Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels

Summarising previous essays (see bibliography below) this article proceeds in point-form with an eye on greater impact via succinctness.

A. During the last phase of Eelam War IV in 2008/09 the LTTE attempted an international heist that is unprecedented in world history:[1] they used some 320,000 of their own people to manufacture a picture of an “impending humanitarian disaster” so that concerned international forces would intervene and impose a ceasefire or effect a rescue operation. These entrapped Tamil people were not only so many sandbags and a source of labour and/or conscripts. Their primary purpose was to constitute a spectre of impending horror. A2 – Thus, the LTTE political commissar Puleedevan told some friends in Europe “just as in Kosovo if enough civilians died … the world would be forced to step in” (quoted in Harrison 2012: 63) — a line of policy confirmed subsequently by KP, the head of the Tiger international arm, during a frank interview with the redoubtable Tamil journalist in Canada, Jeyaraj: “[we] had to magnify the humanitarian crisis,” (Jeyaraj, “KP” speaks out, 2011: 25, 30). A3 — This spectre was disseminated by (a) LTTE satellite technology at their HQ, and by TamilNet and the extensive Tiger networks abroad; and A4 — was fed by the reports of the Tamil medical men within the battle theatre acting as patriots[2] or under duress.

B. From moral concerns humanitarian agencies such as AI, HRW, ICG and CPA became tools in the Tamil Tigers’ grand strategy. These sympathetic agencies do not seem to have fully comprehended the fact that the situation of entrapment was solely a creation of the LTTE.[3] In other words, they were unintentionally complicit[4] in this act of monumental blackmail.

C. So too were several Western states and the United Nations analytically blind[5] and politically complicit – as witnessed in the active interventions of David Miliband, Bernard Kouchner and Hilary Clinton in late April 2009 and the implications of an unverified thread of rumour suggesting that a couple of US military officers had been introduced to the SL Army HQ in May 2009 to work out the modalities of a possible intervention from the US Pacific Command designed to contain the remaining LTTE forces and rescue the civilians.[6]

D. The Western media followed suit and the reporters based in Colombo naively accepted the bloated figures of death and bombardment retailed by the Tamil medical men – a stance encouraged by their animus towards the Rajapaksa government in the wake of intimidation and killings of local journalists capped by the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunga on 9 January 2009.[7]

E. In sum, A, B, C and D indicate that there was an appalling intellectual failure on the part of leading personalities and agencies in the Western world – a failure to read the theatre of war and the LTTE’s strategy operationalized within a time-frame girded by the impending Indian General Election in May 2009. The failure can be underlined by addressing a critical question, one that is necessarily speculative: WHAT IF the UN, the Western states and Amnesty International had met in conclave, say on January 1st 2009, and told the LTTE abroad and in Mullaitivu in no uncertain terms that they would not step into Sri Lanka on any grounds and that the LTTE must lay down arms and surrender unconditionally (with maybe Eric Solheim flown in to convey that message!!!)….. A difficult question for us to answer now, but my argument is clear: it was a path missed because of a serious analytical error.

F. Thus informed and concerned about the trapped civilian population, the UN, the media, the aid agencies and the Western governments were steamrollered — then in January-May 2009 — into gullibly accepting the repetitive and insistent LTTE propaganda[8] depicting “carnage” and “artillery barrages” – spiced as they were with illustrative images and video presentations in what was psy-ops of a sophisticated character.

G.  The ground was thus established in 2009 itself for the LTTE international network to pursue its programme of vengeance by seeking “justice” for the alleged “carnage” wrought in the Vanni Pocket during the last phase of the war. Powerful allies (Channel Four and Gordon Weiss are examples) and telling word-imagery, such as “Killing Fields” and “Srebrenica Moment,” have consolidated the impact. The continuous repetition of these refrains then compounds the ramifying effects.

H. The refrains about carnage were supplemented by tales of severe malnutrition[9] and starvation within the populace trapped in the Vanni Pocket and then within the Last Redoubt within this arena. While seemingly plausible and not entirely without substance, retrospective knowledge indicates that remarkable forward planning by the combination of GSL and LTTE administrators as well as convoy supplies organised by the ICRC and others over land and sea had ensured the availability of essential items. Dr. Shanmugarajah’s recent affidavit (2014) and his account (Roberts 2014a) demonstrate the extent to which the apocalyptic assertions of widespread malnutrition by both the human rights personnel and concerned Tamils were misleading the world.

I. The slipshod methodology[10] of the UNSG Panel (also known as the Darusman Panel) consolidated this process. Worse still, the Panel’s concluding statement that “a number of credible sources have estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths” has been widely turned into a definitive figure by leading Western politicians as well as leading media personnel. Several Sri Lankan agencies and even members of the UTHR have adopted this figure.[11] In brief, we have seen several outstanding acts of duplicity and gross error.

J. The figures on the “civilian dead” peddled by Tamil spokespersons and sympathetic Western outlets vary in range from 40,000 to 70,000 to 146,000. The range in these figures has an insidious effect: a cautious and non-partisan listener will discount the last figure as a likely exaggeration and settle on the lesser figure as probable fact.

K. Remarkably, not one expert, nor any reporter, has asked a simple question about these enormous counts of the dead: if there were so many dead, how many civilians were injured and what was done with the civilian injured? In any battle theatre it is a truism that the number of injured soldiers outnumber those that die. The casualty ratios among the forces of US forces during World War II was 1:1.7; during the Korean War 1: 2.8 and the Vietnam War 1: 2.6. The Vanni Pocket was a theatre of battle bearing risks for all of those kept corralled within its confines, soldier and civilian alike. Leaning on the side of conservatism therefore, one would expect at least two persons (whether Tiger fighters, Tiger auxiliaries or true-blue civilians) to be injured for every person killed (though one could also compute this at, say, one is to 2.5). So, for a supposed count of 40,000 civilian dead one should have at least 80,000 civilians injured or even perhaps 100,000. To this one must necessarily add some Tiger injured. Yet, in mid-2009, “in a document that was never released publicly,” the United Nations Country Team “estimated a total figure of 7,721 killed and 18,479 injured from August 2008 up to 13 May 2009, after which it became too difficult to count” (UNSG or  Darusman Report, 2011: para 134). Gordon Weiss was UN media officer in Colombo at that point and his subsequent study tells us that “by late June, when all civilians were inside the [post-war IDP] camps, a collection of aid agencies had made a preliminary calculation of 15,000-20,000 wounded civilians” (The Cage, 2011: 321). If this estimate is deployed as a foundation for an approximate figure of civilians who were killed during the last phase, the latter statistic would rest at something between 8,000 to 12,000 dead. This figure is remarkably close to the estimates worked out separately (without access to this data) by the Tamil moderate Rajasingham Nadesan[12] and by Professor Gerald Peiris (2014). That Weiss himself remains blissfully unaware that the WIA figures he presented in June 2009 fatally undermine his bloated guesstimates of civilian dead during his recent advocacy politics[13] tells us more about the dangers of moral crusading extremism[14] than the topic at hand.

L. The incessant drum beats about “genocide” and “carnage” with their statistical estimates has so overwhelmed the media waves in some quarters of the world that educated people who attend to Sri Lankan affairs have lost their ability to contextualize the issue and introduce proportionality into their assessments. I met a Muslim Lankan in Australia recently who referred to 70,000 Tamil dead. When I asked him how many Tiger personnel and Tamils had survived, he had no idea at all: he did not know that at least 295,873 had survived (a figure that has to be set against the estimate of 8,000-12,000 dead in a scenario read with an eye on pertinent maps and pictorial images[15]). The number that survived was not part of his evaluation. This kind of lacunae thereby marks the glaring absence of a contextualised overview that has enabled the Tamil agit-prop machine to make hay while darkness reigns.

The Tamils are aided by others. My Muslim friend is not an isolated case. A similar failure of contextualisation and proportionality is embodied in the report of the ICEP entitled Island of Impunity? (2014) as well as the moral condemnations aired so vigorously by one of Australia’s political parties, the Greens. The speeches on the subject delivered by the Greens’ Leader, Christine Milne, provide us with a classic example of cloistered armchair inadequacies within the new generations of educated people[16] in the West. Many of these personnel do not seem to be able to read maps and grasp the import of such categories as KIA and WIA.

M. That is not all. Take Island of Impunity? composed by a panel of specialists assembled by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre in Sydney. It included Gordon Weiss as one of the five specialists.[17] In effect, he was a party to an investigation of events in which he had been an active, and possibly partisan, participant.[18] Be that as it may, the ICEP document has displayed to the world their legalistic pedantry as well as their one-sided partiality and blatant duplicity. Their product (Island of Impunity?) does not contain a bibliography, but has umpteen citations that indicate their source material. Their principal sources include the UNSG report (also called UNoPE Report and Darusman Report) and The Cage by Weiss. They have chosen not to consult the careful reviews of the UNSG report by a Marga team or to study the Numbers Game by IDAG (2013). Nor have they taken note of the numerous articles on the Eelam War IV from such outfits as the South Asia Terrorism Portal (2013) or such authors as Kath Noble (2013a, 2013b). Since Weiss must be aware of the literature on Sri Lanka, including the several criticisms on his data and world view by one Michael Roberts, there is prima facie evidence that the ICEP’s omission of this body of literature was a deliberate ploy — an act of intellectual dishonesty. If the ICEP document had been submitted to a reputed journal, it would have been rejected because it does not address the relevant literature in a fair manner. For its authors and such advocates as Christine Milne to pontificate in ethical tone about the processes of the war on this foundation is an example of arrogance that matches their duplicity.

In sum, the propaganda drive initiated by the LTTE and sustained by an ever-growing body of Tamil and other supporters from late 2008 to the present day has secured astonishing success. It is a monument that exemplifies the methods an organisation can use to fool a wide spectrum of intelligent people all over the world, besides drawing support from powerful agencies in powerful state capitals. This success, no doubt, was aided by arcane forces hidden within such state agencies, but I am no Snowden and cannot dwell on these factors in any useful or intelligent way.

K 125b -2009-05-15 20.11.20

83- Situ Map--2009-02-12 18.23.10

100--Analytic MAP--24_April_2009_dailymirror.lk

REFERENCES

ABC 2013 “Continuing Genocide in Sri Lanka – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) http://www.lobbyforpeace.com OR http://search.mywebsearch.com /mywebsearch/video.jhtml?searchfor=ABC+VIDEO+ON+SRI+LANKA&id=UXxdm014YYau&n=77edea53&ptnrS=UXxdm014YYau&ss=sub&st=sb&ptb=BCB5529D-57B4-40DA-B145-2649C52BFBCF&tpr=&si=maps4pc&vid=e05NpvXpeKc

BBC 2009a “Sri Lanka army ‘killed civilians’,” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8009459.stm.

BBC 2009b “Civilian casualties in Sri Lanka,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/language/wordsinthenews/2009/05/090511_witn_sri_casualites_page.shtml

Citizen Silva See IDAG

CNN 2009 “London Tamils lament Conflict,” 28 April 2009, https://www.dropbox.com/s/3c7v54v80ab0uca/CNN%20%20London%20Tamils%20lament%20conflict.avi

Colombo Telegraph 2013a “WikiLeaks: LTTE Stored Weapons at Hospitals – ICRC to US Mission to UN,” 4 November 2013, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/ index.php/wikileaks-ltte-stored-weapons-at-hospitals-icrc-to-us-mission-to-un/

Darusman Report 2011 Report of the Secretary General’s Panel of Experts report on Accountability in Sri Lanka, March 2011…. http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/ POE_Report_Full.pdf.

Gamvaesiya 2012 “The full version of ‘boy in the bunker’ — faked photo or real?” 21 February 2013, http://dh-web.org/place.names/gamv/boybunker.html

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Harrison, Frances 2011 Still counting the Dead, London: Portobello Books.

Harshula 2011a “When allegations becomes evidence,” 6 June 2011, http://groundviews.org/2011/06/06/when-allegations-become-evidence/

Harshula 2011b “Channel 4 ‘Killing Fields’: Journalism, Advocacy or Propaganda?” 13 Sept. 2011, http://groundviews.org/2011/09/13/channel-4s-killing-fields-journalism-advocacy-or-propaganda/.

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ICEP 2013 Island of Impunity? Investigation into international crimes in the final stages of the Sri Lankan civil war, http://www.scribd.com/doc/205066154/Island-of-Impunity

IDAG [i.e. Citizen Silva] 2013 “The Numbers Game: Politics of Retributive Justice,” http://www.scribd.com/doc/132499266/The-Numbers-Game-Politics-of-Retributive-Justice OR http://www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/shrilanka/document/TheNG.pdf.

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Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2011 “KP” speaks out: an Interview with former Tiger Chief, Vavuniya: Kum Pvt.

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Milne, Christine 2014a “Christine Milne speaks on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka,”[Speech in the Senate], March 2014,  http://greens.org.au/node/3507

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Prasad, Kanchan 2011b “Mullivaikkal Hospital in NFZ Last Redoubt,” in http://www.flickr.com/photos/thuppahi/sets/72157626797848747/

Prasad, Kanchan 2011c “Two Indian Reporters’ Post-War Pictures at the LTTE’s Last Redoubt, May 14-19, 2009,” ed. by Roberts, June 2011, http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/blogs/southasiamasala/2011/06/10/two-indian-reporters%E2%80%99-post-war-pictures-at-the-ltte%E2%80%99s-last-redoubt-may-14-19-2009

Rajasingham, Narendran 2009 “Rise and Fall of the LTTE — An Overview,” Sri Lanka Guardian, 7 Feb. 2009, http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2009/02/rise-and-fall-of-ltte-overview.html.

Rajasingham, Narendran 2010 “Pro-LTTE Diaspora pursue Eelam Agenda without Any Thought about Tamils living in Sri Lanka,” 26 May 2010, http://transcurrents.com/tc/2010/05/proltte_diaspora_pursue_eelam.html.

Narendran, Rajasingham 2014 “Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014, http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/11702/

Reddy, B. Muralidhar 2009a “An Escape from Hellhole,” http://www.hindu.com/ 2009/04/25/stories/2009042558390100.html.

Roberts, Michael 2009a Confrontations in Sri Lanka: Sinhalese, LTTE and Others¸ Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.

Roberts, Michael 2009a “Dilemma’s at War’s End: Thoughts on Hard Realities,” http://www.groundviews.org, 10 Feb. 2009…. rep. in Roberts, Fire and Storm, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2010, pp. 267-74.

Roberts, Michael 2009b “Realities of War,” Frontline, 26/10, 9-22 May 2009, http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=archiveSearch&aid=20090522261001600&ais=10&avol=26.

Roberts, Michael 2009c “The Rajapaksa Regime and the Fourth Estate,” 8 December 2009, www.groundviews.org.

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Roberts, Michael 2014b “The War in Sri Lanka: Ravi Nessman’s Slanted Story for USA on the Tavis Smiley Show, 18 February 2009,” 31 January 2014, http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/the-war-in-sri-lanka-ravi-nessmans-slanted-story-for-usa-on-the-tavis-smiley-show-18-february-200/

Roberts, Michael 2014c “Encompassing Empowerment in Ritual, War & Assassination: Tantric Principles in Tamil Tiger Instrumentalities,” in Social Analysis, sp. issue on War Magic ed. by D. S. Farrer, in press.

Samarajiva, Indi 2012 “Channel 4’s – A Review,” The Nation, 18 March 2012, http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/cm131118/debtext/131118-0001.htm#1311188000001

Shanmugarajah, V. 2014 “Dr. Veerakanthipillai Shanmugarajah’s Affidavit Description of Conditions in the Vanni Pocket in Refutation of Channel Four,” 5 January 2014, http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/dr-veerakanthipillai-shanmugarajahs-affidavit-description-of-conditions-in-the-vanni-pocket-in-refutation-of-channel-four/

Somasundaram D, and S. Sivayokan 2013 “Rebuilding community resilience in a post-war context: developing insight and recommendations – a qualitative study in Northern Sri Lanka,” International Journal of Mental Health Systems 7(3).

Weiss, Gordon 2011 “Sri Lanka faces its ‘Srebrenica moment’,” The Australian, 23 April 2011, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/sri-lanka-faces-its-srebrenica-moment/story-e6frg6ux-1226043466322.

UNSG 2011 Report of the UN Secretary General’s (UNSG) Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka, 31 March 2011, http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/Sri_Lanka/POE_Report_Full.pdf.

Weiss, Gordon 2011 “Sri Lanka faces its ‘Srebrenica moment’,” The Australian, 23 April 2011, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/sri-lanka-faces-its-srebrenica-moment/story-e6frg6ux-1226043466322.

Weiss, Gordon 2011b The Cage, Sydney: Picador.

 


[1] In response to my inquiry [at the Narratives of War conference, Nov 2013] Professor Peter Stanley told me that he could not think of any other instance of this sort with reference to the period 1789-2013 in the world order. This needs checking out of course.

[3] Speaking to the media in New York on 26 March 2009 John Holmes  (Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, UN) admitted as much when he remarked that “the civilians trapped … they are not being allowed to leave by the LTTE” — http://content.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,187756390011889799,00.html orhttp://youtube/tikQZTbDxg.

[4] I am giving them (some) the benefit of the doubt.

[5] My critical reading of their politics THEN in Frontline (Roberts 2009b) has since been reprinted with the title “Simpletons at the World’s Peak: Sri Lankan Situation stumps the World,” in Roberts, Fire & Storm, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2010, pp.289-302.

[6] I picked up this rumour from the gossip circuit in Colombo way back; but more recently it was noted by some of the personnel at an in-house brainstorming discussion at Marga (information from Amar Gunatilleke). I surmise that the intention of the US government was to implement a scheme tentatively outlined by KP Pathmanāthan (located in Malaysia) whereby (a) the Liberation Tigers would lock-off their heavy weapons in specified locations; while (b) other areas would be deemed no-fire zones and (c) the US Pacific Command would then transport the Tamil civilians by sea to Trincomalee (Jeyaraj 2011: 29-32). Clearly, if this information is valid, Gothabaya Rajapaksa and other elements in GSL were inveigled into cooperating with this exploratory move, but have kept their silence on the topic.

[7] See http://jdsrilanka.blogspot.com/2009/08/sri-lanka-thirty-four-journalists-media.html & Roberts, “The Rajapaksa Regime and the Fourth Estate,” 2009b. Also note this comment from an Indian think tank: “….President Rajapaksa’s growing authoritarianism, his personalized vendettas against critics and opponents, and the progressive undermining of institutional governance” (SATP 2013).

[8] Thus, for instance, the TamilNet headline on the 10th May 2009: “2000 feared slaughtered in a single night” and its account was accepted without question by the BBC (2009), CBS News (2009) and many leading Western media agencies. Note the way one Tim Martin in UK swallowed every bloated tale wholesale (CNN 2009).

[9] Located in Colombo as UN Media Officer, Gordon Weiss told the BBC on 11th May that the UN believed that “malnutrition levels are extremely high” (BBC 2009a), This supplemented a more serious note: “The UN’s spokesman here, Gordon Weiss, told the BBC that more than 100 children died during what he called the large-scale killing of civilians over the weekend. He said the UN had ‘warned against the bloodbath scenario‘ and the weekend’s events showed that ‘that bloodbath has become a reality’.” (BBC 2009b).

[10] Note the severe criticism within Marga, Truth and Accountability. The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka, http://www.margasrilanka.org/Truth-Accountability.pdf. Likewise Kath Noble tells me that there is a marked disjunction between the “Executive Summary” and the body of the work –almost as if the summary was pre-ordained (Skype telephone chat, late 2013).

[11] See Somasundaram and S. Sivayokan 2013: page 5 of 24.

[12] See Roberts, “The Tamil Death Toll in early 2009: Challenging Rohan Gunaratna,” 1 December 2011.

[13] See the charts depicting the Weiss claims at various points in Mango 2013 and IDAG 2013.

[14] Re the either/or epistemology that distorts the claims of some humanitarian and/or civil rights a  campaigners in the West, see Mango 2011 and Roberts 2011b and 2011d; and Roberts 2012d.

[15] Minimally those evaluating the scenario should study the maps and images (mostly photographs from Tamil sources) in Roberts, “BBC Blind,” 2013 and Roberts, “Congestion in the “Vanni Pocket” January-May 2009: Appendix IV for “BBC Blind,” http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/ congestion-in-the-vanni-pocket-january-may-2009-appendix-iv-for-bbc-blind/; and Roberts,” Pictorial Illustrations of the Mass Exodus from the Last Redoubt, 20-22 April and mid-May 2009: Appendix V for “BBC Blind”, http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/exodus-from-the-last-redoubt-late-april-mid-may-2009-appendix-v-for-bbc-blind/

[16] Older generations in the West who had some experience of World War Two and the Korean and Vietnam wars would have better groundings.

[17] Three were from a legal background while Col Desmond Travers provided the military expertise. There was no sociologist and/or geographer and/or political scientist in this review panel.

[18] See Roberts, “Visual Evidence II: Torture Images on Channel 4 … and Weiss,” 2 January 2011, http://www.defence.lk/new.asp?fname=20120107_01. Also see fn. 9 above.

  • Fitzpatrick

    Oh golly gosh, M Roberts seems to claim he is a bigger expert than the experts that the UN has access too, while sitting in Australia.
    The credibility of M Roberts is suspect given that he is of Sri Lankan origins. (I am not saying this out of the blue, just extending the logic that N Pillai is biased since she has Tamil ancestry as claimed by some!)

    • http://www.groundviews.org/ Groundviews

      Rather than attack the author, can you please provide counter factual analysis and/or a detailed breakdown of how and where you differ with the author’s submission? Please help to further the debate by focussing on the content, not the person.

      • Fitzpatrick

        I am not attacking the author. I am simply saying how this analysis could be accepted when we have already rejected every analysis that has come before us. Are we to simply accept this since it favours “our narrative”

        • http://www.groundviews.org/ Groundviews

          Point made.

      • Usha Sriskandarajah

        Yes the observations made by the UN Internal Review Panel differs greatly from Michael Roberts! http://www.tamilcanadian.com/article/6279

        • Eusense

          Why is this “panel” called UN Internal Review panel? Was it appointed by the UN member countries or the UN security council? Who appointed it and who has the legal authority to use it’s findings?

          • Fitzpatrick

            The UNHRC has now been authorized to investigate BOTH sides, let’s wait for that report then.

  • alex f

    The article spends a lot of time focusing on the LTTE, which incidentally is exactly what the SL regime does too these days – i.e. rather than engage on key points, they spend time resuscitating the ghost of an extinct organisation. Of course the idea of greater autonomy or independence lives on amongst Tamils, but that can’t be attacked by locking people up and taking their land. It needs to be engaged, and Tamils convinced that their interests lie within a united Sri lanka – presently the SL regime doing the opposite.
    The article it self is flawed as it simply repeats many points made by the regime itself (repeatedly through the organs it controls). Thus far all the numbers and facts are allegations against Sri Lanka, which need to be investigated (internally or externally). Where the author needs to engage is the process. Each country has the obligation to investigate these claims itself. In Sri Lanka this investigation was handed over to the Army (i.e. the organisation accused of the crimes). This process has inevitably resulted 5 years on in the assumption that there is ‘no political will’ in Sri Lanka to carry out this investigation. It will now be investigated from without. The SL regime should now focus on genuinely winning Tamil hearts and minds as that is the only hope of a united Sri Lanka – this means listening to grievances, allowing closure, genuinely reconciling, ceasing the land grabs and retuning assets which have been ceased, implementing the 13A, and the LLRC and the list goes on. And of course impunity needs to end and people who did bad things go to jail. Even if one were to forget the war (unlikely given the alleged numbers killed but lets assume), there are crimes post war where members of the security forces need to be sent to jail (i.e. rape and torture of people in the internment camps), for crimes committed after the LTTE was defeated. This is pretty unlikely in SL, which in turn will leave the Tamils wanting autonomy or separation. It is pretty simple really.

    • Fitzpatrick

      The author’s silence on the testimony given by the doctor Dr Varatharajah Thariajah is telling, isn’t it? Dr Varatharajah Thariajah was in the thick of it and his a credible and reliable eye witness. Of course, his statements don’t fit in with the story the regime and this author want to disseminate, so silence on that front.

      • alex f

        Well the author’s primary mistake, much like the SL regime, is the assumption that the Tamil Diaspora is capable of bringing to bear the weight of the US, UN et al on Sri Lanka. They aren’t. Sri Lanka’s regime, has made the mistake of underestimating the will of global powers in seeking to establish a frame work of international law and order. The regime had its chance to put its house in order and now the international community is changing gears smoothly into the next phase.

  • Fitzpatrick

    The author very conveniently avoids mentioning the good Dr. Varatharajah Thariajah (who unlike the author was actually present in the battle zone rather than down under) and his recent interview with Ch4 and how says he was forced to lie at the press conference. I guess it does not fit in with the narrative of the author.
    This clearly shows that the author is no different to the many reporters/panelists/experts whom the author questions. We simply report what fits our narrative. The panelists are guilty, the above author is guilty of it too.

  • Sri Lanka Campaign

    I really think this is counterfactual nonsense, lets Fisk it:

    A – Regardless of how the LTTE chose to portray the situation it is undeniable that the situation in Vanni in 2009 was a humanitarian catastrophe: Ban ki Moon said as much when he flew in at the war’s end. The idea that the catastrophe was overstated does not sit at all well with what most of us remember of that time, and what numerous UN and independent reports have subsequently found – that the international community turned a blind eye to the catastrophe that was unfolding.

    B – The LTTE certainly share the blame for the “situation of entrapment” but the idea that they were solely to blame does not stand up to any scrutiny, indeed it does not stand up to the common sense reasoning of anyone who is familiar with a conflict zone. Is any one party solely responsible for civilian’s inability to leave Homs? Regardless it is a complete non sequitur, and callous reasoning, that moral concerns around a humanitraian catastrophe should be put to one side because one of the parties involved shares responsibility for the situation.

    C – The timeline is confused here as we jump to late April 2009 at which point there were only a few weeks left in the war. Thus the argument Roberts goes on to build about what should have happened in early January does not hold up without the use of a time machine. Regardless, the idea that western government’s far-too-little far-too-late attempt to stop the carnage when it was almost over is the reason that the war ended the way it did is patent nonsense. It doesn’t add up chronologically and even if it did, it certainly doesn’t make any sense.

    D – Every serious history of the conflict, and the UN’s own account of its actions in the Petrie report suggests the exact opposite is true, that civilian casualty figures were significantly under-estimated, under-reported, and under used, and that the real scale of the killings was hidden from the international community for far too long.

    E – I scarcely know where to begin with this train wreck of a paragraph. The idea that the UN, “west”, AI, and Solheim would “meet in conclave” is childish fantasy. It sounds like something from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion rather than from a serious article, that is simply not the way any of these organisations does business.

    Furthermore, the message Roberts asks this group to convey is that no matter how many civilians die these organisations will steadfastly refuse to do their jobs and will turn a blind eye to the suffering inflicted. It is unclear what Roberts means in any case by “step into Sri Lanka” (does he think Amnesty have an army?) but the very idea of signalling callous disregard up front is as bonkers as it is impossible. As it was many of these organisations were pretty close to inactive, with the disastrous consequences they have witnessed.

    Finally supposing that message had been delivered. Does anyone really believe Prabhakaran could care less? Throughout 2009 (not to mention before) he showed a total disregard for facts, reason, logic, argument and indeed anything other than his single minded goal of continuing the fight. That is abhorrent, but it is true, and I don’t think a magical team of super-best-friends flying in to tell him that they quit would have changed anything.

    F – And facts. All those inconvenient verified facts in multiple independent and UN reports.

    G – Again, what most people remember from this time was not that, but desperately trying, and mostly failing, to persuade the world not to turn a blind eye to the worst civilian atrocity of the new millennium.

    H – Dr Varatharaja’s testimony should tell you all you need to know about Dr Shanmugarajah’s ability to speak freely on the subject: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-26670691

    I – I would not consider it wise to go toe-to-toe with a UN panel containing three of the world’s pre-eminent specialists on questions of credibility. Actually subsequent work on the area from the Petrie report, World Bank figures etc… suggests 40,000 is on the lower end of the probable figures.

    J – Hence the need for an independent international investigation, which we now have. But regardless, it is clear from credible sources that the civilian casualty estimate was likely in this range.

    K – The smoke and mirrors here betray the fact that there is no credible count for the total number of injured during the relevant timeframe and thus nothing to be inferred. Moreover injured to killed ratios jump markedly if the injured are summarily executed – food for thought, rather than a direct allegation that.

    L – Waffle, although there is a lovely mixed metaphor in there. “The Tamils are aided by others” seems an uncomfortably racial statement.

    M – This is essentially a lengthy moan at IGEP for not taking his work, or that of various shadowy and anonymous groups, seriously (and why would an outfit publishing a report which verifies the official narrative need to be anonymous?). If this article is representative of the standard of such work I can understand why.

    This was written in haste and apologies if my irritation sometimes shone through. No doubt others could do a better and more comprehensive job of debunking, but the material scarcely merits it

    • http://www.groundviews.org/ Groundviews

      Have flagged this and other comments on this thread to author, with a request to engage.

      • Sri Lanka Campaign

        Ta. Look forward to it.

      • Fitzpatrick

        Thank you, I am glad to note that the canard spread by the likes of this author are being challenged and happy to note my own suggestion of Dr. Varatharajah Thariajah is mentioned in the above reply.
        Look closely at the writings of the author and you will find, sinhala supremacist agenda peeping through.

    • reader

      This response is remarkable in that it misses all of the authors points

      • Sri Lanka Campaign

        Care to elaborate?

        • Candidlee

          There’s no need to elaborate. Your organisation is one of those that has made the accusations of mass civilian deaths, etc, so you have to provide the evidence. Why do the authors of the two UN reports refuse to divulge the names of the “credible sources” who “estimated that there could have been as many as 40,000 civilian deaths”. Where is the evidence? Where are the bodies or their remains? Where are the graves? Where are the lists of names of the dead?
          It seems they are nowhere, except in the fertile imaginations of these who wish to punish the Sri Lankan people and government for defeating the Tamil Tigers.

          • Sri Lanka Campaign

            Credibility of internationally renowned authors of 2 UN reports > credibility of an anonymous person on the internet.

          • Candidlee

            Because so-called renowned authors cite anonymous sources is no criterion for deciding that a statement is credible (think Tony Blair, George W. Bush and others re the invasion of Iraq). And of course at least one of those unknown renowned authors (Yasmin Sooka) is a member of your organization, along with Bruce Haigh the “renowned [Australian] author” who argues that terrorism of the Tamil Tigers variety is justifiable if it brings success. He has also written much the same about the terrorism of al-Qaida and the IRA, as is clear from reading his articles in ABC’s “The Drum”.
            You are well aware of the views of this man justifying political assassinations and terrorism against civilians, yet you still allow him to have a leading position in your organization which has the nerve to have the words “Peace” in its title.
            Anyway, it is noticeable that your organization is still unable to provide any evidence to justify its claim of deliberate mass killing of Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan armed forces at the end of the war against terrorism in Sri Lanka in 2008-9. “Renowned authors” said it’s true is a feeble argument that would convince no fair-minded person.
            Finally, you have not produced a single valid argument or piece of evidence to refute the evidence cited by Professor Roberts that the strategy of the Tamil Tigers and their supporters in the West in the final stage of the war was to try to induce large scale casualties amongst the Tamil civilians that they were hiding behind with the objective of inciting intervention by some Western powers with the aim of saving the lives of a core group of the terrorist leaders. Thankfully for everyone in Sri Lanka and India, that strategy by the Tamil Tigers did not succeed.

    • Eusense

      5 years have elapsed since the final battle in 2009. Why can’t any one yet name these innocent 40,000 civilians killed? At least there should be a list with few names.This needs to be done to be credible. It is time to disregard speculative numbers. The next of kin, relatives and friends could be found with evidence of existence of these dead souls.

  • VillageBoy

    Has anything further been heard from Mr. Michael Roberts the author?

  • RG

    ” [I] cannot dwell on these factors in any useful or intelligent way”. Indeed.

  • Anpu

    Five years ago Dr Varatharajah Thariajah was given his freedom in exchange for refuting war crimes allegations against the Sri Lankan government. Today (26th March 2014) he tells Channel 4 News a different story.

    http://www.channel4.com/news/sri-lanka-war-crimes-inquiry-doctor-varatharajah-thariajah

    “They attacked the hospital. They refused to send medicine. They refused to send food.”

  • Dev

    3-4 days on, what does the stoic silence of the author Roberts meant to convey to the readers?

  • Fitzpatrick

    May I suggest that GV editors in the future avoid articles from people like Robert’s who make unsubstantiated claims and when challenged go silent (Despite the formal request for comment from GV).
    All this saga has shown is the motivations of people like Robert’s to preemptively disparage the investigation by the UNHCR that is about to commence.

  • Anpu

    On the same day of publishing this article MRoberts has published http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/04/10/the-federal-party-emerges-seeking-self-determination-18-december-1949/ with the following notes.

    The Editor of THUPPAHI welcomes reflective and analytical comments on this manifesto with the advantage of hindsight. These remarks should stay within the bounds of decency and be backed by citations where required. Only authors ready to disclose their names and present locations in space will be admitted to this body of commentary.

    [1] This rare document has been made available through the good offices of Nirgunan Tiruchelvam and Ananda Chittambalam. In retyping it for public realm I have kept the capitalization of first letter in some words as well as the spelling of all words. I have also retained he punctuation or the absence thereof. Michael Roberts

    [2]No map has been attached with the photocopy handed over to me. Michael Roberts

    [3]As far as I know, other booklets were not published. If readers are aware of other documents in English or Tamil they should bring them to the attention of the reading world. Michael Roberts

    I have not read the SJV’s speech yet. A friend of mine brought my attention to this speech with this comment “On reading his speech now, if it was not so to some then, the justification for the cause of the Tamils today is abundantly clear. Clearly it was a prescription for a united Sri Lanka and not one for a separation.”