by Dr. Abdul Ruff
Views expressed in this article are author own
( May 27, 2015, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) At the outset it must be put on record that Tamils were initially brought to Lankan island by the British empire to work in tea plantations, railways, and business establishments, big and small and the contributions of Tamils to the overall development of Sri Lanka (Ceylon) has been as significant as the majority Singhalese. It is only when the post colonial Lankan rulers denied Tamils fundamental rights and refused to treat them as humans that Tamils protested which led to the crisis situation with Tamils adopting a confrontational approach, seeking an independent Elem state for Tamils and the rest is already contemporary history as Lankan military forces ended the crisis by killing them stock and barrel.
Obviously, the Lankan government and military thought the problem could only be resolved by targeted genocide of Tamils.
Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, gained independence on February 4, 1948. When a new constitution was adopted in 1972, the country changed its name to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The majority of the Sri Lankan population belongs to the Sinhalese ethnicity, which is largely Buddhist, while Tamils, who are Hindus, represent the largest minority. In the 1980s ethnic tensions between Sinhalese and Tamils arose, because of Sinhalese discrimination against Tamils regarding jobs, education and politics. This discrimination resulted in disparities in income and development. Before independence, Tamils had received preferential treatment for colonial jobs, resulting in resentment by Sinhalese..
Today, the Sri Lanka Army faces allegations of committing genocide during the end of the island’s civil war and US led nations insist on UN investigations of military war crimes against Tamil minorities in Lanka. They ask Colombo to actively support the UN investigations to nab and punish the culprits.
According to UN estimates, up to 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed by Lankan security forces during former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime that brought an end to the nearly three decades-long war in the country with the defeat of the LTTE in May 2009.
There were 30 years of war and now 6 years after the end of war crimes. However, neither Lanka nor UN has completed any investigations to nab the guilty criminals. Development is in full swing. More needs to be done but give the government some time. The LTTE war was utterly futile. More than 200,000 people–100,000 LTTE cadres alone–were killed. The USA introduced a resolution to make Sri Lanka culpable of war crimes at the UNHCR in Geneva.
A recent preliminary report of an investigative panel of the United Nations confirmed that the Sri Lankan troops deliberately targeted civilians, hospitals and aid workers, arbitrarily executed prisoners, and committed mass rape, all contrary to the Geneva Conventions which have been ratified by Sri Lanka.
New Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has vowed to pursue reconciliation efforts with Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority more vigorously than Rajapaksa, who is looked upon as a hard-line Sinhalese nationalist who oversaw the final ruthless defeat of the LTTE. President Maithripala Sirisena, who defeated former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in the polls earlier this year, received overwhelming support from the Tamil and Muslim minorities in the elections. Sirisena has committed to inclusive governance and punish the war criminals.
Sri Lankan troops of Mahinda Rajapaksha committed war crimes during the final phase of the Tamil rebellion from January – May 2009. The Tamil Tigers aggravated the atrocities by using civilians as human shields. Vellamullivaikkal was the scene of the final battle on May 18, 2009. Feared Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s body was found a day later, marking the end to the terror outfit’s nearly three decades-long fight to carve out a separate Tamil homeland. From January – May 2009 at least 7,934 Tamils died, of which 550 were children younger than 10, but real figures probably amount to tens of thousands victims –most sources speak of approximately 40,000 casualties. No one has been hold accountable. Instead, the Sri Lankan government has relied upon one of the typical forms of denial: substituting reconciliation efforts that do not address the crimes committed.
In 1983 the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, better known as Tamil Tigers) attacked government troops for the first time. It marked the beginning of an enduring violent insurgency. The goal of the Tamil Tigers was establishment of an independent Tamil state in the northern and eastern region of Sri Lanka). The Sri Lankan armed forces were supported by an Indian peacekeeping operation. In 2002 both sides agreed to a cease-fire, but the peace did not last. Violence erupted again in 2005. The conflict eventually came to an end in May 2009 when the Sri Lankan armed forces defeated the Tamil Tigers. The political branch associated with the Tamil Tigers, Tamil National Alliance, have now denounced their secessionist claims in favor of a federalist state.
The period from 1983 to 2009 is commonly referred to as the Sri Lankan civil war, during which approximately 100,000 people died according to estimates of the United Nations, and hundreds of thousands of people were internally displaced or fled to neighboring countries. Both parties to the conflict committed atrocities. The Tamil Tigers organized bloody attacks on police, military and civilian targets. Their tactics included ambushes and suicide bombers, and they were notorious for their use of child soldiers.
Persecution of Tamils by the Sinhalese government continues even today and Tamils suffer from fear. The Sri Lankan government continues to commit forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and physical intimidation, including murder and torture, of Tamils and journalists. Because of these human rights abuses Human Rights Watch has called upon the British government not to deport Tamils to Sri Lanka.
Despite tensions, Lankan rulers for years have let Tamils believe that Tamil Elam nation for Tamils was possible. International organisations at that time seriously alleged the use of prohibited lethal weapons in the said war. International aid disregarded local aid such as food, medicines denied, untruths uttered as to the number of people caught up in the tragic predicament, lives of innocent women, children and infants were sacrificed on this day. That Singhalese mischief caused all deadly problems for Tamils. Britishers had brought Tamils from erstwhile Madras state to Sri Lanka to work in tea plantations, mining, railway construction, etc.
Sri Lanka has not signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. As long as there is no accountability for the massacres that occurred during the Sri Lankan civil war, there can be no sustainable peace among the ethnic communities, a failure confirmed by Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson. An international Commission of Inquiry should investigate the atrocities committed by both sides in the conflict, and the Sri Lankan government should arrest and try those who committed war crimes. However, it is quite likely, though already late, that the current Sri Lankan government will make such a commitment.
Recently hundreds of Tamils in Sri Lanka’s former war zones for the first time openly commemorated their loved ones killed during the civil war as they marked the 6th anniversary of the end of the conflict. Northern Province Tamil Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran chaired the main commemoration event held at Vellamullivaikkal in the northeastern Mullaithivu district. He and joined hundreds of Tamil people as they lit lamps in the honour of their war dead. The commemoration was held even after the police obtained a magisterial order to prevent remembrance events from taking place. Wigneswaran, however, said the court order was limited only to prevent holding of processions. Wigneswaran, while addressing the people at the event, said the government together with the international community must come to a decision regarding the political aspirations of the Tamil-speaking people. “The Mullivaikkal incident left indelible marks on the collective human conscience of our people. Human rights denied, media intervention refused, it was a war without witnesses,” Wigneswaran said.
Tamils held remembrance events elsewhere in the Tamil-dominated northern and eastern provinces. This was a marked departure from the days of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s rule under which such commemorations were disrupted by security forces in Jaffna. The police, however, said that they would not tolerate anyone attempting to hold remembrance events for the LTTE. The UN estimates that about 40,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the district that includes Vellamullivaikkal.
Sri Lanka’s new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has said a “political settlement” with the minority Tamil community is a prerequisite for a stable and secure country. “If you want a stable and secure country, we must have a political solution with Tamils and move forward,” Wickremesinghe said in an address in the Tamil-dominated Jaffna peninsula last week.
Wickremasinghe who recently visited the Tamil heartland in the Northern Province in a bid to strengthen government’s efforts to bring about the reconciliation among the communities, met with the people in the north in the Jaffna district secretariat. Wickremasinghe said his government is committed to uplift the communities in the war-torn Northern Province and will work towards providing basic facilities. The government would provide electricity and clean drinking water to the people in the entire peninsula and would also focus on health and education to improve their standard of living. “The war is over, but we do not have unity among ethnic communities. Tamils have shown their willingness to ensure reconciliation. We must have a political settlement and move forward, protecting peace and stability,” he was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office.
Wickremasinghe pledged to implement a massive programme to provide pure drinking water for the people in the entire peninsula. He said the government will restart the industries that were destroyed during the war to provide employment to the people in the area. Accordingly, the cement factory in Kankasanthurai, saltern at Elephant Pass, Paranthan chemical factory and many other large scale factories will be rebuilt. The Prime Minister said 400 youth well versed in Tamil will be recruited as police officers to solve daily law and order problems of the people.
Meanwhile, ex-president Mahinda Rajapaksa and his allies are applying tremendous pressure on the Sirisena government in a sustained manner delay the justice delivery process and eventually to just get rid of UN sponsored investigations into military war crimes against Tamil minority community in Sri Lanka. They are trying to influence Tamils both in Lanka and Tamil Nadu, India by driving home the point that the investigations and even punishment for the culprits are not going to get back those Tamils who were murdered by the military and therefore the issue should be dropped once for all. Tamils, it appears, are afraid that the Lankan military would resort to repressive measures against Tamils in due course.
Some rich Tamils in Colombo say Tamil Nadu parties are doing now is fomenting trouble between Tamils and the Sinhalas. Delhi, on the other hand, is doing a lot of developmental work like building houses and laying railway lines. However, some influential Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora is mobilising the world opinion to condemn the Sri Lankan government, its delay tactics to punish the guilty.
Tamil Nadu politicians are agitating on a daily basis for India to take stern action against the Sri Lankan government over its human rights abuses of the Sri Lankan Tamils. The DMK had pulled out of the then Congress led UPA central government. Students are protesting in Tamil Nadu on behalf of Lanka Tamils war criminals so that not only punishment is handed down to the war criminals but also to ensure such crimes are not committed in future in Sri Lanka.
A complete “Tamil generation cleanup” strategy was adopted by Mahinda Rajapaksha regime. What Mahinda Rajapaksha government, in the name of cleanup did with Tamils is a planned military genocide and was indeed a secret state effort to achieve holocaust so that no “problematic” Tamil remained in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is at stage 5 of the 8 stages of genocide, developed by Genocide Watch. Genocide Watch fully supports the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council and urges the Sri Lankan government to investigate the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war. Furthermore, Sri Lanka should immediately end any persecution of Tamils. UN has announced a UN investigation into Lankan genocide of Tamils of Indian origin and has requested the Sirisena government to cooperate with the investigations so that justice is done to Tamils.
The Tamils in Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu as well as UN on behalf of global community seek justice for Tamils for military war crimes in Sri Lanka!
International community looks forward to seeing that due justice is delivered to Tamils by president Sirisena. This is urgent since governments across the globe would remember that not go unnoticed and the military crimes, including its war crimes, would not remain unnoticed -and war criminals would not stay unpunished. The same applies to police crimes as well. The genocide in India occupied Jammu Kashmir, causing over 100,000 Kashmiris already would also urgently require UN investigation so that the war guilty is brought to justice.
Remember, justice delayed is justice denied!