While the backdrop of Sri Lanks's (SL) ethnic conflict discussed in Sri Lankan (SL) trauma- International community revisits its response covered some common grounds, this piece examines in more detail the underlying causes for the deep Sinhala/Tamil divide and the coming into the open the 'para demala' prejudice.
In the earlier piece the international community's painstaking efforts to end Tamil trauma on realizing SL's deceptive 'fight against terrorism'; the case for the LTTE/resistance's fight against a brutal genocide; the hawkish SL regime's belligerence and its hostile response to UN sponsored peace efforts driven by its desire to exploit to the maximum the advantaged gained in getting the West into hastily listing of the resistance/LTTE 'terrorists'; SL's genocide (1956 ' 1985) occurred when the leadership of the Tamil was totally pacifists; (Gandhite Chelvanayagam) and pre-dates the birth of the LTTE resistance; the birth of violent resistance groups (LTTE, EPLRF, PLOTE, EPDP etc) was the result of a brutal SL genocide that drove hundreds of thousands of Tamils to South India from amongst whom and with the active support of India especially Indra the armed resistance was born; lull in violence/atrocities since late the1990 until recently was entirely due to the LTTE 'safe havens' in the North and East and the deterrent effect of the presence of the LTTE in the SL scene had on the mobs, the armed forces and the SL regimes refraining from ethnic assaults.
SL's current/final phase of SL genocide to end the scourge of Tamil in SL uses hunger based atrocities against civilians, closing the only arterial road for food supplies to the North; a lucrative state organized abduction/extortions network including the mushrooming Sinhala front organizations targeting the Tamils including the Tamil diaspora and using pro regime Tamil terrorist militias to spy/spot non-combatants activists and other civilians with pro-LTTE leanings for the armed forces to kill them off; the implications of the tactical LTTE withdrawal from the East and freezing its presence/deterrence in most Tamil areas resulting in rampant atrocities by the state abduction/extortion network of the armed forces/militias in areas outside the resistance/LTTE safe havens; state of lawlessness for Tamils of a failed SL state providing the basis for R2P global intervention; implications of the 'para demala' mindset enunciated by Basil recently explaining the difficulties SL has to surmount, to bridge the deep Tamil/Sinhala divide to end the decades old blood-letting ethnic violence; the sum total effect of these on the thinking of the International (UN) community (HR/ICG) when putting in place the R2P measures to avert a brutal genocide on a scale never seem before in SL.
International community moderates approach to 'war on terrorism' accommodating legitimate resistance against on-going genocide.
This is the most healthy development for the victims of a brutal SL genocide that was to eliminate the scourge of Tamil influence (a historical reality) from the face of SL. Thus although the SL regime used the once popular 'fight against terrorism' slogan simplistically over and over again, a world wiser to SL deception only have a few takers now of SL's simplistic 'fight against terrorism' slogan. This change in thinking drives accredited (UN) human rights (HR) and International Crisis Group (ICG) agencies to shift concerns to the grave human rights abuses and to consider global intervention under Gareth Evan's R2P formulation. The measures contemplated include UN intervention in stages to end ethnic cleansing/genocide as applied to similar notorious genocidal regimes like Yugoslavia/Kosovo and Sudan/Darfur.
A dangerous impasse flowing from SL cold response to the peace initiatives.
The SL regime's cold response to the world's peace initiatives is surprising, describing its armed operations are 'humanitarian'; namely to liberate the 'people' (?) from the clutches of LTTE 'terrorism'. All evidence now point to an imminent grave and brutal armed conflict with an SL regime ideologically committed to completing the genocide to rid SL of the Tamil menace forever using the armed forces ruthlessly if necessary without any HR constraints. This is the driving mindset of the JVP that has a 'terrorist' vintage.
The diametrically opposing positions of the SL regime vs. the 'community' (UN and its accredited HR/ICG agencies) create a tragic impasse for over a million Tamils still in SL.
The pre-LTTE era (1956 ' 1985) genocide ' genocidal mindset acted even against a pacifists' resistance.
The armed forces and mob atrocities before the LTTE was born were brutal enough to drive away over a million Tamils overseas as refugees and another million internally displaced. Amongst others, there were massive killings of tens of thousands, arbitrary arrests, torture and extortion of thousands in detention, maiming hundreds of thousands through indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardment, impoverishment through destruction of civil assets and the means of livelihood, eviction from chunks of productive farm belts for the high security zones (a form of land grab) to enrich the members of the armed forces themselves , disenfranchising and disabling the weak constitutional provisions supposedly safeguarding minority rights. The present SL regime though acknowledging the pre 1990 genocide as state sponsored violence trivializes its gravity by calling them as mere 'deprivation' which Rajiva Wijeyesinghe (Head SL Peace Secretariate) proposes to address eventually. History will sit in judgment on the gravity of these atrocities. The resistance to such a brutal genocide then was led by pacifists (not terrorists) under the leadership of Chelvanayagam, a venerated Gandhian disciple.
Constitutional checks and balances allow brutal genocide to run amok?
The unitary constitution with no effective checks and balances allowed the murderous SL genocidal regimes to decimate an influential minority. How easy was it to disenfranchise half the Tamils within a year of independence, allow numerous discriminatory legislation to disadvantage the minority in economic opportunities, deprive their livelihood and allowed human rights abuses on a scale that killed or drove half of that balance Tamils to flee overseas bringing down the numerical strength of the Tamils in SL to a quarter of the pre-independence level. This regime ideologically committed to and elected on a mandate to complete the genocide is bent on eliminating the balance one quarter of the Tamils still living in SL. The only so-called weak minority safeguard in Section 29 of the Soulbury constriction just evaporated without trace when within a year of independence and the Tamils lost 50 per cent of Tamil seats through disenfranchisement. Any peace settlement should include provisions to restore the voting rights (the rights to extend to the progeny of the displaced) to those disenfranchised by legislation and displaced overseas to restore the political power balance that existed at independence. Unitary constitutions do work well in stable civil societies but are unsuitable in countries with deep divisive cultures where tribal and violent genocidal tendencies predominate. No amount of constitutional provisions will provide the safeguards against regimes with a determined genocidal 'mindset'. Constitutions guaranteeing autonomy need to allow the autonomous units to maintain sufficient deterrence to check the central authority's temptations to trample on the units affairs at will. The LTTE deterrence and safe havens saved the Tamils in SL post 1990's until recently. Any dilution in this deterrent capacity of the resistance will be courting disaster. The Tamil leadership fell for the deceptive ministerial posts overlooking the need for iron clad safe guards (or R2P's for minorities) at the time of independence. In situations where genocidal mindset drives policies it is far neater and prudent to have the Kosovo/Darfur style arrangements in place to prevent a recurrence of blood-letting. Total withdrawal of the SL armed forces becomes a pre-requisite for this and for R2P provisions to be effective.
Ethnic assaults (post 1983) ' deterrence earns LTTE the role of saviors of Tamils
SL/Rajiva's recent acknowledgement that the ethnic assaults were 'state sponsored violence' though a first in SL history misrepresents the gravity or deadly character of the atrocities when the armed forces assumed the role in the state sponsored ethnic assaults. State sponsored ethnic cleansing violence in SL subsided not because of a change of heart amongst the mobs, the armed forces and the SL regimes. Only the threat of retaliation (specifically suicide bombing) by the resistance acted as the powerful deterrence against ethnic assaults throughout the island in the post 1983 period. The resistance who created impenetrable safe havens accommodates more than half a million Tamils. The deterrence safety net lasted for a number of years until recently. Provisions should include an equivalent safety net as part of any peace settlement.
SL's final genocide phase to eliminate LTTE safe havens and remove LTTE's ethnic assault deterrence
The mindset of the 'born again' Dutugemune-Rajapakse (a hero in Sinhala legend for killing Elara, an aged Tamil chieftain; Tamil legends claim that Elara was killed cowardly after he had accidentally fallen off his horse) is driven by an urge to earn a place in SL history for eliminating the scourge of Tamil influence from the face of SL for good. The SL regime believes that a military assault on the LTTE 'safe havens' will deliver on this agenda. This military offensive is not likely to be cat walk and use of massive fire power is sure to incinerate and maim the victims of the offensive. Gothabhaya, a brother and minister has made it patently clear that the combat methods SL uses will not be bound by any HR constraints. Combat methods against the LTTE also a potent combatant is sure to elevate the violence to a level more brutal than ever seen in SL. Using the ceasefire SL acquired aerial and firepower far in excess for fighting a localized civil war. SL regime also added non-conventional and criminal combat methods especially hunger based atrocities to starve civilians as a weapon of war. Despite vehement denials the only arterial road to the Tamil areas remains closed for indefinite periods cutting off food and other essential supplies targeting civilians in the LTTE 'safe havens' and Tamil areas in the North and East. Gareth made an implicit reference to this is his presentation.
A wiser international community has to insist on stationing independent observers (UN or other NGOs) to allow urgent food supplies through and check on the rampant HR abuses. Empathy for sufferings of the starving crossed boundaries into Tamil Nadu with all parties there including the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanithi committing to speed up food supplies to the starving. With limited resources the LTTE's food relief work is not sustainable and hence the reason for the international community to arrange food drops (on the earlier Indra style) to avert a catastrophic hunger based human atrocity.
The lucrative state organized abduction/extortions industry
Realising the strong pro-LTTE leanings SL makes exaggerated allegations of fundraising for LTTE by the diaspora. (Jane quotes $ 300 million a year) This was proven a blatant falsehood, the most notorious and amusing being the story narrated by Bernard Goonetileka, SL's ambassador to US that LTTE netted through the theft/sale to Al Qaeda of 130000 Norwegian passports realizing millions; say $ 65 million. Jane perhaps fell for the SL's deceptive estimates as did most Western governments.
SL haughty in its belief that the mis-information it peddles that earned an extra-ordinary bonus in getting the LTTE listed a 'terrorist' organization peddles other equally incredible stories that have now back fired. SL intelligence with a genocidal mindset generates misinformation that is most suspect, exaggerated and politically motivated that world is growing more and more skeptical of its numerous claims day by day.
However the bottom line of SL's intelligence saw some success in demonizing the LTTE but this unraveling rapidly. Amongst its other dirty tricks SL now sponsors the state organized abductions/extortions networks, adding a dangerous dimension to the Tamil genocide targeting a wide range of victims. Ransom payments (most times substantial when the bargain chip is the lives of kins) is reportedly collected by operatives overseas; these operatives are known to frequent the SL embassies overseas and engage in (criminally) spying on citizens (the Tamil diaspora) traveling to SL. The diaspora who have to travel to Colombo reportedly state in the SL immigration forms the names of hotels (not any homes) as their place of stay in Colombo merely to avoid the risk of white van abductors making prompt abduction/extortion visits the next morning. The state sponsored abduction ransom economy is extremely lucrative (substantial payments that are readily collected) now funds the purchases of offensive weaponry/firepower that incinerate the kin and assets (an irony!) of the diaspora who pay up. The SL regime's inaction or reluctance to act to end such atrocities in the name of 'fighting terrorism' raises serious questions about state's complicity in such atrocities. Countries where diaspora live have to seriously consider comparable surveillance on the extortion networks operating in their countries as some pro-LTTE elements already are. Evidence may be forthcoming if there is assurance that the Tamil diaspora are not considered prima facie 'terrorist' suspects. This re-assurance will be convincing if the LTTE is de-listed.
Mushrooming Sinhala front organizations spying overseas
Numerous pro-regime Sinhala front organizations have mushroomed reportedly embassy funded cashing in on the lucrative abduction/extortion industry. Its members reportedly have SL armed forces and or SL intelligence backgrounds whose activities need close monitoring. After the SL regime failed to contract out to host country governments the crack down on the exaggerated diaspora fund raising for the LTTE, SL regime outsources its other key operation; namely extortion fund raising to these mushrooming fronts. These organizations use surreptitious methods some of which border on criminality. Evidence from a terrified Tamil community is unlikely to be forthcoming for successful proceedings to prevent the SL civil war crossing its borders and hurting citizens within other (host) country's boundaries. The diaspora is likely to be forthcoming once the LTTE is de-listed to disabuse the fear of criminality surrounding even harmless pro-LTTE leanings and contacts. Close overseas government surveillance of the activities of Sinhala front organizations like the diaspora organizations would ensure that SL civil war activities do not interfere with life of any citisens in host countries.
Pro regime Tamil militias spying on non-combatants for pro-LTTE leanings
A terrified Tamil community fears that almost all branches of the state machinery including the SL immigration are involved in the persecution of Tamils irrespective of their citizenship or residential status. The abduction/extortion network targets pro-LTTE non combatant activists (the most unfortunate) for elimination using pro-regime Tamil militias to spot them for the armed forces' 'humanitarian' (killing) operations. However the message behind these atrocities is clear; there is a reign of terror for the Tamils presently throughout SL except in the LTTE safe havens. The solution is R2P intervention in SL as soon as possible.
LTTE withdrawal from the East ' genocidal implications
There is mayhem after the LTTE withdrew from the East (SL's so-called liberated areas). According to reports several pro regime armed militias assist the SL armed forces to spot to kill all those non-combatant activists (the regular armed LTTE combatants being beyond reach) with pro-LTTE leanings; SL undertaking 'humanitarian' (in this instance is it pseudonym for a war crime) killing off of the activists that the militia elements point out. SL's deceptive proclamations as an observer of the Rule of law sound hollow. To all intents and purposes there is a reign of terror in the East as SL readies for SL style elections of sorts. The essence of SL's 'humanitarian' operations in action is the eradication in the liberated areas of all non combatant pro- LTTE elements to ensure the election of pro-regime militia quislings in a so-called free and fair election. With access denied to HR officials/NGOs purportedly on security or personal safety grounds ensures that the make believe election delivers the results pleasing to the SL regime's palate. Whether the world will once more fall victim to another SL's classic deception on the international community to get it to endorse a rigged election will be a challenge for the international community. Tamils deserve a broader R2P intervention here.
Withdrawal of LTTE deterrence outside the resistance/LTTE safe havens
A similar state of lawlessness prevails in others areas under government control with the SL regime replicating its East (liberated areas) style 'humanitarian' operations beginning in the thinly populated parts of Mannar. But what causes the most concern is in areas especially Jaffna, Colombo and its surroundings with concentrations of Tamil populations where SL atrocities are escalating. These are the areas where according to the HR agencies human rights abuses are most rampant. Pro regime militias are again used in the armed forces search and kill of non-combatant activists with LTTE leanings. The hundreds or thousands abducted/arrested have to be presumed dead. Killings in such numbers are massacres. The killings are systematic; video recordings of past pro-LTTE functions are used to identify the activists targeted for elimination. Again effective R2P intervention is the answer.
SL a failed state provides sound grounds for R2P global intervention
To the Tamils the level of lawlessness that makes the threat to life very real and terrifying amounts to a stateless situation. With the withdrawal of the LTTE deterrence (especially suicide bombing) responding to international pressure the state of lawlessness is now widespread covering most areas in SL except the LTTE controlled 'safe havens'. Such lawlessness carries all the ingredients of a failed state providing sound humanitarian grounds for R2P intervention.
The official 'para demala' mindset indicates the irreconcilable Tamil/Sinhala divide
The deadly level of the atrocities is attributable to the depth of the Sinhala/Tamil divide that is official now. At an official meeting with the representatives of the CWC (Ceylon Workers Congress) recently Basil Rajapakse (SL President's brother/Presidential Advisor/ member, Indo-SL Defence Committee) called the Tamil CWC parliamentarian and Deputy Minister Muththu Sivalingam a 'Para Demala'. There was no retraction of the report. The strong pro-JVP lineage of Basil explains why the very 'civil' Basil called Muthu Sivalingam of the CWC or for that matter any Tamil a 'para demala'. This racial vitriolic is mouthed most times against the Tamils and its leaders. Even the revered, pacifist and Gandhite Chelvanayagam was not spared. It surprises none that the Tamil resistance leadership (Prabaharan/LTTE) is called para demalas.
This nauseating racial slur (that Sinhala SL associates the Tamils world-wide variously with an under-class or caste) underpins the historical Sinhala/Tamil divide whose origins go back to past Tamil conquests and occupation of SL stretching several centuries. The deep Sinhala/Tamil divide also explains the on-going post independence 5+ decades long genocide of the Tamils. Historically the Sinhala psyche of hatred of Tamils finds expression in Sinhala legends of battles against the marauding Tamils intent on driving the Sinhala race out into the Indian Ocean. It also explains the frequent eruptions of Sinhala violence (mobs and the armed forces) on the Tamils in post colonial SL. SL politicians exploit this prejudice at every election making anti-Tamil policies the main platform and in the process stirring up more deep seated anti-Tamil fear and hate emotions amongst the SL Sinhala masses.
This historical back-drop explains the deep Sinhala/Tamil divide that to the average Sinhalese any Tamil (irregardless of persuasion, political leanings, origin and residence) is a 'para demala'. Only the LTTE created the Tamil 'safe havens' for over half a million Tamils in parts of the North and East and emergence of a powerful LTTE in the SL scene acted to deter the recurrent Sinhala mobs/SL army ethnic assaults that the Tamils suffered for 5 decades. The presence of an equivalent strong deterrent safeguards has to find a place in the Kosovo/Darfur style solution to end the perennial Sinhala/Tamil blood letting flowing from the 'para demala' mindset.
SL 'para demala' mindset (not terrorism) thwarts all international peace efforts
For the palate of the international community in post 9/11 period SL regimes found it expedient to use the popular 'terrorist' instead of 'para demala' label. The former appealed to a traumatized West in the immediate aftermath of post 9/11. Its use effectively demonised the Tamil resistance/LTTE that indeed played the role as the real saviors of the Tamils living in SL from further genocidal ethnic assaults.
Blinded by deep racial hatred SL/Rajiva rejects off-hand the UN peace initiatives and calls for moderation in the conflict. Rajiva challenges the HR and or war crimes findings in the recent 'ICG report as 'based on dubious sources'. Furthermore SL questions the integrity of accredited UN officials and UN study methodology universally used in HR abuses projects. SL Ministers (Fernando Pulle) are on record making far more outrageous allegations like bribe taking (from the LTTE) and labeling UN HR officials (including Holmes) and professionals from Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, US and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 'terrorists' and supporters of the LTTE. In effect SL condemns the entire UN accredited HR/ICG monitoring and reporting regimes currently in place as inept and biased.
What next for the International (UN) community
To resolve the impasse the international community (UN included) has to act, and act in a timely manner to end the SL genocide using Gareth Evans' R2P model that was applied in a number of situations saving communities from murderous genocides. The bigger looming concern is how long will SL enjoy the kid glove approach before the R2P is applied simply because SL deceptively dons the cloak of 'fighting terrorism'? Symptoms of moderation are evident in the speeches and actions of the resistance/LTTE since ICG (Evan)'s R2P proposal was enunciated in Colombo. The SL regime is exploiting the advantage it deceptively gained, tricking the West into a hasty listing of the Tamil resistance/LTTE 'terrorist' serving as veil. Now that the veil of SL's deception is in shreds the international community has to act for slighting the peace efforts of its accredited (UN) agencies. The sanctions imposed by individual countries thus far have not deterred SL that more drastic measures are called for. Undoing (by de-listing) the grave injustice to the Tamils /its resistance/LTTE listing them 'terrorist' in haste originally will be message that the SL regime will dread to hear. De-listing the LTTE from the 'terrorist' list creates a level playing field for the combatants to consider seriously about sitting at the peace talks table providing inducements to the so-called terrorists to re-think on their future strategies. Speaking plainly the UN agencies and the international community are encouraged to de-list the LTTE from the terrorist list. Also in the interim an embargo on arms shipments to SL would contribute to the conflict resolution. Naming SL officials associated with the genocide and HR abuses and subjecting them to visa restrictions would be another message to the war criminals concerned. Stationing HR official in strength in SL is certain to reduce the level of HR abuses in SL. Treating genocide that drives pacifist communities to resort to violence in self defense as evil inviting R2P intervention will refine the moral case of the 'fight against real terrorism'. Half measures at this critical stage will not save the Tamils in SL.
SL regime's leadership like Pol Pot and Idi Amin is on record of just ignoring the HR concerns and successfully carrying on regardless rendering the UN accredited HR agencies look impotent or toothless. Do not the SL atrocities to date add up to a brutal and revulsive genocide to stir up the conscience of the international community into urgent action for effective R2P measures to start working? Failure means that SL escapes the war crimes net through deception and this will encourage other potential genocide regimes to emulate SL to get through the war crimes net as well