26 August, 2019

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Civil War & The Quest For Transitional Justice In Sri Lanka

By Neil DeVotta

Dr. Neil DeVotta

Mark Salter, To End a Civil War: Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka (London: Hurst & Company, 2015). 512 pages.

Ahmed S. Hashim, When Counterinsurgency Wins: Sri Lanka’s Defeat of the Tamil Tigers (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). 280 pages.

Samanth Subramanian, This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan Civil War (Gurgaon: Penguin Books, 2014). 336 pages.

In May 2009, Sri Lanka’s armed forces comprehensively defeated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The day after the war ended, Sri Lanka’s then President Mahinda Rajapaksa told parliament that his soldiers achieved victory by “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.”[1] The LTTE had used the very Tamils it claimed to protect as human shields, and the nearly three-decades-long conflict ended with over 300,000 people fleeing the LTTE-controlled area to government-controlled areas. The military did assist these fleeing Tamils, and some, no doubt, were carried to safety on some soldiers’ shoulders.

But this was no humanitarian operation. If anything, it was akin to what happened in Grozny when the Russian army flattened that city while combating Chechnya’s rebels and to what is now [October 2016] taking place in Aleppo, Syria. For Sri Lanka’s military wiped out the LTTE without differentiating between combatants and innocent civilians, going so far as to deliberately shell hospitals and the government’s designated No Fire Zones.[2] And it thereafter killed and disappeared numerous LTTE personnel and supporters who had surrendered even as it sent over 10,000 LTTE cadres into rehabilitation programs. The consequences of such scorched earth counterterrorism are now playing out, with a new government claiming to pursue reconciliation and accountability with the Tamil minority even as it fends off allegations of war crimes from the international community.

The Failure to Secure Peace

Sinhalese politicians have long failed to accommodate legitimate Tamil grievances, thanks to demographics, political opportunism, and a strident Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism. Starting in the mid-1950s, Sinhalese politicians belonging to the two main parties, the United National Party (UNP) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), took turns trying to outdo each other on who could best protect and promote the interest of the Sinhalese Buddhists.[3] With Sinhalese numbering nearly 75 percent and Buddhists being around 70 percent, such ethnic outbidding became a sad feature of the island’s politics. The majoritarian mindset was—and is—also helped by a Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist ideology, which claimed that Sri Lanka is the island of the Sinhalese and chosen repository of Buddhism; Sinhalese Buddhists have been ennobled to preserve and propagate Buddhism; minorities live there thanks to Sinhalese Buddhist sufferance; and they must, therefore, respect the majoritarian ethos. Within this context those who promoted a political settlement with the LTTE or advocated for devolution were branded traitors.[4]

The LTTE leadership understandably believed that no Sri Lankan government was going to deliver on its promises. That said, the LTTE was not genuinely interested in a negotiated settlement either, and its leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was enamored with securing eelam (a separate Tamil state) through military means. The LTTE had used previous ceasefires to regroup and rearm. In short, the group blatantly manipulated ceasefires to pursue war, not peace.

Prabhakaran may have been a superb military strategist early on, but throughout the conflict he appears to have had little understanding of geopolitics. At the very end, whatever acumen he possessed of military strategy also seems to have deserted him; for he not only misgauged the Sri Lankan military’s buildup and capabilities, he also cavalierly exposed tens of thousands of Tamils to death while hoping for an international intervention that was not forthcoming.

The quest and failure for peace is what Mark Salter’s book focuses on, and it is a most useful account that has been compiled using the views and recollections of the major players (Sri Lankan, Indian, Norwegian and to a lesser extent American and other politicians and diplomats). Whether Salter’s goal was to exonerate the Norwegians—who were derogatorily called “salmon-eating busy-bodies” by Sri Lankans who felt they were biased towards the LTTE—is debatable; but it is indisputable that ultimately the Norwegian-led peace process failed because Sri Lanka’s two combatants were unable and unwilling to compromise on a political settlement.

Salter’s account shows how the Mahinda Rajapaksa government encouraged the Norwegians, who were merely facilitators and were therefore limited in what they could orchestrate, to stay on even as it vilified their role so as to appease Sinhalese Buddhist sentiment. Prior to becoming president, Rajapaksa had also told the Norwegians that he was not averse to reaching an agreement with Prabhakaran.

Many forget that Mahinda Rajapaksa was initially reluctant to restart a full-scale war with the rebel group, although his government began reinforcing the military and encouraged soldiers to assert themselves immediately after it came to power. The initial hesitance to take on the LTTE at a time when he rebels were violating the ceasefire more often than Sri Lankan forces may have partly been due to the secret agreement Rajapaksa’s campaign reached with the rebels, which prevented Tamils in the areas they controlled from voting in exchange for a large payment. Since Tamils mainly vote for the UNP during presidential elections, their being barred from the polls allowed Rajapaksa to win narrowly.

Salter’s interviews also suggest that the LTTE leadership was looking for a way to cooperate during the height of the conflict, and this no doubt had to do with the massive losses the group was facing. Prabhakaran was on record saying that his cadres could shoot him if he ever settled for an arrangement short of eelam. He did not settle, but neither was he capable of using the LTTE’s military prowess to deliver an advantageous political arrangement for the long-suffering Tamils. Today Tamils are a broken, bitter, and hagridden people who are worse off because Prabhakaran dared to pick up a gun.

One of Samanth Subramanian’s interviewees claims that during the last days of the war Prabhakaran distributed copies of the Hollywood movie 300, which depicts a group of Spartans fighting to their deaths against the Persians. If true, this was to prepare his cadres for the certain death that awaited them. Such fanaticism ultimately led to between 40,000 and 70,000 Tamils killed during the latter phase of the war (although these numbers are highly disputed by the Sri Lankan government) and that included Prabhakaran, his wife, and three children.

Subramanian’s book, simply put, is a splendid read. Well-crafted and balanced in its praise and criticism of both the Sinhalese and Tamils, it runs the gamut of recent Sri Lankan ethno-politics in a manner the uninitiated especially can appreciate. With over 98 percent of the Sri Lankan army being Sinhalese, it is hard today to fathom that around the 1950s and 1960s nearly 40 percent of the armed forces were Tamil. Subramanian’s interviews with a few Tamil military personnel who served during the civil war are therefore fascinating. A military (and bureaucracy) that is not representative of the population is a major sign of a country’s ethnic disparities. From that standpoint, Sri Lanka has a long way to go before Tamils (and Muslims too) can feel they are equal citizens.

Subramanian is Indian, and in that light one glaring lacuna in his book is the lack of focus on the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), which Rajiv Gandhi dispatched to Sri Lanka in 1987 as part of the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord and which ended up fighting the LTTE. The IPKF gets a mention here and there, but it is surprising that its activities are not discussed in any detail. Was this because the Tamils Subramanian interviewed were unwilling to offend him by recalling the IPKF’s malpractices? No doubt, the Indian military paid a stiff price by fighting India’s longest war against the LTTE, which at the time was a guerrilla organization. It is with good reason this Indian military fiasco is branded “India’s Vietnam.”

Given a few more months the Indian military might have defeated the LTTE, yet in the end it was the Indians who left in March 1990 (mainly because a new Sri Lankan government demanded the IPKF’s withdrawal). But the fact remains that up to that point, the worst atrocities Tamil civilians suffered were at the hands of undisciplined elements in the IPKF.[5] Many Sri Lankan Tamils continue to recall the IPKF within the context of the rapes and depredations they endured, unfair as that may sound to the upright and valiant Indian personnel who served and lost their lives in the island. This is why the LTTE claimed, truly or falsely, that by killing Rajiv Gandhi his assassin, Dhanu, was merely avenging her rape by IPKF personnel. This important aspect of the island’s history and Tamil experience merits better coverage.

The three books reviewed here note that one of the biggest mistakes the LTTE made was killing Rajiv Gandhi. No Indian government could thereafter deal with the organization and the Congress Party especially had ample reason to want the LTTE defeated. The Indians may have armed and trained some Tamil rebels in the early 1980s, but they even then were against a separate Tamil state in Sri Lanka, lest that emboldened separatist forces within India. Yet geographic proximity and Tamil Nadu’s reaction to their ethnic cousins’ plight in Sri Lanka forced India to stay engaged and to be kept informed,[6] so that most foreign powers took no major initiatives regarding Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict without first briefing India.

It appears the LTTE leadership was led to believe that the Congress Party would lose the April-May 2009 general election in India and that a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government would pressure Sri Lanka to cease its military operations. The BJP did not win the 2009 general election, but Salter’s book shows how that possibility goaded Sri Lanka’s decision makers to try to defeat the LTTE before a new Indian government was installed. The ruthless tactics such timing dictated led to thousands of innocent Tamils getting killed.

 Extirpation as Counterterror Strategy

In seeking to strengthen the military and improve its morale, the Rajapaksa government not only built on the narrative of the soldier being a war hero (ranawiriva), it also made clear that criticizing the military was not to be tolerated. Indeed, a number of journalists were attacked because they reported on the military negatively. This together with the glossy advertisement campaigns the government mounted led to military personnel even at the lower levels being feted in obsequious ways.[7]

The regime also increased the number of military personnel being recruited, which allowed the armed forces to hold on to territory captured from the LTTE (something it was not able to do previously). Furthermore, the government went shopping for sophisticated military hardware. That the Defense Secretary was the president’s brother helped in this regard, because armament costs and fear of an overly powerful military likely hindered such purchases in the past.

Many Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists and many in the military sincerely believe that the so-called eelam mindset threatens Sri Lankan sovereignty, and that fully eradicating it is sine qua non for the island’s security. This also meant eliminating the LTTE leadership without regard to human and material costs. Salter’s interviewees note that the order to liquidate LTTE leaders had to come from high up in the government. If so, the military carried out orders smacking of war crimes and thereby committed war crimes. This no holds barred, scorched earth strategy is also evidenced in Ahmed Hashim’s book. His is a commendable account of the politics associated with civil war.

Hashim is less interested in discussing the causes of the war (although he notes the scholarship of those whose work has sought to attribute causation) and more interested in trying to explain the nature of the LTTE and why it ultimately lost so badly. He says the LTTE best exemplified an outfit capable of waging hybrid war, given its capacity to combine terrorism, insurgency, and conventional war. He, however, does not emphasize how Prabhakaran’s infatuation with the latter ultimately undermined his strategizing.

Controlling territory and population helped with the LTTE’s conventional capabilities, for it allowed for voluntary and forcible recruitment and claims of de facto statehood status. Many were the Tamils ensconced abroad who pointed to the governing institutions the LTTE had set up and argued that eelam already existed; the international community merely had to recognize it. But the LTTE’s dedication to its de facto state and conventional warfare let the military know where exactly to target the group. And once the military had sufficient personnel, superior weaponry, and orders to disregard human casualties (irrespective of what was trumpeted in public), the LTTE’s days were numbered.

As Hashim points out, the main focus of the Sri Lankan military was to kill as many of the enemy as possible. Even before the endgame, there were reports that the Sri Lankan military was systematically bumping off Tamils suspected of being LTTE sympathizers.[8] It is, therefore, hardly surprising that the military went about eliminating hardcore LTTE cadres after they surrendered. Indeed, a U. S. State Department report to Congress that was released a few months after the conflict ended noted that thousands who were placed in Sri Lankan government-run camps following the war were “disappeared.”[9]

This was in addition to rape being “used as a tactic of war”[10] and military personnel burying alive Tamils who had sought shelter in makeshift bunkers. Killing off the leaders of a liberation movement or terrorism outfit is one of the best ways to extirpate it. And Sri Lanka’s politicians and military were determined to make the LTTE militarily acephalous. It was the reason they (based on credible evidence gathered thus far) also executed Balachandran, Prabhakaran’s twelve year old son after he was capturedalive alive. No heirs—and, hopefully, no future fires.

The new Sri Lankan government headed by President Maithripala Sirisena has promised to pursue ethnic reconciliation and accountability, but all indications are that it will fall short of ensuring especially the latter. For doing so would force it to implicate many who headed the government during the time of the LTTE’s defeat, and these include President Mahinda Rajapaksa, his brother and the then Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka. Indeed, even President Maithripala Sirisena has been implicated since he on numerous occasions served as Acting Defense Minister.

An issue that complicates achieving transitional justice is the demise of nearly all LTTE personnel who engaged in war crimes. Their misdeeds can be documented further, but they cannot be punished. Thus the pursuit of accountability will end up being a one-sided affair, and there is simply no support for this among Sri Lanka’s majority Sinhalese. Neither is there support for the domestic-international hybrid courts the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for. Indeed, any politician who pushes for leading military personnel to be held accountable will get branded a traitor and be committing political suicide. In this quest for reconciliation and accountability, certain Tamil politicians have not helped, given how their unrealistic demands have further hardened Sinhalese opinion. The upshot is that Sri Lanka’s accountability process is unlikely to lead to trials that threaten war crimes perpetrators with jail. Instead, it will most likely unfold in a manner similar to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation process sans retribution.

The rapid rise of China and India, and the Obama Administration’s so-called Pivot to Asia, have made Sri Lanka much more important from a geostrategic standpoint. During his tenure as president, Rajapaksa was happy to embrace China, because that country looked askance as he and his family unduly benefitted from Chinese-funded projects. Close ties with China also ensured that it shielded Sri Lanka at international forums on human rights even as Rajapaksa pursued authoritarian politics geared towards creating a political dynasty.[11]

Maithripala Sirisena’s victory has led to India, the United States, and the West enjoying closer ties with Sri Lanka even as the island pursues a more nonaligned foreign policy. Rajapaksa, however, continues to project himself as the military’s ultimate defender and wants to manipulate the transitional justice issue to recapture power. Aversion to such an outcome plus their geostrategic interests may push the West to settle for less on the accountability front.

Maithripala Sirisena’s government has moved the island away from the authoritarianism Rajapaksa sought to institute, but it too continues to appease the military at the expense of pursuing transitional justice. Since its independence in 1948, Sri Lanka’s politicians have missed numerous opportunities to salve the island’s ethnic wounds. The ongoing discourse and politicking surrounding transitional justice suggests it may be in the process of missing yet another opportunity.

 Conflict Redux?

Of the three books reviewed, Subramanian’s is the only one that discusses how Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists have begun to target the island’s Muslims. The Muslims, who were depicted as the “good minority” due to their opposition to eelam and for generally siding with Sinhalese Buddhist preferences, have now been turned into the new “other.” During this author’s research in Sri Lanka in 2012, an interviewee said that right after the LTTE was defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa told some confidants that “now it was the turn of the Muslims.” Rajapaksa and his government certainly colluded with anti-Muslim forces that sprang up once the civil war ended. These forces resorted to exaggerated and factitious accusations and operated with impunity as they attacked mosques, Muslim businesses, and certain homes (mainly in an enclave called Dharga Town, south of Colombo).

Nationalists obsess over demographics, and this is also the case with Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists. Subramanian’s account shows how Sinhalese nationalists claim that their community is “the fastest vanishing race on the face of this earth,”[12] despite the Sinhalese population having risen from 66.1 percent in 1911 to 74.9 percent in 2012 and Buddhist numbers having likewise gone up from 60 percent to 70.2 percent during the same period.[13] Pamphlets passed around by Sinhalese Buddhist extremists also claim that the Muslim are “breeding like pigs,”[14] which is part of a demonizing process that the Tamils too were subjected to during the period that led to the civil war.

There has long been an eddy of anti-Muslim sentiment on the island that the ethnic conflict helped mask. Mahinda Rajapaksa, who wrongly assumed he could win elections with only Sinhalese support, was eager to exploit this sentiment. Sri Lanka’s Muslims would most likely be in dire straits today had Rajapaksa not lost the presidential election in January 2015. For instance, one of the monks who led the anti-Muslim agitprop recently bemoaned that politicians were putting party ahead of country and “if these politicians only gave us a little backing we can end the rise of the Muslims.”[15]

Many in Sri Lanka are being influenced by the Islamophobia now trending globally. This suits Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists who thrive by harping against potential threats to nation and religion. The LTTE’s defeat has further emboldened them. Within this context, only a Pollyanna would bet against more ethno-religious strife in the island.

* Neil DeVotta is Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. This review essay, which first appeared in Asian Security (March 2017), is reproduced with the publisher’s permission.


Notes

[1] Mahinda Rajapaksa, “This Victory Belongs to the People Lined Up Behind the National Flag,” The Island, May 20, 2019, at http://www.island.lk/2009/05/20/features4.html. Accessed October 15, 2016.

[2] All three books reviewed make reference to this and other war crimes perpetrated by the government and LTTE during the latter stages of the conflict. See also Gordon Weiss, The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers (London: The Bodley Head, 2011).

[3] Neil DeVotta, Blowback: Linguistic Nationalism, Institutional Decay, and Ethnic Conflict in Sri Lanka (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004).

[4] Stanley J. Tambiah, Buddhism Betrayed?: Religion, Politics, and Violence in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); H. L. Seneviratne, The Work of Kings: The New Buddhism in Sri Lanka (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999); Neil DeVotta, Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalist Ideology: Implications for Politics and Conflict Resolution in Sri Lanka, Policy Studies 40 (Washington, D.C.: East-West Center, 2007).

[5] See especially the details tabulated in Rajan Hoole, Daya Somasundaram, K. Sritharan, and Rajani Thiranagama, The Broken Palmyra: The Tamil Crisis in Sri Lanka—An Inside Account (Claremont, CA: The Sri Lanka Studies Institute, 1990).

[6] Madurika Rasaratnam, Tamils and the Nation: India and Sri Lanka Compared (New York: oxford University Press, 2016).

[7] Neloufer de Mel, Militarizing Sri Lanka: Popular Culture, Memory and Narrative in the Sri Lankan Armed Conflict (Los Angeles: Sage Publications, 2007); Sandya Hewamanne, “Duty Bound: Militarization, Romances, and New Forms of Violence among Sri Lanka’s Free Trade Zone Factory Workers, Cultural Dynamics, Vol. 21, no. 2 (July 2009): 153-84.

[8] See, for instance, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), Can the East Be Won Through Human Culling, Special Report, no. 26 (August 3, 2007), at http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport26.htm. Accessed October 10, 2016.

[9] See, for instance, U. S. Department of State, Report to Congress on Incidents during the Recent Conflict in Sri Lanka (Washington, D. C.: U. S. Department of State, 2009).

[10] This was part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement to the UN Security Council in October 2009. See Preeti Aroon, “Sri Lanka Anger over Clinton’s Rape Comment,” Foreign Policy, October 8, 2009, at http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/08/sri-lanka-angry-over-clintons-rape-comment/. Accessed October 16, 2016.

[11] Neil DeVotta, “China’s Influence in Sri Lanka: Negotiating Development, Authoritarianism, and Regional Transformation,” in Evelyn Goh, ed., Rising China’s Influence in Developing Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 129-52.

[12] Samanth Subramanian, This Divided Island, p. 226.

[13] E. B. Denham, Ceylon at the Census of 1911 (Colombo: Government Printer, 1912); Department of Census and Statistics Sri Lanka, “Census of Population and Housing 2012,” at http://statistics.gov.lk/PopHouSat/CPH2011/index.php?fileName=Key_E&gp=Activities&tpl=3. Accessed February 15, 2016.

[14] Subramanian, This Divided Island, p. 226.

[15] Quoted in Colombo Telegraph, “‘With A Little Political Backing We Can End the Rise of Muslims,’ Gnanasara Who Wishes to Emulate Prabhakaran Declares,” September 21, 2016, at https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/with-a-little-political-backing-we-can-end-the-rise-of-muslims-gnanasara-who-wishes-to-emulate-prabhakaran-declares/. Accessed September 29, 2016.

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Latest comments

  • 2
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    “…..only a Pollyanna would bet against more ethno-religious strife in the island.”…Sri Lanka is possibly the only country in the world where the Government of the day whether its UNP led or SLFP led or Coalition (AKA sambar) led…openly promotes ethnic violence and racial hatred taking cover under the saffron robe

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      Rajash

      Prof Neil DeVotta is a keen observer of Sri Lankan saffron politics and political thuggery. He is also a prolific commentator on long term issues ailing this island. His papers are available on net. Don’t miss.

      When you in country pub downing your usual read his research papers.

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        Hi Native I just came back from a holiday in Japan, a strong Buddhist country. I traveled to Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Mt.Fuji etc etc . I didn’t see a single Buddha statue on the streets of Japan, I didn’t see a single saffron robed monk roaming the streets, I was there on a full moon day, it was not a public holiday in Japan. >>>>

        on the contrary I visited many beautiful and peaceful Buddhist shrines(temples), where humble monks in saffron robes were going around with their daily tasks to keep the shrine and the gardens clean and spiritual. >>>>

        what a contrast to Sri Lanka Sinhala Buddhist country . with the permission of CT editors I am happy to upload photos.

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        Hi Native thanks for the pointer>>>”His papers are available on net. Don’t miss.” I am currently reading “The Silk Roads” by Peter Frankopan. Brilliant so far. “Tamil literature ” is quoted in the book. Not come across anything “Sinhala” yet… nothing in the index either …will keep you posted.

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    “Gnanasara Who Wishes to Emulate Prabhakaran “…can any one in Sri Lanka emulate Prabhakaran?

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    Sinhala Buddhists may have won the War…………..But they are losing the Battle…….Aren’t they?………I am not talking about the Elite , Poodle Club Baby Sujeeva, Dr Harsha, Keselwatta Kid, his Uncle Kkaru and their Loyal Followers………….

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      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera


      Read/Listen/learn/grasp/ from
      PM Lee Hsien Loong’s full speech at President Halimah Yacob’s inauguration ceremony

      http://www.straitstimes.com/politics/pm-lee-hsien-loongs-full-speech-at-president-halimah-yacobs-inauguration-ceremony.

      Please forward this link to your new Mango friends Dayan and Wimal.

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      KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

      “Sinhala Buddhists may have won the War”

      Oh please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      It was VP the psychopath who with huge support from Hindians of Sultanate of New Delhi and other 30 plus countries won the war exclusively for Dr Mahinda Rajapaksa. VP left huge amount of cash and gold as reward for Dr Gota and his boys.

      You should be grateful to VP. He generated nice little earner for you didn’t he?

      Is the Ambassador Bandula related to Dr Gota? Both lookalike. Did Dr Gota have another stepmother apart from Dr Mervyn’s mother?

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        Dear Native, I know you have been hurting really badly since your Hero Pira left ……….But I can’t understand why…….Now Dr Ranil is going to give Maha Dana plus Atapirikara to 1000 Buddhist Monks , at the Temple trees….How cool ……….
        It is all to get Blessings from Maha Sanga for Ranil to give Vellala Sambandan the Eelaam , not only in the North , but part of the East as well…………..And the Monks will be blessing Vellala Chief Sambandan too…… ………And helping Sambandan also to accrue Merit for his Journey to Nirwana………..Do Vellalas go or like to go to Nirwana ? ……………… I only hope Dr Ranil;s Chief of Staff won’t have to go to Welikada , while Dr Ranil and his mate Sambnadan accrue Merits to go to Nirwana by giving Dana to Mahasanga………
        Do you know whether Aloysious offer Atapaiarikara, like his buddy Galleon did at Malwatta before Galleon got done …………….

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          KASmaalam K A Sumanasekera

          “Do you know whether Aloysious offer Atapaiarikara, like his buddy Galleon did at Malwatta before Galleon got done …………….”

          I have no idea about Alosious.
          Did Dr Rajapaksa offer, Paththaraya, Depota Sivura , Thanipota Sivura , Andana Sivura, Banda Patiya, Perahankadaya, Idikatu/Nulbola, Deli Pihiya, Vatapatha to the grant duke of Assgiriya?

          While we are on Deli Pihiya it reminds me of a saying “Wandurata Deli Pihiya Dunna Wage”. (A razor in the hands of a monkey that goes berserk’).

          Now that the draft is in grant duke of Assgiriya’s hands, when do you recon he would chose go berserk?

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    Very interesting. I think in a way Dr. Subramaniam has his own Indian bias and is unable and unwilling to discuss their atrocities and their excesses. Same with that boy Col. Hariharan who used to write here a lot. He would always pontificate like some Brahmin only about faults of the Lankan system. But you are very right about representation in the military too. I think a lot of it was discrimination as a policy in the 1970s. Sad reality. In the 1950s and 60s those Tamil and Muslim officers and soldiers were perhaps holdovers from the older days. I admire the Indian army, despite so many mistakes, they have lots of Sikhs and so many other ethno-linguistic groups serving in significant numbers. Sikhs being a warrior nation, have occupied very high posts in the Army too. Not so much in the Indian Navy which seems to attract more South Indian sea-farers. That is to be understood by their geography. So it is sad. A military that is apolitical and secular and representative will go a long way to ease concerns of minorities.

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    What is the relevance of this totally outdated analysis? There has been round condemnation of Mark Salter’s book (ghost written behalf of Solheim) on the grounds that it is another attempt to whte-wash Solheim’s conspiratorial intervention on behalf of Pirabhakaran and Balasingham. He sut up after he couldn’t find answers to the questions raised by Sri Lankans ‘in the know’ about Solheim’s double dealings. We can only assume that Wake Forest is a place somewhere, buried out of civilisation. There is nothing to be gained by attempts to white-wash Solheim.

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      The relevance of this ‘totally outdated’ analysis is that the war and its many effects remain with Sri Lanka today: as do widely differing interpretations of its causes and consequences. Rather than serving derisory, half-cooked versions of other people’s analyses of my book, may I suggest that the author of this comment make an attempt to actually engage with the facts, evidence and interpretations it puts forward?

      N.B. For the record I have not remotely ‘shut up’ following the criticisms from some – but definitely not all Sri Lankans, including people ‘in the know’. In fact I have responded to most of those criticisms in detail: and so far, not received a single considered response to the same.

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      Manus: Study the Bangladeshi -muslim Problem in Myanmar. Solheim was supposed to play double game on behalf of the certain countries of the western block.

  • 0
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    The arguments put forth in this analysis of the three books reviewed by Dr. Neil DeVotta are fairly sane.
    *
    However, there are contradictions. For example if, ‘The LTTE leadership understandably believed that no Sri Lankan government was going to deliver on its promises’, how could he claim, ‘That LTTE was not genuinely interested in a negotiated settlement either’.
    *
    If LTTE ‘understandably believed’ that no Sri Lankan government was going to deliver on its promises, is it surprising that LTTE could not trust that negotiations would end up in a fair and satisfactory settlement.

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    Neil DeVotta’s article “Civil War & The Quest For Transitional Justice In Sri Lanka” joins several others which stresses “How the war was won”.
    The first book is
    Mark Salter, To End a Civil War: Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka (London: Hurst & Company, 2015). 512 pages.
    Mark Salter is a bureaucrat like for example Gordon Weiss “The Cage”. They will never look through the eyes of the victims.
    The second book is
    Ahmed S. Hashim, When Counterinsurgency Wins: Sri Lanka’s Defeat of the Tamil Tigers (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013). 280 pages.
    Lankan Muslims gained and gained and gained during the civil war. The duplicity of the Muslim leaders is proverbial. Ahmad has not seen what next for Lankan Muslims. The 2014 Aluthgama pogrom is just an appetiser.
    The national tragedy is the tolerance of anti-minority sentiments and even pushing these into the threshold of patriotism.
    The third book is
    Samanth Subramanian, This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan Civil War (Gurgaon: Penguin Books, 2014). 336 pages.
    This book had adverse reviews in India. Samanth belongs to a group who call themselves TamBrhm (Tamil Brahmins) – they are anti-Tamil. . Another TamBrhm is the former Editor of “The Hindu” CV Ram. This Ram was a house guest of MR. In 2009 this man visited a Vanni internment camp and wrote glowing tributes to MR via the now infamous Editorial.
    Samanth interviewed Vanni victims in 2011. He had the full patronage of MR and this was public knowledge. How will the interviewees react when they see a whitevan parked close by?
    Neil: To cut a long story short, please address the reasons as to why the war came about. We are now in a era when almost every day portraits are added to the “Corrupt Rogues Gallery”. Will they ever allow the war to end literally?

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    The very fact that one side comprehensively won and the other was comprehensively defeated is indicative of the proof that what the winning side stood for is just and right. If one side is only partially right then it would end up in a compromise based on the degree of ‘justness’ of the cause each side is fighting for.

    Soma

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      Soma,

      You are one hell of a guy! Winning the war outright does not grant you righteousness; you can convince yourself to that effect but it is not true. The war should not have materialised in the first place. You need to deal with the chronic insecurity among the Sinhala you included. Until the majority feel secure, there will be no peace in the country. The Muslims and the Christians will find out soon if not already!

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        B.I.
        I admit to feeling terribly insecure. I still shiver when I think of the terror we were subjected to for 30 long years. Once I showed the map of Sri Lanka along with South India to a foreigner and he nodded ‘I understand’
        Soma

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          Soma,

          “Once I showed the map of Sri Lanka along with South India to a foreigner and he nodded ‘I understand”

          Thanks for your honesty about your insecurity! When one is chronically insecure one is irrational; this is given. This is explicable as to your irrational utterances!

          If one can deduce the demographic makeup based on current geography, if it is as easy as that, there will be no need for any research and study of anthropology etc. You only have to look into the DNA composition of both Sinhala and Tamil to know the truth! Again you are insecure and you do not want to know the truth!

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          soma “Once I showed the map of Sri Lanka along with South India to a foreigner and he nodded ‘I understand’>>>Soma you are gullible… you don’t know why he nodded.>>ha ha hilarious

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      somass ji

      VP with the support of Hindians won the war. How can other side be comprehensively defeated when other side work hard for the victory. The winning side comprised of VP, Hindians, Europeans, Americans, ………………………

      You are a very stupid man, you lost 35000 soldiers, another 30,000 severely injured 100000 deserted, billions wasted on war, forgone development, ……………

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        Native
        “You are a very stupid man, you lost 35000 soldiers, another 30,000 severely injured 100000 deserted, billions wasted on war, forgone development, …”
        That was our cost for the freedom you breathe today.
        Soma

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