12 December, 2017

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Sri Lanka: War Remembrance, Reconciliation And Nonviolent Resistance

By Nirmanusan Balasundaram

Nirmanusan Balasundaram

Nirmanusan Balasundaram

May 2014 marked the 5th year of the brutal end of the armed conflict in the island of Sri Lanka. The foremost stakeholders of the final phase of the war, the Tamil nation, the Sinhala nation and the international community seem to have different interpretations of the disturbing developments, unfolding since the last phase of the war.

In its narrative, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) keeps obstinately insisting that they liberated the Tamil people from the grip of terror. Though, this year marks the 5th year of the cruel end of war, what it actually means for the Tamil people and the reality on the ground totally contradicts the GoSL narrative. While understanding the GoSL’s empty promises and false hopes, a section of the international community keeps persistently pushing for national reconciliation. It is a serious question how and when this would be feasible considering the reality where the war against a populace is still continued by other means.

The means of war, strategies and fronts have changed for each actor, but not the conflict. The GoSL has waged Psychological Operations (PSY-OPS) mainly through Information Warfare (IW) against the Tamil Diaspora, and equally if not more dangerous, severe military and intelligence activities in the Tamil homeland.

Grievances and Aspirations

The Tamil peoples’ right to remember their kith and kin slaughtered in the final phase of the war was decisively denied by the Sri Lankan government forces, while the triumphalism of the GoSL continued into the fifth year.

A report of the Secretary-General’s internal review panel on UN action in Sri Lanka, also known as the Petrie report, was released in November 2012, nineteen months after the UN Panel of Experts Report’s release. It stated therein that “[b]ased on an internal review panel report, over 70,000 people are unaccounted for”.

Prior to the UN Internal Review Panel report, a Panel of Experts was appointed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to advise him on the issue of accountability with regard to any alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka.  According to the UN Panel of Experts Report (published in April 2011) “[t]wo years after the end of the war, there is still no reliable figure for civilian deaths, but multiple sources of information indicate that a range of up to 40,000 civilian deaths cannot be ruled out at this stage. Only a proper investigation can lead to the identification of all of the victims and to the formulation of an accurate figure for the total number of civilian deaths.”

6In his submission to the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, the Bishop of Mannar, Catholic Diocese Rt. Rev. Dr. Rayappu Joseph pointed out that according to Government figures the population in the Vanni region was 429,059 in early October 2008. The total number of people, however, who emerged from the Vanni into government-controlled areas since then according to UN OCHA 2009 statistics is estimated to be 282,380. Hence, over 146,679 people in the Vanni have been unaccounted for in post-war Sri Lanka.”

However, the GoSL has categorically denied all of those claims, vigorously opposing any independent international investigation into alleged mass atrocities and have continued to host a Victory Day parade with pride, whereas Tamils are systematically denied the opportunity to engage in collective mourning on the same day to remember their lost loved ones. On that day, the North part of Sri Lanka was highly militarized, in order to prevent any commemoration ceremony. In this process, major religious shrines in the North were surrounded by military and military intelligence officers, major regional Tamil news papers offices were besieged, access to major Tamil political party offices were denied, prayers for the dead stopped, blood donation events blocked, there was a ban on even ringing the bells at the Saiva temples, the Northern Provincial Council office ceased it daily activities and the Jaffna University was compelled into being closed.

Reckoning and Reconciliation

Mourning is a major part of healing and healing is vital for genuine reconciliation. The GoSL’s denial to the Tamils of the right to collectively remember their loved ones shows the true face of the GoSL and its lack of willingness and commitment towards genuine reconciliation. This lesson was learnt by the Tamils decades ago. It is now time for the actors pushing the reconciliation agenda to learn this lesson, and respond proactively for their deaf silence during this denial of collective remembrance.

It is worthy to note here that Canada’s recent bold and strong moves have the ability to lead to lasting peace in the island when considered from a long term perspective, despite the Sri Lankan regime’s present antagonism towards Canada.

Containment Strategy

To handle its internal challenges and divert international pressure, the GoSL urgently needed to establish its own ‘LTTE’. This is the strategy behind the story of the revival of the LTTE. Through, the ‘LTTE revival’ story, the GoSL has escalated its militarization process, which is under severe international pressure, in order to extend its demography change project. This containment strategy has multiple faces, such as disintegrating the bond between the Tamil Diaspora and their kith and kin in the ground as most of the published evidence of the mass atrocities that took place during the final stage of the war were gathered and collected with the support of the people in the ground. Through preventing the flow of information between the ground and the Diaspora, the GoSL is attempting to destabilize any sort of Tamil Diaspora engagement with the international community.

As part of this wider containment strategy and as a knee-jerk reaction to the UN resolution on Sri Lanka, the GoSL banned 16 Diaspora organizations and 424 individuals accusing them as financiers of terrorism. Most of the organizations are fighting Sri Lanka’s injustice against the Tamils through nonviolent and democratic means. Concerned actors feel that this is a sinister move and will prove a serious obstacle for genuine reconciliation.

By thus trying to create a dis-engagement between the Tamil Diaspora community and the international community, the GoSL is working to prevent Sri Lanka being kept on the international agenda. Particularly, the GoSL seems afraid that, if there is to be any constructive engagement between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Tamil Diaspora, it would bring the Sri Lankan regime a step closer towards facing international justice. This seems why, the GoSL is making critical efforts to portray that the Tamil Diaspora is connected to terrorism.

Strategic Nonviolence

Even though the Tamil Diaspora is struggling to unify based on a single goal amidst its diversity, since there is no strong opposition to the government within Sri Lanka, a core segment of the diaspora remains a formidable challenge to the GoSL.  This is particularly due to their messenger role between their brethren at home and the international community.

While the GoSL aims to shoot the messenger, the Diaspora is building up on nonviolence strategies slowly, but surely. In pursuance of such strategies the diaspora has engaged in formal statements, communication with a wider audience, group representations, symbolic public acts, symbolic strikes, pressures on individuals – that could eventually lead to travel bans on alleged Sri Lankan war criminals, drama and music, processions, public assemblies, ostracism of persons, non-cooperation with Sri Lanka’s social events, customs and institutions, boycott campaigns, rejection of authority and honoring the dead.

These methods of strategic non-violence take place through a mix of psychological intervention, physical intervention, social intervention, economic intervention, cultural intervention and political intervention.

The emergence of the Diaspora’s nonviolent strategies has become a stern challenge to the GoSL’s discrediting strategies because it has taken the form of naming and shaming. Therefore, the GoSL has become more vigorous in its attempts to curtail the Diaspora’s moves, but this has only served to make committed activists in the Diaspora more confident in facing the challenges thrown towards them by the GoSL through further nonviolent strategies. This is the utmost pledge that they have taken on the day of commemoration of their beloved ones.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    4

    Just like LTTE re-invogorated the Sri Lankan grass roots, your efforts should re-invogarate Sri Lankan external affairs.

    The primitive and backward external affairs under GL Peris do need a kick up the backside to move again.

    • 4
      2

      The miracle of Asia has become the debacle of Asia now!

    • 1
      1

      Nirmanusan Balasundaram –

      May 2014 marked the 5th year of the brutal end of the armed conflict in the island of Sri Lanka between the Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamils, in the Land of Native Veddah. The foremost stakeholders of the final phase of the war, the Tamil nation, the Sinhala nation and the international community seem to have different interpretations of the disturbing developments, unfolding since the last phase of the war.

      Yes, the Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamils are at it gains. They were at it, 2300 years ago, when both groups came by Illegal boats and Kallthonis and Hora-Oru, to the Pristine Land of Native Veddah.

      Parars, please leave for South India, where you came from.

      International Community, can you help?

      Goodbye.

  • 2
    4

    Every damn thing is about Tamils.

    Who really cares? What about Muslims?

    Reconciliation, devolution are curse words in SL because of these people.

    • 3
      1

      Fukushima,
      Have you seen “No to Sri Lanka, No to Dilmah Tea” type propaganda. Hatred can’t win… all Siri Lankans going to loose. Stop your hatred towards Tamil and Muslim brothers and start to love them. Think about them as less fortunate people if you want to… Then SL Tamils and SL Muslims will love you too. Then you can get out of your Japanese disguise and come out as real you.

    • 2
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      Fathima Fukushima

      Do you know Lorenzo, Ella-kolla, Jim Softy. etc?

      Just curious

      Just trying to be efficient in responding to posts.

  • 2
    4

    “Tamil nation” it’s a myth and tamils are race not a nationality.
    only Nationality existing in Sri Laka is SINHALA..

    true reconciliation is Tamil race should give up fuuuukining dream of Eelam and TNA,.

    Tamils rebellion was defeated for another few hundred or thousand years..
    after a few generations (children borne after 1997 )Shall forget Eelam rebellion as they matured with time they will have other things to do,

    Those suffering & frustrated no one to help.. Live with your eeelam dream and die .. Romba thanks

    we (Sinhalese) won the war…

    • 2
      1

      Bebon

      “Tamil nation” it’s a myth and Tamils are race not a nationality. only Nationality existing in Sri Laka is SINHALA.. ” ??

      Let’s see.

      The Para-Sinhala were Para-Tamils to begin with and were Hindus. The Para-Hindu Tamils stayed Hindu and stayed Para-Tamil, while the Tamil Hindus who became Buddhists became Para-Sinhala Buddhists.

      So, there is already a Tamil Nation. They now speak para-Sinhala and follow Monk Mahanama “Buddhism”.

      The Para-Sinhala, aka Para-Tamils and Para-Tamils, aka Para-Sinhala all have a nation in South India.

      Paras, please return to South India, and leave the Land of Native Veddah.

      The DNA in your bodies is proof. Please leave and go home to South India.

      • 1
        1

        To :Amarasiri

        Oky , Can you clarify this ,
        nisha biswal (Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs in the United States Department of State)

        Bone in India, migrated, educated and living in the United States
        So now she is American citizen though her ancestors were indians.. She cannot claim as Indian anymore as she was naturalized US citizen.But she can use rituals, culture and anything she liked before as an Indian.

        In your reply you are telling “{Tamil Hindus who became Buddhists became Para-Sinhala Buddhists.”

        assume your false argument correct for a moment,
        So, those converted tamils are no more Tamils , there are Sinhalese and accept Buddhism, therefore, Sinhalese Buddhists

        Same as nisha biswal’s case

        But as I said they can claim rituals, culture and anything they liked before to converted Sinhalese Buddhists..

        ================================================================
        Truth, Sinhalese were united four clans, namely Yaksha, Raksha,naga and dewa, google for more information
        get this book & read if you can read Sinhala

        http://www.sarasavi.lk/Book/Lanka-Ethihasaye-Hela-Ugaya-9789555027205

        ==================================================================
        you can changed the religion but you cant changed the race,or Nationality .. b’cos you born to a race

        conclusion..

        you para-Tamil Para-Sinhala claim wrong as people cant convert from one race to other but to religion to religion

    • 3
      1

      Bebon

      “we (Sinhalese) won the war…”

      But lost the peace.

      Remember clan is ruling the island.

      • 0
        0

        we crushed tamil terrorism

    • 0
      1

      Bebon,

      “Tamil nation” it’s a myth and tamils are race not a nationality. only Nationality existing in Sri Laka is SINHALA..”

      Correction.

      Sinhala Nation or Sinhala Nation ” it’s a myth and Para-Tamils and Para-Sinhala are the same Para-race and not a nationality. Only Nationality existing in Sri Laka is Native Veddah.

      http://www.lankanewspapers.com/news/2007/6/15923_space.html

      The results of a more detailed analysis on the basis of 43 alleles in 8 population groups for average heterozygosity and the genetic distance among all the pairs of populations together with their standard errors are presented in Table 7. (Table omitted) The average heterozygosity varies between 27.9% (Sinhalese) and 32.2% (Veddahs). The genetic distances do not reveal significant differentiation, as examined pairwise by the chi-square statistic (Table 8). (Table omitted) Nevertheless, the dendrogram produced from the genetic distance matrix (Figure 3) and the clustering obtained further strengthen earlier observations. (Figure omitted) It can be seen that the Sinhalese, the Indian Tamils, and the South Indian Muslims form one cluster, whereas the Gujaratis, the Punjabis, and the west Indian Muslims form another, an almost identical clustering to the one observed in Figure 2. Here, too, the Bengalis and the Veddahs are farthest from the Sinhalese.

  • 4
    3

    ” a section of the international community keeps persistently pushing for national reconciliation. “

    while the section under the sway of the LTTE rump do the exact opposite. The LTTE rump cannot even decide on a number, and different numbers get pulled out of the hat to suit the audience.

    • 2
      1

      By the way where is that proof you promised about muslims being prevented NOW (as in this year) from resettling in their former homes by Tamils?

      No proof, just stories ??

      • 0
        1

        Go read my answer again and again. An ‘English’ Fitzpatrick ‘Burgher’ needs it spelt out.

        • 0
          0

          If you answered it before I am sure you can paste it again here but oh no, you have not answered it but trying to weasel your way out like a lier.

  • 1
    1

    Gothabaya Rajapakse and his pet oversized army cannot fool the country, the region and the world. This celebrating the 2009 “victory against the Tamils” does not sell out in the world and its potency is fastly reducing among the usually gullible Sinhala masses. If the Sinhalese have a right to remember and salute Rohana Wijeweera and his killer comrades so do the Tamil people. The LTTE, after all, took arms against the State as the JVP did. But the Sinhala Govt used massive resources of the country only to rehabilitate the JVP – some of whom now in the Cabinet and hundreds in provincial councils. Honouring the dead and savagely trashing cultural rituals is not bringing back the LTTE. Sinhala police trampling floral tributes to Tamil slain youth and desecrating memorabilia in the last week of May was on TV against peaceful religious observations is painfully etched in the minds of all Tamils hurt by the savagery.

    The Rajapakses deserve the congratulations of the extremist Sinhala nation for widening the space between the Sinhala and Tamil Nation.
    I am afraid they will get the country to pay a heavy price for this.

    Backlash

    • 0
      1

      al qaeda or Bin laden celebrations doesn’t allow in any country as al qaeda banded terrorist group as same as Barbaric Tamil LTTE. Civilized world dont celebrate cannibal terrorists. It seems that cannibal LTTE terrorists are heros in your tiny world but it’s is not the reality in civilized world.

      JVP came in to politics and they given up the rebellion. Also, they had selected Democratic stream to popular their ideology. JVP dont demanding for separate country , so they are allow to do politics. Tamil LTTE demand for separate country that contradict with Sri Lanka constitution.
      So , for such demands We (Sinhalese) used\will use military force to destroy ideology and terrorists..

      So we (Sinhalese) have supreme rights to remember fallen war hero every year..

      There is NO Tamil Nation, Only a tamil race.. Sinhal is the Nation and the Nationality

      • 0
        0

        Babun or Bibikkan is a better name for the one who writes as Bebon. I am afraid you do not have the intellectual depth to talk of barbarism, civilisation or religion. You borrowed a religion from India and tragically failed to live by its precepts. Look at the type of drunks in robes who rampage our streets in the name of Buddhism?

        JVP did not select the “democratic” stream. The racial Sinhala Govts used the country’s funds to rehabilitate the JVP, which, I agree is the right thing to do. But they did not have the accommodative spirit or the brains to extend the same courtesy to the LTTE – and so VP and the LTTE scared the hell out of your Buddhist Sinahala extremists from the late 1980s till 2009.

        You know all too well Tamils have given up the demand for a separate country – on the insistence of India and the international community. What Tamils want is their inalienable right to rule themselves within an undivided Sri Lanka. Sinhala extremism has denied this so far – under different guises but they can not deny this forever. Who in his right mind can justify the Rajapakses drying up the NPC after elections were forced on the Rajapakse Govt by India and the global community. The day of reckoning is almost here.

        We have no complaints about your celebrating your fallen heroes. Don’t deny the Tamils their right to remember their fallen youth. Simply because you have an unhealthy and oversized army you cannot rule the Tamils under the military jackboot for long.

        If you speak of a Sinhala Buddhist Nation, Tamils will insist on a Tamil Nation for their areas. If you speak for a Sri Lankan Nation –that includes the Muslims, Burghers and others who came much later – Tamils will go by that. Remember the brute force you used in 1958, 1977, 1983, 2003 and in many other times have hurt you more internationally than the Tamils. The desperation that the Rajapakses now show makes it clear the days of your devilry are over.

        Even at this late hour, Tamils are ready to join hands with decent and liberal Sinhalese like CBK, Ranil, the Ven. Sobitha Thero and many others who speak openly of a reconciled plural nation.

        Please accept the fact the Rajapakses have ruined your present and future under the calculated deception of Sinhala Buddhism while cleaning the country of its meagre resources. All the stolen money is hidden in the USA, Canada, Britain, Europe, Singapore, Australia and other places. All these will be flushed out soon – as Marcos in the Phillipines got caught – and you will then know who your “Buddhist Sinhala heroes” are.

        Backlash

  • 1
    1

    The Muslims are treated like slaves by the Sihala-Buddhists. Very soon these racists will learn their lessons. Sinhala Buddhists are the worst human right violators in the world. This is worse than African tribal warfare.At least Africans do not claim they are the best democratic government

  • 1
    1

    The killing fields of SL was ably supported by the Tamil Diaspora and certain countries. These immoral bastards sent their chidden to the best of universities in the west whilst financing a war that used poor tamil children as cannon fodder. If their is any morality in this world these hippocrits must be brought before international justice and charged for the financing of terrorism. I have no issues with GOSL on this account.

    The other idiot Joesph talks about halving of the Tamil populations in the north. He only has to look out for the tamils in Wellawatte, Toronto, London etc. That is where the tamils are. To attribute the difference to having being killed in the war is stupid. As regards to the people killed in the war these people don’t realise that war is killing. There is no morality in war. The British did it right through history, Americans in Vietnam, Iraq etc. To accuse the GOSL of civilian casualties is a load of Bullshit.

    With regards to Tamil homeland it also means the sinhalese also have a homeland. To use the british separation of the sinhala provinces into areas so that they can divide the sinhala population would never be acceptable to the sinhalese. In the event their is separation where would the tamils in wellawatte go. Oh no I forgot the tamils want a separate state( mono ethnic) but also should be able to live in the sinhala areas. This is both immoral and not feasible leading to an iternal war between the sinhalese and the tamils with the indians also involved.
    What SL needs is not reconciliation what it needs is Justice, fair play,and good governance. The Sinhalese also have not found justice in this system. Do not forget 75000 sinhala youth were killed by the govt as jvp ers who felt they were discriminated. The only way Sri Lanka, Tamils and the Sinhalese can survive is if they get together to demand Good Governance, Rule of Law and Justice from a corrupt political class. Divided they will fail and united they will bring sanity back .The ordinary Sinhalese and Tamils want peace and they are willing to live peacefully with each other. It is the political class that refuses to allow it because they want to exploit the differences.

    • 1
      1

      Vas,

      In your elaborate sanctimonious outburst, you miserably failed to incorporate the prime reason as to why the country is down the precipice! The Sinhala Buddhists, not the Tamils, since independence, have been hell bent on creating an exclusive Sinhala Buddhist state. Of course, the non-Buddhists are allowed to live as long as they know their place! This is the premise that the minorities are found themselves in. In this backdrop, how can you point your finger at the Tamils? Sort out your own house in order and everything will fall into place since you belong to the majority.

  • 1
    0

    Thank you Nirma. Keep up the good work.

    Jayalalithaa hands memo to Modi calling for referendum on Separate Tamil Eelam

    There are very strong sentiments amongst Tamils and in Tamil
    Nadu on a range of issues relating to India’s relations with the
    present regime in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the final stages of
    the civil war in Sri Lanka, which was marked by an ethnic pogrom
    and genocide perpetrated on the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka. The
    Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly has already passed four
    Resolutions condemning the continuing discrimination against the
    Tamil minorities in Sri Lanka and violation of their human rights.
    I request that India should sponsor a resolution in the United
    Nations condemning the genocide in Sri Lanka and to hold to
    account all those responsible for the genocide and thereby render
    justice to the Tamils in Sri Lanka. The resolution should also provide
    for holding a Referendum amongst Tamils in Sri Lanka and displaced
    Sri Lankan Tamils across the world for formation of a separate Tamil
    Eelam.

    http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/archive/01931/Jayalalithaa_Memor_1931588a.pdf

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