Photo credit Eranga Jayawardena/AP, Encyclopædia Britannica Online

During the last couple of months, the former UN spokesperson in Sri Lanka – Mr Gordon Weiss has been promoting his book titled “The Cage” and making his case in support of allegations of war crimes committed in the final stages of Sri Lanka’s civil war. The Channel 4, film titled “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” being broadcast around the world and accessible on YouTube has added raw emotional visuals, adding much momentum to those claims.

These two features offer glimpses into the recently concluded brutal conflict in Sri Lanka to the wider world that is already saturated with images of an inflamed middle east and Lady Gaga. Our thirty year civil war is a subject that audiences across the world have rarely had to think about, except fleetingly as a piece in the puzzle about ‘boat people’ from Sri Lanka landing on the tightly guarded shores of Australia and Canada. “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields in particular, has slightly shifted the boundaries of an interesting dichotomy however; one that is mostly visible from outside of Sri Lanka. While it seems to those living in the island that the whole world is out to get us, ordinary people outside of Sri Lanka has largely been unaware of what’s going on to be interested or concerned. Perhaps it is a testimony of the pervasiveness of violence in our world; that over hundred thousand lives could sink in the quicksands of a country’s history, in a brutal conflict spanning over three decades, without the world taking much notice. Two years after its bitter end however, images from the final battles have found a fleeting time slot in the 24-hour news cycle. They have confronted and mildly traumatised ordinary people who would struggle to find us on the world map even now. Perhaps the terrible images they are being exposed to, will even cause a minor stir in them before slipping out of their collective memory to be replaced by concerns about rising fuel prices and a weekend’s football scores.

I feel Sri Lankans however, must welcome the world’s attention on the conflict even though it comes two years after the cessation of hostilities. As a Sri Lankan living in outside the country and someone who grew up with the conflict, it would be a disservice on my part if a more enduring footnote is not added to the narrative – for the sake of the more discerning citizens of the world among whom I now mostly spend my time.

Even though my interest in the Sri Lankan conflict is not merely academic, I admit there’s a historical value to the account that Gordon Weiss records in his book. It is based on information to which he would have had access in his capacity as a resident UN spokesman during the last stages of the conflict. He truthfully admits however, that no independent observers were allowed to witness the final battles.

Rather surprisingly, I as an ordinary citizen had a more intimate experience of the conflict while growing up. The nightly news had a daily death-toll of terrorists vs. soldiers and everyone sub-consciously cheered when their side had won on any given day. I argued with anyone who bought lottery tickets that they had a better chance of dying in suicide attack on the streets of Colombo than wining the jackpot! Until 2009, I had no memory of the country not being at war.

Now, two years after the end of a three decade long conflict, I find it strange to find serious journalists accusing ‘both parties’ of the Sri Lankan conflict, of failing to protect civilians. I knew that as a naive 16-year old child! Even though Colombo gained infamy for countless suicide attacks, it was the remote villages bordering the conflict zones that actually bore the brunt of the LTTE’s wrath. There are a large number of orphans – now teens and young adults from those villages in orphanages all over the country – who bear the unmistakable scars of war on their faces and disfigured limbs. Their most painful wounds lie deeper – bloody memories etched in three or five year old minds – of watching their parents being hacked and themselves being left for dead.

The first civilian casualty of the conflict however, was Alfred Duraiappa; a Tamil politician and Mayor of Jaffna. The year was 1975 and the assassin Velupillai Prabhakaran, who founded the now infamous and extinct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). Subsequently, as communal violence escalated, the Sri Lankan government was accused not only of failing to protect its Tamil citizens from Sinhalese mob violence in 1983, but also of being complicit in those attacks.

As the civil war raged, the number of civilian casualties inevitably increased not only due to the callous disregard of combatants for the safety of their unarmed brethren, but also due to them being deliberately targeted – that is definitively what terrorism is and the LTTE was an internationally designated terrorist organisation credited for pioneering suicide attacks. Among their civilian victims were, politicians – including an Indian Prime Minister, priests, commuters, pilgrims and shoppers.

Apart from the civil war, Sri Lanka faced a violent youth insurrection in the majority Sinhalese south during the late 80s. Tens of thousands of uncounted civilians – mostly youth – died in the ensuing conflict which the Government of the day brutally suppressed. All these civilians mostly lived and died in widely accessible, populated cities; in full view of the world’s media and diplomatic community, but out of their memory. Indeed I am sure the many thousands of Australians who visited the island over the past few decades would mostly remember Sri Lanka for its beautiful landscapes, delightful tea and the alluring, sincere smiles on her people’s faces. That her people managed to preserve those smiles and continue to toil for the fruits of her rich soil is perhaps the greatest testament of their resilience. That must be why the island is now promoted as a “Small Miracle”… which the poet W. S. Senior at the turn of the 20th century called “This peerless land of beauty’s plenitude”.

But Gordon Weiss appearing on Australian TV remembered a totally different picture. He even made repeated allusions that what happened in Sri Lanka was similar to the genocide in Sudan. That claim is dishonest and blatantly false. Given how he packaged the fictional claim with carefully chosen facts, it may have seemed credible to a majority of his audience who may not have followed the Sri Lankan conflict. Mr Weiss cleverly pointed out that governments of both Sri Lanka and Sudan were able to commit these alleged crimes with diplomatic cover provided by the Chinese government.

The tacit claim that China is a complicit partner in crimes being committed by despotic governments World Wide is rarely questioned by citizens of the Global West – because to them, it sounds reasonable enough to be true. China’s involvement in Sri Lanka must be the subject of a more detailed analysis, but it suffices to point out for the record that Sri Lanka’s closest and most powerful neighbour India was the primary influence the conflict from its inception and escalation to bloody end. It was the political climate in India that dictated the time-line and tactics that brought about a swift end to the conflict in May 2009 and it was India’s diplomatic cover – equally, if not more than that of China and Russia – that has prevented any international intervention so far. Mr Weiss mislead the audience with a distorted view of China’s involvement in the conflict and such lapses cast doubts about the credibility of his voice and the sincerity of his motivations.

However, anyone who has experienced war as intimately as Sri Lankans (or Iraqis and Afghans) have in recent years would agree that ‘war’ invariably extracts civilian casualties. That is what war is, and that is why War itself is the crime. The LTTE cadres and Government soldiers who died also had loved ones and friends who were civilians. They also had dreams and ambitions like all of us. If the fact that combatants bear arms and is therefore in a position to better protect themselves than civilians is sufficient reason to legitimise their deaths and criminalise the death of civilians, what logic would prevent someone from attacking anyone who bears arms – which includes almost half the United States population – with impunity?

Those who have lived through war realise more readily than those who haven’t, that laws legitimising the deaths of combatants and criminalise the deaths of others is based on corrupt and immoral logic. Those who have seen the brutality of war can speak with more authority for all of humanity – without posturing behind dubious notions that the humanity of combatants is in some way different or inferior to that of their civilian brethren. The thought of it is ironic, but it is by no means a stretch of the imagination to think about how the youth of Sri Lanka who were called to unleash so much violence – on each other and themselves – may have even intermarried had they not been born into the tragic conflict and conscripted by poverty, lack of opportunity and violence!

More specifically with regards to allegations of civilian casualties during the last phase of war, no one with sound mind and integrity can stand by the claim of “zero civilian casualties” as made by the government of Sri Lanka. Yet, anyone who has lived through the conflict in Sri Lanka and even those outside the island who understands its background in more depth would have noticed critical gaps in the narrative that both Mr Weiss in his book and Channel 4 in its film portray. Their naive commentary about civilian casualties in Sri Lanka is both misleading and patronising because It is a war that was sparked off with civilian casualties and raged on a furnace fuelled by a vicious cycle of civilian casualties. It would take the most incompetent journalists and diplomats to wake up and take notice of that fact; only two years after the thirty year conflict had ended.

The story lines of both Mr Weiss and the producers of “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” do not provide a holistic reading of the issue and fail to sufficiently grasp its complexity. Perhaps it is no fault of theirs because they are both looking at the problem as outsiders; without any emotional attachments to the place and its people, and without any real stake in the conflict itself, its outcome, or the shared destiny that the warring parties now share. I don’t think it is fair to accuse them of imperialist motivations and racist prejudices because they seem to be driven more by their job descriptions, to think it incumbent on them to selectively pass judgement and seek to punish sovereign nations whose actions and conduct they find offencive to their Western ideals.

On the other hand, Sri Lankans who have had a stake in the fate of their country has failed to articulate the broader narrative intelligently. Surprisingly, an ancient culture steeped in peaceful and tolerant Buddhist traditions have not nurtured enough moderate voices that can accommodate all communities. Sri Lanka’s leaders lack the self awareness and humility to look inwards. They understand the fears and anxieties of the most vulnerable communities that form the bedrock of their constituencies sufficiently to manipulate and exploit them, but not deeply enough to be able to empathise with them. Hope on the ground for the poor and exploited people is thinning. An emergence of a moral leadership that can inspire a humanist approach to the problem and able to bridge the deep emotional divide – particularly between the long estranged elements in the Tamil community in the Diaspora – is not even make-up the most fragile dream of the hopelessly optimistic.

Yet, the reality is; Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka do not have the luxury of being able to pass judgement on each other and prosecute each other because their destinies are tightly intertwined. Those who failed to realise it and chose violence and war to settle historical grievances have already sacrificed an unborn generation in their failed cause. The challenge before the Sri Lankan people is to rise up from the ashes of war and try more amicably to make our shared history and common future richer and more meaningful – for our recent history and living memories provide bitter lessons on the consequences of failing to do so.

Any astute historian reading into Sri Lanka’s historical narrative will easily notice an undertone of insecurity; of a people who have been under constant threat of invasion and colonisation for over two thousand years and are now very weary of it. Therefore, any ‘external’ diplomatic threat of International intervention in post conflict Sri Lanka is perceived by Sri Lankans with hostility and justifiably as an attack on their sovereignty.

The Rural masses which form the support base of the current government – whose sons and daughters made up the military rank and file – perceive it as a direct threat to their children. Therefore external pressure for investigations, only serve to solidify internal popular support for what is a corrupt and dictatorial regime.

The common denominator in most drawn out conflicts – Sri Lanka, Iraq or Afghanistan being cases in point – is that populations that sustain the war effort on either side grow tired of war proportional to the cost of life and limb and the drain on their treasuries. However as much as opposition to war increases, every General, foot soldier and military operation that is carried out with the promise of a dignified end to violence gain tremendous public support. The present state of Sri Lankan society is a product of that evolutionary process and everyone – especially the survivors of its most intense violence – welcome the end of hostilities unreservedly. Here, the fact that any residual dissatisfaction in the Tamil population is about the significant shortcomings in the rehabilitation and rebuilding process and not a about the end to violence, is an important distinction to make. It follows therefore that those Generals who won the war are revered as popular heroes by a vast majority of the population – across all communities – who opposed the war.

It is ironic that the terrorism of the LTTE was sustained by a steady flow of funds from industrialised nations. The same government who did little to curb the flow of funds and armaments that intensified and perpetuated the conflict in Sri Lanka, are now alleging war crimes; and that irony is not lost on the people of Sri Lanka. During the last stages of the conflict in early 2009, the Sri Lankan army was accused of using cluster munitions – which the government vehemently denied. The voices of those who championed that allegation are silent now – perhaps after the public revelation that it was none other that the world’s biggest banks that are based in their countries, who had invested close forty billion dollars in eight cluster munitions manufacturers since 2008. Therefore, the credibility of allegations against Sri Lanka – for better or for worse – has been tainted by the lack of credibility on the part of those making them. As a result, the West is widely perceived by Sri Lankans as being duplicitous and complicit in extending and escalating the conflict. Continued diplomatic pressure and blatant hypocrisy is driving Sri Lankan foreign policy ever further from its historical ties with the West and closer to its Asian allies.

The popular war victory and perceived external diplomatic threat has been perfectly exploited by the incumbent government of Sri Lanka to entrench itself in power – aided by an impotent opposition. Any honest, intelligent and inspired political leadership will take time to evolve in the current political climate in Sri Lanka where the narrowing definition of her ‘national identity’ remains a cause for concern and an impediment to reconciliation. Space for liberal and pluralist ideas is hard-fought and shrinking in the self-censored local media which has itself been rendered ineffective by a widely popular government’s intolerance of dissent. The decline is perhaps most evident by the lack of any significant public protest against the killing of a dissenting newspaper editor in early 2009 and the incarceration and disappearances of others like him.

That is why any threat of international investigations could actually be a catalyst for reigniting the fires of violence in a population whose majority is already feeling insecure and under attack. The ultimate objectives of any externally imposed or forced investigation into war crimes in Sri Lanka is not only poorly thought through, but will jeopardise the safety of the most vulnerable sections of society including the rural poor. Though well-meaning proponents of such an investigation may seek to achieve justice and reconciliation, it would achieve exactly the opposite with dreadful consequences for the people of Sri Lanka.

Indeed, Sri Lankans desperately need uninhibited access to truth, opportunity and justice – and they have for two thousand and five hundred years of its recorded history. What most advocates of social justice in the faced paced world of today fail to understand, is that such societal changes are not going to manifest over-night in a country that is still bleeding from the wounds of war. The present generation of Sri Lankans and perhaps even the next, will have to wonder through the desert, for a generation not yet concieved, to reach the ideals of their promised land. The future of their country is not a matter for those outside to impose on. It is for the people within to embrace and be empowered by the values on which their future and the inheritance of their children will be founded on. They must understand by now, that they alone will also have to bear the consequences of their choices. The population is highly literate; and though timid in nature, Sri Lankans are intelligent and innovative people. Given time and the right incentives, truth can manifest and justice can and will emerge.

Fortunately, there is still a semblance of a democratic process left in Asia’s oldest democracy, and it inspires hope. However, recent constitutional changes (the 18th Amendment to the constitution) have removed vital checks and balances on the already dominant executive and removed its term limits. They were far more damaging to the long term peace in the country and the well being of its citizens. Any genuine and well-meant efforts aimed at promoting truth, reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka has to focus on strengthening the democratic institutions of the country and empowering its people, rather than disenfranchising them of choices that they alone have the right and privilege to make.

  • Tara

    We are now in ‘IT’, as they, Brother. There is no turning back once you are in. Such is the nature of this game. History has shown it to us. As for the recent history, think about the ‘Arab spring’.

    Tamil population in Sri Lanka has been traumatised beyond any possibility of getting them to listen to smoothing, often superficially gracious and sophisticated apologies, to “reconcile” now. Thousands of families have been driven out of their ancestral homes in to refugee camps in India, Malaysia, and Thailand or as refugees in Australia, UK, Canada, US and other parts of Europe. Thousands have lost their property, loved ones in their families. Marriages have broken down. Education of our kids has been disrupted.

    We need to face the reality here. You do not want a forced or external investigation in these crimes, because it will antagonise the majority Sinhalese. Isn’t this logic on which the entire 30 year old was waged against the Tamils? I am assuming you want an investigation. Then who is going to do it? Who in Sri Lankan politics at the moment demanding a proper investigation?

    If we do not want to antagonise the Sinhala majority, why then was the need for the campaign for GSP boycott? Of course GSP measure did not work. Hence need further action. If the West has concerns that, a direct intervention would be a complicated one, why not get India or Australia or both to do the bidding for them in this affair?

    Let’s take the JVP’s demand. They were the ideological backbone of the war against the Tamils hence they are responsible for the crimes to the fullest extent. What they want is some sort of sham , face saving “investigation” that would not reveal the culpability of the any of the key players except for the few individual soldiers who could be charged and found guilty after a long drawn legal circus in Sri Lanka.

    I do not see UNP’s position is fundamentally different from the JVP’s.

    I also think that it would be criminal to allege that all these incidents happened at the spur of the moment when they were fighting the so called “most ruthless terrorist organisation’. The Sri Lankan armed forces were aware what they were venturing in to do. The need for the complete annihilation of the entire cadres and the leadership of the LTTE at any cost. It was premeditated criminal activity.

    Sinhalese need to listen to Naganathan on the panel discussion on the Killing Fields film on the Indian TV.

    • Dear Tara,
      Agree. “The Sri Lankan armed forces were aware what they were venturing in to do. The need for the complete annihilation of the entire cadres and the leadership of the LTTE at any cost. Only the leadership and NOT the ‘entire cadres’ as tens of thousands of cadres were taken prisoner and are still alive. A highly successful pest control exercise, no?

      ‘International investigations’ by concerned western humanitarians is not out of concern for Tamil civilians, its basic geo-politics. Even if it were, it must not be allowed because its an internal matter for SL. I’ll allow them the privilege of investigating SL’s abuses after their own are investigated by an ‘independent’ international panel. Pigs will fly, first.

      Who cares what another Eelam activist says?

      • Lanka Liar

        If you tell a Sri Lankan
        Don’t murder he will say there are many murderers in the world.
        Don’t Lie he will say there are many liars in the world
        Don’t Rape There are many rapist in the world
        Be good there are many good people in the world – Oops there are no good people in the world.
        How long you can go on like this. The world has begun to operate as on entity and one nation’s actions are scrutinized by other nations collectively and individually. If you want to live inwardly there were countries like Myanmar and North Korea etc to see how they destroyed themselves. Do you want Sri Lanka to be like that? If you mess it once you can’t rebuild it again especially the culture and character. A golden opportunity is in the horizon to correct our self and become men among men.

      • Lanka Liar

        Sometime ago a veteran Indian journalist published Prabaharans deaths for four times each time he was wrong. Nobody in Sri Lanka questioned him, because he was immersed in gold and silver and titles for doing the work for Sri Lanka. Gordon Weiss and channel 4 has written and shown what they saw and are prepared to show the evidence. They didn’t come to Sri Lanka to write a comprehensive history or politics or about the beauty of the landscape. After all with this kind of atrocities going on what can the beauty bring to this. A foreign friend of mine visited Sri Lanka and bought some cloths . when he learnt about the torture disappearance and horror perpetrated by the Sri Lankan armed forces and the justifications for those actions from the politicians, he opted to throw the cloths away, See their reaction. This is long before the channel 4 or Gordan Weiss. Correct yourself don’t expect the world to behave according to your specifications.
        Can you allow the Tamil people to come out and speak freely and give evidence and gurentee their life? Then only you can dispute Gordon Weiss and Channel 4 Who will dare it. If they do they will simply vanish. Isn’t it. – A humanitarian operation will be performed on them. The country is slowly being characterized as a failed state with very low level values. Landscape, food, short term smiles can’t erase them. Only courageous acceptance of errors and practicing honesty will put back the nation on the map. It is up to the people to take which ever path they want to

      • Eelam Modaya

        It has nothing to do with there being “murderers” and “rapists” elsewhere; it’s more a case of the absconding serial killer accusing us of hiding a body in the basement and asking to pop in and investigate.

    • wijayapala

      Tara,

      Tamil population in Sri Lanka has been traumatised beyond any possibility of getting them to listen to smoothing, often superficially gracious and sophisticated apologies, to “reconcile” now.

      What role did the LTTE play in this traumatisation?

    • Tara,
      You say: “Tamil population in Sri Lanka has been traumatised beyond any possibility of getting them to listen to smoothing, often superficially gracious and sophisticated apologies, to ‘reconcile’ now.”

      Pardon me for repeating myself, but I understand that some may find the prospect of reconcilliation ‘difficult’. That is why I do not mean it lightly when I single it out as “The challenge before the Sri Lankan people” today… “to rise up from the ashes of war and try more amicably to make our shared history and common future richer and more meaningful”. You argue that it is “boyond any possibility”, but i am not only more optimistic but also willing to trust in what is inherently good in all of us. I know that we are all intelligent enough to think more pragmatically and rationally about our own future and the future of our children to understand and cherrish the value of peace and cooperation. Indeed, “our recent history and living memories provide bitter lessons on the consequences of failing to do so.”

  • Janaki Perumal

    /The first civilian casualty of the conflict however, was Alfred Duraiappa/

    Then who were the Tamils killed by goons in 1958 and during 4th International Tamil conference? mere animals like those were killed 2009?

    /That is why any threat of international investigations could actually be a catalyst for reigniting the fires of violence in a population whose majority is already feeling insecure and under attack./

    I guess you’re not talking about those Tamils who helplessly and hopelessly watch their traditional lands get colonized and military and para-military terrorize them.

    You want to start and end the history wherever you want. just for your info. it started before LTTE and it goes on even after LTTE. Unless majority thinks minorities are equal partners

    • wijayapala

      But Alfred Duraiappah was the first Tamil murdered by a Tamil in the name of Tamil liberation.

      • Janaki Perumal

        /But Alfred Duraiappah was the first Tamil murdered by a Tamil in the name of Tamil liberation. -wijayapala/
        If you’re not considering his hands on 4th International Tamil Conference in Jaffna.
        Anyway, at this juncture of history, why does Alfred Duraiappah’s murder matters more for you and the essayist than a Tamil killed by a Sinhala goon in 1958 or a Muslim killed by Tamil militancy? To invoke “Kadigamar was a Tamil, and the foreign minister” logic/sentiment in the argument?

    • Janaki,
      Let me start with your last comment about starting and ending history as seen convenient – not only because i accept it as a valid criticism, but also because i think it is also relevant to the other questions you raise.

      I considered the start and end points of the recently concluded armed struggle led by the LTTE because that was the subject of my discourse. It also encompasses the living memories of generations X and Y who had little choice but to endure (and fight) the violence they (we) inherited. We have no recollection of the conflict before that and therefore find it difficult to relate to – even though we have all been indirectly affected by the course of history spanning over two millennia.

      I would like to understand the point you are trying to make by raising the issue of violence against Tamils before the period I had chosen to discuss.

      I think there is unanimous consensus at least among independent thinkers, that the present political leadership is not only incapable of forging a long-term solution to the problem that preserves the dignity of all Sri Lankans, but they are very much part the problem. Here i especially include the opposition (or rather the lack of it).

      If there is a government sponsored program to artificially alter the demography of any region, it reflects a failure of the structure of governance. Such actions are outside the democratic process and any potent opposition would have been able to rally public opinion against such measures. However, massive majority enjoyed by the government – and the impotency of the opposition – amply demonstrates the point i make about external pressure being a key factor in making the problem worse by driving increased support within the country for the parties that is perceived to have ended the war. All this is driven by paranoia and insecurity of the population in the face of the threat of external intervention.

      I hope you are not prejudiced to assume that there is a popular “Sinhala” movement to illegally displace their Tamil brethren from any part of the country. Granted that the two communities are less understanding and empathetic now that they were in pre-war Sri Lanka, but it is not only unfair, but inaccurate to assume that there is a pervasive animosity between communities there.

      Even the most cynical pessimist would admit that people generally get along quite well in Sri Lanka.

  • JMN

    The BBC and Channel 4 are two seperate media channels. Chanel 4, which broadcast Killing Fields, has no affiliation to the BBC.

  • veera purran appu

    The Sri Lanka issue must be sorted out by themselves, not by third parties.. especially not by third parties that were exploiting us 50 years ago, or any of their cousins.

    Once the dust settles as it is settling, the Tamils and Singhalese, not to forget the Muslims will be back on track enjoying their previlEged land which is a Paradise in the making.

    Like a family dispute, ones problems should be resolved at home and in the privacy and understanding of the family, how ever large the family maybe.

    And Sri Lanka (Sri Lankans)are a Family !,if you check the DNA of Muslims they will have Tamil ancestors and the same goes for the Singhales!

    LET NOT THE WHITES AGAIN INTERFERE UNDER ANOTHER PRETEXT TO EXPLOIT IN THEIR FAVOUR, WE BROWN BROTHERS AND SISTERS WILL NOT BE HOODWINKED OR HIJACKED AGAIN, AND LETS THANK OUR GEOGRAPHICAL NEIGHBOURS FOR THEIR SILENT YET LARGE HELPING HAND THAT THE WEST AND THEIR COUSINS FEAR MOST.

  • Podi Putha

    There should be a reply from the heavens to all of these unnecessary loss of human lives on all sides of the citizenry in Sri Lanka. We humans can’t solve anything from here onwards. Everyone is more concerned about his own selfish views and wellbeing. So, its a total mess. No human being can untangle this mess so soon.

  • eureka

    ”Yet, the reality is; Sinhalese and Tamils of Sri Lanka do not have the luxury of being able to pass judgement on each other and prosecute each other because their destinies are tightly intertwined. Those who failed to realise it and chose violence and war to settle historical grievances have already sacrificed an unborn generation in their failed cause.”

    Please note that the last thirty years were a reaction to the previous thirty years, not ”historical” grievances:

    1.Jayantha Dhanapala’s written submission to Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission(LLRC), 30 August 2010: ‘’Each and every Government which held office from 1948 till the present bear culpability for the failure to achieve good governance, national unity and a framework of peace, stability and economic development in which all ethnic, religious and other groups could live in security and equality.
    Oral submission, Jayantha Dhanapala to LLRC: Our inability to manage our own internal affairs has led to foreign intervention but more seriously has led to the taking of arms by a desperate group of our citizens.’’
    (Dhanapala was formerly UN Under-Secretary General for Disarmament and a candidate for UNSG in 2006)

    2.Submission before Lessons Learnt & Reconciliation Committee (LLRC) by Chandra Jayaratne, 23 September 2010: ‘’…… Years of inequitable allocation of national resources and consequential disparities in regional economic development, infrastructure development and public service delivery have sown the seeds of discontent and disillusionment leading to conflict, insurrections of the South and the North and even the armed struggle towards a separate administration ….’’
    (Jayaratne is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Centre for Ethnic Studies and a former President of Ceylon Chamber of Commerce)

    3. There are a lot more submissions by Sinhalese to LLRC telling them about the politico-economic oppression of ethnic minorities from the time of independence – very strong reason to teach in schools the history of post-independent Sri Lanka.

  • eureka

    ”The challenge before the Sri Lankan people is to rise up from the ashes of war and try more amicably to make our shared history and common future richer and more meaningful – for our recent history and living memories provide bitter lessons on the consequences of failing to do so.”

    It’s a pity it’s continuing unabatedly:

    No war, no peace: the denial of minority rights and justice in Sri Lanka, Report by Minority Rights Group International, 19 January 2011:
    With the end of the conflict between Sri Lankan government forces and the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE or ‘Tamil Tigers’) in 2009, normality has returned for much of the population of Sri Lanka. But for members of the country’s two main minority groups – Tamils and Muslims – living in the north and east of the country, harsh material conditions, economic marginalisation, and militarism remain prevalent. Drawing on interviews with activists, religious and political leaders, and ordinary people living in these areas of the country, MRG found a picture very much at odds with the official image of peace and prosperity following the end of armed conflict.

  • Shiva

    This is a temporary victory for the Rajapakse regime or the Sinhala Chavunists. The International Community must deal with Accountability, R2P, Justice to the victims and so on.

    The Tamil Diaspora is becoming stronger and stronger and they will pose a greater threat to the racist Sinhala regime than the LTTE in coming years.

    No criminal can escape from accountability and the Rajapakse regime must face and pay for their deeds and acts.

    • wijayapala

      The Tamil Diaspora is becoming stronger and stronger

      How?

  • Shiva

    India has collaborated in committing war crimes and now the whole world knows on the gravity and war crimes that were unleash on innocent Tamils.

    The denial of free access to Tamil areas by the Media, journalists, diplomats, NGOs and Human Rights groups show that the Sri Lankan regime not only committed human rights abuses and war crimes but also continue to commit crimes against innocent Tamils and forcing Tamils to do without their will.

    I am surprised by the lack of will of the International community to deal with the criminal regime forcefully that allows the innocent civilians undergo pain and sufferings without any justice.

    Accountability, R2P and Justice to the victims are core before any meanings ful reconciliation or talk of future.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Janaki Perumal

    If you’re not considering his hands on 4th International Tamil Conference in Jaffna.

    What was Duraiappah’s hand? He had no control over the police and had nothing to do with the baton charge. Do you approve of his killing?

    Anyway, at this juncture of history, why does Alfred Duraiappah’s murder matters more for you and the essayist than a Tamil killed by a Sinhala goon in 1958 or a Muslim killed by Tamil militancy?

    I should ask you the converse: how does civilian deaths caused by the SLA somehow worse than the LTTE’s using thousands of Tamil children as cannon fodder? Why is it that you must protest violently against the GOSL, but be perfectly content coexisting with those who had bankrolled the LTTE’s atrocities?

    • Janaki Perumal

      wijayapala
      I do not and any compassionate human-being can not approve anyone’s killing. I only pointed out he was not the first Tamil being killed and he was Srimavo government’s man in Jaffna when the state organized disturbance of 4th Tamil International Conference, and the consequent deaths of few Tamils. These are two contexts I pointed out his death. Hence, let me repeat to you; I do not approve his killing; I do not approve LTTE’s last decade conscription either.

      However your questions do the contrary. From your bold face statement, “how does civilian deaths caused by the SLA somehow worse than the LTTE’s using thousands of Tamil children as cannon fodder? Why is it that you must protest violently against the GOSL, but be perfectly content coexisting with those who had bankrolled the LTTE’s atrocities?” what I understand is that if LTTE does anything wrong to Tamil children, civilian killings by SLA are ok for you. You sound very similar to one Lt Col (Retd.) Anil Amarasekera in July 11th Asian Tribune. His convoluted argument is, “LTTE did this list of atrocities since 1983, but Channel 4 questions sri lankan military; thus, the only possible conclusion one can arrive at is that Channel 4 has been bought over by the rump LTTE or by vested interests.”

      Further, I do not think you care about not thousands, but not even a single Tamil child. For you everything seems to be SLA Vs. LTTE.

      • wijayapala

        Dear Janaki Perumal,

        These are two contexts I pointed out his death.

        Thank you for appreciating the notion of context. So you will agree that the 40,000 or 4,000,000 civilian deaths took place within the context of stopping a brutal, fascist organisation that led the world in suicide bombing and did not hesitate to use Tamil children as cannon fodder to literally fatten its leaders. You will also appreciate the context that this same organisation was bankrolled by people living outside the country and having no intention at all in risking their lives or their childrens’ to achieve this Tamileelam dream. Finally there is the context that this same organisation had no interest at all in peace and disenfranchised Tamil voters to ensure that MR would come to power.

        Given this context, don’t you think it’s time to take a look at your flag-waving friends and ask them their own role in those civilian deaths?

      • Janaki Perumal

        /Given this context, don’t you think it’s time to take a look at your flag-waving friends and ask them their own role in those civilian deaths? – wijayapala/

        None of my friends are flag-waving, though I have friends who strongly despise the monolithic sinhala buddhist governance pushing anything against anyone with its bloody grip. It does not have to be only Tamils.

        Said this, I also want to point you out that until you think only you have the right to wave the flag not the other, you are going to see more and more flag wavers on the opposite side. And, The opposite side may have spectrum of flags.

        It is funny that you said this. Current Jaffna mayor wants to remove the sword from the sculpture of last king of Jaffna, sankiliyan as he thinks it threatens the southern ministers and tourists visiting north. When I read this today I was amused with two thoughts

        1. Hope he has no intention to replace a sword with a white flag in Sankiliyan’s hands (of course with UN approval)

        2. Well, none complained to this day about the sword in the hands of lion.

  • I am surprised and dismayed to see this author refer to “BBC Channel 4” when he must be well aware that Channel 4 is an independent broadcasting network that has nothing whatsoever to do with the BBC. I am especially disappointed to see such an extraordinary error on a site such as Groundviews. The error repeats a deliberately wrong linkage of the two which has recently been made on several Sri Lankan government and pro-government media, namely SLBC, Lankapuvath and The Island. Please acknowledge the mistake and issue a correction. Thanks. Charles Haviland, BBC Sri Lanka Correspondent

    • Thanks Charles. The error is regretted and now stands corrected. We’ve also emailed the author your comment in an effort to understand why he wrote what he did.

    • Charles,
      I acknowledge and regret the error on my part and accept full responsibility for it.
      Please accept my apologies.

  • wijayapala

    Dear Janaki,

    I have friends who strongly despise the monolithic sinhala buddhist governance pushing anything against anyone with its bloody grip.

    And what did your friends do or say in 2005 when Prabakaran threatened the Tamils away from voting against this monolithic sinhala governance? Why were you all so silent back then compared to today?

    The opposite side may have spectrum of flags.

    So far I’ve only seen one- the lovable Tiger surrounded by bullets and rifles- and I’ve heard that if that flag had not been waved around in mass demonstrations by thousands of mindless sycophants in London and Toronto in 2009, then these other flags you are hinting at might have taken more action.