17 September, 2019

Blog

Questions On Genocide & Reconciliation

By Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

Dr. Laksiri Fernando

The sensibility of the resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) requesting “the ongoing United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) to investigate the claim of genocide and recommend appropriate investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court” has come to a major focus as it is done barely a month after the presidential elections when the TNA and the NPC opted to support Maithripala Sirisen’s candidacy for the Presidency.

This is also at a time when the UNHRC itself has decided to postpone the submission of the report of the OISL, so far compiled, to the Human Rights Sessions this month. The resolution and the election position give mixed signals to the people in the South or even the North quite detrimental to the hopes for or process of reconciliation.

There is no doubt that the claims made by the Resolution are highly controversial and many would not agree with the ‘claims of genocide’ because the claims are one sided, not substantiated and in my opinion would not stand the objective or legal criteria. However, if that is the way the people in the North think, or made to think, about the whole of the past since 1948, then it is a serious situation.

However, no one can deny the right of the NPC to pass such a resolution or any other, unless they contravene the Constitution or the laws of the country. Such a denial is a gross discrimination and a denial of basic human rights (freedom of expression and equal participation in the affairs of governance) enshrined in various human rights conventions and agreements apart from Sri Lanka’s own republican Constitution. These are extremely complex and complicated issues that a process of reconciliation should address and try to resolve.

 The NPC even last year passed a similar resolution however short of calling for an investigation into the ‘claims of genocide.’ While calling for war crime investigations, it used the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ which is according to some experts (i.e. John Quigley) borders on genocide. However, even ethnic cleansing is a crime applicable to both sides of the conflict, the LTTE and the government forces or the government. Only difference might be the scale and intensity of the atrocity. Fortunately for both sides, there is nothing called ‘culpable genocide’ in international law, as far as I am aware, or otherwise both sides cannot easily escape from the charge.

Last year, when there were efforts to include the word or the ‘claim of genocide’ into the resolution, the person who strongly disagreed was the Chief Minister, Wigneswaran. As Meera Sirinivasan reported to “The Hindu” (28 January 2014) “Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, widely regarded as a moderate voice within the TNA, insisted that the term be avoided.” Therefore, it is not clear why he opted to agree this years for a resolution completely based on ‘claims of genocide,’ not only in recent times but going back far back as 1948. Thus the political nature of the resolution is quite clear.

Background

Genocide is not something that anyone should take lightly. Sri Lanka or then Ceylon was one of the first 20 countries that acceded to the UN Genocide Convention in 1950 even before becoming a member of the organization. This does not mean that Sri Lanka fully understood the implications or the commitments therein of the ratification of this convention. This might be or is the case even today.

The term ‘Genocide’ undoubtedly is highly emotional due to some historical reasons. The initial reasons are connected with the gross atrocities committed by Adolf Hitler and Natzi Germany particularly during the Second World War against the Jewish community and other peoples and nationalities. No one would like to associate with such inhuman atrocities whether they commit them or not.

The word or the ‘accusation of genocide’ also has the stigma associated with what happened later in Cambodia under Pol Pot in late 1970s, and former Yugoslavia or Rwanda in early 1990s. In the NPC Resolution, what happened in Sri Lanka are directly equated with those countries much to the consternation of those who are strongly or blindly inclined to defend the Sri Lankan State, whatever the human rights violations.

The term, however, has a very specific legal connotation. There was no such a term or word before 1944 although such atrocities had happened before. Referring to Hitler’s massacres of different peoples, Winston Churchill remarked “we are in the presence of a crime without a name.” So Raphael Lemkin (a Polish lawyer), invented the name. Lemkin himself was an escaped victim of ‘genocide.’ He combined the Greek word genos (a people) with the Latin suffix cida (kill), to create a word similar to the word ‘homicide.’ The Sinhala term used among Sri Lanka’s human rights fraternity, Janasanhara, very fittingly gives the same meaning.

Lemkin also influenced the Genocide Convention and its interpretation of the term. He also wanted to introduce a crime or violation named ‘cultural genocide’ which was not accepted. It was difficult even for a person like John Humphrey who was in charge of its draft to moderate Lemkin’s strong influence. As John Quigley (The Genocide Convention: An International Law Analysis) stated, “The definition as written into the Genocide Convention left many questions unanswered. The sparse language of Article II hid multitude of problems.”

One of the questions left unanswered, in my opinion, was the application of the term or the crime in the context of two or more groups killing each other in an ethnic or religious conflict like in Sri Lanka particularly after 1983.

Definition

As ‘homicide’ means killing of a person, ‘genocide’ means the destruction or killing of a people or group, whether ethnic, religious, racial or national. While that being the general meaning of the term, the UN Convention has given a specific interpretation. Technically speaking, to qualify for a situation of genocide, the whole group does not need to be killed. The killing of a part of a community is sufficient. And not only killing in the physical sense but also the causing of ‘serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group’ can be construed as ‘genocide’ however on one proviso. If that proviso is there, even the infliction of certain restrictive ‘conditions on their life’ can be considered as genocide.

What is that Proviso? That is that the ‘acts committed should be with the (clear) intention of destroying in whole or in part of that group.’ Let me quote Article II of that Convention to clarify this. It reads:

“In the present Convention, 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.” (My emphasis).

The Convention also included, ‘forced birth control’ and again forced ‘transfer of children’ from one group to the other, as acts of genocide in point (d) and (e) that could happen and have happened in many countries with or without an intention of genocide proper.

NPC Resolution

It is customary among the ‘genocide advocates’ to focus on the acts enumerated from (a) to (e) in the Convention without usually substantiating the ‘intent to destroy’ of a particular community associated with those acts. When mass killings or massacres occur it is customary for the international community to consider those events at least as bordering on genocide. However, when those killings occur or have occurred on both sides in an intense or protracted conflict between two or more groups, it is better to deal with the violations as ‘war crimes’ or ‘human rights violations’ in my opinion.

It is obvious that the Northern Provincial Council has jumped from ‘war crimes’ to ‘genocide’ claims within the pace of one year, for some reason, strangely in a context where an overwhelming majority of Tamil people on the direction of the TNA had voted to bring a new government that promised for good governance, rule of law and reconciliation. The resolution accuses even the new government in the process of genocide.

If the pressure to do so had come from the people, then they would not have voted for the new president as they have done at the 8th January elections. And if the resolution is the way that the council members interpret the events since 1948 in Sri Lanka then it does not make much sense where there had been cooperation between the two groups, Sinhalese and the Tamils, on many occasions while the gap between the political positions had been generally widening in the past or even one might say since 1948.

Anyone has to admit that there had been many rebellions or insurrections in the country due to socio-economic as well as political reasons after independence and their suppressions have been ruthless, irrespective of ethnicity or any other distinction. That has been the nature of the State, particularly under the conditions of underdeveloped in democratic norms and practices. The issues have always been the suppression of human rights, and human rights might be the best way of approaching the past injustices.

Although the present author does not intend to go into details of what the resolution has stated as incidents of genocide, to avert rubbing salt into gapping wounds, it is suffice to say that some of the interpretations of actions, policies and events as genocide are quite farfetched to say the least. For example, as a preamble to the resolution, it says:

“This Council is of opinion that during the period extending from 1948, when the Citizenship Act was passed to strip citizenship from a segment of the Tamil community and render them stateless, and continuing through the present day, successive Sri Lankan governments have perpetrated genocide against Tamils. Extensive evidence demonstrates that acts have been committed that constitute four of the five enumerated genocidal acts in the Genocide Convention.”

There is no question that the Citizenship Act of 1948 was a gross violation of human rights and particularly the Universal Declaration and its Article 5. However, not only the Act preceded the Declaration but also the intent of the Act was more of class than ethnic (AJ Wilson) depriving the citizenship of mainly the migrant plantation workers from India. That is one reason why the main Tamil party of that time, the Tamil Congress voted for it.

There is no question that the killings recorded in the Resolution, in 1956, 1958, 1977 and particularly 1983 could be called pogroms. Nevertheless by the time of 1983, the LTTE has already emerged with the intention of similar wanton, and one can even argue that on the other side, there was no such an organization involved in the conflict except the State or the armed forces which we know to be perennially involved in atrocities whether in 1971 or 1987-89 or any other. It is best to consider the events between 2002 and 2009 as part of a war where ‘war crimes’ and ‘human rights violations’ should be investigated.

Most questionable might be what is recorded under Section 4 in the Resolution as “Imposing Measures Intended to Prevent Births within the Group.” It begins reporting of the following which I would leave for the readers to make up their own opinion.

“As early as the 1990s, there have been reported incidents of forced sterilization of the Up- Country Tamils. Doctors would promise Rs. 500 to young and poor Tamil plantation workers, who would take a lorry to a makeshift clinic where they were forcibly sterilized via tubal ligation without consent. The government operated this program under the guise of family planning, but its aim was to prevent births amongst Tamils, thus changing the demographics of the Central Province.”

Investigations

The present OISL investigation is a time bound effort covering the period from February 2002 to November 2011. The last government expressed the view, if any investigation to be reasonable it should begin from 1983 with the intention of perhaps implicating the UNP government for 1983 events and India for what happened during their intervention during 1987-1990. Now the NPC wants the UN to investigate genocide going back to 1948. All these moves have been political, without much concern for objectivity, reasonableness or purpose of reconciliation in the country.

One intention of the Resolution appears to be to counter the present government’s efforts to have a domestic investigation under international norms also with the participation or the direction of the UNHRC. Countering that effort, the Resolution says the following.

“This Council notes that President Maithripala Sirisena was acting defense minister in May 2009, during the peak of the government’s attacks against Tamils. This conclusively demonstrates the need for justice and accountability for the Tamil genocide to be driven and carried out by the international community. Tamils have no hope for justice in any domestic Sri Lankan mechanism, whether conducted by the Rajapaksa regime, Sirisena regime, or its successor.”

It is true that some sections don’t have a faith in ‘domestic investigations’ while others are also sceptical about ‘some international efforts.’ I have earlier raised the question as to the circumstances under which this particular Resolution has come about stating that the NPC in 2014 had a different position and the people this January under the direction of the TNA even voted for Maithripala Sirisena.

There are ample evidence in the case of Sri Lanka or elsewhere that opinions on these matters are largely influenced or guided by ‘some international advocates,’ however genuine they may be, whose primary concerns are ‘not reconciliation but punishment’ of not only the particular perpetrators but also countries or other groups, other than those whom they ostensibly support. I have gained this opinion having worked in Geneva from 1984 to 1991 closely involved in the UN Human Rights Commission of that time. One example is the following.

“For the past six decades, the Sinhala-Buddhist Ceylon/Sri Lanka has implemented a systematic and a comprehensive military, political, and economic campaign with the intent to destroy in substantial part the different national, ethnical, racial and religious group constituting the Hindu/Christian Tamils. This Sinhala-Buddhist Ceylon/Sri Lanka campaign has consisted of killing members of the Hindu/Christian Tamils in violation of Genocide Convention Article II (b). This Sinhala/Buddhist Ceylon/Sri Lanka campaign has also deliberately inflicted on the Hindu/Christian Tamils conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction in substantial part in violation of Article II (c) of the Genocide Convention.”

The above quotation is not from an ordinary person but from a professor of international law, Francis Boyle (The Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka: The Global Failure to Protect Tamil Rights, p. 10). I don’t know how far these type of blanket assessments or pronouncements have influenced the NPC Resolution as international opinion or international law. To be fair to the international experts, I also must add that there are others, who are balanced-minded and concerned about not only punitive aspects but also reconciliation concerns in the affected countries. Perhaps the distinction between the two is based on particular academic disciplines or personal backgrounds.

It is my understanding that the two groups of the Sinhalese and the Tamils, more so of their leaders, or instigated by them, even trampling on the Muslims, have been engaged in a fierce competition even before the independence, and then in an aggressive protracted ethno-political conflict, and the Sinhalese as the numerical majority undoubtedly and grossly trampled on the rights of the Tamils which eventually led to the destructive internecine war for both communities. There were a wanton of killings in the course of this process.

Conclusion for Reconciliation

What might be necessary for reconciliation today and in the future for both and other communities might be to engage with each other in a spirit of ‘truth and justice’ for the past and also for the future and workout mechanisms, norms, policies and measures to take the country out of this terrible situation or mess. Sri Lanka undoubtedly can take a leaf out of South Africa’s book in this endeavour.

In that context, a domestic investigation (a proper truth and reconciliation commission) under the international norms and even with the participation of international experts nominated by the Human Rights High Commissioner might be a possibility. The advantage of such a commission is that both the victims and the perpetrators can confront each other if and only if the circumstances are conducive.

It is so obvious that the Sri Lankan investigators (Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese) are in a better position to understand the victims, the perpetrators and all the nuances of their circumstances. I say this without any prejudice to the international community and Sri Lanka is obviously a part of the international community.

I frankly don’t think that the accusations or claims of genocide would take the country forward for any solution. What might be possible is to incorporate some of the norms of the Genocide Convention into domestic human rights law and prevent even a semblance of genocide happening in the country in the future. There is much education needed within the armed forces, the police, and the public service, among the people and particularly for the Clergy. As Sri Lanka has acceded to the Genocide Convention, it is appropriate and necessary to include ‘freedom from genocide’ in the fundamental rights chapter in the Constitution.

One advantage of the resolution is that it has brought the subject into discussion. As supposedly a Sinhalese, I might also say that all Sinhalese should need to reflect on whether there has been anything resembling genocide that has happened to the Tamils in the past which could recur even in the future. That should be stopped.

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Latest comments

  • 9
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    There is much education needed within the armed forces, the police, and the public service, among the people and particularly for the BUDDHIST Clergy and Majority leaders.Also correct school curriculum

    • 10
      2

      If the politicians learn what good governance is, a lot can be corrected easily.

    • 3
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      Dr. Laksiri Fernando

      RE: kailainathan Comment

      “There is much education needed within the armed forces, the police, and the public service, among the people and particularly for the BUDDHIST Clergy and Majority leaders.Also correct school curriculum”

      Translation:

      Common Sense Phamplet Sri Lanka 2015 in Sinhala and Tamil are needed, and the sri Lankan writers have failed so far.

      In Addition Sri Lankan Crisis Pamphlets are also needed. Anybody there? Don’t worry about White Vans.

      Battle of the Mootals,முட்டாள், Modayas and People with Common sense.

      Common Sense (pamphlet)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_Sense_%28pamphlet%29

      The Sri Lankan Crisis?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_American_Crisis

      • 2
        1

        Dr. Laksiri Fernando

        This Land Is Your Land

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGKU8awk7Vg

        This Land Is Your Land

        This Land Is My Land

        This Land Is Your Land, Veddaho, Sinhala, Tamils, Muslims and All Paras

        This Land Is My Land, Veddaho, Sinhala, Tamils, Muslims and All Paras

    • 1
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      When you can actually get educated then think about teaching others….at least educate that hiding behind civilians when fighting is bad

    • 4
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      Deliberate targeting of an ethnic group by acts of murder and ethnic cleansing in order to reduce their numbers in a country, amounts to genocide. As a resident in Colombo, I was an eye witness to ethnic riots in 1958, 1977 and 1983 where Tamils were murdered and their properties destroyed all because of their ethnicity. I was also a medico-legal officer in the war zone, and thus a medical witness to killing of Tamils by the Srilankan Security forces, done as acts of revenge. All these acts were swept under the carpet by the Srilankan Judicial system which is institutionally racist. I do not think that the resolution by Northern PC is morally wrong though some may argue that what happened in Srilanka to the Tamils is not genocide legally.

  • 16
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    Laksiri Fernando,

    Your comparison of LTTE atrocities with Sinhalese state atrocities since independence is lop sided.

    Why, and when did Tamil retaliation start:

    Several decades after serial Sinhala state discriminatory actions against Tamils, after regular state sponsored pogroms, and after colonization of Tamil regions with Sinhalese etc, against Tamils.

    Sinhala state genocidal acts were the cause of the Tamil liberation movements which was conveniently classified as terrorism.

    Have you forgotten all the retaliatory mass massacres by the armed forces of Sri Lanka during the war, culminating in the climax genocidal acts in Vanni.

    you can’t sweep it under the carpet: It is genocide, and it it is continuing covertly.

    • 15
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      Thiru,

      I have not read the article properly but I feel that notwithstanding the atrocities committed by the successive Srl Lankan governments, we as Tamils, should take responsibility for setting off bombs, ejecting the Muslims from North, and of course the abhomonable suicide bombings. We cannot justify these acts by saying that the Sinhala Governments committed crimes against us first. All these acts were committed in the name of Tamils; we need to take responsibility; this is the position I have taken, and I am sure I will trigger some reaction!

      • 2
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        oh you have to wait until the LTTE was destroyed! LOL

      • 14
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        Burning_Issue

        I somewhat reluctantly agree to your comment however the issue that one must address is the nature of the state. War crimes didn’t start with LTTE’s “setting off bombs, ejecting the Muslims from North, and of course the abhomonable suicide bombings”.
        By the way JVP and LTTE were/are the historical product of this island.

        It started on 5th April 1971, therefore one has to study the pattern of behaviour on the part of the state and its rulers. The state and its rulers opted for easy remedy without addressing the core issues, which could have been dealt with accommodating concerns and problems of the youth and peacefully approaching essentially a political problem.

        The Sinhala/Buddhists statists (Politicians, Sangha, Bureaucrats, Security forces, bigots, racists, ….. and the people) are all behind this mess and are responsible for whatever happened in this island in the past 44 years if not before.

        The central ideology which is based on myth which tell the Sinhala/Buddhist to preserve the state as they see fit and they falsely believe being the custodian of this island as long as they maintain the status Quo everyone in this island is happy. This is a serious misunderstanding of facts and history.

        Since independence all parties have been jockeying for power, racism was the best vehicle they found, injected with extra doses of testosterone. The idea of nation building was perverted to suite their political and mythological needs, a ghetto by the name of Sinhala/Buddhist nation.

        The Sinhala/Buddhist bureaucracy has been the worse offender, if anything they have to be taken to task before politicians. bureaucracy is the permanent state and have been consistent with Sinhala/Buddhist ideology. Ultimately their betrayal of people has brought the country to its knees. All forms of corruption, criminal activities,…… have been conveniently hidden in patriotism, the best place for scoundrels.

        The best course of action is to un-build the nation, seriously think about what sort of country our children and their children want to live in, how to build it without smart ass patriots getting in the way.

        Difficult but doable.

        Think about it.

        • 5
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          Native,
          “Un-build the nation”. This is one of the best opinion I have seen from you. Unlearning ones perceptions or realisation of ones egos is the core message of Buddhism, so your idea of un-build the Nation should work in SL. Why not our learned religious leaders teach their followers these basics, ” I am Sinhalese, I am Buddhist, SB are the greatest” are very much the outer layers of those egos build in childhood, taught by our loved elders. It is not easy to unlearn these egoistic views, but our learned Buddhist monks could show, teach people to see these views as just perceptions, egos and not real and this leads to better awareness.

    • 1
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      Action and reaction are always equal and opposite in the physical world. If a thick board of wood is hit hard with a bare hand, nothing will happen to the wood, but the hand would definitely be hurt or the bones broken. The Tamil reaction to Sinhla extremism hurt the Tamils disproportionately . However, action and reaction like in a jet engine, moves the plane forward with tremendous thrust. The Tamil reaction could have been different and results could have been different. Non-violence against violence, was the right reaction and would have worked with time, if pursued with vigour, patience, dedication and an understanding of the philosophy behind it.

      The Tamil political leadership should not engage in knee jerk reactions anymore, Wisdom and patience are not only necessary, but vital virtues. Things have started to move in the right direction and we should not do anything incindiery to thwart this movement. Let use work to prompted and push forward what is happening.

      Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 18
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    The simple answer is that at the various pogroms and race riots, the war from 1958 to 2009 the intention was to destroy Tamils as human beings on account of their race.Bensen

  • 3
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    Thank you Dr Fernando.

    Could you please read this http://www.sangam.org/2011/04/Track_Record.pdf.crdownload and respond ?

    Thank you

  • 6
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    Thank you Dr. Fernando!

    Your article is very objective and should challenge all Sri Lankans wanting true reconciliation, to ask some fundamental questions about how we take the country forward.

    The reality in Sri Lanka is that the number of deaths related to the conflict is only a small part of the immense amount of suffering and devastation caused by state and non – state actors, including the LTTE. Over the course of the conflict, democracy and the institutions established to promote it came under severe strain, further aggravating human suffering.

    You are right in stating that accusations of genocide would not take the country forward. However, it’s incumbent upon all of us to ensure that truth and accountability pertaining to the conflict in Sri Lanka should prevail and attempts to undermine these should not be tolerated.

  • 2
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    Laksiri,

    Both Tamils and Sinhalese are insufficiency evolved to accept current civilizational norms. The LTTE supported by sections of the Tamil expatriate community – most definitely practiced genocide. So did Gothabaya with the wild cheering of the Sinhalese masses.

    The Sinhalese given their collective behavior have lost their shirt in the international arena and stand naked. And the genocide resolution removes their underwear delighting the Tamil LTTE supporting expat community whose crimes are unlikely to be investigated in detail.

    Now, what harm is there in willingly submitting ourselves to “white man’s Investigation”. And only by casting it as a white man’s activity we can retain our own morocities as a “native right”. Dayan will be happy to give you a Gramscian angle on on this one.

    It is time for us to be civilized yet a gain – does not matter by whom.

    • 4
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      If gotabhaya was doing a genocide then why did 300000+ tamils crossed the defence lines and came towards SLA fleeing LTTE?

      • 5
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        sach

        “If gotabhaya was doing a genocide then why did 300000+ tamils crossed the defence lines and came towards SLA fleeing LTTE?”

        In boxing when a competitor is mercilessly beaten up in most cases he/she naturally moves towards the opponent and embrace/cuddle him or her, not that he/she loves the opponent.

  • 5
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    Dr Laksiri:

    There is no doubt that yours is a voice of sanity and reason. The country achieved independence in 1948 and has been at war with itself for most of the years since then, including those years that you were part of CKB’s administration. It comes as no surprise that the lingering “Tamil” question problem has sapped the energies of both the adversaries, the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

    At each turn when and where the hopes are raised that, the hope that the light is at the end of the tunnel, they all have ended up as false hopes, with the Tamils having to pick up the ashes. What is noteworthy though is that all these hopes and promises, given by successive leaderships, have been singularly dashed by the very singhalese leadership, so much so the Tamils ought to be excused for the sceptical belief and stand. Much of the ho ha proved to be time buying and deceptive exercises and sincerity in resolving the long-standing issues became questionable when every report of every single commission set up for the purpose were coolly allowed to gather dust, only to start a new convenient commission to dupe the Tamils, yet again and again.

    Faulting MR and his regime would seem trivial if compared with the general psyche of the sinhalese majority – the desire, will and sincerity has never been seen to exist in honouring the promises given to the Tamils. Even written proof of undertakings by sinhalese regimes have come to nought, thus seriously eroding the confidence of the Tamils and the credibility of Sinhalese regimes. Many Sinhalese leaders and regimes have built their careers on the blood and deprivation of the Tamils. The polarity is wider than ever and any promise by any sinhalese leadership is simply seen as a vote buying exercise, nothing more. When MR claimed that he is a known devil, what do you make of it, or was he the first devil or will he be the last?

    There have been some positive news since the new govt took over. These are merely cosmetic but the substantial issues of land and disappearances still linger. The conflicting statements by the administration do not inspire confidence. It continues to say that the large concentration of troops in the North will continue. You expect the Tamils to trust the new admin but if the admin does not trust the Tamils in removing the army from the North, how do you expect the Tamils to trust the sinhalese. There is all round agreement that the army needs to have a presence for security reasons but the huge numbers cannot be seen that way. It has intimidated, deprived life and livelihood and practically disrupted the normal livelihood of the Tamils. Then Ministers come out with statements that there will be NO reduction of troops in the North.

    The Tamils have tried it both ways. They have supported sinhala regimes, one that they believed will consider their plight only to be no better than previous regimes or preferred to be a bystander and leave the sinhalese to slug it out among themselves. Ironically MR was the beneficiary of both of these, having won in 2005 because the Tamils ignored the elections and lost in 2015 because the Tamils decided to vote for his adversary. The Tamils have made it amply clear that the vote for Sirisena was more of a protest vote against Rajapakse. There were dissenting voices when the Tamil leadership wanted the Tamils to vote for Sirisena. The dissenting voices have now been more or less proven correct in their line of argument. Had MR been elected, there is no doubt whatsoever that the UNHRC report will have been presented and the implications will have been far-reaching and may have at least addressed the long-standing cries of the Tamils with international intervention. To the contrary, the new regime that the Tamils help to elect says that troops will not be reduced (no difference from the MR regime) and has declared that it will not honour any international investigation and that it will not surrender any of those who may be implicated in the UNHRC report. Pray tell me when will any sinhala regime think that Tamils are also citizens of SL who deserve equal treatment and that the perpetrators of crime, irrespective of race and religion, both Sinhalese and Tamils, should be brought to the book? I, for one, do not believe that any sinhala regime will apprehend any sinhala leader or soldier for the mass murders of Tamil civilians during the last days of the war. Prove me wrong.

  • 3
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    The most important word in the Genocide Convention is the word “intent”- one has to prove the intent to destroy…..this is the most difficult thing to prove in a court of law. It is also why the genocide charge was so difficult in the Dafur case

  • 1
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    Mr Kovilan,

    It is to establish ” intent” Justice CVW has cited the period since Independence.

  • 6
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    I was looking at the photo above and shocked to see the soldier’s left hand was bracing on the breast of the young girl prisoner. There are other ways of helping the prisoner not by holding on to her breast. This is a typical example how the armed forces behaved with the female fighters of the LTTE who surrendered to them. There was a video footage on a TV programme where many young female LTTE fighters were put on a truck. Those female fighters did not appear later, probably taken some place, raped and murdered. At Mullivaykal during the heavy fighting, a safety passage was created for the civilians to leave the war torn area and when the civilians were taking shelter through the passage towards the army points , heavy artillery bombings were carried out and many thousands of civilians perished. Whatever the meaning of the word genocide is, serious crimes, murder, rape have been committed by the Army and the irony is that according to the president, they are going to investigate whether crimes were committed during the last days of the war. The Sri Lankan Government cannot investigate the crimes committed by them. Under the circumstances there cannot be and won’t be any reconciliation and naturally the majority Sinhalese are not bothered or interested about it.

    Cannot Dr.Laksiri Fernando give his opinion for a remedy to the ever existing Tamil problems.

  • 6
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    The purpose of the Genocide resolution can be found in the introduction to the United States declaration of independence: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
    The purpose of the resolution isn’t to seek political concessions from the Sinhalese south. The Tamil people understood the futility of this and abandoned all such attempts decades ago. However, the world has changed, and Justice Wigneswaran is smart enough to see that the wheels are in motion outside the island to bring real change to the NE. So the resolution was passed not to ask for anything from the Sinhalese, but rather as a courtesy, to let them know why the NE is going to separate and become independent.

    • 2
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      Dr. Laksiri Fernando:

      Please respond to Patriot’s comment.

      Sinhalese while being profoundly thankful to their Tamil brethren for being so courteous should seek the kind of simple/succinct explanations presented by Patriot here than go after lengthy complicated convoluted explanations rich in rhetoric.

      Patriot’s comment is a big rotten egg on the face of those who call Dayan Jayathilaka paranoid.

  • 0
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    Of course Mr. Laksiri we should contemplate whether sinhalese have done a genocide of tamils. The only thing I contemplate is why we did not do it.

    Between one feels for Laksiri when he try hard not to hurt his tamil clientele while talking abt NPC resolution.

  • 3
    4

    what is funny about tamil’s genocide is it took them 60+ years and until LTTE was defeated to find out they are actually under a genocide……

    Tamils definitely enjoyed the killing part, but when sinhalese counter attacked, genocide , genocide

  • 4
    1

    The author of the article says “That is one reason why the main Tamil party of that time, the Tamil Congress voted for it.” This is a mis-statement and false. The Tamil Congress in 1948 spoke and voted against the Ceylon Citizenship Act 18 of 1948 in parliament. But it is true G.G. Ponnambalam was secretly negotiating with D.S. Senanayake to join government under the cloak of offering “responsive cooperation.”
    D.S.Senanayake dealt a mortal blow to the unity and integrity of the nation by enacting this racist Act that targeted the Hill Country Tamils. G.G. Ponnambalam voted in favour but Chelvanayakam and others voted against it. Thus there was a split that led to the formation of the Federal Party (Tamil Arasu Katchi) in December,1949.
    Senanayake was not motivated by class but ethnic consideration that influenced his action. The Citizenship Act No.18 was unique in that it denied citizenship to a person born in the country before or after 1948 unless, at least, his father was born in or was a citizen of Sri Lanka. The following year, the same Thamils were deprived of their franchise rights by a simple amendment to the  Parliamentary Elections Ordinance  that stated only citizens have the right to vote in elections. This  reduced Thamils representation in Parliament from 33 in 1948 to a mere 20 in 1952.
    Before the ink on Ceylon Citizenship Act got dried D.S.Senanayake enacted the Indian and Pakistani (Residents) Citizenship Act, which purported to grant Ceylon Citizenship to people who were able to satisfy certain qualifications, namely, residence in Ceylon for a period of 7 years from 1st January, 1939, in case of married people, and for a period of 10 years (from 1st January, 1936) for unmarried people. They were also expected to have adequate means of livelihood. Their families should have been, normally, resident in Ceylon and they should be capable of observing the laws of Ceylon.
    This Act was claimed, by the (Sinhala) Government, as one which would permit people of Indian origin to become Citizens of Ceylon. In point of fact, because of various procedural questions and administrative discrimination, the Act did not provide the necessary relief to persons of Indian Origin to acquire citizenship of Ceylon. As it turned out, of 850,000 persons, in respect of whom citizenship applications were made, only about 145,000 persons were able to acquire Ceylon citizenship. Applications of 700,000 persons were rejected.
    The Citizenship Act No. 18 of 1948 opened the floodgates to further legislative and administrative acts, which robbed Thamils of their language, educational, and employment rights.
    Democracy is about equality and fairness and not the tyranny of the majority. Sinhalese intellectuals like Dr.Dayan Jayatilleka does not subscribe to this concept. He like D.B.Wijetunga expanded on his theory of Sinhala supremacy in an interview reported in the Indian Express on 7 January.
    “Sri Lanka President Wijetunga has dismissed the possibility of a special devolution of power to the troubled north-eastern region of the island.. “I cannot allow two or three classes of citizens. I cannot agree to making minorities super class citizens and the majority second class citizens…”
    Thamils and other minorities are creepers getting succour from the tree they climb. Or the principle enunciated by Sarath Fonseka “”I strongly believe that this country belongs to the Sinhalese but there are minority communities and we treat them like our people….. We being the majority of the country, 75%, we will never give in and we have the right to protect this country … They can live in this country with us. But they must not try to, under the pretext of being a minority, demand undue things.” (National Post of September 23)

  • 1
    4

    Reconciliation – what Tamils did most was massacres and only what others did was to save them from elimination.

    http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=The_forgotten_civilians_killed_by_LTTE_Kebithigollewa_massacre_15_June_2006_20140915_02

  • 3
    3

    Dear Dr.Fernando:

    I would hate to question your sincerity about trying to address the Tamil Grievances. But after reading your latest Article I have my doubts. I hope I am not being too unkind but let me give you my reservations about some of your misunderstandings.

    1) The sensibility of the resolution passed by the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) requesting “the ongoing United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL) to investigate the claim of genocide and recommend appropriate investigations and prosecutions by the International Criminal Court” has come to a major focus as it is done barely a month after the presidential elections when the TNA and the NPC opted to support Maithripala Sirisen’s candidacy for the Presidency.

    *** TNA & NPC only only supported MS to get rid of MR. We never expected MS to deliver everthing that we need.

    2)This is also at a time when the UNHRC itself has decided to postpone the submission of the report of the OISL, so far compiled, to the Human Rights Sessions this month.

    *** UNHCR agreed to put off by 6 months only at the request of GOSL.

    3) The resolution and the election position give mixed signals to the people in the South or even the North quite detrimental to the hopes for or process of reconciliation.

    *** people of the south have no ear to listen to Tamil Signals and will never agree to devolve power.

    4) There is no doubt that the claims made by the Resolution are highly controversial and many would not agree with the ‘claims of genocide’ because the claims are one sided, not substantiated and in my opinion would not stand the objective or legal criteria.

    *** You surprise me and you are begining to sound like MRs spokesman.

    5)These are extremely complex and complicated issues that a process of reconciliation should address and try to resolve.

    *** I have already said this many times and repeat again.
    Accountabilty is a Prerequite to Reconciliation and GOSL is not capable of bringing the Culprits to books. It is 2 months and all the Criminals are roaming free and no one has been apprehended.

    6)The NPC even last year passed a similar resolution however short of calling for an investigation into the ‘claims of genocide.’ While calling for war crime investigations, it used the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ which is according to some experts (i.e. John Quigley) borders on genocide.
    Last year, when there were efforts to include the word or the ‘claim of genocide’ into the resolution, the person who strongly disagreed was the Chief Minister, Wigneswaran.

    *** How do you expect CM to pass a Resolution when the THUG was still in power.

    7) One of the questions left unanswered, in my opinion, was the application of the term or the crime in the context of two or more groups killing each other in an ethnic or religious conflict like in Sri Lanka particularly after 1983.

    *** You have a PhD but you surprise me and I am sure you understand the difference. GOSL was an elected body and the LTTE were Freedom Fighters and you expect different standards of behaviour.

    8) “In the present Convention, 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:

    *** If you now question whether the mass killing of Tamils is Genoicide then Reconciliation is a distant dream.

    9) It is obvious that the Northern Provincial Council has jumped from ‘war crimes’ to ‘genocide’ claims within the pace of one year.

    *** Let me explain. Genocide is the end product of War Crimes

    10) for some reason, strangely in a context where an overwhelming majority of Tamil people on the direction of the TNA had voted to bring a new government that promised for good governance, rule of law and reconciliation.

    *** With your intellect I am surprised you are struggling to grasp the issue.

    11) In that context, a domestic investigation (a proper truth and reconciliation commission) under the international norms and even with the participation of international experts nominated by the Human Rights High Commissioner might be a possibility. The advantage of such a commission is that both the victims and the perpetrators can confront each other if and only if the circumstances are conducive.

    *** The bove is only a delaying tactic and to save MR.

    12) It is so obvious that the Sri Lankan investigators (Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese) are in a better position to understand the victims, the perpetrators and all the nuances of their circumstances. I say this without any prejudice to the international community and Sri Lanka is obviously a part of the international community.

    *** Would yo recommend SF to head the team and expect the Tamils to place their trust.

    13) I frankly don’t think that the accusations or claims of genocide would take the country forward for any solution.

    *** You have confirme why the Tamils dont have any faith in an Internal Inquiry.

  • 2
    1

    There is an article in The NYT today that about 300 Bosnia war criminals are going to be deported from the US. It is a reminder to SL war criminals that no matter how long it takes, no matter where they hide, justice will catch up with them eventually.

  • 2
    1

    This is one of the interesting article I read from Dr Laksiri Fernando who admits that the NPC resolution has contributed to some useful discussion which is an outcome of the present administration where people can discuss issues without being “white vanned” in Sri Lanka. I also read another article in the CT praising Dr Brian Senewiratne as a hero amongst Sinhalese who is a well known human right activist( some people say that he is on LTTEs pay role).
    I think that through these discussions we may ultimately develop some form of trust between people of different ethnic, linguistic and religious faiths to bring about some understanding and possibly a peaceful solution to the problems faced by Sri Lanka as a nation. The fact remains that truth should be known to every one as Lord Buddha said there are three things that cannot be hidden for long time 1) the Sun 2) the Moon and the 3) the truth.
    Whether you call it “discrimination”, “War crime”, “human right violation” or “genocide”, let the experts decide based on globally accepted principles,who committed what and to what extent by either the LTTE or the Government of Sri Lanka at that time.
    It is also important that this message is conveyed to all our people in their own language to understand and make their own decisions on their destiny.
    Dr jayawick

  • 1
    1

    Kindly watch this interview: The author of this book explains Genocide and what actually happed in Sri Lanka is Genocide – 147,000 Tamils butchered brutally.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrtnx6DkWEs
    Many in the international community have been intrigued with Trevor Grant’s book, “Sri Lanka’s Secrets: How The Rajapaksa Regime Gets Away With Murder”. An interview with Trevor R. Grant as he discusses crucial details pertaining to the history of the ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka. Please watch the interview.

  • 1
    1

    If Sri Lanka wants to belong to 21st century, it must find ways to devolve powers to minorities.

  • 1
    0

    CT,
    Why on earth do you keep publishing this picture from time to time – even when it has no relevance to the accompanying story?
    I find it, to put it bluntly, quite disgusting.

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