Image courtesy ICG Facebook page

The recently released report “Sri Lanka: Tamil Politics and the Quest for a Political Solution” by the International Crisis Group [ICG] is a timely contribution to the international community’s understanding of current Tamil politics, and reiterates a number of useful recommendations for all parties concerned. Its prescient analysis of the prevailing tensions within Tamil politics; its recounting of the failure on the part of the government to reciprocate the Tamil National Alliance’s reasonable demands; and its description of the military juggernaut unleashed in the North and East of the country point to the urgent nature of the problem at hand. Yet, the ICG sound caution where caution is due, urging Tamil leaders to speak directly to the Sinhala and Muslims people and find common cause with them. These are good, meaningful and sensible observations. Despite the unfortunate timing of the release, which coincided with the impeachment saga, the report will eagerly be read by Sri Lanka watchers.

While there is much to applaud in the report, it falls short in one crucial aspect. The report maintains an almost perfect silence on the demand of Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka – and the TNA in particular – for full accountability in respect of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the latter stages of the war, and the importance of an accountability process for the achievement of the constitutional and structural changes the ICG identifies as necessary. It therefore fails to pay any attention to a major challenge facing the TNA and Tamil civil society: how best to leverage international pressure on accountability without relegating the right to justice as an expendable commodity with which to barter a negotiated constitutional settlement? This is an important and complex question deserving serious academic and political thought, to which the ICG – with its global reach and access to comparative experiences – could have contributed innovatively.

I have observed elsewhere that the TNA has now emerged as a consistent and forceful advocate for full accountability in respect of the crimes committed during the last stages of the war. The alliance has made the demand for accountability both overseas and at home, campaigning heavily in the 2011 local authority election based on their support for an international investigation, and later interpreting their victory as a mandate for such an investigation.  That they do so consistently despite the obvious risks is significant. The ICG report, however, does not trace these developments, and as a result, fails to convey the strength of the demand of Tamils [by this I mean Tamils in Sri Lanka] for accountability.

This is troublesome for a number of reasons, not least of which is that this unwitting silencing of Tamils on the question of accountability is counterproductive to the excellent work done by many – ICG included – to ensure a process of reckoning in respect of the crimes of the past. Any international campaign for the rights victims in Sri Lanka that is not visibly seen to be having the support of those on whose behalf the campaign is conducted is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. While foreign governments may now be aware of the nature of the TNA’s demands, the same cannot be said of voters and pressure groups in foreign countries. By failing to recognize and highlight Sri Lankan Tamil demands for accountability, those pressing for accountability from outside Sri Lanka run the very real risk of lending credence to the claim that the accountability agenda is an imposition on Sri Lanka, and that even victims of alleged crimes in Sri Lanka do not desire it. To be clear, this silencing of the TNA and other Sri Lankan Tamil voices demanding accountability is a consistent failing of INGO’s and others. Very few if any of the multiple public debates, seminars, forums and panel discussions on Sri Lanka that have taken place in the West feature Sri Lankan Tamil politicians or activists, despite the obligatory presence of a Sri Lankan government voice beamed and sometimes flown in. The burden of carrying the pro-accountability argument is often left to INGO activists and diaspora activists, none of whom are unqualified to speak, but nevertheless lack the authenticity and moral authority that a Tamil representative from within the country would bring.

The failure to recognize the strength of the Tamil demand for accountability is also incongruous with international best practice. These practices now favour victim centered approaches and victim participation. It is for this reason that the International Criminal Court [ICC] and the hybrid Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia [ECCC] place victims’ interests at the heart of the judicial process, including by ensuring the right of victims’ lawyers to participate in proceedings, and ensuring some form of reparations through the criminal process itself.

In the final analysis though, what is most troubling about the ICG report is its overly limited conception of ‘political solution’, and the failure to visualize how an accountability process could complement steps to change the unitary structure of the state and devolve more power. While ‘political solution’ and ‘devolution’ have become synonymous over time, there are dangers in viewing a political solution based on power sharing as distinct from accountability for serious crimes. For one, this approach gives those opposed to accountability the room to portray accountability as mutually incompatible with national reconciliation. It also ignores the constructive role that an accountability process could potentially play in ushering in an agreement on power sharing. In this regard, the importance of truth telling cannot be overstated. As Mendeloff notes, truth telling encourages social healing and reconciliation, promotes justice, allows for the establishment of an official historical record, serves a public education function, aids institutional reform, helps promote democracy and preempts as well as deters future atrocities.[1] In Payam Akhavan’s recasting of Theodor Meron’s defense of criminal trials for war criminals, “truth‐telling promotes interethnic reconciliation through the individualization of guilt in hate‐mongering leaders and by disabusing people of the myth that adversary ethnic groups bear collective responsibility for crimes.”[2] Moreover, vetting and lustration practices common to most effective transitional justice [TJ] mechanisms help, for want of a better phrase, weed out those most likely to cause a return to violence. Further, a well-designed TJ process could in fact constitute “one of the first lessons for citizens in a newly‐democratic multination state in how to learn to live with the ambiguities of contested nationhood.”[3]

For Tamil political parties and civil society groups then, the challenge is particularly delicate. While international pressure on accountability serves an instrumental purpose in mobilizing international opinion in respect of their rights, and while this pressure may eventually lead to a softening of the inflexible stance of the majoritarian state on issues of power sharing – bartering away the right to demand justice for power sharing in return is simply not acceptable, as a matter of strategy, normative theory, international law or Tamil electoral politics. Yet, history and experience tells us that perfect justice is never possible, and that some compromises on criminal justice are necessary to avoid deadlock and secure the path to reconciliation. In these circumstances, what then are the tools and strategies that Tamil politics must develop? How do Tamil political and civil society leaders build their capacity to make optimal decisions when the opportunities eventually appear?

Whatever the answers to these questions may be, they are not made more accessible by excluding Tamil victims and their representatives from global conversations on accountability, or by glossing over the contributions already made under trying circumstances.

[1] David Mendeloff, Truth‐telling and Postconflict Peacebuilding: Curb the Enthusiasm? 3

Int’l Studies Rev. 6, 355 (2004)

[2] Payam Akhavan, Justice in The Hague, Peace in the Former Yugoslavia? A Commentary on

the United Nations War Crimes Tribunal, 20 Human Rights Quarterly 737, 816(1998)

[3] Will Kymlicka, Transitional Justice, Federalism, and the Accommodation of Minority

Nationalism (Oxford Centre For The Study Of Inequality And Democracy, Working Paper No.

5, 2009)

  • Velu Balendran

    Alan Keenan of ICG in a 30 minute interview on the subject:

    The issue to me is pretty simple. Tamils recognise at least 140,000 are missing and there are over 75,000 (90,000 according to some) war widows. Hence the 40,000 quoted as dead is a gross underestimate. The Sinhala side does not engage in this debate, with the govt dismissing all claims with a maximum of 7500 killed (from zero at the start).

    Unless an honest appraisal is made on this very serious matter by the Sinhala people, Tamils will not cooperate and will gravitate towards separation. Suppose this hurdle is crossed without separation, whether to share power with regimes hell bent on altering Tamil demographics with the ulterior motive of ethnic cleansing of Tamils in SL will take precedence.

    But all signs today from the actions taken by this regime, always to the detriment of Tamils, would only encourage more calls for separation.

    • Off the Cuff

      Dear Velu,

      Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils by the Sinhalese when half the Tamil population of Sri Lanka is living amongst the Sinhalese in the South? Something must be terribly wrong Velu.

      The ONLY ethnic cleansing that happened in Lanka was by courtesy of the LTTE when the North was ethnically cleansed of the Sinhalese and Muslims and created the ONLY mono ethnic province in Sri Lanka.

      Altering Tamil Demographics did happen, though not as you want us to believe. The Tamil population doubled overnight when The British govt imported foreign Tamils from India and settled them on Land forcibly dispossessed from the Sinhalese in the Hill country, the hinterland of the Kandyan Sinhalese.

      The dispossessed Sinhalese peasantry are still Landless even after centuries. This same govt divided Lanka into nine provinces where a major part of Lanka’s Forests (uninhabited land) became part of the Northern Province. The Kandyan kingdom extended up to Elephant Pass in the North (see evidence from the Dutch National Archives at the link below) and Trincomalee in the East (see statement by Dr Pradeep Jeganathan a respected ethnic Tamil himself).

      The British enacted the Crown Land Enforcement Ordinance in 1840 to claim the unoccupied and uncultivated land in the Kandyan kingdom (Farmer 1957:90- 91). As a result of this ordinance, 90% of the land in the Kandyan highlands was designated as land belonging to the British Crown (Herath et al, 1995:77).
      The Waste Land Ordinance Act of 1897 (and the Crown Land Encroachment Ordinance in 1840), annexed more lands as crown lands where villagers could no longer claim them according to the new British- imposed rules (Roberts 1979:233, Obeysekara 1967: 98-100).
      The majority of the Sinhalese villages effectively lost the structural prerequisite of land tenure systems (Obeysekara 1967:101). These ordinances also created a large number of landless peasants in the former Kandyan kingdom, which had held land through customary means but without legal proof. Furthermore, the ‘Land Settlement Ordinance of 1889’ allowed the colonial authorities to sell crown lands at will. The impact of these land ordinances were uneven, because they were largely limited to the former Kandyan Kingdom (Mendis 1951:166).
      Many villagers in the Kandyan area were deprived of their high lands formally used for chena cultivation or grazing the cattle (Mendis 1951:85).
      These changes to the Kandyan land and service tenure systems disintegrated the old Sinhalese systems (Codrington 1938:63).

      According to the 1946 census on population in the agricultural sector of the island, 40% of the agricultural peasant families found in the former Kandyan Kingdom were landless while there were 26% landless agricultural families recorded in the wet zone (Herath 1995: 79).

      In 1881 there were 345,000 Lanka Tamils (approx) and 345,000 foreign Indian Tamils. Almost a 100% of these Indian Citizens of Tamil ethnicity occupied the Lands in the Kandyan kingdom so stolen by the British.

      The Ceylon Govt’s Land grab and the Forests combined created a govt ownership of about 85% of Sri Lanka’s Land mass (including internal water bodies). Over HALF of this Public Property is situated within the “Land grab” by the Elamists.

      PUBLIC PROPERTY is the property of all citizens of Lanka Velu, it has no ethnic owner. You have the same right to it as me and everybody else. I believe it is the same throughout the democratic world or is it any different where you live?

      The 9 provinces created by the British was done for ease of administration and was not based on Ethnic Habitation. How could they when in the early days 85% or more of land was Forest? The only people who lived like gypsies in the forests of the Vanni were the original inhabitants of Lanka, the aboriginal Veddha and they were not Tamil.

      Hence Velu Please argue your statements if there is any substance in them.

      Quote from Dr. Pradeep Jeganathan
      it is not historically accurate to say that the Kings of Jaffna ruled the east, certainly even a cursory glance at Dutch records and the doings of Rajasinha the 2nd will tell you, that the Kings of the Kanda Uda Pas Rate, (the five countries on top of the mountains) were also the overlords of Batticoloa and Trincomalee.

      Dutch National Archive Record.
      During the 17th century the Company was engaged in a war of attrition with the king of Kandy, who had close ties with Ceylon’s Buddhist population. There was a narrow tongue of land at Elephant Pass a fort was built to guard the border with the king’s territory.


      Dear Niran Anketell,

      “The report maintains an almost perfect silence on the demand of Tamil political parties in Sri Lanka – and the TNA in particular – for full accountability in respect of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the latter stages of the war, and the importance of an accountability process for the achievement of the constitutional and structural changes the ICG identifies as necessary”

      Would it be because the ICG realises that the TNA is also complicit in Crimes against Humanity?
      After all the TNA publicly accepted the LTTE as the sole representatives of the Tamils

      How the TNA won the Elections in 2004 is revealed by the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna) in their report

      UTHR(J):Information Bulletin No. 36 ;Part III: The Elections(2004) and their aftermath: A triumph of fascist diplomacy?

      The TNA’s lethal democracy
      Having fashioned a parliamentary group – the TNA – to tamely promote the LTTE(P)’s claim to be the sole representatives of the Tamils, the LTTE was determined to extract every strategic use from it. It was important enough that intelligence chief Pottu was placed directly in charge. The blatant rigging of the last elections and the failure of the Government to check the abuse despite repeated complaints have been amply documented in the reports of independent election monitors.
      The LTTE(P)’s political wing leaders in Jaffna, Illamparuthy (Aanjaneyar) and Paapaa were given the job of fixing the election for the district. We deal with one aspect. According to information from a member of the fixing party, which is fairly indicative, the ballots to be cast by the fixers were to be divided in the following ratio: For every three ballots, one for Gajendran, president of the so-called International Students’ Organisation, one for Mrs. Padmini Sithamparanathan and one for the candidate from the electorate. That aside there would have been internal manoeuvring of the fixers by the candidates themselves and senior LTTE persons. It was Gajendran who organised Jaffna University students in mass impersonation at the 2001 elections.

      The preference votes tell their own story:
      Gajendran: 112 077, Padmini Sithamparanathan: 68 239, G.G. Ponnamablam: 60 768, Suresh Premachandran: 45 783. TULF’ s Mavai Senathirajah scraped through with 38 779. A popular figure such as Sivamaharajah lost with 24 964.

      The electoral list was the same one used in 2001 when the TNA obtained a total of 102 214 (less than Gajendran’s preference vote. But this time a section from Vanni also voted!). In 2001, Anandasangaree and Mavai Senathiraja led with more than 33,000 preference votes – about a third the number obtained by the party, and 20 000 to 30 000 of the TNA’s votes were fraudulent. In 2004, the TNA increased its vote from 102 324 (or 55.8% of votes counted) to 257 320 (or 90.6%). The EPDP’s share dropped from 58 000 (or 30.6%) in 2001 to 18 612 (or 6.55%) in 2004.

      These figures are the result of extensive fraud and violent attacks, threats and harassment of the opposition and the voters themselves. One could say without hesitation that at least 100 000 of the 112 077 preference votes supposedly obtained by Gajendran in 2004 were fraudulent, as with about 170 000 of the 257 320 votes credited to the TNA in Jaffna. Thus even the last vestiges of democratic choice among the Tamils were utterly bankrupted. That was not the most sinister aspect of the whole exercise.

      Suresh Premachandran performed the marvelous feat of increasing his preferential vote to 45 783 from 13 302 in 2001, which too was notoriously fraudulent. Also on the TNA list, long time LTTE ally C.V.K. Sivagnanam obtained 25 954 and failed to get elected. Sivagnanam was, in 1987, LTTE’s nominee to the aborted North-East Interim Council, when Premachandran, as General Secretary of the EPRLF, was its arch-enemy. Sivagnanam was deeply offended, since the votes were a measure, not of the people’s regard for him, but rather the LTTE’s. This was an election in which the LTTE assigned the votes!

      The score was even more remarkable because it is well known that the chief fixers, Illamparithy and Paapaa, hated Premachandran. Obviously Illamparithy and Paapaa had been given firm orders from the top that Premachandran must enter Parliament. We pointed out in Bulletin No.35 that Suresh P. is a leading asset of intelligence chief Pottu Amman, and his men are now constituted into a special intelligence unit under Pottu.

      While in the South and in neighbouring India, people have used their vote to protest against the economic and political order of neo-colonialism, those rulers imposed on the Tamils, whether through a rigged electoral process or through simple military might, are in fact the keepers of a prison. The people undergo all manner of torments there, from murder and torture to child conscription.

      Among those to whom the people of the North-East owe the robbery of their democracy and the legitimisation of their ‘sole representatives’, are sadly, the European Union.

      On 5th April 2004 John Cushnahan MEP, who headed the EU election observers issued a statement, which said of elections in the North-East: “It was encouraging that the people of the North and East were able to exercise their franchise through cluster arrangements. However, it is a matter of deep concern that the electoral process in the North an East was tainted by intimidation and violence”.

      But the stark reality was that the election in Jaffna was not just tainted. It was completely polluted. The violence, intimidation and murder were systematic, unchecked and the election was the culmination of that process. All these crimes since 2002 were exclusively the work of one party, which Cushnahan did not name. Cushnahan is evidently pleased with the cluster arrangements he pushed for – done in such a way that people from the LTTE-controlled area were in practice free to vote just for the one party he was reluctant to name.

      The monitoring group Paffrel observed in its interim report the fact that those contesting the elections independent of the LTTE doing so only on the pain of being deemed traitors, exerted a ‘chilling influence’ on both contestants from the opposition and those who would vote for them. Indeed the observations of foreign monitors contained in the report suggest that many voters were spared the painful dilemma by having their polling cards taken from them beforehand and even on their way to the polls:

      “…the voter turn out [in Jaffna town] appeared to be low and large numbers of youth were also observed with polling cards, particularly in the vicinity of Jaffna campus (University)…

      [The following refers to the exercise of democracy by voters form the LTTE-controlled Killinochchi, which Cushnahan found ‘encouraging’:] “Two international observers at the Muhamalai cluster polling station independently witnessed large-scale vote rigging originating from the LTTE-controlled ‘uncleared area’. Between 11 AM and noon international observers saw young men collecting polling cards from persons crowded into open-air vehicles. In other instances, young men were handing out polling cards to persons in vehicles, seemingly checking them (perhaps for sex) before handing them over. At least three persons were seen holding two-inch wads of voter cards…”

      The foreign monitors also interviewed and recorded testimonies of opposition party workers and polling agents who had received dire threats from the LTTE, both personally and impersonally: “They [came home the night before the elections and] grabbed me by the throat and pushed me into a coconut tree. I felt something [cold] stick in my ears…One of the men hit me in the stomach with a flashlight…”

      The result was duly hailed by the LTTE publicity apparatus as an affirmation of its sole representative status. This was the liberation of a people who had since 1931 known and valued the free exercise of universal adult franchise. The Commissioner for Elections who had earlier pledged to be strict and vigilant, tamely accepted the results for the North-East with some words to the effect that they were a special case beyond him.

      The MPs were soon put to good use. The Daily Mirror of 6th May carried a curious item ‘Oslo warns it might pull out’. The contents of the story, concerning the TNA MPs meeting Erik Solheim at the Norwegian Embassy, indicated that the source was Suresh Premachandran. Solheim was quoted laying down conditions for the Sri Lankan President, who according to Solheim is to negotiate on the LTTE’s convoluted terms – negotiations only with the LTTE starting with its ISGA proposals, not to be a piece of deception to obtain aid and within a time frame. Solheim was further quoted as warning that Norway would pull out form facilitation should criticism continue to be levelled against them.

      Prey: Election 2004 & Anandasangaree; by James Ross, senior legal adviser for Human Rights Watch

      Buoyed by the cease-fire, the Tigers this year plunged headfirst into the electoral process to obtain seats in the national parliament. And their intimidation tactics have proved effective. The Tigers endorsed a proxy party, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), an amalgam of Tamil parties. Sangaree himself ran successfully on the TNA party list in 2001. But, a year ago, he openly rejected the Tigers’ claim that they are the “sole representatives” of Sri Lankan Tamils. The Tigers forced him out of his own party, and he soon found himself the target of death threats. When elections were called in February, he bravely decided to run as an independent. The Tigers responded similarly after their eastern commander, known as Karuna, split off with some 6,000 fighters in early March. Karuna rallied some support among eastern Tamils and sought (unsuccessfully) an independent cease-fire with the government. But days later a university professor close to Karuna was ambushed and wounded. Three days before the elections, the one eastern TNA candidate who had openly pledged support for Karuna was shot and killed.

      That the TNA was the political arm of the LTTE in Sri Lanka’s Parliament is no secret. They got the LTTE to bump off their opponents.

      They are as much culpable for HR Crimes as the LTTE is.

      • Velu Balendran

        “Something must be terribly wrong Velu”. Yes indeed for a significant number of Tamils living in Colombo. I am surprised you don’t know the reason! The first is economic, with hardly any avenues in the North for the enterprising Tamils to engage in. (I am told even the tea boutiques are now run by the SLA, let alone the poor economic infrastructure provided the North since independence). Secondly, the security situation in the North with some estimates suggesting 1 soldier for every 5 Tamils and the lawless military administration (a manifestation of which is unfolding in the Jaffna University at present).

        The more important question is why they don’t hold a referendum amongst Tamils to see if they want separation or not. Has the govt or the Sinhala people got the balls to ask the question? Wimal’s 13th A referendum will indirectly test this and therefore I support it. So would the Northern PC elections which the govt is prevaricating for the same reason. I am sure you will know these matters very well as any other ordinary person but chose to present a position supportive of this chauvinist Sinhala Buddhist govt.

        There is some truth in what you say about the Indian Tamil labour; a good proportion of whom was repatriated under Sirmavo-Shastri pact, which to me is very abhorrent after they toiled the whole of their lives living in shanty line sheds for generations, exploited like slaves, earning valuable foreign exchange for the “Sri Lankans” to enjoy, even now, in return for a pittance. Any other nation (such as the one where I am living now) would have honored them for their contribution and accepted them as very worthy members of their citizenry. But naturally, that can’t happen in a racist country like SL which shuns Tamils even if they have contributed immensely (unless it was to their detriment …Neelans, Kadirs, Dough, KPs, Harunas). Your comment is a sad reflection of this mentality. But I should challenge you to prove that lands were given to these indentured labourers. Most of these people are still living in estate provided “line sheds” and hardly have any possessions to call their own. Have you got a conscience or was it an Off-the-Cuff flippant comment?

        • Off the Cuff


          Running with the goal posts?

          Where is your argument to establish Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils?
          Where you just Rabble Rousing?

          Where is your argument in support of “altering Tamil demographics”?
          Rabble Rousing again?

          Velu you say ““Something must be terribly wrong Velu”. Yes indeed for a significant number of Tamils living in Colombo. I am surprised you don’t know the reason!”

          Velu, presuming that you understand English, I am surprised and disappointed at your intellectual dishonesty. But then that is if you understand English.

          This is what I wrote
          Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils by the Sinhalese when half the Tamil population of Sri Lanka is living amongst the Sinhalese in the South? Something must be terribly wrong Velu.
          End extract

          The above paragraph is a challenge to your Lies about Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils in Lanka. Taking anything from the above paragraph out of context, in an attempt to run with the goal posts, is nothing but dishonesty and is an admission that you were indeed Lying and Rabble Rousing.

          Velu I am a supporter of 13A, including full devolution of Land and Police powers to the Provincial Councils AFTER Public Property is allocated to the provinces on a per capita basis to the population, resident in any given province (irrespective of ethnicity). If you so desire, I can take you on and debate the issue here on GV. But first, you must establish the charges made in your post of 11/30/2012 • 7:48 am or withdraw them if they are frivolous.

          I am also capable of meeting the new issues that you have raised after you ran with the goal posts on 12/03/2012 • 6:24 am. However, in order to prevent you from running with the goal posts to avoid answering my challenge, I will engage you on the new issues, which in my opinion, is another attempt at Rabble Rousing, only after you either prove your case or withdraw the original charges made by you on “Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils” and “Altering of Tamil Demographics”.

          Merriam Webster defines RABBLE-ROUSER : one that stirs up (as to hatred or violence) the masses of the people

          Now Velu, using your own phraseology, I am asking you, whether you have “got the balls to” meet my off the cuff challenge (should be easy for an intellectual like you …. ha ha haa) if you are not a Rabble Rouser?

          • @off the cuff

            It’s true that Velu doesn’t have an argument for his assertion that ethnic cleansing took place. But pointing out that many Tamils still live in Colombo, and TNA exists, is not an argument against his assertion. Ethnic cleansing, unlike genocide, doesn’t have to be deliberate and systematic. If they can prove that a significant proportion of their civilian population has been wiped out, that counts as ethnic cleansing. Genocides are narrowly defined and hard to prove.

          • Velu Balendran

            Sorry, I have other pressing things to attend than answer your not so important convoluted questions. However, you may educate on the genocide of Tamils by following the link below if you have any desire:

          • Off the Cuff


            My post of 12/02/2012 • 2:34 am deals with TWO separate issues, one raised by Velu and the other raised by Niran Ankatel.

            The first part deals with Velu’s assertion of ethnic cleansing and is addressed to him. The second part (clearly demarcated) is addressed to Niran and deals with a possible reason for ICG’s silence on a matter raised by him.

            Hence the arguments placed before GV treats the two issues as separate issues.

            Marriam Webster provides the following meaning for “Ethnic cleansing”


            Definition of ETHNIC CLEANSING : the expulsion, imprisonment, or killing of an ethnic minority by a dominant majority in order to achieve ethnic homogeneity.

            Ethnic cleansing
            noun (Concise Encyclopedia)

            The creation of an ethnically homogenous geographic area through the elimination of unwanted ethnic groups by deportation, forcible displacement, or genocide. Ethnic cleansing also has involved attempts to remove physical vestiges of the targeted group in the territory through the destruction and desecration of monuments, cemeteries, and houses of worship. Although some critics of the term have claimed that ethnic cleansing is simply a form of genocide, defenders of the usage have noted that, whereas the murder of an ethnic, racial, or religious group is the primary intention of a genocidal policy, the chief goal of ethnic cleansing is the establishment of homogenous lands, which may be achieved by any of a number of methods including genocide. The term was widely employed in the 1990s to describe the brutal treatment of Bosniacs (Bosnian Muslims), ethnic Serbs in the Krajina region of Croatia, and ethnic Albanians in the Serbian province of Kosovo during the conflicts that erupted in the wake of the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
            End extract

            You wrote “It’s true that Velu doesn’t have an argument for his assertion that ethnic cleansing took place. But pointing out that many Tamils still live in Colombo, and TNA exists, is not an argument against his assertion”

            I agree, Velu has no argument and his charge is hence frivolous. He was trying to arouse Tamil sentiment and has now crawled back in to his hole in the ground, at least in this thread. Rabble Rousing is a notorious vocation!

            Did I mention anything about Tamils in Colombo? I think I did not limit myself to Colombo.

            My question to him was “Ethnic Cleansing of Tamils by the Sinhalese when half the Tamil population of Sri Lanka is living amongst the Sinhalese in the South?”

            I used the word “South” to mean the Land South of the only Mono ethnic region in Lanka, the Tamil Terrorists created, by Ethnic Cleansing.

            Let’s wait and see what Niran Ankatel has to say about the ICG and TNA.

            I addressed him on the 2nd and today is only the 5th.

          • Off the Cuff


            You say “Sorry, I have other pressing things to attend than answer your not so important convoluted questions”

            If you are afraid to risk further exposure of your Rabble Rousing, you may indeed crawl back to safety. But rest assured, I will continue to expose your racially tainted, inciting comments and expose your Rabble Rousing.

            You say “However, you may educate on the genocide of Tamils by following the link below if you have any desire:”

            The sources of your education is nothing to be proud of, judging from the inept defence you put up.

  • Agnos


    Thanks for this great piece. ICG’s Louise Arbour was initially very vocal in advocating international investigations. But as time goes by, she seems to have realized that major powers including the US were not keen on it, and has been silent on that issue lately. It is disappointing. Reconciliation in Sri Lanka is not possible without an international accountability mechanism. But with other conflicts in the Middle East, including Syria, intensifying, groups like the ICG seem to be losing their focus.

    The TNA should continue to insist on accountability. Other than Sumanthiran and Sampanthan, I am not sure the TNA’s elected leaders are good public speakers in English. But these two leaders will be busy and stretched thin. There is also the issue of Sampanthan’s age. The TNA should include articulate younger leaders ( how about yourself?) in their top ranks; they could also include some good speakers from the diaspora, and everyone should speak in a consistent voice. INGOs will notice that and the situation will improve.

    The late Edward Said often lamented how Palestinians didn’t have articulate, TV-savvy communicators unlike the Israelis. But today, the Palestinians have got observer status at the UN with overwhelming support, despite US opposition. That opens up a host of possibilities for Palestinians. The TNA should learn from them.

  • Anpu

    Thanks Niran. I agree with Velu Balendran and Agnos.

    • Off the Cuff


      I have challenged Velu’s comment that you have agreed with.

      Please meet my arguments if you think Velu is correct.
      I think he is a Rabble Rouser.
      Anybody who agrees with him and cannot prove the charges made by him is also a Rabble Rouser.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Perhaps it is not a shortfall, shortcoming or a ‘blindspot’ at all.Perhaps it is but a realisation on the part of the ICG that there is a basic contradiction between a full-throated call by the TNA for accountability (and the TNA’s continued deployment of the concept of ‘self determination’)on the one hand, and the ICG Report’s own strategic recommendation of the need for the TNA to win over at least ‘a large minority’ of Sinhala public opinion, on the other.

    A useful thought-experiment would be to ask oneself, and more importantly, those who knew and worked with him, how Dr Neelan Tiruchelvam would have strategised a postwar Tamil politics for the TNA.

    • Sarath Fernando

      Dear Dayan,

      Here is an alternate thought experiment that you should consider.
      We all admire, respect and value Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam for his ability to see the goodness in extending oneself beyond the boundaries set by extreme, inward looking, self-serving, and narrow minded views. Neelan, rightly, saw and promoted the value in compromising towards amicable solution, shirking the arrogance of extremism. He paid the price for that – God Bless his good soul!

      Now ask your-self – As blessed as he was in his rational thinking that aptly complemented his academic training , if in case Neelan was born a Sinhalese rather than a Tamil, which of the following do you think he would have either promoted or supported:

      (a) Irrespective of whether Tamil civilians were subject to war crimes or not, there is no necessity for Sinhalese or the internationals, to “care a damn” about Government’s accountability.

      (b) Anyone who expresses opposition to the acts of the present regime is automatically either an LTTE funding Diaspora if a Tamil, or a Local Diaspora if a Sinhalese.

      (c) Sinhala aspiration for unitary control is justified, because, after al, it is the aspiration for majoritarian control that prompted the protests against apartheid in South Africa.

      The above three are anything but moderate views – they are, unadulterated extremist views. They are a far, a very, very far-cry from the type of fair and moderate views that Neelan would have stood for, had he been a Sinhalese.

      Dayan – funny thing! The above three are just a few examples of publicly expressed convictions of YOUR own!!

      Given that, isn’t it absolute hypocrisy that you would choose to hide under Neelan’s name and try to push TNA for a moderate view, while you yourself would entertain views absolutely counter to what a Sinhala Neelan would have died for?!

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        ‘Sarath Fernando’ you have serious issues either with being honest or with comprehending the English and Sinhala languages.

        Where have I said the views expressed in point A? Certainly I have opposed Sri Lanka being called upon to do what no one else in similar or worse situations have undertaken. For instance, no accountability into Spain’s civil war of over 75 years ago is permitted, while accountability into crimes by Brazil’s junta of 1964-88 commenced only this year, i.e. decades later, when society was mature for the process. Not even Lula commenced such an investigation. Furthermopre, where is the accountability for the Bloody Sunday massacre in Londonderry in 1972? I am however, for MUTUAL accountability through dialogue/debate in civil society, and through the arts.

        Can you provide a shred of evidence for your point (b) “Anyone who expresses opposition to the acts of the present regime is automatically either an LTTE funding Diaspora if a Tamil, or a Local Diaspora if a Sinhalese.” Have you heard or read me criticising the FUTA strike, the JVP, the FSP, the trade union agitations or the agitation of the lawyers? Have you not read me supporting those dissidents in the main opposition who are opposing precisely the weak leadership of the Opposition? Have you not read me criticising the situation of unipolarity in the country’s politics– a point that was echoed by the Norwegian evaulation of the peace process?

        I do of course reject that part of the Opposition which consist of those who opposed the final war of liberation and national reunification waged against the LTTE. In short I oppose the unpatriotic opposition that consists of those who had a chance to reunite the country and defeat terrorism but didn’t, and those who were front organisations of the defeated fascist LTTE.

        As for my views on the unitary state, where does South Africa come into it? I have opposed a Truth Commission along South African lines because Sri Lanka’s struggle was precisely for democratic majority rule.

        I have always supported the Soulbury Constitution’s silence on the subject of the unitary character of the state (though it was clearly a unitary state), but I do know that it is impossible to reverse the change that took place in the 1972 Constitution, which is why JRJ did not try to reverse it in 1978. I am however opposed to a federal system for Sri Lanka as well as to excessive devolution within a unitary state — given what is happening in Scotland and Catalonia. I oppose the abolition or dilution of the 13th amendment. As I have been for decades, I am for the 13th amendment, albeit with mutually agreed upon swaps, chiefly the reform/redistribution of the concurrent list as suggested most recently by Asanga welikala.

      • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

        Hey ‘Sarath Fernando’, far from having denounced “anyone who expresses opposition to the acts of the present regime is automatically either an LTTE funding Diaspora if a Tamil, or a Local Diaspora if a Sinhalese”, have you ever heard/read me accusing (i) the UNP, JVP, or FSP as parties, (ii)Gen SF as an Opposition personality, or (iii) FUTA or worket-peasnt-student agitations anywhere in the country, of belonging to any of these categories?
        If yes, please quote. If not, be honest enough to withdraw your allegation and go to the back of the class and figure it out what it is I’ve actually said.

        • Sarath Fernando

          Hey, hey, hey Dayan – what a tantrum. Touched a little nerve, did I? Thanks for confirming that – I truly meant to do that! These defensive tantrums reflect the degree of your discomfort in facing the truth rather than the confidence you have in defending them – just ask a psychologist.

          For your benefit, let me lay side by side what I attributed to you as your expressed convictions and, what you actually wrote in the past in this forum, verbatim. See if you can see any sunlight between them:

          (a)Irrespective of whether Tamil civilians were subject to war crimes or not, there is no necessity for Sinhalese or the internationals, to “care a damn” about Government’s accountability.

          And, here is what you wrote in the comments under the article titled “Accountability-reconciliation-democracy”, dated April 14, 2011:

          “He (meaning Sarath Fernando) must ponder the possibility that response of the majority of Sri Lankan citizens on the call for ‘ verification’…, would be the same as Rhett Butler’s in Gone With the Wind –” Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn”

          (b)Anyone who expresses opposition to the acts of the present regime is automatically either an LTTE funding Diaspora if a Tamil, or a Local Diaspora if a Sinhalese.

          Here is your infinite wisdom on how you defined your nonsensical coinage “Domestic Diaspora” (dated March 6, 2012):

          Defining characteristics of the ‘domestic Diaspora’ are that 1) they advocate or support a UN mechanism or so-called independent international inquiry into ‘war crimes’, 2) never denounce Prabhakaran and the LTTE, 3) consider Mahinda Rajapaksa worse than Prabhakaran, 4) never criticise the West for its hypocrisy in denouncing Sri Lanka, and 5) support Ranil Wickremesinghe.

          Is this brilliant compilation anything other than unadulterated pandering – a rather shameless composition of platitudes of servility offered to the regime by condemning anyone opposing the regime

          (c)Sinhala aspiration for unitary control is justified, because, after al, it is the aspiration for majoritarian control that prompted the protests against apartheid in South Africa.

          Here is the pearl from none other than the same chest-thumping PhD in Political Science:

          “the protest against apartheid was rooted EXACTLY (Dayan’s own emphasis, not mine) on the thirst for majoritarian domination of the minority”

          Given that a holder of a PhD in Political Science made this educated opinion, the only conclusion I can come to is that the Institution that conferred that degree has no business teaching Political Science! Prove me wrong – have one of the academics with proven credentials from that institution support this opinion of yours in this public forum.

          Hey Dayan, seems like it is time to swallow your own medicine — be honest enough to acknowledge the foolishness of your past blabbering, and to go back to school to figure out what the protest against Apartheid was all about.

          Good Luck!

          • Sarath Fernando

            You very vehemently denied having ever said, let alone thought of, the three observations I ascribed to you. Having asked me to prove what I said, you also suggested I should come clean, while questioning my honesty and comprehension-skills. Now that I called your bluff rather starkly, I guess the only face saving option you saw was to clam up as the shame of being exposed persuaded your creeping back into a crevice.

            I would have thought that fundamental integrity required of an intellectual, an academic or a non-pseudo diplomat in these circumstances would result in an apology and a retraction. Actions speak louder than words – you have vividly confirmed your true colours — that your baseless, ill founded accusations were mere empty and shameless form of pathetic defense that has come to characterize your unique style.

            Here are a few thought exercises that I strongly recommend for starting afresh, now that the original PhD has proved to be a vain exercise in gathering verbiage for theatrics rather than for understanding fundamentals (I cite your verdict on apartheid as an illustration) or to enable formulating better foresight (reflected by your short-sighted, and short-lived, gung-ho style attempt to hold-off accountability hearings instead of a strategy to aptly nip the issue in the bud for permanence).

            (a) If we want Tamils and other minority population to reconcile and re-integrate with due confidence, shouldn’t they expect the absolute assurance by the State of full investigation on any alleged transgressions, and accountability if so proved. Why should the Tamil brothers & and sisters wait in line until after completion of “accountability for the Bloody Sunday massacre in Londonderry in 1972”, as you suggest?

            Shouldn’t the Sinhala majority care more than a “damn” about the best recourse for integration? How is it that any thought by a Sinhalese on those lines would make him/her a “Domestic Diaspora?”

            Who coined that oxymoronic phrase, and what was the motivation behind that hideous, venomous, vilifying attempt?

            (b) Your chest-thumping claim for credit for single handedly silencing the internationals on accountability calls has now come to haunt us all. Your dismissal of wiser counsel to be open and fair fell on your deaf ears as you, as the pied piper, bulldozed to do it your way.

            Now, nearly four years later, we are facing a snowballing of accusations that threatens to become an avalanche. Had you listened to better counsels instead of arrogantly promoting blanket denials, couldn’t we have put the matter to rest many, many moons ago.

            How much of the current fiasco is your responsibility, based on your initial actions you claimed singular credit for?

            Had you listened to wiser counsel, and allowed for fair and just independence in investigation, we could possibly have established that, as you yourself asserted ”just means was demonstrably met.” That would have been the end of the story. Indeed if perhaps there were some rogue transgressions inevitable given the ground realities, some accountability and disciplinary rectifications may have been necessary, and welcomed by the reasonable and responsible large majority. That would have been fair. That would have earned us a heap of respect internally and externally. We would have been well on our way to reconciliation. Instead we are still being stewed by every Tom, Dick and Harry, and have to resort to a never ending foolish scapegoating of the Diaspora, internationals and imaginary LTTE reincarnations! Is there an end in sight?

            (c) Remember your assertions on Tamara the bazooka who you assured us would put all internationals oppositions and accusations to permanent rest? How mistaken were you in your unsolicited judgment?

            Dayan, you do need to learn to respond to challenges honestly. It is unbecoming of even an aspiring diplomat, intellectual or academic to use mundane defense tactics by name calling, vilifying, belittling other’s education or comprehension skill – the most common tactics you adopt when tongue-tied for a legitimate counter.

            Now that the inevitability of the diplomatic career is at its dead-end, it is no surprise you would declare that you are voluntarily weaning from that career in deference to academic aspirations. It will certainly be interesting to see which among the academic institutions would welcome within its faculty a Political Scientist with a unique conviction that ”the protest against apartheid was rooted EXACTLY on the thirst for majoritarian domination of the minority!” Please keep us in the know!

  • Janan

    Thank you Niran

  • niran anketell

    Neelan appeared to be a believer in accountability for grave human rights violations, and in fact spoke in Parliament on 22 July 1988 of the public’s right to a full, impartial and independent investigation in respect of the Chemmani mass graves.

  • niran anketell

    Further, Neelan criticised Sri Lanka’s failure to ratify the ICC Rome Statute even though 120 other countries had done so and called the establishment of the Court “a great step forward in the march towards universal human rights and rule of law”.

    • Well, you are missing the Dayan’s point. Neelan was a political realist, so Dayan wants the TNA to adopt a strategy feasible in the real world, instead of playing the main character of a Kollywood movie.

  • Dr Dayan Jayatilleka

    Sorry for the typographical errors: that should of course read ‘worker-peasant-student agitations…’

  • Post DJBS scenario

    Good article. There is a specific reason why ICG isn’t pursuing accountability. Ignore Dayan.The Gosl knows exactly why.

  • Antany Peter

    Teaching smart politics to the Tamils and Sinhalese political leaders is like teaching dogs to speak. Prabhakaran never listen to the smart Tamils, and the Rajapaksa regime will never listen to the smart Sinhalease either. The SLFP, UNP, TNA all are useless political parties, and run by the foolish, ignorant and self centered politicians. The Sri Lankans intellectuals need to start a new political party, otherwise no hope for Sri Lanka. I urge the Sinhalese to speak up and stop living in illusion. The truth is country has been fighting since the independence, thousands of people have died, thousands of intellectuals have left the country, the education system and the justice system are in chaos. The politicians are fooling everyone. They say “wonder of Asia, miracle of Asia, knowledge hub” etc to fool the Sri Lankans to keep their power, in order to rip off the country to build their wealth. They are very good in fooling innocent people, in fact they are extremely good in fooling people, because they have been doing it since 1948. The country is fighting since the independence, more than 100,000 people have died, last week Tamils commemorated Tamil Tigers, and celebrated Prabhakaran’s birthday in Sri Lanka, India and also in the Western Countries. The history is repeating itself, but many of the Sri Lankans are in denial. It appears to me that whether you are Tamils or Sinhalese you all meant to live below the Westerners, Indians and Chinese. You have been fighting since 1948, keep fighting for another 100 years then call yourselves as wonder of the world, miracle of the world, knowledge hub of the world etc.

    Sri Lankan Parliament has decided to probe the charges against the chief justice without an accepted mechanism. In Malaysia, the charges against the chief justice are probed by three chief justices of Commonwealth countries. There is also proper system adopted in India. Clearly, the UNP or SLFP does not want to improve the system when they are in power. Have they done anything to solve the ethnic minority’s problem since 1948. Have they achieved anything significantly since they got independence? Fighting since 1948, had the longest civil war in Asia, has the highest percentage of brain drain in Asia, education and justice system are chaos. But they call themselves as “wonder of Asia, knowledge hub, miracle of Asis etc. The SLFP and UNP leaders have proved for decades that they are incapable to govern, but too good in fooling others.

    The Tamils have lost everything since they have allowed India to equip the criminals with arms to fight for their freedom. The genuine freedom fight was hijacked by India for its own interests. Prabhakaran was a criminal, wanted by the Sri Lankan police for smuggling and murder chrages. The Sri Lankan government could not put Prabhakaran in jail, because India gave refuge to him and made sure he becomes an incurable cancer for the Tamils and Sinhalese. India’s refuge made Prabhakran as one of the most dangerous man in the world. India made the Tamils and Sinhalese to suffer by equipping the uneducated criminals.

    Nelson Mandela wanted to take up arms to fight for his people’s freedom, but fortunately the South African government put him in jail. This has changed everything, it made Nelson Mandela to choose non violence method for his people’s freedom. The South African jail made Nelson Mandela as a wise leader. Today the South Africans have their freedom, at the same time Nelson Mandela became one of the most respected leader in the world. There is no comparison between Mandela and Prabhakaran or Ghandi and Prabhakaran. Last week the Tamils commemorated defeated Tamil Tigers, and celebrated Prabhakaran’s birthday. I really feel sorry for the followers who gave-up their lives, especially for the young people, they have wasted their lives. However, these events are creating more disaster for the Tamils, it will drove the Tamils away from their rights and freedom. These events are clearly proving that the Tamils have not learned anything from the past, but they are still under the grip of India and the Western Countries. I am a Sri Lankan Tamil, I have an Australian business degree and done lots of research about world history and politics. My research is equal to two Phd’s, but the Tamils do not want to listen to me, even if they want to listen to me the Westerners and Indians won’t allow them. The Westerners know how to divide others, the Indians follow the Westerners. The Tamils are to be blamed for their current status in their own country. This is the outcome when you listen to the foreigners and kill or ignore your own intellectuals. Sadly, history is repeating itself, but the Tamil leaders believe something new is happening. China and India are the future superpowers, they will never allow the Tamils to get Eelam under any circumstance, if they do it will set the precedent to divide their own countries. The Westerners are using the Tamil diaspora leaders to create a drift in South East Asia, but the Chinese leaders are too smart for this trick.

    I urge the Tamils to stay away from the LTTE and remove Prabhakaran’s picture and Tiger flag from your minds, houses and offices. The Tamil Armed groups have killed thousands of innocent people, intellectuals and political leaders more than al-Qaeda. The Armed Groups have been eating your dignity, rights and freedom. You are not better off since they have taken the arms, in fact they have taken you backward. They only served India’s and the Western countries’ interests at the expense of innocent Sri Lankans. I urge you to build your leadership which has been destroyed by the Tamil armed groups. Create a think tank website for the Tamils, listen to the Tamil intellectuals, rather than listening to the foreigners. Do everything to get back your dignity, rights and freedom. Remember, late is better than never.

    I also urge all the Sri Lankans who have been affected by the Tamil Armed Groups to sue India and the Western Countries. India is liable for creating the Tamil armed groups, and the Western Countries are liable for making them as the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world. The Western Countries knew how much money have been poured into the LTTE by the Tamil diaspora, but did nothing. Canada banned the LTTE in 2006, but millions of dollars poured into the LTTE in 2007 and 2008. The CSIS knew everything, but did nothing. The Westerners are happy as long as the rest of the world is divided, kill each other and the West get to talk about war crimes, democracy and human rights to undermine others. The Westerners are only 8% of the world population, therefore they will do everything to divide others, in order to rule the majority.

    • It is ridiculous to think people like Mahinda and Gotabhaya are not smart. You don’t get to defeat one of the world’s most effective terrorist organisarions, while handling India, by being stupid. They are not intellectuals, but they are very smart (yes, it’s possible to be smart without being an intellectual who ponders about abstract questions of political philosophy).

      It’s good if intellectuals run the country. But that never happens in a democracy. Even America isn’t run by people like Nozick, Friedman, Rawls, or even Chomsky.

      • sach

        I guess he wanted to mean ‘wise’ not ‘smart’. The Rajapakses are street smart but not wise.

    • Jayalath

      To Antony Peter.
      You have exposed the real facts of way out the crisis , and it seems you are well over the point .it should be appreciated . Your point of super powers and their influence in the territory is very decisive and potential it absolutly true and real . in the oceans the existence of individual fish is base on the size fish ,which is not some thing a just said . Every one is every one’s prey . This is how our nature is made, therefore we have to wait and see how the new drama will be terminated.
      However the best answer And thought that I believe is the day that all can live as humans regardless the race , colour ,stupid religions and not exploiting each other with sharing .