Friday, February 27, 2009


LTTE versus Izeth Hussain

Tamil children go to school at a government-run displacement camp in Manik Farm, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of Vavuniya, Sri Lanka, Monday, Feb. 23, 2009.. (AP)

In my article Lasantha and Democracy in The Island of January 21 I argued that the LTTE is loosing the war because it practises dictatorship while the Government is relatively democratic, which fits in with the fact that in the modern era wars are invariably won by the more democratic side. I argued further that the explanation for what looks like an invariant law might be found in the fact that dictatorship usually goes with a weakened grasp of reality.

I have just come across excellent illustrative material to buttress my argument in Kumar David’s article The National Question: What next in the Sunday Island of February 15. He quotes from a paper entitled Alternative Conflict Resolution – the Case of Nepal by Dr S.Chandrasekeran, a retired senior officer of the Indian intelligence, which had been posted some days earlier on the website South Asia Analysis Group. The paper addressed the question why armed insurrection succeeded in Nepal whereas it failed in the case of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. The answer given was that the LTTE sought a purely military solution whereas the Nepali Maoists sought a political solution while waging their guerilla struggle. The answer is certainly a plausible one, indeed a valid one, but the material quoted from Chandrasekeran’s paper can equally support the hypothesis that the Maoists won because unlike the LTTE they were democratic and therefore prevailed against Nepal’s dictatorial monarchy.

I will now provide some extracts from Chandrasekeran’s paper as given in edited form in David’s article. "How does one explain the remarkable success of the Maoists in capturing power within a space of ten years? First and foremost the leadership had political skill. It understood that the military campaign had its limits and cannot go it alone without political initiatives at every stage. They were in touch with political leaders of all hues including those who were opposed to their campaigns and methods. Leaders at every level – village, district, and centre – were in touch with political leaders, bureaucrats and ministers; they even had a channel of communication with the Palace. The civilian leadership was in command. The PLA chief was fourth or fifth in the hierarchy and was accountable to the party politburo; the party commanded the gun."

The strategies outlined above certainly suggest a democratic outlook, but the following is quite explicit that the Maoist organization was democratic, not dictatorial: "There was consensus in decision-making. They differed but at the end of the day, the party resolution was adhered to. The most important aspect was collective leadership; Prachanda was the supreme leader; but he never pushed down his decisions."

The following is also relevant to my argument, "Though militarily strong and capable of prolonged war, they realized the futility of a military solution and instead supported the democratic movement. They encouraged the civic bodies to take the lead. Thus they were able to make the people’s movement a success in getting rid of the monarchy."

It seems hardly necessary to labour the point that in Nepal a revolutionary movement organized along democratic lines, and following basically democratic strategies, prevailed against dictatorial monarchy, while in Sri Lanka the dictatorial LTTE lost its war against a relatively democratic Government. These can be taken as two recent examples showing that in the modern era wars are won by the democratic side.

It is an interesting question why the orientations of the LTTE and of the Nepali Maoists have been so different. Doubtless the latter profited greatly from the writings of Mao. Those writings show that while Mao was unimpressive as a Marxist theoretician, he was immensely impressive as a practical revolutionary focusing on the question of the strategies to be followed in coming to power. Those strategies were essentially democratic, focusing as they did on co-opting every group that might be sympathetic or useful to the revolution. The strategies of the LTTE were the very opposite. I wonder whether behind Mao’s strategies was the universalist vision of Marxism while behind Prabhakaran there was no more than tribalism, the politics of identity in which group interests predominate over the interests of the rest of humanity. It seems an interesting question. I merely pose it as an aside in this article without attempting an answer.

I will now provide a few details in substantiation of my point that dictatorship goes with a weakened grasp of reality. According to Chandrasekeran one of the reasons why the Nepali Maoists prevailed was that they understood the importance of India: "They never targeted India outwardly and left the Indian business community relatively free. Indian trucks were freely allowed in and out of the valley. They never abused the Indian leadership openly though in internal documents they referred to India as an expansionist power." By contrast the LTTE butchered Rajiv Gandhi, which has come to be regarded – including by the LTTE leadership itself – as a monumentally egregious blunder. Had inner party democracy prevailed in the LTTE that blunder showing a very weak grasp of reality might have been avoided.

I have pointed out above that the Nepali revolutionaries followed the Maoist strategy of co-opting every group that might prove to be useful in furthering the revolution. It was a strategy followed successfully also by the Vietnamese and Algerian revolutionaries. In Sri Lanka the LTTE should accordingly have tried to forge close bonds with the Muslims who share common ground with the Tamils as both are minorities. The LTTE did try for some time, though on mistaken premises which I need not detail here. What is significant for my purpose is the LTTE response to anti-Tamil action by Muslim homeguards in the Eastern Province in collaboration with the STF. One response took the form of the mosque massacres in the EP, which were arguably meant to deter the Muslim homeguards from engaging in further anti-Tamil action. But the response also took the form of the eviction of over a hundred thousand Muslims from the North – Muslims who were not involved in any anti-Tamil action, and who in fact were unaware of what was going on in the EP. In what way did the LTTE profit from that outrageous eviction? In no way that any rational mind can identify. I hold that the explanation for that eviction was the dictatorial LTTE’s poor grasp of reality.

I will now give examples of Hitler’s weakened grasp of reality consequent to his acquisition of dictatorial powers. His basic program was to establish a global imperialist system under the domination of the Aryan race – a program that would not have seemed mad at all to many Westerners of his time. According to that program Britain could keep its empire while Germany established its power over East Europe and Russia, in the process making Germany the dominant power in Europe. Where he showed a weakened grasp of reality was in his expectation that Britain would come to acquiesce in that program, failing to grasp something that would have been understood by many intelligent German schoolboys of that time: for centuries Britain had shown that it would rather fight a war than allow the emergence of a dominant power in Europe, a fundamental of British foreign policy that had not changed during Hitler’s time.

Furthermore, under the influence of his Foreign Minister Ribbentrop, Hitler convinced himself that Britain would not fight a war at that time however provocative his behaviour. He gave no importance whatever to the high level expertise on international relations available in the Berlin Foreign Office and chose to be influenced by the former champagne salesman Ribbentrop. When Hitler realized that Britain was about to declare war he exclaimed in stunned surprise "Now what?" and glared at Ribbentrop. Consequent to Hitler’s weakened grasp of reality Germany had to fight the war one and a half years before it was ready to do so.

A weakened grasp of reality was also evident in the nonsensical race theories that Hitler came to accept. According to those theories the Russians, like all other Slavs, were fit only to be slaves – that is to say, the people who produced supreme geniuses of the order of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky were fit only to serve the Aryan master race. It was that belief that led Hitler to invade the Soviet Union in the expectation that it would be quickly conquered, after which its vast natural resources would serve to make Germany invincible. By that time Hitler was evidently far too mad to remember what had happened to Napoleon. The invasion of the Soviet Union was the fatally decisive mistake that led to the downfall of Hitler and Nazi Germany

It has to be expected that after the final defeat of the LTTE a substantial proportion of Sri Lankans may want to see some kind of systemic change. It can hardly be denied that democracy has been malfunctioning in Sri Lanka, and that for the greater part of the time since 1948 we Sri Lankans have been ruled by fools. A veering towards dictatorship may therefore seem desirable to some Sri Lankans. In this situation we must bear in mind the dangers of dictatorship. We must also bear in mind the words of the great American journalist H.L.Mencken, "The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy."


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ellyn Shander: "We will never stop fighting for justice!!!

Dr. Ellyn Shander/USA: "We will never stop fighting for justice"

Full Text of Speech by Dr. Ellyn Shander MD at the “Tamils Against Genocide”, Washington DC rally, Feb 20, 2009:

First I want to say how honored I am to speak at this rally.

I want to thank the organizers of this event who have brought us all together. I am so impressed with the number of people , who have traveled great distances, taken off from work, and put their lives aside to be here.. Look at us, thousands showing up in solidarity and giving voice to the Tamil people in this terrible crises.

WE have the power to change the present anguish and despair in Sri Lanka! WE WILL NOT BE DEFEATED!!!

[Dr. Ellyn Shander at a "Tamils Againt Genocide" media briefing held at National Press Club, Washington DC, Feb 20, 2009]

I dedicate this speech
- to all those who have died in the senseless violence since 1948,
- to all the Tamil victims of targeted persecution and murder,
- to all the brave heroes that have fallen in the struggle for equality AND
- to all the Tamils in SL, who can’t be here today and are suffering now in unbearable circumstances.

Let us take a moment of silence to pray for the restoration of hope, peace and dignity to the Tamil people of Sri Lanka. (Silence)

Most of you know me, as an American doctor, I went to the Northern coast of Sri Lanka after the tsunami and helped in a fishing village north of Killonochi. After my second trip back to the North, the government broke the ceasefire. Since then the war on the Tamil civilians has increased to a heartbreaking devastation.

The genocide of the Tamil people is personal for me.

I met hundreds of beautiful people in the North, but now it is over run by government savages.

My memories of Tamil children playing in the villages are covered with death and destruction. What kind of evil government kills its own civilians???

Saddam Hussein, govt of Sudan, Burma and the GOSL. All members of the Killing club.
We have all been shocked , saddened and devastated at the news that comes daily from the Vanni region.

-Incendiary bombs burning whole families as they sleep,
-civilians lying on the streets bleeding to death.,
-forced abortions of Tamil women,
-torture and rape in the new concentration camps for civilian Tamils who escape to Vavunia.
This ethnic cleansing of the Tamils is spreading as a bloodstain across Tamil land. It is masterminded by the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, guilty of war crimes against the Tamil people.

The Sri Lankan government apologizes to no one.
They do not say that civilian deaths are “collateral damage,”
They don’t apologize for using cluster bombs on civilian areas,
They don’t apologize for using incendiary bombs on densely packed civilians,
They don’t apologize for threatening doctors to leave,
They don’t apologize for ordering the UN and all NGOS to leave,
They don’t apologize for closing off the whole area under attack from journalists or observers,
They don’t apologize for starving and killing over 300,000 Tamil civilians who have done nothing wrong except be born Tamil in the country of Sri Lanka.

The similarity to the Jews being killed in Germany is chilling.

The GOSL is acting just like the Nazi regime with plans to exterminate Tamils !!
And just as we can’t imagine the GOSL’s evil to get worse, he orders the shelling of civilian hospitals and then states openly that it was justified!!

These cowards claim they are waging a war against terror.

That is insane… just look at the pictures of the casualties. Old people, women and children. They are not killing terrorists , they are using this an excuse to ELIMIANTE EVERY TAMIL THEY CAN GET THEIR HANDS ON. This is genocide.!!!!
But one thing the GOSL never counted on was us!!

The Tamil Diaspora and friends.

Look around at your neighbor. Look at the faces of the other people in this crowd. You are looking at the faces of people who are dedicated and loyal to truth and integrity for the Tamil people.

The time to accuse us as terrorists is over! We are thousands strong as humanitarians.!!
All of you who come out and tirelessly write letters, organize rallies, come here to march and shout , AND send photos to journalists: all to make sure this genocide can not be hidden, can not be buried, and cannot continue!! We will make sure that the world knows what is happening to the Tamils.


The GOSL never thought we would show up and expose their lies, but here we are: and in this darkest hour we will continue to make sure that people SEE what is happening.. THEY CAN NO LONGER HIDE TAMIL GENOCIDE, by accusing us of being terrorist supporters.
Even if they try to kill every Tamil in Sri Lanka and take their land.

We will not let them succeed in extinguishing the Tamils.

Because in this darkness, we will fight for the Tamils to be a presence in the world and never be forgotten.

WE .. you and I can do this.

In these darkest hours, we will collectively move to our highest selves and say to those Sinhalese Nazis.


Although there is silence in Sri Lanka
We will never be silenced
Although they control Tamils there
We will never be controlled here.
Although they are torturing and killing Tamils there.
They can never kill our collective regroup and stay on the highest moral ground.
WE HAVE GOD ON OUR SIDE, as we come here today: to the capital of our great country and ask for help

President Obama we have come to you for help
Secretary of state Clinton we have come to you for help.
Pres Obama your words on your inauguration day spoke directly to the heart of the Tamil people’s struggle!!

You said:
“We must carry forward the precious gift, the noble idea, passed on from generation to generation. The God given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”
Pres Obama we are asking you to make that pledge to the Tamil people.
We need your help!

Pres Obama: We have come here today thousands strong to tell the government butchers and masterminds of the Tamil final solution.
We will never stop fighting for the Tamil people, no matter where and when it is. You cannot break our spirit..
And on inauguration day, we heard your words Pres Obama, mirror ours

You said:
“And to those who seek to advance their aims by……slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that, "Our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken. You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you."
President Obama we are asking you to make that pledge to the Tamil people.
We need your help!

From the worst violent struggles have come free nations.
The US in the revolutionary war
Israel in the war of independence
Etria from Ethiopia
Kosovo and on and on.
And as we saw after WW2, the worse mass extermination of a people, 6 million and yet the Jewish state was born from the ashes.
Know this, the Tamils will rise from these ashes as well.
President Obama we heard you say to governments like the GOSL
To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history,

At this rally today we say to you. …Mahinda Rajapaksa … you are on the wrong side of history! We will overcome you!
President Obama we are asking you to make that pledge to the Tamil people.
We need your help!

PLEASE insist on an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.
Please send an international presence to SL to bear witness and stop the genocide of an entire people before it is too late.

Please pressure the GOSL to open the conflict areas to humanitarian aid, international journalists and human rights activists.
Sometimes in life we get the rare opportunity to fight for integrity, and truth, and we are forced to go outside, really outside, our comfort zone. That is when it is a privilege to do service for a people and a cause.

Tamils worldwide and their friends, we have been given this privilege.
We demand that the Sri Lankan government stop the genocide…..and
We demand that the international community pressure this Nazi regime to stop the ethnic cleansing and send in humanitarian aid. It is time for the Tamil people to have their own state

But in this fight, we need help.. and once again Pres Obama we found a promise of hope in your words on January 20th. You said:
“know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.”
President Obama we are asking you to make that pledge to an independent Tamil nation.
We need your help!

And finally, President Obama you said on Jan 20th in front of millions of Americans and the entire world that
“this is a new era of responsibility …on the part of every American, …we ( must) be …., firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.”

Mr. President .. the Tamils are facing a very difficult task.. stopping the final solution .a genocide ..from a madness that is stalking their country.
You speak about giving America’s all to a difficult task.

President Obama we are asking you to make that pledge to the Tamil people.
We need your help!

And finally to all of you here today ….let me say, that I have met Tamil men, women and children. teens and elders from,
Sri Lanka, Canada, America, England, India and even Australia.
And what has impressed me most was their
Strength of character,
The tenderness of their hearts, and
The courage to go on under unspeakable sadness about the situation back home,
so one thing I know for sure
Tamils the world over and their friends
Will never give up the struggle
Tamils the world over and their friends
Will try and save every Tamil possible
Tamils the world over and their friends
Will overcome this darkness
And then Tamils the world over and their friends
Will rebuild in our hearts and then on the ground
Thank you

[Dr. Ellyn Shander MD of Connecticut, USA is a humanitarian activist]


Describes visit to country as a ‘mountain-top experience’

CHENNAI: Martin Luther King III, who is in India to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his parents’ (Martin Luther King Jr and Coretta Scott King) visit here, exhorted Indians to work diligently to abolish the caste system.

Addressing journalists ahead of a grand musical tribute event, Mr. King said whether we acknowledged it or not, the complex caste system that treated some people differently existed. “My father used to say, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ ”

Establishing a parallel with the treatment of people of colour in the United States around the 1960s, he said facilities were often available, separate but not equal. “We should do something about this.” However, he added that people who were affected should demand their rights and justice.

Mr. King expressed the view that there was a new administration in power in America hoping to make a difference. Granting that every nation must have a strong defence, he said the question was how a nation used that defence force.

While President Barack Obama had the opportunity to be one of the greatest Presidents of America, if at some time he took the decision to go to war, he personally would feel compelled to challenge that. “One day, we will get to the point when we will lay down our shields and swords and study war no more.”

Over the last 10-11 days, he had been honoured and humbled to be in India, describing it as a ‘mountain-top experience.’ Earlier, he visited Mumbai, New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram. The last leg of the tour would see him in Kolkata.

During the first week, he was accompanied by his wife Arndrea Waters King and a Congressional delegation. He said he had been talking about the philosophy of non-violence — its redemptive and transformative qualities.


Revise policies on Tamil struggle: Karen Parker tells U.S. Senate
[TamilNet, Thursday, 26 February 2009, 00:55 GMT]

The twenty-six year old armed conflict between the armed forces of the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has reached a phase that can only be called genocide-like and catastrophic for the Tamil people in the north and east of the island, said human rights expert Karen Parker, Wednesday to the subcommittee of the US Senate, hearing on the situation in the island of Sri Lanka. Describing the war waged by Colombo as illegal military operations, using illegal weapons or legal weapons in an illegal manner without any international monitoring, she urged the US government to call for an immediate ceasefire and address it most forcefully to the Rajapaksa administration.

Ms. Karen Parker, J.D., International Educational DevelopmentSaying it is highly likely that many of Tamil civilians in the LTTE-controlled areas would be hesitant to turn themselves over to what they consider an enemy government, as many of those in the Vanni had come there the past few years after abuses in the government-controlled areas such as Jaffna and Trincomalee, Ms. Karen Parker JD said that at least more than 2000 of them have been killed in the past several weeks alone.

The US had little interest and involvement in post-colonial Sri Lanka until the Reagan Administration and when it became interested its policies were unhelpful in resolving the situation, she said.

Ms. Parker also implied how the Tamil question became a bargain between Colombo and the strategic interests of powers.

When US showed an interest in Trincomalee and was working out a deal with J.R. Jeyawardane, India entered into Indo-Sri Lanka accord of 1987 to prevent this, she said.

The Bush administration looked again at Trincomalee and there are suggestions that Palaly airfield was also under consideration. Both of these are in the Tamil areas, so in order for possible bases to be secure, the Tamil question would have to be resolved.

But instead of resolving the conflict, the Bush administration converted the armed conflict in “terrorism / counter terrorism”, Parker said.

The net result according to her is that it has prevented viewing the conflict under prevailing humanitarian law; it prolonged the conflict and has damaged the humanitarian law itself.

Ms Karen Parker said that the terrorism / counter terrorism policy has eroded basic human rights and it has demonized Tamil people world wide, adding, “In my 27 years working on humanitarian law issues, I have never encountered a situation where an ethnic group that has been the victim of the most serious of human rights and humanitarian law violations becomes the culprit – and in ways that are overtly racist.”

The LTTE has met all criteria for combatant status according to humanitarian law norms. They have a clear political aim. Their combatant status has to be recognized even if not their political aim. “Both the LTTE and the government forces may carry out any military operation that is not prohibited in humanitarian law. Many of the military operations in this war are legal, but those occurring now, that target the Tamil civilian population are not.”

Besides enforcing a ceasefire, the other recommendations of Ms. Parker urged US to see Colombo not receiving arms either from US or from others, to attend to humanitarian needs of Tamils and rehabilitate them in their own locales and not in the detention camps, to insist most forcefully on UN access, to ask Colombo of its proposal to resolve the conflict and US to consult the leadership of the Tamil diaspora in this matter, to ensure that Colombo stops all anti-Tamil rhetoric at home and abroad and US to re-examine its foreign policy not to contribute to human rights violations, especially against Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

Full text of the statement of Ms. Karen Parker follows:

FEBRUARY 24, 2009

Chairman Casey and members of the Subcommittee:

Written Testimony: Karen Parker
I am pleased that you are concerned about the situation in Sri Lanka and have given me this opportunity to provide the Subcommittee with information regarding this situation and my views on what United States might usefully do. By way of introduction I am an attorney specializing in international humanitarian (armed conflict) law and human rights. I have participated in United Nations human rights forums since 1982, and have addressed the situation in Sri Lanka since 1983 on behalf of a number of non-governmental organizations, most recently with the Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (AHL) and International Educational Development (IED). In 1987 I presented a statement to the House of Representatives on the situation in Sri Lanka. The views expressed in this statement are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of IED or AHL.


The twenty-six year old armed conflict between the armed forces of the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam has reached a phase that can only be called genocide-like and catastrophic for the Tamil people in the north and east of the island. As there are many incidents on a daily basis and the situation is extremely volatile, it is not possible to be either timely or even accurate as far as facts and figures. Accordingly, this overview should be accepted as snapshots indicating the urgency of the situation. Even so, they clearly indicate genocidal acts.

A. Civilian casualties.
While numbers vary substantially about the number of Tamil civilians killed, the most reliable estimates indicate at least more than two thousand in the past several weeks alone. There are many thousands with life-threatening injuries and the casualty figures can be expected to rise dramatically in the next few weeks due to lack of medical care. Casualty figures released in June, 2008 for the war indicated more than 100,000 persons had died, the vast majority of them Tamil civilians. Recently, the health officer for Mullaitivu district indicated at least 40 Tamil civilians killed and 100 injured per day.

B. Illegal military operations.
It is clear that hospitals, safety zones and civilian locales have been targeted and the number of casualties indicate blatant disregard for humanitarian law standards. In defending military actions against hospitals, Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse was filmed stating: “No hospitals should operate outside the safety zone . . . everything beyond the safety zone is a legitimate target.” This is an egregious misstatement of the humanitarian law rules. In addition to targeting hospitals outside the safety zone, there is also reliable evidence that the government’s forces continue to targeting hospitals, schools and civilian dwellings inside the safety zones and in other undefended civilian areas that under humanitarian law rules may not be attacked.

C. Status of relief providers.
Because of fears of attacks as well as because of express orders to leave, most relief agencies have left the LTTE-controlled areas and much of the area newly under government control as well. It appears that Tamils Rehabilitation Organization is the sole-remaining international NGO in the LTTE-controlled area. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was ordered out of the LTTE-controlled areas by the government and its capacity to attend to the needs of Tamil civilians not in the LTTE-controlled areas has been dramatically reduced. Its last act was to transport several hundred severely wounded out of the area by ship.

D. Shortages of food, water and medical supplies.
Tamil civilians both inside and outside of the LTTE-controlled areas suffer severe shortages of food, water, and basic medical care. The primary supplier of food has been the World Food Programme. WFP’s access to the Tamil-controlled was curtailed some weeks ago, but after much international pressure on the government, a food caravan was allowed into the LTTE-controlled area (the Vanni) on February 19 containing 30 tons or an estimated 100 grams per person/ per day, which is grossly inadequate. At the same time, the available food and water at the government’s IDP camps is also grossly inadequate. UNICEF has had emergency feeding centers for children who are grossly underweight and facing death by starvation, but it is uncertain if they also have been cut back by government edict. Tamils in the whole of the north and east have had their subsistence farming and fishing severely curtailed for some time due to the government’s establishment of high security zones (HSZ) which effectively remove prime farming and fishing areas from use. In this manner, the Tamils in the North especially have already faced serious food shortages – many Tamil children are developmentally delayed due to lack of food. In any case, all evidence shows that the government is denying food, water and medicine to the Tamil civilian population, prohibited by humanitarian law norms and an element of the crime of extermination under the Statute and Elements of the International Criminal Court.

E. Status of Tamil civilians.

Ms. Karen Parker, J.D., International Educational DevelopmentThere has been considerable controversy about the status of Tamil civilians both in the LTTE-controlled areas and in the government controlled areas. Estimates about the numbers of Tamils in the LTTE area vary from 150,000 to over 300,000. At this point, with no monitoring of the situation, it is impossible to tell, but given the fact that fewer than 60,000 or so have crossed to the government side according to the government’s figures, the higher number is the more likely one. Another controversy is that there are accusations that the LTTE is not letting civilians flee and that the government is preventing people from entering into its area. Again, with no witnesses, it is not possible to verify this accusation. However, is highly likely that many of Tamil civilians in the LTTE- controlled areas would be hesitant to turn themselves over to what they consider an enemy government. Many of those in the Vanni had come there the past few years after abuses in the government-controlled areas such as Jaffna and Trincomalee. Prior to the recent upheaval, monitors who surveyed check points both ways found that many entering the Vanni had lost relatives to the “white vans, ” the vehicles that roam the street and seize people who are rarely seen again. Others had been arrested and tortured at government police stations. The war began, of course, after the Tamil people lost faith in the national government to protect their rights, and has been fueled by continued human rights and humanitarian law violations against them. Indeed, more than one-third of the Tamil civilian population on the island now forms the more than 1.3 million persons in the burgeoning Tamil Diaspora. Those in the LTTE-controlled area also are aware of the IDP camps, and know that when they cross the line, that they will be sent to a camp. What is apparent is that those crossing into the government-controlled area are in severe need of both food and water.

There is also controversy over the government’s plans for Tamils leaving the Tamil-controlled areas. The government originally announced that they would be kept in detention camps for 3 years, but after a rather strong reaction from the international community, especially from certain UN officials and the UK, the government is now claiming that Tamil civilians would be in camps for a shorter, unspecified time. Obviously, those crossing the line would be very nervous to express their opinion freely while in camps, and are likely to say whatever will keep them the safest under the circumstances, as commonly occurs in this type of situation.

F. Weaponry.
There is strong evidence that the government forces may be using either illegal weapons or legal weapons in an illegal manner. A recent charge was made that thirty families in a safety zone were killed by “bunker buster” bombs. Without proper investigation, it is not possible to verify this or to know, if used, the bunker busters are B61-11s or the older B61-7s from the United States arsenals, or whether they are of different origin. The photographic evidence of cluster bomb casings against civilians is inconclusive – it is obvious that the markings on the cases is in Russian, but less clear whether the photographed casings were from cluster bombs or some other munitions. It is unknown if the Russian Federation supplied these munitions or if another county did. There appears to be reliable evidence of the use of white phosphorus as weapons rather than tracers, or that white phosphorus was used with disregard for possible civilian casualties. There is also photographic evidence of the use of fire bombs against Tamils in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The government of Sri Lanka has received Dvora patrol/attack boats from Israel, MIG-27s from Ukraine, military assistance and arms from Pakistan and military assistance (and possibly weaponry) from Iran and possibly the Russian Federation.

G. Monitoring.
The government has refused any monitoring of the conflict by international actors and organizations and has prevented the media from going to the war area. Note that former President Clinton and former UN Secretary-General Annan were not allowed to the Tamil-controlled areas following the Tsunami, and, except for the ICRC, now forced out, and one or two UN officials, no other UN mandate holders have been allowed to that area. Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour was allowed to travel to the North in 2007, but not to Tamil-controlled areas. Her visit to Jaffna was heavily controlled by Sri Lanka authorities, and she apparently was not able to meet with Tamil civilians in private. There is a clear intent to prevent anyone is a position to act from meeting with the LTTE leaders or the people who live in the LTTE areas. The head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Holes was allowed to visit several of the IDP camps in Vavuniya during his just-finished trip, but he was not allowed to circulate freely and was accompanied by the President’s brother. In the best of circumstances, this would not be conducive to a fair evaluation of the situation. Further, he was called a “terrorist” by Sinhala politicians following his previous visit in (August 2007) when he commented on the high number of killings of humanitarian workers aiding the Tamil population, so he is apt to be cautious. A significant concern is that the interpreter from Tamil to English during Mr. Holmes visit to persons in IDP camps was a senior minister in the Rajapakse Administration, and there is no way to verify what interviewees actually said.

H. Attacks on media.
In the past few years there have been assassinations of many of the major Tamil journalists, or journalists that are considered “friendly” to Tamils by the government. The most recent victim of this was Lasantha Wickrematunge, killed on January 8, 2009. Mr. Wickrematunge, a Time Magazine freelancer and the editor of The Sunday Leader, was an outspoken critic of the government of Sri Lanka. In an interview with the BBC’s Chris Morris about Mr. Wickrematunge’s death, Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse stated that dissent or criticism in time of war is treason. Chris Morris fled Sri Lanka on February 2, 2009 after being called an LTTE supporter by the Defense Secretary. Dozens more have fled since then, many receiving aid from international media NGOs. In 2008, 12 journalists were killed in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was identified by Time Magazine as number 3 on the list of underreported stories in 2008 and claimed the war was deadlier than Afghanistan.


There have been a number of actions by both governments and international officials since the crisis began in January, although since the Rajapakse Administration began, there has been increased scrutiny of the long war, especially since January 2008 when President Rajapakse announced that he was suspending the then 5 year old cease fire agreement. For example, there was a special debate on the Tamil genocide in the House of Commons UK in October, followed by an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Dec. 18, 2008. On January 23, 2009 Germany called for a cease fire. Australia has indicated that it will provide an additional 4 million Australian dollars. The EU issued a call for a cease fire on February 23, 2009.

A number of international personages have also called for a cease fire and a settlement of the conflict through negotiations. Recently Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta offered to mediate. Nobel Laureates Desmond Tutu and Martti Ahtisaari have recently spoken out about the need for a negotiated political settlement.

Within the UN system, Walter Kalin, the UN Independent Expert on Internally Displaced Persons issued a statement of concern on December 23, 2008. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict issued a statement on January 21, 2009 and another on February 20, 2009. Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement on January 29, 2009. On February 9, 2009, ten mandate holders under the UN Human Rights Council issued a statement. OCHA posted a special report on February 10, 2009, in which it indicated that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights was preparing to address the needs of up to 100,000 IDP and others. UNICEF and the World Food Programme are actively involved with providing relief in Sri Lanka, although the two specialized agencies cannot operate freely in the Tamil areas and the Tamil-controlled areas.

A recent request by Mexico to address Sri Lanka in the Security Council was rebuffed by the Russian Federation. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon claimed that he could not ask the Security Council to address the issue because it was not on the agenda, although Article 99 of the UN Charter clearly gives him the authority to do so and he has acted under Article 99 authority in the past.

The Tamil Diaspora has responded to the crisis with many demonstrations. For example, there have been recent demonstrations in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Washington, DC, New York, San Francisco, London, Paris and Geneva. In Canada there have been several massive demonstrations, including a “human chain” that surrounded a large part of downtown Toronto.


United States had little interest and involvement in post-colonial Sri Lanka until the Reagan Administration, even though there were many disturbances between Sinhalas and Tamils from the beginning of that period, including four or five widespread massacres of Tamils by Sinhala mobs. Regretfully, United States policies that began under the Reagan Administration have been unhelpful in resolving this situation. In 1987 India found out about President Reason’s interest in developing Trincomalee Harbor to accommodate the United States Navy: a deal had been nearly worked out with President Jeyewardene. Wanting to prevent this, India entered into the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord (1987) and attached a letter of annexure indicating that nothing would transpire with Trincomalee that was against the wishes of India. There was perhaps a tactical pause under the Clinton Administration. After the events of September 11, the Bush Administration looked again at Trincolamee and there are suggestions that Palaly airfield was also under consideration. Both of these are in the Tamil areas, so in order for possible bases to be secure, the Tamil question would have to be resolved. However, instead of taking a leadership role in resolving the conflict with cooperation of the Co-Chairs and the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission, the Bush administration converted the armed conflict in “terrorism/counter-terrorism.” Thus the conflict was no longer reviewed under prevailing humanitarian law, the result of which has substantially prolonged the conflict and has done considerable damage to humanitarian law itself. Of course, false labeling of armed conflicts as “terrorism/counter-terrorism” does not make the world any safer from actual terrorists and, with the demise of humanitarian law protections usually results in many more victims of armed conflicts than there would otherwise be. Sadly, this is the case in Sri Lanka.

It is clear that since 1982 the LTTE has met all criteria for combatant status according to humanitarian law norms: they have an identifiable chain of command; they are in uniform and use the weapons and the matériel of war; they have ground, sea and air forces; they have exercised sufficient control over territory to be able to engage in sustained and concerted military operations; and in all ways meet combatant status criteria. This does not mean that to recognize the existence of the armed conflict necessarily means a political approval of their aims, which, as the LTTE states, is to ensure sufficient autonomy if not separation from Sinhala control so as to enable the Tamil people to live in peace and security. Recognizing a war as a war also does not extinguish the terrorism question: there is a rule in the Geneva Conventions that prohibits “measures of intimidation or terrorism” against the civilian population. However, if such measures occur, this does not convert combatant forces to terrorists: combatants remain under the protection and obligations of humanitarian law as long as the conflict is occurring, and in certain cases, for some time after the conclusion of hostilities. Both the LTTE and the government forces may carry out any military operation that is not prohibited in humanitarian law. Many of the military operations in this war are legal, but those occurring now that target the Tamil civilian population are not.

The conversion of the war into “terrorism/counter-terrorism” has had a number of other serious consequences, one of which is the distressful erosion in basic human rights and far too many “shades of gray” in situations that are actually quite black and white. But an even more serious consequence is that the Tamil people worldwide have been so demonized by the constant inferences that “Tamil = Tiger = terrorist,” mostly by the constant references to this by Sri Lanka’s President and other authorities, that Tamils have been intimidated and have lost the key support of institutions and groups who ordinarily would be sympathetic. Any public show of sympathy for Tamils is fiercely and publicly countered by the government, targeting, inter alia, more than a few members of Congress in the US and members of Parliaments in numerous other countries. Sri Lanka representatives try to intimidate NGOs at United Nations human rights sessions. They also pursue Tamils in the Diaspora, and even try to prevent local authorities from issuing permits for Tamil demonstrations. In the United States there is a mood that somehow the Tamil people as a whole are an enemy of the United States. In my 27 years working on humanitarian law issues, I have never encountered a situation where an ethnic group that has been the victim of the most serious of human rights and humanitarian law violations becomes the culprit – and in ways that are overtly racist. Indeed, it is not possible for people to discuss any other group in this fashion without receiving instant disapproval.

There are some hopeful signs that the new United States Administration will play an affirmative role in the situation rather than a grossly negative one. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have made statements that indicate more careful reflection on this and similar situations.

The first thing that the United States should do is call for an immediate cease fire, and then should most forcefully present this to the Rajapakse Administration. While the Rajapakse Administration has stated as recently as a few days ago it would not do so, it is difficult to imagine that with the combined force of the US, the rest of the co-chairs and the rest of the “Western and Other” bloc at the UN, Sri Lanka’s main “donor” States, that Sri Lanka would be defiant. While Sri Lanka may have received assurances from Iran and the Russian Federation, for example, that they would cover Sri Lanka’s needs, it does not seem likely that they can substitute for the level of aid from the Western bloc and Japan.
The United States should ensure that no State that receives United States military assistance provides arms to the government forces. The United States should also seek to stop arms delivery to the government of Sri Lanka by any other countries.
The United States should take a leadership role in ensuring that the humanitarian needs of the Tamil civilians are met, that Tamil civilians are not relocated to detention camps but are allowed freely to resettle in their own locales, and that the human rights abuses against them cease immediately. In particular, the United States should ensure that its contribution to the rehabilitation of the Tamil areas reflect a genuine desire to assist. The United States should ensure that any funds donated by Tamil people to assist Sri Lanka Tamils that have been “frozen” be made available for the purpose of assisting these Tamils.
The United States should most forcefully insist that on-site visits to any and all areas of Sri Lanka by UN officials or other impartial persons take place, and that interpreters for such visits are trained and impartial. The United States should also insist that Sri Lanka allow the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to expand her office in Sri Lanka.
The United States should ask the government of Sri Lanka what proposals they have for the resolution of the Tamil issue. The United States should consult regularly with the leadership of the Tamil Diaspora, both in the United States and in other countries, to invite comments and suggestions on proposals. The United States should encourage the government of Sri Lanka to accept the good offices of mediators such as those mentioned above.
The United States should ensure that the government of Sri Lanka ceases all anti-Tamil rhetoric at home and abroad and that it finds a way to prevent Sinhala political parties (such as the JHU) from also engaging in anti-Tamil rhetoric that has so often incited Sinhala mob attacks on Tamils and those perceived as “pro-Tamil.” The United States should ensure that the government of Sri Lanka ceases all acts against Tamil American citizens or residents or anyone else perceived as being “pro-Tamil.”
The United States should reexamine its foreign policy objectives in Sri Lanka and the area, and take steps to ensure that United States policies do not contribute to human rights and humanitarian law violations of any kind, and especially not of the scale and scope of those against the Tamil people in Sri Lanka.

Application of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law to the Situation in Sri Lanka: Hearings on Sri Lanka before the Subcomm. on Asian and Pacific Affairs of the House Comm. on Foreign Affairs, 100th Cong., 1st Sess. (1987).
This is not to say that there are not serious abuses of Tamils in other areas, which, as they are taking place in the context of the armed conflict, also indicate serious violations of humanitarian law.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated many times that whenever there is an ethnic conflict, the question of genocide arises. In this situation there are elements such as direct killings; imposing impossible conditions of life by severe restrictions of food, water, medicines; killing humanitarian aid workers or driving them out; and continuous ant-Tamil rhetoric at home and abroad.
See British Medical Journal, vol. 336, p1482 – 1486 (19 June 2008) (Zaid Obermeyer, et al.).
Randeep Ramesh, “Sri Lanka casualty toll rises,” The Guardian, Feb.14,2009.
The protection of hospitals and medical care in general is the foundation issue of the Geneva Conventions, beginning with the Geneva Convention of 1864. Hospitals and other health facilities of both combatants and civilians “may in no circumstances be the object of attack.” Geneva Convention I, Art. 1; Geneva Convention IV, Art. 18. Under current rules, parties to conflicts may establish safety zones, which then become off-limits for military actions.
Interview on Skynet, Feb. 3, 2009.
See ICC, Rome Statute, Articles 7 (1)(b) and 7(2)(b); ICC Elements, Article 7(1)(b).
See, i.e., Robert Evans, MEP, “Who can protect Tamil civilians,” The Independent, Feb. 14 2009: “Whilst the Sri Lankans claim that they are merely trying to eliminate terrorism, the real victims are, as ever, the civilians trapped by the fighting. All the evidence suggests that unless the international community acts very soon, about a quarter of a million people could be caught in a ghastly bloodbath. The Sri Lankan government has urged Tamil civilians to come over to their side for protection, but there is a strong reticence and fear of such a move. The Tamil people have seen so much death and destruction. They are terrified of Sri Lankan troops and their "holding camps", with all the stories of assaults and rape, not to mention the different language and religion which divides the Hindu Tamils from the Buddhist Sinhalese troops.”
According to United Nations figures, Sri Lanka has one the highest numbers of disappeared persons, the vast majority of which are Tamils.
These Tamils are what are called “Eelam” Tamils – Tamils who have lived and governed themselves in the north and east of Sri Lanka for nearly two thousand years. There are also Tamils in Sri Lanka who were brought by the British from India’s Tamil Nadu. Usually referred to as the plantation Tamils, they are not part of the conflict, although they may sympathize with the Eelam Tamils, as do the Tamil people in India’s Tamil Nadu.
At the time of that visit, more than 60 aid workers had been killed in about one and a half years., the highest in any current conflict.
A brief summary of some recent actions undertaken by the UK was transmitted by Andrew Dinsmore MP (Hendon) to one of his constituents, including UK actions urging a cease fire, and pressing the Sri Lankan authorities on access for organizations delivering humanitarian relief to be both improved and more predictable. There has been direct communication by Prime Minister Brown , with follow up by David Milliband, to President Rajapakse encouraging cooperation with the ICRC and UN. The UK government is doubling its recent humanitarian aid, and cooperating with the UN in the Emergency Response Fund.
The statement was issued by experts Sehaggya (human rights defenders), La Rue (freedom of expression on opinion, Corcuera Cabezul (involuntary disappearances), Castrillo (arbitrary detention), Grover (the right to health), Despouy (the independence of justice), deSchutter (the right to food), Alston (the right to life), Nowak (torture), and Rolnik (housing).
The importance of Trincomalee was one of the topics under discussion in the Adjournment debate of December 18, 2008. The debate is on the UK Parliament’s webcam. That the Bush Administration was seeking these military bases may be a reason the Russian Federation has made overtures to the Rajapakse Administration of late and blocked Security Council attention to the matter. There apparently is an MOU between the Bush Administration and President Rajapakse regarding Trincomalee..
Their aims are identical to those of the Kosovans, who have obtained the blessing of the United States to secede from Serbia. One wonders, why the Kosovans and not the Tamils?
Geneva Convention IV, Art. 33. This is slightly augmented by Protocol Additional I to the Geneva Conventions, Art. 36: “Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.”
Treating persons suspected of being terrorists as being Prisoners of War (Guantanamo comes to mind) and held under Geneva Convention standards when they are clearly not captured combatants, for example, is absurd: the “war on terrorism” is a rhetorical phrase, not a factual one.
Note that even M.I.A., the Tamil rap star nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar, was attacked by some for being pro-terrorism. A college student in Canada told me that after the Harper government came to power and “listed” the LTTE, a professor announced in one of her classes that there was a terrorist in the room.
Note that some also raise the “child soldier” issue, which further demonizes of the Tamil people although the charge is leveled at the LTTE and others. However, the international minimum age for soldiers as set out in the Geneva Conventions is 15, and those who raise the issue are using age 18 as the minimum. email:

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bringing democracy to the United Nations .....!!!

Bringing democracy to the United Nations

Since assuming the Presidency of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockman has shown that he is capable of taking some strong positions on issues and this have been well received especially by those from the developing countries. The following is an editorial he wrote which provides a glimpse of his vision and priorities which will guide his work in the UN.

On September 16, I assumed the Presidency of the General Assembly. As an old man, a priest and someone who did not seek this post, I was surprised to be elected by all 192 Member States. I come to the Assembly acutely aware of the sorry state of the world and the inescapable fact that the United Nations has not fulfilled the mandates clearly outlined in its Charter 63 years ago. With this defining concern in mind, I have dedicated my presidency to the poor and oppressed of the world.

There are many reasons for our spectacular failures, but it is clear that our “mad selfishness”, as Tolstoy described it, is still very much at work. I believe that this is at the heart of the matter. And there is growing awareness that we cannot continue with business as usual.


UN building

The General Debate of the Assembly ended on September 29 after 111 Heads of State and Government addressed what can be called the global village’s town meeting.

The Assembly is, after all, the most representative body of any international organization in history.

In my address to world leaders, I was frank: The Assembly has not been fulfilling its mandate as outlined in the Charter. And because of this, the United Nations as a whole has been unable to meet its obligations entrusted to it by the peoples of the world.

Over the decades, the central role of the General Assembly in the UN system has been undermined, its authority has been diverted to other bodies, and its resolutions have become toothless and tired. Some of its important functions have fallen into disuse.

I asked our leaders: What good is the Assembly’s magnificent democratic structure if our votes, often reflecting the vast majority of nations, are ignored?

How can we continue to tolerate the behaviour of some Permanent Members of the Security Council that so often contradicts the spirit and the letter of the Charter which they are obligated to uphold and defend?

Can we continue to accept the domination of the Bretton Woods institutions by the US and Europe when their economic and social policies so often contribute to the poverty we are struggling to overcome.

In short, I believe that the Assembly must vigorously resist the marginalization in the economic and social spheres and take immediate steps to re-establish its credibility and authority. To achieve this, we need some serious changes. For this reason I have made the democratization of the United Nations a priority of the 63rd Session.

Business as usual has produced a world in shameful disarray. After 63 years, we have not made violent conflicts, war, genocide and mutually assured destruction the distant nightmares of another century.

The trillion dollars spent each year on arms is but one shocking example of our wrong-headed priorities. Wars of aggression, the worst form of terrorism, are another.

There is no one in the world who does not claim to want to end poverty. But world leaders stand by while half the world’s population continues to live in unending deprivation.

With the world on the brink of financial catastrophe as the result of greed and corruption, soaring food and energy prices and shrinking development assistance are plunging many millions more into poverty each day.

We must immediately move to prevent the food crisis from becoming an ongoing catastrophe for hundreds of millions of people.

We have created an extraordinary body of international law, yet justice is still a rare commodity in much of the world. After 60 years, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as inspiring as always, is cynically defied mostly by States - both large and small.

And, as we willfully tip our environment into toxic destruction, leaders cannot summon the will to curb the mind-boggling consumerism that fuels climate change for fear of losing public support and hefty profits.

The United Nations is an ongoing experiment in partnership. Let’s inspire these partnerships with solidarity and compassion.

The trigger for this solidarity does not lie with world leaders. Nor Government bureaucracies. Nor the corporations but comes from people, from civil society, from ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things.

As president of this Assembly, I am working as an agent of change so that we can, together, restore the vitality and relevance of this Assembly and push for the democratization of our international institutions as never before.

- Third World Network Features


SLFP: Founder:SWRD.Bandaranaike

Fmr FM:Mangala Samaraweera

Editor:Lasantha Wikramatunge

Father of MR/GR/BR/CR: DA.Rajapakse ,Co-Founder of SLFP

Defence Secretary:Gotabaya Rajapakse Sinhala Army Chief: Sarath Fonseka
Who killed Lasantha Wickrematunge ? Mangala Samaraweera speaks out
by Peter Foster
Back to Sri Lanka today and a full interview with Sri Lanka's foreign minister Mangala Samaraweera who left the Sri Lankan government in February 2007 after falling out with the country's President, Mahinda Rajapakse.

Since leaving office Mr Samaraweera, who was also Mr Rajapakse's Chief Campaign Co-ordinator during his successful 2005 presidential campaign, has become one of the most outspoken critics of a regime he was instrumental in getting elected.

With that important piece of local political background in mind, here's what he had to say about recent events in Sri Lanka, accusing President Rajapakse of seeking to create 'a Sinhala Buddhist supremacist, Burmese-style junta' in Sri Lanka and urging the US and other Western governments to consider travel bans on key figures in the Sri Lankan government for human rights and other violations.

He concludes by highlighting his fears for his own safety.

An interview with MANGALA SAMARAWEERA, former foreign minister of Sri Lanka.

Your reaction to the killing of Sunday Leader editor Lasantha Wickrematunge? Who do you believe was responsible?

The killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge, along with the claymore bomb attack on MTV [a private Sri Lankan TV station] 48 hours prior to it, are a part of a systematic campaign to destabilise democratic institutions and to intimidate/silence and eliminate dissenting voices in Sri Lanka by supporters of the Rajapakse administration. Although there isn't any concrete evidence so far, it is an open secret that extra judicial death squads have been operating with impunity since 2006.

The notorious white van abductions, the murder of Pararajasinham MP, RaviRaj MP, the brutal assault on journalist Keith Noyer (for writing an article critical of [the Sri Lankan Army chief] General. Fonseka), the murder of General Janake Perera have all been attributed to this group called the K9 group and lately this same squad under the name of 'Mahasona group' sent threatening letters to 'unpatriotic elements' (individuals critical of the Rajapase regime) warning them of dire consequences if they do not stop criticizing the Rajapakse regime. Within Army circles these killers are also known as 'Gota's sinha mafia'.

In fact, I, as Foreign Minister raised the issue of such groups operating with impunity with the President in 2006, subsequent to the international outrage over the killing of four students in Trincomalee followed by the execution of 17 aid workers of the French agency Action Contre Le Faim (ACF). He removed me from the cabinet two months later the state media labelled me a ' Tiger [LTTE] sympathiser.'

Lasantha Wickrematunge was also in the process of compiling a dossier on these killer groups operating in support of the state and Lasantha told some of us that he was in possession of a tape giving details about Janake Perera's murder last year. Although Gotabaya [Rajapakse, the Defence Secretary] took an injunction to stop Lasantha from publishing the allegations, Lasantha continued to expose the corruption fearlessly.

At the very beginning of 2006 Lasantha was abused and threatened by the President over the telephone and Lasantha published a transcript of the whole conversation in the [Sunday] Leader the following week. He published numerous other corruption allegations.

Despite many efforts to woo Lasantha by the President in recent times, he continued his mission with an almost religious zeal. Lasantha was perhaps one of the very few journalists who could not be bought up with perks and privileges nor could he be subjugated through fear and intimidation.

With the media-generated euphoria over the so called "glorious victories" in the north, the government seems to have found the moment to stifle democratic dissent in the south. It is also interesting to note that the Government deferred the announcement regarding the fall 'fall' of Elephant Pass on the 6th to 9th January; the morning after Lasantha was killed.

Today democracy is under siege in Sri Lanka and an Orwellian type of nightmare is unraveling here and 1984 seems to be dawning on us in 2009; the Government seems to have fast forwarded that process and some more incidents of this nature closely synchronised with the military push in the North can be expected in the weeks ahead.

If, as seems likely, the Sri Lankan armed forces secure a military victory over the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), to what extend will this resolve Sri Lanka's ethnic divisions?

Despite many significant military victories in the past the war still rages on and has entered its 26th year. The armed forces 'liberated' the whole of the Eastern Province and held local Government elections after many years in 1992; Pooneryn was recaptured in November 1993; in one of the most significant victories, the army re-captured the City of Jaffna on 5th December 1995 when Prabhakaran [leader of LTTE or 'Tamil Tiger' rebels] was using the Kachcheri (the GA's office) as the LTTE headquarters and still remains under government control; Killinochchi was recaptured by the army in September 2006.

Today the government is re enacting the same scenario again, belittling or totally ignoring the earlier victories, using the war to whip up nationalistic fervour and as a smoke screen to hide the unprecedented waste (the worlds largest cabinet etc.), corruption and nepotism. However the most disturbing trend is systematic witch hunt against democratic institutions and dissenting voices in the pretext of fighting terrorism; even diplomats from friendly countries as well as senior UN officials who raise their concerns are called 'Tiger sympathisers' by the state run media.

Unlike in a war with an external aggressor, in a conflict of this nature - a conflict between two ethnic groups within one country, there are no winners and losers. I strongly believe that the only way to defeat terrorism and to usher in a lasting peace is to address the genuine grievances of the Tamil people. The majority of Tamils do not demand a separate state; a convincing power sharing arrangement within an undivided Sri Lanka is what they seek. Therefore the most potent weapon in defeating the separatist terror of the Tamil tigers is to come up with political solution acceptable to all the peoples of Sri Lanka. Sinhala chauvinistic politics has always been the raison d'etre of extremist Tamil politics and the openly Sinhala supremacist policies of the present regime are driving even the moderate Tamils to extreme positions. Even if Prabhakaran is eliminated , many more Prabhakarans may have been created by now to continue Sri Lankas tragedy to another generation.

What mistakes do you think the Rajapakse administration have made during their first term? And what things have they done correctly?

The most significant mistake is the squandering the great degree of international goodwill Mahinda Rajapakse had as he assumed power in 2005; he was perceived as a pragmatic leader with a liberal background. However with the advent of Gotabaya Rajapakse as Defence Secretary, the hawks gained the upper hand and today his most trusted confidantes, in addition to his brothers are Wimal Weerawana and Champika Ranawake who are also xenophobic nationalists who advocate a Sinhala Buddhist supremacist authoritarian regime. As a result Sri Lanka has lost the support of many countries who have been supportive for decades and the present regime is gravitating more towards countries with rather dubious democratic credentials.

The single mindedness in fighting terrorism could have been a positive factor had it been accompanied by a strategy to win the hearts and minds of the Tamil people. Unfortunately even the All Party Conference [a cross-party group set up by President Mahinda Rajapakse to explore constitutional reform in Sri Lanka] is a charade to keep International - especially Indian - pressure at bay. The very fact that the terms of reference of the All Party Conference specifically states that any recommendations must be within a unitary constitution, precludes any genuine power sharing arrangement acceptable to the Tamil people.

Do you believe that Sri Lanka is currently a free, democratic country? If not, why not?

Sri Lanka, as I said earlier, is a democracy under siege by the all powerful executive Presidency. In a gross violation of the constitution the President has sabotaged the 17th amendment to the constitution in order to paralyse the Constitutional Council. As result the Police force has been completely politicized and the IGP [Inspector-General of Police] and the AG [Attorney-General] have become absolute puppets subservient to the interests of the President. The Election's Commission is also at a standstill. Even the Supreme Court, especially the Chief Justice, is being intimidated and is under severe pressure from the executive. When the present CJ [Chief Justice] retires in June, the President will appoint a person subservient to his interests if the Constitutional Council is not in place by then. That could well be the death knell for democracy in our country.

In the current climate, do you believe that the next round of Sri Lankan national elections (General and Presidential) can be free and fair?

In the context mentioned above, the upcoming elections will certainly not be free and fair. That is why I am pushing for a wider coalition for democracy bringing together different political parties as well as other civil society groups to contest the next General and Presidential Elections. Such a people's movement supported by International monitoring would help to overcome the intimidation tactics which the government will resort to at the next elections.

Do you believe that the international community, particularly the UK and the Commonwealth, has done enough to prevent the current deterioration in fundamental freedoms in Sri Lanka?

The international community certainly could do more; simple statements of condemnation are not enough. Those accountable for the culture of impunity must be made more responsible and answerable. In fact, the principal actor behind this culture of impunity, Gotabaya Rajapakse is a US citizen. Sarath Fonseka [the army commander] is a US resident and a green card holder. The West may have to consider travel bans on such individuals and many Sri Lankans are curious to know what actions the US will take against these people who are systematically undermining Asia's oldest democracy.
Do you think that Sri Lanka's current dealings with China are in the best interests of the country?

Sri Lanka has had very cordial relations with China since diplomatic ties were established in 1957. It in our best interests to maintain and strengthen our ties but it should be handled in a manner which takes into account the Geo-political concerns of our immediate neighbour, India.

Your comment on the handling of the effective re-nationalisation of Sri Lankan Airlines and the Mihin Air budget airline scandal.

The 'renationalzation' of the Sri Lankan is proving to be a costly mistake. The strategic partnership with Emirates, along with the privatization of Sri Lanka Telecom in 1998 were hailed as model privatizations by the World Bank. Already Sri Lankan is struggling to survive and with decreased revenues, the Treasury will have to start subsidising the Sri Lankan again.

Mihin Air, [a lo-cost airline set up by the Sri Lankan government] perhaps is the most scandalous misappropriation of public funds in Sri Lanka's history. Without any accountability to Parliament, millions in State funds (especially money from the Employer's Provident Fund and the Employee's Trust Fund) has been squandered on this budget airline with the President's name in classical Sinhalese.

A budget Airline is needed, but it should be handled by the private sector. As the aviation Minister in 2005, I had agreed to issue three licenses to operate budget airlines to the private sector but when Mahinda Rajapakse became President, he gave instructions to stop the issuing of these licenses. A future administration will certainly have to appoint a commission of Inquiry to look into this.

What more could the international community, including Europe and the US, do to help Sri Lanka at this time?

The President and his brother, the Defence Secretary, must be told clearly that they will be held responsible for the culture of impunity prevalent in Sri Lanka today. Travel bans on key figures, suspected of gross human rights violations can be a strong deterrent and the US can play a more pro active role in pressurising the Defence Secretary, and holding him accountable for the culture of impunity as he is a citizen of USA.

Can you give your version of why you left the Rajapakse government? And why you now regret your role in bringing Mahinda Rajapakse to power?

My relations with the Rajapakse's began to sour after the killings of 5 students in Trincomalee , followed by the execution of 17 [Action Contre Le Faim] aid workers in 2006. As the Foreign Minister, I emphasised the urgency of taking action against the perpetrators of these crimes and on the dangers of allowing a culture of impunity to take root. In one of several meetings I had with the President and his brothers, the Defence Secretary [Gotabaya Rajapakse] actually accused me of trying to demoralise the Army! As my request fell on deaf ears, I finally put down my concerns down in writing and sent it to the President on 13th December 2006. I was removed as Foreign Minister six weeks later and finally removed from the Cabinet on 9th Feb. 2007.

Since then I was again invited to rejoin the Cabinet, by the President himself several times and as well as by intermediaries. In writing I gave a list of conditions to be fulfilled, if I am to join the government but it became obvious that the Rajapakses were not interested in changing their policy direction of wanting to create a Sinhala Buddhist supremacist, Burmese-style junta.

Today, we have a truly evil regime and as the Chief Campaign Coordinator for Mahinda Rajapakse during the Presidential campaign, I too must bear the burden of guilt and shame for unleashing one of the darkest regimes in post-independence Sri Lanka.

Like in all good horror films, the beast I was instrumental in creating, is now prowling to devour me. [courtesy: daily telegraph]
Posted by transCurrents on February 17, 2009 12:40 PM | Permalink

Mangala's assumption that he was a major factor behind
Rajapaksha's win at the presidential election,is not
right calculation.So far he failed to prove it. President keeps proving the opposite.Mangala is a hard
working good person,but his political manoeuvre does not work well.Not only Rajapakses,even the clock is not
ticking in his favour.Unfortunate death of Suriarachchi
Anura,court case against Chandrika and his own regrets
over his past wrong political judgements,what does he
think will bring him? Sooner, he will have to find a way that he is heard.

Posted by: muzammil | February 17, 2009 03:54 PM
I just feel sorry for the President. He is in a worse situation than Manmohan Singh.
You call yourself The President or The Prime Minister, but actually someone else is the 'real' leader.
Posted by: aratai | February 17, 2009 06:09 PM
I dont know why media still waste time by interviewing a politically dead, extremely liberal (only by word) person like Mangala. He talk as if he was reborn, he along with then president commited massive HR violations & frauds, any sri lankan journalist would tesitify in this regard. He is responsible for intimidating media as a powerful cabinet minister & one time media minister. Its a shame this person have the courage to come in front of same media he intimidated to present his case.

after crossing over he tried various things by forming a new party (where he & Tiran alles is the only members left), holding conventions, forming grand opposition alliances (which nobody took seriously)and finally defence watch to present the untold stories of war (most were inflated stories given a twist so that will of people to continue war is undermined). Sadly for him none of this worked and he is now in hiding in a foreign country with an illusion that he is a VIP that would be killed by government. Why would anybody waste a bullet? Please sir come to your country and save your people from this tyranny and you can fulfill your dream of presidency in your next life. People of Matara, the people who trusted you is waiting to greet you warmly with some rotten eggs. If you'r confident please contest for the CM post of Southern province and I'm sure you'll end up with highest preferential votes but as leader of opposition.
Posted by: AsiriJ | February 18, 2009 01:09 AM
Mangla... you are one of great leader who is not afraid of expressing his view no matter whether it will cost you the minister post. Histroy does not judge leader based how they cling onto power. It judge leaders based on their principles.
Posted by: R Maran | February 18,2009

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Crystal Gazing On Sri Col. R. Hariharan
The future of Sri Lanka conflict has raised a lot of global conflict. Here are some questions from a Russian media and my answers to them; they give an overview assessment of the whole situation:

Q1. What is the current state of play in Sri Lanka as you see it? Is peace as far off now as it ever was? Have there been any achievements in the last 30 years?

A: Complete peace will come back to the island nation only when Tamil speaking minority and majority Sinhalas trust each other and feel secure with each others rule. This requires a long healing process. Even after the military defeat of LTTE it will continue to simmer in provoking guerrilla struggle. But despite this if the govt introduces devolution of powers to Tamils in progressive stages the healing process will begin and take about 5 years. But there are political forces against the process on both sides who could be obstacles to this process.

Other takes:

1. It shows that unless is India involved in the mediation process, international community can achieve little to ease the conflict situation.

2. In the lat 30 years of struggle Tamil people have impressed upon the world the righteousness of their cause; this has made the world and the Sinhala people examine the issue more positively.

3. It has also proved the limitations of armed struggle in achieving aims on both sides;

Q2. Militarily speaking, what do you envisage is the next move for both the government forces and the LTTE?

A: Govt has raised a huge military disproportionate to Sri Lanka’s size. There is an element of militarism that is disturbing as it represents rightwing Sinhala nationalism rather than Sri Lankan nationalism. Army has become a power to reckon with in Sri Lanka so like Pakistan it can perpetuate its importance. By current indications I expect an army detachment in every major Tamil concentration to openly or discreetly keep an eye on Tamils so that they dont go back to take up arms. This is bad for restoring confidence in govt among Tamils that it would not treat them as 2nd class citizens which they feel it does. Govt needs to take Tamils into confidence progressively and withdraw armed forces back to their barracks. As far as the LTTE is concerned its initial worry would be to survive; it may seek shelter in neighbouring India which is a risk for the latter. It will recoup its global assets to build its organisation afresh. This will definitely happen if Prabhakaran survives the dragnet thrown to catch him. I think he is too uncanny to get caught so easily.

Q3. Considering the LTTE now find themselves limited to less than 200 sq km of land area in Mullaittivu will their attacks get more desperate and vicious?

A: Already its attacks are desperate. Otherwise when the end is so close why lose more people? They had always been vicious because they have a militant mindset without political nuances in their conduct. It cannot change now because Prabhakaran will not.

Q3. How much international goodwill is there for the LTTE or indeed the government - especially in India?

A: We should not confuse Tamil Nadu with India. Likewise let us not confuse sympathy for Tamil cause with LTTE. But right now Tamil Nadu wields considerable clout with govt in Delhi for reasons of coalition. But it will not always be so. It will clear up after the results of next election in Apr ‘09 and the type of coalition govt formed in Delhi. Indians as a whole, probably 60%, are sympathetic to the Tamil cause. Others are indifferent probably. This is a ball park figure based on feedbacks I get.And it may not be correct. LTTE is admired for carrying on their fight for so many years successfully but admiration is not sympathy in a crisis situation for LTTE. So overall at least 80 % inn India will be hostile to LTTE as there is an attitudinal change to terrorism after Jihadi strikes. This compunded their disgust at LTTE after Rajiv Gandhi killing.

Q4. Do you think the recent suicide bomb attack marks a new period where we will see more assults like this? If so, how can the govt act without losing any international support?

It is an act of desperation; I expect such attacks not here but elsewhere after LTTE lies low for a few more months. Govt should develop patience. Use of artillery to return fire will be counter-productive as it causes casualties. They will have to nibble into terrirtory little by little before sending in commandos to finish off embedded LTTE elements. I think army is probably thinking on these lines. LTTE cannot hold on forever.

Q5. How effective do you think the Sri Lanka military’s new safety zone for civilians will be?

A: Depends upon what the safety zone gives the people who take refuge there. If safety is there then that means both sides are adhering to rules of the game. But I am not optimistic. Because LTTE will break any positive move by international community to rein in its activity; already Sri Lankans are resisting it.

Q6. The Sri Lankan army commander Lt Gen Sarath Fonseka has claimed that 95 percent of the LTTE is ‘finished’ is he right?

A: Probably 85% of conventional capacity of LTTE is finished. It is only my guesswork; I hope he is in a better position to assess but I am not too sure. But leadership down to subunit level and Prabhakaran must be eliminated to really ‘finish’ LTTE. Probably the army commander knows this.

Q7. How do you envisage the situation unfolding the the next days and weeks?

A: The current impasse will carry on for a couple of weeks when both sides run out goodwill and LTTE finishes its reserves of ammo and food. Civilians will continue to trickle out and LTTE would grudgingly allow it causing some casualties now and then just the army would. International community will continue to do what it does best - make a lot of noise. India will simmer. If Prabhakaran quits the scene, LTTE enthusiasm may wane.

Q8. Why is it that the western media have largely ignored this conflict?

Basically because it has no interest in any conflict unless Westerners are getting killed or their troops are doing the killing. Who cares any more if only Africans kill their own kind? Look at Darfur. You will understand. Of course Palestine conflict is an exception to this thanks to Jihadi terrorism’s sins and Israel’s successful selling of the conflict for its "survival" in the West.

(Col. R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served as the head of intelligence of the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka 1987-90.He is associated with the South Asia Analysis Group and the Chennai Centre for China Studies.



Does no one care for the civilians? by Shanie

The plight of the trapped civilians continues to worsen, despite denials by the contending parties. A few thousands have managed to limp away from the conflict zone and into government-controlled areas in the Vavunya district. The rest, some tens of thousands, continue to remain in the shrinking LTTE-controlled areas in and around Puthukudiyiruppu. There can be little doubt that, given a free choice, nearly all of them would opt to move into conflict-free area where their lives are not at risk. In the current context, it only means being placed by the Government in what are termed ‘welfare villages’ but which in reality are open prisons. Once placed inside, they cannot come out, not even to visit or move into the homes of friends or relatives.

While those in these camps continue to suffer trauma and indignity, the plight of those trapped in the LTTE held areas is infinitely worse. Their very lives are on the line. They lack adequate food and clean water and medical facilities are virtually non-existent. The LTTE contemptuously uses them as human shields with no concern for their welfare or safety. It is reported that the LTTE continues to conscript children in their last ditch do-or-die battles. While not all the stories attributed to the escaping civilians may have credibility, there seems to be pattern in some of the stories. When the LTTE cadres confront escaping families, their violence seems to be specifically targeted against families who refuse to allow their young children to be recruited into the ranks of the LTTE. But not all have the strength to confront the LTTE and many are compelled to succumb.

These civilians, nearly all of whom would prefer to lead violence-free lives and earn a livelihood to keep and support their families, are trapped between the two contending forces, neither of whom seem to consider the safety of the civilians as a priority. Civil society leaders and international humanitarian agencies have reacted with horror at the helplessness of these civilians. One can understand the apologists for the Government among the Sinhala nationalists and mandarins who, for different reasons, seek to justify the lack of respect for international humanitarian laws by the Government. One can also understand the apologists for the LTTE among the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora and the Tamil nationalists here and in South India who condone the LTTE’s abuse of civilians. One can even understand the apparent lack of concern among most Sri Lankans because most of them are kept in the dark about the uglier side of the war. But the recent veiled apology for the Government from an expatriate historian in Professor Michael Roberts was an unpardonable shocker.

Michael Roberts and humanitarianism

Professor Michael Roberts equates the British-French strategy of an economic blockade of Germany at the beginning of World War 2 with our own situation here in Sri Lanka. Apart from the inaccuracies about the blockade (which he covers up by referring to his ‘desultory knowledge’ and attributing his information to Professor Trevor Wilson but without any quotation marks), it a shocking for a historian to equate an inter-national war with a national insurgency. Surely, Roberts cannot be unaware of the difference between an insurgency such as we had by the JVP in the south and the LTTE in the north and an inter-national war or even a civil war such as in Spain in the 1930’s and in America in the 1860’s.

The British Government fought an IRA insurgency for many years. The Catholic areas in Northern Ireland, similar to the North and East here with the LTTE being the predominant force there, were virtually under the diktat of the IRA and many areas were no-go areas for the British Army. The Catholics, perhaps rightly, viewed some actions by the British Government as discriminatory. But there was no contemplation by the British Government at any stage that there should be any economic blockade of the Catholic areas. The British Government and her officials considered all, Catholics and Protestants, as equal citizens entitled to the same rights and to the equal protection of the law. It is astonishing that Roberts should think that the provision of Government facilities in areas under LTTE control was something extraordinary. Does he honestly believe that it would have been acceptable if the Government withdrew all its officials from these areas and imposed an economic blockade? No Government worth its name would have surrendered territory in this fashion to insurgents. And no responsible citizen, except a madcap chauvinist, would have supported such action.

But back to the Anglo-French blockade in 1940. As a historian, Roberts must know, despite his self-confessed desultory knowledge, that the Anglo-French use of the weapon of blockade collapsed when they attempted to extend the blockade in Scandinavian waters and the Germans responded by capturing Norway and Denmark to secure ore supplies. Roberts must also know the blockade had long been abandoned when the French signed an armistice with the Germans in June 1940. General de Gaulle left France before the armistice and it was the British who recognised him first as ‘the leader of the Free French.’

Roberts accuses the ‘do-gooders’ cloistered in Colombo or New York of a lack of comprehension of the pragmatics of war. Their political naiveté, he says, cannot be excused. Is Roberts of the view that the only realists are those ensconced among the academia of South Australia? And of course the Sinhala supremacists in Sri Lanka.

The future of the Internally Displaced

We must continue to re-express our concern for the helpless civilians who face danger and harassment from all sides. It is difficult to accept that the civilians who are now being herded into what are euphemistically referred to as ‘welfare villages’ are in only for a short stay. If they are going to be re-settled, as Government spokespersons have stated, in their original homes within three or four months, what then is the need for building schools, banks, post offices, etc in these villages? President Rajapakse must resist the temptation to acquiesce to majoritarian supremacist agendas and prevent these civilians from returning to their places of original habitat or to settle outsiders in those areas. Instead of ensuring peace, that would be a certain recipe for continuing conflict. If sustainable peace is to achieved, not only must these civilians be re-settled as quickly as possible, within weeks or months, but also a comprehensive political settlement must be put forward. The UNP is already on record stating that such a constitutional amendment would receive their support. (It cannot be forgotten that they reneged on their commitment to President Chandrika Kumaratunga’s proposals of 2000). But a UNP-SLFP consensus is vital and President Rajapakse would be wise to follow up on the UNP’s offer.

The ‘welfare villages’ must not turn into our version of the Guantanomo Bay detention centre. President Obamo has now made the decision to close this centre but while it existed it remained a blot on US democracy. Terrorist suspects were detained without any charges being brought forward against them. In a challenge brought forward by one of the suspects two years ago, the US Supreme Court in its judgment stated, ‘Even assuming (this suspect) is a dangerous individual who would cause great harm or death to innocent civilians given the opportunity, the Executive nevertheless must comply with the prevailing rule of law.’

Sir John Holmes, who was once called, in a fit of arrogant pique, a ‘terrorist’ by one of our cabinet ministers, is now back in the country at the invitation of the Government. We trust he will be able to visit the IDP camps and the ‘welfare villages’ and that the displaced persons will be able to talk freely to him through Holmes’ own interpreters. One also hopes that President Rajapakse will receive this senior UN diplomat’s (even critical) advice in a spirit of humility as behoves a responsible Government. In dealing with humanitarian issues and with international diplomats, it is always counter-productive to exhibit boorishness.

Ethnic Polarisation

While the Government is entitled to bask in the glory of its successful win in the recent two Provincial Council Elections, an analysis of the results shows that the Government has totally failed win the support of the minorities. In fact, the results show a polarisation between the ethnic majority and the minorities. The vast majority of the Sinhala voters have voted for the candidates of the UPFA. This is perhaps the result of the war rhetoric and the media hype about the rout of the LTTE. It is a moot point if this will continue to be such a strong factor once the euphoria dies down and economic issues begin to take precedence.

But the disturbing factor, not only for the Government but also for the country, is that the Government appears to have lost the Tamil and Muslim voter. The CWC (of Thondaman) and the UPF (of Chandrasekeran) are by far the two largest Tamil parties in the Central Province. They both contested under the UPFA banner. Yet between them, they had only three members elected while the opposition UNP had six Tamil members elected. Among the Muslims, there are eight already declared elected but not one of them is from the UPFA. This surely must be a cause for concern. The Government may win the war against the LTTE but it seems to be losing the peace. This ethnic polarisation is not at all good for the country and President Rajapakse has to change direction if he is to bring about real sustainable peace in the country.