30 May, 2024


On Genocide; An Open Letter To Sumanthiran

By Karthigesu Nirmalan-Nathan

Karthigesu Nirmalan-Nathan

Karthigesu Nirmalan-Nathan

Dear Mr. Sumanthiran MP,

Permit me to begin by saying, that the use of the “G” word should be measured. That said, I want to make it abundantly clear what happened in Mulliyvaikal was indeed “Genocide” and fits the definition perfectly – if you as a lawyer feel that you can’t prove it as such with the mountain of evidence available, your certificate is not worth the paper it is printed upon.

I’ve never cried Genocide for what happened to our beloved Tamil people and us as a community and citizens of “Sri Lanka.” – Yet, it is very evident that since the Sinhala Sri Riots, Sri Lanka has crossed the threshold of the G-word in every communal violence subsequent to that. You yourself was displaced twice as I recall in one of your narratives.

If it would be difficult to get a hearing at the International Criminal Court, for that is the rightful place for any “Genocide” trial to be heard, I am quite happy to have them on the docks on a watered down charge of “War-Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity” in a properly constituted hybrid court within the shores of Sri Lanka. .My wish is to get the perpetrators on the dock wherever and however possible!

However, I take it very personally when you degrade the Northern Provincial Council and our much respected Chief Minister Hon. Wigneswaran and in the process insult every member of our ethnic group – for passing the resolution asserting the actions of the then administration of Mahinda Rajapaksa (not to mention previous governments) constituted “Genocide.”



Permit me to throw some light as to why the word “Genocide” came into being. The purpose was to make the crime of mass murder of any or all of a group of people by their own government, an international offence. It is pure and simple one can never take one’s Government within the geographic boundaries of that particular country. It is worth noting at the time of the now famous Nuremburg Trial there was no law to deal with a crime of the magnitude of the holocaust. The word “genocide” was not in use before 1944. Before this was established, Winston Churchill referred to it as a crime with no name. In that year, a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin described the policies of systematic murder founded by the Nazis as genocide. The word genocide is the combination of the Greek word “geno” (meaning tribe or race) and “caedere” (the Latin word for to kill). The word is defined as a specific set of violent crimes that are committed against a certain group with the attempt to remove the entire group from existence or to destroy them. Lemkin defined genocide as follows:

Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups.

Mr. Sumanthiran, please enlighten me as to which court, other than the International Criminal Court can the crime of genocide be proven? I’ve watched the video posted on your Facebook and read what you have said in Geneva this week. I respectfully urge you to limit your intellectual arguments to established facts. Just the fact that you are a lawyer does not give you the right to lie, either directly or by inference. In my considered opinion the threshold to “genocide” has been crossed by the armed forces of Sri Lanka and her allies many times over at Mulliyvaikal as defined in the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 260A (III) Article 2 which states; Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

I do understand why the G-word is not preferred. It is because then it makes it an International crime, automatically making it eligible to be tried in the International Criminal Court. I wonder if you have a special tool to say whether massacre qualifies as Genocide and if so where and at which point according to the laws of Sumanthiran.

My advice to you Sir going forward is to let reason be your tool and justice be your cause anything else will not do. Anything less from you will be undermining human rights and democracy itself in Sri Lanka. We want accountability and not excuses and cover ups. You Sir now stand accused as an accomplice after the fact in a cover up of a heinous crime of “Genocide” along with R Sampanthan and the current administration of President Maithripala Sirisena, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe – who incidentally called our Chief Minister a liar and vowed that he would never talk to him showing his intent and eventual avoidance of meaningful reconciliation and lasting and meaningful peace in my beloved country, Sri Lanka (I loved it better when it was just plain Ceylon).

Awaiting your reply,

Your one time fan and supporter,

Karthigesu Nirmalan-Nathan

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 4

    Take a break,

    Judge provide judgment for victims,

    Layers work for fees, don’t matter victim or offender.

  • 17

    I have been steadfast in advocating international investigations starting even before the war ended. Clearly there were war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    But the charge of genocide is complicated by the fact that the LTTE leadership clearly wanted a war and willingly provoked or gave an excuse for the then regime to commit such crimes; there is a lot to argue there, but the question is what do the Tamil people hope to gain by insisting on defining what happened as genocide, when the rest of the world is unconvinced by it?

    The lesson of Mullivaikkal is that SL Tamils cannot even rely on the political leadership of Tamil Nadu, let alone the Indian central government or the US. When it really mattered, none was willing to help save the innocent civilians. It is foolish for Tamils to continue to believe that by somehow insisting what happened was genocide, the international community would help them get a separate country.

    The only way forward is to find a solution that offers maximum possible devolution ( the word Federalism triggers allergies among Sinhalese, so let us not overuse it, but insist on something that comes close to it) within an undivided Sri Lanka. If one has clarity on that goal, then he/she ought to be assertive of the need for justice for war crimes through an independent international mechanism, but let go of emotional catch phrases like “genocide,” which serves no useful purpose other than give some emotional high to those making the claim.

    The UNHRC report has shown the way forward by stating clearly that there were war crimes and crimes against humanity and that it was ‘systemic.’ Going forward, it should be the platform upon which any search for justice should be based.

    If a substantial section of the Tamil polity within SL believes what happened was genocide, then at a political level, the NPC and the TNA are right to give voice to it; so I didn’t condemn the NPC resolution.

    But in a legal sense, or in seeking justice in international forums, by making the charge of genocide, Tamils run the risk of not being taken seriously, and introducing diversions that will only delay justice and closure for the real victims. Those in the diaspora removed from the impacts of any action on the ground should be especially wary of being the cause of such distractions.

    • 8

      “By making the charge of genocide, Tamils run the risk of not being taken seriously, and introducing diversions that will only delay justice and closure for the real victims.”

      Good response. This is especially true when attempts are made to redefine the term *genocide* to mean something quite different from its generally accepted meaning. Ravina Shamdasani is the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and she has recently been quoted as saying:”The crime of genocide requires specific objective and subjective elements. On the basis of the information we were able to gather, we did not come to the conclusion that these elements were met.”

      Those who continue to pursue the *genocide* argument are doing the Tamil people in Sri Lanka a lot of damage by perpetuating the notion that Sri Lankan Tamil thinking is extremist, violent and divorced from reality, which is exactly the ideology that the LTTE acted upon. Perhaps that is their intention.

  • 3

    [Edited out] Please avoid typing all capitalized comments – CT

  • 8

    There are more than 116 instances of tamil civilian groups in the north and east having been killed by the armed forces and police, commencing soon after independence.
    All are on record by the North East Secretariat Of Human Rights – NESOHR and are accessible in the internet.
    This record of Genocide cannot be denied.

  • 7

    Does this writer not have any issue with the
    way the LTTE deliberately put the civilians in
    harms way? Wasn’t there an all out war between
    the Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE terrorists?
    Didn’t the LTTE use the civilians as mere pawns in
    a desperate attempt at survival?

    Seems to be just another LTTE apologist shedding
    crocodile tears, or someone who is clearly biased and
    blinded by an ‘us and them’ mentality.

  • 10

    Even the CM of NPC was very hesitant to call it a genocide soon after assuming office as CM. Over time he has changed his position for some reason or other. What matters is not what to call it, genocide or something else. What would matter is what the people who are living for whose sake so many tens of thousands laid their lives are going to get and how long it would take to get anything good. If the problems are sorted out in a good way without delay then nobody would have died in vain because there is no way that the dead could be brought back to life.
    We have to take a pragmatic attitude on goals that are achievable.
    Sengodan. M

  • 6

    Mr Karthigesu Nimalan why dont you come here to sri lanka and get involved from here without publishing your opinions from such a safe distance. Universal declaration of human rights apply to every one all tamils, the poor, the low caste the women. Dont think it applies only to sinhalese. You must first practice the human rights at home among your people not live over there in another country and promote all the shit here for the tamils who are here who will ultimately have to suffer the consequences.

    When the war was won it was not only the sinhalese who won, or the government it was the poor tamils, the low caste tamils, the tamil women who were being raped for the mistake of speaking out against opression by their own people. After reading all the contribution here I personally as a Sri Lankan have no respect what so ever for any tamil and like they said in the bible I think God has cursed them.

  • 9

    Your letter is too soft to tell a message to insensitive people like Sumanthiran. Sumanthiran is a person [Edited out] What is happening in Sri Lanka is systematic genocide, which is executed by all the Sri Lankan Sinhala Chauvinist Governments from 1950s. Ranil, Maithri, Mahinda, Chandrika, JR, Premadasa, Srimavo, … all are just criminals.

    • 8


      Pot calling the kettle black?
      You should criticise the LTTE as well.

  • 7

    during the final stages of Sri Lankan war what were the possible alternatives available at that time? What the UN would have done to save the people or civilians?? What the other countries could have contributed for a peaceful end.?? why they preferred an end with sacrificing large number of Tamil people?? Why the world media failed or unwilling to report the real situation?? Is there any sense in Talking about human rights and compassion. ??did Buddha really exist?
    Why did the UN deliberately abandoned the Tamils? Why did they herded the Tamils into a dense formation? When did they started to construct the internment camps?

  • 4

    please go and sit along with the children who attend religious teachings in saffron areas. you will get the enlightenment.

  • 3

    Human rights must be first applied to INdian and Tamil Caste discrimination.

  • 4

    ” if you as a lawyer feel that you can’t prove it as such with the mountain of evidence available, your certificate is not worth the paper it is printed upon.”

    Papa has given a toffee (leader of the opposition to his party) to stop crying so he will now be quiet! The leader of opposition post to Mr. Sambanthan has no real practical value and only gives a symbolic status. In fact holding that post is more liability than an advantage in this juncture.

  • 6

    Genicide is a big farce created by extremists EELAMISTs as an important ingredient to gain EELAM with the UN. By the fact that LTTE held their own people as hostages using them as a shield killing thosands dismiss the very meaning of the word itself!

  • 0

    We could see this genocide cryers asking for investigation if their beloved Prabha was alive!

  • 2

    Mr.Karthigesu Nirmalan-Nathan,

    I find your article utterly ridiculous and totally biased. Not once have you mentioned the atrocities of the LTTE. You use the plight of the Tamil people as a cover for the LTTE that used territory to unleash mass murder on innocent Sinhala villages. So what do you call that “fighting for freedom”??

    Its time that the diaspora drop its cause because its a case of the pot calling the kettle black. It is abundantly clear that the Government of SL is equally guilty as the LTTE/diaspora as in my book they both committed war crimes. You should be brought to book as well you seem to represent the LTTE’s cause even after their demise.

    The Sinhala and Tamil people must collectively support the setting of a truth and reconciliation mechanism because revenge and vengeance from people like you have no end. If you care for your so called “Tamil homeland” or for the nation of Sri Lanka there is no hope for its people in either communities to go forward unless through a commission of truth and reconciliation.

  • 2

    Dear Pot Shot,

    You should change name to shot in the dark. My letter was to Sumanthiran questioning his stand on “A Credible Independent Investigation on War Crimes and Crimes against humanity.” What ever an investigation by an International panel would be be binding and accepted universally.

    I will repeat once again I was question Mr. Sumanthiran. My stand on LTTE is quite clear and I have expressed it many a times. Let me assure you it is not favorable.

    That said I would say this in their defence. They were trying to fight state sponsored terrorism with terrorism of their kind. They were a product of Thug and Rogue state, an island of terror called Sri Lanka.

  • 1

    If anyone cares to read Sumanthiran’s parliamentary speeches he has claimed that there is genocide and the genocide continues even now. The land grab by the army and the uprooting of several thousands depriving of their livelihoods is genocide. The systematic colonization of the east and north is genocide. The colonization was intended to alter the demography of the Thamil people to the status of a minority in the east. The Sinhalese who constituted just 8.40% in 1946 census jumped to 23.15% in 2012 census. The following table shows the changes in demography among the 3 major communities.

    Year Tamil Muslim Sinhalese
    No % No % No %
    1946 136,059 48.75% 109,024 39.06% 23,456 8.40%

    1953 167,898 47.37% 135,322 38.18% 46,470 13.11%
    1981 410,156 42.06% 315,436 32.34% 243,701 24.99%
    2012 617,295 39.79% 569,738 36.72% 359,136 23.15%

    But what Sumanthiran also says is claiming genocide is one thing, proving same in an international court of law is a different kettle of fish.

    A U.N. commission said the government of Sudan and militias have acted together in committing widespread atrocities in Darfur that should be prosecuted by an international war crimes tribunal, but the violent acts do not amount to genocide. The commission, charged with investigating the violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced more than 1.8 million people, found that “most attacks were deliberately and indiscriminately directed against civilians.”

    “In particular, the commission found that government forces and militias conducted indiscriminate attacks, including killing of civilians, torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of villages, rape and other forms of sexual violence, pillaging and forced displacement, throughout Darfur,” the commission said in its 176-page report.

    “These acts were conducted on a widespread and systematic basis, and therefore may amount to crimes against humanity.”

    However, the commission said it does not believe the atrocities committed amount to a policy of genocide, as the United States has alleged.

    The case of Srebrenica was different. The ICTY and the International Court of Justice have called the events genocide.

    The Srebrenica massacre came amid the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia into independent states in the 1990s.

    Serbia backed Bosnian Serb forces fighting the Muslim-led Bosnian government during the conflict.

    In July 1995, in what was supposed to have been a UN safe haven, Bosnian Serb forces took control of Srebrenica. They rounded up and killed about 8,000 men and boys and buried them in mass graves.

    There is some chance that the hybrid judicial criminal court soon to be appointed to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity may pronounce the killing of Thamils during the closing phase of the war amount to genocide. The shelling of hospitals, schools, using heavy weapons, dropping phosphorous bombs, expulsion of UN staff, the deliberate starving of the people by understating the number of civilians holed up at Nandikal at 70,000 when the actual figure was close to 300,000 may constitute genocide. So let us wait for the outcome of the inquiry.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 200 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically disabled after 5 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.