28 September, 2020

Blog

Counting Every Casualty Of Sri Lankan Civil War

By Krishna Kalaichelvan

Dr Krishna Kalaichelvan

At first, the announcement of a “scientifically designed census” that will be conducted by the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka on “deaths/ injuries to persons and property damages during the period of the conflict as recommended by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC)”, was a pleasant surprise to me, then I am reminded of #HRC22 aka UN Human Rights Council regular session 22, an attempt to ease the US led pressure in Geneva. Still, I hope this will be a genuine attempt to count the civilian deaths and injuries (irrespective of ethnic and religious identities) during the conflict period in Sri Lanka.

According to this press release, a “steering committee” has been appointed to work under the secretary to Ministry of Public Administration and Home Affairs and the committee has devised a “centralized system of data collection at the national level integrating all information with regard to missing persons”.

There are few ‘issues’ I would like to raise regarding this census;

Though I recognize that the active conflict period can be defined as 1983 -2009, but it is important to record the deaths and injuries that happened during many of the anti-Tamil riots and pogroms since 1950s.

And it was mentioned in that press release that this project is part of the National Plan of Action for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations, hence confines to Sinhala-Tamil ethnic conflict only. It is equally important to carry out a similar “professionally designed house hold survey” to count the deaths and injuries happened during the two JVP insurrections in the south. Despite the work of few Presidential Commissions, there are no detailed recordings of deaths and disappearances; the recent discovery of mass grave in Matale proves again that the chapters on two JVP insurgencies are yet to be closed.   

In terms of methodology, even though there is no shortage of competent statisticians and epidemiologists in Sri Lanka, there are non-political technological resources available internationally for Sri Lankan practitioners to seek in order to conduct this complex study. Especially a technical level interaction with organizations like the UK based Oxford Research Group is possible without the accusation of foreign interference. Therefore the Sri Lankan practitioners will enormously benefit by familiarising the experiences of their international colleagues’ in managing complex studies such as ‘Iraq Body Count’ and ‘The Bosnian Book of Dead’.

Because of thirty years of war and large-scale emigration, a territorial based census will not be an adequate-enough methodological approach in Sri Lankan context. Thus nearly a million strong Tamil diaspora must be included into the study population. In current political context it is unthinkable that the government or the Tamil diaspora will cooperate with each other on this issue. If we really wanted to count every civilian casualty that occurred during the ethnic conflict, it is possible only by adopting a non-territorial methodological approach, a transnational virtual field study. Such a project will be a logistical nightmare and needs huge resource input. That is why I am permanently-skeptic about any grandiose pronouncements of ‘counting’ the war dead in Sri Lanka.

I am hopeful that the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka will do a far better job than Frances Harrison’s claim of ‘counting’ the war dead during the last Vanni war.

I am not pretending that this study has no political implications; in fact if it is ‘properly done’, the outcome may be politically embarrassing for the incumbent and past Sri Lankan governments, especially when comparing with the figures provided by the infamous ‘Lanka Puvath’ in the past. But a genuine reconciliation process can take place in Sri Lanka only when there have robust measures been taken to address the issues of accountability and justice. Therefore the Sri Lankan practitioners have a huge moral and ethical responsibility in conducting this study in a professional manner without giving into political prejudices.

*Krishna Kalaichelvan (anapayan) is a UK based commentator on Sri Lankan and South-Asian politics, global health and international security, he is a medical doctor by training. His articles can be found at anapayan.wordpress.com

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Well Well Well !!

    1. Killing Civilians = BAD
    2. Killing Terrorists = Good
    3. Civilians getting caught in cross fire = Accepted by Geneva Convention

    1. Where and how do we filter the deaths of the last battle with LTTE as in above points 1-3 ?
    2. How different would this be from the drone attacks by the west in Middle East?

    • 0
      0

      According to “US Drone Attack Doctrine”, 200 dead civilians is OK. As long as the target is of high value.

      US is trying to corner corrupt Rajapassa clan through HR violations. Into Western dictated compliancy. This is a joke.

      Please note US vigorously shields Israel against any resolutions in UNHCR.

      US position has little to do with HR. But, a lot to do with managing Sri Lanka’s relations with Russia, China and Iran etc.

      • 0
        0

        For all you may know, drone attacks on the murderers in the SL regime may become a reality one day. Just don’t remind about this to the Americans, otherwise you will be very sorry.

        • 0
          0

          Sounds like you are dreaming of US drone strikes on Sri Lankans. Saddistic satisfaction?

          So much for your dignity and human kindness.

          USA may have a quarrel with the corrupt Rajapassa clan. However, SL-US relationship is multi-dimensional. And rock solid.

          I can assure you. Your dream of getting Sri Lanka knocked out using American power, now that VP failed, will remain just that. A dream.

          • 0
            0

            Ben-Hurling:

            You are not certainly god to assure anyone of what will happen in the future. The SL regime was fully convinced that India, no matter what, will continue to support it in its endeavours. Mahinda Samarasinghe even made a statement affirming India’s position – that it is behind SL and would vote in its favour during the last UNHRC. You know very well what happened. This change of mind on this issue (voting) did not happen after a year or even a month – the change of mind happened within a few days.

            Do you know how persistently the regime denounced the Darusman Report and refused to have anything to do with it. It thumped that it will not yield to any pressure but you know what – it quietly went to New York to meet the Panel. Your rhetoric may work in the country but it has little or no significance outside. In an ever changing of global politics anything may change from today.

            Would rape by sick and depraved soldier of innocent civilians be more saddistic than my “dream”. Sri Lanka is a sick country headed by a sick regime – and I mean that and it needs treatment.

            Your annotation of a rock solid SL-USA relationship seems to be in tatters. Yesterday, at the UNHRC, the US rep mentioned of the gross atrocities of SL. The SL rep took offence. The prime mover of a resolution against SL in the UNHRC is US – does that look like a rock solid relationship?

            • 0
              0

              Jansee

              Given your enthusiasm for getting sick countries and regimes fixed using American power. Specially Sri Lanka.

              Was just wondering.

              Did you make any attempt to get VP and LTTE whacked using US drones? Or are you just after GOSL coz’ they beat the crap out of LTTE?

        • 0
          0

          We the nation and all her people didnt fight or give all our support for MR we gave it for successive governments to destroy LTTE at any cost. This is what we did for the past 30 years as we saw death and destruction everyday of our lives. And we were even ready to give up on justice to sit and talk with terrorist for peace, and we all saw what that resulted in. This is was war which the LAnakn people fought for our security and not for MR as you have put it. This war was fought for 30 years long before MR.. The UNHCR is nothing to do with Law and order and corruption as many self hating Lankans have put it.. Yes there is a huge problem with that and we will deal with it. But this is ony to do with the war.. Which all of us Every single LAnkan living and those who died in this nation wanted to end by ANY means. This is against the people and her dead against this nation…

      • 0
        0

        “Please note US vigorously shields Israel against any resolutions in UNHCR.”

        …..which is exactly why the UNHRC is toothless, it can only make recommendations.

    • 0
      0

      Seriously:

      Civilians getting caught in crossfire = Accepted by Geneva Convention???
      Civilians shelled indiscriminately = Very Bad = war crimes
      Civilians raped = Very, very bad = crimes against humanity
      Summarily killing those surrendering showing white flags = Extremely Bad = war crimes
      Bombing hospitals = insanely bad = war crimes.
      I can continue of you so wish.

    • 0
      0

      What is missing in the above statement is that the deaths occurred in the “NO FIRE ZONE”. Its easy to filter these deaths.

  • 0
    0

    This is a purely academic excercise that will not deliver justice to the victims. What is required is the reconcilliation and closure for widows and children of those missing.

    Also their rehabilitaion, compensation and return to their homes and properties. Also restore their rights as citizens of this country.

    • 0
      0

      The problem with arm-chair warriors is that they have never been anywhere near the frontline.

      They claim all the credit for the solution.

      Not only civilian victims of war related violence. Arm-chair warriors have very little respect for the average SL soldier who gave life and limbs fighting the blood thirsty LTTE.

      Spending a couple of nights in a stinking trench with musquitoes and your life hanging in the balance, in the northern jungles of Sri Lanka should be a part of their curriculum. Before starting to comment and scream we know it all.

      • 0
        0

        Ben Hurling

        “Arm-chair warriors have very little respect for the average SL soldier who gave life and limbs fighting the blood thirsty LTTE.”

        You are missing the point. The soldiers gave their life for the stupidity of their leaders. So did the LTTE cadres.

        The war could have been avoided had the leaders stopped sitting on their brain.

        Come to think of it the state’s reluctance, arrogance and stupidity led to several wars against its own people since 5th April 1975 at immense loss of lives including Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

        April 1975 was the month in which the state began its war against its own people with impunity.

        • 0
          0

          Sorry

          It should read as 5th April 1971.

        • 0
          0

          The point here is not that the Army soldiers killed LTTE soldiers. The point here is Army soldiers killing civilians and that too in the no fire zone!

  • 0
    0

    This propaganda model is nothing but “Manufacturing Consent” for the public mind.

    Safa: This is diaspora war fully funded by them for their hidden agenda.Now they lick their wounds and take stock of the loss and smarting.
    Compensarion is the job of the diaspora.

    • 0
      0

      dicky Bird

      “Manufacturing Consent”

      Could you expand on it.

  • 0
    0

    Sri Lanka’s Statistics

    Truth emerges from statistics. For this, inviolability of figures is basic. In recent decades what is seen is that statistics are collected dutifully, processed professionally and finally doctored politically. The Annual Reports of the Central Bank, the Socio Economic and other Surveys of the CB, the reports of the Department of Census and Statistics and Customs Data among others show a high degree of professional standards. It is clearly perceived that the excellence reached is diluted by external intervention.

    When credibility is lost everything is lost. This erosion has been moving on steadily for decades. Official reports were the first to suffer. Statistics have been the last bastion to hold on. Census remained untouched till 1981. Now what continues to be sacred? Just one example.

    For 50 years, the share of the Ceylon Tamil population fluctuated between 11.5% in 1921 and 11.2 in 1971. In the 2011 census it is 11.2. If the war dead are added it becomes 11.7 which is only 1% less than in 1981 census. This would mean that the Ceylon Tamil population declined only marginally in the last 30 years and the post 1981 emigrant Tamil population with its natural increase is only 200,000. This is a travesty. Where is credibility.

  • 0
    0

    Killing fields of sri lanka did not start spontaneously. They were initialy sponsored by big countries too big to be mentioned. Once the violence was instigated it continued. The accountability must start with the instigators India for one, Diaspora. who are pretending to be whiter than white.and then the remainder of the LTTE like Adele Balasingham , then the sri lankan govt. If only the SL govt is targeted it is immoral.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 7 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.