By Gnana Sankaralingam –
Recently the Canadian Parliament passed a resolution to commemorate in May every year as Tamil Genocide week. This provoked widespread condemnation from Sinhalese across party divide both in Sri Lanka and abroad. Tamils across the world welcomed it, and strangely one Muslim group in UK handed over a petition to the government endorsing genocide of Tamils. Several governments in the west are likely to follow, causing embarrassment to Sri Lanka government and its fellow travellers. There is provision for states to act independently and enforce sanctions on individuals being accused of the crime. This disgrace is the result of intransigence of successive post war governments failing to settle demands of Tamils in a fair manner and effect reconciliation process to usher peace.
Genocide is a Latin word meaning elimination of an entire race. This has not happened and therefore Genocide charge is false. During last century, definition of genocide was changed as killing of one million members of an ethnic group such as Jews by Germans, Armenians by Turks and Tutsis by Hutus. Number of Tamils killed is much less and therefore genocide charge fails. But now the story is different. Expulsion of 750,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar has been reported to ICC as genocide by Gambia, and Massacre of 3000 Muslims in Bosnia has been declared genocide. 500,000 Indian Tamils were deported on agreement and 300,000 Ceylon Tamils forced out as refugees, with 100,000 Tamils killed. In comparison with other examples, what happened in Sri Lanka amounts to genocide.
Whether genocide of Tamils took place or not could be debatable, but certainly Sinhalese had genocidal intent right from the time of independence. In the late 50s we were told by Sinhalese counterparts that Indian Tamils will be driven out of Sri Lanka, Ceylon Tamils will be driven into Jaffna peninsula and the rest of the island will be colonised to make it Sinhala Buddhist state. This has been articulated in the book written by N.Q. Dias in 1961 in the aftermath of Tamil Satyagraha movement. Process of ethnic cleansing started after Independence both by settling of Sinhalese in Tamil areas of eastern province and by sponsored riots to drive Tamils out. After the end of the war, this has raised again with lands of Tamils in north and east being appropriated and distributed to Sinhalese.
Genocide began in 1958 with killing of over 1000 Tamils and displacing several. This process continued in 1977 culminating in 1983 where over 3000 Tamils were killed and over 100,000 fleeing as refugees internally and to other countries. After commencement of war, several Tamils were killed and many more displaced to add to this number. Thus to confine genocide to last stages of war is not correct. What happened was massacre with commission of war crimes, such as denying of food and medicines quoting low civilian figures, indiscriminate bombing and shelling of civilian targets, use of banned weapons such as cluster bombs and poison gases and allowing injured to perish by not giving access to treatment. 135,000 Tamil survivors of the onslaught are testimony to the atrocities.
Sri Lanka government and Sinhalese are in this sorry plight due to their own seeking, unable to grasp the realities. First mistake made was not permitting UN nominated fact finding team to visit the war zone, in order to cover up the truth. This would have only put those who actually committed the crimes on the dock and not the country. Second mistake made was continued refusal to comply with international parameters to forge peace and reconciliation, which was expected when assisting to end the war. Third mistake made was to bring in China in order to ward off pressure from India, US and west causing geo-political upheaval, specially security threat to India. Therefore unless these are corrected, issues of genocide and war crimes will be taken up to bring Sri Lanka to their terms.