Two years after the end of the war in Sri Lanka


Photo courtesy Deshan Tennekoon, Groundviews

The UN panel report or the Darusman report was condemned and rejected. The stand taken by the government was that “not a single civilian was killed during the last stages of the war. If some of those dead were found to be in civilian clothes, they were Tigers in disguise, even if they happened to be children or elderly women. No one can say we committed war crimes because no one saw what happened during the last stages of the war. Therefore we don’t have to answer any questions raised by UN or the international community.” In a way this is true – no one saw what happened at Mullivaikal, Pudukudiyiruppu and Nandikadal in May 2009. There were no witnesses. The UN and the international community actually abandoned those 300,000 civilians, who were left alone to face the LTTE on the one hand and the Sri Lankan army on the other, and God knows who killed more civilians, the army or the LTTE. We are only told that about 40,000 to 60,000 people died during the last stages of the war.

Now, with the appearance of the Channel 4 video, “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields”, the government is once again plagued by the same questions. Many have seen the documentary and commented. To some it is compellingly indicative of war crimes by the Sri Lankan state. They speak of “credible allegations” that must be investigated. British Prime Minister David Cameron is reported to have said, “the Sri Lankan government does need this to be investigated and the UN needs this to be investigated and we need to make sure we get to the bottom of what happened and that lessons are learnt”. A US embassy official has said, “we are deeply concerned about credible allegations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights violations in Sri Lanka. We support a full accounting of and accountability for those who engaged in acts that violated international human rights law and intentional humanitarian law”.

But the Sri Lankan government does not take these allegations seriously, because according to those in power, the Channel 4 video is a fake. Its documentary producer Callum McCrae, anchor Jon Snow and everyone else involved in the production of the video are accused of being on the payroll of the Tamil Tiger Diaspora. Siri Hewavitharana, a Sri Lankan Australian who is described as a leading expert on digital video systems, has debunked the video footage. In his opinion the video shows ‘doctored images’ of naked bodies of women being thrown on to trucks by laughing and joking soldiers. But Channel 4 claims that the footage has been authenticated by four experts: forensic pathologist Daniel Spitz, forensic video analyst Jeff Spivack, fire arms evidence expert Peter Diaczuk and forensic video expert Grant Fredricks. If what our expert Hewavitharana says is true, he is still required to prove that the other four experts are wrong. The Sri Lankan government needs to prove to us and the world that the documentary is a fake, only then can the country’s name be cleared. Vehement denials alone will not restore Sri Lanka’s honour.

While this debate goes on in the south, the situation in the north doesn’t seem to have improved.

TNA (Tamil National Alliance) MPs including Suresh Premachnadran and Sumanthiran have complained to the president that their meeting with their party candidates at Alaveddi on 16th June, was attacked by the army for no reason. “There is no civil administration in the North. Two years after the end of the war, we still live under military rule,” they have said. People are also being forcibly photographed and registered by the army, and they are naturally gripped by fear.

Prof. Ratnajeevan Hoole, one of the well known and respected intellectuals, too has recently complained to the president that on the 29th of May a meeting organised by the ‘Noolaham Foundation’ was rudely disrupted by the army. Colonel Jayawardena and his men had barged into the hall screaming, “No LTTE commemorations, Ministry of Defence orders, do you understand?” He concludes his appeal to the president by stating, “the government after winning the war is losing the peace – we must point out the irony of our government working with former hardcore LTTE personnel and using some of them as informants while branding respectable Tamil civilians as LTTE”.

When Anadasangaree speaks on behalf of the Tamil people, Tamils are a little sceptical, because he is seen as an ardent supporter of the Rajapakse regime. Yet even he now feels that the army must be withdrawn from the north. According to him, “the people in Jaffna urgently need peace. They want freedom- freedom of speech. Now people in Jaffna can’t even have a temple meeting. The army goes and chases them away. This is exactly what happened 30 years ago, and it drove some youth to take up arms against the government. The military presence there is used to keep the people under subjugation”.

It is also reported that EPDP’s dreaded Charles has resurfaced to terrorize the people. Douglas Devananda (EPDP) who has announced his candidature for the Chief ministership of the North Provincial Council seems to have brought back Charles to instil fear among the people and help him win the election. Charles who had been once with the LTTE later joined the wining side (the EPDP).

Anyone who is even very slightly critical of the government is attacked by the army with the help of the pro-government Tamil politicians. Keerthi Tennekoon, the Director of CAFFE (Campaign for Free and Fair Elections,) is reported to have said, “The attack on the TNA public meeting held on 16th June was not an isolated incident but part of a systematic mechanism to harass opposition party members, who are not allowed to travel freely in Killinochchi, Mullaitivu and even in Jaffna. The army and the police are also questioning the opposition party members’ families in an attempt to create a fear psychosis.” (Sunday leader 19/06) In this environment a free and fair election cannot take place.

What then is the future of the Tamils in Sri Lanka? They do not demand a separate state, but a life of dignity and security. More than all they want to be treated as equal citizens of this country. For more than 25 years Prabhakaran controlled their lives and they remained submissive not because they lacked the will or the courage to oppose him, but because they could not place their trust in the successive Sri Lankan governments that had betrayed them many times in the past by breaking promises and agreements, starting with the Bandaranaike – Chelvanayakam pact in 1958 and ending with Rajapakse’s own APRC (All Party Representatives Committee) report which perhaps is now resting in a dustbin. Mr. Premachandra is quoted saying, “the APRC report contains many positive recommendations. The TNA though not a participant in the APRC deliberations would like to consider them if the government was ready to start a dialogue on the recommendations of the APRC proposals”. However, President Mahinda Rajapakse seems to have rejected his own APRC’s proposals, and instead wants to appoint yet another Parliamentary select committee to find a solution to the ethnic problem, on the advice of one of his favourite ministers – Dougles Devananda. This can only be considered a practical joke being played not only on the Sri Lankans, but also on the UN and the international community!

As long as the Rajapakse regime holds power there will be no solution to the ethnic problem. In fact no Sinhala majority government will grant equal rights to the Tamils fearing that it would lose the support of the Sinhala masses. The majority Sinhalese have been conditioned to believe that the Tamils are ‘foreigners’ who settled down in this country long after the Sinhalese and therefore cannot claim equal status. “They are Elara’s people and we are the descendants of the great King Dutugemunu who defeated Elara the Tamil King. Therefore they cannot be our equals”. School children are conditioned to think on similar lines, and they grow up believing that the Aryan Lion race is superior to the Dravidian Tamils. Until Sri Lanka becomes a truly Buddhist Country believing in the teachings of the Buddha, the Tamil and Muslims will not be granted equality. In the Vasettha Sutta the Buddha declares the unity of human biology and that there is only one human race. He makes the unambiguous assertion that all human beings belong to the same ‘jati’ – the human race. It’s only when the Sinhala majority realizes this truth that they will accept the Tamils and Muslims as equals and grant them equal rights. Will that day of realization ever dawn?

  • yapa

    Dear Leela Isaac;

    “But the Sri Lankan government does not take these allegations seriously, because according to those in power, the Channel 4 video is a fake.”

    What else do you think the government is appropriate to do? To accept the allegations? Why? What good it will cause if the government accepts it? Can anybody explain this to me? Many people want government to accept war crimes, but no one clearly mentions the good it brings.

    If the Channel 4 video cannot establish its credibility, by answering the questions arisen from it, why anybody should take it seriously?

    The video could not go to its targeted destination. It is not a problem of the government, but of the video producers.

    If the video was able to prove its case beyond anybody’s questions, no one could deny it. It was denied because it was deniable. It was a poor production.

    Thanks!

    • ben

      Sorry for being a bit late.

      To YAPPA

      They have commited these atrocities, the govt can not hide that, the good that comes is that innocent people will get their justice, the govt will face trial from the ICC, they know it and they are trying to cover it up, to delay time. so because it does bring good for them,you are saying they should not accept it? Thats terribly stupid, as for the video, its real, even movie effects couldnt do that. Dont you find it a bit suspcious that the “expert” who says the video is false is not a UN certified expert. Siri Hewavitharana is [Edited out] simply helping the govt to delay the inevitable, have you seen the video? By the way, it was denied by only the Srilankan govt, to (repeating myself) delay the inevitable.

      Be a real lankan and stand up for democracy, freedom and justice for all, youve been brainwashed by your govt, wake up, because here in the outside world we can see everything, and its people like you who make srilanka seem stupid.

      • ben

        sorry this is an edit:
        so because it does not bring good for them,you are saying they should not accept it?

      • yapa

        Dear ben;

        Why are you harping on the unverifiable video. If you got the video from a government soldier, why don’t you provide his evidence. If you say, he is not coming up out of fear, it is a white lie because’

        1. It is very easy to provide him security in any of the countries, which are not within the reach of GOSL. So many are living so, in many countries as refugees(genuine and fake).

        Therefore,providing his evidence cannot be a problem.But you all never do it but continue to harping on the video and lamenting on it and marketing emotions.

        2. If there is really a soldier to video the scene and the uniformed people are of SLA, these uniformed people invariably must know the soldier who did the filming. If this is the real case I don’t think any soldier would leave such a traitor of them and he would not be in good health now.

        If the video was provided by the so called soldier you all must be concerned about his situation if he has not fled the country.

        If he has already fled you have no problem of producing him as your witness.

        These are simple steps you could take to authenticate the video rather than launching a huge propaganda project. It is also cheap, why you all are wasting this much of money oiling the palms when you have a cheap and easy way to do it.

        CH4 video is an obvious lie. So are most of your other propaganda.

        Thanks!

    • jansee

      yapa:

      Have you been really following the developments or just got up from your slumber? Did you read how the SL ambassador to the UN answered, or rather refuted the charges? You should read it and perhaps, may have a hint/clue as to how shallow their argument has become, short of defending the indefensible.

      It has become a joke of late. First, it was a fake video, then suddenly the fake video became genuine video with LTTE shooting the soldiers, and they are talking in Tamil but SL regime refuses to send the video for independent verification.

      It is as clear as broad daylight that the SL regime not only guilty of war crimes but also genocide.

      • yapa

        Dear jansee;

        Rotating answers by GOSL could be attributed to that they have no idea about the incident given in the video. If they only they can give a definite and unshakable answer. People cannot answer all the questions posed at them suddenly. Answering is more difficult than questioning. Any fool can ask innumerable questions, but no wise man could answer all of them. Inability give a direct answer at once do you think a reason for somebody to make guilty. Then a dumb person always must be a guilty for all the questions asked from him.

        But jansee, you never were able to answer questions arisen from your assertion about the CH4 video. Those who assert are responsible for evidence, not the defence. I have been asking so many questions that directly destroy your assertion attributing the killings in videos to SLA. But you never take a single step to defend your “theory” by answering those queries. Can you at least answer the questions I asked from ben, if he too is not responsible for his vomiting of words.

        Please justify your assertion and uphold your credibility and dignity. Just hot babbling doesn’t prove cases.

        Thanks!

      • yapa

        “If they only they can give a definite and unshakable answer.”

        should be corrected as,

        “If they [know] only they can give a definite and unshakable answer.

        Thanks!

  • silva

    Leela, thank you for writing:

    ”He makes the unambiguous assertion that all human beings belong to the same ‘jati’ – the human race. It’s only when the Sinhala majority realizes this truth that they will accept the Tamils and Muslims as equals and grant them equal rights. Will that day of realization ever dawn?”

    Many top civil servants in the previous governments and some Sinhalese serving now in think-tanks made submissions to LLRC saying successive governments from 1948 till today have been oppressing the ethnic minrotiies. \in the absence of justice for 63yrs for many other atrocities(including pogroms), it will be a surprise the government gets worried about the last phase of the war.

  • ram

    this is one of the best article I have ever read from a srilankan author. what Leela have said is nearly 100% true, specially in the last paragraph you have hit the nail on the head, I have a very pessimistic view about srilanka’s future but authors like you must come forward to write more , specially in sinhala and tamil, so ordinary sinhala and tamil speaking public can be exposed to the reality , which I hope could change the way they view srilankan problem.

  • yapa

    It is true that Sinhalese has to understand that all humans belong to human race. It also indicates that Tamils need to learn it more rigorously. Tamils as an ethnicity are very much more responsible for doing atrocities to Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils included in this country. So many organizations came up from the Tamil community are responsible for mass killings, destroying of valuable resources like air planes, trains, buses, buildings etc. etc.

    Suicide bombing and child soldier conscription were never done by any other communities. Were they done with compassion towards that common humanity? Did they chase away over 100,000 Muslims with that compassion?

    Tamils must learn to take the responsibility of what they they have done and they do at present as well. As a community they have dome much harm to the country than any other community.

    Leveling allegations at the majority is not the best way to achieve what somebody wants. That strategy won’t work. Tamils must learn to be friend with Sri Lankans rather than join hands with foreign elements to plan harm to the majority and the country. They are running after a foreign mirage.

    Please be a bit more sensible.

    Thanks!

    • wijayapala

      Dear yapa,

      Tamils as an ethnicity are very much more responsible for doing atrocities to Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils included in this country.

      Why are the Tamils more responsible?

      Did they chase away over 100,000 Muslims with that compassion?

      How many Tamils did we chase out of Sri Lanka with our compassion? How else did the Tamil diaspora become so large?

      • jansee

        wijayapala?

        What?

      • yapa

        Dear wijayapala;

        Many Tamils became diaspora willingly. It was a blessing in disguise, to cross over to greener pastures. That is why most of them are of the diaspora of western countries, not in Tamil Nadu.

        Thanks!

  • Davidson

    Our education system wanted to produce and succeeded in producing:
    people who cannot distinguish between
    i.action and reaction

    ii.structural violence and visible violence

    iii.loss of planes/trains and destruction of a social fabric

  • ward

    Leela

    Thank you.

    We need to translate this into Sinhala and Tamil.

    • wijayapala

      We need to translate this into Sinhala and Tamil.

      Why?

      • yapa

        Because he has not understood what is written in the article.

        Thanks!

      • jansee

        wijayapala:

        Sometimes your questions and reasons defies logic and reason? Can I also ask WHY WHY??

      • yapa

        Dear jansee;

        Your logic has bigger shortcomings, which lead to destructive repercussions, unlike wijayapala’s innocent questioning.

        Thanks!

  • eureka

    48 years ago:

    In the forward to the book, CEYLON : A DIVIDED NATION(1963), Viscount Soulbury (Commission headed by him was in charge of handing over independence) expressed his regret: ‘’In the light of later happenings I now think it is a pity that the Commission did not also recommend the entrenchment in the constitution of guarantees of fundamental rights, on the lines enacted in the constitutions of India, Pakistan, Malaya , Nigeria and elsewhere.
    Perhaps in any subsequent amendment of Ceylon’s constitution those in authority might take note of the proclamation made by the delegates at the Arfrican conference which met in Lagos two years ago: ‘Fundamental human rights, esp. the right to individual liberty, should be written and entrenched in the constitutions of all countries’.

    Last year:

    Submission by Harim Peiris to Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission, 7 October 2010: ”Strengthen individual human rights and fundamental and democratic political freedoms,, by acceding to Sri Lanka’s international and treaty obligations and in keeping with Supreme Court Judgments in this regard, through the passing of enabling domestic legislation, that will fundamentally strengthen the rights of the individual citizens. Its fundamental Human rights.”

  • http://www.scribd.com/cessch cessch

    i can not believe the tamils did not get the same consideration as the kurds, the albanians or the libyan people. the only solution is a armed solution, unfortunately.

  • wijayapala

    Dear jansee

    Sometimes your questions and reasons defies logic and reason?

    Is that a question or a statement? Given that this article defied logic and reason, I thought you would understand my question why it should be translated.

    Can I also ask WHY WHY??

    Why not?

    What?

    In this case, the proper question to ask is not what but who.