Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The forwarded mail-Myth of Tamil Eelam

> I had lunch with a certain Mr Arunachalam, an Indian Tamil from Madras .
> The conversation that took place prompted me to write this.
> >
> > Sri Lanka is a place for all of us to live in harmony. If anyone,
> >especially the Tamil diaspora thinks that Sri Lanka should be ethnically
> >divided, then, the following is food for though for you. This is also good
> >for those LTTE sympathisers in our country as well as around the world:
> >
> >Your claim: Sri Lanka is the only place for Tamil Ealam
> >
> >Fact: Sri Lanka is the ONLY place in the world for the Sinhala race and
> >the Veddahs. Whether you like it or not, they have the right to this land
> >before anyone else. Tamils, on the other hand, have the historical right
> >to Tamil Nadu – and that is where the only Ealam Dreamland should be. Or
> >you may consider Singapore , Malaysia , Canada , Germany , England or
> > Australia – they have been pampering you well, haven't they?
> >
> >Claim: North and East are the historical Tamil Homeland
> >
> >Fact: If you think the North and East belonged to the Tamils historically,
> >think twice. Read the history of Sri Lanka – the truth, not the rubbish
> >you teach in Tamil schools in Germany . Visit Anuradhapura and look at the
> >moonstones: Lankan civilisation began in the North (not in the South) and
> >the Buddhists were there before the Tamils. Many places of worship of
> >significant importance for Buddhists still lie in the North and East,
> >including places such as Nagadveepa and
> >Thiriyaya – which is said to have
> >been built containing relics of the lord Buddha.
> >
> >Only during the Polonnaruwa regime that the cow was removed from the
> >moonstone as a result of the Hindu influence. That's the first time ever
> >the Cholas set foot in our island – so how dare you claim that the North
> >and East are the "traditional" land of the Tamils?
> >
> >Claim: Sinhala Buddhists are committing a Genocide in Sri Lanka
> >(Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in
> >part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.)
> >
> >Fact: There were Sinhala and Muslim communities living in the North and
> >East – not so long ago. Where are they now? Who has systematically
> >eliminated them, chased them out of their own homes? Who has chopped the
> >heads off the infants, split opened pregnant mothers, stamped their wombs,
> >killed every Sinhala person in sight and torched their villages?
> >
> >Starting from the Kent Farm and Model Farm, the Tamil extremists have
> >eliminated the Sinhala and Muslim communities from the North (and tried in
> >the East too); they attacked temples and mosques, brutally executing
> >monks, priests and innocent people while they were praying. From
> >Aranthalawa, Dimbulagala and Sri Maha Bodhiya to Kandy , the barbaric LTTE
> >terrorists didn't even spare a temple or a mosque. It's the Tamil
> >terrorists committing genocide in Sri Lanka , not anyone else!
> >
> >Claim: Tamils are discriminated in Sri Lanka
> >
> >Fact: A person from the majority Sinhalese cannot buy a piece of land in
> >the North (prevented by a pact), but the Tamils can buy land anywhere in
> >the country. Statistically speaking, Tamils are occupying more than their
> >share in universities, in the civil service, the government and even in
> >the private sector. From Sea Street to 4th Cross Street , there are
> certain
> >trades and industries that "belong" to the Tamils, and no Sinhala or
> >Muslim merchant can penetrate that. A closer look at the transformation of
> > Colombo and its suburbs will make any pea-brain understand who is having
> a better life and who is being pushed aside from the capital city. From
> >Paskaralingam to Kadirgamar to Muralitharan, there are millions of Tamils
> >who have flourished in this country. It is the Sinhala students who cannot
> >attend the Jaffna University or the Eastern University , while the Tamil
> >students enjoy their rights all over the country, including the Peradeniya
> >University in the heartland of the Sinhala Buddhists. Even in Colombo , a
> >Sinhala student is not admitted to any Tamil school, while all the Sinhala
> >schools accept Tamil students.
> >
> > From education, to civil service, to businesses and private sector, to
> > land-ownership in Colombo – Tamils are enjoying more than their fair
> > share. How would it be possible if there is so-called discrimination
> > against Tamils in Sri Lanka ?
> >
> >Claim: Sri Lankan regime has failed to take care of the North and the East
> >
> >Fact: Jaffna had been almost on par with Colombo at one time, a thriving
> >cosmopolitan – the second capital of Sri Lanka – before the troubles
> >began. There are many provinces and districts that have been forgotten by
> >the ruling parties – North and East aren't at the top of that list. Uva,
> >for example did not even have a university until 2 or 3 years ago;
> >Moneragala district is the most deprived in the entire country. The
> >governments have always favoured the Tamils – in order to keep their
> >votes, and as a result, they have been enjoying better benefits than the
> >others in Sri Lanka .
> >
> >Claim: Tamils get hassled and harassed by the security checks
> >
> >Fact: The Sinhalese, the Muslims, the Burghers – we all get woken up in
> >the wee hours of the morning, during search operations; we all get our
> >bags, baggage and vehicles checked, we all get harassed – that's the price
> >the innocent people pay for the environment the stupid LTTE has created.
> >Anyone who fails to produce valid identification or reasonable evidence
> >for whereabouts would get into trouble – unless you are a foreigner (they
> >are the privileged ones in paradise). There are Sinhala and Muslim
> >informants on the LTTE payroll too, so everyone is a 'suspect' at a
> >checkpoint. We all go through the same hassle, same agony. But then again,
> >you hardly visit Sri Lanka , so what would you know?
> >
> >Claim: Sinhalese Buddhists are at War with the Tamils
> >
> >Fact: Nope, we aren't. If we did, there wouldn't have been any Tamils
> >living outside LTTE-controlled areas. Majority of the Tamil population is
> >living outside the LTTE grip; living amongst the other ethnicities in
> >harmony. Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) is at war with the terrorists,
> >just like some other democracies around the world. Some LTTE propaganda
> >agents substitute GoSL with Sinhalese Buddhists and LTTE with the Tamils,
> >to leverage certain situations in their favour.
> >
> >Claim: Some Sinhala Extremist Parties are spreading Sinhala-only
> ideologies
> >
> >Fact: Yes, there are extremist elements such as Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU
> >trans. National Sinhala Heritage) – which came to being to counter the
> >extremists such as the LTTE under a political mandate. Tamil extremism is
> >over 50 years old in Sri Lanka while JHU isn't even 10 years old. JHU,
> >being an extremist, has almost zero influence on the average civil
> >society. Tamils, on the other hand, have "erased" Sinhala from their areas
> >(only Tamil and English exist on the sign boards from the North – out of
> >sight, out of mind?) while the rest of the country treats Tamil as one of
> >the official languages.
> >
> >Now, who is being extreme and who is breeding extremism in this country?
> >
> >Claim: Sri Lankan Government has no option but to negotiate with the LTTE
> >
> >Fact: Sri Lankan Government did not negotiate with the Sinhala Buddhist
> >uprisings in the early 70's and the late 80's. The Sinhala terrorists were
> >captured, tortured and killed – and their heads decorated the roadside
> >fences. Their burning bodies were seen in almost every street corner every
> >morning, and over 50,000 youth are still missing to date. That was the
> >Sinhala Buddhist government taking care of the Sinhala Buddhist youth who
> >terrorised the country. The government does NOT have to negotiate with
> >terrorists. The Sri Lankan governments have been too nice, and tolerant,
> >to the Tamil terrorists all these years.
> >
> >Claim: The international community has a right to involve in the Sri
> >Lankan situation
> >
> >Fact: The international community has already banned the LTTE – a terror
> >outfit and its sister-concerns. Not even India can ecourage terrorism or
> >division anymore; they too have Mumbai and Kashmir on their agenda. Sadly,
> >it is only a few misguided Tamil businessmen and individuals who support
> >the LTTE around the world trying to lobby a voice for lost cause – they
> >hardly quantify or qualify as the "international community." BBC and the
> >gullible British elements don't qualify either.. You too will soon see the
> >truth and realise that the Ealam dream was nothing but a painful
> nightmare.
> >
> >Claim: LTTE is the only and true voice of the Tamil people
> >
> >Fact: LTTE does not represent the true Tamils of this country. If they
> >did, why would they eliminate EPRLF, EPDP, EROS and TULF? Weren't they
> >representing Tamils too? Why would they kill any Tamil voice that was
> >against the LTTE agenda – no matter how big or small the person was? From
> >innocent villagers who were labelled as "traitors" to great statesmen like
> >Lakshaman Kadirgamar, LTTE has killed thousands of its own kith and kin
> >that they were "supposedly" protecting. In fact, the LTTE has killed more
> >innocent Tamils than the number of LTTE militants killed by the Sri Lankan
> >Security Forces. LTTE is not the true voice or the protector of the Tamils
> >in Sri Lanka . It's just the opposite.
> >
> >Claim: LTTE is protecting the civilians in their area, if they get out,
> >they would be killed by the Sri Lankan Security Forces. (Also according to
> >LTTE and the BBC)
> >
> >Fact: Almost all the Tamils in Sri Lanka – except for the ones who are
> >trapped in the current War Zone – live outside the LTTE influence. How
> >come they are not killed? If over 90% of the Tamils are living outside the
> >LTTE held areas, in harmony with the rest of the Sri Lankans, protected
> >and freely, what are they talking about? They would be killed by the
> >military advance if they DON'T leave the LTTE-held areas soon enough.
> >
> >Claim: Sri Lanka failed to recognise the demands of the Tamils and never
> >offered a political solution
> >
> >Fact: Sri Lanka did, but sadly the Tamils didn't recognise the power they
> >had in their hands. The country switched from a 225-seater parliament that
> >represented an MP per electorate to the Provincial Council System to
> >satisfy the demands of the Tamils. This may not have been perfect, but it
> >was a very good beginning. North and East were combined and offered in a
> >silver platter to the terrorist leader twice, but he refused to enter the
> >political stream. LTTE rejected democracy and took up arms, not once, not
> >twice, but many a times. Every "Cease-Fire" ended in LTTE regrouping,
> >re-arming and murdering hundreds of Sinhalese – the Tamil Diaspora that
> >has never set foot in the island should use their brains to understand why
> >the LTTE were NOT acting for the benefit of the ordinary Tamils.
> >
> > Sri Lanka would have been better off without the high-maintenance
> >Provincial Council System – with a leaner, meaner, accountable and more
> >responsible Parliament. Today we have a white elephant – created for the
> >Tamils, but fed by the rest of the Sri Lankans.
> >
> >We were a resourceful nation in South Asia, ahead of Singapore on the
> >development curve, once upon a time. Thanks to the idiotic ideologies and
> >stupidities of LTTE, the whole country has gone back in time – in to the
> >stone ages. The roads are still the same width as it were 30 years ago,
> >the currency has depreciated from Rs 16.00 to a US Dollar in 1978 to
> >almost Rs 114.00 to a US Dollar today – a whopping 712% in just 30 years!
> >The country is filled with the maimed and the war-victims – a huge burden
> >on the welfare system for the next few generations to come. Emotional
> >scars would take another zillion years to heal; and I could write another
> >million ways the war has crippled our Paradise .

Monday, February 23, 2009

Self-immolation, LTTE and contradictions…

Using materials with courtesy and approval of the “Death by Fire” author, Rover
By Sanjeewa Karunaratne

Several hardcore LTTE supporters recently self-immolated: one person in Switzerland and two in Tamil Nadu died, and one man in London was injured. Evidence is not available as to whether these self-immolators were former LTTE suicide cadres. Anyway, these acts were in support of the LTTE who is now facing an imminent military annihilation at the hands of the Sri Lanka defense forces.

There is enormous and constant social pressure from the LTTE leadership toward its members to support the LTTE, and this includes facilitating (or forcing) self-immolation. This too has been prevalent throughout its history. One of the main reasons for the west to ban this organization was the harassment of the Diaspora by the LTTE like this.

One of the most famous acts of recorded self-immolation was when Thich Quan Duc, a Mahayana Vietnamese Buddhist monk burned himself in protest of the mal-treatment that was inflicted upon the clergy by the Ngo Dinh Deim’s government and renouncing the occupation of the U.S. troops in Vietnam. In another case, a University of California (at San Diego) student burned himself in protest of the active presence of US troops in Vietnam. There are numerous cases of self-immolation to express renouncement.

Self-immolation is a very popular Hindu practice of devotion or Sati, where a new widow jumps into the burning pier of her dead husband. This practice has now been banned in India and was never condoned by Mahabarata (a prominent Hindu religious text). In another case of devotion, with the schism of the Russian church, entire villages of the orthodoxy (Russian Orthodox Church) burned themselves and termed it “Baptism Fire.” This is just one example out of many, especially by fundamentalist religious sects, for who practiced mass self- immolation to express devotion.

Self-immolation is also prevalent in India for hard to believe more mundane reasons to do with public figures. For example, a man burned himself when Tamil movie superstar Rajinikanth’s marriage was not doing well in the 1980s. In another instance when Muthuvel Karunanidhi the present chief minister of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu was arrested by his rival M.G. Ramachandran in 1981, eleven Tamil people burned themselves to express devotion to Karunanidhi. Though these men burned themselves predominantly in devotion to the leader, they were also renouncing his arrest - so both devotion and renouncement. Though primitive in nature, the South Indian practice of elevating political leaders, movie stars and cricketers to the level of gods equates self- immolation to blind devotion and makes it a psychological possibility. LTTE exploits the tendency of self-immolation for the leader: the reason Black Tigers get to dine with Prabhakaran as a graduation gift or before an attack.

Curiously, some Hindus and some sects of Christians practice localized immolation to show devotion to their respective gods. A sect of French Jesuits burns parts of their bodies (thigh, foot, palms ect.) in devotion for the pain that Jesus felt when he was crucified. Similarly, devotees of Hindu God, Skanda Kumar walk across burning charcoal to express devotion.

Self-immolation to curse someone: This is little known, but at least two groups of people in India, the Charans and Rajputs self-immolate to bring a curse upon someone who had perpetrated a foul deed upon them (or their people). Both these groups are North Indian Aryan (not South Indian Dravidian) sects that are renowned for their martial abilities. Interestingly, they perform self-immolation only against a closely-related entity faced with a distantly related foe. This character is important in relation to the LTTE. Because unlike the Charnas and Rajputs of India, who are North Indian Aryans, it seems this is the first time that Dravidians have indulged in the practice of cursing through immolation to a significant level. So LTTE is yet again innovative in an unenviable way, in giving the Dravidians a foul name.

The contradictions continue. LTTE supporters self-immolate to a) show devotion to its leader V. Prabhakaran, who has killed more Tamils than the Sri Lankan government b) renounce the government, which has more Tamils under its umbrella than the LTTE c) curse the Sinhalese, who have suffered immensely at the hands of the LTTE and have nothing against the Tamil people.

LTTE pioneered the death by fire by unleashing their trademark suicide attacks; therefore, fire is part and parcel of its modus operandi. Rumors are circulating that the rest of the leaders of the LTTE may self-immolate before being captured by the government forces. As primitive as themselves, as contradictory as their deeds, as cruel as their acts, it is not a surprise if they opt to do so, and it may do some justice to the thousands of innocent civilians who have fried in the fires of the LTTE suicide bombers.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

M.I.A. in the USA: An Oscar for a bin Laden Next?

by Ru Freeman

A few hours ago, two aircraft flown by a terrorist group, LTTE, recognized as such by the US, were foiled in their attempt to attack the Sri Lankan capitol of Colombo. Thought both planes were shot down, two civilians were killed and forty-six others injured.

In an article in the New Yorker, (Jane Mayer, ‘The Hard Cases,' New Yorker, 2/23/09), argues that the Obama administration faces the tough choice of closing Guantanamo Bay and other detention centers holding so-called enemy combatants who have never been charged with a crime, and being accused of going easy on future terrorists. There is the old argument that it is entirely possible to take an ordinary civilian and transform them into a terrorist simply by treating them as such, for what else but revenge might occupy the mind of an innocent human in solitary confinement for five years. But that is hindsight. The task now is to proceed with cautious speed toward justice and that requires the reassessment of definitions of "enemy combatants" and the multiple layers of incarceration, torture and prosecution that defined the Bush era.

But as Neal Katyal, the new Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the Justice Department (i.e. the person authorized to represent the government before the Supreme Court), and the President find their way toward the surprisingly broad line that separates the terrorist from the person or group with a justifiable grievance, there is another issue that Americans as a whole, particularly American liberals, need to confront: their relationship to minorities, particularly as it pertains to the classification of terrorists.

America's checkered past viz-a-viz its own minorities has made it both capable of massive collective goodness (i.e. two and a half years of working toward the election of a man with solid foreign-resident credentials and a name that echoes America's chosen anti-Christ, bin Laden), and equally all-encompassing myopia. Liberal Americans have, for decades, made the usually, but regrettably not reliably, flawless argument that minority status confers upon that minority the right to unquestioned support and a corner on the market on truth. President Obama, himself fairly and squarely a minority, owes his success not merely to the fact that he has done what most minorities have to do in order to achieve the kind of respect he enjoys, i.e. be above reproach in terms of his integrity and intellect, but also to the fact that he has had the courage to disassociate and even condemn those aspects or arguments of a minority group which he finds to be untruthful.

But the rest of America is still catching up, and none slower than its mainstream media, which has been awash with a new found enthusiasm for throwing the word "genocide" at the Sri Lankan government. Sri Lanka, an island off the coast of India, comprises of a Sinhalese majority, and Tamil, Moslem and mixed-race (of European descent), minorities. Sri Lankan schools are required, by law, to teach each child his/her own religion no matter the denomination of the school, and Sri Lankans live, study, work and exist in harmony in the entire island (about the size of Maine), except in a small area controlled by the Tamil Tigers, a separatist terrorist organization. To be absolutely clear, the Tigers (LTTE), are a group of Tamils, but all Tamils are not members nor supporters of the LTTE and 95% of all Tamils live among Sinhalese and Moslems away from the LTTE.

But none of these facts were part of a series of articles in the Boston Globe. Not in the one calling for the Obama Administration to ask for a UN Council Resolution to call for a cease-fire and for Asian powers to stop funding the Sri Lankan government. Nor the one it ran an about an expatriate kid fasting American style (with the help of Gatorade and vitamins), to bring attention to the "plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka." Nor the opinion piece salaciously titled ‘Genocide in Sri Lanka,' by Bruce Fein, a former deputy attorney-general, who claimed that the state department lists Sri Lanka as a "potential as an investigatory target in the Office of War Crimes," but forgot to mention that the same State Department lists the LTTE as a terrorist organization, moved to freeze the assets of LTTE operatives here in the United States, imposed that decision as recently as last week on yet another American front for the LTTE, and, by the way, shut down all funding from Americans and Canadians to the LTTE, all moves which forced the LTTE to suddenly begin peace talks in 2002.

Swift on the heels of all this was a PBS Tavis Smiley segment (he for whom Obama was just not black enough), dedicated to Mathangi Arulpragasam, the niece of Vellupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the LTTE, and daughter of Arula, the leader of a secondary LTTE organization, both criminals and terrorists condemned by the international community. Tavis Smiley ought to have known what was coming, but that would have entailed actually doing some research, and not make the assumptions, as most liberals do, that a person speaking from a minority perspective must automatically be right.

Mathangi Arulpragasam, who goes by the name M.I.A., has been denied a visa to the enter the United States in the past due to her terrorist connections, but is now a resident of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. MIA was nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar for her song on the current flavor of the month, Slumdog Millionaire which is traveling at breakneck speed toward an Oscar flush. She used her segment on Tavis Smiley to make the statement that she is the spokesperson, the only one!, for the Tamils of Sri Lanka, discrediting the thousands of articulate and frankly more informed and far less dubious Tamils who can speak both for Tamils and Sri Lanka, and, with the connivance of Smiley, continued to accuse the Sri Lankan government of engaging in genocide, that it was "trying to make Tamils extinct," that it had "an army of millions" and that Tamils weren't being "allowed to live" in Sri Lanka. Suffice to say that anybody with a computer and internet access - both of which, I'm positive, aren't denied to Mr. Smiley - could have confirmed the ludicrousness of these pronouncements. The UN, UNHCR and the Red Cross, let alone the Sri Lankan government, have released statements regarding the continued terrorism of the LTTE and its murdering of Tamil civilians before they can cross into the safety zones being maintained by the Sri Lankan government and the Red Cross. UN Human Rights reports regarding its forced recruitment of child soldiers and women as well as international aid workers, are also easily accessed.

Why then did the Tavis Smiley show leave it to Michael Getler, the ombudsman of NPR to make a public apology regarding the conduct of this interview? Why was there no public apology from Tavis Smiley himself but for a forced follow-up segment, thanks to the flood of protests, with the Sri Lankan government? Before the Oscar board decides to take the path of inanity displayed by Tavis Smiley on his show, it might do well to replay the album Piracy Funds Terrorism to which MIA refused to add a disclaimer (regarding her overt support of terrorism), which also contains the song ‘Sunshowers' which refers to suicide bombs ("and some showers I'll be aiming at you") Unless, of course, there's a super-talented rapper niece of Osama bin Laden's singing about killing 2,000 Americans in NYC that they are willing to embrace into the fold.

MIA's music is catchy and should win whatever it deserves. And America is certainly a place where the underdog story, however fictional, guarantees sales. Witness the number of music artists who "authenticate" themselves with borrowed street-creds in order to sell the music they write in nice upper class suburbs. But the idea that the same Hollywood that helped Barack Obama into office is offering M.I.A. the second national platform she said, on the Smiley show, she wants, is to wonder if the America that elected Obama is truly ready for the kind of discernment, self-correction and intelligence that characterizes the man himself.

(Ru Freeman is an author and activist. Her political journalism and cultural criticism has appeared internationally. Her novel, A Disobedient Girl, will be published in English and in translation in July, 2009.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Genocide in Sri Lanka? Reply to Bruce Fein

Several recent articles in the Boston Globe have loudly and authoritatively alleged that a systematic genocide of Tamil civilians is currently taking place in Sri Lanka. Most notable of these is a recent op-ed piece published in the Globe on February 15th by Mr. Bruce Fein. Given the magnitude and gravity of such accusations –primarily leveled against two central figures of the Sri Lankan regime – it is highly problematic that these damaging claims have been backed with little substance and instead littered with factual inaccuracies and inflammatory language.
The term genocide is remarkably evocative and arouses in people extraordinarily powerful emotions. It is a word that is forever associated with the horrors of Hitler, the unfathomable brutality of Pol Pot and the systematic extermination of the Rwandan Tutsis. As such, the term genocide tends to be used liberally in an effort to indelibly stain an opponent’s reputation and credibility. We believe that the Sri Lankan Government has fallen foul of such a calculated and slanderous campaign of misinformation; hence, we seek to address some of these charges here.
Mr. Fein accuses successive Sinhalese regimes of attempting to make Sri Lanka ‘Tamil Free’. We challenge Mr. Fein to provide evidence of a single case where a mainstream Sri Lankan politician has uttered such despicable claims. We also find such a claim absurdly delusional given that almost half of all Tamils in Sri Lanka reside in areas outside of the region claimed by the separatist LTTE as its ‘homeland’. We can’t help but wonder why so many Tamils would continue to remain in Colombo and other southern cities right in the midst of their alleged exterminators?
Further, Mr. Fein’s article is couched in an ‘Us’ versus ‘Them’ discourse that essentially dichotomizes ethnic relations in Sri Lanka to Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu/Christian Tamils. But, as any knowledgeable observer of the country would attest, the ethnic landscape of the country is far more complex. For instance, most Christians in the country are Sinhalese. Moreover, there are myriad differences within each community- be they Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher- based on caste, occupation and so on.
Mr. Fein claims to have compiled 1000 pages of evidence designed to implicate Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Army Chief Sarath Fonseka on charges of violating the Genocide Accountability Act of 2007. It is also noted that this massive document is based on affidavits and ‘contemporaneous media reporting’. It would be useful for readers to make up their own minds if Mr. Fein were to disclose specific media sources that he has used. To our knowledge, neither any reputable media organization nor any of the countless non-governmental organizations in the country has accused the government of the crime of genocide. As has been documented by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) has certainly been guilty of war-time excesses. However, genocide is not amongst those and we wish to point out that reports churned out by the well-oiled Tamil Tiger propaganda apparatus active in New England and Canada do not constitute credible sources of ‘contemporaneous media reporting’.
We do not seek to dispute the fact that civilian casualties have mounted in recent times. However, what we do seek to dispute is that such casualties are the result of a deliberate and systematic campaign of extermination of the Tamils based on their ethnicity. We wonder if Mr. Fein is aware that most accepted international definitions of the term genocide hinge critically on the ability to demonstrate intent. Thus, it is incumbent on Mr. Fein to prove that the government willfully and intentionally killed unarmed Tamil civilians. What Mr. Fein does not mention- presumably because it does not fit his version of reality- is that most Tamil civilians in LTTE held areas are forcibly held as human shields and forbidden to leave. A report by Human Rights Watch on December 15th amply demonstrates the reign of terror imposed by the LTTE on Tamil civilians and chronicles sharp rises in extortion and forcible recruitment of both children and adults within the last few months. Further, several analysts believe that over the last two decades far more Tamils have been killed by the LTTE than by the government.
Mr. Fein rightly highlights the shelling of hospitals and other civilian establishments in recent times. However, he fails to point out that culpability for these crimes has not been verified with both the GoSL and the LTTE fiercely contesting conflicting claims. Thus, in the absence of reasonable evidence, to impute responsibility for these crimes on the GoSL is irresponsible and mischievous, at best.
In conclusion, we also find it interesting that these charges of genocide are being labeled at a time when the conflict between the GoSL and the separatist LTTE has entered a decisive phase with the LTTE on the verge of outright military defeat. The loud protestations of genocide have to be evaluated with that in mind. Further, we would like to end by pointing out that the term genocide tends to be bandied around too casually these days without a profound understanding of its real meaning. We believe such unabashed prostitution of the word genocide is not only damaging to accused parties but massively unhelpful in fostering inter-group dialogue and consultation in troubled times such as these.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What the Government has to say about civilian plight

The interview done by CNN with the Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Dr. Palitha Kohona: Click here

The interview done by CNN with the Sri Lankan ambassador to UN, Mr. H.M.G.S. Palihakkara: Click here

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Conflict Levels and Dynamics

By Asoka Kumara

Defining Conflict“A struggle over values and claims to scarce status, power and resources” (Lewise Coser )

“Any situation in which two or more social entities or ‘parties’……perceive that they possess mutually incompatible goals.” (Mitchell)

Conflict is always not a negative thing. Most people associate negative words or ideas with conflict

War, violence, anger or hurt feelings but, Peace building assumes that conflict is a natural part of human existence and that the goal is to transform the destructive ways we deal with conflict to lead to more constructive outcomes.

Conflict levels
 Intra - personal conflict: this refers to conflict occurring with in a person. Usually people need to work on their own inner struggles and issues in order to be constructive in social conflict
Ex.Nelson Mandela (South Africa)
 Interpersonal conflict: Conflict occurring between individuals or small groups of people
 Intra-group conflict: Conflicts that happen in a particular group, whether it is a religious, ethnic, political or other type of identity group.
 Inter-group conflict: occurring between large organized social or identity groups

Challenges in working at conflict
1. Communicating with “the enemy" without being viewed of a spy or traitor
2. To change national structures. Social, political and economic systems often need to change in order to achieve peace that is grounded in justice
3. Influenced by global economic and political systems national institutions and structures do not operate in a vacuums. They are influenced by other countries and actors (EU,ASEAN,IMF,WB)

Stages and Dynamics of Conflict
Conflicts are not static, they change over time sometimes increasing in intensity and some times decreasing. Conflict like fire, goes through a number of stages that have particular elements that make it unique

Stage one - Gathering materials/potential conflict
In the early stage, materials for the fire are collected. Some of these materials are drier than others, but there is no fire yet. However, three is movement towards fire and the materials are readily available
Ex.Donoughmore Reforms – 1931
Soulbury Reforms -1947
Official Language act no 33 of 1956
Citizenship Act

Stage two - Fire begins burning/Confrontation
In this stage, a match is lit and the fire begins to burn
Ex. Killed 13 solders in July 1983
Black July incidents

Conflict stage three- Bonfire/Crisis
The fire burn as far and fast as it can, burning wildly out of control. This stage, the conflict reaches a crisis and, just like the fire conflict consumes the materials fuelling it.
People purposefully do harm, maim of kill others and usually, both sides end up losing something.

EX. Killing and destruction occurred during 1983 – 2001

Conflict stage Four- Coals/Potential conflict
At some point, the fire abates, the flames largely vanish and just the coals continue to glow as most of the fuel is burn up. At this stage, conflict can either continue to burn them out or, if new fuel is added, can re-ignite. If peace accords are signed, then the violence usually decreases
Ex.CFA between GOSL and LTTE (22nd Feb 2002)

Conflict stage Five- Fire out/Regeneration
The fire is finally out and even the embers are cool. At this stage, it is time to focus on other things besides the fire and to re build and help regenerate what was lost.

Peace building Activities
Each stage of conflict has a unique element therefore peace building activities need to design carefully some activities for each stage are
Stage one & two: Transforming Material and preventing Fire
 Prejudice reduction
 Conflict resolution training
 Non-violent advocacy
 HR education
 Economic and agricultural development
Stage three: Limiting What Ignites and Preventing the Flames from Spreading
 Non violent advocacy & training
 HR education and training
 Encouraging local capacities for peace
 Economic & agricultural development
 Use media & communication
Stage four: Cooling the Coals
 Economic & agricultural development
 Trauma counseling
 Media and communication
 Demobilizing soldiers
 Peace education, mediation, interfaith dialogue
Stage Five: Regeneration
 Trauma healing
 Reintegrating IDPs
 Reconstruction
 Micro-finance and agriculture projects
 Reconciliation

Reference : Caritas Peace Building Manual

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tamil People have Rejected Tamil Self-Determination in Favour of Ethic Integration

Source: Sri Lanka Guardian

“The Tamil Elam struggle failed to achieve anything politically; even what they called “Ghandian” ways failed. Peace talks also failed and the war is also failing them. By going to war and supporting it, Tamil separatists essentially accepted the outcome of the war, victory or defeat. It is not possible to back down from it now when things don’t go in their favour. They may still try it, but, the war will seal the fate of Tamil Elam, the state that was never to be.”
“The Tamil Elam struggle failed to achieve anything politically; even what they called “Ghandian” ways failed. Peace talks also failed and the war is also failing them. By going to war and supporting it, Tamil separatists essentially accepted the outcome of the war, victory or defeat. It is not possible to back down from it now when things don’t go in their favour. They may still try it, but, the war will seal the fate of Tamil Elam, the state that was never to be.” Full article at: