5 December, 2020

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No Victory If Sri Lanka Cannot Win The Peace

By Graham Cooke –

Graham Cooke

It is time the Sri Lankan Government came clean over what exactly is happening in the country in the aftermath of the brutal civil war that ended in May 2009.

To the victor the spoils – that is inevitable – and for the Tamils, being on the losing side means a need to recognise their dream of a separate state on Sri Lankan soil will now never be realised, and that their best hope is to engage in reconciliation and partnership with the majority Sinhalese. That is what the Government in Colombo would have us believe is the course being taken, but so much evidence points to the contrary.

It is difficult to get a good handle on exactly what is happening in the areas of the country once under the control of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) because unrestricted access is routinely denied to international journalists and other fact-finders on the grounds of security and safety. The official line is that the process to reintegrate refugees and former low-level Tiger fighters back into the mainstream of civil and political life is proceeding apace and any suggestions to the contrary are simply mischief-making by LTTE elements still active outside the country.

The Sinhalese-dominated Government points to the fact the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) holds seats in Parliament and that Tamils have a place in the political life of the nation. Less publicised are the grievances regularly expressed by TNA Leader Rajavarothiam Sampanthan over the treatment of Tamils generally and especially LTTE members who are still in detention.

Speaking in Parliament recently, Sampanthan described the detainees as political prisoners and called for their immediate release. He claimed many had been detained for years without trial and there were cases of prisoners dying in unexplained circumstances.

“If legal proceedings cannot be initiated against those who are kept in detention why not release them under amnesty? Tamil political prisoners are being tortured and this raises serious human rights concerns,” Sampanthan told Parliament.

These and other allegations are alarming Sri Lanka’s giant neighbour, India, to the point where it recently sent its National Security Adviser, Shivshankar Menon, to Colombo on a fact-finding mission.

Menon’s main tasks were to discuss the rehabilitation of Tamils displaced by the war and express concern that their problems were not being sufficiently addressed by the central government. With a large and restive Tamil population within its own borders, what happens in Sri Lanka matters to New Delhi.

During his short visit Menon held talks with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the three brothers who between them dominate Sri Lankan politics. A meeting with Sampanthan was also squeezed in.

The official communiqué issued later was suitably bland noting that the resettlement of displaced persons, infrastructure development projects in which India has a hand and “areas of common concern” were discussed. What was not mentioned was Menon’s insistence the former LTTE areas still effectively under martial law be demilitarized and that free provincial elections be held there.

A more strident version of the talks appeared a few days later in the Sunday Leader. Under the headline ‘Indians get tough with Sri Lanka’ the newspaper’s political correspondent, Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema, said President Rajapaksa could no longer take India’s support for granted.

“President Rajapaksa has lost credibility with the Indian Government,” Abeywickrema reported, putting this down to “bald-faced lies uttered by Colombo” over supposed progress towards reconciliation.

The correspondent reported India was no longer prepared to accept the Sri Lankan Government’s oft-repeated excuse that while it was committed to finding a political settlement it had to be one suited to Sri Lanka as a whole and could not be realised within any set time frame.

After a lengthy period of ‘wait and see’ following the end of the civil war, the international community is also beginning to run out of patience. India decided to support a United States-sponsored resolution that called for Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission. More importantly, the resolution raised the possibility of international intervention in the country, although only with the consent of the Government.

The Rajapaksa brothers reportedly reacted with fury at India’s move, but in the long run there is very little they can do. India is a member of the troika, along with Spain and Benin, selected by the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to undertake universal periodic reviews (UPRs) of Sri Lanka’s human rights progress since 2009. Inevitably India sees Sri Lanka as a troublesome irritation within its own sphere of influence and has a special interest in pushing the country to satisfy the international community that it is setting its house in order.

There is a considerable amount needing to be done to achieve this. Nepotism, personified by the Rajapaksa fraternal trio at the top of the ruling pyramid, is rife in the country with Ministers sponsoring the election of sons, daughters and other relatives right through the political system down to provincial assembly level.

There are also periodic crackdowns on dissenting media. Just before Menon’s visit security forces raided the offices of the online Sri Lanka Mirror and arrested nine journalists and the tea lady (she was quickly released) on the grounds its website was “continuously publishing false and unethical news about celebrities and popular personalities, misleading international and local communities”.

One wonders how many magazine and tabloid journalists would be behind bars in Australia if that law was enforced here, but this bizarre and almost comical incident reveals a growing authoritarian trend within Sri Lanka that no longer automatically tolerates critical debate, whatever its nature.

In more recent times representatives of the Sri Lankan Government around the world have begun to warn of attempts to revive the LTTE among the Tamil diaspora, including in Australia. The prospect is horrifying. The Tigers were, after all, a brutal and ruthless organisation that in their final days herded old men, women and children into the firing line in the cynical hope the resulting massacres would prompt the international community to intervene. A return to that kind of fighting is unthinkable.

The Sri Lankan Government won the war; it would be rightly sentenced to universal condemnation if it allowed the peace to slip away.

*Graham Cooke has been a journalist for more than four decades, having lived in England, Northern Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, for a lengthy period covering the diplomatic round for The Canberra Times. He believes an interest in world affairs grew out of his early years playing soccer – “the truly international game”. Courtesy www.onlineopinion.com.au

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Latest comments

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    Sri lanka has its internal problem and that is not issue for outsides, SL will look after their people, Where was this Journalist in last 30 years when LTTE killing innocent tamil, singhalese and muslim people, did he then pick up the statements made by the sampathanadan supporting LTTE and advise him not to support the tererisom? No then why are you crying now

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      First of all Where were You? Secondly Journalist had during that period, written a lot about the problems.But Where were your Leaders then? Everyone including Premadasa wanted the problems to continue for vested interest. Then comes a monster, a frankenstein created by SL people, for the people. Now there is no escape. This monster is 1000 times bigger than the other one Prabhakaran. You dug the hole and you have fallen in it. You are turning your face from the innocent tamils. You are still filled with insecurity, and the monster will sell your country to the chinese very soon.

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        The saviour of Sri Lanka knows what he is doing..and you should know that by now.. Monsters are in your imagination.

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        As we have the luxury to hire and fire our own monster, we are not only happy with the present ones, but also proud.

        In contrast, the fat pig Velu was appointed only by foreign based Tamil Terrorist Diaspora, the TTD, to butcher Sri Lankans.

        So will protect ourselves all the time.

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      People like Graham Cooke are going to cry more:

      Analysis of the density of military personnel shows that its ”peace” time density in the Northern Province is much higher than during the peak times of activity in Iraq, Northern Ireland, Kashmir, Chechenya and the French occupation of Algeria. It goes on to say: ”The Sri Lankan government may have won the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the north-east of the country, but another protracted struggle is looming on the horizon, that of winning democracy and development back from the clutches of militarisation” – Notes on the Military Presence in Sri Lanka’s Northern Province, Vol – XLVII No. 28, 7-14 July 2012, http://www.epw.in/insight/notes-military-presence-sri-lankas-northern-province.html

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    In the years ahead – the people of Sri lanka will need all the friends they have and will have all over the world. What governments and the UN and UNHRC will and will not do — these things I don’t quite understand because the motives are so mixed up and there is a lack of bottom line legitimacy —- there is no Govt without a dirty backside – and in the UN their primary mandate for human rights has been abdicated at the altar of the ICC. If this is the position why do we need the UNHRC etc – all we need is a few prosecutors and criminal judges….

    So the human rights mission itself is without a champion at this high institutional level – except in countries like Burma where solitary individuals have embodied the dream of humanity and human rights.

    but friends we need – not commentators, not judges, not UN officials, not journalists, not people who tell us the way it is – we are living it – we know. also we must save the breath without giving too many “should” prescriptions to politicians – this is another waste of time. Thank you for your concern

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    Good morning Mr.Cooke, he has just woken up and realised that the tigers were brutal,is he serious or trying to be funny! He says it is difficult to get a handle on things going on in the former war zone but through out the essay he displays his ignorence of the Sri Lankan sitiation. He quotes Sampanthans statements to convert terrrists in to political prisoners and everybody knows Sambanthan and TNA were decipals of terrorist Prabhakaran.
    There is only one thing he gets right. That is the end of the Eelam dream and the need to reconcile with the rest of the country. But he fails to see that it is not the Sri Lankan government that is stalling it but the intervention of the mainly western IC and India.
    The longer the west and India keeps the pressure on the government longer it will take to achive reconcilliation because already Sambanthan has demonstrated that they have not given up the Eelam dream and that they will not settle for anything less. Simply put, he is expecting on a platter what Prabhakaran failed achive fighting for thirty years. The only reason he has become adament and bolder is the backing he gets from the west and India. If he can be so bold and adament being on the losing side,it is downright foolish to expect the government to cow down to his demands.

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    What was Cooke cooking when the Tigers were killing ??????????

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    U.S. Government imposes Internet control under Presidential Order

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    The comment by NAK is the typical mentality of the Sinhalese extremists that have proved a stumbling block for genuine reconciliation between the Sinhalese and Thamils. These Sinhala – Buddhist elements suffer from a mind-set, popularly called the Mahavamsa mind-set, a belief that says the Sinhalese are the real owners of Sri Lanka. That Buddha has bequeathed Sri Lanka to Sinhalese for the next 5,000 years! The Thamils are variously described as invaders, vandals, marauders, unbelievers and destroyers of Sinhalese civilization. Sinhalese chauvinists are relying on the falsified history by the author of Mahavamsa. If we believe Mahavamsa then it is obvious that Vijaya and his 700 compatriots are the first illegal immigrants who came from Kalinga (Orissa)/Bengal and destroyed/assimilated the indigenous people of Lanka. Vijaya was a Hindu and not a Buddhist – Sinhalese. The Sinhalese identity came thousands of years later through a process of assimilation and fusion with Nagas and Yakkhas. Nagas have been ruling Lanka up to the 9th century as evidence from the names of kings which ended with the suffix Naga/Tissa. For example the hero of Mahavamsa Dutta Gamini was a Naga from both his paternal and maternal side. He never spoke Sinhalese and never considered himself a Sinhalese. There were no Sinhalese in his time. Reconciliation is impossible between the Tamils and the Sinhalese as long as Sinhalese zealots believe in false history.

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      Ts the the cover letter of your refugee application?

      Very smart. Works 90% of the time with foreign frogs in the well.

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    Drop it, guys… drop it. Tamil terrorists are history, no matter whatever the fairytale you try to bring or whatever the colour of your crocodile tears.

    Given the chance, we will do it all over again and entertain you once again… just to prove an important point.

    That the Tamil terrorists are Sri Lankans’ Al Qaeda.

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    Yet another foreign “expert” pontificating on Sri Lanka. I wonder how many man hours are needed to become a expert on Sri Lankan matters. The Sri lankan issue dates back to colonial times when the Tamils sucked upto the British for favour and previlages which they lost after indipendance. No foreigner on this planet can assist the Sri Lankans and we have along list of foreigners who made the problem worse. You may be the latest in the list. Leave us alone and let us solve our own problems and thats will help us to get rid of our contempt for interfereing westerners and indians. Long live China, Iran and Cuba.

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    These fellows like Graham Cooke are nothing but agents paid by and placed by the Tamil diaspora and the terrorist sympathizers to “cook” up stories that they expect to create prejudice against Sri Lanka in the International arena and amongst Sri Lankans themselves. We should not even bother to publish such imaginative stories by these fake “journalists”.

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