25 June, 2021

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Israel’s Gaza War, Sri Lanka’s May 2009 Victory, Accountability & Autonomy

By Dayan Jayatilleka

Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka

The 12th anniversary of the victory over the LTTE in Sri Lanka coincides with the renewed IsraelPalestinian conflict. There are several views in Sri Lankan society about the Gaza War.

1. Those who identify the Hamas with the LTTE and the Israeli military with the Sri Lankan military, and therefore oppose Hamas and the Palestinians in general and support the Israelis in the new round of conflict. The Gotabaya hard core would belong to this category.

2. Those who support the Sri Lankan military victory over the Tigers while sympathizing with the Palestinians and opposing Israeli Occupation and aggression. The statement by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the remarks in Parliament by Opposition Leader and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa indicate that there is bipartisan support for this position. This is the traditional, mainstream Southern democratic position.

3. Those who oppose the Israeli action and sympathize with the Palestinian suffering and also oppose the final Sri Lankan military push which led to victory in May 2009. The TNA seems to belong to this category, going by parliamentarian MA Sumanthiran’s remarks.

4. Those who are neutral or less than supportive of the Sri Lankan state’s military defeat of the LTTE, but tilt to the Israelis rather than the Palestinians. These are die-hard pro-Western, anti-Third Worldist neoliberal right-wingers.    

Historically and analytically, Position 2 is the most defensible. The Sri Lankan military never invaded any neighboring country, never occupied and annexed land beyond its borders and are not in violation of any UN Security Council Resolutions. It fought against a terrorist movement that was not resisting occupation by a foreign country but fighting a war for the secession of part of a country with legitimate internationally recognized borders.

By contrast, the defining characteristic of the Israeli-Palestinian situation is that of the Occupation. That Occupation is buttressed by annexation and the building of illegal settlements and ‘apartheid walls’ (as President Jimmy Carter has called them). The Palestinians in the Occupied territories are disenfranchised, while there is no citizen of Sri Lanka in the former conflict zones who is disenfranchised. 

While it is true that Israel withdrew from Gaza, it is no less true that the withdrawal was accompanied by a tight blockade off Gaza. Unlike the LTTE, Hamas contested elections and won but its victory but that elected administration was not recognized by Israel or the West.

This in no way justifies the use of rockets to indiscriminately target Israeli cities by Hamas. The witting targeting of civilians by any violent force is terrorism.

This is also true of the state terrorism indulged in by the Israeli armed forces, in the service of the Occupation. The withdrawal from Gaza while blockading it, is akin to ‘withdrawing’ from a cell holding a prisoner while maintaining the jail in which that cell is located!   

While every state has a right of self-defense, no state has the legitimate right of Occupation and to defend that occupation of land seized from other countries. It is one thing to resist foreign occupation through cross-border invasion and annexation, and another to fight a war for secession in a democratic state.

The war of the Sri Lankan state was a legitimate one; a war fought within its legitimate, recognized borders. The wars fought by Israel, certainly since the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, were illegitimate ones, just as the continued Israeli presence and the building of settlements on land beyond the 1967 borders, is illegitimate and illegal. There is no legal or moral equivalence between the Occupier and the Occupied.

President Jimmy Carter was not only talking about the walls when he wrote about “apartheid”. He said that Israel was moving towards a structural situation of ‘apartheid’ by ruling over huge numbers who did not have the right to vote. Though the Sri Lankan Far Right may dream of that and strive for it, we have never been and are not now an apartheid state which has disenfranchised a whole people. 

Now for the issue of accountability in Sri Lanka’s war. Whatever happens beyond Sri Lanka’s borders, no meaningful action is possible on the island without the active concurrence and support of a Sri Lankan government and the Sri Lankan judiciary.

This cannot be obtained by an approach and any agency that denies the legitimacy of Sri Lanka’s war and denounces or regrets its victory over the Tigers in May 2009. No one with such an approach will win an election and form a government. Even President Sirisena did not share that view.

Today, with the two new formations, the SLPP in one corner and the SJB (of which the war-winning army commander is chairman) in the other, there is a broad consensus in support of the historic outcome of May 2009. Not even the JVP and FSP have dared to venture a contrary opinion about 2009.

This does not mean that accountability is unattainable in Sri Lanka. What it does mean is that the issue of accountability has to be delinked from any questioning of the historically positive character of the victory of May 2009. The questioning—and questioning there must surely be – must be about specific episodes and the methods used, in violation of national and international law. 

Justice for the victims of atrocities is a moral imperative. Justice can only be achieved through and with those who endorsed and continued to endorse, and even celebrated, the victory of the Sri Lankan state over the Tigers.

The SJB has rightly taken its stand for an “internationally credible” accountability mechanism and process, based on the LLRC and the Paranagama Commission Reports and their recommendations. That’s as good as it gets and can get.

I very much doubt there will be a return to the disgraceful days of the authorship and co-sponsorship of the 2015 Geneva Resolution, with its foreign participation component, by any Sri Lankan government. To borrow Tony Blair’s phrase, the pluralist democratic forces have “been there, done that, got the T-shirt, and won’t go back there again”. Any political formation which is even suspected of being oriented in that direction will not be elected or worse still, may be prevented from taking office or ousted from it. 

Another dimension that must not be forgotten is that of Tamil autonomy. A feasible mix has to be achieved between accountability and autonomy. There should not be a trade-off, nor should “the best be the enemy of the good”. The SJB leadership has taken a stand for the implementation of the 13th amendment, without deletion or dilution. It is also insistent on upholding the unitary character of the Sri Lankan state. In a context in which neither the SLPP nor the JVP has made this commitment to the defense of devolution, this is once again, as good as it gets. 

Justice can be achieved on the ground, only through the agency of those who wish the “rotten apples” in the serving and former military to be weeded out, so as to clean up the act of the military, and remove the stains from a great victory over totalitarian secessionist-terrorism.

Similarly, devolution/autonomy can be delivered only by a mainstream democratic force that upholds sovereignty, and the unitary state.

Justice cannot be achieved or implemented on Sri Lankan soil, through the agency of those who mourn the defeat of a militia defined as “almost classically fascist” by The Economist (London) and the death of the man who was called “the Pol Pot of South Asia” in the New York Times, by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John F Burns.   

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Latest comments

  • 11
    19

    It always surprises me that Tamils ask for only 1/ 3 of the country. Why the not entire island? And why only the ardid north and east which seemed to have been settled by fishermen from toilet nadu when sinhalese were busy fighting the Portuguese. What prevented them from entering the interior? Miami, Florida which lies 25 miles off Cuba not unlike Tamil nadu is now entirely Cuban. You can’t even speak English to get by. Cubans started fleeing on boats in the 1970s and in less than 40 took over the city. Tamils did this over 500 years. Gimme a break. Traditional homeland!

    • 7
      17

      The year 2009 Sri Lanka (Heladiva) , Sinhalese Aryans Country made history to the world, completely irradicated LTTE Tamil Terrorists and their entire leaders. The whole world said no one can defeat LTTE but Sri Lanka proved to the world defeating LTTE. The other country, Russia, wiped out Chechen Terrorists. Fake PEELAM no more withous any sense DIAS-PODA barking for nothing.

    • 16
      5

      W
      “It always surprises me that Tamils ask for only 1/ 3 of the country.”
      Tamils could ask for much more, if only each Sinhalese owns up to his/her ethnic origins.
      *
      When will people who do not even live here stop making daft comments aimed to worsen communal relations here?

      • 14
        4

        These are morons who learnt Sinhala History in Singala written by similar sinhala morons like Mahintha, HLD, and so on. At least the other goons wrote lies to mislead the sinhala gullibles to win elections but the other fools utter this distortion in public and making fool of themselves. Ha… Some fool talking of fighting the Portuguese? Kotte modaya had sold SL to Portuguese like what Gotta did to China while the clowns were busy changing their names to fernando, silva, perera, almeida, salgado, and learning baila, eating cutlets, malu bistake, using kakoosi, wearing kamissa by topless veddas. The list is endless. Every sinhala leader was a traitor. Ehelepola the last traitor who betrayed a great Tamil king. Since then they continued to betray tamils. But betrayal started with kalla thoni Vijayan

    • 4
      1

      Westham,
      So you live in Florida? And Florida is part of the USA? And how long has the USA been around? 250 years? If , as you say, the Tamils are illegitimate immigrants after 500 years, what the hell are YOU doing in Florida? Did the Native Americans give you a visa?
      At least, learn to be consistent.

  • 11
    5

    Dayna warp mind is clearly seen. Before British United Ceylon Jaffna kingdom was a separate country. From 1956 onwards state sponsored terrorism and state terrorism persecuted Tamils. Every time they went to North East. LTTE terrorism was reaction to state terrorism. Same way Hamas terrorism was reaction Israeli state terrorism. We did not implement 13th amendment fully in 1987. Had we we would removed the Oxygen of LTTE.
    We still persecute Tamils. Army has wanted a women in Myllaitivu to deliver the baby on the Road. That is how we treat Tamils. There is no difference whatsoever between Sri Lanka LTTE conflict and Israeli Hamas conflict sate terrorism and reactive terrorism.
    Let’s at least now treat fellow citiz

  • 6
    5

    Dayna warp mind is clearly seen. Before British United Ceylon Jaffna kingdom was a separate country. From 1956 onwards state sponsored terrorism and state terrorism persecuted Tamils. Every time they went to North East. LTTE terrorism was reaction to state terrorism. Same way Hamas terrorism was reaction Israeli state terrorism. We did not implement 13th amendment fully in 1987. Had we we would removed the Oxygen of LTTE.
    We still persecute Tamils. Army has wanted a women in Myllaitivu to deliver the baby on the Road. That is how we treat Tamils. There is no difference whatsoever between Sri Lanka LTTE conflict and Israeli Hamas conflict sate terrorism and reactive terrorism.
    Let’s at least now treat fellow citizens of all races with respect and dignity with following the war criminal Gota

  • 4
    16

    Two medieval rats killing each other is what I see here. Don’t spoil your weekend over this gent, they will continue to kill each other for the next 1000 years. So, this is nothing fret over.

    A long weekend is coming and an ODI tour in B’desh is about the get underway. Make sure, your liquor cabinet is stocked up.

  • 11
    2

    I see this “Conflict” differently. This “Conflict” between Isreal and Palestinian is an “ESCAPE ROUTE” engineered by Isreal Prime Minister, Benjamin Nithiniyahu, who is facing a very serious “Corruption” charge in courts. As we all know, Isreal courts are not going to be “Bought” by any means, when it comes to exercising their legitimate functions. Yet, a “Conflict” can always be “Up-Graded” to be a full-scale “war” and that could a “Manipulation” to be an “Escape Route”. Perhaps, the Isreal PM would have got some encouragement and a very valuable “CLUE” from our President who decided to contest for the Presidency” to “ESCAPE” all “Criminal Charges” that were pending in courts against him.

    • 6
      3

      Crooked Bibi’s pathetic attempt to stay in power and distract his people from his upcoming corruption case, has resulted in 222 Palestinians massacred, include 60 children, and more disaster to come.

      Israel is one of the most vicious nations as the world can see. They are holding 2 million people in a 25 mile strip of land, unable to leave, see their lands stolen, and their unarmed children killed, and every few years they decide to send precision bombs into civilians structures, UN refugee areas, hospitals, and killing thousands of civilians.
      They also refused to end the occupation and give these poor people their freedom.

      The US keeps stating they have “the right to defend themselves”, but never, ever, speak up for the Palestinian people who have no rights, no weapons, and no brutal military that will “defend them”. They are being killed like fish in a barrel, and they are accused of being the aggressors.

      It seems the zionists have not learned the lessons from the past, and the abused has become the abuser.

  • 1
    5

    If the Israeli Jewish government had not vaccinated all Palestinain adults against COVID free of charge, they would not attack Israel or gather at the Al Aqsa mosque and riot. Their biggest priority would be COVID not motars.

    A lesson for SL too. Think strategically. Grab god send opportunities.

    • 4
      0

      Gatam, please quote chapter & verse for yr statement that the Israeli govt has vaccinated all Palestinian adults, plus that that was done free of charge.

      As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, Israel was resisting fulfilling its obligation to those under its occupation, tho they may recently have made a very small step in thus direction.

    • 0
      0

      GATAM
      Israeli Jewish government would have vaccinated all Palestinain adults against COVID free of charge for their own safety. Covid can cross the borders easier than rockets , they know.

      Soma

  • 3
    2

    This in no way justifies the use of rockets to indiscriminately target Israeli cities by Hamas

    Every one was a target,despite the presence of worshippers, including children, inside,They forces stormed Al-Aqsa and targeted people while they were praying, the casualties mounted up

  • 2
    1

    Accountability in a failed dysfunctional nation ???

  • 4
    1

    Sinhala Buddhists and their ‘Mahavamsa’ mentality. Tamils and their ‘Traditional Homelands’ mentality. Both have been lied to by their leaders.
    .
    Relations between the Sinhalese and Tamils must have been good for the Sinhalese to accept four consecutive Tamil kings. But today can you image a Tamil president being elected? This is the result of believing the lies of your leaders.
    .
    And Tamils, you are guilty too. This Traditional Homeland nonsense was created by SJV in the Thirties in the run up to independence. He wanted to ensure that the Tamils retained the power they held under the divide-and-rule policies of the British. The Tamil kings of the North, like their Sinhala counterparts, always considered themselves to be kings of the entire island, not just the North.
    .
    Isn’t it about time you concentrated on what you have in common instead of what divides you?

  • 2
    1

    Unitary without unity resulted in Dictatorship, no rule of law, no justice, no peace, non stop corruption, continuous massacres, blood shed in Sri lanka.

  • 3
    0

    Don’t need to bother Dayan’s comparison of Gota and Mahinda. He is the best opportunistic servant to any one at any time as master. Yesterday Mahinda, changed to Sirisena, then now Sajith.

    Gota and Mahinda are blood brothers (loving). Both of them have same policy, same attitude, same mentality and same Character even though it appears for others one is soft other is hard. Both are very hard dusted Iron.

  • 3
    4

    Jews versus Muslims – whose side are you on?

    Well, realistically speaking it does not matter. They are both the same evil with very little differences.

    But then look at it from a Sri Lankan perspective. The Jews are only fighting the Muslims.

    Have the Jews ever bombed a hotel in Sri Lanka? Have the Jews ever killed a Sinhalese within SL?
    Have the Jews defaced Buddha statues? Have the Jews stolen Sinhalese land? Have the Jews broken Burqa banning laws within SL?

    Well, I guess now you know which side you are on.

    • 2
      1

      ReginaldShamalPerera

      Who trained the tigers

    • 4
      1

      ReginaldShamalPerera

      “Jews versus Muslims – whose side are you on?”

      What a Confused and Ignorant person you are.

      The Palestinian Struggle has been a Valiant and Intense Encounter by a Severely Oppressed and Occupied People against their Merciless Occupiers/Oppressors. While the Former are Arabs – Muslims and Christians by Faith – the Latter are Heartless zionists Planted in Palestine, and fully backed and supported, by the Rapacious West. To call the latter Jews is to Insult many other Jews who are TOTALLY OPPOSED to the Brutal zionist Occupiers.

      The choice for any Right thinking person and who Knows the Facts as to whom to support in this over 7 Decades old Struggle is simple which is to support the Long Suffering Victims NOT the Ruthless Oppressors.

      By the way, you used to call yourself Rtd. Lieut. earlier. But not now. Have you come out of retirement now or you don’t like to remember your past?

  • 4
    1

    opposite poles
    Denying Israel as Jewish homeland is a crime
    Accepting Eelam as Tamils homeland is a crime

    There is also a fundamental difference
    Jewish homeland was created in 1948 by expelling Palestinians from their ancestral homeland
    Tamil Home land is ancestral and goes back 1000s of years

    • 3
      0

      Rajash, SL history starts with Nagas, Yaksas who are Tamils. The so called Sinhalas are a very late onset long after buddhism was brought in by Hindu prince Mahinda. Did Mahintha hand over buddhism to Sinhalas, no way. It was to a hindu, Naga king Devanai Nambiya Theesan. Like the jews of Israel, Tamils in SL. But we cant go by history but humanity. Sinhala buddhist have all the rights owing to their so called numbers but they must know the truth and accept the truth. Who are the sinhala rulers, majority are of Tamil origin. This is why I say that sinhalas must learn the true history and not the distorted history. What is Sinhala buddhism, it is full of hinduism. Instead of learning the truth they try to change the history.

  • 2
    1

    ReginaldShamalPerera

    Who trained the tigers

    • 2
      1

      RBH59,

      India noh? If I am not mistaken at the Dehradun camp most of the training took place.

      Israel may have trained a few for money. But they also trained some of ours. The worst lot in our army, those who couldn’t make it to West Point, Diyathalawa or Sandhurst.

      How I see it is, as a business transaction.

      • 2
        2

        PLOTE was the first armed group and new Tamil tigers and later LTTE are its splinter groups formed due to leadership struggle between Maheswaran and Prabaharan. Till 1979 when JR did his purge of militants led by “Bull” Weeratunga that Tamil groups took their men and materials and escaped to India. Till then all training was done in Vanni jungles. PLOTE was trained by PFLP of George Habas way back in mid 70s. It was only after Indra Gandhi came to power in 1982 and in the aftermath of 1983 riots that RAW stepped in to train Tamil groups particularly TELO. LTTE had their own training camps, having opted not to come under RAW.

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