Fighting the PR War

The ongoing campaign by The Times to discredit the recent military victory by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces over the LTTE seems, at times, relentless. Not a day passes by without Jeremy Page, Marie Colvin or Catherine Philp lecturing on alleged war crimes by Sri Lanka. I usually despise the shrill hysteria and the ‘me against the world’ mentality that envelops my countrymen when faced with criticism, but on this occasion I feel it is warranted. In a world where innocent Afghan and Pakistani tribals are killed on a regular basis by unmanned Predator drones in the name of fighting terrorism, the West, quite unbelievably, finds the moral high ground to preach to Sri Lanka. No matter how good the intentions may be, the West just cannot ignore the irony of preaching what they do not practice.

The Times’ campaign is a sad example of the depths to which modern journalism has plummeted. Journalists are now not content to merely report news and provide readers with information to form their own opinions. They are often the source of news themselves, these self-appointed media celebrities. It is no surprise then that two of The Times’ journalists made the news in recent years in Sri Lanka. First, Marie Colvin enters LTTE held territory illegally in 2001 without informing the Sri Lankan authorities and then gets caught up in an SLDF ambush of the LTTE. She then accuses the SLA of deliberately targeting her. This is a ridiculous claim as she assumes that the junior infantrymen who took part in the attack knew who she was and were targeting her. That protagonists in a war usually attack each other was a fact that escaped her I suppose. Then, earlier this year, Jeremy Page was deported from Sri Lanka for not possessing a valid visa. Both of these journalists now write with a decidedly anti-Sri Lankan slant, liberally lacing their articles with unverified facts and figures. In fact, Jeremy Page even called for tourist boycott of the country in a recent article. The Times is currently attempting to escalate their petty vendetta by involving India, accusing that country of being ‘complicit’ in the killing of 20,000 Tamils. This figure has been disputed by the UN itself.

I hold no brief for the Sri Lankan government, which, unfortunately, is growing more despotic by the day. The trampling upon of media freedom and civil liberties was justified under the pretext of war not just by the government, but also by a significant section of civil society who argued, quite wrongly in my mind, that human rights and media freedom were secondary to the goal of crushing terrorism. Sri Lanka’s foreign policy seems to be controlled by individuals who pander to the government’s nationalistic mindset by rabid attacks on any individual or institution who dares question anything the government does or comments on a relevant situation in Sri Lanka. Granted that some of these individuals and institutions are busybodies but then diplomacy is not called diplomacy without reason. However, for all its warts, I don’t believe the Sri Lankan government is racist, which is exactly what The Times et al are implying through their allegations of ‘genocide’. It is incredible that the nations who gave us that terrible term ‘collateral damage’ don’t seem to understand that people die in war. It is unfortunate and, yes, the SLDF could have done more to reduce civilian casualties, but death is a fact of war. I can’t imagine the US or the EU calling for a ceasefire when they have Osama Bin Laden cornered in cave in Afghanistan or Pakistan so expecting the SLDF to do so is hypocrisy of the highest order. The GOSL, though, has played into the hands of the West through its draconian regulations regarding the coverage of the war. It gives the western media a readymade excuse when accused of one-sided coverage. A smarter move would have been to give them the necessary access, possibly embedding them with the troops like the US and the UK armies did in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we could have had them on our side cheering a rare triumph over terrorism. Sadly, common sense is not something the GOSL seems to have.

We cannot afford to burn our bridges with the West as we need them, at the very least, for economic reasons. They are the market for our biggest sources of income; tea, garments and tourism. Though the GOSL did the smart thing in taking aid and military assistance from whichever country that gave it, I don’t see any long run benefit in being allied to Iran and Libya without having excellent relations with the EU and the US. Playing off China against India is probably the only silver lining in our foreign policy storm cloud but I wonder how much of that was planned and how much was a result of us having nowhere else to go. What we now need is a PR offensive with two primary objectives. The first would be to directly counter specific allegations such as those made by The Times, as well as those made by institutions such as the UN. Most of these allegations are based on flimsy evidence and it should not be too difficult to counter them. The difficulty would lie in ensuring that our rebuttals receive adequate coverage. The second objective would be a diplomatic campaign to repair the damage done to our relations with the EU and the US. Although Rajiva Wijesinghe and Dayan Jayatilleke have spoken out recently, I am not convinced it is part of a grander plan. For Sri Lanka to successfully counter all the negative press it has been receiving it has to act now and use the above mentioned gentlemen, along with others of similar calibre, as our voice to the world.

Ultimately though, the success of this campaign would also depend on how effectively we can ‘walk the talk’. The GOSL needs to sort out the issue of the IDPs quickly and transparently, and needs to table the long awaited political solution. The GOSL also needs to start its own investigations into possible violations by the SLDF, not just in this last battle, but in the entire conflict. If the SLDF’s actions have indeed been above board, then it has nothing to fear from such an investigation. In fact, even if found guilty of minor violations, the very act of auditing itself would boost its reputation and strengthen the institution of the SLDF. This last suggestion may not go down well with the ‘armchair patriots’ but the fact is that no army in the world is without its rotten apples. [For example, Israel recently conducted an investigation into the conduct of the IDF in the most recent campaign against the Hamas and this is important for two reasons. One, Israel is arguably the nation most under threat from terrorist attacks and, two; there is an extremely strong connection between the military and civil society due to compulsory national service. Despite this, some of the soldiers involved felt free enough to talk about certain violations committed by the IDF during the Gaza conflict at a university gathering and the media, in general, was objective enough to report it and free enough to demand an enquiry and get it. This example also clearly undermines the GOSL’s implicit position that a war against the LTTE could not have been waged with a free media looking over its shoulders]. Without the deeds to back up the words, any attempts to counter the prevailing anti-Sri Lankan sentiment would unfortunately turn out to be as farcical as the claims made against us.

  • Pragmatist

    Let’s be thankful that most of the hypocritical media seem mostly limited to the UK – the main Tiger bastion. Either they are trying to revive good ‘ol glory days of the lost kingdom OR they are trying hard to impress their Tigers pay masters and earn their keep. If we just ignore these crooked media they may go away.

  • Sophist

    A superb encapsulation of the PR muddle Rukman. To say that our foreign service is now toothless is an understatement. I recently heard our FS make an absolute ass of himself on Al Jazeera. The sadness is that he probably walked away thinking that his facetiousness was ‘smart and witty’.

    However, now is not a time only for mending relationships with governments abroad. Our allegiances in the run up to this victory run us the great risk of being marginalised. No doubt parallels will be drawn between yesterday’s parade and North Korea or Pakistan. Triumphalism must be tempered with sensitivity and plain common sense – which as you rightly point out the GOSL is shorn of.

    It is also a time for diplomacy locally. Being away as you are I doubt you are privy to the uneasy tension that prevails in the country. Also the void that Prabhakaran has left must be filled by legitimate, moderate Tamil voices. They can do more to silence the sensationalists than anyone else can.

    Now that the self appointed Tamil Voice has been eliminated and prevented from eliminating the alternates, it is time for those very same alternates to make themselves heard. Disappearing into the woodwork will not help anyone.

  • Heshan

    “In a world where innocent Afghan and Pakistani tribals are killed on a regular basis by unmanned Predator drones”

    No, that is not what the unmanned Predator drones do. Nice use of your imagination, though.

    “the West, quite unbelievably, finds the moral high ground to preach to Sri Lanka.”

    And Sri Lanka does not hesitate to beg aid money from the West.

    “Both of these journalists now write with a decidedly anti-Sri Lankan slant, liberally lacing their articles with unverified facts and figures.”

    Who exactly would you have us believe… the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense?

    “We cannot afford to burn our bridges with the West as we need them, at the very least, for economic reasons.”

    Finally you come to your senses. There is no avoiding the begging eh.

    “The GOSL also needs to start its own investigations into possible violations by the SLDF”

    LOL. There were zero civilian casualties according to Mahinda Rajapakse in his final victory speech. Does one of his coolies, such as yourself, have any doubts?

    ‘Despite this, some of the soldiers involved felt free enough to talk about certain violations committed by the IDF during the Gaza conflict at a university gathering”

    And even Bush felt compelled to apologize to Iraq over Abu Grahib… tut, tut… the evil imperialist West actually admits its guilt… whereas the proud “Buddhists” just shrug off all recriminations and go beg for more aid money.

    Jeya weva to that!

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Sophist – thanks.

    Heshan – I’m not sure how you inferred from the article that I’m a ‘coolie’ of MR. In fact, it suggests the opposite! This article solely focuses on why I feel that there is a need for a effective PR campaign to engage the West and their media and I how I feel it should be carried out. It should be obvious that I consider the current strategy – if there is one – to incompetent. The irony (or hypocrisy) of asking for aid from the West while trying to stick it to them and the ridiculousness of the MoD website is material for another article, just not this one.

  • Observer
  • Nicolai

    Rukmankan Sivaloganathan. What you say makes perfect sense. Thank you for the article.

    I have been wavering a bit on my feelings about the international access to the IDP centers. It is more than a little disheartening that the government is spending a lot of time chest beating and patting itself on the back, while they are seemingly callously ignoring the needs of the suffering Tamils in the North.

    But then again, I get he sense both from the international community and the diaspora, that many of them are on a big time witch hunt and their main motive is to discredit the government with further war crimes accusations. It only appears to be a secondary motive by these people to actually help the suffering displaced people.
    If I were the government I would be a little weary of allowing the foreign media and other international groups in because we all know the conditions are horrible and the media will go to town to further discredit government and validate their war crimes accusations with photographs and field journalism. It will not take much to report negatively. Horrific pictures and one sided stories will be flavour of the prevailing months to come.

    My main motive of course since I am here is to help the people. There are several local people in Colombo applying to gain access to the Vanni. There are many accredited Churches etc. that are being approved. It shows that teh government is willing to let locals in at least. I am trying to get a pass as well.
    Many of us can help in some small way.

    Pramatist, I agree with you. The accusations are mainly coming from the UK and northern EU countries. It is nice to see the the US is softening their stance and starting to think about moving forward into honest aid mode. The UN even is coming around. I think we need to give it time and hopefully the Europeans will cool it and head their heads out of the sand. Then hopefully we can all work together to help these suffering people.

    Heshan: I have read a lot of your comments and your selfish propaganda is getting a little boring. If you want to campaign for the UNP as Christian Sinhalese who has it in for the so called “Sinhala Budhist” dominated current government just do it please (you make some good and informed political comments by the way) and stop pretending you really care about the suffering Tamils.

  • ForATruelyIndependantSriLanka

    Thank you Nicolai, I agree with every point you wrote above. Thank you for being realistic and unbiased as humanely possible.
    You took both the most important issues that we have right now.

    1. The aid needed for the Tamils in the IDP camps.
    2. The witch hunt the western world and the diaspora is carrying on.

    We need to adress both these issues in a careful and civil manner. But all i see is that ppl(western world, the diaspora and even ppl in SL) just shooting thier mouths off about this or that. (you provided an excellent example by replying to Heshan)

    And thank you for putting Heshan in his place. I read a lot of his comment and couldnt belive that there are people who would be this prejudiced and selfish.

    “If you want to campaign for the UNP as Christian Sinhalese who has it in for the so called “Sinhala Budhist” dominated current government just do it please (you make some good and informed political comments by the way) and stop pretending you really care about the suffering Tamils.” – was EXACTLY my thought when i read his comment.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    The Author is confused. On the one hand he is asking why the journos are not reporting or raising their voices re whats happening in afghan (why only SL argument – an argument which seems to implicitly concede that something wrong has gone here) and on the other he is arguing nothing much happened here. The contradicting arguments reveal his politics. He possibly wants to join the Foreign Ministry PR dept. I hope someone from the Govt is reading for his sake.I am sick of this West-Third World (South) dichotomy. So should all voices coming from the West be morally wrong? Or is the author only concerned only about Times?

    The call for investigations of its own violations is ridiculous. 1) the govt is not accepting that there has been any civilian deaths 2) the author is unaware of what past investigations have produced. Days after the final battle reports came in of the burial of the Presidential Commission appointed to investigate 17 major HR violations including the Trinco 5 killings and the 17 aid workers in Muttur.

    Sophist,

    The self proclaimed alternatives are not alternatives they are government stooges. Tamils in general will go / have gone meek except those already in some or the other political formations. All formations except for TNA (which is clueless) have something to do with this Govt – impossible to expect anything from them. Even if they do want to do good political work they wont be allowed to.

    There are signs of heavy militarisation of the ‘liberated areas’ being planned. Military bases, police training colleges, 100,000 recruits etc being evidence of intention. To speak up, hence (as i was told by my parents when i was in Jaffna the last two weeks) would be stupid and fool hardy on anyones part. There is no other option than disappearing to the woodwork.

  • Heshan

    “and stop pretending you really care about the suffering Tamils.”

    And this comes from a guy who admits conditions at the camps are “horrible”, but doesn’t want to have his ego hurt by letting foreigners see for themselves. In other words, you would rather let the IDP’s suffer than let the aid flow in.

  • Urizen

    Well, all this ‘evading’ by constantly stressing the ‘hypocricy’ of the West is getting a little trite. Now, the question begs: since the West is guilty, do they have to turn a blind eye to what is happening in Sri Lanka? (since they have no right to talk about ‘war crimes’ as they should be guilty of their own shortcomings). The charges of war crimes have been made against both sides, note, and so far the SL Gov has presented NOTHING to prove them wrong. There are satellite photos (which were strangely withheld by the UN) which were leaked that show large craters and signs of ariel bombardment. And if Israel deserved to get investigated, why not Sri Lanka? (after all, Israel was defending itself against terrorism too, right?). So the other question: why did they let us run loose? Why did India vote AGAINST a war-crime investigation in Sri Lanka while voting FOR an investigation in Gaza? Now there’s the double standard, my friend.

  • Heshan

    “I feel that there is a need for a effective PR campaign to engage the West and their media and I how I feel it should be carried out.”

    They (Western media) are merely highlighting the reality. It doesn’t happen in just Sri Lanka, it happens everywhere. So my question to you is, why the heightened sensitivity on your part? And where was this sensitivity after the tsunami when many many more aid groups came pouring in?

  • Karu

    This is such a lame article. Shooting the messenger and missing the message. The Times and other western media were the first ones to point out the atrocities of the western powers in Iraq & Afghanistan. Now they are doing the same for Sri Lanka.

    Just because the western powers were bad in Iraq & Afghanistan, it doesn’t make it right for the SL government to do it.

    This is the reason, the GOSL banned all media and observers, so they can commit war crimes & murders, kill 20,000 people and cremate their remains without any records.

    You Mr. Sivaloganathan should be ashamed for being a mouth piece of this government. Your only complain about them is that they are not doing a good job covering up the facts that are coming to light.

  • leon

    The issue here is what has SL to hide?.If the journalists/reporters had unrestricted access to the conflict zone we would have an accurate picture of what is going on. The fault lies with SL Govt, not with the reporters.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Oh dear. So I guess the liberals miss the woods for the trees as much as the right wingers do!

    I am neither defending the GOSL nor am I saying the Western media shouldn’t do their job. I have clearly mentioned The Times because, despite my own misgivings about how the war was won, I am angry as a Sri Lankan at what appears to be a blatantly petty campaign seemingly based on the slights to some of their journalists. I am annoyed at the BBC too but at least I can understand their argument that the GOSL’s attitude towards the media prevents them from presenting the full picture. This is clearly not the case with The Times. Just read the Jeremy Page piece on why tourists shouldn’t come to Sri Lanka. Also, I mentioned Afghanistan and Iraq to highlight the hypocrisy of the nations who called for a ceasefire here. Nowhere have I said that what was done there justifies any similar action by the GOSL.

    The point is that this article solely focuses on changing the way we engage the West. It is not a macro article covering everything under the sun. I really don’t care much for the GOSL but I do care about the possible economic impact to Sri Lanka if this campaign gathers momentum. Viewing everyone who defends Sri Lanka as a GOSL flunkie is as nonsensical as viewing everyone who raises questions about the plight of the IDPs etc as LTTE sympathisers.

  • Nicolai

    Thanks ForATruelyIndependantSriLanka

    We said again again Rukmankan Sivaloganathan, especially the point that just because one defends a person or party, does not mean one supports their principals and ideology. We leave partisanship to politicians, not normal rational people.
    I really do get what you say. We need more people like you back in Sri Lanka right now.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Achcharya

    There is no confusion. If you read the article carefully you will realise that the reference to Afghanistan was regarding the call for a ceasefire. You presume that I have asked why the media has not questioned the civilian deaths in those conflicts when in fact I have done no such thing. I am also not ‘arguing that nothing much has happened here’. I am only arguing that there is a difference between civilians dying in war and ‘genocide’. To be honest, none of us know what happened. I don’t believe Time Times’ assertion that 20,000 died. I certainly don’t believe the GOSL’s fairytale that no one died. Logically though, people must have died.

    I agree that expecting the GOSL to hold an impartial investigation is idealistic but a lot of what we write here is idealistic i.e. how things should pan out and how we wish they would.

    As for alternatives to the Tamil people…don’t get me started. It’s a choice between the ineffectuals (TNA etc) and the rapacious (Douglas, Karuna etc). Anandasangaree may be the only good choice but then MR usually rewards his cronies so, unless they have a free and fair election in the North and the East (idealism again), I think its safe to assume that the rapacious lot will carry the day.

  • Lanka

    Who cares what the west thinks? We won the war, the Sinhala nation triumphed over terrorists and that is something the west did not believe could happen. Let the west go interfere in the middle east and leave us alone, we have other allies and we have our country back for good. May this be a warning to all other people and groups, the Sinhala nation will always come out on top and the Sinhala people will continue to prosper in Mother Lanka.

  • The Underdog

    Enjoyed the article Rukmankan. As you very correctly pointed out, we do need the west, until such time as we start exporting garments and tea to China, and Chinese tourists are sunbathing in Galle. Now that Dayan J/Rajiva W have built a trench-cum-bund at the UN to fend off the western invaders, they should now throw out a few olive branches and rebuild our relationships with them, especially the EU. We can’t afford to lose GSP+, and we can’t afford to have the EU public thinking they are supporting concentration camps if they give us their tourist euros. We should open the camps to the media. Let them come and say what they will; it can’t be worse than the stuff they make up now anyway. And we need to open the doors of the camps. if people want to leave, they should have the freedom to leave. That is their right. Our soldiers died to give them that right.

  • Manthi

    Lanka: it is ignorant racists like you who refer to Sri Lanka as the “Sinhala nation” that have brought our country to where it is at now. As a Sinhalese, I am ashamed that Sri Lanka is referred to as the Sinhala nation.

  • Manthi

    Rukmankan:

    Much kudos to you – I share the same sentiment. Jeremy Page and Co. are certainly playing to the crowd, but the incompetence of our current administration are playing right into their hands.

  • Sophist

    Errr…Lanka: I thought the whole point was the SRI LANKAN people won the war against terrorism. No? Isn’t that the whole point?

    And isn’t the fact that everyone uses Sinhala/Sri Lankan so interchangeably the entire root cause for everything in the first place? Obviously 30 years of conflict and tens of thousands of deaths have not taught you any sensitivity.

    Aacharya: If a dog poos in my garden and I don’t go out and clean it because the dog looks like it might bite, then I have to resign myself to a garden full of poo no?

    As much as I appreciate your parents sentiment, I don’t think anything worth winning was won without some form of sacrifice. The ‘Tamils’ were well happy while Prabhakaran was flying their metpahorical flag. But now that he’s gone, nobody seems to want to ‘fight the good fight’.

    If there is a legitimate grievance, I dont’ think anyone should be apprehensive about addressing it legitimately. It only takes one well placed FR application to set the ball rolling. Test cases are not an unheard of phenomenon.

    In this context, the line between opportunity cost and cowardice is very porous indeed.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Sophist: Ok you accept what i have said about the alternatives then. Now then you ask for is sacrifice. And your analysis – We all hid behind Praba and were basking in the sun all this while. Now its time for us to sacrifice more. Any suggestions as to how it could be done? May i congratulate your in-front-of-the-computer courage to call upon the Tamils to come forward and sacrifice themselves. I will decide for myself whether to give up my life or not. Thank you very much.

    ROFL. FR petitions? If i am not mistaken you are a lawyer. 1) Tissa’s FR petition was dismissed by the SC two weeks back on very very flimsy grounds. 2) The supreme court said abduction by white vans is OK (i was there in courts that day i have reported about this on my blog. unfortunately cases that are dismissed/ not given leave to proceed are not reported ). 3) the court dismissed petitions brought before it regarding Trinco high security zones saying that the petitioners intention was to attract international publicity for themselves. 4) the court declared the nooracholai housing scheme null and void this week. There are numerous some of which i am afraid to speak of here (lack of courage as you say. I seem to be valuing my life too much). Do pray tell me whether we will have a much more sympathetic CJ coming in next week.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Rukmankan,

    In your piece you speak of Jeremy Page and Mary Colvin, the Afghans and in the next line complain about West preaching. This is in the first para. You complain about the ceasefire call only in the third para. My intention is not to nick pick here. Pointless. I just wanted to say that i comment about your confusion stands.

    Th rest of your reply is about your idealism. I have nothing to say about beliefs. I respect peoples beliefs. Good luck.

  • Tamara

    Excellent article. My sentiments exactly. I am also baffled by relentless attacks by the western media who are making (deliberately?) peace building that much more difficult. As to our foreign policy I am equally concerned as to the direction we seem to be taking but perhaps this dependence on the west is a mindset and as my Indian colleague said to me “grow up, forget the west”. Easy for India to say I thought but on the other hand may be not. And yes war is death and destruction and sorrow all round. The extent of the sorrow in Sri Lanka is testimony to how intractable the enemy was and its determination to bring down as many lives as it went down. Was the extent of lives lost inevitable. We don’t know but I am inclined to believe that a human shield is just that, sand bags for protection. So I am also confused as to why people seem to be so surprised by the horrors of this war. Are other wars gentler on each other?

  • punitham

    Sohist
    Because of media censure people outside the highly militarised Northeast don’t know how many people are speaking up there and getting abducted, tortured and killed. But UTHR reports do mention some cases.
    All these started in the 50s and the socio-economic fabric has punctured so much that there aren’t many left to stand up to the army and the paramilitary drenched in impunity.

    Aacharya
    Thanks for your comments and info on court cases. I’d like to know the cases that are dismissed at the courts. Where can I get them please?

    Rukman
    ”..the SLDF could have done more to reduce civilian casualties, but death is a fact of war…”
    But in Sri Lanka death is not only the result of the war between the state armed forces and the rebels, but also the result of impunity given by the draconian PTA of 40yrs(”disappearances” in custody) and by the army of occupation for 48 yrs and by racial pogroms and above all by ”war-on-terror” and when refugees flee across the Palk Strait confronted by SLA …. …….

  • punitham

    Aacharya
    What is Nooracholai housing scheme please?

  • Heshan

    “Currently, Ramachandra is hospitalized in the Pompaimadhu Ayurvedic Hospital close to the northern Sri Lankan town of Vavuniya. Unlike other hospitals in the area, which are flooded with patients, the Pompaimadhu Hospital appears like a small haven: no wounded patients lying on mats on the floor, no ambulance traffic jams at the hospital entrance. Lots of wheelchairs and crutches donated by non-profit organization Handicap International are placed alongside the beds. At least 30 patients in the hospital have one or more amputations, while another 25 people are paralyzed. Up to 200 patients receive post-operative care here, which can include small surgeries and physiotherapy.

    “As the Vavuniya hospital was overcrowded, the Ministry of Health established a post-operative care unit in the Ayurvedic Hospital, which MSF has been supporting since the beginning of May,” said a Sri Lankan doctor* who is part of the MSF emergency team. “It’s a separate space where war-wounded patients receive the complete medical care they need, from small surgery or daily dressings, up to rehabilitation.”

    The MSF physiotherapist* attaches Ramachandra’s wrist to a crutch with bandages and she slowly stands up and begins to walk. MSF, Ministry of Health doctors and nurses, and Red Cross Society volunteers quietly move from patient to patient housed under six temporary structures. Most of the patients have several dressings that need to be changed regularly. In a small room in the hospital, MSF surgeons and anesthetists carry out surgical procedures such as skin grafts and wound closures.”

    http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/06/warwounded_patients_receive_po.html#more

    —————————————————

    Ahh… the evil West, funding hospitals so war victims can walk see and hear again.

    Unfortunately, it hurts the ego of some readers here that some foreign organizations would unselfishly donate their time and energy to helping the less fortunate, while the self-proclaimed “Dutugemunu” is enjoying his parade in Galle Face Green.

  • Concerned Humanitarian

    The complaint that The Times had exaggerated its claims may or may not be true. No one seems to know the actual truth but what is apparent is that BOTH parties to the conflict have been recalcitrant and deserve the condemnation. I wonder what you guys are unhappy about. The SL govt denied access to independent news media and also the UN into the conflict zone. Even after the war is over, it has denied such access. The people have been herded into internment camps with cosmetic access and allowing to see what it wants the world to see. Doesn’t it sound cynical – what has the SL govt got to hide? Both sides have to pay for the crimes perpetrated on innocent civilians. The LTTE lost its moral ground in claiming to defend and represent the Tamils and the SL govt lost its right to claim in protecting civilians with such rampant atrocities. Both should be penalised for their crimes and there are no two ways about it and right-thinking people throughout the world will see to it that this happens. There is no politics to this. If, as it claims, the SL govt claims innocence, then it should have no hesitation in subjecting itself to such a scrutiny.

    “They live outside the protection of the law of the country,” the country’s top jurist, an ethnic Sinhalese, said of the camp dwellers. “I am saying this in public, and ready to face any consequences. We are doing a great wrong to these people.” This is a damning indictment by the top jurist of the country that thinks the whole world is sleeping.

    There can be no meaningful reconciliation when the pains of those who have lost everything have not been addressed adequately. If, as what most of you say here, looking forward is the key, then that can only be meaningful when the perpetrators of horrible crimes against civilians are hanged to hell. Attempts to side-step on this would only be wishful thinking.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Achcharya,

    I don’t want to nitpick either but it is clear that I am not criticizing all coverage of the conflict by Western media, only those that I feel are biased.

    Thanks and good luck to you too.

  • punitham

    federalidea.com/fi/2008/08/idps_need_for_a_national_legal.
    IDPs: Need for a national legal framework in Sri Lanka By Andres Angel (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies – India), 12 August 2008:
    ”In terms of the proportion of the population, Sri Lanka has one of the world’s largest IDP populations. By neglecting IDP-specific legislation, the GoSL fails to tackle the needs of a portion of the population that lives under circumstances distinct from the rest of the citizens”.

    http://www.upiasia.com/Human_Rights/2009/06/05/the_neglect_of_sri_lankas_tent_people/2058/
    The neglect of Sri Lanka’s tent people, Basil Fernando, 5 June 2009:
    ”The chief justice is the highest judicial officer of the sovereign nation of Sri Lanka, yet he stated categorically that the internally displaced people are outside the legal jurisdiction of Sri Lanka. This raises questions as to the meaning of the word “sovereignty” as used with regard to these people.”

    Will the Chief Justice, on his retirement, work towards improving the judiciary?
    Will the next Chief Justice work towards the same while in service?

  • punitham

    Fighting the PR War?
    If we avoid serving justice to ALL and if we want others not to talk about it, we will have to keep on waging PR wars and a section of people will keep on suffering.
    I’ve just learnt that the immediately past High Commissioner to the UK is now the Director General of Public Relatons for Europe!
    In other words, an additional layer of strangulation of the people in the open prisons of Northeast and barbed wire settlements in Vavuniya, Vakarai, Valvettithurai and Vidathaltheevu!

  • Heshan

    Rukmankan Sivaloganathan,

    Somewhat off topic… if you are a real Tamil, as your name implies, then you should welcome any intervention by the international community. The Sri Lankan Government is likely to be dominated by extremists for the next decade and a half, now that the “People’s President” has achieved the “impossible.” Do not expect Sinhalese intellectuals to come to your aid; most of us have no desire to resettle in Sri Lanka so long as this despotic regime is around, regardless of whatever political sentiments we profess to have on these blogs. As for the few remaining intellectuals, they have been silenced into submission or have become paid stooges for GOSL (e.g. Dayan Jayatillake). Your only other hope, besides the international community, would be the UNP, although even they have long since lost the mandate of the general populace. It is indeed a gloomy situation, but loss of civil liberties (including one’s right to peaceful protest) has become part of the accepted part of the status quo in Sri Lanka.

  • Sophist

    Aacharya: The need to move on and not bury your head in the sands of times gone by is upon us now.

    The examples you cite are examples from before the war concluded militarily. Before the destruction of the LTTE which we all abhorred. Now that the LTTE has been by the admission of the GOSL eliminated, how can anybody be held to be collaborating with them now?

    I was talking of the need for new voices. Not on a soapbox outside parliament, but moderately within societ, on the blogosphere, wherever they can reach out to majoritarians.

    Tissa’s FR was ill – timed. Also, his case is not as pearly white as many would believe. Like I said. Legitimate voices are the need of the hour. If the Look Out For Number One attitude overrides that so be it. I respect your choice. Just don’t complain about the consequences.

    The SC has also set aside LMS, Water’s Edge and disastrously SLIC. They are proactive. But they also realised we were at war. Were.

  • http://sahasamvada-forum.blogspot.com/ SahaSamvada

    *The GOSL, though, has played into the hands of the West through its draconian regulations regarding the coverage of the war.*

    Absolutely! The GoSL has not only played into the hands of the West but has also lost the confidence of most of its citizenry due to such ill-advised behavior. Rajapakse and his government would be absolute idiots if they fail to table a political solution sooner than later if they are to truly go down in history!

    @ Heshan – I really don’t understand how beliefs/viewpoints qualify you as a true Tamil or not. I think one of the biggest mistakes of the Tamil community/ leadership since the very beginning has been in its failure to engage the government and related forces proactively while relying heavily on international actors to sort out its mess, as well as political ambivalence…

  • Grim Hope

    I agree completely with Heshan and seems like rest of the comments doesn’t make sense at all.

    If you look at this government, it is like a burma’s military junta…I never thought it would happen to Sri Lanka… but I guess our people are dumber than I thought. They let the JVP and JHU abuse these thinking.

    Forget about The times, UN General secretary and all the other UN organizations and experts are calling for an investigation.

    Look what happened to Premadasa, Rajiv Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Prabhakaran… if Rajapaksa gang have done wrong, it will boomerang to them as well. We shouldn’t pray or hope for it but that’s how it works… Good will eventually win!

  • rajivmw

    From Heshan:

    “Do not expect Sinhalese intellectuals [cough] to come to your aid; most of us have no desire to resettle in Sri Lanka…”

    Some good news at last!

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Sophist

    “Tissa’s case is not as pearly white as many would believe”

    Classic. one example that things havent changed much in post war sri lanka. Pray tell us who are ‘legitimate’ voices and how do we identify them (thankfully you didnt mention the word ‘authentic’ voices).

    The same reaction from the court will continue. We are in the process of weeding out.

    Punitham

    See http://bit.ly/G6P17 for the Nooraicholai case

  • aadhavan

    “Tissa’s FR was ill – timed. Also, his case is not as pearly white as many would believe. ”

    WHAT THE F***???!!! Care to explain?

  • punitham

    PR is used to prop a faulty structure. If states abide by international Law and the UDHR, peace and prosperity for all will flourish and arms indiustry will dwindle away. Suppression by the oppressor and the suffering of the oppressed will be a thing of the past.
    Aid agencies and media are kept well awa y from fences of barbed wire inside which overcrowded people enveloped by filth are shrivelling up without food, water and medical attention.
    The First Lady flies over their heads to Jaffna for a Buddhist function which the imprisoned people of the North are compelled to attend.
    Buddhism betrayed,?

  • Heshan

    SahaSamvada :

    What I meant to say was that Tamils, in general, have few options left with the demise of the LTTE. At least with the LTTE, they had some bargaining power. Parliamentary democracy has long since been hijacked by the extremists in the South; one cannot expect mere semantics to yield fruitful results – if this were the case, there would be a hue and a cry for a political package. Thus, if it were possible, the Tamil interest would be best served by an outside mediator that had no personal stake in the final resolution. I believe that Western media can in fact play a pivotal role towards that direction. Just today I was informed that two US Senators have openly called for the IMF loan to be withheld. I would assume that the worldwide protests by concerned Tamil parties, and the ensuing media coverage. contributed at least in part to this decision.

  • Pragmatist

    I was reading a magazine while sitting in the loo and came across four very appropriate quotes that I want to direct at all those who blog here, apparently still thinking that the Tiger organization and their mad leader VP legitimately represented the interests of the tamil people in Sri Lanka.

    #1: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” – well the good men were all killed by the Tigers one by one, and where were all these brilliant bloggers who write in favor of Tigers when those killings ere going on? Sipping wine celebrating the victories of “our boys in Jaffna”

    #2: “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on” — this goes to the heart of this PR war

    #3: “lies, damned lies and statistics” — this is part of the modern day arsenal that is used in PR by various media to push their own agendas. We have seen the quotes of 40000, 30000 and 20,000 civilians killed in the final battle. None of these reported have got within 100km of the battle zone and are all providing this information based on their “expert” knowledge in counting bodies from satellite imagery. I say BS, only fools and Tigers sympathizers will believe all that.

    Here’s a final quote for all of you whose blood pressure got elevated due to my writing — just relax and be thankful:
    #4: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”

  • Ladislaus

    Stephen Sackur of BBC, in the HardTalk broadcast of 25 May 09 asked Des Browne the same question that Ruckmankan poses about the double standards in Afghanistan/Iraq and Sri Lanka war.
    In the former, it is always the case the military allows war correspondents free access to report the situation on the ground and if ‘collateral damages’ occur as reported by these correspondents, full investigations are carried out and punishment meted out appropriately.
    In the latter, no correspondents- foreign or locals -are allowed in the ‘war without witnesses’ making full investigation of war crimes impossible- even worse -murder the journalists who despite these restrictions report the consequences of the war, especially inflicting casualties among the civilians
    Ruckmankam will do well to understand these differences without echoing the Sri Lanka government’s version of disinformation in order to hide war crimes.
    Sri Lanka has always charged those who speak against Sri Lanka’s human right abuses as recipients of LTTE’S generosity or brand them as White/Brown Tigers.
    I wonder Ruckmankam belongs to either of these categories in reverse.

  • Observer

    Ladislaus, umm coalition never allows journalists in their spearhead missions – where the real action is. in fact no sensible military threatens their vanguard with journalists. even in iraq they had embedded journalist most of the time who happens to be their own kind. sri lanka also had local media journalists embedded with the military during the war. can’t help it that they weren’t white boys. would they allow a sri lankan, russian or indian journalist to be embedded with the us army? i highly doubt it! unless ur faux news or cnn of sorts.. us funded media conglomerates. again we won';t stand for double standards. silly people…
    as for times online, no one takes it seriously anymore.. just ignore it cuz they have lost the plot. nice fiction not news.

  • Observer

    “In the latter, no correspondents- foreign or locals -are allowed in the ‘war without witnesses’ ”

    This is absolute BS. The likes of Rupavahini’s Saman Kumara Ramawickrama were filing reports from the front on a daily basis every step of the way during the war. Not only that few journalist succumbed to LTTE artillery fire and died – I can’t remember exactly which paper they were but if you see the interview with Saman Ramawickrama on YouTube he says who exactly died. That’s how close to the war they were. Enough with baseless propaganda.

  • davidson panabokke

    What’s all this talk about freedom of expression in Sri Lanka?

    Only some journalists and lawyers and civilians are asked to shut up.

    Others, outsmart each other in the multiuniverse of the internet.

  • Sophist

    Anybody that doesnt’ kill or cause to be killed tens of thousands of people in propogating their beliefs is a ‘legitimate voice.’ It’s really not that difficult a concept to comprehend is it? Prabhakaran was hardly the legitimate voice of the Tamil people….or was he?

    I am not privy to the substantive facts of the Tissa case. But suffice it to say that he is in the unfortunate position that some Tamils will find themselves in. Several Sinhala journalists have been harrassed/abducted/tortured and some killed. So it’s not really a discrimination against Tamil journos, it’s against free media altogether. It’s dangerous to read discrimination into a pure case of state bullying.

    Him being Tamil doesn’t make life easier for him though. Granted. But Tissa’s still alive. And the trial process is before him. Perhaps a bail application now under changed circumstances will be more fruitful…who knows?

  • Sophist

    Also Aadhavan and Aarcharya:

    It’s funny how the so – called ‘peace’ seems to have divided our opinions.

  • aadhavan

    Sophist, I’m glad you backed off your “his FR was ill timed” and “his case is not as pearly white as people seem to believe stance.” Your point that the killing, brutal treatment and intimidation of journalists is not limited to Tamil journalists is a good one. Any journo who challenges the mainstream orthodoxies of the day are in danger of being targetted by the government, regardless of race or ethnicity. The fact remains however that Tamil journalists are more likely that Sinhala ones to express views that the government is likely to take offence at. That being the case, I don’t think the point was that Tissa is treated the way he is because he is a Tamil, (though certain incidents, and the fact that the prosection’s case rests entirely on the fact that he is a Tamil, suggest that there may be some discriminatory treatment) The point is that FR petitions don’t work even when the facts and the law are clearly on your side. Your suggestion that Tissa may have done something wrong, or that the ”case is not squeaky clean”, and that the petition was badly timed are therefore deeply disturbing, coming from you.

    Oh, the PTA under which Tissa is being charged, expressly exludes the possibility of bail being granted. I’m fairly sure the court will convict him, on the basis that his criticism of the the armed forces was intended to cause racial violence by inciting the Sinhalese to attack Tamils, because the reasonable Sinhala man will moved to violent hatred against Tamils as a group when a Tamil individual unfairly criticises the Sinhala armed forces! This is the prosecution’s case, without a word of exaggeration.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Ladislaus – in both the article and in one of my comments I have clearly stated that I lay the blame on the GOSL’s feet for censoring media coverage of the war. At the risk of repeating myself, let me once again state that I have no problem with calls for inquiries and exposes. My grouse is with the blatantly biased coverage by The Times and the hypocritical stance of some of the Western countries.

    Heshan – I am indeed Tamil and a proud Jaffna Tamil at that, though I fail to see what relevance my ethnicity has to this debate. You’s and Achcharya’s stand on this entire matter are much closer to mine that you’d imagine. Maybe you will realise this once I start writing more often. It’s difficult to lay out my views in just one article. I just don’t buy the argument that we had bargaining power when the LTTE was around and I think the LTTE actually caused more harm to the Tamil community than good.

    Achcharya/Sophist – my opinion on the entire ‘moderate Tamils stand up and be counted’ view is that we need to wait and see. You have to understand that in Douglas and Karuna we have two former terrorists who, by quirks of circumstance, have ended up on the GOSL’s side. Make no mistake, they are still terrorists, with Douglas responsible for most of the killings (mainly of journalists) in the North and Karuna/Pillayan in the East. Any Tamil who puts his head up now is likely to be seen as a threat by these two paragons of democracy. We will have to wait and see.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Rukmanan your latest comments are commendable. It seems like you could have written on how tamil politics should take shape during these times than holding out a PR programme for the majoritarian state and its govt, which undeniably is at the root cause at all of this. It would have been very commendable if you had said a word or two about the need for the Govt to seriously work on a political package. The worry for me was why you were seeking to prop up this Govt which as you seem to agree has such regressive stands on all aspects of politics.

    The point is the grand excuse (the LTTE) is over now: Federalism was rejected because they said LTTE will use it to create a separate state. HSZs existed for the same reason/excuse. 40,000 troops are stationed in Jaffna (10% of the population) for the same reason/excuse. We should be talking about demilitarisation, a new direction for tamil politics etc, not about a PR programme for a Govt that has massacred.

    Sophist
    Do you think the change in view has happened on our (aathavan and mine’s)?
    Wondering how you could say that Tissas case wasnt that pearly white without knowing the substantive facts of the case as you admit. You must understand why i am apprehensive about the word legitimate. Its because of the elusive and slippery search for that legitimate representative that successive Govts have used as an excuse not to address the Tamil question.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Achcharya – I intend to. I am not defending the GOSL, merely suggesting ways to minimise any diplomatic and economic loss to Sri Lanka. While genuine concerns for the state of law and order and the plight of all Sri Lankan citizens is welcome, preachy sermons are not. I am also aware of the considerable influence the Tamil diaspora wields (yet another topic for another day) and it is quite conceivable that much of the outcry is at their bidding.

    Anyway, when I do write about the GOSL, the outcry from the right wing brigade will probably average out the allegations of ‘government spokesperson’ in the comments here. :-)

  • Concerned Humanitarian

    Pragmatist:

    While you were relaxing in the loo, didn’t anything on why the SL govt is preventing the UN and other observers visit the battle zone? What about the calls for an independent investigation on both parties to the war, such calls emanating from even the UN? If the SL govt is “clean” as it claims, then there should be no worry,as then the world can really understand what went on there. It can be 10,000/20,000/or even 30,000 – the reasons for such speculation is obvious isn’t it? The SL govt never allowed independent observers into the war zone? My stand is very simple clear – both parties have questions to answer – for the way civilians were maimed – and there can be no escape from this. As much as the SL govt has the resolve to ward of such investigations, the call for such investigations will also be incessant and continuing until such time the SL govt relents. The SG of UN, while sang a different song earlier has now called for probes, and one by one they will come around. The best way for SL to come clean is to allow for investigations and with a record of defeating terrorists, it stands a better chance of fair scrutiny, otherwise it will be hell down on earth for them before they see the actual hell. Let us be honest here, we are talking about the reckless and brutal treatment of civilians who were sandwiched between two equally recalcitrant parties. The SL govt believes that it should be patted on its back for dismantling terrorism. True, it needs to be commended for that but it cannot act in the way of its adversary that cost innumerable suffering and a large loss of lives. Such a govt has no moral standing to talk of a humanitarian operation and bombing to hell a safe-zone turned to hell zone.

  • Sophist

    Aadhavan: I back away from it because I don’t know the facts. And I don’t want to get into a debate when I don’t know the facts. Presumably there is some piece of wiriting of Tissa’s that pissed the government off. So it is – at least for the intents and purposes of the government – not completely arbitrary.

    The PTA and the Emergency Regulations are nasty nasty pieces of work. No dispute. However, I see no difference in them and the President’s recent statement that there are only those who ‘love the country and those who don’t’.

    I would hate to be scrutinised on my patriotism after that? Who decides? It’s a shit scene….but it’s not discriminatory. Like Aacharya’s parents tell him, my wife tells me to shut up and wait when I want to take on the Navy thug that beat a spectator at the last CR game. We live in a de factor military state. Everyone is shit scared. Not just Tamils.

    Aacharya: As much as your points have immense validity, your introduction that ‘the writer is confused’ is condescending. It implies that you are not. Which is conceited. Please don’t take this as a personal attack because it’s not intended as one but I don’t know how else to articulate this.

    How a point is made is equally important as the point itself. Perhaps making the ‘confusion’ of the writer as you see it, more apparent, rather than calling him confused – would be more palatable? Just a thought.

    Later you also commend him on his comments because he agrees with you and will write on a topic you think needs to be written about. Each to his own eh?

    I think Rukman’s point is that the Tigers – who, to use your word, have massacred far more brutally – seem to be winning the PR battle in the western media, with nothing but fiction and the Western media’s antipathy, to back them. The fact that GOSL needs to get its PR machine countering that is a very valid one from the nation’s perspective.

    Recently, in Paris and Geneva, I had to reassure several friends I met, that all Tamils in SL were not – as they were led to believe – holed up in a wee stretch of beach and shelled indiscriminately. This is the perception created in the West. And it is simply not true.

    I told that Kandy and Colombo are majority minority towns. I forgot to mention also that bright young Tamils also get the same education as everyone else, and some even win prestiguous foreign scholarships :)

  • Sophist

    Aacharya: Sorry for the multiplicity. Just for the record. Now, under different circumstances. What IS the Tamil question?

  • http://ravana.wordpress.com Ravana

    Tissa got in trouble for publishing an article based on a confidential report supplied to him which revealed a lot of shit. The government wanted to know who his sources were, which Tissa didnt reveal. They may have legitimately thought it was the LTTE because it was detailed groundlevel information about TMVP activities it the East etc, but it may be that they just wanted to find out how he got all that info. Either way, Tissa’s case being blown into the public eye meant that he couldn’t jut be released without the government losing face, so they pressed charges. Ironically, apparently his wife now thinks he would be free now if not for all the attention on the case.

  • http://ravana.wordpress.com Ravana

    At least, that’s my admittedly limited understanding of the matter, based on an involved source.

  • aadhavan

    Er, Ravana, are you trying to convey a point (not so) subtly?

  • Heshan

    Thanks for the clarification, Rukmankan. I don’t like to play the race/ethnicity card either; it’s just that I have never seen a group of people so neglected as the Sri Lankan Tamils are at present. I used the word neglected as opposed to helpless, since I have no doubt they are capable of acquiring self-sufficiency. Certainly, from my understanding, the Tamil diaspora is ready and willing to provide the necessary financial and even other resources. The only obstacle seems to be the intransigence of the Sri Lankan Government which is mired neck-deep in nationalism. That is really how I look at things; if people can manage themselves well, and don’t cause harm to their neighbor, then why not let them be. In any case, my apologies for referring to you as a “coolie” earlier.

  • SomewhatDisgusted

    Heshan >>

    Why do you only see the Sri Lankan Tamils as being a neglected group of people? If you go to any rural area in Sri Lanka, you’ll see hundreds of neglected people of all races, languishing in Tsunami camps and the like and generally wallowing in abject poverty.

    Heshan, you continue to accuse others of having a racial outlook, but you seem to be the one always viewing things through a racist angle. Every one of your posts has been one racially motivated diatribe after the other. Why does the Tamil diaspora only wish to help “Tamils”? Why not these other poor people also? If you stopped thinking Tamil all the time, and started thinking “human beings”, we might all be in a better position today. Please stop thinking that everyone else thinks from this same racial angle also. Just because I’m not a Tamil, doesn’t mean I don’t care or have the right to care for these other people.

    All people like you do is sit back in your armchairs and whine all day, dreaming of an “Eelam” and shedding crocodile tears for the destitute in the Vanni, the very people you were more than ready to sacrifice to achieve your own political ends. Your concern would be better displayed if you stopped excusing your own inaction by blaming the govt’s “nationalism” and actually get off your ass, buy a ticket, come to Sri Lanka and actually do something to uplift the living conditions of these poor people, preferably *regardless* of race. But that’s probably asking for too much right?

  • http://agradevaduta.wordpress.com/ Archangel

    Christ, I can’t resist.

    “Tissa got in trouble for publishing an article based on a confidential report supplied to him which revealed a lot of shit…They may have legitimately thought it was the LTTE because it was detailed groundlevel information about TMVP activities it the East etc”

    If someone is referring to Tissa’s article on the continued recruitment of child soldiers by the TMVP, then the question needs to be asked, why him? Did the U.S take his article seriously and fuss about development aid? Unlikely. Lasantha was more controversial in his editorials for years before this fiasco. Yet he was tolerated. Killed for it perhaps, but the LAW tolerated him.

    “Presumably there is some piece of writing of Tissa’s that pissed the government off. So it is – at least for the intents and purposes of the government – not completely arbitrary.”

    The piece of writing is in fact an angry rant about civilian casualties and the lack of food and medicine in Vakarai. No better than some of the blogposts you find out there. Hardly a masterpiece in journalism, and hardly a controversial piece of literature.

    A Tamil journalist wrongly/falsely criticizing the SL Army – incites the reasonable Sinhalese reader to commit acts of racially motivated violence: this is the underlined presumption in the prosecution’s case. Is is not an insult to Sinhalese everywhere. Or is it indicative of the racial politics to come?

    Sure, this is not about race. ?. It’s an incitement against media freedom, right? Wrong. Journalists that presumably tick the government off might be abducted, beaten or disappeared, but no Sinhalese journalist has been indicted under our law for expressing his views. The law has tolerated it. Because it is perfectly in line with the ICCPR. :-) But in Tissa’s case, the entire system: from the MC to the SC has legitimized the actions of the State.

    Not race-related indeed.

    TYFR

  • hirani

    i think we need to revamp our PR campaign also.. otherwise we are also a child getting scolded by a big brother..

    we should look at how these countries were behaving before? with lancasters dropping bombs in Germany , didnt any civilians get killed? whats the civilian casulaty figure in iraq. in vietnam?

    we should have these numbers and our PR team should be able to counter argue.

  • http://agradevaduta.wordpress.com/ Archangel

    *indictment against media freedom.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Heshan – thinking that it is only the GOSL that is intansigent and that the Tamil diaspora is waiting to help redevelop the NE is a bit simplistic. There are elements of the diaspora that are fairly extremist and, fuelled by news from the extensive LTTE media network, actually believe a lot of the nonsense floating around. Sadly, there is absolutely no objectivity on either side. My personal belief is that the GOSL is not racist, merely facist. I’m sure if there were to be an uprising in the South, there same tactics would be employed against the Sinhalese. That is my view. Hopefully, I am not wrong.

  • Sophist

    Let’s start from the premise that Tissa’s detention is unpalatable.

    But those who see it as illegal must take umbrage at the actual laws that perpetuate this situation. The law is draconian and should be abolished. And the time now is right for agitating that as we have rid ourselves of terrorism. In any event, the law allows for discretion on the part of the Courts and detainers. It was designed to do so and like it or not it is the law of the land.

    The MC to SC acted within the dictates of the legislation. Naturally, they too will not want to burn their fingers on something so unnecessarily controversial. As Ravana pointed out the publicity for what is admittedly writing that wasn’t taken seriously was pointless and counter productive.

    And no – I think the government was spot on when they said the Sinhalese may get miffed. That is the Sinhalese for you. A proud ethnicity of intolerant, racist, hossalangingmassayannabaha halfwits. It would take much less than Tissa’s rantings to get them going on a village burning spree. That is the real Sinhalaya and the GOSL to its credit realises what a loose canon bunch it is.

    Imagine if the junta had the brains and the resources to access this site. We’d all be dead mate. And I’m serious.

  • http://www.groundviews.org groundviews

    @Sophist “But those who see it as illegal must take umbrage at the actual laws that perpetuate this situation. The law is draconian and should be abolished. And the time now is right for agitating that as we have rid ourselves of terrorism.”

    See the article by Publius on NORMALISING THE EXCEPTION: THE STATE OF EMERGENCY IN PEACETIME

  • http://agradevaduta.wordpress.com/ Archangel

    Sophist,

    Here I go again, defending the ER and the PTA.

    My point is that EVEN this so called draconian piece of legislation doesn’t justify Tissa’s arrest and detention.

    All we need to do at this stage is in fact apply this (what was that again?) “draconian” piece of legislation. Read the statue, mate. Let’s discuss legislative reform once we can get our heads around applying what we already have on paper. It’s a case of bad application of an already bad law.

    Here’s a tidbit: the initial indictment had “bringing the government into disrepute” as one of the charges. It doesn’t even exist as an offence. It was removed due to sheer embarrassment.

    If the average Sinhala reader is going to be incited to committing racially motivated violence after reading an article of which only 50 copies were even in circulation, I don’t think we’ve thought the term “reasonable” through. And if you genuinely believe Sinhalese are bloodthirsty barbarians out to vindicate the SL Army based on accusations against the Sri Lankan (not Sinhalese, Sri Lankan) Army by a Tamil journalist, then you’re sold on the propaganda. But let’s not talk about speculations of Sinhalese hysteria as depicted by you. Let’s talk about whether the law should consider this reasonable. Should someone be arrested and detained on the grounds that racially motivated violent acts would be incited amongst “hossalangingmassayannabaha halfwits”? To do so would be to consider such violence as a reasonable reaction to the article.

    Are you still sure the law is being applied here?

    TYFR

  • Sophist

    Since you opened this can of worms Archangel, there law as it is and law as it should be. The man on the Clapham omnibus and the ‘reasonable Sinhalese’ are very very different.

    Your handling of Tissa’s case would have been different if you were the judge or the Magistrate. But you’re not. So what to do?

    Your argument of my opinion vs. someone else’s opinion is futile. The law allows for it. Shit scene. All application of a bad law is necessarily bad. There can be no ‘good’ appliation of the ER or the PTA’s. Argument to the contrary is a concession of its necessity.

    I’m still waiting for Aacharya to – in bullets if possible – spell out the post war ‘Tamil question’.

  • http://agradevaduta.wordpress.com/ Archangel

    I don’t know if I’m qualified to comment on this, but I’ve heard about this thing called the Rule of Law. I apologize for being condescending. I’m just puzzled. I realize it’s ironic that I would argue for the strict application of a so-called bad law. But I’d rather have that than a banana republic.

    In an environment where judicial review of legislation is not permissible past the the Bill stage, we take what we can get. Would be rather have an “anything goes” policy towards a law which disgusts us, or would be argue that even under this so called disgusting law, detainees ought to be transferred into fiscal custody after 90 days? Shouldn’t we capitalize on the parameters of even a bad law where it suffices to show that it is not applicable to a particular case?

    We are not admitting the necessity for a piece of bad legislation by demonstrating it’s non-applicability to certain acts and individuals. That’s being simplistic and evasive..

    TYFR

  • http://agradevaduta.wordpress.com/ Archangel

    Sorry Sophist. I meant “we… I’m turning dyslexic.

    TYFR

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Sophist: I said confused because i couldnt understand where Rukmankan was coming from – was he denying that nothing happened here and the west was just jumping up and down? Or was he saying ‘even if something went really wrong here the west has no moral standing to talk about it because they are no better’? Was it directed at the West in general or to Times alone? Should we reject all voices coming from the west then because they are so morally culpable? I said on these Rukmankan had confused himself. Rukmankan’s take on the Govt linearly progresses through his comments towards criticising it (from the offer of a PR prop up) which i appreciated.

    Tiger propaganda winning? Then they should be alive then. This is the image that the Govt so likes to create: ‘We are being preyed down by the west’. A victim image that whips nationalistc feelings and shows Mahinda as a hero taking on the mighty west. Whereas all have been congratulating them on the LTTE being defeated. EU has gone totally meek. US made a few statements. Swiss proposed a resolution that didn’t even call for an international investigation. It only said investigate on your own, that also was defeated. You must read the speeches. None of them were anywhere near of being critical. Now the media – so you think they are responding to a tiger propoganda? In fact i think the diaspora media work has been so bad. They have very very bad people who end up being panelists on these talk shows; waive the tiger flag, and say more about the organisation than the people. Useless.

    Oh the tamil question? : Its about Security, Land and development in general. Kethesh Loganathan identifies these three as the issues in his Lost Opportunities book.

    Oh btw on the Tissa case: even within the framework of ER and PTA Tissa hasnt got justice. During the voi dire inquiry defence counsel clearly showed that the ASP was not present when the confession was taken. HC Judge still made a finding that the confession was authentic.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Sophist In my reponse to Rukmankan i have talked about demilitarisation also. Of course the ‘weeding’ excuse will be taken up.

  • Heshan

    “Why do you only see the Sri Lankan Tamils as being a neglected group of people?”

    Well, it is clear that they bear the brunt of discrimination. As others have pointed out here, this discrimination has actually been institutionalized in the form of oppressive legislation, particularly the PTA and Emergency Regulations. In my view, the danger is not so much the legislation itself, which in theory applies to random individuals, but the manner in which it has been used to target a single group exclusively. You might as well call it the “Prevention of Tamil Act” or “Emergency Tamil Regulations.” To cut to the chase, these people not only suffer from poverty, but are used as pawns by the chauvinist State for nefarious purposes to assure the naive majority that the “separatist question” is under wraps. There are ways and means to fight poverty (I believe the last Nobel Prize in Economics was for the successful application of microloans); however, discrimination is a wholly different matter, one in which (from my experience), the onus is on the majority, not minority, to successfully combat.

  • Boo

    Aachcharya –

    Development – seems underway
    Land – am not too sure about that
    Security – now that the source of human bombs has been extinguished to a material extent, hopefully within the next few months – years (once the remanants are rounded up and the threat to the public neutralized) the security you speak of will be achieved. Perhaps, if the LTTE didnt send in suicide cadres, disguised as pregant women, to blow up sections of the population (of all ethnicities, cos i dont believe these human bombs discriminated between muslims, tamils, sinhalese, burghers, buddhists, hindus or christians) we may not be experiencing the heightened level of security we do today!

  • Heshan

    Rukmankan:

    The way I look at it is, the energy put into lobbying by the Tamil diaspora (some of these protests went well over a month), in another scenario, translates into a sustained and comprehensive program to redevelop the North, whether in the context of a full-fledged independent state or a federal one. I actually think this is better in the long-run, since it avoids bureaucratic hurdles. In other words, the Tamils can sooner reach a consensus among themselves than having to subject themselves to months, if not years, of political intransigence. The matter of devolution is a case in point. Pillaiyan has publicly stated that his hands are tied when it comes to Eastern affairs, due to the Center’s refusal to devolve power. The other hurdles range from militarization of the North and East, to lack of proper legal recourse, to restrictions on mobility. All of these obstacles find strong political connotations. In the long term, if these issues are not dealt with, the North and East risk become welfare dependent. We already see this with the internment camps. There are good arguments as to why welfare does not work; in any case, it is not the optimal solution however you look at it. You and I both agree that the solution is to empower local communities and let them handle their own affairs with as little outside interference as possible. My contention is that the diaspora could go a long way towards making that happen. Again, as I have stated here, whether that is through the LTTE or in the context of a federal state is not of concern to me.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Boo

    Land – you just dont seem to know what to say. the Tamil people need to be assured that there will be no forced grabbing of lands for ‘development’ programmes. This wont be done by promising them that it wont happen they need to have a concrete say in how land in areas that they live is put to use. So for example the IGP tells us that they are planning to set up a Police Training college in 2000 acres of land in the Vanni. I say its suspect. The tamil people need to have a say in how land is areas where they live.

    Security – is about Police powers. I am not going to narrate you the very long history of security related issues that the Tamil people have had to face from State functionaries. the LTTE’s terror was a response to state terror. Let me give you a very basic example which is a little outside the question of fear of the state’s security apparatus. When a policeman stops you and when you know he is wrong, its about the question of whether you can explain your case to him and argue back. This is not about language only, but as to the perception that he is one of ‘us’ with whom you can feel a sense of intimacy and hence hope to rationalise. The feeling of the ‘other’ is at the heart of security problems. You just cant be dimissive about this. Devolution of powers should address.

    Development – Again done by whom? Basil Rajapaksha deciding from Colombo? The Tamil people’s representatives should be involved and more importantly should have the power to do development work. Pillayan doesnt have the powers and he is complaining about it. Development in the East is being run from Colombo. So why then Pillayan. Just for show?

    I didnt mention language in my list of issues which would have seemed the most obvious. This is very important but i just want to say that devolution of powers is more than the question of langauge rights.

    One final comment. As Rohan Edrisinha says, the problem has snow balled to an extent where self government is an aspiration on its own which needs to be addressed. There is absolute truth in this observation.

  • Sophist

    Self governance is the cornerstone of any democracy no? Self governance is for everyone. Not just Sinhalese or Tamils.

    Land – Land was acquired by Mrs. B, arbitrarily. The Land Acquisition Act and its processes are still in force and now can – we hope – be applied to the ‘newly liberated areas’, which was admittedly under the control of the LTTE previously. Nobody wants their land taken away. But everybody wants wider roads. You see the problem?

    How is it any different from an airport in Weeravila? Some poor Sinhala bastards probably lost their land for those projects too. C’mon mate – don’t be so regressively race conscious.

    Development – is an absolute, just like RE’s truth. Who does it shouldn’t matter as long as it’s getting done. At least in the initial stages as far as infrastructure is concerned. Is the question the development itself….or who does the development? Because it sounds suspiciously like the latter. Are you content to be developed, or are you insistent that the development occurs according to your dictates.

    Security – You mention the concept of the ‘other’. I absolutely agree. But is your disappreciation of The Basil, not ‘othering’ as well? You don’t think he should do development in your hood ‘cos he’s not from the Bronx innit….? Development in the East is being run by Colombo….you say that as if it’s a bad thing. The war in the NE was run from Colombo and they won that no? Why this loathing of anything that is not ‘yours’. Sounds vaguely familiar.

    Self governance should be regional. The regions should consist of elected representatives. Now that can be achieved by the nation state as a whole uncarved geographical piece. Give it time, it’s two weeks old.

    I am surprised you missed language as an issue. Obviously for it to slip the mind it must be low priority although I suspected it was a huge issue.

    PS – “I said confused because i couldnt understand where Rukmankan was coming from”….yes, this makes Rukman confused. I agree. Bad Rukman.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    I cant believe that this is Sophist.

    I am doing my final law exams at uni these couple of weeks. Just did my juris paper on Monday and i have environmental law paper on Friday and three more after that so i am going to be very brief.

    The difference between Weerawila and the Police Training College in Killi/Mullaitivu is that the former is being done by the South’s own representatives. There is at least prime facie an electoral-democratic link. There is none in the North. I don’t have to obviously Mr Sophist explain to you the importance of ‘local ownership’ in development projects do I? In the case of Weerawila its the question of a governance issue (not doing an EIA for example). In the case of the North East its more than that. Unless of course you are going to argue that the problem that we have is not ‘ethnic’ in character. Unless you are going to argue that ‘development programmes’ in the past in the North and East have been conceived purely for development sake and that all concerns regarding colonisation are rubbish.

    Development- Again same as above. I am baffled to think that somebody in Colombo deciding things for East is a comfortable idea for you. Its like the West telling us what to do you see Mr Sophist. I simply simply dont understand the connection between running a war and development projects. (Are you suggesting implicitly that the war was conducted with the Tamils’ mandate as well?).

    Language: it was an obvious point. This is the only point, i have come to recognise, the ‘other’ moderates are prepared to understand and acknowledge, as eloquently exemplified in your comment. And i am well aware of their/your response to it is. The very typical, “its a question of policy implementation which is a general governanace issue anyway in this country”. The South will have to come to appreciate the aspirations of the Tamils beyond the issue of language.

    My PS on your PS: This ‘got you’ type of rebuttal, the semantics of it sounds good. Congrats on that. I wonder whether you have a response to my substantive comment regarding Rukmankan’s west bashing or my comments regarding what you conceive as the triumph of the Tiger propoganda.

  • Boo

    Aachcharya

    “the LTTE’s terror was a response to state terror”

    Ironically, the LTTE’s terror although a response to state terror, as you so put it, did not seem to spare its own people nor the people from other minority communities.

    Despite what MIA may churn out, you do realise that Sri Lanka has more than one minority community, yes? There were muslims living in the North, yes? Living in the north prior to the LTTE ethnically cleansing that region. I wonder if that act was a response to the majority led state terror? Get at the muslims for the sins committed by the Sinhalese??

    Dont get me wrong, am quite aware of the sins of previous successive Governments but I think the misson and conduct of the LTTE far surpassed retribution of the same and the attainment of dignity and respect for their people.

    I am all for empowering people, for equal rights. I think there has been far too much bloodshed, far too much suffering. But we need to start by seeing all Sri Lankans as one people of one nation. Why demarcate the territory of this country into regions where the Muslims reside, the Sinhalese reside, the Tamils reside, the Burghers reside, so on and so forth? Why cant it be one country where all Sri Lankans can live where ever they may choose to?

    Just as a matter of interest Aachcharya (I assume you live in Colombo, please do correct me if I am wrong) – would you permanently move into your “hood”, to reclaim your land and develop it?

  • Laughing Sudda

    All you people who overstate your case repeatedly (many commentators above):
    1. Learn to frame your arguments cogently and concisely
    2. Resist temptation to get distracted by minor points or dogs barking
    3. Go get a life offline!

  • aadhavan

    I can see the deepest fears of the Tamils being confirmed, and justified, just on this thread Sophist. Before the LTTE was destroyed, Tamils were told by the moderates, “look, Tamil issues should and will be addressed, and yes there are legitimate grievances arising out of state discrimination, but the LTTE have to be destoryed first.” Many Tamils who you chided for not speaking out against the LTTE at the time didn’t do so even though they personally reviled the LTTE because they KNEW that with the LTTE gone, none of the Tamil issues will be resolved, and that those issues will be swept under the carpet. They KNEW that the best chance for Tamil issues to be addressed was if the government negotiated with the LTTE a solution that provided substantial autonomy in the North and East. I can say now, that most ”moderates” who said, yes your issues will be addressed, but take on the LTTE first, are now saying “I don’t think you have any real issues that require specific solutions after all. Just deal”, while at the same time seeking to justify the internment of 300,000 Tamils in camps. This is deeply, deeply disappointing. Not surprising, but disappointing.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Boo,

    Get this straight i am NOT defending the LTTE and neither am i a die hard separatist. I dont need to be lectured on what was wrong about the LTTE.

    You seem to argue that we are not divided. I think we are divided already. The question is what needs to be done to unite. Empty words are not going to make us unite.

    I was born in Jaffna was educated in Jaffna and hold an IC which has the big number 4 on top to say where i am from. I am in Colombo for the past four years following a law degree having entered on merit. My parents live and work in Jaffna and my brother studies at the the uni there. What bloody ‘hood’? So are you saying that i should leave Colombo. Is that the point after all?. I very well know to take responsibility for my statements. Try to respond to my arguments. I have no need to prove my good intentions to you.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    I completely agree with Aadhavan. LTTE was the excuse of the south all this while Now what to say? For some time ‘weeding out’ will serve to be the extension of the excuse. And then? Will the weeding out ever be over? So lets continue to hunt for the terrorists. The true colours are coming out now. It was right from the beginning about denial that the Tamils have no true grievances. So for these people whom we thought were moderates- ‘devolution will be unnecessary. South (Basil) will usher in development and yes we might let you speak your language’. This is the time of testing for the Liberal- Moderate South. They are failing very very badly. In fact they never ever existed (except for a very very few).

  • Sophist

    Aachary/Aadhavan:

    Machans, we need to clear a few things up. The LTTE is gone. It was a failed attempt and the GOSL won. Attempts to address the ‘Tamil question’ via terrorism failed.

    I admit unequivocally that legitimate Tamil grievances exist. Hence my call for legitimate, alternate Tamil voices to address those questions with the GOSL and civil society just as we are doing here. But your point seems to be that any other voice is too scared of their own lives. The whole point of democracy, and indeed the proportional representation system, is that the minorities also have a voice. That voice needs to be heard, and I know for sure that it’s not going to be Karuna, EPDP or TNA. It’s probably people like you Aacharya and Aadhavan that are going to be able to articulate the Tamil Question adequately.

    And unless someone is willing to take up that challenge, then yes, there is a grave danger that the Tamil agitation for answers to the Question will be swept under the carpet. I still maintain the need for alternate voices.

    However, if these voices are completely partisan i.e. – GOSL should not be involved in development, then we start from a counterproductive position of non-negotiability. The distrust of the Tamils is evident and understandable towards the Sinhala majority and the GOSL. However, I think you both fail to understand how distrustful the Sinhala majority and the GOSL are of the Tamil people as a direct result of three decades of unparralleled LTTE terror.

    One man’s terrorist – another man’s freedom fighter. Both have moustaches.

    Furthermore, internment of the IDP’s Aadhavan may not be purely racially motivated. You’ve been to university, you understand the chaos and incompetence that exists there. That is a tiniy microcosm of the chaos that exists in this unprecedented humanitarian status quo. Internment is NOT acceptable. But even you must admit the remnants of the LTTE are within those camps. Some rehab and social acclimatisation is required. This will take time.

    We waited thirty years for LTTE to be defeated. We can wait a few weeks for the GOSL to sort its shit out.

    Aacharya: The use of the world ‘colonisation’ within a unitary state is in itself odious. Do you not think so? By your same token, the Sinhalese should probably be taking umbrage at the ‘colonisation’ of Wellawatte and Kotahena. They don’t. And you shouldn’t get so miffed if a Sinhala family moves in next door to your aunty in Killi.

    Yes – this is the Post War Sophist. Previously there was a need to help people identify the difference between Tamil and Terrorist. Now that need longer exists as there are no Terrorist conceptually.

    Now the time is for reconciliation – and if you wish, after all we have been through TOGETHER – to interpret my call to meet the Sinhalese/GOSL halfway as being divisive and distasteful I am very, very disappointed.

  • punitham

    There wouldn’t have been any problem if individual or small groups of Sinhalese families re-located to Kilinocchi or Kandavalai but the problem is sponsoring by government = coloniasation and in some cases displacement of Tamil families if you look at what happened in the cases of ”colonisation schemes”.

    Let’s talk about this later.

    Why on earth are the displaced/dejected/derailed people denied access to aid agencies? Why? Why? Ohhhhh WHYYYY?

    How could they have shops selling food to these people who have been driven around for decades over districts and provinces when aid agencies are willing to help them? WHHHYYYYYY??????

    This is blocking meeting halfway.

    They’re literally dying to meet the other side halfway.

    If the troops increase from 200,000 to 300,000 won’t those who meet halfway be driven apart again??? ?????

    People on the South may be rid of bus blasts and bank blasts of thirty years..
    People on the North want to see at least a slight relenting of the sixty-year structural violence whose roots are firmly entrenched in all corners of the national bureaucracy (and the textbooks?).

    Sophist, good intentions accepted.

    Let us see a morsel of its manifestation to the Tamil populace.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Aadhavan

    I’ve been following your comments for a few years now and you’ve always come across as being sensible. But reading your comments on this post as well as your comments on Ravana’s post (especially your last comment on Ravana’s post) there is definitely a change. You seem to have completely bought into the ‘20,000 killed’ and ‘genocide’ arguments. I believe people were killed during that final conflict and I don’t buy into the GOSL’s ludricous position that there wasn’t a single casualty. However, people dying in war doesn’t mean genocide. Let’s not use serious words in such a loose manner. Like I said in the article, civilians dying in war is a fact of life and this is even more so in the case of civil wars. Whether it is right or wrong is philosophical argument which is an entirely different debate altogther. Plus, I would think that the LTTE is as responsible for civilian deaths as the SLDF and maybe even more so since they focibly held those poor people as human shields. Have you given thought to the possibility that, if the 20,000 number were true, most of the deaths were due to the LTTE?

    Look, the fact that this govt is undesirable from many perspectives is true and Sophist and I are both proponents of this viewpoint. However, as I have said in one of my previous comments, this govt is undesirable to all communities, not just Tamils. Unless we understand this and remove that chip off our shoulders, we, as a community, cannot really contribute to the development of Sri Lanka. Boo makes a valid point about the discrimination against Muslims by the LTTE. Have we, as a community, said or done anything about it? Or are we just content to blame it on the LTTE and leave it at that? I did some work with the Muslim IDPs in Kalpitiya. We all know the story of how they were driven out by the LTTE with little more than the clothes they had on. These people now live in limbo and exist on a few hundred rupees a month per family. Let’s not be hypocritical please.

    I had previously thought that labelling of people based on comments and statements taken out of context and in isolation was a phenomena peculiar to right wing bloggers. I am disappointed to find out I am wrong.

  • Sophist

    Be patient machan. I’m hoping the manifestation will be sooner rather than later. But we can’t sit on our arse and expect the GOSL to do everything. They are us – we are them, and we have a part to play as well no.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Sophist

    “.. if these voices are completely partisan i.e. – GOSL should not be involved in development, then we start from a counterproductive position of non-negotiability.”

    I am only saying that the tamils will have to have a say in the development process and tamil representatives should be able to do this through their representatives sitting in a provincial council and government that has adequate powers to do this. If your position is that Basil/the Central Government/the GOSL will have to be in control/have a major say in how the NE is developed and if this is a non negotiable position i take it as one of the most regressive changes that has happened in the post war Sophist.

    The use of the world ‘colonisation’ within a unitary state is in itself odious. Do you not think so? By your same token, the Sinhalese should probably be taking umbrage at the ‘colonisation’ of Wellawatte and Kotahena”.

    There is a difference between Sophist of his own volition settling down in Killinochchi and him being settled by the govt with a whole bunch of people where the intention is to deliberately change the demographics of the region. The LTTE did not ask me to come to Wellawatte so that i may help colonise Colombo. I have been registered five times already by this Govt that i am an IDP in Colombo. Colombo is the capital of the country – a cosmopolitan city. Cosmopolitan cities by nature are multi ethnic. Lets say the TNA is the party in control of the GOSL. They decide to settle 100,000 people in unused lands in Hambantota with the intention of securing a parliamentary seat there. You will be ok with that?

    And you use the term unitary state. Slip of the tongue? Did you want to say united. Or is this the post war sophist who belives in nothing but a unitary state?

    “The distrust of the Tamils is evident and understandable towards the Sinhala majority and the GOSL. However, I think you both fail to understand how distrustful the Sinhala majority and the GOSL are of the Tamil people as a direct result of three decades of unparralleled LTTE terror”

    Alright then – the LTTE is over. does it help ease out the distrust or it doesnt? What else do the Tamil people need to do to help combat the distrust? abandon claims for self government? accept Basil/MR to do what they want in the NE? is that what will help build trust?

    “I admit unequivocally that legitimate Tamil grievances exist”

    I have told you what from my perspective what the ingredients of the Tamil National Question are. Since you unequivocally belive that there are grievances that the tamil people have let us know what your understanding of them are.

    The disappointment Sophist is that your halfway mark – where we should meet- in the post war context is more towards the Govt side. Tamils are not even on the road to walk half way. They have been derailed and you have non negotiable propositions.

  • Humanist

    Thank you Rukmankan and Nicolai for your excellent analyses and comments. I also appreciate the comments by a number of other people here. By following this discussion and engaging in a number of other threads I see some people fall into familiar patterns of argumentation while others try to find common ground, or perhaps a middle ground. My question is whether some of you, who have been articulating critical but constructive views on the way forward from here, think there is a middle ground emerging out of these discussions and what this middle ground, supported by moderates (and by this I mean not only those who don’t hold a brief for one ethnic group but also any political group in or out of power)  might constitute.
    Could we, for example, agree that:1) Our first concern is towards the 280,000 displaced Tamil people who need to be taken care of in terms of food, medicine, shelter until they can return a.s.a.p. to their villages; plus the return of the people displaced earlier including the Northern Muslims; the SL government needs to provide access to those who have the committment and means to provide immediate relief and plan medium-term rehabilitation2) Address the propoganda war effectively and impartially (i.e. not participate in it) so that all this posturing does not delay desperately needed assistance from reaching the displaced people; DJ and RW are the most articulate spokesmen this government has but it is not clear that they alone can  diffuse and turn the tide; the witch hunt engaged in by the European and N. American governments is not justified becasue they have no higher moral ground (re. their crimes in Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan, etc were never investigated internationally); however, once the displaced are back in their villages, a peace and reconciliation process similar to the one that took place in S. Africa, for example, could be initiated (or a national war crimes investigation)3) The current SL government is inept, corrupt and militaristic (but not more so than other governments before on at least the first two counts; I agree with Rukmankan that it is not genocidal); both the LTTE and the government chose this war and both sides could have been more careful to reduce civilian deaths; yet the government won the military part of the conflict (although we neither support the government nor are we triumphalist); we need to find entry points because no government is a monolith and not engaging means that the immediate situation of the people who are suffering gets worse4) Minorities (Tamils, Muslims as well as poor/low caste Sinhalese) have been discriminated and have legitimate grievances that need to be addressed. A political solution is needed – some of us might support a federal solution, others various maximum devolution options but the important thing would be to support  what is possible, given the current ground situation, and move from there to what might be ideally achieved through a process of consensus-building5) Those seeking a middle ground are committed to a non-violent, critical but constructive approach, understanding that distinctions should be made between  governments, organizations and different groups of people, whether from Sri Lanka or elsewhere, and individuals within governments or organizations. Thus, labelling entire groups of people “racist” or “dumb” or making proclamations about the  “people of the south” or “people of the north” (as if there ever were such people) is not a productive approach to be followed.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Humanist

    Thank you for outlining the middle ground. Let’s hope everyone else commenting here can agree on it.

  • PV

    Sophist,

    There is a difference between government sponsored colonisation of one ethnic group in lands forcibly taken from the other ethnic group, and the kind of “colonisation” that occurs in Wellawatte and Kotahena, where individuals move in, pay good money in rent and find a livelihood among the locals.

    Throughout the 60s 70s and 80s armed Sinhala colonists were settled in the Eastern province with government money, usually in lands forcibly taken from Tamils. Other times, they were settled in government lands but eventually drove out the Tamils — and in some cases Muslims — in neighboring villages with the help of the Army, Police and Homeguards. Later in the 90s and 00s, Tamils were evicted from their lands on account of them being ‘high security zones’ only to see these same areas settled by Sinhalese, such as has been done around the Palali air base in Jaffna. The government is on the record saying it plans to do the same thing around the Iranaimadu airstrip close to Killi.

    In the eastern province even today you will find army “checkpoints” which prevent people from taking in large stocks of food and other items into tamil villages. This forces the tamils to go to the nearby sinhala villages and buy groceries and other needs from sinhala shop owners, probably giving a cut of the profits to the soldiers at the checkpoionts too. ‘Colonisation’ is almost an euphemism for what is happening here. I am consciously avoiding the more emotionally charged word ap*******, since, like you, I believe it is important to keep the dialog constructive.

    I personally would have no problem with a Sinhalese family that comes of its own effort to settle in Killi and make an honest living. Many Sinhalese have done that in the past. I knew some of them who worked as Bakers, Fishermen and Farm workers in the North when I grew up. Some of them even joined the LTTE. There were others who were scared of the LTTE and left. I know of one of them who left to his ancestral village in Kurunegalle and then in the late 90s (when we was nearly 80) came back to Jaffna because he wanted to die there.

    What we fear is the former type of ‘colonisation’, not these individuals who wish to make an honest living in the the North or in Wellawatte or wherever.

  • PV

    correction:
    ** when HE was nearly 80

  • punitham

    When people are forced to live in terribly crammed hot tin huts, are starved, raped and ”disappeared”, please don’t say ”be patient”.

    The part you can play is ask the government why there are no investigations into thousands of diasppearances and murders and why they have so much of restriction on media and why they are treating fellow human beings so inhumanely.

  • Heshan

    “European and N. American governments is not justified becasue they have no higher moral ground (re. their crimes in Vietnam, Iraq, Afganistan, etc were never investigated internationally”

    Out of curiosity, was the American occupation of Japan also a crime? Or was it just that because Japan became a superpower following WWII, despite the American occupation, it is suddenly forgotten (although for some reason Vietnam is not).

    On another note, I find it amusing that Sri Lanka has turned to China and Iran for money and aid.

    You need money,democracy, and technology to build your country into something really and truly powerful… little Japan, with no natural resources of its own and no military of its own, is a very good example of this. The “greatness” of China is more less superficial, any country that massive with such tremendous natural resources, landmass, and an enormous population can easily exert some measure of power with relative ease (although it took the West to force China to open its doors to trade).

    The only reason that Iraq is not on the same path to prosperity as Japan or South Korea, is because of Islamic fundamentalism. The money is there, the Constitution (put in place by Americans) is there, everything is there, just as it was in Japan. The difference is that the Japanese did not fight back after World War II.

    If Sri Lanka wants to reject the West, it does so at its own peril. The funny thing is that its educated class will continue to seek greener pastures in the West. After all, that is where the money is, and that is where the economic and career opportunities lie. China, Iran, and the rest of the Eastern crowd can continue throwing money at Sri Lanka, but it will be the equivalent of welfare… welfare, as we know, is not a sustainable alternative in the long run (look at the fragile political state of Mid-East countries dependent on oil).

  • punitham

    Washington Post in its editorial of August 4, 1983 wrote as follows:

    “If living together is so hard, what about a separate state in the North for the Tamils? They have as good a claim to a nation of their own as most members of the United Nations. But as always it is a question of power, and the Sinhalese have the power. Do they also have the wisdom to see that the Tamil minority is treated in a way that justifies its retention within a unitary state?”

  • aadhavan

    Rukmankan,

    “I’ve been following your comments for a few years now and you’ve always come across as being sensible. But reading your comments on this post as well as your comments on Ravana’s post (especially your last comment on Ravana’s post) there is definitely a change.”

    Are you referring to my response the BD, who said if he was in the same position as the army, he would have done the same thing. I think that’s a sick position to take. I think it’s sick to indicriminately bomb civilians, and I detest it when people seek not just to justify it, but to go further and say that they would have done the same thing.

    “You seem to have completely bought into the ‘20,000 killed’ and ‘genocide’ arguments. I believe people were killed during that final conflict and I don’t buy into the GOSL’s ludricous position that there wasn’t a single casualty. However, people dying in war doesn’t mean genocide.”

    Hold on, there are two assertions there, both of which are incorrect. I haven’t ‘bought into’ the 20,000 figure, though I do think it’s the best estimate we have. We have some sources from the UN say that it’s about that much, others who say they don’t know, and others who say it may be more, may be less. We do know that not only was it a case of some civilians caught in the cross fire, but that it was one of indiscriminate shelling into the safe zone by the military, after they had promised that they were not going to be using heavy artillery. We know it was a bloodbath, so I’m going with the ‘may be more, may be less’, and ‘we need an indepedent, credible and international investigation to find out’ stance. I’m throwing my lot in with Ban-ki-Moon, Navi Pillay and John Holmes. How about yourself? I think you say something about the govenment doing its own investigation. I don’t think it’s a good time to be talking about that kind of rubbish the very week the heavily compromised Presidential Commission died a natural death without completing inquiries into a single of the 17 cases submitted to it.

    The case of genocide allegations are far more serious, and the issue is much more technical. Volumes and volumes of books have been written on the definition of genocide. We just don’t know enought to make a call. Manouri Muttettuwegama, at Tissa’s trial was asked whether she thought that this was a case of genocide. She responded that she doesn’t know enough to make a call, and that there must be a commission to investigat these allegations. I agree with her. If some of the stories floating around about sterilisation etc are true, and I have heard fairly credible first and second hand accounts from government servants themselves(of course, they could have been lying, pure and simple) it would be a slam dunk case. If they are untrue, I don’t see how this war could be called a genocide. Perhaps you could talk about a structural genocide like the Tibetans, but I just don’t see that kind of thing as being part of the definition adopted by the Convention. We will never know unless there is an investigation, and I’m not going to throw it around in public until I know for sure, because it’s such a sentive issue. In fact I’m resigned to the fact that we’ll never know. I certainly haven’t used it lightly, let alone use it all, and any suggestion that I have – just because I thought the Times figure of casulaties is the best estimate we have, is a ridiculous piece of speculation and stereotyping. Please show some decency and honesty in how you interpret what I have said.

    “Plus, I would think that the LTTE is as responsible for civilian deaths as the SLDF and maybe even more so since they focibly held those poor people as human shields. Have you given thought to the possibility that, if the 20,000 number were true, most of the deaths were due to the LTTE?”

    That’s a nonsensical statement. The logic breaks down completely. The LTTE used human shields and they shot at some people who tried to escape. This is despicable and sick. It is a war crime, and I don’t have any sympathy for the murderous thugs. However, suggesting that the LTTE is responsible for the deaths caused due to indicriminate sheeling by the army is illogical. The military, who exercised their agency by bombing civilians indiscriminately are fully responsible for the deaths they caused. The LTTE are fully responsible for using human shields which is an independent wrong. It’s indepenedent because if one were to suggest optherwise, you would be in a position where the moral culpability of one party would be entirely contingent on the moral culpability of the other. For example, hypothetically speaking, if the government decided to drop a small nuke and destroy everything in the safe zone, would the LTTE also then be responsible for the deaths of 300,000 civilians, as opposed to the 20,000(or whatever number) now? I don’t see how one can be morally responsible for the free actions of a free agent, merely by causing a set of circumstances to exist in which the said free agent committed a moral wrong. Now you might say the deaths were inevitable, because the LTTE used the shields. I say that still doesn’t get over the point I made, that moral culpability for an act cannot be contingent on the exercise of another persons free will, but also that it fails in the light of the government’s proclomations early on, in March, and then reiterated in May, that they HAD NO NEED to use heavy artillery. By the government’s own admission therefore, heavy artillery was unnecessary. If so, how can the LTTE be responsible for the deaths caused by heavy artillery.

    Note, I’m just making a logical/ethical point here. Those who don’t appreciate the value of logic may be inclined to say I’m trying to defend the Tigers, who I think were despicable and sick war criminals. I have no time for that kind of nonsense. Don’t even try.

    “Unless we understand this and remove that chip off our shoulders, we, as a community, cannot really contribute to the development of Sri Lanka.”

    We’ll have to disagree there. I think there’s discrimination and oppression of Tamils, and you don’t. You think we just have a chip. That’s a fundamental difference of opinion on a fundamental question that cannot be resolved over a blog discussion.

    “Or are we just content to blame it on the LTTE and leave it at that? I did some work with the Muslim IDPs in Kalpitiya… Let’s not be hypocritical please.”

    Hold on. There you go again, pretending to know what my opinions are. Even if you can’t afford me the simple courtesy of restating my arguments accurately, try and desist from making s**t up. I think the Tamils have a lot to do to win the trust of the Muslims, and I’m all for an unconditional public apology at the very least, a public recognition of the right to self-identification of the Muslim people- not just as ‘Tamil speaking people’ – with a right to return of those IDP’s being ensured. At a larger level though , I think the Tamil struggle must merge with the struggle of the Muslim people if we can be succesful in restructuring the established power structures of the state.

    So in conclusion, I don’t see how I have labelled anyone or called anyone names they don’t deserve, and that I don’t use consistently. I however do observe that triumphalism has seeped in, even with people who used to be moderates. and I think this is sad. As for yourself, try not to misquote and stereotype my views again, if you think it fit to respond.

  • Boo

    Rukman: I believe Rajiva W has stated the civilian death toll to be somewhere between 3000-5000.

    Aachcharya: I have no expert knowledge of politics in Sri Lanka. But I do know this – we all have a role to play (however small it maybe) in taking this country forward. If we are not happy with Central Government then we need to do what we can to change it. As Sophist pointed out, the void left by Prabhakaran needs to be filled with a democratic tamil voice. As it is, there are several tamil representatives in Central Government (you may not be happy with all/some of them for varying reasons). If that is the case, is it not the obligation of the tamil people to mobilize themselves and appoint legitimate representatives who are of good standing? For over 30 years many tamils, especially expatriates, devoted their time, money and energy to strengthen the LTTE. Why not use that same energy and motivation now to create a strong democratic voice?

    Correct me if I am wrong but I assume the candidates for the upcoming local government elections in the north will be of tamil origin?

    And I agree with Rukman, all this talk of “genocide” is far fetched. It’s a big word, applied completely out of context. Thousands of innocent people died in this war. Period. Both soldiers and innocent tamil civilians. Despite all the faults of this government, I do believe it is neither racist nor genocidal. I do not believe that it was this Government’s intention to wipe out in whole or in part a certain ethnic race. As Rukman pointed out, did you ever lend your mind to the possibility that the LTTE knowingly and intentionally created this massive humanitarian crisis? Knowingly and intentionally entered the “no fire zone” that was meant for civilians? Knowingly and intentionally refused to let the civilians free? The LTTE blended in with the civilians and they too were using weapons. I think the LTTE bears a huge responsibility for the number of civilian deaths.

  • Heshan

    “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

    – Lincoln

    Malice toward none – that means you release all POW’s after a war. Also, you don’t put 300,000 civilians in an internment camp to try to weed out former combatants.

    Lasting peace with all nations – hahaha… do I need to even delve into this? You don’t go about knocking people on the head with a hammer because they seem to downplay your victory, and then try to extort money from them.

    Beautiful words from Lincoln – a true statesmen. Well, were you expecting something similir from Sri Lanka, where monks, communists, and drug-dealers are “elected” to Parliament. Where the “President” becomes “President” through treason. Think again. But the ideas, at least, should serve to inspire.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Aadhavan

    My apologies. I assumed that because you supported The Times’ assertion that 20,000 were killed that you also supported their assertions of genocide. However, you’re engaging in semantics. If you believe The Time’s assertion to be correct, then you have bought into it.

    You say that the LTTE cannot be held responsible for civilian deaths from artillery attacks. I disagree. By not releasing civilians the LTTE was as culpable. It’s logical..no cilvilians…no deaths. Also, we don’t know how many exactly died from artillery attacks, how many were killed by the LTTE, and how many died due to disease and starvation. We just don’t know…which is why I have a problem with your view, which I believe to be that most of the deaths, if not all, were due to artillery attacks.

    Except for the first para in my last comment, the rest of it was directed at Achcharya, Punitham and the other Tamils on this forum and not only to you. So I wasn’t presuming your opinions. I was merely posing questions to you and the others and also pointing out the hypocrisy of us insisting on signs from the State on its commitment to treating us as equals when we have not, as a community, done the same to the Muslims.

    Look, if you look at Humanists’s summing of the ‘middle ground’ I think we can all agree on it. It’s just that we are all debating on the varying degrees at which our positions stand. I think we can be far more productive if we start debating on the way forward taking the present as the starting point. We don’t need to ignore the past but let’s not let the past determine how we move forward.

  • Sophist

    Absolutely Rukman.

    I agree the ‘colonisation’ was a mistake. JR was a fool. But there was also the Mahaweli which flowed through the region which had to be made optimised. The justification for the ‘colonies’ was the resettlement of poor farmers in un-arable land to more arable land. Herman Guneratne makes a good point in his book ‘For a Sovereign State’ about it. Factually at least it was necessary. That it took on political undertones is unfortunate.

    A ‘colony’ is a colony (I’m using the word cos I can’t be arsed) – regardless of its motivation. The end result of Dollar and Kent Farm is the same as Wellawatte. It pisses people off. But Wellawatte and Kotahena inhabitants haven’t ended up hacked to death children and all.

    I am not saying what happened or is rumoured to be a proposal is correct. But the road for politically voicing opposition has now been open. Aacharya, you forget that contestants for local government elections from those areas will be almost exclusively Tamil. They will be able to have a say in development. Obviously. I’m not saying Basil should be the CM of the North. I’m just saying let the GOSL handle the infrastructure for the moment until democratic institutions are in place. That will NOT happen overnight as much as you AND I want it to.

    People in Italy are still in tents apparently, months after the earthquake. This is in Europe – not too far from Rome. It’s not easy for incompetent governments to sort this sort of situation out. You saw how America dealt with Katrina. This is worse and we have far less resources and capacity.

    I used the word ‘unitary’ deliberately as a statement of fact. We are still a unitary state. I – as you should remember – have quasi federal ambitions. But those are in the future. And until then, and even after, I will continue to abhor this ‘my part – your part’ rhetoric that seems to be the order of the day.

    I am very negotiable. The LTTE scuttled the 13th Amendment. The LTTE scuttled the cease fire which saw the Ranil administration get buggered and FFS the LTTE facilitated the voting in of this GOSL which you, and I, despise so much.

    We need to move away from this he said, she said crap. What I am inferring from these discussions is a complete unwillingness to concede anything for the sake of peace and prosperity in our times – not just for Tamils, for everyone – and that is unreasonable.

  • Humanist

    Thank you, Rukmankan, for supporting the view that there is a middle ground, at least for some of us.

    I was beginning to despair with all this quibbling and nitpicking going on. I mean, how important is it for our discussion here that Japan was not mentioned while Vietnam, Iraq and Afganistan, etc., were mentioned? Japan committed war crimes in a countless number of countries they occupied and most people consider the Hiroshima bomb dropped by the US a war crime as well. On the other hand, our very own JRJ, after all, forgave the Japanese in San Francisco – “hatred is not appeased by hatred, by love alone its quelled, etc”- perhaps, that’s why they abstained at the UNHRC.

    In terms of the Sri Lankan conflict (which happens to be our topic at hand), we all know that a lot of mistakes were made in the past, otherwise, we wouldn’t be in this horrible mess today. I certainly understand where the anger and bitterness is coming from but that is not going to get us out of this mess.

    This blog is called “groundviews”. I would sincerely like to hear from those of you who have a good grasp of the ground situation what is realistically achievable in terms of taking care of the displaced, as well as peace, reconciliation, co-existence within the next six months? The way forward, that Rukmankan, has reminded us about…

  • Heshan

    “I mean, how important is it for our discussion here that Japan was not mentioned while Vietnam, Iraq and Afganistan, etc., were mentioned? Japan committed war crimes in a countless number of countries they occupied and most people consider the Hiroshima bomb dropped by the US a war crime as well. On the other hand, our very own JRJ, after all, forgave the Japanese in San Francisco – “hatred is not appeased by hatred, by love alone its quelled, etc”- perhaps, that’s why they abstained at the UNHRC.”

    How important is it… its very important, else you risk the label of “hypocrite.” Not only Japan but Russia should also be investigated for its atrocities in Chechyna and Georgia, not to mention Afghanistan, as well as some of its WWII behavior. China should be investigated for its atrocities in and occupation of Tibet.

    As for the atom bomb, if you know the story of Los Alamos, it’s creation was hardly a pure American effort. Those scientists were fully aware of its destructive potential. Shall we posthumously try and convict some of the greatest minds of the 20th century?

  • Heshan

    “On the other hand, our very own JRJ, after all, forgave the Japanese in San Francisco – “hatred is not appeased by hatred, by love alone its quelled, etc”- perhaps, that’s why they abstained at the UNHRC.”

    Tell that to the rape victims at Nanking, or the Korean/Philipino concubines of the marauding Japanese Army or the Chinese victims of Japanese chemical attacks. “Love” wasn’t enough to offset the Nazi enigma; it took the carving up of Germany plus the Nuremberg Trials.

  • Ek

    so much bs going around here. MSF is not the west heshan. it’s a voluntary organisation with both man power and donations coming from all over the world. stop twisting facts please..

  • Ek

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124476890772308673.html

    If what some people say here is true, then people like Raja should be dead and his ashes in the sea. The surrenders did survive. Only the hard core terrorists were killed who held people at gun point causing mass “genocide” (buzz word of the season) on their own people.
    But alas, people like Heshan and punitham are still sugar coating LTTE actions and preaching hate speech. I have more respect for people like Raja.
    Peace comes to those who want it.. as well as war comes to those who seek it.

  • Heshan

    “MSF is not the west”

    Nice try [edited out]. MSF was founded by Westerners, its headquarters are in Switzerland, and its higher rung administration consists mostly of Westerners.

    Médecins Sans Frontières (pronounced medecinssansfrontieres.ogg [mɛtsɛ̃ sɑ̃ fʁɔ̃tjɛʁ] (help·info)), or Doctors Without Borders, is a secular humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization best known for its projects in war-torn regions and developing countries facing endemic disease.

    Médecins Sans Frontières was created in 1971 by a small group of French doctors in the aftermath of the Biafra secession, who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people supersede respect for national borders. The initiators of Médecins Sans Frontières were:[1]

    * Dr Marcel Delcourt
    * Dr Max Recamier
    * Dr Gérard Pigeon
    * Dr Bernard Kouchner
    * Dr Raymond Borel

    * Dr Jean Cabrol
    * Dr Vladan Radoman
    * Dr Jean-Michel Wild
    * Dr Pascal Greletty-Bosviel

    * Dr Jacques Bérés
    * Dr Gérard Illiouz
    * Philippe Bernier
    * Dr Xavier Emmanuelli

  • Heshan

    “The surrenders did survive.”

    If those who surrendered survived, GOSL would not be blocking foreign media from visiting the former war zones.

    I suggest you go back to playing in the sandbox, since that’s clearly what your IQ is good for.

  • Sophist

    Sigh….and all this time this discussion was happily devoid of uncalled for personal attacks.

    (Regathers himself and refrains from saying what he wants to say to Heshan)

    Humanist raises a very interesting fundamental point we all missed. This is ‘groundviews’, and until we can have an IDP blogger we can ask for views from those who directly have contact with them.

    I doubt very much that they would care who runs the development in their areas as long as it gets there in the short term. The goal is to alleviate the obvious suffering of these people. Holding on to our idealistic aspirations is only going to make life harder for them.

    Aacharya: But thambi, we can’t accept the GOSL running the development in ‘our land’. We must hold out like Asterix did against the invader.

    IDP: Paithyam Anna…you go and walk three bloody miles for a litre of water then, and come and live in my tent with 14 others you don’t know and haven’t had a shower for a week!!

    Baby steps. With lofty goals. They are not mutually exclusive. Prabhakaran through his ‘freedom struggle’ made life really crap for ‘his people’. The point is to try and make it better for them. That is priority! Democracit (as opposed to nationalistic/racist) aspirations are secondary and can be prosecuted simultaneously.

  • aadhavan

    Rukmankan,

    I know not of Times alleging genocide. Do you mind providing a link? I’m going to stop asking you not to misquote me though, because the effort seems worthless. I didn’t say I believed the 20,000 figure. I said it was the best estimate we have, and that it could be more, and could be less. The government is soley responsible for the world not knowing what happened. Also, when there are continuous and indiscriminate artillery barrages into a tiny strip of beach where hundreds of thousands of civilians are sheltering, to argue that the majority of deaths could have been due to toehr causes is silly. I also made the point that Tamil people have been oppressed and discriminated against by the state. Do you disagree? If not, why is it that you refer to Tamil people having a chip on their collective shoulders?Also, I made an argument as to how one cannot impute culpability to one actor for the commission of an independent wrong by another free actor, even if it was the wrong of the first actor that created the context for the commission of the another wrong by the second actor. Your response to this was ”’no civilians – no deaths”. Yes, how very clever. If their parents hadn’t produced them, they wouldn’t have died either. Is the logic a little too hard to follow?

    Let me deal with Humanist’s ”moderate” positions here. If you have any problem with what I’ve said here, let me know.

    1. Not only must the GoSL provide access to aid providers and media personnel, they must also FREE THE 300,000 DETAINEES. Until this happens. Tamils will not and cannot be convinced of the state’s bona fides, and that the state doesn’t intend to collectively punish the Tamils of Vanni illegally(even if you apply Sri Lanka’s draconian emergency laws) for what took place. Not a good start to reconciliation. The termination of the current policy of interning the entire Vanni population must end now! Those who have do not wish to leave the camps can stay, but out of choice, not because they are illegally detained.

    2) I categorically deny that there is an international witch hunt against Sri Lanka. Navi Pillay (South African woman, anti-apartheid activist, Mandela’s lawyer and international judge is no imperialist, neither is Ban-ki-Moon. Both have called for investigations and or inquiries. This must happen. Local investigations into abuses committed by the state against the Tamils have yielded NO results. There is no reason to believe this will change. An international, independent inquiry is a must. In fact the west supported the state by banning the Tigers, and helping out with funding the war. The coverage of Sri Lanka by the western media was neither impartial or atypical. It is problematic in the same way that their coverage of Israel, or Phillipines is problematic. i.e – there is much more of a hue and a cry when white people die, than when brown or black people do. It was typical of how the western media covers a ”bloodbath” of brown people. Tibet, Sudan and Palestine have had much more attention than Sri Lanka, and to suggest there is some kind of withchunt is to be paranoid and delusional.

    3) The Tamil and Muslim people have a legitimate right to exercise their right to internal self determination through substantial autonomy being granted to them in the areas that they have historically inhabited, especially in the areas of land, police powers and development. Futhermore, concrete steps must be taken to roll back the militarisation of the North and East. While the precise contours of power-sharing have to be thrashed out later, the unitary nature of the state cannot accomodate these legtimate concerns, just as a separate state for Tamils is not desirable. Since constitutional changes to the basic structure of the state don’t happen every other year, whenever constitutional changes are being discussed, our position must be that the state must be reconfigured as a federal or at he very least a quasi federal state such as in India.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Aadhavan

    What’s the difference between ‘thinking that the 20,000 figure is the best estimate we have’ and ‘believing’ it?

    I concur with your 3 points but I agree with Sophist that it will take time. You can’t expect the GOSL to take chances. Be realistic.

    Also, if you want to read all the The Times articles you can go to http://www.timesonline.co.uk. I neither have the time nor the inclination to dig up their articles. The imply genocide.

  • Sophist

    One question Aadhavan – say we have that international inquiry into the human rights abuses. Assume the GOSL is found guilty of war crimes. What then? How does this help the IDP’s and/or the Tamil community at large? Is anything tangible achieved to alleviate their plight and guarantee their freedom?

    I don’t know…I’m asking.

    I am somewhat shocked and surprised at your assertion of ‘historical occupation’. A lot of things have changed machan. Aborigines historically occupied Australia and the Native Indians America. Populations grow, people need to move closer to each other. Let’s not remain stuck in an anachronistic worldview. Even presription to land is only ten years. We can’t go back to a pre-colonial account of history to demarcate ethnic boundaries.

    What we can do is realise that for whatever reason, these ethnic groups live in these particular areas. The democratic make up of each area will reflect its inhabitants.

    We all know that in the NE Tamil is the widely spoken language. Even the military – those who have not just been drafted in as cannon fodder – speaks functional Tamil as a result of being in those areas. I don’t think I’d be able to order my bilingual self a proper meal at a restaurant in Kili or Jaffna without substantial finger pointing and gesturing.

    Sri Lanka’s population now is 20 million. In the times that Tamils ‘historically occupied’ the NE exclusively (conceded for the sake of the argument) the population would have been probably a quarter of that. It’s unrealistic to live in the past. Which is ironically what a bloke of your obvious intelligence is doing.

    Quasi federal at least is a must. Once this is achieved the rest will take care of itself. Undue emphasis on historical homelands is too synonymous for me with Eelam.

  • Ek

    Of course it’s French we all know it silly.
    But a lot of volunteers don’t come from just the west. The actual doctors. I admire what MSF does and appreciate it. I don’t like it being branding the west which is disrespecting all the good people at MSF.
    Ok I’m off to play in a sand with my two dolls pit now. ta.

  • Ek

    correction* Ok I’m off to play in a sand pit with my two dolls now.

    geez my iq is really bad haha.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    Sophist ‘Anna’,

    You cant even make a distinction between the short term and long term. I used to revere your intelligence and sense of logic.

    You want to ask the IDP in the Vavuniya camps as to who should run their camps and as to whether they want devolution of powers? You have already assumed the answer in a very egalitarian sense that they wont care. May i offer to take you to Jaffna who have been affected by the war, displaced multiple times, lost their parents and you can ask them. I can see that you are on the drive for looking for the legitimate, ‘groundviews’ voice. I was suspect about this from the beginning. You now want to link legitimacy to your own subjective selective understanding of suffering and ask them whether they want devolution. Brilliant analysis. Hats off to you anna.

    What we need right now is civilian administration of the camps, address access issues etc. I am not saying that those people shouldnt be cared for until we have devolution. I do not understand why people need to be kept in detention like this. Its been almost 45 days since they left Vanni. How long is this screening going to take place? Don’t we at least need systems that monitor this screening process?

    By the way if you accept that we need to move towards a federal country with genuine power sharing we do not have much to debate. (of course we need to debate the intricacies but it looks like even this basic question is not resolved). What has been confusing is why does Sophist anna say that we shouldnt be worried about Basil masterminding the development efforts in the East and now in the North? What does this say about even his position of ‘quasi federalism’?

    By the way, would you like to respond to my question about what you think are the grievances of the tamil people?

    Rukmankan/Humanist: regarding the ‘moderate’ position

    Point one is acceptable. But it doesnt go far as the need to work towards closing those camps and let those people go where they want. It doesnt mention about the welfare of the ‘surrendees’. The estimate of the number of surrendees is between 9000-13000 and we need to know whats happening to these people.

    The second point is unacceptable. There is an illusion, a false dichotomy of choice that is being created that we either attend to the IDP issues or attend to the investigations/ transitional justice issue. This is a false choice that has been articulated by the Govt and echoed by Humanist/Rukmankan. I dont see why both cant be pursued at the same time. Dayan Jayatilleke in the UNHRC a couple of days back said victors are not tried (Like in Cambodia and at Nuremburg). That cant be acceptable. It is not an argument to say it didn’t happen elsewhere so it cant happen here. The basic question is those who lost their loved ones do they deserve an answer as to why this happened? I say yes. Tell me if anyone disagrees with this. The basic problem with the Govt is that they are in complete denial of what has happened here.

    I am curious. All of you say the Govt is bad but you all want to offer a PR package to save its face. Why is this? What is the affection?

    Point three is about engagement with the Government. Does enaging mean that we waont advocate for what we see as wrong in the Govt?

    Four is acceptable. But it is very vaguely put. I have no quarrel with the basic idea put across in this points. The fifth point is a feel good point. Sounds like a post modernist, derrida type of, deconstructive theory. There are divisions and there are positions. We have to question why people take such positions. We cant wish away the divisions. This applies to all sides of the debate i agree.

    Rukmankan,

    You first opined that Aadhavan has changed. When Aadhavan questioned you about your presumptions now you say that it was meant for me as well. Now at least you have been following Aadhavan for a year. What makes you think that i acquiescence with the position that the LTTE or the Tamil Diaspora takes/took? Will i be wrong to assume then that according to you all who call for investigations, demand self government for the tamils have to be necessarily pro-LTTE?

  • aadhavan

    Sophist, the call for a war crimes investigation is borne out of a desire to see accountability for wrongs committed, deterrence of future wrongs and a simple human desire for the wronged to seek justice. Surely, this is not difficult to understand. And surely, you cannot say that justice should not be meted out if wrongs have been committed.

    Don’t be shocked about the use of the term ”historical homelands”. The term was employed in the text of the Oslo Declaration, which the then government celebrated as a landmark moment in the progress of ethnic relations, reconciliation and understanding. It’s interesting that you mention the aborigines, because international law clearly establishes the right of indigenous peoples to own, occupy and use the lands they have historically inhabited as a corollary of their right to self determination. So your assertion that the notion of a historical homeland being obsolete and in some way, illiberal, is misinformed. In fact, recent developments in international law suggest that those rights are beginning to be recognised as inherent rights of indigenous and minority peoples. Many liberal scholars of repute such like Kymlicka also defend these group rights of indigenous and minorities to these ”group rights.”Let me help you understand why the issue of ”areas of historical habitation” is so important to Tamils. The issue of state sponsored, sometimes violent, colonisation of lands in the North and East have already been discussed here. If you look at the change in demographic composition in the Eastern Province, it is clear that this is no accidental by-product of some bona fide development plan. The use of Sinhala settlements to change the demographic composition of the North and East, in a manner that weakens the political clout of the minorities, both Tamil and Muslim, has also been widely documented. There is a palpable and well justified fear among the Tamils and the Muslims in the North and east that the current government is continuing this 60 year old policy at an accelerated rate. See ICG’s comprehensive report on the East covering this issue
    http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=6056&l=1
    Look at Tibet where the Tibetans are becoming a minority in Tibet itself. Same thing in North-East India. So this is a valid, and well justified concern, and that is why the notion of a historical homeland is so important, as a bulwark against attempts to alter the demographic composition in the areas Tamils and Muslims inhabit.

  • aadhavan

    p.s- I have used the terms ”historical homeland” and ”areas of historical habitation” interchangeably. I think the distinction is laregely semantic, and if someone wanted me to drop the former for the latter, I’d do it. Also the Oslo text uses “areas of historical habitation” and not ”historical homeland”. The Thimpu Principles refer to ”traditional homelands”.

  • aadhavan

    Rukmankan, you were making stuff up when you said that the Times had “asserted” genocide, weren’t you? You now say they implied it,(impliedly asserted, or assertively implied?) and because I said that the Times’ 20,000 figure was the best estimate we have, (although the real figure may end up being more, or less than that number), I also impliedly accepted the Times’ supposed implication that there was a genocide going on. Do you have any credibility left mate? I want to assert, impliedly of course, that you don’t.

  • Sophist

    Aacharya:

    I would like to respectfully disagree with your categorical statement that I can’t tell the difference between the long and short term. I think I can.

    Long term – quasi federal. Short term – get these people treated like human beings in the quickest possible way regardless of who does it.

    I think the question is an essentialist one, and I doubt either you or I can adequately speak for the people in the camps. I also don’t think the long term political structure of their eventual home territory is going to be uppermost in their minds. I think right now they probably thing ‘ at what time is the line for the toilet shortest’.

    I’m only saying that now we should not be anal about who develops what where. Development is what is needed and like it or not the central government decides that now. Let it happen and the transistion to federalism take place.

    Tell the soldiers who have seen pre teen children strapped with explosives leap into their bunkers that the screening really shouldn’t take this long. I think they might disagree.

    I have not at any stage said the camps are desirable or necessary. I don’t think the war was either. But I don’t make these decisions. I’m just trying to explain why someone else might and how best we deal with those decisions which we can’t influence.

    If I have lost your ‘reverance’ it doesn’t really matter in the larger scheme of things. If political disagreement leads to a lack of respect then you know why wars are fought. In fact I’m surprised there aren’t more wars.

    Also I don’t pretend to knwo the Tamil question and my understanding of it is not detailed enough to articulate. It is once again a very essentialist one which a Sinhalese will find difficult to comprehend. This is why I asked you…and I will continue to listen to you propogating your ideal position while continuing to remind you it’s not an ideal world. For anyone. Anywhere.

    Telling me I don’t know the difference between long and short term is like telling Rukman he is confused because you didn’t understand what he wrote. And you know what I thought of that.

    Aadhavan:

    I agree machan. The war crimes inquiry will result in all that you say and that is a very good position just like the TRC in South Africa. I think what we need an inquiry into is Black July more than anything else.

    However, I didn’t get an answer for how that will TANGIBLY (see above) help the IDP’s. Retribution is all well and good, but does it really help the national question is all I ask….? And I don’t think it does.

    The situation is somewhat different machan from the Aborigines. The white people stepped in and took over SOMEONE ELSE’S country. I don’t think even you would deny that the Sinhalese also did historically occupy Sri Lanka for as long if not longer than the Tamils. So did the thambis. So the question of indigenous people is as irrelevant as it would be for someone to call moving from Victoria to New South Wales colonisation. Which is why I detest the use of the word.

    You must surely, logically, reasonably agree that the proposed Eelam was slightly a generous piece of the pie for 12% of a population?

    Population and arable land is a problem. You’ve completely ignored my points. While agreeing that armed ‘colonisation’ is wrong, it is also wrong to completely exclude Sinhalese people from ever having the right to live in this historical homeland alongside Tamils. If that’s the case I think everyone should move and we will have a de factor seperate state. Which we fought for 30 years to avoid. Why try to reinvent the wheel?

    It is true that the Sinhalese are a majority with a minority complex, but I can only infer from your contributioins that the reverse is true with the Tamils. Democracy is eventually a numbers game. So is war.

    While you and Aacharya have reiterated your position repeatedly, I don’t see either of you grappling with any of the points I have put forward. Can’t help but feel that the groundwork laid during countless hours of debating practice have been lost in the mire of Mypointatallcosts :)

  • NavRat

    I know its probably impossible but I would like to see some kind of statistic for the Sinhala colonization attempts in East. Because as sure as shit it didnt change any demographic balance on the North.

    Also on the whole “historical homelands” argument it has to be said that a large part of the Eastern Province did come under the Kandyan Kingdom
    (whether that constitutes a Sinhalese kingdom really is another debate I suppose)

    Its interesting since the nationalist Sinhalese line is that the merger of the North and East into one province is an attempt by the Tamils to establish demographic dominance of the combined area which they wouldnt have in the East alone

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharya

    “While you and Aacharya have reiterated your position repeatedly, I don’t see either of you grappling with any of the points I have put forward. Can’t help but feel that the groundwork laid during countless hours of debating practice have been lost in the mire of Mypointatallcosts”

    I have been told that consistency is very important for a debater. I would request that you re read some of your comments. Shifting positions as you have done, in real-life debate is good. It shows flexibility. But contradictions arent tolerated. Especially when you claim victories with all of this. See for example your statements regarding Tissa (‘not so pearly white’ and later ‘but i dont know the case that much’), Colonisation (‘its a mistake’ but ‘its ok motivations dont matter’), and devolution (‘whats wrong with colombo doing development work’ and later ‘yes quasi-federalism is needed’) and your comments with regard to whether the IDPs would share mine and aadhavan ‘ideal position’s’ when we never articulated a position that IDPs shouldnt be assisted until we have federalism.

    I am told that you have claimed victories my thrashing margins with me and aadhavan on this weblog. :-) I have no desire to claim such victories. I debate here because i believe in debate and dialogue as a process of understanding. I wish not to claim victories. In fact when i used to see you at debates you were mostly a judge. I have rarely seen you debating. I have only seen you judging us. Its very true here as well.

    PS: Want to come debate face to face for an invited audience on the same topic? I am willing to arrange. I am trying to give you an opportunity so that you may be able to make a better assessment of the skills that we have harnessed in debating if you want.

  • Pragmatist

    All this writing of traditional tamil homeland and traditional sinhala homeland seems to lead to the need for each side to establish the legitimacy of their claim – which neither seems to be able to do based on actual historical facts. What makes this debate even more pointless is the fact that none of the tamils living outside of so-called “tamil areas” want to relocate to traditional areas. Unless they are all forced to pick up and leave for the traditional tamil homelands – including all the top chartered accountants, doctors, engineers, IT professionals etc who happen to be tamils living in the south, this proposed scheme would in fact result in a much larger part of the nation being relegated to a small minority. Has anyone done a survey to determine how many tamils in the south are willing to relocate to tamil areas?

  • Humanist

    Aadhavan,

    Fundamentally, I am in agreement with all of your points, although not in some of the details. I support a federal system with everything devolved, except external relations and the military. I recognise that this would have to be along ethnic lines given our history so far but I hope one day the people in Sri Lanka would be mature enough to have a federal system along geographical lines, so that people who live in a particular area can have self-rule and anyone can decide where they want to live and feel comfotable there. I realise that this is, of course, in the very distant future.

    Like Sophist (and I think Rukmankan) I think “indigenous” and “traditional homelands” are totally outldated constructs, and the sooner Sri Lankans start understanding that they are a mixed people, while appreciating our respective languages (including making sure we are at least tri-lingual), religions and cultures, the better it is for all of us.

    I beg to differ with you on how one gets to the goal of federalism (or at least quasi-federalism). I think one of the reason we’ve had so much bloodshed and terror so far is because people have not been rational in the means they pursue. We need to understand the reality we are grappling with. There’s no point asking for what we can’t get if the climate is not right for it – all we do is alienate people, whom we need to move beyond their current position. What is the use of preacing to a small minority of converted?

    I think neither Rukamankan, Sophist nor I are paranoid/delusory in wanting to make sure the PR war does not get out of hand. As long as the SL government feels besieged and can point to an “external enemy”, it is easier for it to get mass support and votes (the ground situation is that the Sinhalese are the majority of the electorate) for their agenda. As long as this “external threat” persists, people like us are considered the “enemy within”. So the spaces we have to voice our views become very circumscribed. Eventually change has to come from more people coming around to our position, not by European and North American governments coming up with proposals. In fact if we are considered their “puppets”, we have no way to influence anybody. Just as Tamil chauvinism is not destroyed by the military defeat of the LTTE , Sinhalese chauvinism will not be destroyed just because this regime collapses.

    My assessment is that this government is only going to get stronger if it can maintain an “external enemy” in the “West” and “Tamil Diaspora”. It might eventually collapse because of unsound economic policies but if can remain in the orbit of China, Iran and India, and be propped up at least for a couple more years. Those are precious years in terms of the potential for change.

    Sophist and Rukmankan have the more rational and pragmatic position. What is a war crimes investigation going to accomplish? It is going to keep the Ministry of Human Rights, which also happens to be the Minstry of Disaster Management (plus Justice and other related ministries) occupied in Geneva for at least a year. How is that going to help the displaced? Do they need food, toilets, medicines, shelter right now or to be able to testify in an investigation? Even if the grievances are heard and there is a report (which more often than not ends in some drawer), what is it going to achieve on the ground? Only that the Tamil people feel that they have been heard? If anyone thinks that this regime is going to let those 300,000 people get out of the camps before six months because of international pressure/investigation, I think that is entirely unrealistic. The best we can hope for is that CHA. Sarvodaya and Sewalanka (designated the lead NGOs in emergency relief effort right now) will be able to make their lives a bit easier and support that to the best of our abiltiies.

    At the same time, if there is an international process where all the patriotic Sri Lankans feel they are on trial, it is only going to increase the current polarisation and garner more support for this regime. The numbers game in Sri Lanka is such that the minorities can demand their rights but they will eventually only get them if the government representing the dominant ethnic group is willing to grant them. My view is that the only way we get there is by expanding the space for the middle ground – and that is going to be an exercise of compromise and consensus-building and take much longer than most of us would want it. Otherwise, we can return to 25 more years of war and/or a state that will increasingly become more authoritarian and belong in an “international neighbourhood” that some of us might not like.

    I suppose that doesn’t matter to those who are sitting in the diaspora with other passports but for those of us who are still Sri Lankan citizens or think of it as home, for whatever it is worth, I don’t see any other options. If they are other realistic alternatives out there, I certainly would like to hear them.

  • aadhavan

    Sophist, why must there be a tangible benefit to the IDP’s from war crimes prosecutions? Do we always do a check on whether criminal prosecutions tangibly benefit victims before proceeding with them? Why then should that be the case here> Even if you want a tnagible benefit, I think it comes in the form of increased bargaining power for the West and the UN to secure greater access to the internment camps, and a speedier end to the policy of internment.

    Re the question of colonisation, I for one didn’t respond to your argument because you have conflated the free movement of people from one place to another with the kind of state sponsored colonisation of only Sinhala people into lands that co-incidentally are predominated by Tamils and Muslims. When that was pointed out, you didn’t respond to it. I don’t think anyone here has doubted or questioned the right of Sinhala people to live anywhere in the country, be it Jaffna or Trincomalee. The LTTE kicked the Muslims out of Jaffna, and I think that was sick, wrong and disgusting. So, let Sinhalese people move into the North and East. I’m all for that, it will make the place more multicultural, However, what has happened for 60 years is the enforced settlement of Sinhala people in the Ampara and Trincomalee districts, with a view to altering the demographic composition of the East. If you think it was just about development, why were only Sinhala people settled on these lands. Why not people from the area itself? Why weren’t estate Tamils provided land in these areas? Why weren’t the people of the Vanni, whose land is terribly barren, also settled there? Why has not a single non-Sinhala been given a plot of land in these agricultural settlements?

    Re the issue of referring to ”areas of historical habitation”, the reason I referred to aborigines is because you brought it up in the course of making your argument that we cannot be stuck in history. I said that contrary to your claim that speaking of ”historical areas of habitation” is disappointing and shocking and anachronistic, modern international law now supports the idea of indigenous people being entitled to land rights in their areas of historical habitation. If there is nothing wrong in principle about talking about indigenous peoples rights to land in their areas of historical habitation, then in principle at least, we can agree that the notion of a historical area of habitation is not wrong. In international law at least, the right of indigenous people to land in their areas of historical habitation is linked to their right to self determination, which not only indigenous people, but minority peoples are entitled to. The jurisprudential justification for recognising this right is not so much the naked fact that they have lived there for thousands of years(as the Tamils have done in the North and East), but more as a corollary of those people’s right to self determination. That is why the trend in international law is not just to speak of indigenous peoples right, but of the rights of indigenous and minority peoples.

    Humanist,
    regarding youre argument about the counter-productivity of the souht being made to feel under siege, I really don’t think this phenomena can be leveraged to argue that the government must be let off the hook. I think the South has demonstrated a tnedency to feel besieged at evert turn , even when in fact they were not. How else do you explain the anti-Norway sentiment that is now rife? How do you explian the anti-India sentiment despite India’s military backing of the government? How do you explain the visceral hatred displayed by previously liberal Sinhalese towards the international media? Ditto the western powers who helped fund this war? The 13th amendment was shoved down the throats of the South, and today, by and large, Sinhalese seem to be comfortable with it. I say, ditto federalism.

    Navrat, wikipedia Eastern province, There are some stats there.

  • Viji

    Rukmankan, well said.. You are right when you say that these liberals miss the wood for the trees.. and the Times and the BBC so partisan. I remember a female BBC reporter who lived in SL who interviewed LTTE women suicide bomber cadre. these women (not women.. androgenous beings!) brainwashed by their beloved leader espoused their way of life and thier cause which included blowing themselves up into bits! they decryed the life of a normal woman, who bore children, looked after a family etc. The hypocracy of the journalist, she stands there in awe of these androgenous beings.. while she of course conveniently forgot to say that she had a new born baby who she adored..

  • Sophist

    Aacharya: I have neither heard news of my so called ‘victory by thrashing margins’ in this weblog debate, and neither have I any desire to hear the score. I have no engaged in this with any competitive mindset AT all.

    I have previously been loathe to comment on groundviews, but since the fall of Uncle P, I have taken it upon myself to try and be one of the moderate voices that I call for. From both communities.

    The fact that you view this as a debate to be ‘won’ and ‘lost’ I think is indicative of the worldview with which you have underscored all your arguments – a very ‘us vs them’ perspective which is unfortunate to say the least.

    I have no desire to win or lose but merely facilitate constructive discussion.

    My reference to debating preparation was aimed solely at Aadhavan and not you. I apologise for the lack of clarity. I have had no influence on your growth as a debater. I think that is apparent.

    I do not wish to get drawn into a public debate with you as I don’t think this is a prize fight. Also I have no reason to prove my credentials to you. But carrying on from what you said I think the time is right for public discussion of this nature to take place and the more of them that can be organised the better. I will be a more than willing participant.

    Aadhavan: The demography of the NE hardly changed significantly. When anything happens. Resettlement or attendance at a rugby match, it’s likely to be mainly Sinhalese cos there are a shit load of them. 70% +. Without official statistics I’d rather not get drawn into the ‘colonisation’ argument.

    Suffice it to say that I have stuck to my position that we cannot go back in time to look for things to be pissed off about today. The grundnorm has changed. The GOSL did what it did then and caused a war. Hopefully, it won’t repeat its mistakes. You have also ignored how administratively it is possible to solve the population inflation.

    I repeate my argument that the Tamils are not any more ‘indigenous’ than the Sinhalese or the Muslims. So the international law theories are not relevant to this country as they might be to Australia.

    Humanist: At least when I get carpel tunnel syndrome someone will visit me in hospital.

  • http://guruchetra.blogspot.com Aachcharyya

    Sophist Anna

    You were the one who talked about debate not me. Now you say it was for Aadhavan. Ok.

    I had said in my earlier reply “I debate here because i believe in debate and dialogue as a process of understanding. I wish not to claim victories.” I am glad that you agree.

    Indeed i am thankful that you were’nt involved any part of my development as a debater. I credit that to Aadhavan.

    You say: “I have previously been loathe to comment on groundviews, but since the fall of Uncle P, I have taken it upon myself to try and be one of the moderate voices that I call for. From both communities.”

    My response: :-) How sweet of you.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Sorry guys. The update mechanism on this doesn’t seem to work and I seem to have missed chunks of the debate.

    Aadhavan – from what I remember of the series of articles in The Times, some of them implied genocide and some of them asserted genocide. In the context of a leading newspaper (which The Times undoubtedly is) reporting on an issue such as this, does it make a difference whether the possibility of genocide was ‘implied’ or ‘asserted’? Both are incorrect and mischievous.

    Also, I apologized to you for assuming that you believed the genocide story, whether ‘implied’ or ‘asserted’! :-)

    Achcharya – in my reply to Aadhavan I said that I posed those questions to you, him and Heshan. That doesn’t mean that I presumed anything about your views vis-à-vis the Diaspora and the LTTE.

    Regarding your question on Humanist’s Point 2, advocating a PR campaign to counter false information is not the same as advocating a PR campaign to whitewash the GOSL’s wrongs. The primary focus of the article was countering The Times’ campaign and other similar campaigns based on misinformation, not BBC or UN-bashing. I found The Times’ call for a tourist boycott of Sri Lanka highly offensive and frankly, so should you. It will hurt Sri Lanka, not the GOSL. Yes, a PR campaign may help whitewash any wrongdoings on the part of the GOSL but I don’t believe in cutting the nose to spite the face. I have also stated that no PR campaign would be effective unless the GOSL gets its house in order. There is a clear difference between defending Sri Lanka and defending the GOSL, just as there is a clear difference between concern for the IDPs/Tamils/human and civil rights and concern for the LTTE.

    Frankly I thought I made this distinction quite clearly in the original article and in my subsequent responses to you and the others. I hope I have clarified this for the last time.

    Heshan – thanks for the reply. I hope you are right about the Diaspora. All that talent and money can certainly be used for the betterment of the Tamils and towards the development of the N&E. It’s just that I don’t see any such positive sentiment emanating from them. I hope this changes. I’m going to spending 2 months in London soon so I may get a better idea of the Diaspora’s sentiments (I will be surrounded by them :-))

  • aadhavan

    Sophist, just a few stats to help you understand that the demographics in the East have not only changed significantly, they have in fact changed dramatically.

    In 1881 the Sinhala population of Trincomalee district was only 935 or 4. 2 %; the Tamils were 14,394 or 64.8 % while Muslims were 5746 or 25.9 %. 100 years later in 1981 the Sinhalese were 86,341 or 33.6 % but the Tamils were 86, 743 or 33.7%. The Muslims were 74, 405 or 28.9 %. In a century the Sinhalese had gone up from 4. 2 % to 33. 6 % and Muslims from 25.9 % to 28.9% but the Tamils had decreased from 64.8% to 33.7. In Ampara, the Sinhalese have gone up from 7% of the population in 1911, to 37% in 1981. If these changes are not significant, I don’t know what that word means to you anymore. Btw, these stats are taken directly from official census statistics. Moreover, if you look at the places where the settlements took place, you’d find that the population of Sinhalese in those DS divisions is close to 100%. I’m talking about Lahugala, Uhana, Maha Oya, Digamadulla etc. The census stats are available online, and can be accessed through wikipedia.

    I don’t think I’ve ignored how to solve the population inflation problem. I’ve only suggested that if you do alienation of state land, you do so in a way that doesnt fundamentally alter the demographics of an area if you can help it, you do so in a way that gives preference to those landless persons living in close proximity to the settlements so as not to alter political, social and demographic equilibria, and you so in a way that doesn’t favour one group over the other- by alienating land to one group and one group only.

    I’m not saying the Tamils and Muslims are indigenous to the North and East, I was only countering your claim that the notion of an area of historical habitation is an anachronism. I went on to say that Tamils and Muslims have in fact historically inhabited the North and East, and that in the face of Sinhala colonisation that was funded by everyone’s tax rupees and that seeks to and has changed the demographics of the region dramatically, those peoples have a right to self determination within the areas they have in fact inhabited for millenia.

  • aadhavan

    Gentlemen, these debate wars are a little unbecoming, no?

    Rukmankan, you asserted that the Times asserted genocide. I am fairly sure they didn’t. But given your powers of extrapolation, deduction and imagination, forgive me for accepting your point that they implied genocide with a sack full of salt.

  • ayshya

    To interject into the argument, I think the issues with “colonization” in the north or east goes beyond demographic changes or land allocation; other resources are also disproportionately distributed, and this could be construed as being based on ethnicity.

    One example is when the government promoted the farming of sugar cane in the east, the opportunities and benefits largely went to Sinhalese farmers. As a cash crop, this was not only more profitable but also used more water than paddy cultivation. As Sinhalese farmers also given lands closer to the water source, their presence directly effected the agricultural output and profits of Tamil and Muslim farmers. [source]

    The latest UTHR report states that the navy are helping ‘Sinhalese’ fishermen fish in the Mannar seas, with direct detrimental consequences to local Tamil and Muslim fishermen and their property. whilst local fisherman have to work under many restrictions, these restrictions allegedly do not apply to ‘Sinhalese’ fishermen. [source]

    These ethnic divisions appear to be supported by state institutions, so it little wonder the communities that are negatively effected are unable to move beyond ethnic divisions, and choose to complain about their grievances through ethnic constructs as well.

  • punitham

    ‘How Can People Say This is Peace?’ by Stephanie Nolen, The Globe and Mail, Canada, January 27, 2009:
    ‘’ … Yet as frightening as the disappearances, and perhaps more likely to cause further conflict over time, is the government’s unabashed campaign of “Sinhalization.” …All the land seized as a ‘high security zone’ in the 2006 fighting is still in the hands of the military, and you have tens of thousands of people stuck in resettlement camps where they aren’t allowed to fish and don’t have land to farm and have a miserable existence,” said one United Nations employee who was not authorized to discuss the situation on the record. ….and has instead brought in Sinhalese fishermen from the south, to whom it affords much more freedom. ‘’

    David Rampton of SAOS, University of London, sent a warning to the international community in his address to the International Seminar, Humanitarian Action in the ‘Undeclared War’ in Sri Lanka, Geneva, Switzerland 22 September 2007: ”The current focus on human rights issues, which whilst performing the essential task of exposing the authoritarianism and violence of the current regime, is insufficient to capture the cold calculations and reasoning in the intentions of the Sri Lankan State which has once again returned the logic of Sinhala colonization.”

    Disaster Response, Peace and Conflict in Post-Tsunami Sri Lanka, Part 1: The Congestion of Humanitarian Space, Simon Harris, February 2006(University of Bradford, UK):
    ”Members of the Sinhalese community expressed concern that the distribution of fishing boats by INGO’s to individuals meant that Tamils could now own their means of production rather than renting it from the local Sinhalese ‘fisher barons’. Furthermore, they did not need the cash loans, which had previously shackled them to a relationship of debt repayment with the Sinhalese moneylenders”.

    Development Assistance and Conflict in Sri Lanka: Lessons from the Eastern Province, International Crisis Group, 16 April 2009:
    ‘’Ensure that security restrictions which limit livelihood options – eg, on fishing, cattle-grazing or wood-collecting – are kept to a minimum and that when enforced they are applied in clear, consistent and non-arbitrary ways.”

  • punitham

    We have gone through a series of ”peace talks” and what not without any change in the structural violence for six decades.

    You can go on arguing certain points to futility and infinity. The bottomline is that there can be no reconciliation unless injustice stops.

    People who came out of Vanni are immensely and unjustly suffering in the camps.

    Please please please do something about it.

    Most are there not because they have no other place to go. They are in the camps because the government does not allow them to leave. Conditions in the camps are inadequate. Food distribution is chaotic and scanty, there are shortages of water, and sanitation facilities are dangerously inadequate. No access to proper medical services and communicable diseases have broken out.
    Above all aid agencies don’t have free access.
    Army runs shops to sell things at exorbitant price!!
    Needless to say :no media.

    In all these columns people argue about reconciliation.

    Earlier we had ”peace talks”.
    Now we have these columns?

  • punitham

    Oops,

    I didn’t mean to say ”Conditions in the camps are inadequate.”
    Conditions are much more than HORRIFIC.

    Paramilitaries have free access and young males and females are regularly disappearing. …….
    ……………
    ……………………..

    http://transcurrents.com/tc/2009/06/the_wanni_idpsthe_path_to_reco.html#more:
    … … I would like to say that when truth and justice prevail and all the people of the Island including the IDPs are treated with human dignity and all communities share in the governance of the country … …..

  • Realist

    I am surprised that intelligent people are still talking in terms of a Sri Lanka. No there are only two groups- the Sinhala and the Tamils. Those who are nonSinhala and non Buddhists should heed the advcie of Sarath Fonseka.
    Some people still refuse to accept that there is no media freedom. Every opponent of the government will be cowed into submission. The attack on university students of Kelaniya reminded of reading about Naz blackshirts who stormed the university of Berlin and beat up liberal lecturers and Professors. We can preach to the Times of London and everybody else but as long as there is no media freedom whatever the government spokesmen say will not be credible. Instead of throwing stones at the Times or anybody else let us prevent the deterioration of freedom in our own country.

  • Rukmankan Sivaloganathan

    Aadhavan – if it makes you happy. All the best to you.

  • Heshan

    “The bottomline is that there can be no reconciliation unless injustice stops.”

    Well said. This kind of thing goes beyond race. It is an affront to human dignity. We are in the 21st century… no one should have to wait in a long line to get water or relieve themselves. These camps are worse than the German Concentration Camps, in some ways. At least in the German Concentration Camps, the inmates were allowed to work themselves to death. They knew they would die anyway; starvation, labor, beatings were to be expected. Here in Sri Lanka we have a similar process going on but it is more subtle. Here there is a specific target: the young people. They too are taken away, never seen reappear in daylight again… tortured and killed, one can only guess about their fate. According to Sunila Abeysekara, 200 were taken away just last week. Further, according to her, 10,000 LTTE cadres surrendered. Their fate is unknown. There is no registration list at the camps. Anyone can disappear at any time. What is amazing is that an organization which came into existence to prevent such another Holocaust, the UN, is funding these camps. What a pitiful situation.

  • NavRat

    Aadhavan- another way of looking at those demographic stats is that the overall Tamil share of the total Eastern Province population has stayed quite stable at about 40% for almost the last 40 years.

    Granted this means nothing in terms of possible new settlements in the future but it does show how hard it is to really force demographic change. I think its safe to say no substantive colonization has taken place in the last 30 years in the East for obvious reasons.

    And Heshan? Worse than the German Concentraion Camps? Are you basing this just on the word of Sunila Abeysekera? Have you read much about what the Holocaust camps were like?

  • NavRat

    And for what its worth the fishing restrictions for the entire Eastern Province were apparently lifted yesterday.

    http://www.dailymirror.lk/DM_BLOG/Sections/frmNewsDetailView.aspx?ARTID=51816

  • davidson panabokke

    Ohhh, we’ve just heard a Tamil fisherman was shot by the Sri Lankan Navy and is hospitalised.

    Chandrika told the world she had lifted economic embargo on the North but the occupying army didn’t. Ranil thundered on the election platformin 2001 that the first appoitments would be teachers for the Northeast schools. Did he manage to convince the bureaucracy?

    It’s an internationally accepted fact that intrastate conflicts are very very very vicious and needs third party intervention.

    Folks, let’s stop kidding ourselves. Let’s base out action on fully analysed data and conclusions. We can’e go on any more like this.

    First things first please.

  • Halitosis

    In case you didn’t notice an overwhelming majority of Sinhala Catholics voted for this government too. This thrust is once again an attack on Buddhists it seems. Rather queer that policy of a regime is discussed without any/zip/nada/zilch discussion of how the Tigers(including their catholic terrorists) started this shit by reneging on 3 peace accords. And then they thought they had the international community on their side.. After the Mumbai attacks India was compelled to ignore these mad idiots led by a fascist thug megalomaniac. Queer Queer Queer how the genesis of the end of Tigers is ignored in all the discussions condemning the government which had to do what it had to do to fight the war to its cruel end.. No one is under any illusion that winning the military aspect means end of the real war; winning the peace as Dayan Jayatilleke said will mean at least the 13th Amendment. I was in Colombo and I didn’t see any Buddhist flags at celebrations. I saw a lot of ordinary Catholics in Little Negombo also celebrating the end of fear of bombs and suicide terrorists.

    Where you kids when the JVP was wiped out? Did you write poems and blogs crying the demise of the JVP who were wiped out using any and all means necessary including taking Wijeweera to Kanatte and executing him ? sheesh boys…and gals.. this is oh so typical sophomoric lamenting devoid of reality and hard facts of war.

    Show me a war fought by Christians that was “humane” . Please note the US is still covering up evidence of systemic torture. Jayaweywa

  • Halitosis

    Holocaust camps and refugee camps ? looks like someone swallowed the Tiger Diaspora Kool-Aid again.. Absurd. First, these people were piss poor and forced to march onto the Beaches like the Bataan March by the Tamil Tigers. Their conditions were always bad just like that of the southern Sinhala JVP people’s lives. So there are bad conditions in the camps. Yes but only a racist will try to equate these camps to Nazi Camps. Sadly there has to be restrictions to filter out the Tigers. Perhaps the government is overwhelmed. But at least there are no bombs falling on them.. It will take time to process them.. Afterall, Christian US rounded up all its Japanese citizens without any cause during WW-II and here we have a fight against the best, toughest, most motivated terrorist rebel force and you expect the government to roll over because a few people say so? It will take time. Be patient. It has only been a few weeks since the battle ended.

  • NavRat

    Internationally accepted you say? I better shut up then.

    What was that last thing about fully analysed data?

  • Heshan

    “In case you didn’t notice an overwhelming majority of Sinhala Catholics voted for this government too.”

    I doubt the accuracy of that statement. The largest Government voter-base is the rural South which is overwhelmingly Sinhala-Buddhist. Apart from the rural South, the UNP has a significant following in Colombo and up-country areas.

    Let me repost the statistics again:

    Government: 99.9% Sinhala Buddhist

    Military: 99.9% Sinhala-Buddhist

    Police: 99.9% Sinhala-Buddhist

    So the Sinhala-Buddhists should definitely take prime responsibility for the pathetic state of Lankan affairs. After all, every President since Independence has been a Govigama Sinhala-Buddhist from the South. Just about every President has come to power promising to crush Tamil political aspirations with an iron first. Similarly, the Buddhist monks (Sangha) have been used as a tool by the same Government to rouse up the masses. The only non-Buddhist VIP Sinhala racist who did any damage is Cyril Matthew, and that was limited to a few statements.

    “First, these people were piss poor and forced to march onto the Beaches like the Bataan March by the Tamil Tigers.”

    These people were living perfectly normal lives in areas under Tamil Tiger control until Rajapakse decided to engage upon his total war using 260,000 soldiers and the weapons and blood money supplied by rogue countries.

    “Their conditions were always bad just like that of the southern Sinhala JVP people’s lives. So there are bad conditions in the camps.”

    What kind of perverse logic is that? Do Southern Sinhalese people have to wait 10 minutes in line to use the bathroom? Are Southern Sinhalese stuck behind barbed wire indefinitely ? Are Southern Sinhalese families separated from camp to camp?

    “Sadly there has to be restrictions to filter out the Tigers.”

    Do you mean restrictions like allowing EPRFL, PLOTE, and other paramilitary groups to torture random individuals at will? Do you mean restrictions like keeping old grandmothers and 10 year children waiting in long lines for a slice of bread? Do explain how such restrictions help to “filter out the Tigers.”

    “It will take time to process them..”

    You mean it will take time to kill off and torture a significant percentage of the youth population to prevent any major reformation of the LTTE… to colonize the Tamil lands with Gal-Oya type schemes… to cover up the massacre of the 20,000 who surrendered after the “Final Battle.” Of course, the longer this takes the better, because it will provide maximum opportunity to obtain aid money from naive Western charities. Aid money that can then be siphoned off to the personal bank accounts of Government ministers, just like during the Tsunami.

    “But at least there are no bombs falling on them..”

    You mean bombs from the same Government forces that are now in charge of the camps?

    “Afterall, Christian US rounded up all its Japanese citizens without any cause during WW-II”

    The camps were not run by the military, they were run by CIVILIAN agencies and the Border Patrol. The target was first-generation Japanese. There were also some camps for Italians and Germans. Families were not separated while at these camps. Detainees were free to often move around OUTSIDE the camps. The US Supreme Court declared the camps illegal before the war ended… the camps were CLOSED before the war ended. The US Government later APOLOGIZED for the camps, admitting they were a MISTAKE. All of these camps were funded by the USA alone. On the other hand, the Sri Lankan Government set up its camps AFTER the war, using FOREIGN money. It has given the military total control over these camps. Anyone can see the difference between these camps and the ones set up by the Americans.

  • Heshan

    In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation stated that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”.[10] About $1.6 billion in reparations were later disbursed by the U.S. government to surviving internees and their heirs.[11]

    Basically, the US Government apologized for camps set up in the 1930’s, where no one disappeared, starved, tortured, or was killed…….. why did it apologize… to tell the world that such camps would never be set up again. Of course, you say, the apology does not justify the existence of the camps themselves… that is correct, but the point is that the US Government would never set up such camps again, certainly not in the year 2009. So Sri Lankan racists should not use mistakes made in the 1930s to justify their own fallacies in the Millenium.

  • Heshan

    Here is a picture of former US President Roosevelt visiting a Japanese Internment Camp with his wife.

    http:/
    /images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.meredith.edu/summer-reading/roosevelt/images/43-4-23,Gila%2520RiverJapanese%2520internment%2520camp.gif&imgrefurl=http://www.meredith.edu/summer-reading/roosevelt/eleanor.htm&usg=__w0FhzBhdG4oeM8MMD48z0c7x_SY=&h=468&w=600&sz=91&hl=en&start=60&um=1&tbnid=g6mV5xQkm42Y5M:&tbnh=105&tbnw=135&prev=/images%3Fq%3DJapanese%2Binternment%2Bcamps%26ndsp%3D20%26hl%3Den%26safe%3Doff%26sa%3DN%26start%3D40%26um%3D1

    Now, let’s see Rajapakse visit an internment camp. Does he have the guts to face the IDP’s face-to-face? I think not.

  • Heshan

    Here is a scene at a Sri Lankan refugee camp:

    http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/Liberation-Tigers-of-Tamil-Eelam-Velupillai-Prabhakaran/photo//090526/481/aa03cf76a55b48ce96efbbfaf4801531/

    I would mention that the Japanese went on trains to the “internment” camps. Here you can see them getting off the train. At least two people are easily seen to be smiling.

    http://www.library.wwu.edu/ref/images/japanese-evacuation.jpg

    As far as comparisons go, I think the point has been sufficiently made.

  • deshapria

    Its time to help Sri Lanka, and that help should come from the Patriots, not the changed tiger stripes foreign Tamils. Some quite naturally attack Rukmanan, for he has a Tamil name and he speaks what he thinks as correct and not going along with the LTTE remnants.
    One thing is supporting the mass murderer Prabakaran, the other thing is funding the destruction of the economy of Sri Lanka by most of the foreign Tamils, and they should not come back, for the Tamils in Sri Lanka don’t want them!

    If I ever see any Tamil in Sri Lanka with a Canadian, British, Australian, etc accent, I’m going to ask directly, whether he/she funded the LTTE or not! I have known Tamils in Canada, who refused to fund this murderous LTTE!