War Crimes Accountability In Sri Lanka: Is There A Liberal Democratic Alternative To International Action?


Sri Lanka’s President pictured here with the Governor of the Central Bank Ajith Nivard Cabraal (L) and his brother Basil Rajapaksa, the Economic Development Minister (R) has repeatedly called the war a “humanitarian rescue operation with a zero civilian casualty policy”. Photo credit: REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

The report of the three-member panel of independent experts, appointed by the UN Secretary General to advise him on the issues of legal accountability arising out of the brutal final stages of Sri Lanka’s war, has finally been published. The panel has found ‘credible’ a large number of allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law committed by the military protagonists in the conflict, the Sri Lankan security forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), some of which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It has also concluded that a political and legal environment conducive to the transparent investigation and prosecution of these violations does not exist in Sri Lanka. The substance of the report is as systematic and as rigorous as could be expected within the panel’s terms of reference, and the absence of co-operation by the Sri Lankan government. Within those circumstances, the report has historic significance as an independent account of what happened at the denouement of the war that directly and plausibly challenges the government’s version of events.

The panel has been careful to frame its recommendations for credible accountability measures as the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government at first instance, and envisage international action only upon the failure of the government to do so. However, for reasons extensively set out in the report, it would appear the panel has little expectation the government would act on its recommendations in a manner that satisfies international best practice. Beyond the recommendations addressed to the Sri Lankan government, therefore, the panel has also advised the Secretary General that an ‘international independent mechanism’ to impartially investigate and record the facts of these allegations should immediately be established.

In view of the emotive implications this particular recommendation has for notions of national sovereignty and independence (not least due to deliberate distortions by representatives and apologists of the Sri Lankan regime), it is important to note that the recommendation is not about the establishment of an international tribunal empowered to try and punish individuals. What is within immediate contemplation is essentially a fact-finding body. In the statement of the Secretary General accompanying the publication of the report, he has stated that the establishment of such a mechanism would require the consent of Sri Lanka or ‘a decision from Member States though an appropriate intergovernmental forum’, i.e., the Security Council or the Human Rights Council.

As with the polarised debates surrounding the appointment of the panel last year, there is little chance that its report will receive a dispassionate reading. Even before the report was officially published, predictable responses were already in evidence, with the Sri Lankan government rejecting it out of hand, and others such as Tamil diaspora groups welcoming it. It is fair to say that the present Sri Lankan regime and the Tamil diaspora (or at least its more vocal sections) are representative of the more extreme nationalist stances within the Sinhala and Tamil communities. For others less interested in such prepossessed postures, but more on a decent, sensible and principled approach to Sri Lanka’s post-war future, however, there are a number of moral dilemmas to be resolved and political choices to be made. In relation to post-war reconciliation, and especially the question of criminal accountability as an element of it, these dilemmas are located at the interstices between the legal and the political, and the international and the domestic.

There are two key assumptions underpinning the panel’s report that are particularly important in this regard. The first is that there is a positivist reality of an international rule of law on humanitarian rules and human rights, which is the basis for the claim that leaving credible allegations of violations unaddressed in the Sri Lankan case would constitute an unpunished assault on the entire regime of international law. While in recent decades, there has been increasing clarity and crystallisation of international humanitarian and human rights norms in terms both of substantive rules as well as procedures and institutions for their enforcement, it nevertheless remains the case that the international system of law and politics continues to be essentially wedded to the classical Westphalian model, together with its doctrinal elements such as national sovereignty, non-interference, territorial integrity and the sovereign equality of states. As a general proposition, therefore, the observance and enforcement of international law remains an obligation of the state as a subject of international law, notwithstanding progressive developments in relation to human rights and duties, legal personality, and international enforcement mechanisms both ad hoc and permanent.

This is not to unduly reify the Westphalian nation-state, nor to accept the hyperbolic claims of sovereignty made by states having things to hide, but merely to acknowledge the reality of the resilience of the state in the existing international order. Consequently, illegal behaviour is addressed rather differently from the way in which it would be within a domestic legal system, and there is therefore a discernibly political element to the pursuit of international legality as we see in any number of examples in the recent past, from the international use of force to international individual criminal liability. If this were not the case, for example, all member-states of the UN would be signatories to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. There is also a critical domestic element to this, in that the democratic wishes of the people within a state are also relevant to the pursuit of international legality.

Seen in this light, the panel report’s assumption that the absence of genuine and immediate redress in the form of criminal liability for violators in the Sri Lankan war erodes the credibility and authority of international law seems, at best, idealistic. It could even be seen as a distinctively liberal interventionist (or ‘cosmopolitanist’) ideological approach in which international norms are accorded a primacy over domestic sovereignty, inviting opposition thereby in ideological and political terms. This is apparent in the Sri Lankan government’s initial responses in which it was alleged that the acceptance of the report would imply a repudiation of the entire UN system, meaning the established order of sovereign states, and its appeals to states such as China, Russia and India in resisting the purported undermining of those principles.

The second assumption that may not find universal currency is the notion that immediate criminal accountability is indispensable to post-war reconciliation. In any context, reconciliation after a protracted conflict is a complex and multi-faceted process involving delicate questions of sequence, timing, and trade-offs that may be regarded as unpalatable by some. The report asserts that choosing between models of retributive and restorative justice is a false dichotomy, arguing that both elements are necessary to a legitimate process of reconciliation. It might be asked, however, whether the insistence on immediate retributive measures as a sine qua non of reconciliation is not itself a false dichotomy. We should not regard criminal accountability in processes of post-conflict reconciliation as an absolute concept in law or morality, but one that has often been treated as a political variable subject to negotiation. To cite a familiar example, it would have been very unfortunate if Martin McGuinness were unable to play the constructive role in the Northern Ireland peace process and now as Deputy First Minister in the power-sharing executive by a doctrinaire attitude to his terrorist past.

Admittedly, the basis for the panel’s scepticism arises from the recalcitrant behaviour of the Sri Lankan regime, which refuses to countenance anything other than resources in terms of international engagement with its post-war programme, its militaristic nationalism and ethnic triumphalism, and its intolerance of critique and dissent. Neither its petulance abroad nor its authoritarianism at home gives ground for much confidence that it will display sensitivity to Tamil grievances and aspirations in social reconciliation or in a political settlement. But in conceiving a reconciliation process, it is necessary to think beyond the regime to the broader social and political values that animate a South Asian society. Thus, given its track record, the fact that the regime is the champion of restorative justice is certainly unhelpful, but that should not blind us to the deeper issues of context. In this regard, the dominant religio-cultural values and sensibilities shared between Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus do not attach the same premium, at least not temporally, to redemption through responsibility and answerability as in the Judeo-Christian tradition. At least to some extent, this resonant social sensibility explains why the regime is able to command wide support for its resistance to criminal accountability.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the hostility to any accountability initiative is clear among the majority Sinhalese, even among those who would not otherwise support the regime. While the panel report is a clear acknowledgement of the suffering they underwent, it is difficult to discern precise contours of opinion about international criminal accountability among those who were at the receiving end of the wartime abuses – the Tamils living in the North – although the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), their main vehicle of parliamentary representation, has welcomed the report. It is also fair to say they have more pressing problems to worry about in the post-war environment, of which there are both serious existential issues, and more fundamental political aspirations. Especially for those living in the North, normalcy is far from reality. Only a part of these are the deciduous problems encountered, unfortunately but unavoidably, by people living in former conflict zones in the aftermath of war. It is now disconcertingly apparent that the militarisation of all spheres of life in the North is becoming increasingly institutionalised, and moreover, that this is the deliberate policy of the government. The regime is able to implement its policy with regard to the North, and more generally the continuation in force of disproportionate and repressive wartime national security measures, with virtually no meaningful democratic opposition.

Excepting international and local human rights groups whose campaigns are based on normative principles rather than a political project, the accountability demand is strongest among the Tamil diaspora, which is once again unsurprising. Especially among those whose Tamil nationalism is synonymous with a commitment to a separate state, the defeat of the LTTE and the death of its leaders mean they have nothing lose by the panel’s adverse observations on the LTTE, and the report thereby becomes an instrument for the settling of scores with the victorious regime in Colombo.

In view of the credible accounts of abuses that have emerged – listed and evaluated according to an expressly stated methodology by the panel – it would be crass and unconscionable to deny the genuine moral outrage that animates many, if not all, of those who are seeking criminal accountability from the alleged perpetrators. However, an approach to the matter based solely on moral verisimilitudes is impercipient to the multiplicity of other factors relating to the local political context in considering the future of post-war Sri Lanka. Crucial among these is the ineluctable truth that no process of reconciliation can have any hope of success without broad democratic support. It is obvious that there is no such support in Sri Lanka at this time for any initiative involving criminal prosecution and punishment; in fact pellucid hostility better describes the state of public opinion, and the best evidence for this is the number of opposition parliamentarians falling over themselves to condemn the report, the panel, and the Secretary General.

A realistic apprehension of this reality however does not necessarily mean that the question of accountability is closed forever. Over time it is entirely possible that the accountability issue may be revisited, with greater prospects for success than in the emotionally charged atmosphere of what is still, in the historical scheme of things, the relatively immediate aftermath of the war. This is borne out by similar experiences elsewhere such as Germany and Cambodia, in which a moratorium on reopening particularly egregious or traumatic events has in fact ensured that they were more effectively addressed by a succeeding generation more secure in the stability and capacity of their society to resolve major differences.

On the other hand, the nature of the Sri Lankan regime, and especially its post-war conduct, gives rise to understandable anxieties. The regime’s majoritarian ideological foundations result in a populist and authoritarian approach to government, which is incapable or unwilling to regard as legitimate, and therefore to accommodate, Tamil and other minorities’ political aspirations to autonomy, recognition and representation. Using the autocratic powers of the executive presidency and its comprehensive grip of Parliament, the regime is also tampering with Sri Lanka’s constitutional heritage as Asia’s oldest democracy. In the state’s relations with the rest of the world, it seems incapable of nuance and calibration, beyond the crude calculation that those who are not uncritically with it, must be against it. Less tangibly, one of the more chilling aspects of its post-war conduct has been the construction of a triumphalist historical narrative enmeshed with Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism, together with the suppression of the space for alternative accounts. The regime’s intemperate response to the Secretary General’s panel from the outset is a function of this outlook.

What is critical to note, however, is that all this is done with a widespread political legitimacy the regime enjoys – albeit largely among the majority community, but a democratic majority nonetheless – which stems from successive democratic mandates. The regime’s repeated electoral successes are in turn the result of its success in reshaping the entire political discourse in Sri Lanka according to an ‘us v. them’ or ‘patriot v. traitor’ dynamic. During the war, the LTTE represented the obvious, and suitably diabolical, enemy. The West, the Tamil diaspora, and human rights groups are now fitted into the role of the ‘other’, which is fundamental to the regime’s discursive logic. It is from the perspective of these domestic political implications that the uses to which the panel’s report is put must be considered.

In the context of what Lord Malloch Brown has described as ‘a new cold war of ideas’ on human rights between the West and China and Russia, it would seem that any further international action on the report, or indeed the lack thereof, would depend on the political vagaries within the councils of the UN. Should the international community decide to act on the panel report, the regime will have to deal with that in the appropriate intergovernmental forums. Although it has so far been successful in repelling international action, notably in the Human Rights Council in 2009, it should also realise that the surest way of sustaining adverse international attention is to continue on the obtuse and bellicose path it has taken so far. Its reliance on China, Russia, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), and especially India, is not a failsafe insurance policy in all circumstances.

On the domestic political front, a more nuanced response is called for from those desiring a more liberal future for the country. To the extent that the regime is able to mobilise democratic support for itself by projecting the panel report and the proposed international mechanism as a selective persecution of Sri Lanka, the unintended consequence would be to further consolidate and entrench the regime. Keeping the ‘international factor’ alive on the domestic political agenda might seem like a good way of keeping the regime in check, but given the state of public opinion described above, this also significantly erodes the legitimacy of human rights and accountability advocates in the eyes of the majority. By removing what they say and their right to say it from the public discourse, the space for reconciliation is distorted, enabling the regime to occupy the vacuum. Inflaming the populist paranoia it has itself instituted, as it has done in the past, the regime would be given the opportunity to tar-brush the opposition, Tamil parties, and civil society as fifth columnists out to undermine the sovereignty, independence and self-esteem of the Sri Lankan (Sinhala) people. This would be most unfortunate, not only for reconciliation, but also for Sri Lanka’s democracy and any hope there remains for a happier constitutional settlement among all the peoples of Sri Lanka in the future.

It seems therefore that sound strategy would oblige the democratic opposition, Tamil political parties and civil society in Sri Lanka to regain lost legitimacy among the populace by drawing the line at international intervention as well as immediate criminal accountability. This entails neither an abdication of Sri Lanka’s international obligations nor a renunciation of the possibility that accountability might be revisited when it is politically feasible. A strategy aimed at depriving the regime of its absolutist patriotic pretensions is also a principled one based on democracy, human rights and popular sovereignty, and one that reclaims the constitutional character of patriotism from the procrustean parochialism of the regime’s vision. Committing firmly to a Sri Lankan process – which will be riven with difficulties and excruciatingly slow, but more stronger for it – would enable the use of the resulting legitimacy to hold the regime to account on reconciliation, governance, democracy and pluralism.

  • TT

    The most liberal way forward is to create cosmopolitan settlements in war ravaged north and east.

    1. Using war crimes allegations and the issue of accountability to win Tamil Elam (a separate nation) or Tamil Nadu in SL (a federal state) defeats all of them.

    2. We have to look at all these in the context of defence realities. Army camps, HSZs, etc. are not going anywhere. The use of paramilitants, etc. should increase not decerase following the panel report. In this context accountability and reconciliation have an inverse relationship.

    However in the context of 1 and 2 above, it is correct to say a better accountability process will be possible “when the dust settles”. Then the accountability process will be purely for the sake of accountability and not for its exploitation for political solutions or other appeasements.

    • Davidson

      ”dust” is internal colonialism in an island.

      It will not ”settle” in the island fed on hatred through textbooks.

      International laws cannot deal with it.

      Only humane(human is not enough) conscience can.

      • Citizen

        ‘dust’ isnt the internal colonialism!
        but the threat of invasion of terrorists.
        international laws cant deal with it!
        text book says how it was defeated in the history! only hv to repeat at whatever cost!

      • TT

        The defeated will always carry the burden of the loss.

        It cannot be changed. But most Sri Lankans are winners. They can afford to move forward, not backward.

        Suddenly Eric Solheim has become a war criminal for the Tamil Diaspora from peace maker a few years ago following his admission that an investigation is within the purview of the SL government.

        The panel report is about reopening the defeat of Tamil Elamists.

      • kaush

        Accountability for what and whom? are we just referring to the died terrorists in the final battle and the lost investment in eelam for its sponsors?
        what about the people who died for the last 30 years due to tamil terrorism? what about who directly and indirectly sponsored tamil terrorism for the last 30 years? who is going to make them accountable?

      • TT

        I don’t believe 20,000,0000 people should suffer INDEFINITELY just because of the obstacles imposed by 40,000 TEMPORARILY (assuming this number is correct which is not).

        First account for the crimes committed against the 20,000,000 for 33 years, then we can consider accountability for alleged suffering of 40,000 in one month. Otherwise it is a joke which should be met with other jokes.

    • Ratneswaran

      The Accountability now.

      I’m tired Rajapaksa’s false promises.

      Many in Sri Lanka are tired of these Rajapaksa’s false promises of the cruellest kind

      Two years after the war ?? This is already too long

  • ravana

    A very well thought out and balanced article. I would however, like to debate the author’s view of the panel’s conclusions and recommendations as idealistic at best.
    Ideals are a necessary bedrock on which we must base our pragmatic political actions in general. Having ideals as a background allows us to check and review our actions in the real World.

    As an example I would like to disclose my own idealistic reasons for supporting the War against the LTTE:

    1) Primarily it was because I recognised that Sri Lankans living in the North needed to be rescued from the grip of the LTTE (the wide variety of reasons justifying this have been discussed in detail in various fora. But one heart-rending caveat encapsulating such reasons is the story of a girl of fourteen who was captured by the Defence Forces in 1990 because her cyanide capsule failed. She had been abducted at the age of 8 and her childhood utterly and irrevocably robbed; her sense of self permanently damaged). In other words, whilst the ideal is intellectual, the roots of it came from the recognition that these were our kith and kin who were being traumatised, not jut some metaphoric ethno-cultural group who had no relation to us.

    2) The second most important reason was that Sri Lankans outside of the north were being repeatedly traumatised by the persistence of the terror of the physical conflict against the state engineered principally by the LTTE and Tamil diaspora (as legitimate as many of their grievances may have been, there could be no legitimacy for the methods employed)

    3) The third reason was that it was a “Just War” conducted by a legitimate and elected Government (despite significant reservations about the cynical apparatus engaged by the said State) which had the right to rescue the people for whom it was responsible.

    In the two year aftermath of the War I have made slight readjustments to the reasons above and added further ideals to the above. There is an addition to the ideal number two which should qualify it: “that the rescuing of the Sri Lankan people had to be firstly from the worst of two evils, namely the LTTE keeping in mind that the common enemy of the Sri Lankan people since 1956 has been the Sri Lankan state with the exception of a brief respite (1966-1970).
    In the light of the above then, the reason number three has to be qualified to state that the the “Just War” belonged to the Sri Lankan people who in that context used the legitimate instrument of the state to prosecute it not with standing the reasons for deeply distrusting it.

    Accordingly, one has to add yet another reason for conducting the recent War, which is that that it should have been conducted to a conclusion of elimination of the LTTE so that space could be provided for the much more difficult war, the war against the endemically corrupt regime of the Sri Lankan state.

    Having considered that these are the ideals, then I would view what has happened so far as a temporary set back for the Sri Lankan people. Just as I had to relent on having at one time abandoned (in mind) the “Tamil” people in the hands of the LTTE, I cannot now abandon the Sri Lankan people in the hands of a greater enemy, the State itself.

    Just because the above are ideals does not make them unrealistic. It is in the context of such ideals that I as an individual would measure the actions of the military which to a great extend can be considered entirely within the International norms, especially when one considers statements made by the Army Commander both during the last three months of the War and subsequently as a “Guest of the State Penitentiary”. However, it would be surprising if individuals within the state machinery have not committed crimes. It would be unrealistic to think that this has not happened.

    The opposition (as the author indicates) has fallen over themselves to condemn the report, but we have to see it in the historical context of actions of those have blood on their hands, just as much the US and UK (the main protagonists imagined to be the architects behind the Darusman report) have blood on theirs.

    If reconciliation in terms of the the recommendation of the panel is to have space then it cannot occur in the current Sri Lankan context. However, those of us who are expatriates and ex-Sri Lankans, are removed far enough that we have a right of heritage to ensure that the truth sees the light of day. It is the duty of those who love Sri Lanka to see that this happens, for if Sri Lankans have no image worth defending, they, like the 14 year of girl in 1990, would have no sense of self(worth).

    In this context I would call for the Committee not developed by potential enemies of Sri Lanka, but by Sri Lankans (expatriates): e.g. headed by Justice Chris Weeramanthri and assisted by judicial members invited from the states of China, Russia, India and the US. The examination of “crimes” should include the whole thirty years of the Sri Lankan civil conflict.

    Such an instrument is necessary because the current Sri Lankan Government has completed what its predecessors commenced in 1971. That is the complete subjugation of the Sri Lankan judiciary under the auspices of an unaccountable President and has successfully marginalised the opposition and the press as independent voices within Sri Lanka.
    If we had a duty to rescue the Vanni people from the LTTE, then we have a greater duty to rescue the Sri Lankan people from the State. A state under which progressively smaller percentages of the voting public have voted while giving it an increasing proportion of those votes does not have any more legitimacy than Hosni Mubarak’s regime.

  • Agnos

    “In this regard, the dominant religio-cultural values and sensibilities shared between Sinhala Buddhists and Tamil Hindus do not attach the same premium, at least not temporally, to redemption through responsibility and answerability as in the Judeo-Christian tradition. At least to some extent, this resonant social sensibility explains why the regime is able to command wide support for its resistance to criminal accountability.”

    Where did you get this idea? No Tamil Hindu that I know supports this “resistance to criminal accountability.”

    • ravana

      I think the author was not referring to individual Hindus but the Hindu culture and philosophy. The sub-continental doctrine of Karma/kamma is pervasive and instils in the locals a sense that you would reap what you sow which cannot be reversed by contrition. Thus they are more bound to defend their actions even if wrong (a kind of denial). Neither Hindu nor Buddhist exponents would think they are actually correct in this approach. The metaphor of Hndu/Buddhist sensibilities is to explain their behaviour.
      A good example of how Hindus used this mindset is the way a high ranking member of the Hindu Sri Lankan community justified the murder of devotees (by LTTE) at Anuradhapura as a retaliation for another (alleged) crime.
      Such rationalisations does not absolve either the direct perpetrators of crimes nor those who supported them morally (specifically by being active members of the organisation) and financially from being accused of War Crimes. A proper and detailed examination of crimes against humanity committed over the past thirty years (including those who did it from the safety of distance) in Sri Lanka and against Sri Lankan citizens can only be laid to rest by naming and shaming those responsible even if no other punitive actions are taken.

      • Agnos

        Ravana,

        Why is it that even liberal-minded Sinhalese do not see the warped sense of morality (or logic) of “saving people from the LTTE” by murdering upwards of 40,000 people, about 10% of the Vanni population, and maiming a similar number ? Why is it hard for them to see that it was a Hiroshima-like crime, and therefore talk of reconciliation without any accountability, is tantamount to simply adding insult to grievous injury, a la a rapist-murderer telling the victim’s family that she “wanted it?”

        I don’t think any real reconciliation is possible in the near future; what Tamils are doing is to grit their teeth and go about the business of their lives in the face of all the adversity and oppressive military control that they face. But no one in his/her senses believes that real reconciliation is possible as long as the majority continues to elect and protect such hideous war criminals.

        Moreover, the author misses a critical fact—the lack of accountability for past crimes by the State was a major reason behind the rise of the LTTE and its crimes (although the LTTE would still have arisen, the average Tamil public would have found it much harder to support the LTTE if the State had proactively sought accountability for crimes in 1958, 1977, 1981 and 1983). So, to continue this charade and postpone accountability is to embolden the criminals to commit even more atrocities in the years to come. Talking about reconciliation when such threats to life remain largely intact is diabolical. It will ensure that Sri Lanka will remain in conflict for years to come.

        In terms of the percentage of the Diaspora relative to the local source population, the SL Tamil Diaspora is among the largest in the world. Sri Lanka will continue to face unrelenting hostility from this Diaspora unless there is a serious accountability process, and that process must be international given the utter lack of credibility of the regime in power.
        Having repeatedly allowed the state to commit unimaginable crimes without pressing for any accountability, Sri Lankans, liberals included, have no right to hide behind claims of sovereignty on this issue.

  • TT

    31 nations have so far confirmed their participation at the seminar on Defeating Terrorism Sri Lankan experience in Colombo, 31st May to 2nd June.

    http://www.defseminar.lk

    1. Do they plan to learn how to use Kfir/J-7 jets, Dvora boats/Arrow boats, T55/72 tanks? NO! These are toys for them.

    2. Do they intend to learn motivation, recruitment, retention, use of technology, etc in war? NO. They are WAY better than SL.

    3. Then what on earth are these nations (mostly developed nations) plan to learn from little SL?

    How to win wars against terrorists staying within/making use of the Geneva Conventions and international laws.

    It is a clear international approval for SL’s TRIUMPH over Tamil separatists.

    Actions have spoken louder than words. :)

    • Sohan Fernando

      I think that’s a rather oversimplistic conclusion!

      Anyhow, I can hypothesize other possible things that some countries might “plan to learn from little SL”:
      * Maybe they’re sensible enough to learn from others’ mistakes. (Not all countries/peoples are as stubborn as Sri Lankans who’re too often ostriches with heads in sand refusing to learn from mistakes/hypocricy of other countries/UN/etc.)
      * Or, maybe some of them HOPE to learn “How to win wars against terrorists as well as against innocents and Truth: while FOOLING one’s citizens the fact that, and HIDING the reality that, one IS NOT staying within/making use of the Geneva Conventions and international laws.”

      Incidentally:
      “mostly developed nations”
      “mostly”??? My hasty count (apologies if I’m wrong) is maybe 14-15 so called “developing” nations; if correct then only JUST over half are “developed” – I wouldn’t call that “mostly”. Very minor counting mistake anyway: only to be expected of a Sri Lanka, when even our dearly esteemed higher-ups don’t know how to differentiate when counting “ZERO” civilian casualties versus much higher figures!

      • TT

        SF,

        Even in your estimates of 14-15 developing nations, MOST are still developed!

        31-14 = 17. 31-15 = 16.

        :)

        Just like your other illogic.

        And this is not the first time. SL held a similar event last year. And plenty of SL officers are awarded scholarships to study defence in foreign academies.

    • Davidson

      What is the ratio of conscientious people to unconscientious people in this world?

      It’s a pity it’s very low.

      Religious philosophies and numerous charters of man’s institutions have yet to find ways to beat the animal in the man.

  • Lakshan

    We had a leader who tried to be Liberal Democratic and he be came a non-entity due to troubled peace he made with the LTTE .
    Ever since liberalism is on the defensive in Sri Lanka. Liberal intrepid editors like Lasantha Wickrematunga are sadly no more and the worst part is majority of the population has shunned even vestiges of liberalism
    Certain modern day practitioners of McCarthyism makes sure that patriotism is synonymous with uncritical nationalism that promotes hegemony.
    The true patriots are then left with the same dilemma that Rabindrnath Tagore had in the pre Independent India , left between devil and the deep blue sea.

  • MV

    I don’t know about this ‘liberal democratic alternative’ but failure of international justice system could give the wrong signal to oppressive regimes that there could really be a ‘military solution’.

  • Mawm

    A nuanced and perceptive account of the complexities attending to post-war justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

    I wonder though if the distinction made between a Judeo-Christian attitude to justice and accountability and a presumably “non-western” one is latently Orientalist.

    Characterizing entire cultures based on putative religious and cultural beliefs has a long colonialist career and operates within what Partha Chatterjee has called the “thematic” of nationalist thought — subscribing to a worldview that posits an absolute difference between West and East. The implications of such a perspective raises serious and critically debilitating questions regarding ‘universal’ discourses such as human rights and international justice (to name just two).

    In an immediate post-war context there will be reluctance to pursue war crimes allegations whether it is in a western or non-western society. Such reluctance will most likely be shaped by public perceptions of the moral right of a campaign fought against a perceived terror outfit rather than cultural orientation towards justice. One has only to look at the large number of post-Vietnam Hollywood movies attempting to redeem the humanity of American servicemen, despite the widespread condemnation of that campaign within American civil society and its well documented military excesses. Public attitude can be shaped by myriad factors and attributing a over-determining cultural attitude is unhelpful for analysis.

  • Davidson

    Some of the moderate Sinhalese might have thought highly of Ranil for beginning the peace talks and CFA. If details around them are examined carefully it turns out that Ranil was i.determinedly pursuing the necessary lanes leading to economic dividends for the South and ii.carelessly strolling down those leading to political solution(in order to gain international attention to i.)

    • TT

      Re: Liberal Ranil and CFA

      1. SL obtained its first offshore patrol vessel with advance fire power during Ranil’s term. Negotiations were done by the peace minister!

      2. Ranil revamped the secret services despite some drawbacks.

      3. Actual defence expenditure never reduced during the “ceasefire”

      4. They NEVER had any political solution!! If there was any what the hell was it called?

      5. Karuna’s defection was secured but the others made the most of it.

      6. When war started in August 2006 when Tamil separatists cut water to Sinhalese in Mahavil Oya, many MBRLs appeared from nowhere without compromising their presence elsewhere! Did Rajapaksha buy all those? Did CBK buy all those? Or did all governments since 2000 annually bought them?

      One thing Ranil did well was to fool the gullible. But in 2004 UNP suffered its biggest ever defeat (this was bettered in 2010) in terms of percentage which also included CWC and SLMC that deserted it later.

  • http://- Sam Thambipillai

    The UN report is a moral victory for the truth for the first time in SL. The victory is irreversible and will lead o justice through Truth and reconciliation and frndng peace through the establishment of two states in the island.

    The Sinhalese will learn and understand that inherently they can only be criminal to Tamils. And the world at large will realise that the Tamls can never ever live peacefully with the Tamils with mutual trust.

    Even after all the credible and concrete evidence before the GOSL they do not want to face the truth but say it as “flawed”, “illegal” “baseless” and so on. They are cowards unable to face the truth.

    This is disgraceful and dangerous for SL.

    Whatever the GOSL says the UN will move forward and punish the offenders, not the innocent Sinhala masses who were lied, cheated and tricked all the way through. Even now.

    • the way of the Dodo

      Sam Thambipillai,

      you use the terms ‘credible and concrete evidence’ to portray the findings of the panel. but the panel itself makes it explicitly clear that they have no evidence, just ‘claims’. Plenty of people can make claims, but they don’t amount to evidence unless evidenced.

  • http://deleted Bundoora

    I would be very surprised if these numbers are to be materialsed for the forth coming defense seminar organized by SL , if one to take following dramas/debacles in to considerations

    * How many high profile foreign guests were there, for the party which hosted by MR for the UN delegates in NY,?
    * How many celebrities did participate for the brunch & IIFA ceremony , organized by MR ?
    * NZ premier’s refusal to except the invitation by MR for the world cup cricket semi finals
    *embarrassing last minute gate crash by MR & his ministers for the WC finals in India and subsequent step motherly treatments by the Indians
    * Non invitation for the Royal wedding for the MR as the head of state in a common wealth country.

    • TT

      It is not MR. He is just another leader of a LDC.

      But Sri Lanka Defence Forces are the best in the world in terms of decimating terrorists previously thought invincible.

      Don’t forget USA and SL have held more than 3 joint navy exercises so far AFTER the victory. Also look at the huge international participation of SLN’s 60+ anniversary which fell this year.

      Indisputable! :)

      Its the same force that Tamil separatists in BOTH SL and Tamil Nadu blame for killing fishermen, firing rocket attacks towards LTTE terrorists in coast, sinking Tamil “peoples” ships, “occupying” “Tamil areas” of islets, etc.

      • TT

        Oh! almost forgot.

        1. War Hero General Shavendra Silva is in NY doing a great job as SL HC to the UN.

        2. War Hero General Jagath Chula Dias (the best war hero in the world) is doing a yeoman service as the deputy SL ambassador to Germany.

        3. So many other war heroes are doing distinguished services to the nation abroad.

        Meanwhile Tamil separatists like the 15 Canadians who tried to buy SA-18 SAMs, Shanthan, etc. are languishing in jails!!

        LTTE and many Tamil organisations are still banned in 33 countries (MOSTLY developed countries). SL still maintains diplomatic relations with ALL these countries.

      • Ganesh

        Reconcilation will attain a great failure and TT is a representative who clearly reflect the mentality of all sinhalese.. This is not a war against terrorism as potrayed, sinhalese now can freely abuse the remaining slave tamils.History repeats.. Sinhalese will make sure new liberation forces will arise, there is no doubt about it..

      • TT

        IF new liberation forces come up, they will suffer the same fate and destroy civilians too. Winners will remain winners and losers (the defeated) will be losers again.

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    Thre won’t be any form of reconciliation until SL government and Sinhala people accept and aplogise from the Tamils for the civilian deaths occurred during the last stages of war.

    As long as SL government and Sinhala people maintain that there were no civilian deaths there will not be an end to this debate. After all who would beleive that there had been not a single civilian death in such a brutal war.

    The extent of polarization of Tamils and Sinhalese can be judged by reading the comments on these websites. The sinhalese maintain that either there were no civilian deaths or the killing of civilians were justified and the tamils say that there were thousands of civilians killed by SL forces and want the perpetrators punished for war crimes. Where is the truth? Somewhere between these extremities I guess.

    If the LTTE had become the winner and if there were deaths of Sinhala Civilians during the war the process of allegations and counter allegations would have been reversed.

    In that kind of situation what the UN and Western powers would do is a debatable point. The sinhalese would say they would not do anything similar to what is happening in today. Those who beleive in human rights and righteousness of UN and west would say the would do the same.

    It is my view that the devil is no so black as WW and Sinhala nationalists are trying to point to the ignorant Sinhala Public.

    I persnolly do not think that the west and UN want to destroy SL. SL is not such a important country, which has become a problem to the western form of living like N.Korea or Iran. Apart from the disagreemants SL have with the west on the war we are very much in the same boat as they. Then Why is the west treating SL on this issue in this way? In my view it is from a combination of their national interest and genuine concern for the human rights. The aportion of percentages for these two elements is anybody’s guess work. Their concern for the human right does not come from the politicians but from their strong civil society.

    This is a classic example of a conflicting moral philosphy. One ends is the moral philosphy ‘end justifies the means’ and the other end Kantaian ‘categorical imperative’, ‘do as you wished to be done with’. If you morality recognizes ‘winning the war by whatever means’ is correct because it has delivered the majority of people from terrorism though a minory has suffered you are in the first category. If your morality sasy you should do the correct thing irrespective of the result you are in the second category.

    When somebody says that war delivered the nation from terrorism are they talking about both Sinhalese and Tamils or only about Sinhalese? How many SL tamils accept that the war delivered them from LTTE? I genuinely do not know. If the SL tamils do not accept that the war has liberated them the ‘end justifies the means’ only applies to sihanlese.

    If one belevie in ‘end justifed the means’ the repurcussions of such a beleif is unthinkable. I do not have to give example to point out how dangersous that kind of concept would be.

    So if you beleive in ‘Kantian moral philosophy’ killing any body for whatever reason can not be justified.

    Although SL government and Sinhalese are aganist the west today we should not forget that the current stability of the world is preserved due to their actions although they are no blameless of committing human right abuses and war crimes. Imagine if there was no west what would happen to people who cry for freedom all over the world.

    At the moment in SL Sinhalese and Tamils are divided into such different camps that there is only a limited chance of reconciliation. The actions of the government with west bashing by its extremists make this worse. If this continues for long there won’t be any hope of giving the tamils any form of political rights. The sinhalese live in their own world oblivious to the plight of their neigbours in the north and east. If they are ready to reconciliate they have to do only a simple thing. Get into the tamils shoes and think how they feel.

    The most intelligent option available to SL at this moment is to stop west and UN bashing and cooperate with UN. Get the moderates of the government to express their views. Tie the dogs who bark at the moon. Get the Sinhalese out from the seige mentallity. Accept the short comings of the war. Genuinely think about the tamils of North and East.

    • Davidson

      Apologise for the civilian deaths occurred during the last stages of war??

      It’s much more humane if MR can release the reports by APRC and CoI submitted to him in July 2009.

    • Davidson

      Citizen

      I meant the textbooks produced after 1948(I didn’t mean Mahavamsa):

      Why education matters for global security, Irina Bokova(Director General, UNESCO), 1 March 2011: ‘’ Education must rise on the agenda of peace building. We know the wrong type of education can fuel conflict. The use of education systems to foster hatred has contributed to the underlying causes of conflicts, from Rwanda to Sri Lanka, but also in Guatemala and Sudan.

      http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EDUCATION/Resources/278200-1121703274255/1439264-1126807073059/Paper_Final.pdf
      Respect for Diversity in Educational Publication – The Sri Lankan Experience, Ariya Wickrema and Peter Colenso, 2003:
      ‘’It is necessary to trace briefly the historical links between the development of the education system and the development of an ethnic -based politics, leading to armed conflict. ….
      Divisions were exacerbated by successive government policies discriminating against the Tamil minorities. ….
      Divisive ethnic politics and loss of confidence in non-violent and democratic politics fuelled the desire for autonomous, separatist solutions through the 1970s ….
      The Government dominates the educational publications sector in Sri Lanka through its provision of free textbooks to all students from grade 1 to 11 ….
      Tamils not involved in writing the textbooks – Textbooks written in Sinhala, and then translated into Tamil …. full of spelling, grammatical and factual errors ….
      distortion of history …. the history of Sri Lanka is confined to a few selected Sinhala kings ….
      the textbooks do not educate the child about the various characteristics of a multi-religious and a multi- racial society; the majority of Sinhala medium textbooks emphasize Sinhalese Buddhist attitudes; distorted maps under-represent North and Eastern Provinces; “geographical, social, economical or cultural features” of Tamil communities (including the plantation sector) are not adequately discussed or presented;
      in studying art, the Tamil student only studies Sinhalese Buddhist aspects of art; the textbooks encourage children to develop “apartheid attitudes” …..
      Tamils are portrayed as “aggressors”; forces of the Tamil kings are “mercenaries’ , whereas forces of the Sinhala kings are “soldiers” ….
      War is shown as patriotic while peace is portrayed as cowardice.’’

      The Two Faces of Education in Ethnic Conflict: Towards a Peacebuilding Education for Children – Kenneth D Bush and Diana Saltarelli(2000) – published by Innocenti Research Centre, UNICEF:
      ”Ethnic intolerance makes it appearance in the classroom in many ways…… Textbooks have often been shown to contain negative ethnic stereotypes….. A review of the textbooks used in the segregated schools of Sri Lanka in the 1970s and 1980s, for example, found Sinhalese textbooks scattered with images of Tamils as the historical enemies of the Sinhalese, while celebrating ethnic heroes who had vanquished Tamils in ethnic wars. Ignoring historical fact, these textbooks tended to portray Sinhalese Buddhists as the only true Sri Lankans, with Tamils, Muslims and Christians as non- indigenous and extraneous to Sri Lankan history. This version of national history according to one commentator, has been deeply divisive in the context of the wider state.’

      • the way of the Dodo

        Having studied those books in school i simply cannot recall an instant where Tamils were represented as the evil race repeatedly vanquished by the noble Sinhalese kings. The books often refer to south Indian invasions of this country and those monarchs being of Tamil ethnicity. But that is a historical fact not racist propaganda. And even then I can’t recall these south Indian conquerers being portrayed as evil people. Infact, king elara the chola invader who was ultimately defeated by dutugamunu is portrayed, infact celebrated, as a fair, just & noble king. If there was out an out prejudice in the books, it was against mahayana buddhism not tamils.

      • the way of the Dodo

        I must admit that i’m not an expert on the subject. I’m merely speaking from my experience.

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    I totally agree with TT that the defeat of LTTE was done with implicit approval of the western and eastern world. Whatever the ‘west and un’bashers say the UN report, US and UK concerns for the civilian deaths are for the civil activist who cry for war crime investigations in their countries. The west is more than happy to see the LTTE defeated. The west finds it self in a dilemma. They like the SL government as there is nothing to opposed. But they want to tell their citizens that they are concerned of human rights, war crimes etc. When they raise this issue to appease them the SL is trying to deviate towards China and Russsia. The SL government, though understands it, try to make a big issue out of it to fool the public.

  • Bundoora

    MR is not a just another leader, he is srilanka and sri lanka is MR , simple as that !he is the contemporary Dutugamunu and Mahawansa also catered accordingly.
    Just wait and see where MR & his stooges taking us , SL & its leaders were well respected up until recently , but today ??????
    When MR visted London last December , British government was initially hesitant to give him security at British tax payers expense as it was a private visit , every body saw what sort of a reception he got from the British government (only Liam fox paid a private visit , after that he could not make the scheduled Kadiragama memorial speech, as he was reprimanded by PM,) US has already welcomed the Ban’s report and they want to see the next step. EU is having an outlandish relationship with Sl (withdrawn of GSP ) due to poor human right records.
    We have been told day in day out , that west is against SL , just because we defeated the LTTE terrorism like no one else they are extremely jealous about it and contemplating conspiracies against our sovereignty .we poor srilankan souls are to believe this , if any one dares to question this , you will be in trouble.
    Our good leaders keep on bashing the west despite the fact that

    *) all most all the western countries banned LTTE and its activities
    *) west gives us all important trade (neither china nor Russia gives this much ,and we offer slave labour for the middle east)
    *)all the leaders and their extended family members keep as a habit to travel to west for their well deserved holidays , education & training , investment , medical treatments and all important deposits (Swiss bank )

  • Dias

    Sri Lankans have mortgaged their democratic freedoms in exchange for another kind of freedom: to breathe and move-about freely without the threat of being blasted to pieces. The lesser of two evils, it will take at least two more decades for the majority Sinhalese to feel the effects of erosion of their fundamental freedoms – and only then will begin any substantive changes. What a pity – that the Rajapaksas seem to believe that the way to consolidate and ensure longevity in power is to de-democratize national institutions and appease to Sinhalese nationalists as opposed to adopting policies that advance liberal mechanisms and power devolution. The Panel’s report is more an indictment of the administration for what it has done and not done in post-war than an indictment of its actions during the war. Expect India to use the report as leverage to advance a political solution.

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    Davidson,

    I totaly agree with you. The way that we were taught about our history gave us an idea that the SL belongs to Sinhalese and all the others are aliens. The Mahavansa story about Lord Buddha asking Vishnu to look after SL and many more stories like that consolidated our understanding of Sinhalese supremacy in this Island.

    ‘The Way of Dodo’ is also right that there are stories about just Tamil kings like Elara. It is also true that we were taught about Chaola and Pandaya invasions. But we were never told that Prince Vijaya was also an invader. If the SL belongs to some body it should by pre-Vijaya rulers of Lanka such as Yakka, Raksha and Naga.

    In my view these hisorical concepts has sunk in to the collective consciencess of sinhalese like lead weights. That is why as a collective entity they do not give a damn about the what happened and is happening to Tamils. Therefore, in my view we all are equally responsible for what happened and is happening in SL. You cannot put the blame on MR or anybody else. They represent the collective sinhala mentallity. This something akin to the collective dislike of Jews amongst Germans in the pre-world war 11 days.

    As ‘Bundoora’ correctly said the harm the sinhalese nationalists are doing to the collective consciencess is unthinkable. If Gobbles were alive today he would have been happy to see what latter-day-Gobbles in the names of WW and Rambukwellas doing in SL today.

    The sinhalese and Government reaction to ‘UN report’ is like looking at the finger and criticising it when somebody wants to show the moon to you. Government is conscious about what it is doing. But pretending they do not understand they are taking the sinhala public on a ride.

    • the way of the Dodo

      PitastharaPuthraya,you hugely overestimate the reach of the sinhala nationalists. If these people form an independent political party tomorrow and run for parliamentary elections they would not get more seats than the JVP. Most sinhalese don’t give damn about nationalism or sovereignty. Nor do they hold animosity of any kind towards tamils. If there is large scale suppression of tamils in SL society how come they do so well for them selves, and conversely why are sinhalese allowing tamils to do so well. and what about muslims why are sinhalese not doing horrible things to the muslims. No matter how you look at it tamils and sinhalese as equally well off financially, they have the same job opportunities, and are equitably represented in universities. These are not a signs of an oppressive society. of course there are unsavory people in society but that does not reflect the majority.

      I’ll give you another point to ponder. all these people talk about 1983 & 1970, but look at what has happened after that. Despite all the bombs going off in colombo there hasn’t been a single sinhala mob against tamils in colombo. If the 1983 violence is reflective of sinhala attitudes then why hasn’t such violence taken place despite the direct assaults to the sinhala supremisist ego?

      This entire narrative of a society dominated by sinhala supremisists is just made up lie. It’s lie made up by people who want to either market that story or want to set up eelam.

      Also going back to the book davidson referred to, do you remember any references to triumphal ethnic wars. I remember history texts talking about the kingdom in jaffna but i cannot remember any reference to it being in disdain. Maybe you can remember these things. What i can certainly remember is no one giving a damn about what was written in history books. So even if a subversive supremisist agenda was there in history texts it certainly didn’t effect the attitudes of anyone. And i went to a school that was definitely one of the, if no ‘the’, bastion(s) of Sinhala Buddhist education.

      • PitastharaPuthraya

        ‘The way of the Dodo’ has made very interesting points.

        I totally agree with Dodo that the sinhalese are not fanatics like some of our neigbhours. However, I really do not have an answer to the question why sinhalese did not target tamils as they did earlier after 1983. Neverhless,I may not give credit for this to sinhalese as I do not see any watershed moment after 1983 for the sinhalese to have changed their racist and murderous character they demonstrated very well since 1958 several times. The reason for this seemingly mature attitude of sinhalese was mainly due to the fact that the government and politicians close the government did not take the leadership of such activities as they did in the past.

        Dodo missed a point by saying that the ‘racist-propagandists’ of the SL government do not have a popular base as they may not get any votes. People may not vote for somebody but their thinking can be changed by continuous, forceful, seemingly logical argument put forward by such people. Is it Gobbels who sad that if one lies continuously for sometime then they would also beleive that lie, which they themselves have started, as true?

        I also agree with Dodo that Tamils and muslims work among sinhalese all over the country. In the same if you happened to go to North when it was under the control of Tigers you would have amazed to see the Sinhala sign posts untouched. This is much more subtle than we think. Our racial intolerance is not directed to individual members of other races it is for the collective identity. We may sympathize with the loss of a member of a family of friend who is from another race but we may not give a damn about killinng of a large number of that race due to suicide bombing or due to government shelling.

        (forget about the tamils as I am talking about sinalese). That is why sinhalese do not care whether how many civilians were killed during the last stages of the war. The sinhalese in the south live as if there is nothing happening or happened in the north. It may not be unfaire to compare this to the Jewish mentallity in the Israel towards the plight of the women and children in the occupied territories.

        I am not saying all the sinhalese are racist or tamils are not racists at all or the LTTE did not kill innocents and only the government killed them. But what most of us do not realize is as the majority and more powerful the sinhalese have more responsibility towards solving this problem and this applies the SL government over the terrorists.

        To understand how subtly the sinhalese are racists just listen to some of the sinhalese how they refer to other races in derogatory manner as ‘hambayo’ ‘marakkalu’ ‘thambu’ ‘demellu’ etc. How many times we heard that “Thambi are like that” or “that is character of tamils” or “you cannot trust a muslim” etc. Have we not stereotyped those races for centuries? Don’t we have prejudices against them, which cannot be easily erased from our collective mind?

        Until we accept that we, Sinhalese and Tamils, both were at fault some point of time in the past with regards to the problem facing our nation and that the sinhalese had a greater responsibility of solving this problem in the past that we should leran to trust each other this problem goes on for some more time. The victory the sinhalese celebrate today with blatant selfishness may not be permanent.

      • TT

        1. There were no large scale Sinhala participation in 1958 and 1983 riots. Only less than 0.1% of Sinhalese participated in these barbaric events.

        In wide contrast, over a generation over 1.2% ‘Elam Tamils’ had participated in LTTE activites according to LTTE annunal publications of fallen tigers in 2007 (22,000 in number which is HEAVILY UNDERSTATED). Even if we go by the 22,000 figure and assume there were no other living tigers then, still that number is 1.2% of the ‘Elam Tamil’ population.

        So Tamil’s are at least 12 times more culpabale than Sinhalese in using violence against each other.

        2. The 1958 riot was started by SJVC when he and his gang started putting tar on Sinhala letters (an act worse than the LTTE which preserved some Sinhala letters). He never assumed responsibility for this barbaric act. If I start a public campaign to put tar on English letters in USA (for WHATEVER reason), I will be ……..

        3. The then governments not only allowed rioters to go on rampage, but also avoided holding any criminals to account (including SJVC, etc.).

        4. SL has many minorities. Tamil is just one. ALL other minorities have moved closer and closer to Sinhalese and eventually become Sinhalese. These include Malays, Chetties, many other Indian minorities, Burgurs, Chinese, Jews, Indonesians, etc. This is indisputable proof of very high tolerance of Sinhalese.

        5. Sinhalese are a mix of North Indians and South Indians among others. In the past South Indians were accepted into Sinhala communities. No race, caste, colour, etc. discrimination was made. This is further proof of historical high tolerance of the Sinhalese of others. It must happen today for lasting peace.

        6. Sinhalese have done a great deal of good to protect indegenous people although there is more to do on this by the government. “Vanniye aththo” which means “People of Vanni” is another name for Veddas. But the majority community in Vanni have caused them to leave Vanni, etc. into Sinhala majority areas.

        7. The degenrating names some use to call minorities are not Sinhalese. In fact there are no spiteful Sinhala terms for minorities. All these names were first used by other ethnicities later copied by the Sinhalese.

        [Edited out.]

        On the other hand the Sinhala proverb, “Sinhalaya modaya, kevum ganna yodayya” is of Sinhalese origin. It is proof of humbleness, not malice. It is not about the intellectual capacity of anyone, but about the fondness of the members of the race for certain things.

        8. Sinhalese have added other people’s food stuff as their own traditional ones with respect and much celebration! Another sign of their extreme willingness to respect others cultures.

        e.g. cookies (kokis), halva (aluva), kolukatta (????? don’t know the Sinhala name). Note how and when these are used.

        9. Sadly Tamils in SL have not been so accomodating. It is a fair comment to make that Tamils in SL are more attached to Tamil Nadu people (total outsiders) than to other SLs. This has been exploited (and still is) by extreme elements in Tamil Nadu (MGR, Vaiko, etc.) to create trouble and racism in the island.

      • TT

        GV has edited out some examples I gave for point #7 which is OK. These words in example are not suitable AT ALL to be used against any human. I only stated them to make the point clearer.

    • Lakshan

      PitastharaPuthraya

      I for one was against racial stereotyping from the start. But now I realize that racial stereotyping is largely based on the past experiences that the majority community had in their dealings with minorities. For example the tribalism inherent in Tamils and Muslims is greater in proportion to that of the Sinhalese Buddhists ( I’m not a Buddhist BTW). I see this as a survival tactic that any minority community has, be it Muslims of India or Jews in West.
      Also re:your statement “Sinhalese do not care whether how many civilians were killed during the last stages of the war” ; many Sinhalese including my self do care about the plight of our fellow Tamil citizens and wants our government to rectify discrimination suffered by them . Regrettably not a single Tamil organization issued any statement nor empathized with Sinhalese when LTTE propagated many a massacres against Sinhalese civilians

  • sr

    http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/international-justice-%E2%80%93-a-%E2%80%98handy-political-tool%E2%80%99
    The international community suits itself when it comes to international justice. That’s the message in Blufpoker (Bluff Poker), the latest book by international lawyer, Geert-Jan Knoops. He told RNW that his message may not be optimistic, but should serve as a lesson to both the public and politicians.

    • wijayapala

      Some more quotes from sr’s website:

      “Why is somebody like Colonel Gaddafi potentially facing international criminal justice when it concerns the International Criminal Court prosecution, while there are other individuals at the same level, who could be charged with certain international offences?”

      “Why do we choose Politician ‘A’ and not Politician ‘B’? So, there is inherent injustice simply because of the selection mechanism, which is in the hands of the prosecution.”

      “We think we can solve crises, we think we can endorse peace and security in certain regions by raising international tribunals – by simply bringing people to justice, that it will solve the world’s problems, create peace and justice…And it is my statement in the book, that it has apparently never been proven that international criminal courts and tribunals can indeed serve that purpose. We assume it – we like to believe that what we do with international tribunals is good for the world, but we have never investigated the effects in those regions.”

  • wijayapala

    PP,

    The reason for this seemingly mature attitude of sinhalese was mainly due to the fact that the government and politicians close the government did not take the leadership of such activities as they did in the past.

    Sooo…. the main culprits of this anti-Tamil violence were the politicians, and not the Sinhala community at large?

    Like how the suicide bombings were conducted by the LTTE, and not the Tamil community at large?

    • Thambi

      The Tamil community is politicized willingly or unwillingly by the Tamil extremists. (I can’t think of one Tamil diaspora organization that doesn’t repeat LTTE codified propaganda.) The Sinhala community is not. There’s many non-political organizations and even popular opposition like Groundviews, Sunday Leader, etc.

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    TT

    1. I do not know how you have come out with the number of sinhala participation of 0.1% when you have shown us how you have calculated the percentage of tamils participated in terrorist activities.
    2. I agree with you that the number of sinhalese who had participated actively in killings, arson, looting etc are very low. But most importantl what did the other do? By their silence and sometimes implicit encouragement they passively participated in those atrocities didn’t they? How many people had shown any concern about the plight of the tamils? Again unfortunately, as TT, I do not have statistics! In a micro level it was similar to the passivity shown by the German public when the Jews were being persecuted by Nazis.
    3. If TT calls putting tar on a letter a barbaric act he would be out of English letters to describe the ‘acts’ committed by tigers in later years. It was just an act of protest against the insensitivity shown by the Sinhala government toward their concerns. For this apparently non-violent protest how did the sinhlese react? By 1958 communal violence.
    4. I agree with TT that Sinhalese never had a problem with Malays, Chetties, Burgurs, ‘Gypsies’, jews etc. (Do we have jews in SL? I never knew.) Why? Because they never demanded political rights from Sinhalese. Because their numbers are very low they may never have thought of having their own man/woman as their ruler. The question of Tamils and perhaps muslims are very much different from that of the other small ethnic groups. So it is fruitless to compare them as TT did.
    5. When the migrants from the south India were assimialted in to the SL society (of maritime provinces) many centuries ago the SL society was much different from today. People were not much concerned about their race or religion as today. There were no question of majority ruling minority. The so called sinhales Buddhist (they were totally different from sinhalese buddhist today) were not resistant to change their ways by absorbing foreign cultures. So there was not clash of cultures. The process was two ways. If TT hopes for such peaceful assimilation of Tamils into Sinhala Buddhist culture it is in his wildest dreams.
    6. The the word ‘Vanni’ used by veddas is not Vanni in north. It is the jungle region in south-eastern Sri Lanka. I have read this somewhere. I cannot rember it now. Probably in one of Spittel’s books.
    7. [Edited out] They may not be sinhala but they are Sinhalized tamil words. I do not know whether the muslims and tamils have such names for Sinhalese.
    8. I agree with TT totally in this point. The sinhalese were so toleratent to accomadate others language, food, religions, cultural practices etc for centuries. In fact 90% of our cultural heritage have origins in some other culture. For instance today our vocabulary, dress, food, buddhist rituals, deities, marraige customs etc. all sinhalized versions of some other cultural practices. Those sinhalese are no more. The last of these Sinhalese had vanished from our country may be in the first part of the 20th century. Now we have sinhalese who think that their culutre, race, way of life, religion, are so pure that they want to resist any form of interference. (In parctice they do not care but pretend in the theory.) They thing that SL belongs them. The Tamils, Muslims and others are aliens. As TT they want others to assimilate into their culture and forget about their culture religion ancestors etc. In variably this kind of thinking genertes reisistance and violence. That was what we have enjoyed in the past 30 years.

    Lakshman

    I did not mean all the sinhalese but sinhalese as a whole. Yes I also wonder why the Tamils can not say in public that what ‘tigers’ did to the innocent sinhalese in the past 30 years is wrong. Earlier they may have been scared of Tigers to issue statemtnts like this. However, what I beleive is that the Tamils may also have a mentality similar to Sinhalese.

    Vijayapala

    There are two ways people act. Spontaneously and when led by others. What is happening in Arab world today is spontaneous uprisings without proper leadership. The leaders will arise from them when the time comes. Likewise the riots against tamils in SL in the past were lead by potliticians, who exploited the resentment of the sinhala public to their own advantage. Since 1983 the ruling politicians did not want more similar riots in the country. And the public understood that the government was with the sinhalese and they wanted to crush the tigers. And there was no anger with the government for not doing anything. So they waited till the government do something.

    LTTE suicide bombing is not spontaneous it represented the plight of the tamil community. This is how I understood them.

    • TT

      PP,

      1. The number of rioters were less than 1,000 throughout the country based on accounts of people who lived and witnessed this. I didn’t. The looters on the other hand belong to ALL races! There was no racism among them. Ceratinly the number of rioters was way less than 10,000. 10K out of 10 million is 0.1%.

      2. No. I’m pretty sure more than 10,000 Sinhalese saved Tamils. They could not do anything more. Some Sinhalese suffered death, abuse, assault, humiliation and attacks from the rioters due to this. The government was not helping them either. In this context, they did a good job. Certainly much better job than Tamil civilians in Jaffna who robbed the immovable property of Sinhalese and Muslims who were chased out.

      3. Wrong comparison. You cannot compare Velupillai Chelvanayagam’s actions with Velupillai Prabakaran’s. The two had different tools. But the intention was the same.

      4. Racist demands (applicable to a single race), not political demands (applicable to everyone irrespective of race).

      5. There is no need for them to become Sinhala Buddhists. They can retain their identities and still assimilate with Sinhalese initially. Certainly no need to become Buddhists! The truth is it is happening! Of course it is slow but it was slow in the past 2,600 years too!

      6. No need to mince words. Vanni is Vanni which means jungle in some languages. The fact remains, LTTE controlled areas DID become TAMIL ONLY. No disputing that.

      7. Yes they are Sinhalized TAMIL words. But very very little Sinhalization!

  • sabbe laban

    Pitasthara Puthraya

    I appreciate your honest opinion about the particular cultural traits of Sinhalese. It is true that Sinhalese consider the Tamils as descendents of the ancient invaders from South India. This is true to a certain extent as the historical facts point in this direction too.It doesn’t mean this kind of stereotyping in correct, but unfortunately this exists in many Eastern and Western societies.

    We can’t blame the present generation of the Western countries for the atrocities committed by their colonial forefathers; for example we can’t accuse Prince William for all that what happened centuries ago. The truth that PP has come out is that Sihalese don’t have any problem with the individuals of the Tamil society. But as an ethnic entity the Sinhalese have a feeling of indifference towards what is alleged to have happened to Tamils in the war with the LTTE. This is due to the indifference and callous attitude shown by the Tamils as a whole during the suicide-bombing rampage by the LTTE. The majority of the Sinhalese were waiting for a strong and determined leader to emerge to “wipe out this scourge” at any cost. This happened after repeated failures of the negotiations, attempted by successive governments.

    When the “Maha Kotiya” was killed in 2009 along with all his cohorts the Sinhalese along with Muslims rejoiced this occasion just like the Americans celebrated the demise of Bin Laden last night with “patriotic parties”. The people who were affected by terrorism only know the happiness of its defeat;not the ‘lilly white saints ‘ of the West and their local stooges! This kind of triumphalism could have turned into a riot against the Tamils if the Sinhalese were harbouring any ill-feelings towards the Tamils- as evidenced in our neighbouring countries on several occasions. The Sinhalese celebrated the unbelievable victory against terrorism with lion flags and milk rice parties only;not with petrol bombs and guns!

    So the reasons for the apparent apathy of the Sinhalese on the possible civilian deaths in achieving that victory must be clear now. Apart from this the Sinhalese think that Tamils too know that civilian casualties is an inevitable outcome in any war; that they(Tamils who cry foul) are making it an issue to avenge the defeat of the LTTE. Why are you slipping away from the main point that TT has made on several occasions?-i.e. that any civilians used as a ‘human shield’ by the LTTE, after they(LTTE) moved their heavy weopens among the civilians in the ‘no-fire zone’, became a legitimate target of the Sri Lankan Forces. Therefore they(the SL Forces) broke no international law!

    That is why the “foolish masses” of Sri Lanka want to fight against singling out Sri Lanka to probe its “war crimes”!

    • TT

      “foolish”? The foolish perished at the banks of Nanthikadal, both ways.

  • TT

    The biggest and most influential difference between the Sinhalese and Tamils on multiculturalism is their voting pattern at general elections. Since politics rules over everything else, this becomes MOST crucial.

    1. Sinhalese have always voted for multiethnic political parties since 1947.

    2. Sinhalese have totally rejected Sinhala racist parties. The only instance a Sinhala race based party won a seat in parliament was in 2000 when Sihala Urumaya won 1 seat. But that parliament collapsed in 1 year and that was the end of it. No other Sinhala race based party (there are many including Sinhala Maha Sammatha Bumipetera Party out there) managed to win any seat.

    3. What racists call “successive Sinhala governments” are in fact multiethnic governing parties which are “racist” for a true racist.

    4. Tamils on the other hand (in both the north and the east of SL and in Tamil Nadu since 1967) always voted for Tamil racist political parties since 1947 (even before Independence).

    These include All Ceylon TAMIL Congress, Ilankai TAMIL Arasu Kachchi, TAMIL United Liberation Front, TAMIL Alliance, TAMIL Elam Liberation Organisation, etc. Not just they always win seats, they defeat all other multiethnic parties in the north and sometimes in parts of the east. The same trend is shown in Tamil Nadu where Dravida (Tamil race is part of the Dravida race) parties win. This trend of Tamils is the biggest impediment to a solution based on multiethnicity/multiculturalism.

    This is an indisputable fact in NE SL and TN, India.

    e.g. In 1947 (even before Independence) , 1952, 1956, 1960, 1960, 1965, 1970, 1977, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2010 general elections Tamils in the north overwhelmingly voted for Tamil Only race based political parties. This is the root cause of the problem.

    5. Not just their party names are racially exclusive. They concerns, aspirations, political demands, electioneering, members and everything else about them is ULTRA race based. They ONLY talk of TAMIL grievances whereas everyone has interconnected grievances. They scream about TAMIL ONLY aspirations that goes against all other SLs and the SL nation itself. They demand TAMIL only homelands. This MUST change.

    6. However, I doubt Tamils in Tamil majority areas (wherever they are) will and CAN change this centuries of racial politics. It is certainly not their fault. It is the burden of generations of racially exclusivist politics which is now almost impossible to overcome.

    7. Creating multicultural new settlements in the MONOETHNIC TAMIL-ONLY north and the east (war started here, war ravaged here and some predict war will restart here) is the ONLY solution. If done sufficiently, that will result in multiethnic band of leaders. This worked perfectly well in Ampara and Trincomlaee. MOST leaders from these areas learnt not to be racially exclusive. There is only one exception and we all know who that is. But the influence of these racially exclusivists have drastically reduced in these 2 districts promoting multiculturalism.

    8. It has many added advantages mostly economic and sustainable development. One key defence advantage will be the public opinion for/against SLA bases in the north will change from 50% in favour.

    9. MR is not the father of the nation. He is nowhere near. Father of the nation (DSS) had foresight and MOST elected representatives agree he was the best leader SL had. He was from the multiethnic UNP but multiethnic UPFA doesn’t criticise him, JVP doesn’t, SLMC doesn’t. That is over 95% of the votes. He showed us the way to build multiculturalism throughout the country and we must follow it.

    10. A federal or any other substantive power sharing mechanism with RACIAL GROUPS will only create another TAMIL NADU (worse, it will be in SL), not a California!!

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    TT,

    1. We can argue for ever about these numbers. This is the usual fate of these statistics. However, as a witness of these riots in Borella, Maradana, Pettah, Slave Island, Townhall etc on that fateful day I guess that I had seen more than several hundred people who actively participated in them.
    2. There are people in this world who denied the existance of Aushwitz, killing of 6 million jews, the holaucaust etc at this moment inspite of all the evidence for the contrary. (I do not know whether TT belongs to that category.)
    3. I would neve say that there were sinhalese, who went out of the way to help tamils in 1983. Otherwise it would have been a disgrace for those brave, humane, altruistic souls.
    4. TT and I both accept that both Sinhalese and Tamils were responsible for killing and looting each other. However TT says the sinhalese did them less than the tamils. And Sinhalese helped Tamils where as tamils did not help sinhalese.
    5. Whatever TT or I say it is the accepted moral responsibility that the weak should be helped by the strong. That’s why we all have sympathy towards the minorities in the world politics. Take for example, the conflict of Israel/Palestinians, Black Americans/White, Armenians/Turkish, Abrogins/Settlers. Where does our sympathy lie? So it is my storng conviction that sinhalese have much more responsibility than Tamils in every aspect in this problem.

    Sabbe Laban

    Look at the tamil community, who suffered in the hands of both the government and tigers during those days. They were like an aricanut stuck between aricanut cutter. If your were in their shoes would you have the courage to come out and express your true feelings. See what happened to Rajani Thiranagama and the ‘Univerity lecturers for Hurman Rights in Jaffana’?

    Look at what is happening in the world after Bin Laden’s death. Every body in the western world is rejoicing. Hamas says he is an Arab Freedom Fighter and Matyre. If the west thinks that they can wipe out Muslim Extremism by killing its leaders/Terrorists they are mistakent. What is the root cause for all these terrorism? Have you ever thought about it? In my view the historical injustice done to Palestinian by the Israel is the mother of all the problems in the world. See how the Americans, British and EU keep quite when the Israel is engaged in all the possible human rights abuses known to world.

    If the west wants to get rid of Muslim extremism they should find a just solution to Palestinian problem.

    Imagine the LTTE is using civilians as a human sheild. We really do not know whether the civilians are there with their consent of they are forced to do that. The government is shelling the LTTE. What do you expect the government, as they are the leader and the protetor of all the Sri Lankans including the Tamils civilians trapped between the LTTE and Army, to do? The correct thing for them to do is not to shell the palce to avoid Civilian Casualties. Imagine your parents, wife and children had been trapped in a similar situation would you still demand the Government to bomb the LTTE?

    The legitimate target of the SL Government forces are the Sri Lankan civilians themselves. Most of them are women, children, old, invalid etc. Where is you humanity Sabbe Laban? I guess you have pawn them for racism and barbarism. There is only one truth in this world. You can bend it for your own benefit.

  • Zorro

    @ was/is there any restrictions on Sinhalese candidating on the so called “Tamil” parties? can you name them? There are no official restrictions in their constitution. Even VR was not restricting the involvement of Sinhalese. It is just as having a mufti-ethnic party constitution but aiming at a racial election campaign, like the SWRD and JR did many times in the past. Would you please stop white washing the racism has been practiced by the so called multi-ethnic parties. You dont really mean that UPFA, SLFP or UNP are really interested in the well being of all citizens than the well being of the majority? If this is the case what is there wrong in some other parties looking after the interests of the minorities and it is not ILLEGAL and RACIAL as you are trying to explain all the time, and if it is, it was unconstitutional and should have been banned from the GoSL or the election commissioner. As far as the party is not illegal and oblige the democratic constitution there is no necessary to blame them.

    • the way of the Dodo

      ha ha, well said.

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    TT

    1. The UNP and SLFP, though they have Tamil and Muslims, do not recognize the political asiprations of Tamils. That is why they vote for ‘Tamil’ parties. Just because Sinhalese vote for UNP and SLFP and not for ‘Sihala Urumaya’ they do not become less racists than Tamils. Tamils are for some form of political power for the areas they inhabit. If the UNP and SLFP want to give it to them they would vote for them. TT has taken this from the tail.
    2. The days of forceful colonisation is over. Even if DS were alive today he would not be able to do what he did those days. People are more conscious about their rights and they know how to raise their voices if there is a need. The international community is also much more conscious of the rigts of the minorities. Even the Zionists would not have been able to colonise the palestine as they did from the latter part of 19th century. It is now considered to be violation of human rights to forcefully colonise people to distort the racial demography for the advantage of one race. Therefore, TT’s wish is only a day dream.
    3. Apart from practical impossibility of such a scheme we have to examine the concept to see whether it is morally right. To whose benefit is TT proposing to do that? For Sinhalese of course. But he would say it is for the country. Would non-sinhalese beleive TT? Of course not. The question is Tamils are/were fighting (democratically and militarily) for some form of political autonomy. And the solution is forcefull colonisation of Sinhalese among the Tamils in north and east. Isn’t it an indirect form of oppression of just Tamil demands?
    4. I would like to invite TT to read about history of Nazi Germany. He would find many parallels to his form of thinking. How the Slaves and Jews were uprooted from their ancestoral homes and subjected to enforced migrations and the Germans were settled in the vacant lands of those people.

    • sabbe laban

      Pitasthara Puthraya

      This is a reply to your earlier response: You seem to be unable to distinguish between your personal emotions concerning the civilian deaths in a war and making the correct decision in a battle by a State Leader. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions for the sake of a greater benefit, and at that time a State Leader is not permitted to give in to emotions like “universal love” or “loving kindness”

      I don’t think killing of Bin Laden will eliminate the Al Kaeda movement he headed as there are the other leaders of it who might take it forward. In the case of the LTTE all the big fish got killed in a Grand Finale, thus nobody survived to carry on! Total annihilation!

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    Sabbe Laban

    Correct decision in a battle by a state leader. What do you understand by your own statement. In whose judgement is the ‘leaders’ decision correct? Is this correctness is absolute? of course not. In this particular situation some says the decision to shell the LTTE inspite of causing civilian deaths is correct and others say it is wrong. Where is the truth?

    But there are things that can not be interpreted as correct or wrong by your or my personal preferences. Killing innocent civilians including women, children, old etc when it can be prevented is absolutely wrong. In this kind of situation there is no middle ways. It is either all or none. Can you justify killing women, children and old by any means?

    Get out of you conditioning. Do not look at the world wearing glasses of religion, cast, race, or any other prejudice etc. Look at the world as a human being. Get out of your sinhalaness/tamilness or whatever. We humans have suffered from centuries due to these petit problems. How many have been killed by the name of religion, race, ethnicity, cast, colour of the skin etc.

    Have you listened to John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’? If not listen to it today.

    • wijayapala

      PitastharaPuthraya,

      Killing innocent civilians including women, children, old etc when it can be prevented is absolutely wrong.

      How could it have been prevented?

  • sabbe laban

    Dear Pitasthara

    OMG! That heretic John Lennon bloke’s “Imagine” is consirded “an absolute blasphemy” by the Sr Lankan Christians! Besides, the ’60s popular concepts of ‘anti-war’, ‘counter-culture’ and ‘anti-establishment’ are totally out of tune with the present generation and the present day conflicts are rooted mostly in race and religion.

    It’s “legitimate”, to say the least, to act as the Sri Lankan Forces did, in the final stages of the war to wipe out the LTTE. It was done for the greater good of the country;for peace and long term stability. If we declared a truce or slowed down the offensive,(as advised by the West) it would have allowed the LTTE leadership to slip away to a safe haven, plunging the country into another phase of the Eelam war! That’s what I call a “correct decision!”

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    Sabbe Laban,

    I just wanted you to concentrate only on the lyrics not the socio-potlical movement of 60’s, which may have had an influcence on such songs.

    Anyway, You say this was a correct decision and I say it is not. How should we solve this problem?

    If this decision is so correct what prevents the government from openly and genuinely declaring what they have done? They can issue a statement saying “We bombed the LTTE knowing that it might kill a substantial number of civilians because we want to finish off the tiger terrorism for the greater good of the country. We are sorry for the civilians, who died. We salute them for sacrificing their lives for the country”.

    They can not do that because everybody knows that this is not right.

  • sabbe laban

    The government is not doing that probably because they adopted a “zero civilian casualty” thoery from the beginning, which is absurd in my opinion! If I were the president I would have made a statament similar to what you have posed here! UNFORTUNATELY I’M NOT!-I’m not even a spokesperson for them!- We Sri Lankans too are quite capable of apologizing! Look at the US “role models”! How many times they have apologized for “inadvertent civilian casualties” in Iraq and Afganistan?

    Oh! How nice if we too can get away with an apology! After that nobody will waste time on tv screens, “scream bloody murder”. Oh! Those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki!

  • PitastharaPuthraya

    Sabbe Laban,

    Thanks for the ideas.

    • sabbe laban

      You are welcome!