By Ron Ridenour –
Tamils’ history in Sri Lanka is one of constant discrimination and misery. Ever since independence from colonialist Britain half-a-century ago, Sinhalese governments have subjected them to policies of genocide as defined by the United Nations in its Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, Dec. 9, 1948.
Article III of this Convention makes liable to punishment: a) Genocide; b) Conspiracy to commit genocide; c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide; d) Attempt to commit genocide; and e) Complicity in genocide. Article IV states that, persons committing genocide shall be punished whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals. (1)
Although Sinhalese governments strive to re-colonialise Tamils, treating them as inferiors and second-class citizens, no foreign government has wished to seek an indictment against Sri Lanka’s governments. Tamils have no political power or state territory, and the most powerful nations have their own genocidal ghosts in their closets, including aiding Sri Lanka’s genocide.
Evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, is vivid. Satellite photos taken by the UN and the US show the slaughter of civilians during the end of the civil war. Channel 4 documentaries, testimonies of victims and UN aid workers have been released to the public. There is the revealing UN panel of experts’ 214-page report and recommendations, and the reports and recommendations of the High Commissioner, Navaneetham Pillay. Yet no session of the Human Rights Council has even discussed these recommendations for an independent investigation under the United Nations.
For decades Sri Lankan government military and police forces have tortured and continue to torture Tamils routinely. There can be no healing as long as impunity is granted torturers. The tortured feel society accepts this worst of all violence, leading to loss of confidence in democracy and in humanity. The failure to punish perpetrators encourages endless repetition of torture.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 5, states:
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Who are the genocidal accomplices?
India provided weaponry, radar, training, and even troops since 1987 to wipe out Tamils. India has spent billions of dollars aiding Sri Lanka government policies of discrimination and annihilation.
The United States financed Sinhalese genocide of Tamils. For the last two decades of the civil war, it provided an average of $1.5 million annually in military warfare, training and intelligence. In the last three years of the war, the Bush regime was bogged down in the Middle East and provided less material aid, but it encouraged its racist Zionist ally, Israel, to continue its military aid.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2009 yearbook and a March 2010 database report place Israel as a major supplier. From 2000 to 2007 Israel, along with the US and India, supplied “several large warships.” Israel offered unmanned aerial vehicles, 9 Kfir fighter jets, 38 Shaldag fast and 6 Super Dvora patrol craft, mines, ground surveillance, radar equipment, training, and Mossad assistance. It even sent some pilots. Already in 1980, estimates were that Israel had sold $1 billion in weaponry.
Israeli Zionists support Sri Lanka Sinhalese genocide against Tamils, in part, because they view them as they do Palestinians, whom they subject to genocide. The two genocide regimes celebrated their ties following the 2009 civil war with the exchange of ambassadors. Sri Lanka sent their highest military man, Donald Perera, chief-of-state during the final offensive.
Perera coupled Israel’s fight against “terrorism” with Sri Lanka’s. In an interview with the largest Zionist newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, he spoke proudly of having “a great relationship with your military [and aerospace] industries…For years Israel has aided our war on terror through the exchange of information and the sale of military technology and equipment.”
SIPRI also documents that several European nations provided warfare materials. The UK, Czechoslovakia, Slovakia, France, Russia and the Ukraine sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of: jets, helicopters, patrol boats, transportation aircraft and trucks, tanks, rocket systems, radar equipment. As late as 2008, the UK exported £1.4 million in arms.
Many of these sales of military equipment were illegal under the 1998 European Union Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.
Italy, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and South Africa during apartheid also supplied lesser amounts of weaponry and military technical aid.
China, Pakistan and Iran came into the picture in the last three years (China even earlier). Pakistan provided $100 million in military loans in 2009. It donated small arms and pilot training. In 2008-9, Iran provided loans, credits and donations to the tune of $2.35 billion to help Sri Lanka fuel its war needs. China contracted $150 million for infrastructure communications. In 2007, China gave Sri Lanka six F7 jet fighters. The same year, China sold $36.5 million in arms. It also invested ten times that sum for construction projects at Hambantota harbour.
Every one of the five members of the UN Security Council has materially and politically aided the Sinhalese governments in exterminating Tamils. They are co-conspirators in genocide.
Complicity in genocide is a severe international crime. But who can punish traditionally imperial Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, the colonialists Belgium, Netherlands, France; the imperialist USA?
In just the last two centuries of annihilation of “third world” peoples, it is estimated that Britain was responsible for some 100 million murders through direct killing and starvation. In the 1870s alone, Britain forced India’s peasants to cease cultivating their food crops and made them sow cash crops for export profits for the empire. Due to that process and with a drought, 30 million Indians died of starvation. Britain wiped out the entire indigenous population of Tasmania. It did nearly as much in Australia and parts of Africa. Genocide was condoned by the “theory” of Social Darwinism: coloured natives are sub-human.
In earlier centuries, Spain and Portugal, especially, wiped out many indigenous peoples in Latin America. The US did the same to millions of Native Americans and black African slaves.
The Rockefeller Foundation funded euthanasia research, which Nazi Germany incorporated against mentally handicapped people, gypsies and the holocaust of Jews.
Let us never forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki!
Let us remember the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case: The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America. In 1984, the ICJ held that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the ruthless Contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and by mining Nicaragua’s harbors, and must pay reparations.
The United States refused to participate in the proceedings and refused to pay reparations.
The Court found that the United States was “in breach of its obligations under customary international law not to use force against another State”, “not to intervene in its affairs”, “not to violate its sovereignty”, “not to interrupt peaceful maritime commerce”.
The Court stated that the U.S. encouraged human rights violations by the Contras by the military training manual entitled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare. The US had trained, and continues to train, thousands of Latin American military personnel in the use of torture at its School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, where I shall demonstrate this November along with thousands of others.
What can Tamils expect from imperialist USA, Britain and the other European colonialists, who are currently reacting neo-colonialist re-conquering of African agricultural lands, vital fuel resources, raping its economy?
The current US president is at war in seven countries, circumscribing United Nations laws against invading countries that have not invaded the propagator of war: Afghanistan, Iraq [ten thousand US civilian war mercenaries still occupy Iraq], Pakistan, Somalia, Uganda, Sudan and Libya. Furthermore, without US backing the Palestinian people would have been liberated from Zionist Israel ages ago.
What can one expect of the superpower, and its colonialist allies, which warehouse the world’s greatest arsenals of chemical weapons, the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, depleted uranium, napalm, poisonous pesticides such as Monsanto’s Agent Orange? The US is by far the world’s largest world arms trader—from $21.4 billion in 2010 to $66.3 billion in 2011, half of that to Saudi Arabia; global arms sales in 2011, was $85.3 billion.
The US also has the largest private mercenary armies in the world, which it uses in the Middle East, including in Syria (Blackwater), and Africa. But these facts get lost by the “international community” and by the mass media when the US imposes its globalising domination.
The US has ruined Iraq, much of Afghanistan and Libya. Iraq and Libya were secular states, as is Syria, with regimes that allowed many equal rights for women, and provided free education and health care.
Yes, these governments committed atrocities against their opposition. What country in the Middle East has not done so? Certainly US-EU allies help oppression in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel, and their current governments in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan.
Yes, Syria’s government does have chemical weapons, and has probably used them as have some of its opposition Islamic fundamentalists. Yet one cannot expect justice from the world’s greatest terrorist state, the USA.
Will the US use depleted uranium against Syria if a UN settlement can not be reached, such as it did in Iraq? Or will it use sarin gas such as it helped Iraq to use against Kurds and Iranian soldiers? (See: Foreign Policy, August 26, 2013.) Will it use Agent Orange, napalm and numerous other heinous and illegal weapons as it did against Southeast Asians? Will the US starve hundreds of thousands of children? Or use drones, or “precision bombs” that have a mysterious tendency to destroy hospitals, schools, blast public broadcasting stations, private vehicles, wedding parties, and even entire villages, such as in Iraq and Libya?
When the “international community” invades and mass murders it is called “rescuing” the people by “protecting human rights”.
When the “international community” propagandizes to prepare populations for yet another attack, remember its slogan against the Vietnamese people: “We had to destroy the village to save it.”
Sadly, in May 2009, Cuba introduced a resolution in the Human Rights Council, which Sri Lanka’s regime had written. Its resolution praised Sri Lanka for its “promotion and protection of human rights”. Cuba extended unconditional political support to the brutal government. Nothing was stated about the suffering of Tamil civilians and the takeover of their homeland. This resolution passed, and the hypocritical complaint made by many former colonialist governments simply asking Sri Lanka to investigate itself for possible human rights abuse failed.
Since the 2009 resolution, the majority on the HRC has asked Sri Lanka’s government to look at itself although without any real measures to do so or any sanctions. All governments on the HRC view only the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam as terrorists.
Ironically when, in 2012, Cuba-ALBA blasted the US for its “interference in the internal affairs” of Sri Lanka, Cuba’s ambassador to the Human Rights Council stated that the West had provided 40% of all war materials and military aid to Sri Lanka in its war of annihilation during three decades.
Although the greatest terrorist state in the world introduced the last two semi-critical resolutions, the United States is a partner in the war crimes and in genocide against Tamils. But it sees a propaganda opportunity here to polish its image as a “human rights supporter” while maintaining systematic human rights abuse in its many invasions and military interventions in the world.
Although the US currently indicates that it is dissatisfied with Sri Lanka’s government, it donated $6 million in equipment for maritime patrol, in 2010, and last year it approved a World Bank loan of $213 million for development in the capital city. Britain licensed £5 million of military equipment and armament between 2009 and 2011. The US and UK keep their fingers in the economy, because the Rajapaksa government is offering more economic concessions to China and Russia. China got its commercial-navy port at Hambontota, and the US lost its long-hoped-for port at Trincomalee harbour, which China will probably acquire.
Furthermore, Britain offered a political, even a moral, garland to racist Rajapaksa. He is to be host of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled in November 2013, in Colombo.
Cuba has its history and facts wrong. Cuba, which started the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America) coalition with Venezuela in 2004, needs to reflect upon its foreign policy stance to Sri Lanka. Cuba and its ALBA back Sri Lanka because, in part, they are all members of Non-Aligned Movement. Cuba often acts in a knee jerk manner when the US criticizes third world countries—understandably—yet Cuba acts wrongly in backing this ruthless Sri Lankan regime.
In June, 2012, Cuba added insult to injury by inviting mass murderer Mahinda Rajapaksa as an honoured guest for a four-day visit to Cuba. This major terrorist was even presented to the families of the Cuban 5, imprisoned in the US for protecting their country against terrorists in the US. At the time, I wrote the following:
“I am indignant and sickened by the Cuban government’s hypocritical support of Rajapaksa and his family regime and, consequently, the immoral acceptance of the genocide against a minority people…By condoning the subjugation of the Tamil people, Cuba acts in contradiction to its long-time solidarity with the oppressed and exploited peoples of the world.”
As Fidel Castro told Lee Lockwood in his book, “Castro’s Cuba, Cuba’s Fidel”:
“Those who are exploited are our compatriots all over the world; and the exploiters all over the world are our enemies…Our country is really the whole world, and all the revolutionaries of the world are our brothers.”
What to do
True solidarity activists have no choice. We must stand beside people under attack by aggressors, just as we did in the wars against Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia, in Angola, and in South Africa.
Solidarity activists and governments viewing themselves as progressive-socialist-communist-revolutionary must act to help preserve the very lives and rights of the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.
As solidarity activists, we advocate the right to resist and the necessity to conduct armed struggle once peaceful means fail to change oppressive governments from terrorizing us.(At the same time, we must denounce all perpetrators of terrorism, no matter the party or cause.) Now is not the time, however, for armed struggle in Sri Lanka.
Since May 2009, there have been many peaceful protests against Sri Lankan crimes.
A day before the March 2013 resolution vote at the Human Rights Council concerning Sri Lanka’s “possible” human rights abuse, the greatest Tamil protest took place with upwards of one million people in India’s state Tamil Nadu. For many days they denounced the US-led resolution as “ineffectual” for calling upon the Sri Lanka government to investigate itself. Protestors demanded that the government of Sri Lanka be investigated by an independent international body for its war crimes and genocide against the Tamil people. They called for a UN plebiscite for Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka.
Varieties of creative actions, including civil disobedience, occurred in several Tamil Nadu cities and schools. People denounced the “empty resolution further diluted by New Delhi.” Tamils in many countries in the Diaspora demonstrated against the resolution, even burning it before US embassies in several cities. Protestors viewed the US as actually “facilitating the agenda of the genocidal state”.
These massive protests forced the hand of the opportunist government of the state of Tamil Nadu to condemn the central government for complicity and demand the prosecution of Rajapaksa for war crimes. The conciliatory role that India’s Congress party-led government plays to placate Sri Lanka with massive economic aid, and by diluting the original draft of both 2012 and 2013 HRC resolutions, led the Tamil Nadu DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagan) party to withdraw its participation in the coalition United Progressive Alliance government. By losing 18 seats in the government, including the minority party’s five ministers, Congress President Sonia Gandhi felt compelled to falsely state that, “We are fully committed to the cause of Lankan Tamils and an impartial inquiry should happen into the allegations of atrocities against them.”
If Tamils in the Diaspora keep up the pressure, if grass roots groups, anti-war movements, and representatives of other oppressed peoples seeking liberation (such as Palestinians, Kurds in Turkey, Basques, Irish…) would join in united fronts for liberation for one and all, then we might be able to bring some real hope for Tamils in Sri Lanka and for other oppressed peoples.
Be not fooled: no government, left or right, wants true accountability or a Tamil Eelam homeland for the oppressed minority. Nevertheless, the spotlight is turned on and peoples’ power could bring some relief, at least, to the down-trodden Tamil people. We need to take our message in front of buildings of the complicit governments and the United Nations. We need to conduct many campaigns, including civil disobedience—satyagraja.
If morality does not become integral to our struggles, I’m afraid we are headed for a worldwide moral collapse, which is already underway due to the intrinsic immorality of capitalism and its imperialism; the foundering of contemporary socialism; and the rise of fascism throughout much of the world. I am certain that if Che were around he would rant and rave, and that is what I ask all solidarity supporters to do!
(1) Sinhalese governments are responsible for implementing discriminatory laws against Tamils: inequality in education and employment opportunities, in religion and language. These governments are responsible for many tens of thousands of civilian murders in five pogroms and during the civil war, murders through extra-judicial executions and disappearances. They are responsible for systematic torture and rape, for incarceration of hundreds of thousands without due process; for absconding with Tamil homes and businesses, places of worship and building hotels upon Tamil graveyards. Governmental genocide is aided by self-styled Buddhist monks and so-called Communist parties of various stripes, and by a score of foreign governments.
Delivered at the Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam “Accountability for Tamil Genocide in Sri Lanka—Its Significance for the World” conference, London, September 28-9, 2013.
Among the experts delivering papers and recommendations were international human rights lawyers and professors from half-a-dozen countries. Several Tamil organizations in the Diaspora were represented. Also among the 150 participants were representatives of Nations without States, oppressed minority peoples, some of whom have been subjected to genocide, and all of whom seek their self-determination: Kashmir, Sikhs, Kurds, Matabeleland in Zimbabwe; Tuareq people in Libya, Algeria, Mali and Niger; Sabah and Sarawak people in Northern Borneo.
The assembly approved a multi-point resolution including: endeavouring to establish accountability mechanisms so that military and political actors responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity are prosecuted under available means in international law. This could include cases brought before the International Court of Justice, International Criminal Tribunal for Sri Lanka established by the UN General Assembly, and Human Rights Committee judges. It was also agreed that peaceful actions should occur all over the world in the spirit of Gandhi’s satyagraha.