Constitutional Reform, Human Rights, Human Security, IDPs and Refugees, Jaffna, Peace and Conflict, Vavuniya

Would killing 50,000 civilians to finish off the LTTE bring peace?

[Editors note, 6 January 2011: This specific post and the debate that ensued is referred to and featured in Fire and Storm: Essays in Sri Lankan Politics by Prof. Michael Roberts. Read more here.]

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“I would accept 50,000 dead to finish the LTTE. That’s what it comes down to. And I would, to end that war.”

This is a verbatim excerpt from an email I got today from a prominent blogger in Sri Lanka. Truth be told, we have all heard this argument of late – sometimes in hushed whispers, at other times a loud and bold statement of patriotism. Some see merit in it, suggesting that since the LTTE is inextricably entwined with the civilian population, only a scorched earth policy can guarantee remaining cadres in the Vanni will be eliminated.

Others are outraged by the idea, and point to sickening videos of injured and dismembered children, the LTTE’s use of thermobaric weapons, and the Government’s shelling of hospitals, as macabre markers of a significant disregard for the protection of civilians by both parties to the conflict. To actively target hapless civilians, many feel, is not just a cost too high for peace, but lays seeds of discontent and violence that can seriously undermine future prospects for peace, stability and development in the regions most affected by decades of war.

What do you think?

Click here if you can’t see the poll above. Please leave your detailed comments below.

  • yet another vicious slanderous post here.
    this totally unsubstantiated and speculative post slanders sri lankans who support ltte to be defeated ( with violence if needs be ) as advocates of mass murder.

    fact is nobody is advocating what is in the post . why not reveal the name and quote of the ppl who say this with evidence if such thing is advocated . if anyone is even thinking this it will be only minuscule number of ppl.

    only ones who put any credence in the racist belief that ltte and tamils are the same and should be treated similarly are the peaceniks who seem unable to get rid of the ltte propaganda that ltte is a natural growth of tamil community and grievances, instead of the aberration that it is, and which exists( soon existed) through murder and oppression .

    does the author of this post subscribe to that belief ? he has always evaded answering that while slandering sri lankans who want to see ltte defeated with violence if need be but with minimal civilian causalities .


    not surprisingly this author deliberately cite as fact an anonymous unverified story from a news organization ( that has proved wrong and biased time after time ) , when he says “Government’s shelling of hospitals”


    will i be censored for pointing out errors here using nothing but facts, yet again? .

  • Lionel Bopage

    Even if the Government and the Sri Lankan Armed Forces manage to eliminate the LTTE militarily, a political solution is required. 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 peace, security and the dignity of the peoples of Sri Lanka.

  • The idea that murdering 50,000 people on a spit of land in the Vanni will also finish off the rebel movement should not be put to a vote. There are some mad ideas that are better left alone in the hope that reason will come in the morning after a good night’s rest–something denied the residents of that spit of land and their relatives in the internment camps.

  • Renuka

    Sanjana,

    Much as admire what you have accomplished with Groundviews this poll does it a disservice; I am very disappointed. It is just stoking extremism based on heresay, surely not what you intend to foster with Groundviews. How can the numbers or the sources you quote be verified or the implication that it is the aim of the government?

    Citizen puts it well.

  • This post intends to interrogate extremism. The numbers in the quote are really peripheral to the argument, which exists today, that to finish off the LTTE, collateral damage is not just unavoidable, it is even a prerequisite. What do you feel about that?

    If you cared to read them, and I suspect you’ve not, *both* stories referenced above are unverified, yet the immediate reaction of both you and another before you is to believe the one against the LTTE and question, nay, vehemently deny the one against the Government. I find that an telling reaction.

  • Casenut

    He would accept 50000 casualties? That’s easy for him to accept, probably because he has no relatives or friends in the combat zone. But would he accept those casualties if they were his children, spouse, parents, relatives and friends. I don’t think so.
    If the UN reports are correct, the civilian casualties up to now is already a high price to pay. It is true that another decades long conflict can be avoided if LTTE can be finished off. But why can’t the government have one more ceasefire and tell the tigers to let the civilians out? That way we’ll be saving face, and won’t look like barbarians. If the LTTE doesn’t let the civilians out this time either, it’s going to be their fault. And why don’t they let the UN monitor the internment camps? It will be better to let the camps be monitored, even while using some controversial methods to interrogate suspected terrorists if necessary. It would be better than the way things are now, where it looks like there is something nasty going on inside those camps, like extrajudicial killings or something. And if they are monitored, maybe the civilians will put more trust in the government about their safety, and take more risks to escape. More than they do now, where they have to go in to unmonitored camps.
    Could someone explain these to me?

  • Casenut, a minor point, but the writer could be a she. 🙂

  • nandakumar

    the best solution for this island is, two nations. tamils and sinhalese have been living in this island for more than 2000 yrs. we have been very good friends and at times we have had confrontation due to the misleading of sinhales politicians.

    it has been clearly proved without a semblance of doubt the tamils cannot trust the sinhala polity any more. divorce is the solution for the survival of tamils.

    i can assure in the sinhala people realise the fact that the tamil nation and the sinhala nation would be the best of friendly nations in the world. helping each other in developments, researches and the security of the island.

    this solution will keep all the powsers of the world with hidious agendas for their geopolitical corporate interest, away from the island or we the two nations will insure these countries are kept away from scraping all the resources from our two nations. why i believe all the above are achievable?

    because we both the races are share a few things to some extent. also, we are friendly people and have been friends too (at machan level) but! the sinhala polity will be the same forever. that is why the tamils need the seperation.

    so, for the betterment of both the races, seperatin is the best solution.

    if the sinhala polity thinks the ltte can be annihalated and a part of the tamil population can be wiped out, and then they can fly the lion flag all over the place, it will be wrong assessment on their part.

    if at all the ltte and part of the tamils wiped out the consequences for the island would be worse.

    all the countries helping the current sri lankan govt will get a foot hold lock stock and barrell and plunder all the resources in sri lanka. eventually, the island of sri lanka will not belong to sinhalese or tamils. just in 50- 100 years the island will be bustling with childres of chinese, pakistanis, indians, libyans, iranians, europeans etc etc etc. wonderful it would be. no sinhalese culture. no tamil culture. sinhalese will be one of the languages, tamil will be one of the languages. chinese will be one of the languages, arabic will be one of the languages. urudi will be one of the languages. hindi will be one of the languages.

    the sinhalese race would prefer such a community rather than sharing the island with the tamils and the prosperity of both the races.

    if that is what it is going to be, who can stop it.

    nandakumar.

  • Most of the commenting on this post so far wishes to be in denial of the extremism/racism that is there in this country – largely probably because they are uncomfortable with this rise in racist/extremist instincts in our society and/or because they think this cant be . I know who Sanjana is talking about and i was one of the first to note this prominent blogger slip away to nationalist ego. This prominent blogger was a very good critic of the Government and politics in general and it is very shocking for me to find people like this blogger slip away. The change in the mindset of this blogger is indicative of two things that have been part of the moderate southern polity’s psyche (sorry for this random group formulation) especially in the Mahinda Rajapaksha era: 1) That what the govt is doing is acceptable or tolerable given that the other side (the LTTE) is a larger evil 2) (1) is acceptable because of the very huge democratic potential that will be opened after the defeat of the greater evil the LTTE. These are the reasons, i suspect, for our prominent blogger to be happy to see 50,000 people die if it will wipe off the LTTE as well.

    I contest both and i comment on some of these questions in a comment/s i wrote to Rohni Hensman’s post on the same here at kafila.org:

    http://kafila.org/2009/04/07/who-is-responsible-for-the-slaughter-of-civilians-in-the-vanni-by-rohini-hensman/

    Niran Anketell, Ahilan Kadirgamar, Nirmala Rajasingham and Ragavan’s comments to Rohini’s post are valuable reading.

    I am with Sanjana on posing this question. Ya it shocks but its the kind of question that our society has stooped low to even consider.

  • Regrettably what has been posted appears to reflect a considerable body of opinion especially among the Sinhalese who believe they are intelligent and educated. One hears it often in informal conversations although being ‘educated and intelligent’ they would not not want to express their view as openly as the reputed blogger has done. What is being suggested – the liquidation of 50,000 civilian men, women and children – is so atrocious that it is comparable to the Nazi attitude to the Jews in the infamous Holocaust. Yet the fact that intelligent Sinhalese feel that way about a minority who have sufferred greviously for years is revealing. Is there any hope for a just and honourable settlement of our national problem ?
    Who is responsible for this kind of attitude to be so publicly articulated – albeit as the voting shows – only 5 per cent as yet ?. Our political leaders, our religious preachers, our school teachers, our media have surely each contributed in some way to this.

  • Rather unfortunate and immature post there, Sanjana. Very disappointing. By adding a poll, it breaks it down into a murder, manslaughter, or innocent situ, which is patently unrealistic at best. There’s a spectrum of grey there that cannot be addressed in a poll. This is the sorta piece I’d expect if FHM had access to the NE.

  • ranjan

    It is sad that such chauvinistic veiws prevail. Civilians are the ham in the sandwich between Singhala terrorists adn Tamil terrorists.

    There can be no peace without justice. It is injustice that created this situation.

    If Singhala people cannot get justice under the ruling terrorist family coalition, how on earth can the Tamil people? At least the Tigers have had the self-respect to stand up to the hypocracy and corruption of the Administrations of the last 60 years; rising above the servant mentality of the rest of the population of the island who happily lick the boots of any ole riff-raff who happen to be in power!!

  • Renuka

    Sanjana,

    On the contrary, the numbers are not peripheral, surely that is at the very heart of the argument you make. Or are you using the figure of 50 000 just to grab headlines? My personal feeling is that there have been far too many lives lost already but I understand my idealism isn’t going to solve the issues at hand.

    The point about your poll is that it attempts to paint a rather binary picture of something which is anything but so and that is not constructive in the least. I find it hard to comprehend how extemism can be interrogated by presenting bipoloar options, that sounds rather circular to me.

    Btw I had read both the referenced links, best not to surmise, don’t you think?

  • Immaturity, David, is something you excel in practice but sadly not in self-perception. But I agree, reality is complex and textured, and the poll was a means through which to get people to open up silly. So why don’t you give us your version?

  • Renuka, a singular problem of comprehension then? The argument is not mine, and I do not make it. Please contest the poll, because that is precisely why it was put up. The poll captures opinions I have encountered in response to the violence in the Vanni – both online and in person. I agree with you and David that the reality is more vexed – so if bipolar options are not the answer, what could be? Aachcharya’s comments both here and in the posts referenced are also interesting reading in this regard.

  • Malinda Seneviratne

    bad premise. it is easy to say ‘no’. the assumption here is that we will have to kill 50,000 to finish off the ltte. doesn’t have to happen. we cornered the ltte. the prediction was that in order to get where we are now, we would have to kill over one hundred thousand. or two hundred thousand. didn’t happen.

  • Renuka

    Thanks for the invitation Sanjana 🙂 But the poll does not capture my opinion and I would rather not contribute to such a blinkered view to make up the numbers.

    If this is not your argument, why make it, just to stir the pot? You only compromise your standards and that of the site by posting it. I seem to have been mistaken in the view that one of the founding principles of Groundviews was to take a more nuanced approach than one could expect from Cosmo survey.

  • Didn’t know you were that familiar with Cosmo surveys, but I’ll take your word for what they are. As I said, you suffer from a singular problem of comprehension that bedevils constructive engagement. Take heart, you are not alone in Sri Lanka today.

  • at last a comment of mine gets published (for now).

    curious how some commenters here do not hesitate to write statements like “Regrettably what has been posted appears to reflect a considerable body of opinion especially among the Sinhalese who believe they are intelligent and educated.” but are unable to provide any support for this “considerable body of opinion”. anymore than the author of the post. who had to use anonymous anecdotes to support the supposedly widespread opinion . .

    why do they do this? they know that if they get in to supporting evidence, given the very real fact that they have none, they cannot propagate this racist slander.

    in addition, these propagators have the audacity to say some ppl are in “denial of the extremism/racism that is there in this country.” ? who is in denial ?
    as i said before only substantial ( if one can call them that ) body of racists in this country who equate tamils with ltte terrorists are the peaceniks. hence their long standing calls for appeasement of ltte , and calls of ceasefires, as if any harm to ltte is a harm to tamils. nobody else of substance ( including vocal sinhala nationalists ) here engage in such equalizations ( and as alleged by post call for killing of tamils to kill ltte )
    but slander continues here unsupported by facts

    groundviews at May 3, 2009 @ 7:44 am says
    “collateral damage is not just unavoidable, it is even a prerequisite”
    that is not what the post says. post is about intentional killing of civilians .
    there is a difference . it is one thing when civilians get killed bc ltte is holding them as human shields or through stray cross fire. it is another to to kill them intentionally to kill ltte. and nobody is doing the latter. to confuse the two as one is also a vicious slander of sl military .

    groundviews at May 3, 2009 @ 7:44 am also says
    “*both* stories referenced above are unverified, yet the immediate reaction of both you and another before you is to believe the one against the LTTE and question, nay, vehemently deny the one against the Government. I find that an telling reaction.”
    that sentence is certainly “telling”
    now we know for certain that post knowingly used two unverified stories for support.

    anyway the primary objection raised about this was the use of unverified stories in the post to support slander , and objection to the stories themselves(concentrating on one against gov) was secondary, but groundviews now take cover by shifting focus to secondary objection.

    anyway while not allowing groundviews to forget the primary objection we should address the reason for different reaction to stories.
    ltte has a long substantiated history of atrocities and war crimes and etc. one more story is not going to change anything. on the other hand in other story news organization, bbc slandering the government, has got egg on its face before reporting unverified stories biased toward terrorists that turn out to be false an/or made up using old or unrelated material. this story fits right in with all that , no names , no dates , no nothing. (btw did anyone ask why those “doctors ” were not reporting on ltte activity in nfz with photos ?)
    in contrast to bbc, wired whose interest (if one call it even that) in sl has a different focus and is a different thing altogether .

  • sam

    I am very disappointed with this kind stuff. People always look at issues as either black or white; You are for something or against. Would it not be possible for someone to think that you don’t need to kill 50,000 people to defeat the LTTE? I believe that this will be achieved. Rather than sensationalizing the plight of innocent people, the educated, liberal minded writers must start thinking what they would like to see changed in SL once the LTTE is dead. Dead they will be, because there is no sympathy for people who blackmail freedom through suicide bombings.

  • Renuka

    And this survey you post Sanjana, is constructive? How so?

    What is the miscomprehension you seem so certain I suffer and how is it singular? Since you tar others with the same brush I dare say your elucidations will be instructive to many.

  • aadhavan

    If this ”prominent blogger” is who I think it is, I’m not at all surprised. Racism works slowly, yet inexorably within those who refuse to acknowledge the other as an equal. The idea of the poll is brilliant, in that it captures starkly the argument adduced by self proclaimed Sinhala ”moderates” as to why they support the government’s war. The bi-polar choices are not as I see it, a choice presented by Sanjana, but an ironic take on the self inflicted binary options used to justify the carnage that is currently underway.

    On a larger scale though, I think it raised the question of whether there is anyone left within the Sinhala polity that the Tamils can trust. I think this is the same problem that consumed Sivaram, only in his case his deep disappointment was occassioned by the betrayal of the Tamil struggle by Sinhala leftists who fell prey to ethno-chauvinist extemism. The life story of Ambassador Jayatilleke and Tilak Karunaratne being cases in point. Now, it is the turn of the liberals, like Rajiva Wijesinha, Jehan Perera, and this prominent blogger. Publius had an interesting piece titled “Ethnos and Demos” that critiqued Tamil nationalism for mirroring Sinhala nationalism and failing to join hands with Sinhala liberals to fight for a restructuring of the state based on liberal constitutional principles. While his argument is valid, it raises the question of whether in fact it is possible for the Tamils to put their faith in Sinhala liberals, when so many of them have done a complete 180 and now proclaim support for a brutal, odious and terror driven government campaign that is targetting innocent Tamils as much as it does the Tigers. Once the dust settles after this round of brutality, and Tamils perhaps minus the LTTE are forced to embark on a painful process of extracting concessions from the state bereft of any significant bargaining chips save Western and Indian diplomatic pressure, they would do well not to forget these grand betrayals.

  • If such killing is regarded as necessary, then I would go along with the ‘majoritarian culture’ viewpoint and argue that the 50,000 dead that are required should be proportionately spread according to ethnic population strengths, so that 70 per cent or more of those that have to be killed as patriotic sacrifice for for peace should from the Sinhala population (pure Sinhalas and NOT half-breed, thuppahis) and 18 per cer cent from the Tamil (again, no half-breeds, please) and so on. That would be a genuinely patriotic sacrifice for peacce and stability in our Beloved Motherland.

    However, I think that the argument that 50,000 should die as sacrifice for peace is, in principle, not a very humane of building peace. It is certainly not a civilised argument. I made this proposition about ethnic population proportions simply to make sure that ALL Sri Lankans of ALL ethnic backgrounds (including halfbreeds thuppahis, like myself) fully understand the ramifications of such argumentation.
    – Lakshmanan Gunasekaraaa.

  • The Underdog

    Brilliant idea Sanjana! Let those who speak so readily about the inevitability of collateral damage and cracking eggs to make omelets, come forward and admit that you are comfortable with innocents dying in this war. The poll so far is quite revealing: 17% actually think it is ok to kill civilians (the Yes +Maybe). The sanctimonious comments are also revealing. War is ugly; innocents die. You can try to hide behind the propaganda (the “humanitarian mission” and the “hostage crisis”) but you can’t run away from the FACT that we are condoning the killing of defenseless human beings. That goes for you Diaspora idiots waving the LTTE flags too.

  • Calculator

    I am disappointed with Groundviews. You will lose your credibility if you peddle this type of unsubstantiated story. If you really love Peace please don’t use a flamethrower to douse a flame.

  • Observer

    Are you serious with this post? Clearly sane people wouldn’t agree to such casualty figures unless the flip side is about few million casualties as it would have been in a world war.
    You do realise that in the entire history of this conflict estimates are about 70,000 casualties. How in the world can you justify 70% of that in it’s last leg. You would have to nuke the no fire zone to achieve that provided there are even that many people. Geez!
    There are lot of mad men saying a lot of things in this world. You don’t have to make that into a general consensus!

    A low point for groundviews!

  • Engun

    aadhavan >>

    What a lot of words to in effect say “I care about Tamils only, but every else is a racist”.

    I’m sorry, but most people see through this racist nonsense by now. Your continuation to call the LTTE the enablers of “Tamil freedom” while they unleashed all hell on earth to every other race, shows who the racist is.

    Perhaps if you had compassion for all human beings concerned, and stopped harping on this “race” nonsense, everyone else will seem less racist also.

  • I’m wondering what the big deal is in all this. Isn’t this the majority consensus?. It’s ok to kill a few thou Tamils for the sake of eradicating the LTTE (what else to do no?) Perhaps the dispute is with the numbers.

    50,000 seems too high. Maybe the 7,000 odd dead in the last few months is more acceptable collateral?

  • Nicolai

    Answering this poll is a zero sum game, no?

  • aadhavan

    @ engun – if harping on “race” while discussing the Sri Lankan predicament is racism, mea culpa, since we all know that race and ethnicity have absolutely no relevance to the problems here ;-0

    Also, I would be the first to point out that calling the LTTE the enabler’s of Tamil freedom is stupid, not least for the reason that the Tamils people have not been free since 1505. I challenge you to show one place where I have called the LTTE that. If you fail to, and you will, you are just another one of those worthless commentators who rely on inventing straw men that give form to your own prejudices, for you have not the resources to engage the argument presented.

  • Sanjana, if your way of getting people to open up on the issue of mass murder is to post a multiple choice question, well, lol good luck there. Looks like you were successful with Snut, though. As for my version, drop by my blog.

    Oh, and your attempt to get personal’s a bit childish too. Grow up, dude. If you don’t like the comments, perhaps you should look at what inspires them.

  • Hey David, which post(s) in particular? The post against NB seems to take centre stage on Kottu. As for your advice – thanks man. Appreciate it. A budding Martha Stewart!

    As for engagement, you and Renuka (who sound so alike) don’t seem to get what Robin, Ranjan, Malinda Seneviratne, Sam, The Underdog, Aadhavan, Lionel Bopage, Citizen, Casenut, Nandakumar and Deane to date have – that it is possible to engage even if you disagree with the premise of the article, which is precisely why it was posted in the first place. As for the poll, UnderDog notes,

    The poll so far is quite revealing: 17% actually think it is ok to kill civilians (the Yes +Maybe). The sanctimonious comments are also revealing. War is ugly; innocents die. You can try to hide behind the propaganda (the “humanitarian mission” and the “hostage crisis”) but you can’t run away from the FACT that we are condoning the killing of defenseless human beings.

    And that’s just one of many other interesting opinions posted here to date.

  • Renuka, I encourage to first read, them attempt to comprehend and finally engage if you can with the comments by The Underdog, Aadhavan, Lionel Bopage, Citizen, Casenut, nandakumar, Robin, Ranjan, Malinda Seneviratne, Sam or just Deane above.

    At the time of writing, all of them have responded constructively and in detail to the post.

  • Sabes

    This is a serious consideration and therefore the event’s execution and its aftermath have to be considered with utmost seriousness. (Of course there is the question of the principle if the death of 50,000 Tamils would be justified to defeat LTTE. The simple answer is that, if it is justified to kill one unarmed civilian then killing 50,000 is justifiable. The difference in the number is a matter for historians and statisticians).

    We must focus on how to do it without drawing much attention and serious consequences to the country. After all the liberal westerners who are poking their nose into our affairs will make a big scene to aid their imperialist and colonialist agenda. Those Tamils who think 50,000 is a big number will write in their history books as the Jews did about the holocaust and perpetuate the myth that we have been bad. We want none of these!

    1. We should not proclaim what we are going to do before the murder operation starts. (It is unfortunate that Groundviews has given prominence to the idea but we will suppress it).

    2. The only public proclamation would be that we are after the LTTE. We will send one of our orators with machetes as the Cubans did to say that it is our national duty to fight terrorism, colonialism and imperialism.

    3. Our operation should be conducted with ‘surgical precision’. Not a soul more or less than 50,000 should be murdered. It is highly probable that when we kill 50,000 people in a small strip of land the remaining LTTE terrorist will die. This is a simple rule of statistics.

    4. There should not be any free media in the area or leakage of the event. Everything should hush hush! (Our team has already established good practice in this respect). The satellite cameras will be switched off! Our international partners will see to this.

    5. Leakage of such information will turn our people against us. Our people are basically good people and they would not like bad things being done to their poor Tamil brothers and sisters of Vanni.

    6. Some critics say that our methods will leave disastrous legacy for the future. There is no evidence that mass deaths leave any lasting affects to the society. There will be some discontent but we will neutralise those with development work with the survivors. It would be easier to deal with people who are beaten, defeated and broken.

    7. In the event of the news getting out after the operation and we are put on the docks and found guilty, we will send our orator to make a speech like Fidel did that the ‘ history will absolve us from our sins!’

    In planning the event we must consider the following:

    1. What if LTTE are spread out in other parts of the country like in places like Amparai and Pothuvil? We would not have defeated the LTTE then?

    2. What if the aim that LTTE stood for, that is Tamil Eelam does not die with them? Killing ideas is a nuisance and we know this from our experience of 60 years.

    3. What if the Tamils who went to the West in droves lobby for sanctions against us? We are a sovereign and parochial nation. They can stuff their loans and aids. If Cubans can stand independent, we can do it even better!

  • brownsuger

    There are two websites I read to get a holistic picture: http://www.defence.lk and http://www.groundviews.org . Your one sided conspiracy theories are reaching epic proportions, its sad that I don’t have an alternative to switch to.

  • The Underdog

    As Deane says, how many dead civilians is too many? We’ve already gone past 6,000 since January, so is 10,000 ok? 20,000? What number will provoke those in charge to say enough?

  • Rajeev Sreetharan

    1) the question
    2) option 3

    1) the question

    The question, when one implicit premise is included, reads: would killing 50,000 Tamil civilians to finish off the LTTE bring peace? When two more implicit premises are included, the question reads: would the GoSL and state-sponsored paramilitary killing 50,000 Tamil civilians through war crimes, crimes against humanity, and systematic collateral damage finish off the LTTE bring peace?

    This writer believes posing the question was constructive, though, in some regards, was the wrong question in the Lankan context where in the contemporary historical moment ethnic identity is stronger than a united multi-ethnic national one, on the island, and in the global Diaspora.

    What if the question read: would killing 50,000 Sinhalese civilians to finish off the LTTE bring peace? Or Muslim? These questions are hypothetical of course, but what if everyone in Mullaithivu was Sinhalese/Muslim, would this scale of carnage be considered viable? What if the Safe Area were in Hambantota? Would for example 80+ artillery shellings and aerial bombardments between January 1, 2009 and April, be considered a proportionate use of force in Sinhala-civilian areas if there is suspicion there are 0 or more Tigers there?

    One could assert the issue is not Tamil-centric as the government demonstrated similar savagery in the JVP insurgencies against the majority community. However, there is a Tamil view which holds that within the psyche of Sri Lanka’s majority community, and civil society, Tamil casualties can only be collateral damage, regardless of scale and plausible intent. This view holds in Sri Lanka, it is actually not possible for the government to commit war crimes, and crimes against humanity, or genocide against Tamils, as the existence of the LTTE negates this, and unconditionally reduce any form and scale of civilian death in Tamil areas to collateral damage.

    3) option 3

    In this writers view, with the scale of carnage, which is still not over, the issue of devolution is a Red Herring from the Tamil perspective. Atleast 6500 Tamils dead, 13,500 wounded, and after those injured with no access to medicine have died, the former figure shall increase. A transitional justice mechanism is a precondition to any process of political settlement, a stage which has been excluded wholesale from the debate, arguably a reflection of the original cause of Tamil insurgency: Tamils have little to no say in the political process. This standard of a transitional justice mechanism, international or domestic, to switch from conflict to post-conflict or genocide to post-genocide has been applied in Eastern Europe, Latin America, Africa, South East Asia.

    Agreed, both sides have committed crimes. However, there is no parity of culpability. The LTTE is not a state. The GoSL is (arguably) not a terrorist. The GoSL must be held to a higher standard. Period. If Lanka is truly interested in a post-LTTE Lanka, a post-war Lanka, a post-genocide Lanka, it must engage this path. If there is no justice, political settlement and reconciliation will be imposed on the minority, which will again seed present or future militancy.

    For Tamils, the past four months have been the Black July of Eelam IV. It will likely be just as polarizing as it plays out.

  • I’d like possibly to add just one point of view to the sea of views already here. Going back to the actual response made by this so-called “prominent” blogger (who, personally I never much cared for, but, that’s besides the point). He says “I would accept 50,000 dead to finish the LTTE. That’s what it comes down to. And I would, to end that war.”

    What I seem to be grappling with is the absolute contradiction of this response, and worse yet the naivity with which it is said, that I find difficult to fathom, coming from someone who is said to have had quite a comprehensive knowledge of the state of things in our fair land. He says he would be able to accept the death of 50,000 civilians, if it would mean the end of the LTTE. Why I see this response as plain stupid is, 1. There is already evidence of pockets of LTTE having cropped out outside of the Vanni, as we speak, so carpet bombing Vanni is hardly going to be a “finish” of the LTTE. 2. If assuming that the LTTE is significantly wiped out along with these 50,000, in a post-war scenario, Tamil grievances would need to be addressed yes? How would you start on such a process in the wake of 50,000 innocents being sent to the slaughter, even if you were able to convince yourself that it was done for the “greater good of mankind?”

    Pray tell me, how this could ever translate, on “any” level, to being an “end” to this war. My poor, poor disillusioned lambs…it would and could be only the beginning! I think “prominent blogger,” it’s time you took off those “rose tinted, I scratch-your-back, you-scratch-mine” shades and pick up where you left off not too long ago!

  • Engun

    aadhavan >>

    My apologies on the LTTE bit. I presumed/misread your post.

    However, it does not change my initial argument. Continuing to make a hue and cry about your race only does not bode well for the issue at hand, and shows a racist bent over a humanitarian perpective on this issue. This is not just an “ethnic problem” now. It has evolved into a crisis for all citizens in Sri Lanka.

    Finally, you said: “Tamils perhaps minus the LTTE are forced to embark on a painful process of extracting concessions”.

    What are these concessions that you want, that currently makes your life in Sri Lanka extremely unpleasant? I would genuinely like to know.

  • aadhavan

    @ enjun – perhaps it doesn’t change your argument. It effectiveky dismantles it. Blatantly misrepresenting what I said and inventing/presuming/assuming a loyalty to the LTTE on my part while accusing me of racism destroys your charge that infusing race and/or ethnicity based analysis into a discussion of the Sri Lankan predicament is obsolete, and racist. Find someone else to misquote.

  • Deane is right – to accept ‘collateral damage’ (and more than ‘collateral damage’) is the majority consensus in agreeing and consistently voting to the conduct of this war. (Some have used other words than collateral damage – genocide – to describe the situation. But that’s too heavy a word for our liberal minds. Atrocious labeling indeed). How many numbers as collateral damage would be acceptable is the question? So far we have been very liberal about it. 7000 over a few months sounds acceptable whereas 50,000 would be too much in a short time, and for some that even is acceptable like for example the 15% who have voted yes or may be to this poll and our prominent blogger of course.

  • Engun

    As others have mentioned before, this is no binary choice and multiple factors need to be taken into account.

    First of all, this is a crisis for all Sri Lankans. LTTE terrorism has become the scourge of this land and it’s rather “telling” that people are still talking about racial rights only, when they should be talking about how to solve this terrorist issue for all Sri Lankans, while minimizing the cost to lives, both in the short and long term.

    While I applaud the idealistic, bleeding heart attitudes of some, we know that this has got us nowhere in the past 30 years. This is because when only one entity seems to be exhibiting (somewhat) rational behaviour, and the other entity, the LTTE, is not, we cannot realistically arrive at an ideal solution. Therefore, I think we need to take 3 main factors into account when considering this issue.

    First, what’s the long-term cost in lives of failing to defeat the LTTE? Prior to staring this war, there was an estimated 70,000 deaths over the past 28 years, an average of 2500 deaths per year (not counting the new death toll due to this new wave of fighting). If the LTTE is not defeated, this figure may rise to this number again.

    Secondly, the LTTE has been blackmailing the lives and futures of 20 million people, in order to win their “demands”. This too needs to be taken into account. In other words, what’s the social cost of failing to defeat the LTTE?

    These two need to be balanced against the 3rd prominent factor: what’s the short-term cost in lives of defeating the LTTE?

    The bottom line as I see it is that there will be civilian deaths as long as the LTTE survives, so there’s little point in postponing the problem. But how many? You can’t assign a number: the absolute minimum humanely possible.

  • Engun

    aadhavan >>

    Whatever makes you happy, but think about what I said.

  • Engun

    aadhavan >>

    Plus, you’ve chosen to evade my question over a grievance which I apologized to you for.

    “What are these concessions that you want, that currently makes your life in Sri Lanka extremely unpleasant? I would genuinely like to know.”

  • Chaminda Weerawardhana

    Well written Sanjana,

    Contrary to some comments published here, I fully endorse your bold initiative to publish this post. This is a very timely interrogation that should be put to all Sri Lankans in a very sharp way – as you’ve done here. If possible, please try to present this to the public in Sinhala.

    All the best,

    C.

  • Hey Sanjana, it’s kinda weird that the only post on my blog that caught your attention is about idiots on the blogosphere. Hmm. However, since you asked, have a look at the last two:

    http://blacklightarrow.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/for-this-all-that-blood-was-shed/ (about what was probably the last major conventional battle we’ll see against the Tigers)

    and

    http://blacklightarrow.wordpress.com/2009/04/13/for-this-all-that-blood-was-shed/ (a response to Arundhati Roy, which ran in the Sunday Times of India on April 12th)

    Neither of them have polls, though, so I don’t know if they’ll interest you.

  • Thanks David. Your fiction always interests me.

  • I agree with a comment further up in the thread, which states the govt should allow more independent sources to observe at least the camps if not the war zone. That would definitely be one step towards obtaining the trust of the IDP population. I do not see how the presence of an independent party such as the UN in the IDP camps would affect the war on LTTE.

    The question of murdering innocent civilians trapped in the LTTE area is not a question. It cannot happen. It should not happen. These people have suffered enough. Their lives have value to them, to us, and to our country. Its high time we show them that.

    David, I am a big fan of that first post that you had linked to in one of your comments. I just read it and I found it really hits the nail on the head.

  • David, you are more than welcome to engage with the post / comments if you want to and can. Contrary to your initial assertion, I’ve already pointed you to a wealth of commentary here that engages with the post and its implications. However, I will not publish one liners of a personal nature. There is email for anything you want to say to me directly and obviously your own blog to boot.

    Here’s an effort to re-engage on more substantive issues. You say in one of your posts and with great merit,

    “What makes this heroic last stand so tragic, however, is that it will achieve nothing. It signals the last breaths of the LTTE as a fighting force, and I cannot help but think what a waste of young lives… I’d like to think that the Tamils of the northeast would have one day had more use for their lives than their deaths. In the dying days of the Third Reich, Adolf Hitler refused to allow Berlin to be evaccuated in the face of the approaching Soviets, stating that it was better for the Germanic people to perish rather than be diluted by lesser races. Looking at many of the comments by diaspora members on sites such as DBS Jeyaraj’s one gets the feeling that they feel the same way, that all is lost, and a cause is dead. But they forget that the LTTE is not the true cause, nor is it really Tamil Eelam. The cause is equality. Unfortunately, the LTTE became the cause it once took up, and in doing so has prevented that very cause from being achieved. It’s time to look for other ways. There’s nothing as tragic as dying for nothing.”

    Comments here on the contrary suggest that if it is the Govt’s strategy that collateral is unavoidable, even necessary for victory as they define it, how we can be sure today that Army soldiers are also not tragically dying for nothing?

    If there is no clear political will towards a *federal* constitution and power-sharing that is the result of this historic moment, as Anandasangaree has clearly called for in the media today, what guarantee do we have that Army soldiers have died for something meaningful? Why doesn’t the Govt release numbers of those killed by the LTTE in action? Is it that their death is too much to bear and reduces troop morale and public support for war, but that the death of Tamil civilians is not as consequential?

    Care to engage and also with some of the other through provoking comments above by others?

  • CheeLanka

    It is tragi-comic that some people like David Blacker cannot get out of their army intelligence (an oxymoron?) mentality even years after they have left the service. His training and brain-washing must have been so comprehensive and effective that he still instinctively springs to the defence of his political masters and commanders, no matter what the issue and discussion is. This is symtomatic of the larger malady of brutalisation and militarisation of Lankan society in the name of ‘anti-terrorism’ (we still call it a civil war or ethnic war).

    Even with his excellent command of English, multi-cultural background and exposure to the wider world of letters and culture, this ex-Army boy still can’t shake off his if-you’re-not-with-us-you’re-against-us (Dubya) mentality. Sadly, he is not alone.

    And that’s really worry for all of us who crave for a peaceful tomorrow.

  • CheeLanka, please help me keep this forum free from personal exchanges that are peripheral to the substantive issues posed by the original post and subsequent comments.

    I understand you have reservations about David. Fine. But the point of this post, and this website, is to interrogate broader issues. This process requires voices we don’t like and agree with.

    For starters, what do you feel about the assertion in the original post if David does not capture your thoughts?

  • glad to see another ‘Citizen’ in the forum. i am however the simple (c) citizen 🙂

    …but 50,000 lives you say? that seems like a steep number no? can i bargain for bit less?? how much is a life worth these days anyway…?? Do those people actually want to live in the first place… if only we could ask them what they want… but what do they have to live for… or even worth dying for?

    Either way, i am willing to negotiate a resonable number, because none of my loved ones are involved, but 50,000 is a way too much… you’ll have to sweaten the deal. come on, make a reasonable offer!

  • shy

    Disgusting!

    What would be your question for the next poll? Perhaps, how many more Sri Lankans should be killed for MR and Company to stay in power?

  • Nicolai

    My first inclination is to also respond tongue-in-cheek like (c)itizen above

    However, since this post has received more responses than the last 10 or so combined, obviously then the Author has accomplished what he was trying to achieve by posting such a controversial post.

    If anyone answers yes to questions #1 and #3, then that is the equivalent to supporting state sponsored 1st degree murder and I would label it as state ‘genocide’ if in fact the entire NFZ is carpet bombed. This could never lead to peace, so it is a rhetorical question.

    If anyone answers No, then I my interpretation of this is that the person either accepts that there will be collateral damage to civilians and want’s the war to go on till the LTTE leaders are captured OR that person does not approve of any collateral damage and hence wants an immediate ceasefire. So the NO includes people who support some or even a lot of collateral damage, maybe even 50,000.

    I would definitely not vote #1 or #3, but I would not answer NO as well because that one is too open interpretation and I would not like answer it either.

    Is there a NONE of THE ABOVE?

  • The Underdog

    Sanjana’s poll illuminates the precise reason that the GOSL does not allow independent reporting in the war zone. If we really knew how many were dying, the entire public would be faced with an internal poll of sorts that might go like this:
    10 civilians dead yesterday, should we keep fighting?-YES, we can’t afford to stop now
    50 civilians dead yesterday, should we keep fighting?–MAYBE, but the army should be more careful
    100 civilians dead yesterday, should we keep fighting?–NO, this is just wrong

    I would have voted NO at 1 civilian death (which means I am absolutely against war). But what is your number?

    Perhaps the Poll should read:
    HOW MANY CIVILIANS MUST DIE PER DAY BEFORE WE DECLARE A HUMANITARIAN CEASEFIRE:
    1. 10 PER DAY
    2. 50 PER DAY
    3. 100 PER DAY
    4. MORE THAN 100

  • K.Anaga

    There is a universal disregard for human life.As long as the international community is interested only in their own welfare you cannot put an end to violence.
    I will not be surprised if the Government introduces SWINE FLUE VIRUS in the no fire Zone to put an end to this war.

  • K.Anaga

    There is a universal disregard for human life.As long as the international community is interested only in their own welfare you cannot put an end to violence.
    I will not be surprised if the Government introduces SWINE FLUE VIRUS in the no fire Zone to put an end to this war.International States terrorism ( ie. India, Pakistan, China ) under any guise is worse than the non state terrorism.

  • Realist

    This is outrageous. It is the issue of whether the end justifies the means. According to Christianity both the end as well as the means must be morally acceptable. Christians believe that the end does not justify the means (utilitarianism). We believe that certain actions are morally wrong, and therefore we avoid them; we believe that certain actions are morally right and we have a duty to fulfill them. The results of an action do not determine whether it is moral or not. This type of argument was used by the Nazis, Fascists and Communists and thousand if not millions were sent to concentration Camps and the Gas Chambers by Hitler and Stalin.
    The doom of our nation is found in this willingness to justify any means by our allegedly good ends. We may shut our ears and eyes to the cries of our victims for mercy, remembrance, and justice, but God sees and hears and knows and loves and cares about every person that we have sacrificed for the “greater good” of the nation. There will one day be an accounting for our actions, just as all nations that have gone before us have faced. And we will not like the judgment any better than they did. “You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. Your kingdom will be divided and given to another.”
    It is this type of thinking that makes it difficult for President MR to understand the genuine concern of the International Community about civilians in the War Zone. Perhaps this type of thinking is in accordance with Buddhism i wonder?

  • PV

    I was shocked when I saw the title of this post but upon reflection I think you have asked a good question to explore and challenge people’s perspective on this issue. I think Rajeev Sreetharan in the comments (though in a slightly different context) has raised an interesting corollary question as to whether 50,000 sinhalese/muslim lives would be worth the same result.

    Reading through the some of the other comments one gets the feeling that some doth protest too much, especially considering their previous posts. The number 50,000 has left them naked and shamed.

    So clearly 50,000 is an unacceptable number for most of your readers, but for many some non-zero number is acceptable. Is it 1? 10? 1000? And I would guess the number would be different based on the ethnicity of the people being killed. You have done well to make people face this inner demon.

  • amila

    The Red Cross says air strikes by US forces in Afghanistan on Tuesday are now thought to have killed dozens of civilians including women and children

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8035204.stm

    The Afghan president has repeatedly urged Western forces in Afghanistan to REDUCE the numbers of civilian casualties”

    NOTICE how west not even reducing whiles expects us to have zero casulaties…

  • swarna

    US duplicity at its best??????????????????????

    “The Obama administration hopes to build a strong and lasting regional alliance, linking success in Afghanistan with security in Pakistan. Toward that end, the administration is encouraging Pakistan to confront — not make peace with — the Taliban and other militants.”

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090506/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

  • Gayathri

    Dear Groundviews,

    First, please do admit that this should not have been a ‘poll’. There are no polls on this cos it is a topic that deals with the grossly inhuman. There are no political extremist ideas in this. This would be cold-blooded murder and no polls are suitable on such notions. If you do not appreciate your boo-boo, am frankly disappointed and will not trouble to read you anymore.

    Second, please refrain from commenting on David Blacker’s immaturity in person. I think the forum should restrict themselves to dealing with the immaturity of acts of Groundviews and not of people especially implying personal knowledge of participant. THankfully I do not know David but this is in bad taste as is your decision to put this sensational and inhuman notion to a POLL.

    I have no doubt of your good intentions. Just admit that you appear to have been wrong in this case without blustering on.

  • Gayathri, what are you on about?

    As I’ve noted earlier in the comments,

    “This post intends to interrogate extremism. The numbers in the quote are really peripheral to the argument, which exists today, that to finish off the LTTE, collateral damage is not just unavoidable, it is even a prerequisite.”

    Furthermore, The Underdog, Aadhavan, Lionel Bopage, Citizen, Casenut, Anandakumar, Robin, Ranjan, Malinda Seneviratne, Sam, Deame and Chaminda Weerawardhana to note just a few have all responded in detail to the poll in comments above – perhaps you should take issue with them individually or collectively.

    Ref. David, I believe you confused CheeLanka, to whom I’ve responded above, with Groundviews.

    Blustering on seems your forte. Kindly desist.

  • Devanesan Nesiah

    Devanesan Nesiah says,

    No, this is just wrong.

    To me the answer is obvious, but it is a good question in that it compels all of us to confront and analyze the options and their consequences rather than gloss over unpleasant facts. Whether the UN/OCHA estimate of 50,000 in the conflict zone as on April 29 2009 is accurate is of little consequence. Would any of us react differently if that estimate was 25,000 or 75,000? Quibbling about the accuracy of the estimate could be an attempt to divert attention from the issues raised. In my view no massacre is ever justified; whether the killings are deliberately targeted or merely predictable “collateral damage” is irrelevant. Thus the other answers, “Yes, if that is what it takes” and even the more guarded “Maybe, if there are guarantees of a post-war political process on power-sharing” are both wrong.

    Any assumption that any war pursued in such a manner as to end in an avoidable massacre of civilians could lead to reconciliation, end of terrorism and a just and durable political process on power sharing is not credible. Within a short period there have been enormous harm resulting from the war to hundreds of thousands of people and the deaths of thousands of them. This has already fouled up such prospects. It has also fired up the Tamil diaspora and deeply embittered the local Tamil population, virtually ensuring that acts of terrorism will continue unabated. The war has also resulted in massive social and economical hardships to almost everyone extensive casualties to those engaged in combat as well as many more throughout the island.

    There is, of course a possibility of a solution imposed from outside – as in the case of the Indo-Lanka Accord July 29 1987. But that solution would not be through a democratic process, and may provoke the kind of hostility that the Indo-Lanka Agreement provoked. At best a cease fire could be pressed from outside, but any successful political process must originate and developed from within.

    The range of responses to the question posed is interesting. Several of the answers (including express refusals to provide answers) reveal less about the issues raised than about the person responding. To date many outside the North and East have accepted such ill- consequences of the war as they are aware of in the belief that a satisfactory solution will soon emerge. There is wide spread ignorance of the magnitude of the cost of the war. When they discover more about the true costs of the war, and also that the expected benefits may not be forth coming, most of the population of all ethnic groups may turn against the war.

    Finally, a word to Nandakumar; you have the right to hold and express your opinion; but in my opinion the division of this island into two sovereign states in neither desirable nor achievable. Even in the unlikely event of such division being imposed from outside, the separation will not survive. The North East state will not be viable. What would be desirable and, I believe, achievable in due course through non violence means, is regional autonomy or federalism, i.e. internal self-determination. There are wide array of viable models to choose from including India. Such a solution will preserve the integrity of Sri Lanka, will be fair to all ethnic groups and also have international support.

  • Gayathri

    Sigh,

    A final comment, Groundviews.

    It would be best to accept readers’ responses as responses in continuing with these discussion boards. Some subjects are just not appropriate. That is my humble and educated view.
    Try in your discourse to focus and appreciate the issues and retain a detached stance.

  • Gayathri, thank you for sharing your humble and educated view. Most revealing.

  • Rohan I

    Lost of human lifes was/is the order of the day in Sri Lanka for the past 30 years.
    Which ever way you add up the total it is will be in many many …. thosands.Why evry one is suddenley so worried about now? Have they all “born again”?

  • AM

    Dude..This “prominent” blogger said this in May 2009? After 30,000 or more massacred already ?

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