unfortunate civilians. The conflict had begun in 1983 but its roots lie in the decades following independence in 1948 and the nature of the ethnic divisions within the country. Jonathan Spencer is Professor of the Anthropology of South Asia at the University of Edinburgh.

Jonathan Spencer: The population divided in a number of different ways. The one that matters most in terms of the conflict is the division by language between people who speak Tamil, a South Indian language, and people who speak Sinhala, which has its origins in the language family that comes from North India. The Sinhalese population are predominantly Buddhist, although there are some Christians. The Tamils are predominantly Hindu, though there are some Christians as well. And then there is another group of Tamil speakers, Muslims, who consider themselves ethnically different.

The Tamils themselves, there are two kinds. What used to be called the Ceylon Tamils in the days of the colonial census, that’s the people living in the north and east of the island, the ones who are most engaged with the secessionist conflict. And then there is another group living in the centre of the island on the whole, on the old tea estates, who were brought in as labourers by the British planters in the 19th century, and who have been very much at the bottom of the economic and indeed the bottom of the political heap as well a lot of the time since independence.

Keri Phillips: Jonathan Spencer says that during the colonial period those who spoke English had an advantage in terms of life chances.

Jonathan Spencer: If you look at the distribution of, say, government employment in the immediate post-independence period, it’s true that there were disproportionate numbers of Tamils in senior government positions, the civil service or in professional positions. But that masks a longer and more complicated story, and one reason for it of course was that Jaffna had had English language education earlier and good quality English language education right back into the 1820s. So they were very quick to move into professional employment not merely within Sri Lanka itself but also in south India, in Malaysia, and then on outwards into the world. That of course was only true of some Tamils, it wasn’t true, for example, of the estate worker Tamils, the Indian Tamils, who were massively underprivileged in educational terms. And similarly certain sections of the Sinhalese population were also privileged.

Beneath it all there was a division between people who had access to English, which was the crucial thing, and the people who didn’t. And the people who didn’t have access to English and education who were the rural Sinhalese majority but also many poorer Tamil people too, they were the ones who were excluded from access to the government positions and to life chances in general.

Keri Phillips: After independence there was a steady erosion of such perceived advantages, a significant moment being the passage of the Official Language Act, commonly known as the Sinhala Only Act, which replaced English with Sinhala as the official language of the country.

In 1972, Ceylon became the Republic of Sri Lanka, with a constitution that affirmed the primacy of Sinhala and the duty of the State to protect and foster Buddhism. This constitution and the one that followed in 1978 consolidated the power of the president within a central Sinhalese-dominated government, according to Bruce Matthews, Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion at Acadia University, Nova Scotia, who has been visiting Sri Lanka since he began his studies there in 1970. I spoke to him by Skype.

Bruce Matthews: If we go back to the 1972 constitution, it’s a long way back there, isn’t it, it’s Sirimavo Bandaranaike, and she put forward the idea of the supremacy of the Parliament in place of the supremacy of the law, of the judiciary. Then in 1978 a further constitution under JR Jayewardene aimed at making economic developments more streamlined and therefore trying to give him more powers so he could get around Parliament and other obstacles, he went so far as to declare the President was above the law. But both of these activities in 1972 and ’78 were very harmful to the political process because they denied what you and I might think was an adequate form of democracy for the minorities, for the ethnic minorities.

The attempts way back in the 1970s and ’80s to bring forward something called district development councils in order to allow political power to be shared at the provincial level or the district level, which is even one further removed from the province, these were actually good ideas but they were ill-funded, and there was no political will to make them work. And once they started to fail in, let’s say, the late 1970s, then the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam took over, because the Tamil leaders in Parliament simply couldn’t wrestle anything out of the Sinhalese-dominated polity, and so the Tigers took over. That’s exactly what happened.

Journalist [archival]: The body politic of this small and beautiful island is infected with a fever which from time to time erupts into the most brutal violence. The fever is caused by the tension between the majority Buddhist community, the Sinhalese, and the minority Hindu community, the Tamils. The Sinhalese dislike the Tamils because before independence they dominated the British bureaucracy and the universities.

The Tamils claim that since independence the Sinhalese have robbed them of their right to compete for jobs and education, that they’ve become a second-class community. For years Tamil politicians have negotiated with Sinhalese prime ministers and presidents, but now a large section of the Tamil population in the north, which is their stronghold, has lost faith in politicians. They are supporting the terrorists fighting for partition of the island, the Tamil Tigers.

Keri Phillips: This is Rear Vision on RN with Keri Phillips, and that was part of a BBC report recorded in 1983 at the beginning of the Tamil Tigers’ armed separatist insurgency. The civil war would last for 26 years, leaving an estimated 80,000-100,000 people dead, according to UN figures, and blighting the lives of many through assassination, suicide attack, disappearance and torture.

Journalist [archival]: The Sri Lankan Armed Forces say they have less than two kilometres of coastline to capture. The Tamil Tigers are now confined to a narrow strip of land between a lagoon and the sea. The Army has promised the Sri Lankan government it will conquer the Tigers within 36 hours, but independent journalists have been unable to verify the military’s claim. The United Nations is warning of a potential bloodbath as thousands of civilians try to escape the fighting.

Keri Phillips: Around 300,000 people were driven from their homes during the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Most of them ended up in camps controlled by the Sri Lankan military and kept against their will, with restricted access to the media and independent aid organisations. The camps were not officially closed until September 2012. Gibson Bateman has worked for non-government organisations in Latin America, Africa and South Asia and his writing has appeared in publications such as East Asia ForumGroundviews, and CounterPunch.

Gibson Bateman: Well, there was heavy international pressure. Basically Menik Farm was a massive refugee camp, and the government was getting heavy international pressure to do something, so they did something. But then what’s happened is basically people are now either living with friends or relatives or even recently some people in Mullivaikal returned to their homes but they left and went back to transit camps because of the very poor living conditions there in terms of either inadequate housing, inadequate sanitation facilities or just the dismal security situation.

And then in addition to that there are tens of thousands of people who still haven’t been able to go home, maybe because of high security zones or because other people are occupying their land or because they don’t have the proper identity documents to prove landownership. You know, land is a major problem here and has been for a long time, but then it’s other things the government has done that have contributed to this.

Much of the rhetoric that you heard at the end of the war is still around, just talking about the defeat of terrorism and basically venerating the military, venerating the long-standing Sinhala Buddhist ideology that said…it wasn’t clear that the claims for the Tamils to have equal rights is acceptable here. The government doesn’t want to seem too acquiescent to the demands of Tamils or too acquiescent on the question of a political solution because I think they are probably afraid of what that looks like in terms of domestic political support.

Keri Phillips: Under international pressure for an inquiry into the conduct of the civil war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed a Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the LLRC, in May 2010. Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena is an independent lawyer and media columnist.

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena: The LLRC was actually set up as a result of pressure, nationally as well as internationally, on the government to look into issues of accountability during the conflict which ended in 2009. Now, Sri Lankan history of such commissions is quite bleak. We have had more than 11 or 12 commissions of such nature appointed during the last 50 years, and each of these commissions have been quite problematic in the way they have functioned, many of these commissions. They have been government appointed commissions, they function according to government dictates, and the recommendations have been also extremely lukewarm. So when the LLRC was appointed by the president there was widespread cynicism and scepticism about the commission.

The nature of the people who came before the LLRC were extremely varied, you know, there were former judges who testified before the LLRC, there were public officials, there were quite a fair number of war victims who testified in the north and east of Sri Lanka. And the public expectations from the LLRC began to be quite intensive. You know, there was expectation that the LLRC would at least to some extent acknowledge the tremendous turmoil and the travails that people in Sri Lanka were going through, you know, whether it was in the north and east or in the south.

This development was quite positive for the LLRC because ultimately when the LLRC came out with its report in 2011, the report was actually much better than one expected it to be. For example, it was extremely harsh in regard to the issue of state accountability for human rights abuses, it commented quite adversely on the question of disappearances and extrajudicial executions, it emphasised the State’s responsibility in investigating those experiences and other human rights abuses. So there was a certain platform on which the LLRC report could be taken as at least a minimum to which the government should adhere to in terms of its duty towards its own citizens.

Keri Phillips: The Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s report was made public in December 2011, several months after a report from the UN which accused both sides of war crimes and noted that there were credible allegations that ‘most civilian casualties in the final phases of the war were caused by government shelling’. The LLRC’s report on the other hand concluded that ‘the government did its best to protect civilians’, although it criticised it for not doing more to disarm illegal militia groups on its side. But Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena says that even the limited recommendations of the LLRC’s report haven’t been implemented.

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena: Now, since the LLRC report came out, the Sri Lankan government has put some kind of action plan into play where it looks at recommendations of the LLRC and it says this has been done, this has not been done. Now, the progress of these recommendations have been extremely problematic. There has been no concrete evidencing of any substantial implementation of the LLRC recommendations. Actually the situation is a regression rather than a progression because we had recently the Army conducting an internal enquiry into the questions of accountability for human rights violations due to the conflict that was raised by the LLRC. And the Army’s ultimate report was extremely negative. It more or less said, well, look, you know, no serious casualties had been evidenced.

And in fact in regard to various very strong recommendations by the LLRC, for example that the Minister of Defence which is the military authority, should not be the supervisory authority of the Department of Police, because the LLRC made the recommendation saying that the Department of Police in Sri Lanka is a civilian institution, and therefore the military should not really have supervisory authority over the civilian institution, it said that the two should be delinked, that the Department of Police should act independently.

The Army internal report ultimately came out saying no, that their supervisory authority of the Ministry of Defence should continue. This is very serious and very important because the Ministry of Defence is headed by the President’s brother, and the Department of the Police is directly under the Minister of Defence, which means that Sri Lanka’s police continues in a very militarised manner, leading to a possibility of human rights abuses in the same way as occurred during the war.

Journalist [archival]: Sri Lanka’s parliament has voted overwhelmingly to impeach Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. The vote came at the end of a two-day debate on a controversial probe which found her guilty of misconduct. The government of President Mahinda Rajapakse is expected to ratify the sacking and name a replacement within days.

Keri Phillips: In January, after a standoff over a piece of legislation called the Divi Neguma Bill, the President sacked Sri Lanka’s Chief Justice.

Bruce Matthews: Well, what’s happened is that the President of Sri Lanka has decided that he wants to replace Shirani Bandaranayake who by the way is not related to the famous Bandaranaike family of Sirimavo Bandaranaike who was president back their 30 years ago, different Bandaranayke. Anyway, he wants to replace her with another Chief Justice who won’t challenge him on certain judicial matters, that’s basically what it’s come down to.

Now, those judicial matters of course a very serious and they pertain to an attempt by the President and his parliament to curtail the powers of the provincial councils. There are nine provinces in Sri Lanka, and technically speaking they have a few autonomous powers, not many. One of those powers was to oversee the distribution of what is called a Samurdhi program, and that is handouts to people in need, and as you can imagine there’s a lot of largess there, political largess that’s at stake.

And so in a particular bill called a Divi Neguma Bill which was an attempt to cut back on the power of the provinces to distribute this largess, the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court said no, you can’t do it, that is a provincial matter. And by consequence the President of Sri Lanka became antagonistic towards this and decided he would like to remove this obstacle. So he has done this ill-conceived attempt to thwart the Supreme Court’s interference, he’s done this in what I guess I would say is a rather ham-fisted method of simply crushing her.

Keri Phillips: During the months of tension between the government and the judiciary, not only was the Chief Justice threatened with impeachment but a senior judge, Manjula Tilakaratne, Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission, was beaten up on a public street in Colombo in broad daylight.

Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena: This gentleman sent out a press release from the Judicial Services Commission saying that the judiciary was being interfered with by politicians. And consequent to that, when he was waiting for his children to come home after school, just near a very prominent public school in the city, in Colombo city, he was attacked by unknown people with an iron bar, and he started shouting, and then the people nearby came running and the assailants escaped.

Now, that particular incident is not investigated properly, the assailants have not yet been captured, and this gentleman, consequent to the new Chief Justice assuming office, has actually been transferred out of his position into a provincial judicial position.

The connection is very clear because what happened was, consequent to the Judicial Services Commission, the Secretary sending out this press release regarding politicians interfering with the judiciary, there was an increased attack by the state media on him. The state media kept on…the state media is completely under the control of the President and the government…kept on attacking him ceaselessly, day after day after day after day. There were politicians and government threatening him in public, and then he was attacked.

Keri Phillips: This is RN. You’re listening to Rear Vision with Keri Phillips.

Despite the failure of the government to effectively address human rights abuses from the civil conflict, many Sri Lankans looked forward to a better life after the end of the war, and Bruce Matthews says that things have improved.

Bruce Matthews: Oh yes, they have. Well, first of all of course there is relative peace, there isn’t the horrible circumstance of wondering whether there was a bomb going to go off in your train or whether somebody would try to assassinate you or whatever. And even amongst the Tamil people now, they also of course, whether they reside in Colombo or in the north or eastern provinces, those areas are relatively at peace. I know of no terrorism as we speak today in Sri Lanka.

The economy hasn’t rebounded as robustly as the President or the government would want it to, but that’s the case perhaps in large parts of the world today. So economically things are stressed for almost everybody in Sri Lanka except for the very well off. So my brief answer to you is yes, things are much better in Sri Lanka since May 2009, and that makes it all the more sad or curious that here in 2013 Sri Lanka seems to be taking this autocratic, oligarchic direction when it’s so unnecessary.

Keri Phillips: Is there a political explanation for that? Can you explain what’s going on in a political sense in that way?

Bruce Matthews: Well, I think it’s just a grab for power, and the Rajapaksa family…by the way, a very distinguished family from the Hambantota region of south-eastern Lanka. The President’s father was a well-known and greatly honoured politician, so I don’t want to badmouth the President or his three brothers who are Cabinet ministers of a very senior rank, that’s not the point of my observation here. The point is that they have indeed been able to garner most of  the sources of power in the country that are significant, and they have a grip on all organs of state, which I haven’t myself seen in modern Lankan history.

The political history of Sri Lanka since independence in 1948 is a very interesting one in terms of great family dynasties coming into the focus. I’m thinking, for example, of the Bandaranaikes and the Jayawardenas and now the Rajapaksas. This is part of the South Asian way of doing things too, isn’t it, you see the same sort of thing in India and Bangladesh; great families monopolising political power for a generation or two. I suspect this is what will be the fate of the Rajapaksas as well.

Keri Phillips: Is there a functioning opposition in the Parliament?

Bruce Matthews: There is not much of a functioning opposition. Of course there are opposition parties, there is the old United National Party, what’s left of it, the UNP. Their leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, is a distinguished parliamentarian, but perhaps not the right person for this time. Many of the UNP MPs who were elected in the last election or two have gone over to the government side, to the SLFP side, are being offered ministerial posts of one kind or another. And in a country which elects its Parliament by proportional representation, this is considered to be quite unfair, to have people crossing over to the other side. I mean, all parliaments allow some crossing over to the other side, but in this case it’s a mass crossing over to the other side. It’s left the UNP minority…well, it’s just a toothless minority. It has no ability to galvanise public opinion.

Keri Phillips: Dr Laksiri Fernando is a former professor of political science and public policy at the Faculty of Graduate Studies at the University of Colombo and a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney.

Laksiri Fernando: Yes, I think people feel that things are better than during the civil war, definitely. They have some kind of stability, they can move around the country without security barriers or checkpoints, for example. The army is not so visible in Sri Lanka at present. But what about freedom, for example? There are improvements but those are relative. No one would say that there should be absolute improvement. Sri Lanka is a poor country, resources are meagre, but people want to retain their democratic rights.

Now, Sri Lanka plays cricket by the international rules but they don’t play politics by the international rules. They should play, because Sri Lanka is a member of the UN, not only just a member but they have agreed upon and are party to important international covenants on human rights and democracy, therefore Sri Lanka should follow the accepted international rules on democracy, human rights, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary, accountability, transparency and so on. They are not doing it. Therefore I believe that the international community can persuade Sri Lanka, can pressure Sri Lanka and perhaps even sometimes boycott.

Keri Phillips: The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already said he will boycott the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka this November unless there is an improvement in human rights. Although both the Australian government and the opposition claim Sri Lanka is now a relatively safe place to live, recent reports by both Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group suggest otherwise. And two weeks ago the British High Court blocked the deportation of a group of failed Tamil asylum-seekers after the government disclosed that at least 15 Tamils had been tortured after being sent back to Sri Lanka.

This month the United States government will sponsor a second resolution at the meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission calling on Sri Lanka to ‘ensure justice, equity, accountability and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans’ by implementing the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. The UN Human Rights Commission periodically examines the human rights performance of all 193 UN Member States and is currently meeting in Geneva.

Gibson Bateman: The US is going to bring another resolution on Sri Lanka and it looks quite similar to the resolution which was passed last year basically on reconciliation and accountability, encouraging the government to implement the recommendations in its own presidentialy pointed commission and then to make progress in terms of accountability.

But what the relation, Keri, is…you know, intellectual pressure on Sri Lanka forces this government to do something, but it remains to be clear how much it matters. The LLRC itself was created largely to deflect international pressure. Then you had the panel report in 2011 that brought more international pressure, cited a death toll for the end of the war, talks about very serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. And then you have this resolution last March. But still the government has not really seriously engaged with this resolution or the LLRC recommendations. I think the US would not be talking about another resolution if they weren’t very confident they have the votes, I think they are certain they have the votes. But to me it’s just a question of if it’s really about human rights, which I’m not sure it is, why would the US do another watered-down resolution. I don’t think it will force the government to change.

Keri Phillips: Do you see any solution then to the current situation?

Gibson Bateman: Well, I think a stronger resolution certainly would send a much tougher, more clear message to the administration in Colombo that the current situation is just unacceptable. In terms of other things, the Human Rights Council might not be the best venue to implement change. The future might be in bilateral relations, so maybe economic sanctions or other types of pressure, but not in these big international forums.

Keri Phillips: Gibson Bateman, whose writing on Sri Lanka has appeared in East Asia ForumForeign Policy in Focus andInternational Policy Digest. We also heard Jonathan Spencer from the University of Edinburgh, Dr Laksiri Fernando from the University of Sydney, Bruce Matthews from Acadia University in Canada, and Kishali Pinto-Jayawardena, an independent lawyer and media columnist.

Do check out the Rear Vision website if you have time this week. I’ve put up some links to those recent reports I mentioned by Human Rights Watch and the International Crisis Group. And our special feature this week is on Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s president who died last week: abc.net.au/rn/rearvision, or just search Rear Vision.

Russell Stapleton is the sound engineer for Rear Vision today. Goodbye from Keri Phillips.

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Latest comments

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    Are they going to implement the recommendations of A/HRC/22/38? What exactly are the US, EU India and other nations planning?

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      The Sri Lankan political leadership themselves will have to be blamed If they set up an international inquiry in the UN. These are the consequences of getting rid of all independent commissions, they have severely curtailed the independence of the judiciary.

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    The whole LTTE war is based on GOSL. looting tamil people and their lives, properties and businesses.

    After getting the taste of Tsunami Loot,10 to 100 percent commission loot, VP and KP’s Gold, foreign currency, foreign gas stations, businesses, Ships and drug business loot, Tamil peoples Gold, money, businesses, houses and properties loot,museum loot, and opposition party Business owners loot, now Govt.through BBS studs plan to loot the last available Muslim money, business and house and property loot.

    Halal protest is the beginning warm up jogging to prepare for that loot to start in Black July.

    Also Beware of the Central Bank 6.5 Ton Gold reserve and US $8 Billion foreign currency reserve, as they could also be part of the next Loot.

    It’s time to call for UN intervention before the Next Black July Muslim Property, houses business loot to begin that instigated by BBS/ GOTA partnership to steal Muslim property by way of communal uprising against Muslim community.

    AWAIT FOR LATEST NEWS WHILE GOVT. APPOINTING FAKE PARLIAMENT SELECT COMMITTES AS FAKE EYE WASH COVER UP.

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    ‘Residents took the streets near the presidential palace. They came out to celebrate the end of the war against the Tamil Tigers.’ That claim in itself is a false.. i would like to know how this journalist saw these people next to a High security zone which has been cordoned off since the 80’s and has no residential areas.. celebrating??? THAT START OF THIS GUTTER PIECE was enough to say this has alot of Miss information.. Many people attribute the start of the civil war to during the 83 riots and the sinhala only ACT.. But people who really know the truth that by the 70’s terrorism have already started..True sinhala only was and the SRI campaign were part of a catalayst.. But what fueled it was ‘standardization’ and many Tamil militant Groups which many Took its ways from the 71 JVP uprising had already started this Tragedy. 83 riots gave the Various militant Groups More man power which the TULF eventually lost control.. and the line’Around 300,000 people were driven from their homes during the final stages of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Most of them ended up in camps controlled by the Sri Lankan military’.. yes doenst explain how or who dragged the people but jumped to the Lankan military which implies it was the military that forced this civilians out by force… Misinformation and LTTE int Lies very typical of Tmailnet style Properganda [Edited out]

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    [Edited out]

    Don’t post web links here, if you want to comment on the article please do – CT

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    Sri Lankan Tamils humiliated and ridiculed DMK Leader M. Karunanidhi and a DMK-backed Tamil Eelam Supporter’s Organisation (TESO), by simply ignoring and discarding the call on Tuesday for the dawn to dusk general strike
    According to sources this call for a general strike was also symbolically meant for the Sri Lankan Tamils too to react, whereas they have simply rejected the call dismissing it a non-event in the North and East of Sri Lanka.

    DMK Leader M. Karunanidhi – who is in his twilight of political career, and the DMK-backed group the Tamil Eelam Supporter’s Organization (TESO), called for a general strike on Tuesday, 12th March against Sri Lanka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

    Several leading pro-DMK print media carried cartoons of President Rajapaksa ridiculing and humiliating him.

    Some even carried half naked images of Mahinda Rajapaksa showing him only with loins cloth and leg chained and declaring arbitrarily as ‘war criminal,’ whereas so far no tribunal in the world has even come forward with any allegations of that nature.

    However, Tamils in Sri Lanka simply ignored the call forthcoming from a foreign national like Karunanidhi and the normal life prevailed in the North and East of Sri Lanka where Tamils predominantly lives.

    Yesterday, schools in the North and East were closed for Maha Sivarathiri day and children were seen enjoying and playing.

    The call was treated by Tamils in Sri Lanka as a non-issue and rejected by the Tamils and they were seen carrying on their normal day to day activities as usual.

    Though the nonagenarian Karunanidhi throughout tried to exploit the miseries of Sri Lankan Tamils for his personal political mileage and his call for general strike went unheeded in the country where Tamils live side by side with Sinhalese.

    Undoubtedly Sri Lankan Tamils have issues with Sinhala leadership of the country who are obsessed with Mahavamsa mindset trying to jealously guard the interests of the Sinhalese ethnicity, taking advantage of their numerical supremacy to subdue the Tamils legally as well as militarily. But Tamils have so far resisted all attempts by the chauvinistic Sinhalese leaders who tried to subdue them.

    Also Sri Lankan Government has miserably failed to address those issues affecting the minorities of the country.

    However, according to the Tamils of Sri Lanka they have to date, not mandated anyone outside the country either to speak or advocate on their behalf.

    Even Mr. R.Sampanthan , the leader of the Tamil National Alliance in an interview with this writer, denied that TNA has never mandated anyone in Tamil Nadu or anywhere else in the world to advocate for the cause of the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

    Karunanidhi and other so called leaders connected with the rump LTTE were always rejected by the Tamils as interfering elements and they were unwelcome and flatly rejected.

    Throughout, Karunanidhi was rejected by the Sri Lankan Tamils and since of late he was also flatly rejected even by his own constituents – Tamil Nadu voters in the last State Assembly elections.

    Peoples of Tamil Nadu rejected him and his party had been relegated with less than two dozens of elected assembly members in an Assembly of 225, even the coveted Leader of the Opposition position went to the actor turned politician Vijaykanth, based on the number of the elected MLA’s in his party.

    Other rump LTTE leaders in Tamil Nadu and Karunanidhi without any mandate from the Tamils of Sri Lanka are involved in a political circus which never had the blessing of the Sri Lankan Tamils and are bent on humiliating the leaders of Sri Lanka and the Sinhalese.

    The DMK Leader Karunanidhi and his men may argue that they have the support of the section of the Tamil diaspora in the West. Unfortunately all those Tamils in the West are no more Sri Lankan Tamils, but nationals of those respective countries wherever they live and have lost their birthright to talk and defend Sri Lankan Tamils on the very moment they discarded their Sri Lankan citizenship for a foreign nationality.

    Anyhow, with lack of credentials to defend the causes of the Sri Lankan Tamils, the rump LTTE elements are involved in setting fire to the effigy of Sri Lanka’s President, burning the Sri Lanka’s National Flag, looting Sri Lankan state bank office, airlines offices, attacking Sri Lankans on pilgrimages to Hindu Kovils, churches and Mosques, and threatening artistes visiting Sri Lanka with dire consequences.

    As Tamil Nadu is gripped with lawlessness, where rule of the jungle prevail, and the Tamil Nadu chief minister has miserably failed to maintain law and order in the state.

    Indian Government has so far failed to rein in the Tamil Nadu fishermen crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line to poach in the Sri Lankan waters.

    The Indian Government has failed to take any legal actions against that rump LTTE leaders for aiding and abetting threats and attack on Sri Lanka Deputy High Commissioners office in Chennai and threatening to close down the Sri Lankan mission.

    The Indian Government has failed to take any legal action against those who are involved in burning the effigy of the President of Sri Lanka, burning the national flag of Sri Lanka, but so far Sri Lanka Government as well as Sri Lankans have avoided to take any actions against any Indian in Sri Lanka or to any properties belonging to the Tamil Nadu business houses in Sri Lanka.

    The claim raised by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and by the rump LTTE leaders on Katchativu islet, an integral part of Sri Lanka and other threats on Sri Lanka are growing to disproportionate heights, as threat against the freedom and sovereignty of Sri Lanka and with an ulterior design to annex the country sooner or later.

    The annexation threat of India cannot be ruled out and also treated lightly

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      Periyar Erode Venkata Ramasamy

      “as threat against the freedom and sovereignty of Sri Lanka”

      When did Sri Lanka become a free and sovereign state? It didn’t and will never be.

      “The annexation threat of India cannot be ruled out and also treated lightly”

      It is not a threat but would be reality in few years time.

      As far as India is concerned Sri Lanka is the Sinhala state of India.

      The question of whether Katchtiv is part of Sri Lanka or part of India is irrelevant since the whole of Sri Lanka is deemed part of India.

      For all intents and purposes Sri Lanka is the Sinhala state of India.

      According to Subramanian Swamy India has a responsibility to protect both Sinhala and Tamil people as these two people were his own people.

      If true my advice to him is take both Tamils and Sinhalese back to India and leave my people to own and occupy this island.

      Don’t you think its a fair advice.

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    sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Palitha T. B. Kohona discloses something that Sri Lanka undertook never undertaken by any country in the Globe that faced terrorism: rehabilitation of captured suicide bombers of the vanquished separatist/terrorist movement Tamil Tigers and releasing them to the larger Sri Lankan community.
    Suicide bombers are recruited from these LTTE women fighters

    He says “Fortunately this sad period of Sri Lanka ‘s history has come to an end and most LTTE combatants including trained suicide bombers have now been rehabilitated and released to the community as part of the Government’s program to restore the lives of the people who would otherwise have been sacrificed as human cannon fodder”.

    Dr. Kohona reminds the carnage carried out by the Tamil Tiger suicide bombers. ” The Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers used suicide bombs extensively, over 230 times, killing thousands of civilians. They targeted men, women and children indiscriminately and left thousands dead and maimed. They created a massive sense of terror in the country. The bombing of the Central Bank in Colombo killed over 1400 civilians. The bombing of the Pettah bus-stand killed hundreds of civilians”.

    Well, Ambassador Kohona details the innovative nature of Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers saying “The suicide vest was reportedly invented by the Tamil Tigers. The technology was later copied by terrorist groups elsewhere. It continues to cause widespread death and destruction in the Middle East. This was a cleverly designed close-fitting outfit which is stacked with steel ball bearings against the layer of plastic explosives, usually C4”.

    And it’s devastation: “It was detonated either manually or remotely. Females were recruited and deployed against targets killing not only the main target but also dozens of others standing around. The red hot pellets scattered around killed indiscriminately”.

    “Much of the information in the custody of security authorities in Sri Lanka and neighboring countries comes from the interrogation of captured suicide bombers in Sri Lanka, mainly women. Jan Goodwin, an American journalist writing in Marie Claire, traced the history of female suicide bombers in Sri Lanka. They were mostly recruited from families who were forced to give up their children for the cause and later indoctrinated to a level that they would volunteer to go on suicide missions. The volunteers were called Black Tigers. These women were conditioned to believe that their highest purpose was to sacrifice their lives for the cause. Everything else was secondary. A suicide bomber knew exactly when their mission had to be performed and they knew that there was no return. A minder always observed a suicide bomber as she stalked her victim. They were also trained to chew on a lethal cyanide capsule to avoid capture. The bomber’s family was rewarded with land, money and houses. Given the depressed social background of most volunteers, this was considered to be an adequate reward” says Sri Lanka’s envoy to the World Body.

    Dr. Kohona reminds: “Jan Goodwin interviewed a failed suicide bomber who was captured while seeking to blow up the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. The Prime Minister of India was blown up by a LTTE female suicide bomber, Dhanu. The conspirators involved have been convicted by the Indian Courts and are now awaiting execution”.

    He concludes giving a sigh of relief: Fortunately this sad period of Sri Lanka ‘s history has come to an end and most LTTE combatants including trained suicide bombers have now been rehabilitated and released to the community as part of the Government’s program to restore the lives of the people who would otherwise have been sacrificed as human cannon fodder.

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    It pains me to read the article “The Tamils of Sri Lanka: From Tigers Into Lambs”, which portrays one of the deadliest terrorist group in the world, proscribed by most of the world’s democracies, to be helpless and innocent. Jack Healy, the writer of the article, portrays the Sri Lankan Government as insensitive and indifferent to the many allegations of marginalization, rape, and killings. Let us look at these allegations through a factual prism, while taking the historical backdrop in to consideration, instead of spewing emotionally charged misrepresentations.
    Alfred Thambirajah Duraiappah

    Throughout the colonial period (1815 – 1948) the British oppressed the majority population of Sri Lanka and favored the minorities as they sought to divide and rule. Years of manipulation took a toll on the social fabric of the country and caused serious rifts among the communities that had previously lived in relative ethnic and religious harmony. The introduction of democracy in 1948 turned things around, giving the Sinhala majority a democratic voice which they used to realign the opportunity equation. The “privileges” enjoyed by the minority, specifically the over representation of Tamils (12% population, 1946) in the government and in the civil service (50% representation: 1938) underwent change. The changes resulting from democracy caused dissatisfaction among the English educated Tamil community which feared a substantial decrease in power and influence. However, the said changes continued, including the 1956 Sinhala Only Act, which recognized Sinhala as the island’s official language.

    A response to Huffington Post’s “The Tamils in Sri Lanka: From Tigers Into Lambs” – Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the UN, New York
    The Tamil Tigers who evolved into a force in the 1970s under the charismatic leadership of Prabhakaran added a violent dimension to the differences. Violence sparked by the LTTE escalated with the assassination of the influential moderate Tamil political leader and Mayor of Jaffna, Alfred Thambirajah Duraiappah. Since 1975 the LTTE continued to eliminate all other Tamil moderate leaders who did not fall in to line with their violent ideology. LTTE’s plans for a mono ethnic separatist state in the North and the East included the slaughter of thousands of Sinhalese and Muslim men, women, and children living in the North and the East. Otherwise forced to flee their homes. It must be noted that it was NOT the Sri Lankan government that carried out pogroms against its civilians, but the LTTE. The gross violence in the North and the East against the Sinhalese and the Muslims by the LTTE had the effect that they desired. By 1991, in an unprecedented act of ethnic cleansing, the LTTE rid the North of all other communities. Contrary to Healy’s belief, Sri Lanka’s systematic marginalization and communal genocide is reflective of the actions of the LTTE and NOT its democratically elected Government.

    Just as the Tamil community, the Sinhala community too comes from diverse faiths and cultures. Mostly Buddhist, there is a substantial Christian (mainly Roman Catholic) and Hindu population among the Sinhalese. The Muslims in Sri Lanka identify themselves separately from the Tamils and Singhalese, although depending on where they live they speak Tamil or Sinhala as their mother tongue. The Sinhalese and Tamils have much in common culturally; including the celebration of the Sri Lankan New Year and the worship of Hindu Gods in Buddhist temples. Therefore any military action taken by the Government of Sri Lanka against the LTTE was NOT based on a “peculiar Buddhist mythology”, but as an act of self-defense against a bloody terrorist group. Despite Sri Lanka being a poor third world nation, up until 2009 when the conflict ended, the Government of Sri Lanka had continued to provide essential supplies, services (education and healthcare), and billions of rupees to LTTE controlled areas in order to ensure that all its civilians had their basic needs.

    Contrary to the misinformation purveyed, various NGOs and bilateral aid donors operating in LTTE controlled territory, including the ICRC, had access to the LTTE’s final beachhead almost till the very end of the conflict. Under government protection the ICRC transported over 15,000 sick, wounded, and carers from the LTTE controlled areas to areas of safety. The Government created Safe Zones and imposed restrictions on the use of heavy weaponry and air strikes during the final stages of the conflict in order to minimize civilian casualties. These restrictions were self-imposed by the Government of Sri Lanka and should have been acknowledged as exemplary for no other country or organization, including the United States and NATO, had taken such extensive measures to protect civilians.

    The government has continued to take firm action against reported cases of violence against women and girls during the conflict and in the post conflict period. The involvement of Security Forces personnel, as a percentage of the total accused of sexual violence, stands at 5.6% (January 2007- May 2009) during the conflict period and 3.3% (2009 – 2012) in the post-conflict period for the Northern Province. Legal action has been taken by the Government through military tribunals in all of the above cases in which the Sri Lankan Security Forces personnel have been involved. Furthermore, prosecutions have been lodged in criminal courts regarding case of rape and sexual harassment. In majority of these cases, the perpetrators have been close relatives or neighbors of the victim, not strangers from the security forces. Along with the application of the law to service personnel who breach military rules, the Sri Lankan military continues to provide large scale human rights training to service personnel with the assistance of the ICRC.

    Equally, the Government has given special consideration to uplifting the social and economic status of war widows. Already bilateral assistance has been obtained to initiate a self-employment program for war widows in Batticaloa in collaboration with the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) based in India. A local NGO called the Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action and the Association of War Affected Women educates soldiers, youth, and community leaders about international standards relating to war and promotes the economic and social development of women across conflict lines.

    The scars of 27 years of violence and destruction will not disappear in three short years. However, the Government and the people have taken many positive strides. The northern Ireland Parliamentarian for North Antrim, Ian Paisley, commented that Sri Lanka has made more gains post-conflict than Northern Ireland during a UK parliamentary debate of “Sri Lanka and the UN Responsibility to Protect.” He added, he has visited Sri Lanka on a number of occasions both as a private individual and on a cross-party parliamentary trip. His experience with the people on the ground in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka (former conflict affected areas) was very different from the “out-of-touch message” he has heard from the “self-appointed diaspora in Canada and in the United Kingdom”. Australian parliamentarian and deputy opposition leader, Julie Bishop, too affirmed exactly this, and commented that “we were heartened by the steps that have been taken on the issue of reconciliation”. After a mission to Sri Lanka, OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Director of operations, Mr. John Ging said that “the scale of what Sri Lanka has accomplished over the past three years- the pace of resettlement and development of infrastructure- is remarkable and very clearly visible”. Even UNICEF’s Executive Board concluded after a visit, that “Sri Lanka has moved from a state affected by conflict to a state deeply committed to reconstruction, reconciliation and development”. Given the positive feedback Sri Lanka has been receiving from respected leaders and professionals, on her efforts in accountability and reconciliation, Mr. Healy can rest assured that Sri Lanka is NOT systematically marginalizing, raping, or killing its citizens

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    What these Int western Fools backed by LTTE funders dont see the entire picture of the war.. This was a NATIONAL PROJECT by the Lankan people. The LTTE a world wide established Terror network supported by over 55 million people in TN and Tamils around the world along with their special interest groups..was not just defeated by the sinhala race alone.. It was a joint national effort by Tamils, Muslims, and Bughers who stood up and took this Great NATIONAL PROJECT to defeat the LTTE.. Yet the TNA and LTTE funded NGOS (who mainly get their funds from Western governments) say its a Tamil and sinhala issue.. They seem to forget most of the Eastern Tamils Broke away from the LTTE during the CFA and the LTTE was fighting these Eastern Tamils more than the SLA forces during the said period.. THIS GREAT NATIONAL PROJECT was undertaken by all the People of Lanka to defeat the LTTE..not a Government.. When the Suicide Bombs exploded and when we perfromed the final rights of what body parts was left of our loved ones.. we went back to work the next day to contribute to the National Project to defeat the LTTE.. Governments came and went yet the Nations people were constant for 30 years to defeat the LTTE and were willing to forgo Justice even for the sake of peace.. Yet today we face Justice they say when the Primary Actors such as the western LTTE and Tamil Nadu groups who funded and armed terrorist now re organised as HR groups escape Justice.. WE MUST NEVER SHAME OUR SELF WHO TOOK PART AND ENGINEERED THE NATIONAL PROJECT TO DEFEAT THE BRUTAL LTTE NO MATTER WHAT.. justice should come to every one Tamil nadu politicians and also to dismantle Western LTTE groups.. This is just to punish the Lankan people.

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    What these Int western Fools backed by LTTE funders dont see the entire picture of the war.. This was a NATIONAL PROJECT by the Lankan people. The LTTE a world wide established Terror network supported by over 55 million people in TN and Tamils around the world along with their special interest groups..was not just defeated by the sinhala race alone.. It was a joint national effort by Tamils, Muslims, and Bughers who stood up and took this Great NATIONAL PROJECT to defeat the LTTE.. Yet the TNA and LTTE funded NGOS (who mainly get their funds from Western governments) say its a Tamil and sinhala issue.. They seem to forget most of the Eastern Tamils Broke away from the LTTE during the CFA and the LTTE was fighting these Eastern Tamils more than the SLA forces during the said period.. THIS GREAT NATIONAL PROJECT was undertaken by all the People of Lanka to defeat the LTTE..not a Government.. When the Suicide Bombs exploded and when we perfromed the final rights of what body parts was left of our loved ones.. we went back to work the next day to contribute to the National Project to defeat the LTTE.. Governments came and went yet the Nations people were constant for 30 years to defeat the LTTE and were willing to forgo Justice even for the sake of peace.. Yet today we face Justice they say when the Primary Actors such as the western LTTE and Tamil Nadu groups who funded and armed terrorist now re organised as HR groups escape Justice.. WE MUST NEVER SHAME OUR SELF WHO TOOK PART AND ENGINEERED THE NATIONAL PROJECT TO DEFEAT THE BRUTAL LTTE NO MATTER WHAT..justice should come to every one Tamil nadu politicians and also to dismantle Western LTTE groups.. This is just to punish the Lankan people

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    The LTTE committed many atrocities. The UNHRC witch hunt is purely based on Diaspora lobby propaganda such as 40,000 civilians have died! Where are these 40,000 civilians then? Not even a skeleton has been found! THis UNHRC witch hunt based on diaspora lobby lies and the US,UK, EU, Canada’s witch hunt against Sri Lanka should be rejected by Sri Lanka.

    I have said earlier that Sri Lanka will not get justice at the UNHRC. All the atrocities committed by the LTTE is not even discussed. All the good work done towards reconciliation not discussed.

    Sri Lanka should neither participate in this nor pay any attention. Sri Lanka should walk out of the UNHRC.

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