Michael Roberts, Courtesy of Colombo Telegraph, 2 December 2019, where the title is “Excess! Tamil Death Toll Magnified In The Course Of British Interventions In The Sri Lankan Presidential Election”
“just as in Kosovo if enough civilians died … the world would be forced to step in” (Pulidevan, the LTTE Political Commissar, message in early 2009 to friends in Europe (quoted in Harrison: Still Counting the Dead, 2012: 63)
The assessments of the last stages of Eelam War IV embracing 2008/09 have been bedevilled by the verdicts of intellectuals and officials encased in drawing rooms located within an ivory tower. The hoary verdicts in the past have resurfaced today in the vociferous campaign aimed at influencing events in Sri Lanka – with the Shadow Chancellor of the Labour Party and such HR activists as Alan Keenan,[ii] Fred Carver and Richard Gowing[iii] participating in this grandstanding work. Possessing no experience of modern warfare, mostly unfamiliar with the landscape of the pertinent battle theatre within the northern Vanni and animated by human rights fervour, they have bought into the clever LTTE strategy that built up a picture of an ”impending humanitarian catastrophe” – a picture generated from mid-2008 and involving Tamil advocates within the diaspora as well.
Towards this end, the LTTE persuaded and pushed the civilians in their territory to move eastwards and northwards in the face of SL Army advances in 2008 – till these hapless people found themselves hemmed in within what has been termed “the Vanni Pocket” and eventually within constantly decreasing territorial space in 2009.
Behind this strategy, of course, was the determined dictator Velupillai Pirapāharan and his commanders. His regime was fascist in character[iv] and his cadre were committed to sacrificial devotion[v] to their cause. As the ABC filmmaker Paul Corcoran noted when he spent time in the territories of Thamilīlam in 1999 and composed the film SRI LANKA. TIGERS AT THE GATE: “The truth is a political solution is as impossible as a military breakthrough because for the (Tamil) Tigers it’s all or nothing – a homeland or glorious death.”[vi]
Tamil ‘civilians’ as belligerents
In consequence, the Tamil civilians became (a) one element in the Tiger defensive formations – that is, metaphorically speaking, just so many sandbags; while (b) providing ancillary services in carrying and fetching at the warfront or its rear … in a battlefield context where many Tiger soldiers did not wear uniforms.[vii] However, their prime purpose was in serving as a raison d étre for the Western international powers and the UN to step in and enforce a ceasefire or a ”rescue” of the people and the LTTE leadership.[viii] Towards this grand strategic end, they deployed their Tamil medical doctors and Tamil officials in the INGOs within Thamililam to feed bloated casualty figures and horrific scenarios of disaster to select Western personnel in Colombo (UN and reporters) – personnel who did not raise questions about the access to satellite phones reposing in the hands of their informants.[ix]
That there was death and horror there can be no doubt. However, the issues are: (A) to what degree and (B) under whose fashioning.
Central to any assessment of the death toll is an awareness of a basic fact of war: in virtually all battles in modern times the wounded soldiers outnumber the dead – sometimes as high as 13 to one,[x] but generally at about 4:1 or 5:1 …. though for the Australians in the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 the ratio of WIA to KIA was 2.23.[xi] In other words, if 40,000 Tamil “civilians” perished in 2008/09, there had to be at least 80,000 wounded in the hospitals and IDP camps of April-June 2009.[xii]
That this fundamental fact has not been considered by the UN Panel of Experts headed by Darusman and by subsequent ‘verdicts’ from powerful offices as well as Rajan Hoole of the UTHR[xiii] indicates how idiotic and/or prejudiced these personnel have been. That is why I have depicted them as individuals reposing within a drawing room in some ivory tower. That is a mild characterization. More lurid metaphors would be on the mark.
A further illustration of this amateurish approach to a serious issue was when the UNHCR offices in Geneva, viz., the Office Investigating Sri Lanka (OISL in short) invited submissions after they proceeded to investigate the war. Memoranda were sought from far and wide. But their specifications decreed that no photographs, videos etc could be deployed.[xiv]
That proviso was further proof that powerful agencies in the West were not only encased in an ivory tower: they were also colour blind and thus doubly idiotic. Photographic evidence, satellite imagery and mapwork should have been critical tools of investigation. They remain vital to any historical work on Eelam War IV in its last stages.
I have kept this ESSAY brief. It is, therefore, less comprehensive and wide-ranging than it should be – given the complexity of the war situation in the Vanni as well as its ramifications around Colombo and within the propaganda currents in the media waves of the world then in 2008/09.
Brevity impinges on thoroughness and clarity. Alas, it seems that the pressmen and presswomen in today’s world demand brevity. Hence this partial review is fashioned in relatively succinct form. Readers who are not thus hidebound are directed to the items in my bibliography.
Michael Roberts, 30 November 2019
A CURTAILED BIBLIOGRAPHY …. I could easily double the references
Al-Jazeera 2009 “SL army closes in on Tamil Tigers,” 1 February 2009, ………………….. ……… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZc_Am5HUSs
Balachandran PK 2015 “PK Balachandran on Overt and Covert Faces in Indian and American Policies Towards the Sri Lankan War,” 16 September 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/pk-balachandran-on-overt-and-covert-faces-in-indian-and-american-policies-towards-the-sri-lankan-war-2008-09/
[Bavinck, Ben] 2011 “Pirapaharan as uncompromising killer prone to vengeance,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/pirapaharan-as-uncompromising-killer-prone-to-vengeance-testimonies-from-the-jaffna-heartland-1989-91/
Coupland, RM & DR Meddings 1999 “Mortality associated with use of weapons in armed conflicts, wartime atrocities, and civilian mass shootings: literature review,” British Medical Journal, 1999, 319 319 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7207.407
De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009d “Sri Lanka’s Experience in Counter-Insurgency Warfare,” AsiaPacific Defence Reporter, Oct. 2009, Vol. 35/8, pp. 40-46.
De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2009e “Good Education. Sri Lankan Military learns Counter Insurgency Lessons,” Jane’s Intelligence Review Dec. 2009, pp. 3-7.
De Silva-Ranasinghe, Sergei 2010b “Information Warfare and the Endgame of the Civil War,” Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter, May 2010, 30/4: 35-37 …………………………………. .http://www.asiapacificdefencereporter.com/ articles/40/Sri-Lanka
Gray, David 2009 “A Day at the Front Line in Sri Lanka (Photographer’s Blog),” 27 April 2009, http://blogs.reuters.com/photographers-blog/2009/04/27/a-day-at-the-front-line-in-sri-lanka/
Hull, C. Bryson 2009 “Sri Lanka opens eye in the sky on war zone,” 20 April 2009, http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSCOL450259
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
Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2009d “Wretched of the Earth break Free of Bondage,” Daily Mirror, 25 April 2009, http://dbsjeyaraj.com/dbsj/archives/380.
Jeyaraj, D. B. S. 2011 “KP’ Speaks Out. An Interview with Former Tiger Chief, Vavuniya: NERDO.
[LTTE] 2014 “LTTE War Video recovered by the Government–Revealing Episode,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/ltte-war-video-recovered-by-the-government-revealing-episodes/
Keenan, Alan 2019a “Alan Keenan of the ICG comments on the Presidential Election Results in Sri Lanka,” 19 November 2019, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2019/11/19/alan-keenan-of-the-icg-comments-on-the-presidential-election-results-in-sri-lanka/#more-38905
Keenan, Alan 2019b “Sri Lanka’s Presidential Election Brings Back a Polarising Wartime Figure,” ?? November 2019, http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/11/sri-lankas-presidential-election-brings-back-polarising-wartime-figure/
Mango 2014 “Sri Lanka’s War In Its Last Phase: Where WIA Figures Defeat The Gross KIA Estimates,” 14 February 2014,https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/sri-lankas-war-in-its-last-phase-where-wia-figures-defeat-the-gross-kia-estimates/
Marga 2011 An Analysis and Evaluation of The Report of the Advisory Panel to the UNSG nn the Final Stages of the War in Sri Lanka, ……………….. …………………………………………… https://www.dropbox.com/s/0eybj1ynej6spaa/The%20Darusman%20Report-%20Final%20doc-2.doc
Narendran, Rajasingham 2014 “Harsh Ground Realities in War: Decomposing Bodies and Missing Persons and Soldiers,” 28 January 2014,https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/11702/
Noble, Kath 2013b “Numbers Game reviewed by Kath Noble: The Full Monty,” 14 July 2013, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/numbers-game-reviewed-by-kath-noble-the-full-monty/
Reddy, Muralidhar 2009 “Multiple Displacements, Total Loss of Identity.” The Hindu, 27 May 2009,http://www.hindu.com/2009/05/27/stories/2009052755811500.htm
Reddy, Muralidhar 2009 “Final Assault. A first-hand account of the war and the civilians’ plight as Eelam War almost comes to a close,” Frontline, 26/11, May 23-June 5, 2009, http://www.frontline.in/navigation/?type=static&page=archive.
Roberts, Michael 2005 “Saivite Symbols, Sacrifice, and Tamil Tiger rites,” Social Analysis, 2005, vol. 49, pp. 67-93.
Roberts, Michael 2007 Suicide Missions as Witnessing: Expansions, Contrasts,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 2007, vol. 30, pp 857-887.
Roberts, Michael 2013 “Towards Citizenship in Thamilīlam Sri Lanka’s Tamil People of the North, 1983-2010,” South Asia Research, 2013, 33: 57-75.
Roberts, Michael 2013 “BBC-Blind: Misreading the Tamil Tiger Strategy of International Blackmail, 2008-13,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/bbc-blind-misreading-the-tamil-tiger-strategy-of-international-blackmail-2008-13/#more-11221
Roberts, Michael 2014“From Godse and Gandhi to the Selfless Sacrifice of Tamil Tigers,” 13 June 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/from-godse-and-gandhi-to-the-selfless-sacrifice-of-tamil-tigers/
Roberts, Michael 2014“Running the Gauntlet in Academia: The Case of ‘Selfless Sacrifice’ — A Rejected Article,” 15 June 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/running-the-gauntlet-in-academia-the-case-of-selfless-sacrifice-a-rejected-article/
Roberts, Michael 2014 “Truth Journalism? Marie Colvin hoist on her own Petard,” 5 November 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/triuth-journalism-marie-colvin-hoist-on-her-own-petard/
Roberts, Michael 2014 “The War in Sri Lanka and Post-War Propaganda,” 18 November 2014, ….. https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/the-war-in-sri-lanka-and-propaganda-debates/ … being Memo sent to OISL with Hyperlinks and Images added.
Roberts, Michael 2014 “Cartographic & Photographic Illustrations in support of the Memorandum Analysing the War in Sri Lanka and Its Propaganda Debates,” 18 November 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/cartographic-photographic-illustrations-in-support-of-the-memorandum-analysing-the-war-in-sri-lanka-and-propaganda-debates/
Roberts, Michael 2014 “Generating Calamity, 2008-2014: An Overview of Tamil Nationalist Operations and Their Marvels,” 10 April 2014, http://groundviews.org/2014/04/10/generating-calamity-2008-2014-an-overview-of-tamil-nationalist-operations-and-their-marvels/
Roberts, Michael 2014 Tamil Person and State. Essays, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publishers.
Roberts, Michael 2014 Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publishers.
Roberts, Michael 2015 “A Drama in Four Acts: Dishonest Reportage by Amnesty International and Aussie Journalists remains Unmasked,” 2 September 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=17560&action=edit&postpost=v2
Roberts, Michael 2016 “Saving Talaivar Pirapāharan,” 6 April 2016, ……………………………………. https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/saving-talaivar-pirapaharan/
Roberts, Michael 2016 “Reuters in Word and Image: Depicting the Penetration of the LTTE’s Last Redoubt, 19-22 April 2009,” 19 March 2016,https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/03/19/reuters-in-word-and-image-depicting-the-penetration-of-the-lttes-last-redoubt-19-22-april-2009/
Roberts, Michael 2016 “When Weiss, Amnesty International and Aussie Greens Lie,” 16 June 2016 https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/a-puzzle-when-weiss-amnesty-international-and-aussie-greens-lie/
Roberts, Michael 2017 “Revisiting Jaffna and the LTTE in mid-1999 guided by Mark Corocran and the ABC,” 7 August 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/revisiting-jaffna-and-the-ltte-in-mid-1999-guided-by-mark-corcoran-and-the-abc/
Roberts, Michael 2018 “The Western World’s Cumulous Clouds of Deception: Blanketing the Sharp Realities of Eelam War IV,” 16 October 2018, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/10/16/the-western-worlds-cumulous-clouds-of-deception-blanketing-the-sharp-realities-of-eelam-war-iv/
Roberts, Michael 2018 “A Response to Rajan Hoole re Reviews of Eelam War IV and Western Deceit,” 28 October 2018, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2018/10/28/a-response-to-rajan-hoole-re-reviews-of-eelam-war-iv-and-western-deceit/
Salter, Mark 2015 To End a Civil War. Norway’s Peace Engagement in Sri Lanka, London: Hurst & Company.
Shanmugarajah, V. 2014 “Dr. Veerakanthipillai Shanmugarajah’s Affidavit Description of Conditions in the Vanni Pocket in Refutation of Channel Four,” 5 January 2014, …………………… ………… https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/drveerakanthipillai-shanmugarajahs-affidavit-description-of-conditionsin-the-vanni-pocket-in-refutation-of-channel-four/
UN PoE 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.
UTHR 2009 A Marred Victory and a Defeat Pregnant with Meaning, Special Report No. 32. http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/spreport32.htm
UTHR 2009 Let Them Speak: Truth about Sri Lanka’s Victims of War. Special Report No. 34, http://www.uthr.org/SpecialReports/Special%20rep34/Uthr-sp.rp34.htm.
Video Image [GSL] 2014 “A balanced insight into the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict – “Common Differences” (HD),” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L8QfZw0XUo
Weiss, Gordon 2012 “New Evidence — The Death of Colonel Ramesh,” 21 March 2012, https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/newevidencethe-death-of-colonel-ramesh-warning-disturbing-images/
 “Oppression of Tamils should be recognised as attempt at genocide,” – John McDonnell …………… https://www.tamilguardian.com/content/%E2%80%98oppression-tamils-should-be-recognised-attempt-genocide%E2%80%99-john-mcdonnell
[ii] The American Alan Keenan has been the executive head of the international Crisis Group’s London office for many years. See Keenan 2019a and 2019b for reviews of the Presidential vote.
[iii] Richard Gowing is presently the “Campaign Director” of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice centred in London; while Fred Carver is a Member of its “Council,” while also being the “Head of Policy” at the United Nations Association of UK. Carver recently noted that “… the path that the Government of Sri Lanka is walking leads to totalitarianism, and will inevitably lead back to war.”
[iv] See Hull 2009 and [Bavinck] 2011, “Pirapaharan as uncompromising killer prone to vengeance: …,” https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/pirapaharan-as-uncompromising-killer-prone-to-vengeance-testimonies-from-the-jaffna-heartland-1989-91/
[v] “Sacrificial devotion” is the concept I coined and continuously deployed in order to comprehend various strands of “suicide terrorism” [a pejorative concept]. It was the guiding concept behind a Workshop in Adelaide in 2007 and gave birth to the web site …………………………. sacrificialdevotionnetwork.wordpress.com. Also see my articles
[viii] See Roberts 2018 “Where USA sought to arm-wrestle Sri Lanka in March-April-May 2009” and Mark Salter 2015: 348, 354.
[ix] In our discussions the veteran Indian journalist PK Balachandran was quite derisive about the gullibility displayed by these Western personnel.
[x] Note: “During the fighting of war the number of people wounded is at least twice the number killed and may be 13 times as high; this ratio of the number wounded to the number killed results from the impact of a weapon system on human beings in the particular context of war” – Coupland & Meddings, 1999 at https://www.bmj.com/content/319/7207/407
[xi] See Roberts, 2015 “A Drama in Four Acts, …,” Section C.
[xii] Note Mango 2014.
[xiii] See Rajan Hoole’s comment dated 16 October 2018 in Colombo Telegraph as presented and challenged in Roberts “A Response …,” 2018.
[xiv] I submitted a memorandum. When I placed it on web however I inserted maps and diagrams ( see https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/the-war-in-sri-lanka-and-propaganda-debates/) ….. and then followed up with a more extensive use of pictorial data in Roberts, Cartographic & Photographic Illustrations in support of the Memorandum Analysing the War in Sri Lanka and Its Propaganda Debates,” 18 November 2014,