The War Dead in Sri Lanka: Deceit and Ignorance Rule the Air Waves

      Both these images are from TamilNet and were part of the extensive stock sent to me in 2009/10 by “Citizen Silva” aka IDAG. The first is dated 6 April 2009 and the second 28 April 2009

ONE = Michael Roberts: “Introduction”

When I presented an essay on  “Missing Persons” in Groundviews in March 2013 the reactions were, as usual, mixed and included a derisive dismissal from one “Velu Balendran”.[1] However, one individual named Nathan inserted a dose of common sense and also introduced readers – as well as myself – to a pertinent article by two Indians, Ajay Sahni & S. Binodkumar Singh in the Indian magazine Outlook.

I do not know Nathan and where he resides, but am deeply grateful to him. As I am now returning to this topic, I believe that readers should be introduced to his brief thoughts and be led to the article he recommended. I will thereafter insert key bibliographic references on the topic from my original essay and its companion piece; while also embellishing this ‘compendium’ with images that provide a glimpse of the context and assorted outcomes in indelible ways beyond words.

TWO = Nathan, 1 April 2013, extract from

It’s a shame that people have failed to read and grasp the thrust of Dr Michael Robert’s article .

What Dr. Roberts has introduced into the debate, and shared with the GV forum contributors, is the existences of an in-depth empirical study that has blown open the lid, ‘literally’, on the ‘tens of thousands killed’ claim. The IDAG study he has alluded to is also referenced in the following piece in OUTLOOK India:[2]

……. Much of the ‘data’ on which the international ‘human rights’ campaign against Sri Lanka is based, moreover, is deeply suspect. After the end of war, different international bodies and individuals gave varying estimates of the number of civilian fatalities. The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), on December 13, 2009, gave an estimate of 20,000 to 40,000; Frances Harrison of the BBC, in July, 2012, put the figure at an incredible 147,000; and the UN Internal Review Panel, on November 10, 2012, published an estimate of 70,000 civilians killed, jacking up the UN’s earlier ‘credible estimates’ of 40,000 with little new evidence. These divergent estimates have been credibly challenged by an authoritative study based on a wide range of parameters, including witness testimonies, satellite and associated imagery, contemporary reports on the conflict in diplomatic dispatches revealed by Wikileaks, media reports and reports of various HR organizations operating in the field during the conflict, and a range of other documentary sources…..

I suggest people read that!!

 Extreme congestion along main road in the Last Redoubt Tamilnet 1 May 2009 … also see

 One  of many pictures from varied sources showing Tamil civilians (and Tigers in civilian outfits?) streaming across the Nandikadal lagoon in April and/or May 2009

THREE = Ajai Sahni & Binodkumar Singh: Ambivalence, Opportunism, Deceit,”[3] in Outlook India, 29 March 2013

India’s present diplomacy, based principally on domestic politics, and relations with the US, will wholly undermine a diminishing influence in Sri Lanka to the inevitable detriment of both New Delhi and Colombo.

On March 21, 2013, at the 22nd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) a United States-sponsored resolution on Human Rights (HR) violation in Sri Lanka was adopted with 25 countries, including India, voting in favour of the resolution in the 47-nation body. While 13 countries voted against, eight member-states abstained from voting on the resolution. The resolution urged the government of Sri Lanka to implement the government’s National Action Plan (NAP), including the recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) addressing outstanding issues related to reconciliation, and to meet its obligations for accountability. Earlier, on March 22, 2012, UNHRC had adopted a resolution urging Sri Lanka to investigate alleged abuses during the final phase of war with the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), with 24 votes in favour, 15 against and eight abstentions.

The international campaign against Sri Lanka, backed by European interlocutors who had strongly sought to protect the LTTE as it approached inevitable defeat, ignores the realities of over 33 years of the most vicious terrorism in Sri Lanka, the extreme atrocities of the LTTE, the intensive use of civilians as human shields by the LTTE during the terminal stages of the conflict, and, indeed, the significant self-imposed restraints accepted by the Sri Lankan forces to minimize civilian losses. It ignores, moreover, that, in less than four years since the LTTE terror was brought to an end in May 2009, Sri Lanka has restored normalcy, rehabilitated displaced citizens and, indeed, even the overwhelming majority of surrendered and captured LTTE cadres, and initiated developmental projects in former rebel-held areas that would compare favourably with the record of any post-conflict society in recent history. Significantly, with the shutting down of the Menik Farm camp in Vavuniya district on September 25, 2012, a total of 1,186 people from 361 families— the last of a group of the estimated 290,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) resulting from the final phase of the conflict— were restored to their original places of residence in the Mullaithivu district.

Much of the ‘data’ on which the international ‘human rights’ campaign against Sri Lanka is based, moreover, is deeply suspect. After the end of war, different international bodies and individuals gave varying estimates of the number of civilian fatalities. The University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), on December 13, 2009, gave an estimate of 20,000 to 40,000; Frances Harrison of the BBC, in July, 2012, put the figure at an incredible 147,000; and the UN Internal Review Panel, on November 10, 2012, published an estimate of 70,000 civilians killed, jacking up the UN’s earlier ‘credible estimates’ of 40,000 with little new evidence. These divergent estimates have been credibly challenged by an authoritative study based on a wide range of parameters, including witness testimonies, satellite and associated imagery, contemporary reports on the conflict in diplomatic dispatches revealed by Wikileaks, media reports and reports of various HR organizations operating in the field during the conflict, and a range of other documentary sources. Nevertheless, the more exaggerated estimates continue to be projected in the international HR discourse as a propaganda stick to beat the Sri Lanka government with, in a misconceived strategy to exert pressure on Colombo to deliver on a ‘political solution’ of the ‘ethnic problem’ in the country.

International action on this count has been further compounded by protests in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu, where political parties have sought to make domestic electoral capital out of the ‘Tamil issue’ in Sri Lanka. Indeed, India voted in favour of the US sponsored resolutions principally because of domestic political compulsions. When India displayed a degree of ambivalence on the March 22, 2012, resolution, regional political parties in Tamil Nadu agitated vociferously, forcing the Union government to swing in favour of the US sponsored resolution. Unsurprisingly, this time around, when the political pressure escalated to the point of provoking the Tamil Nadu regional party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), to pull out of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on March 19, 2013, after the government failed to acquiesce to its demand of introducing amendments in the resolution accusing Colombo of “genocide” during the war against the LTTE, the government again voted in favour of a ‘softer’ US-backed resolution. In a failed effort to placate the DMK, on March 8, 2013, as part of a larger debate in the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a statement of gratuitous interference, declared, “There are problems in Sri Lanka; we have been worried about the fate of the Tamil population in Sri Lanka. India is worried about the fate of Tamils in Sri Lanka and wants them to live with dignity and self respect. It has been our effort to work with the leadership in Sri Lanka and to ensure that Tamil people there do get a chance to live a life of dignity and self respect as equal citizens of the country.” India’s efforts to balance its position between domestic political compulsions and its relations with Sri Lanka have remained deeply unconvincing.

That the international and Indian strategy to exert pressure for reform on Colombo is deeply flawed is, today, recognized even by elements that were central to the LTTE’s campaigns. Thus, Valautham Dayanidhi aka Daya Master, the former spokesperson for the LTTE noted, in an interview published on March 24, 2013, that “Tamil Nadu politicians are now creating problems between the Tamils and the Sinhalese… all Tamil Nadu parties are doing now is fomenting trouble between us and the Sinhalese.” He further appealed to the international community to “restrict itself to developmental work… and leave our political future to us and our elected governments… For heaven’s sake— there were 30 years of war. It ended barely three years ago. Development is in full swing. More needs to be done but give the government some time.”

Significantly, the Director of Operations of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, validated Colombo’s claims on August 3, 2012, observing, “The scale of what Sri Lanka has accomplished over the past three years, the pace of resettlement and the development of infrastructure, is remarkable and very clearly visible.” Similarly, on March 5, 2013, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in reply to a question on Sri Lanka during a Press briefing, conceded, “I recognised the important steps taken by the government of Sri Lanka since the end of the conflict.”

Further, the UNHRC, on March 15, 2013, adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism of the Council under which it reviews human rights on a regular basis, on Sri Lanka. The UPR noted a wide range of positive steps taken by the Sri Lankan government, but also sought to underline certain perceived deficiencies, specifically, in the implementation of the LLRC recommendations; to ‘combat impunity’ relating to the past conflict; to prevent torture and ill-treatment in prisons and detentions centres; to respect independence of the judiciary; and to protect the rights of women and children and of HR defenders and journalists.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Special Envoy of the President on Human Rights, the Minister of Plantation Industries Mahinda Samarasinghe, in a statement to the Council on Sri Lanka’s Progress in the Promotion of Human Rights argued, “Sri Lanka had accepted 113 out of 204 recommendations received, and had also made 19 voluntary commitments. Sri Lanka is currently evaluating the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) which was conceived of as part of Sri Lanka’s participation in the UPR process before the UNHRC in 2008.”

On March 18, 2013, the US presented a toned down version of its resolution co-sponsored by 32 countries at the 22nd session of the UNHRC in Geneva. The draft welcomed and acknowledged the progress made by the government of Sri Lanka in rebuilding infrastructure, demining, resettling the majority of internally displaced persons, but noted that considerable work needed to be done in the areas of justice, reconciliation and resumption of livelihoods. While recognizing the NAP to implement the recommendations of the government’s LLRC, the resolution insists that the NAP does not ‘adequately address’ all of the findings and constructive recommendations of the LLRC.

Unsurprisingly, given India’s opportunistic efforts to sit on the fence, repercussions have been felt on bilateral relations between the two countries. On March 18, 2013, with pressure on New Delhi mounting from the Tamil Nadu political parties to act against Sri Lanka, India called off “The Annual Defence Dialogue” with Sri Lanka, scheduled to commence from March 23, 2013. Anti-Sri Lanka protests were orchestrated across Tamil Nadu, with non-political organisations and industries joining a students’ agitation, forcing the Tamil Nadu government on March 20, 2013, to shut down 525 engineering colleges and 438 arts and science colleges in the State, indefinitely. Further, on March 22, 2013, Tamil Nadu Members of Parliaments (MPs) turned violent in the Rajya Sabha, as agitating MPs of DMK and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) broke the chairperson’s mike during noisy demonstrations over the Sri Lankan Tamils.

It is unlikely that these various protests, statements and resolutions will have any impact in Sri Lanka, beyond polarizing relations between Sinhala and Tamil even further, and hardening attitudes against an ‘unreliable’ India.

Predictably, Sri Lankan External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris addressing the foreign ministers of the member countries of UNHRC on March 19, 2013, declared, “Just as the government of Sri Lanka did not recognize the last UNHRC resolution, it rejects the new resolution.” Likewise, rejecting the resolution, the President’s Special Envoy on Human Rights, minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, on March 22, 2013 observed that the resolution was clearly unacceptable due to its inherent flaws and pointed out that the preamble to the text was “intrusive, bears misinterpretations and focuses disproportionately on the negative and eliminates or is dismissive of the positive.” Earlier, on March 18, 2013, Prof. Peiris had noted that India had made an ‘immense contribution’ to the development of the war-affected Northern Province and it was in India’s interest, as much as Sri Lanka’s, to support efforts to achieve stability and not to polarize Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, criticizing the undue pressure exerted after the resolution, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on March 22, 2013, observed, “The government was aware that it had to face the consequences, when the humanitarian operation began… It is because of this external irritant that the country is facing pressure from various foreign forces. This foreign intimidation is what the imperialists and the Diasporas want.”

Similarly, reflecting Colombo’s hardening attitude, Minister for Youth Affairs Dallas Alahapperuma while addressing a media briefing held at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute in Colombo on March 22, 2013, stated, “The UNHRC has become an institution that implements a new ‘colonial policy’ of ruling by creating divisions in the international community. It has used Sri Lanka as the first test subject to experiment with the new policy of division. The UN resolution, calling for Sri Lanka to investigate war crimes allegedly committed by the Security Forces (SFs) during the war against the LTTE, attempts to divide the country.”

Over the past years, India has rapidly lost ground and faith in Sri Lanka as a result of its ambivalence and a policy driven by domestic compulsions, rather than strategy interests and a historical investment in its relations with one of the few friends it has in the neighbourhood. India’s approach to Sri Lanka clearly cannot hinge on domestic politics in Tamil Nadu. Sri Lanka views resolutions against it in the UNHRC as not binding and as driven by lobbies with agendas against the country, especially when sponsored by a country accused of rights violations across the globe— the US. Instead of using discriminatory HR interventions as a prod, there is a strong case for India to restore goodwill with Colombo, to encourage a politics that is more democratic and participatory, and to establish a sustainable peace in Sri Lanka. If India continues with its present diplomacy of opportunism and deceit, based principally on domestic political compulsions and its interest in relations with the US, it will wholly undermine a diminishing influence in Sri Lanka to the inevitable detriment of both New Delhi and Colombo. 


These photographs are meant to build on the two that introduced this article with a bang. They provide readers with a glimpse of some facets–repeat SOME facets — of the battle theatre and its immediate aftermath. I am not in a position to provide full details on all the images. The selection here can be supplemented by visiting TamilNet in the early months of 2009 and studying Roberts, Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo, Vijitha Yapa Publications, 2014 ISBN 978-955-665-231-4

 SLA soldiers view Tiger dead –incl. some without fatigues– Pic from Ministry of Defence web site, early Feb (speaking from memory)

 Tiger corpses collected by the SL A for identification and disposal  —MoD web site

 A decomposing corpse in the vicinity of Tamil civilian tent abodes –Pic from TamilNet

 Pic from TamilNet

  Pic from TamilNet

 Injured Tamils and grieving kinPic from TamilNet 12 May 2009

 Injured Tamils– Pic from Human Rights Watch

 Sl Army brass survey bodies and identify notable personnel White Flags

 Tamil civilians reach safety of western shore of the Nandikadal Lagoon presented in May 2009Pic by Tilak Perera in D. Yatawara article in  Sunday Observer, 17 May 2009May 2009

 For the context and detail of this type of scene depicted in many outlet, see M. Reddy at http://www. 2009042558390100.html.

 MoD web site–see Roberts, TPSPictorial, 2014:  185.

FIVE:  A PROVISO from Michael Roberts

The focus in Citizen Silva’s magnum opus was (is) on the death toll during the course of Eelam War IV and especially that in the last five months. However, the topic “Missing” also encompasses the tales of those abducted, arrested, assaulted and/or killed in the period 2002-2009 in the “hinterland’ of the war theatre, namely (a) the Jaffna Peninsula; (a) Vavuniya District; (b) the Colombo district and (d) other arenas such as Mannar Island and the Eastern Province. The survey must also address tales of rape and torture in these areas. In tackling these topics, students who live in the West must note that conditions in these arenas were especially tense and dangerous for the citizens of all nationalities who dwelt therein because the LTTE resorted to assassinations of key targets at public gatherings while also blasting trains and buses on the odd occasion. The danger of “terrorist attacks” in western capital cities today is miniscule in comparison with the frequency and scale of attacks in, say, Colombo during the height of Eelam War IV. The security services were stretched. The excesses were partly a product of this circumstance. But behind it, too, was a long tradition of extra-judicial violence embedded in the island’s Department of Police – as indicated by Jehan Perera in a useful comment on one of my “search” posts[4] a comment that has been endorsed by Gerald Peiris in a response yet to be made public[5] – in a note that indicates that this culture of violence goes way back to British colonial days as well. A couple of bibliographic references will lead readers/investigators to essays that amplify this pertinent sub-topic.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY….. See items in RED for fuller list

Fernando, Ruki 2012 “Sri Lanka: When one goes missing every five days,”…………….. ALSO

IDAG [i.e. Citizen Silva] 2013 “The Numbers Game: Politics of Retributive Justice,” OR

Mango 2014 “Sri Lanka’s War in its Last Phase: Where WIA defeats the Gross KIA Estimates,” 14 February 2014, https://www.colombotelegraph.
com/index.php/sri-lankas-war-in-its-last-phase-where-wia-figuresdefeat- the-gross-kia-estimates/.

Marga 2014 Issues of Truth and Accountability. The Last Stages of the War in Sri Lanka

Narendran, Rajasingham 2014 “Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014,

Noble, Kath  2013 “Numbers Game reviewed by Kath Noble: The full monty,” 14 July 2013,

Padraig Colman 2011b “Evaluating the ‘Churnalism’ from Channel 4 and the Moon Panel,” 17 August 2011, http://

Reddy, B. Muralidhar 2009 “An Escape from Hellhole,” http://www. 2009042558390100.html.

Roberts, Michael 2012 “What is missing in those “Missing”? Issues relating to the statistics on enforced disappearances in Lanka,” 30 May 2012,…. Also in GV at

Roberts, Michael 2013 “A Missing Person in Sri Lanka: Heartfelt Issues & Ground Realities,” 30 March 2013,

Roberts, Michael 2013 “Congestion in the Vannni Pocket, January to may 2009,” Appendix IV for “BBC Blind”, 9 Dec. 2013,

Roberts, Michael 2013 “Pictorial Illustrations of the Mass Exodus from the Last Redoubt, 20-22 April and mid-May 2009: Appendix V for “BBC Blind”,  9 dEC. 2013,

Roberts, Michael 2014 The War in Sri Lanka and Post-War Propaganda,” [being the Memorandum to Sandra Beidas and OISL Team in Geneva]  18 November 2014, reproduced in

Roberts, Michael 2014 “Cartographic & Photographic Illustrations in support of the Memorandum Analysing the War in Sri Lanka and Its Propaganda Debates,” 18 November 2014,

Roberts, Michael 2016  “Disappearances and Torture in Lanka, 2009-16: A Bibliography,” 8 September 2016,

UTHR 2009 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lanka’s Victims of War. Special Report No. 34

Watchdog 2014 “Enforced Disappearances in Sri Lanka: 2006-2013. Right s of the Families of the Disappeared,” 9 January 2014,

** 13 October 2014 Torture ‘Clinics’ in UK as Pathway to Asylum?,”


[1] Velu was challenged by “Mango and the details of this set of exchanges are enlightening.  Strangely and abnormally, this article did not spawn the usual quota of offensive commentary and/or clever-dick asides that are so common In Groundvews as well as Colombo Telegraph. I have rarely responded because in my view it is a no-win context and a battle that would be mentally exhausting. However, I believe that a selection of these sets of comments from suitable topics would provide a subject for political analysis. One problem in this field is that one does not usually know where in the world each blogger resides, or, at times, even the ethnicity or gender of each blog-surfie.

In the course of the years 2011/13 a particular phenomenon intrigued me. About three of my essays on Eelam War IV in the two sites produced an immediate slash-and-burn attack of an ad hominem character from a bloke who signed as Fitzpatrick.” This blogger had an admirable mastery of English as well as a sharp pen. His criticisms were as caustic as personal, but cast in clever style. What was quite amazing was the fact that each act of assassination was virtually the first comment after my article was posted. When this quickness of critique is repeated on three occasions, one must take note. I wondered at one stage whether it was the Editor of Groundviews Sanjana Hattotuwa himself in another hat – pursuing a political agenda opposed to that I was presenting. However, I do not think he would grace Colombo Telegraph [where “Fitzgerald” popped up once] because he seems to see that web site as an competitor.

It will not be possible to identify FITZGERALD. But his politics can be deciphered. That is best done by a third party.

[2] The item presented in the Indian circuit under the acronym IDAG had as its main author one “Citizen Silva” whose professional job would be compromised if his identity was known. He has been solely educated in UK.

[3] Ajai Sahni is Editor, SAIR; Executive Director, ICM & SATP. S. Binodkumar Singh is Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management. Courtesy: South Asia Intelligence Review of the South Asia Terrorism Portal

[4] “… Torture in the sense of third degree methods is widely used in Sri Lanka, in all cases, even presently. It is not sanctioned by the political leadership of the government, but it is happening at the level of the police stations.

Torture is a method, an interrogation technique. So if the military intelligence wish to interrogate they will use torture and if the police wish to investigate they will use torture. It does not matter whether it is the military or police. They are both trying to get information, they both use torture; and that is the norm. They will use it on Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims, if they are suspects.  It is not specifically sanctioned by the top but it is part of the security culture.

As for rape and murder by the security forces, I think it is minimal if at all.  There are isolated incidents, and not systematic.”………………………………………………………………. Perera, Comment, 25 November 2016,

[5] Peiris to Roberts: “… Police brutality has all along been standard practice from colonial times. I can vouch for it because in Dunagaha (a village with a small cluster of boutiques in the interior of the Western Province) the building which housed the police station was next-door to our Maha Gedara (my grandmother’s house).” (Email, 1 Dec. 2016, commending Perera’s contribution)

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  1. Pingback: The Death Toll in 2009: Deceit and Myopia, International and Lankan | Thuppahi's Blog

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