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Sri Lanka Trauma: International Community Revisits its Response
by V. S. Subramaniam Bookmark and Share

International community's painstaking efforts to end Tamil trauma

The mission of the present hawkish leadership is to earn an eminent place in Sri Lanka (SL) history. For this completing the final phase of the genocide eliminating the scourge of Tamil influence from the face of SL is a pre-requisite, for which the SL regime ingeniously camouflages its genocide as a 'fight against (LTTE) terrorism', a slogan popular with the West in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Amongst an international community that had grown wiser to SL deception there a few takers now of SL's simplistic 'fight against terrorism' slogan. The international community through its accredited (UN) human rights (HR) and International Crisis Group (ICG) agencies is shifting its concerns towards the gravest human rights abuses on the Tamils throughout SL and as a logical extension developing a strong case for possible global intervention to protect the victims. This was enunciated in very clear terms by Gareth Evan's R2P formulation. The measures contemplated are on the lines with UN intervening to end ethnic cleansing and genocide by similar notorious genocidal regimes like, Yugoslavia/Kosovo and Sudan/Darfur). 

Hawkish SL regime's hostile response to international peace efforts

The SL regime however takes a diametrically opposite view claiming that the armed operations against the Tamils/LTTE are driven by 'humanitarian' considerations, namely to liberate the 'people' (?) from the clutches of LTTE 'terrorism'. Such a SL stand was expected, going by its record of showing its customary defiance of concerns that interfere with SL's plans to complete its genocide regardless of the pain that a much graver and more brutal genocide in the making will cause to the victims. SL regime now in power is ideologically committed to completing the final phase of the genocide using the armed forces to the maximum without any HR constraints. JVP's 'terrorist' lineage is certain to make the genocide the most ruthless. This phase will be critical to the very survival of the Tamils as a community in SL. The diametrically opposite positions (SL vs. UN accredited HR/ICG agencies) create a tragic impasse which for over a million Tamils still in SL forebodes an impending disaster.

Successes of the first phase of genocide (1956 ' 2000) encourages SL belligerence

The Tamils who faced the first phase of the genocide experienced the brutality of the SL armed forces and mobs violence do have strong pro-LTTE leanings primarily for the LTTE creating the safe havens for the Tamils and the deterrent effect of LTTE's presence in SL in countering the threat of indiscriminate ethnic assaults on the Tamils. This safety net lasted for a number of years until recently. The atrocities that were politely described as 'human rights abuses' during the first phase were brutal enough to force over a million Tamils to flee overseas as refugees and another million internally displaced. Amongst others, the brutality included massive killings involving tens of thousands, arbitrary arrests for torture and extortion of thousands of detainees in detention, maiming hundreds of thousands through indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardment, impoverishment of the community through destruction of civil assets and the means of livelihood, eviction of people from large chunks of productive farm belts for the so-called high security zones but in substance for occupation (a form of land grab) to enrich the members of the occupying armed forces, disenfranchising and disabling the weak constitutional provisions supposedly safeguarding minority rights. To the present SL regime these atrocities were mere 'deprivation' which the likes of Rajiva propose to address eventually. An honest judgement on the morality of these atrocities can only come from the international community and history.

Current/final phase of SL genocide 'its extreme brutality

To the 'born again' Dutugemune (a hero in Sinhala legend for killing Elara, the aged Tamil chieftain; Tamil legends disputes this claiming that Elara was killed cowardly after he had accidentally fallen off his horse) the final phase of genocide has 'humanitarian' objectives; namely to earn for the leader Rajapakse a place in SL history for successfully eliminating the scourge of Tamil influence from the face of SL for good. This, the SL regime ingeniously presents as a fight against LTTE (in the process mass killings and other Tamil sufferings do not matter) which by definition is a necessary 'humanitarian' operation for which any methods of warfare (listed below) is justified.

Starving civilians as a weapon of war or hunger based atrocities

Despite vehement denials the SL regime is now using genocide of a different and more vicious form of state terrorism in the Tamil areas. Closing the only arterial road to the Tamil areas for indefinite periods to cut off food and other essential supplies is a cruder and inhuman form of warfare targeting civilians in the safe havens and Tamil areas in the North and East. Gareth made an implicit reference to this is his presentation to which Rajiva Wijeyesinghe Head of the SL Peace Secretariat sarcastically replies as follows:

'As for starvation, that has not occurred in Sri Lanka, and it should be noted that the state continues to service areas under LTTE control' it may have contributed to a mindset that is determined to see Sri Lanka as an R2P situation.'

True to SL tradition the blame game keeps moving now to Gareth's 'mindset'. Rajiva's assertions would have been neater had he instead persuaded his masters into stationing independent observers (UN or other NGOs) if SL had nothing to hide. The sympathies for the starving have now crossed boundaries and spilled over into Tamil Nadu with all parties there including the Chief Minister Karunanidhi committing to speed up food supplies to the starving. The LTTE's contribution did alleviate the immediate pain of hunger but was not sustainable for long as LTTE relief operations are too risky. Tamils look up to the international community to act urgently to avert a hunger based human atrocity the pain of which humanity as a whole (minus SL) is sure to feel...

The lucrative state organized abduction/extortions industry - Targets the diaspora

The SL regime targets the diaspora for its strong pro-LTTE leanings. SL's exaggerated allegations of fundraising by the diaspora to the tune of hundreds of millions (Jane quotes $ 300 million) was debunked by the host countries after thorough investigations recently. Perhaps Jane's figure included earnings from the LTTE theft/sale of 130000 Norwegian passports realizing say $ 65 million (@ $ 5000 each). According to the Norwegian Government the Tamils not necessarily LTTE's cadres were involved in six passports reported lost. Conclusion; the SL intelligence and its estimates of LTTE fund raising are most suspect, exaggerated and politically motivated...

However the bottom line of SL's demonizing caused the Tamil diaspora much pain as a respectable community in host countries. SL targets the diaspora through the activities of the state organized abductions networks. This adds a dangerous dimension to the Tamil genocide targeting a wide range of victims. There are reports that ransom payments for non combatant civilians abducted were extorted from their overseas kins. This task is undertaken by the international or overseas wing of the abduction/extortion networks. This wing reportedly operates out of the SL embassies overseas criminally spying on citizens (the Tamil diaspora) traveling to SL. Following the Australian government's travel advisory seriously most Tamils avoid travel to Colombo but those who travel are cautioned to keep travel plans a top secret and give in the SL immigration forms only names of hotels (not any homes) as their place of stay in Colombo. This is to avoid the risk of white van abductors making prompt abduction/extortion visits the next morning.

Mushrooming Sinhala front organizations overseas

Numerous pro-regime Sinhala front organizations reportedly state/embassy funded to terrorize the Tamil diaspora in the countries of refuge have mushroomed. Most of its members reportedly have SL armed forces and or SL intelligence backgrounds. When the SL regime's attempts to contract out to host country governments the crack down on the exaggerated diaspora fund raising for the LTTE failed miserably, SL regime is outsourcing its other key operation; namely extortion fund raising to these mushrooming fronts or organizations. 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 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 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 identify 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.

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 operate assisting the SL armed forces to search and kill all those non-combatant activists (the regular armed LTTE combatants being beyond reach) with pro-LTTE leanings. Small bands comprising a few militias scoop the haunts of the activists, the armed forces providing heavy armed cover and execute the killing off of the pro-LTTE activists that the militia elements point out. SL's loud proclamations as a prudent observer of the Rule of law sounds hollow. To all intents and purposes there is a reign of terror in the East as SL readies for a SL style elections of sorts. This represents the essence of SL's 'humanitarian' operations in action; namely eradicating the area of all non combatant pro- LTTE elements to ensure the election of pro-regime militia quislings in a so-called free and fair election. Access is denied to HR officials/NGOs on security or personal safety grounds. This makes sure that the make believe election will deliver the results pleasing to the SL regime's palate. How the world would react to such rigged election charades will be a challenge for the international community.

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 with certain parts of the Mannar area. Though the affected population in Mannar is much smaller what causes the most concern is in areas outside the LTTE safe havens, 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 again are used to search the haunts of (non-combatant) activists with LTTE leanings for summary execution by the armed forces. The hundreds or thousands that are abducted/arrested have to be presumed dead. The objective of this type of SL 'humanitarian' operations is to flush out non-combatant activists with pro-LTTE leanings. Killings in such numbers amount to massacre. According to reports the killings are done systematically for which video recordings of past pro-LTTE functions are used to identify the activists targeted for elimination.

The brutality of the atrocities for the hemmed in Tamils in SL also affects the Tamil diaspora, anxious for the safety of their kins back in SL. The kin need more financial support now than ever before. This is done discreetly not to alert the state sponsored abductors/extortionists. The state sponsored abduction ransom economy is so lucrative when the payments are sourced from the diaspora that it now funds the purchase of offensive weaponry/firepower for incinerating people and assets of Tamils. HR groups who do cover these SL operations remarkably do not find any trace of the normal 'humanitarian' ingredients in them. The SL regime's inaction or reluctance to act to end the atrocities raises serious questions about state's complicity in such atrocities.

Is SL a failed state? Grounds for R2P global intervention

To the Tamils such a level of lawlessness with militias and the armed forces on the rampage and the threat to life being very real and terrifying amounts to a stateless situation. With the apparent withdrawal of the LTTE deterrence (especially suicide bombing responding to international pressure) the state of lawlessness now covers 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.

'para demala' philosophy official and the deep Tamil/Sinhala divide

The depth of the Sinhala/Tamil divide 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 CWC parliamentarian and Deputy Minister Muththu Sivalingam a 'Para Demala'. There was no retraction of the report.

This nauseating racial slur (that Sinhala SL associates the Tamils world-wide variously with an under-class/caste/ aliens) 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 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 (regardless of persuasion, political leanings, origin and residence) is a 'para demala'. The strong pro-JVP lineage of Basil explains fully 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. The LTTE created the Tamil 'safe havens' for over half a million Tamils in parts of the North and East and its presence in the SL scene acted to deter the recurrent Sinhala mobs/SL army ethnic assaults on Tamils for over 5 decades. Unless some equivalent safeguards are in place only a Kosovo solution will end the perennial Sinhala/Tamil blood letting.

For the palate of the international community in post 9/11 period SL regimes found it expedient to use the 'terrorist' label instead of 'para demala'. The former appealed to a traumatized West in post 9/11 to effectively demonize the Tamil resistance who indeed were the real saviors of the Tamils still living in SL from genocidal ethnic assaults.

SL 'para demala' mindset thwarts all international peace efforts.

Blinded by deep racial hatred SL/Rajiva rejects off-hand the UN peace initiatives and calls for moderation in the conflict. Rajiva of the SL Peace Secretariat has the following to say on the most recent comprehensive HR report. 'Evidence of war crimes/crimes against humanity are dubious'.the suggestion that the SL state has engaged in war crimes or crimes against humanity should be substantiated in a responsible fashion... the catalogue of the recent ICG report, which deals with allegations based largely on dubious sources.. is insufficient for a charge of this nature'. Not a helpful response to international efforts to avert a human tragedy. This statement amounts to an indictment on the repute (and integrity of officials and study methodology universally used hitherto in HR abuses projects) of UN accredited agencies. 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) that include professionals from Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, Netherlands, US and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 'terrorists' and supporters of the LTTE. Unable to defend its actions such vitriolic offers very slender hopes for redressing the trauma of the victims. SL condemnation of the entire UN accredited HR/ICG monitoring and reporting regime currently in place is senseless.

What next for the International (UN) community

An impasse now challenges the effectiveness of international community (UN included) to act, and act in a timely manner to end the genocide. Gareth Evans' R2P formulation was applied in a number of situations saving communities from murderous genocides. To the Tamils the bigger looming concern is how long will SL enjoy the kid glove approach before the R2P is applied simply because SL 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. Is the world waiting out to test the genuineness of the resistance/LTTE moderation allowing the SL regime the time it is desperately needs to accomplish its historic mission of eliminating the remaining half of the Tamils (over a million). The Tamil genocide is at a very critical stage and time is the essence for survival of the affected victims.

The 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 agencies. Do not the SL atrocities to date add up to a brutal and repulsive genocide to stir up the conscience of the international community into urgent action for effective R2P measures to start working? Failure means that other potential genociders un-deterred will expect similar reprieve using deception to fool the international community. One genocidal SL getting through the net will mean many other SLs will likewise follow escaping justice.   
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