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Sri Lanka: Abuse, Disbelief And Bitterness Persist

The Sri Lankan government's civil war for over 25 years against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) ended a few days ago when the LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was killed. The question remains that “has the dream of many Tamils of having a separate state free from discrimination died with him?” Although Prabhakaran is deemed as a mass murderer and terrorist, many still revere him as a fighter of their cause and some are still in denial mode that he really has been killed. Many theories emerged making Prabhakaran's death controversial and some also resorted to Photoshop to prove that he is still alive.

The polarized Sri Lankan Blogosphere is buzzing with a lot of analysis and counter analysis on the developments.

Although the Sri Lankan government has been successful in finishing off the LTTE insurgency, its methods were controversial and much criticized. In Mutiny quotes a Time article which lists the Rajapakse doctrine of counterinsurgency.

Serendipity is critical of the Western media for not portraying the feeling of many Sri Lankans who were relieved and have celebrated the news of the end of the bitter war. The blogger accused the Western media for using sensationalism in their writings and urged the Sri Lankan blogosphere to help balance the biases by raising their voices.

Reacting on the news that the EU wants to organize a tribunal to investigate civilian deaths by Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE, The Whackster's Lair challenged the world to come to Sri Lanka and see with their own eyes whether the alleged war crimes happened for real. However sporadic incidents of kidnapping Tamil activists are still being reported in the media.

Criticizing the ban of foreign journalists and aid workers, renowned journalist John Pilger wrote that the sufferings of the Tamils are being unnoticed by the world and distant Tamil voices are not being heard. In recent times we have seen that the pro Tamil voices have become feeble due to intimidation and fear.

Sujai at Desicritics is not a supporter of LTTE but supports Sri Lankan Tamils’ desire and aspiration to establish a separate Tamil state on that island and asks:

“Can we ignore the history of how Tamils were targeted, discriminated, and marginalized in Sri Lanka? Does Sri Lanka have a prior record which suggests they are going welcome Tamils participation in that country? Can a Tamil become President of Sri Lanka the way a Sikh can become Prime Minister of India?”

Tamil protest in london, Image from Flickr by danie, under a CC license

Tamil protest in london, Image from Flickr by danie, used under a CC license

Musings from Toronto questions the Diaspora support for the LTTE:

I don't understand why they support the LTTE. [..] I don't understand how they claim the LTTE is any better than the government of Sri Lanka.

But it would be wrong to think that all Tamils are supporting the LTTE. Amardeep at Sepia Mutiny posts a video of Tamil Canadian journalist Ignatius Sellah talking on CBC which tells a different view, that the Tamil protests in Canada were instigated by the LTTE arm in Canada.

Terms like “Genocide” have been indiscriminately used by LTTE which has overshadowed the real problems. Nilanjana at Sepia Mutiny quotes the human rights abuses of both the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE and writes:

Terms like “genocide” (and “terrorism,” for that matter) raise our blood pressure and focus our attention on those who have committed violence, but they don’t even begin to address how minorities can be more effectively represented and fairly treated in the future.

Indrajit Samarajiva at Indi.ca tells the Sri Lankan Diaspora:

It is not enough to lobby the UN or the ‘international community’ or the consciences of the fashionable thinkers of the global elite. [..]

To change Sri Lanka you need to reach the kid in the IDP camp, you need to work with the police office in Hambantota. You need to chat with the Muslims in Galle and the tea pluckers in Nuwara Eliya. [..]

Sri Lanka still needs its bright children to come home.

Gunaratne at Groundviews is amazed at “the mobilization of young people from the Tamil Diaspora around the world to organize protests against the Sri Lankan government’s purported human rights violations.” But the question is how to end the cycle of hatred?

Maybe once the conflict is over, they will come back to Sri Lanka to rebuild the country together. However, there is long way to go for reconciliation between the two communities as so much hatred has manifested, especially amongst the Diaspora overseas.

Appu's advice to the Tamils is to try something different:

Invest in your people, your lands, your future. You work wonders for your employers in other parts of the World, now do it for yourselves.

To do that however, you need to walk away from the bitterness that you are entitled to feel.

But how can the bitterness and disbelief be removed when there are still reports of human rights abuses? According to the latest reports, women were raped and men “disappeared” from the Sri Lankan refugee camps and the Red Cross has been banned from the entering the camps. Reports of revenge on Tamils have begun to appear. So sense of disbelief and worry is still present in many Sri Lankan Tamils. The future of many refugees in the IDPs is uncertain. The world needs to be aware of the situation and take measures to stop these human rights violations to pave the way for some kind of reconciliation.

  • http://www.indi.ca indi

    I’d say the overwhelming sentiment in Sri Lanka is relief, and hope. This and many articles seem to present things from a diaspora perspective, which is a bit disconnected

  • http://thewhacksterslair.blogspot.com TheWhacksteR

    Rather, my post did not discuss war crimes per se, only the double standards of those choosing to condemn them, and the motives of doing so.

  • http://kalugu.com Sunderapandyan

    Indi – Your views are based on what the Indian media presents. Indian media is biased and controlled by certain clans of India. The Diaspora are reacting based on what they hear from their relatives in Sri Lanka. We have seen that the United Sri Lanka has cost 100,000 lives, what is wrong in considering peaceful separation?. The loss of life is equally because of the refusal by Sinhalese for secession as much as by the struggle for secession by the Tamils.

  • Ranjan

    There is an old Persian saying, “When a fish stinks, it stinks from the head”.

    It seems to me the critical question here is does the country have a Government that has, that comprehends, the concept of a plural society, or is it a collection of bullies? Subsumed in that question is the question of whether if actually has a concept of the verb, ‘to govern’. Putting your sycophants into government jobs does not give you an admkinistration that can administer!! When a government minister is silly enough to say that the tourist industry is not important to Sri Lanka, one wonders what is the role of the commercial sector and what is the role of international charity (charity being spelt ‘manipulation and control”!!) in these minds.

    Once there is an objective answer to these questions, then we can consider the question of do the Tamils and Muslins have a place in Sri Lanka, or is it the ‘Singhala Homeland” as ponificated recently by a government minister (with no rebuttal from his boss).

    As to the matter of the diaspora returning, I have heard with my own ears a senior official in the Dept. of Immigration and Emigration fulminating that people wanting dual citizenship are “you people who want the best of both worlds’. In her little mind it seems this is a crime; not the US$2000 the government demands if you are not prepared to relinquish the safety net of right of residence in another country.

    Fondly imagining you can get your car to fly will not give it thrust and lift. You need to invent an areoplane for that. Similarly, fondly hoping that there can be peace in Sri Lanka will not cut it if the mentality of those in government hark back to neanderthal attitudes to ‘life, the universe and everything’.

  • Sie.Kathieravealu

    Probably the best concept for a political solution with meaningful and just power sharing arrangement.
    An earnest APPEAL to all those who strive for sustainable peace in Sri Lanka
    “The lack of engagement and communication, in turn adds to the sense of estrangement. This is not in the interests of either side, particularly the Sri Lankan people who yearn for peace, a just solution to the ethnic conflict and the hope of prosperity at least for their children.” – Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka.
    With the above end in view please spare a part of your valuable time to ABSORB the meaning of the views submitted below.
    Too much of time has been wasted in discussing the origins of the problems and the paths taken by various real patriotic and peace-loving persons to solve the problems in the ways they sincerely believed as the best. The problems have grown and evolved and had been twisted by many to suit their way of thinking.
    So, it is high-time we start to RETHINK in terms of a solution that would address the ASPIRATIONS ALL THE PEOPLE in the country, not just the aspirations of the Tamils, in a just and meaningful way rather than continue to criticize other people for their “faults”.
    Failures are the pillars of success. We have learned a lot of things through experience. With the experiences gained we will have to work for a change of heart not just a change of mind of all the people in the country.
    “People who value democracy, equality and equity, needs to pressure the Sri Lankan state to take immediate action towards a meaningful and just power sharing arrangement. That is the only way to ensure security and the dignity of the peoples of Sri Lanka.
    If peaceful coexistence through power sharing is not achievable, the only other solution that would be available will be secession” – Mr. Lionel Bopage, former Secretary of the JVP.
    There is a vast difference between the policy and thinking of the ORIGINAL JVP to which Mr.Lionel Bopage belongs and the policy of the present JVP.
    A new concept that moves towards a meaningful and just power-sharing arrangement based on true democracy – a large number of people participating in the governance of the country based on equality, equity – is a great deviation from the usual thinking of the meaning of the word “sharing of power” is given below for the perusal and comments of concerned people.
    Many, who call themselves as ‘moderates’ and advocating a “Unitary State” are not willing to consider this NEW concept of the phrase “sharing of power” that gives a certain degree of ‘power’ with ‘responsibility’ to as many as possible including the poor and voiceless silent majority in the country and not excluding the so-called “minorities” and still maintain the “character” of a “Unitary State”
    Now, one word, for those who are actually and sincerely interested in fostering a unitary-state by supporting “devolution” as a means to achieve sustainable peace, please avoid thinking in terms of “devolution” and instead please try to think in terms of “sharing of powers”, rights, duties and responsibilities that cannot be taken back at any time by any government or individual by any method.
    The best political solution to address the problems faced by various sections of the Sri Lankan society – particularly the poor, the politically weak and the “minorities” who do not carry any “political weight” – would be to DILUTE the powers of all elected representatives of the people by separating the various powers of the Parliament and by horizontally empowering different sets of people’s representatives elected on different area basis to administer the different sets of the separated powers at different locations.
    It has to be devolution HORIZONTALLY where each and every set of representatives would be in the SAME LEVEL as equals and in par and NOT VERTICALLY, where one set of representatives would be above (more powerful than) the other, which is the normal adopted practice when talking of devolution, in this power-hungry world. It is because “devolution of power” has been evolved “vertically”, we have all the trouble in this power-hungry world. So, for sustainable peace it should not be the present form of “devolution of power” but “dilution of powers” or “sharing of powers” in such a way that no single person or single set of people’s representatives be “superior” to another.
    This system would help to eradicate injustice, discrimination, bribery and corruption – the four pillars of an evil society – and help to establish the “Rule of Law” and “Rule by ALL” for sustainable peace, tranquility and prosperity and a pleasant harmonious living with dignity and respect for all the inhabitants in the country. Everyone must have “equal” powers, rights, duties and responsibilities and most importantly everyone should be deemed “equal” and treated “equally” before the law not only on paper but also practically – be it the Head of State, The Chief Justice or the voiceless poor of the poorest in the country.
    Since all political and other powers flow from the sovereignty of the people, it is proposed herein that these powers be not given to any ONE set of representatives but distributed among different sets of people’s representatives (groups) elected on different area basis (village and villages grouped) to perform the different, defined and distinct functions of one and the same institution – the Parliament – like the organs of our body – heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes, nose, ear etc. – performing different and distinct functions to enable us to sustain normal life.
    A detailed version of the concept, which is quite long is available for discussion by interested individuals with an aim to change the hearts not just a change of mind of the citizens of this country who aim to preserve a UNITARY form of Government with every section of people from every part of the country PRACTICALLY PARTICIPATING in the GOVERNANCE OF THE COUNTRY in a meaningful way. In a way it may be termed “participatory democracy”. In this system the COUNTRY IS NOT DIVIDED but the “powers of governance’ of the Parliament is separated and administered COLLECTIVELY by different sets of peoples representatives.
    The system suggested is neither a federal state for which “Thanthai Chelva” worked hard through non-violent means for nearly thirty years nor the “Two State Solution” for which the LTTE is fighting through violent means for more than thirty years. It is a combination of both and is between both but still a “unitary” state.
    The solution advocated can be compared to the policy of the EPDP – a partner in the present government – “self-governance at Regional Level and collective governance at the National Level”. Basically there are some differences between the suggestions above and that of the EPDP. First, the above suggestions are for sharing of power horizontally and EPDP’s suggestions are for sharing power vertically. Second, EPDP’s suggestions are for addressing the aspirations of the Tamils while the above suggestions are for addressing the aspirations of the PEOPLE, not just that of the Tamils alone. A careful perusal of the above suggestions in FULL will enlighten the need for such an approach.
    Give and Take is the best policy. Rule or control your “self” and allow everyone to rule themselves.
    LIVE AND LET LIVE
    IF THERE IS A SINCERE WILL to treat all inhabitants of the county with dignity and as respectful citizens of this country, enjoying equal rights in all respects, then THE ABOVE IS A WAY
    The above suggestions are by a voiceless member of the silent majority who wants all voice to be heard.

  • vssubramaniam

    Reading the responses in this web site sends chills down one’s spine. The events in the ground are equally alarming. The signs are that the Sinhala-Tamil divide will never be erased especially after brutality of the words spoken and actions by the rulers. Taking taking civilians in such numbers as prisoners of war and though two months have passed they are still languishing in the camps with the regime using them as pawns to extract aid is despicable. The international community (Delhi is simply playing games) can only bring lasting peace by restoring the political rights of the Tamils. Under the Delhi’s 1987 Indo-SL Accord limited powers to be devolved to the Tamils is in deep trouble. A close reading of what the Ambassador to the US stated recently points to Colombo going in the opposite direction. Though since 2004 SL’s policies had clearance of the power brokers (the trio) in the Delhi establishment, indications are that a greater betrayal of the Tamils and TN by Delhi is in the making. Delhi’s support to save SL from its human rights crimes is not driven by altruism but to dissuade Colombo from implicating the Delhi trio in the massacres in the tiny Delhi blessed ‘no fire zone’ in May (16-19) and the subsequent interning of those who escaped the massacre. The initiatives that the UNHRC took in the Council meetings in May to pursue SL for war crimes were killed off by Delhi. Delhi’s stance since 2004 has been to condone the morality of the ethnic cleansing and fully support SL genocide to enslave the Tamils.
    The Delhi blessed ‘no fire zone’ and ‘intern’ camps; the brain children of the Narayanan/Menon Delhi duo were for the massacres to remain as utmost secrets without independent witnesses to frustrate potential war crimes proceedings. Lurid pictures of the SL massacres are in the public domain worldwide, thanks to the internet. Most interesting is The Sunday Times Gothabhaya Rajapakse interview that incriminates the Indian trio’s (Foreign Secretary, National Security Advisor and Defense Secretary) as closely liaising with their SL counterparts on the timing and details of the (May 16 to 19) massacres including RAW’s role in the massacre of Ltté leadership along with 20 000 civilians that the Delhi trio considered acceptable to Delhi. RAW’s over flights gave precise target co-ordinates and ground conditions for the massacres.

    Delhi’s credibility is badly dented after it time and again swore that it never provided SL with arms, but SL’s victory parade featured the Indian radars, Bofors guns, two war ships given by India anchored in the Colombo harbor and more. Over the UNHRC pursuing SL war crimes, Delhi (the Tom Toming Raman) not only contested the civilian numbers killed in SL’s ‘no fire zone’ it accused UNHRC and mandated Human Rights groups personnel and the West of using the ‘Eelam issue to embarrass the SL government ..put its senior officers in the dock by disseminating unauthenticated high figures of civilian casualties’ and pushing under the carpet the savagery of the attacks on civilians (bombardments of the narrow ‘no-fire zone’, lobbing grenades into bunkers where unarmed and starving civilians were taking shelter and bulldozing civilians ‘into mass graves along with the dead’). To prevent evidence of the ‘human shield’ internees who escaped but witnessed the massacres from coming into the public domain SL is tempted to drag out the release of these detainees much to the displeasure of the Indian public. Such evidence will be much more damaging than the TV images of the long marches to the camps of emaciated civilians, vouching to the savage use of starvation as a weapon of war on unarmed civilians.

    Despite such inhumanity Delhi voted for SL in the May UNHRC meeting. Will such a Delhi honestly venture to redress the Tamil trauma? Colombo has a weapon (Delhi’s complicity in the 20 000 civilian massacre) to taunt should India falter and expose SL to war crimes proceedings. Delhi $ 100 million relief for the sufferings of the Vanni internees will not erase its guilt in SL using the trio’s internment camps concept. SL is sure to gloat over the Delhi trio’s predicament though gratefully acknowledge Delhi’s support in its war and India’s robust lobbying for SL in UNHRC. SL is unlikely to reciprocate Delhi’s generosity by implicating the Delhi trio but the temptation for Delhi is to keep SL‘s goodwill at all costs. Hence humanity and the Tamils world-wide have to discount the Delhi’s support in ending their trauma and pursue alternative measures to secure justice for the crimes inflicted on the Tamils.

    vssubramaniam
    SINGAPORE

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