Chandre Dharmawardene, in Island, 26 July 2020, with this title “Ontario’s Bill on Alleged Genocide of Sri Lankan Tamils”
It was interesting to read Lynn Ockersz’ posting in The Island titled “UN Genocide Convention and Social Peace”. What should rise to the top of the minds of most Sri Lankan readers when the word “genocide” is mentioned, is the allegation against the Sri Lankan state. The columnist states that “As is known, some sections have been flinging the allegation of genocide against the Sri Lankan state in matters arising from its 30-year war against the LTTE, but it is clear that, going by the UN definition, the Lankan state has not committed genocide“.
The claim of a “Genocide of the Tamil people alleged to have been perpetrated by successive governments since 1948” was proclaimed by the Northern Provincial Council led by Mr. Wigneswaran. Furthermore, the topical news in Canada centers on Mr. Vijai Thanigasalam, an Ontario provincial legislator, who has tabled a bill (known as Bill 104) to initiate a program for “educated children in Ontario schools about how Tamils have been killed by the Sri Lankan government”, in a gross act of genocide. It is alleged that some 147,000 were deliberately killed, simply because they were Tamils, in just the last few months of the 2009 Eelam IV war that put an end to the armed conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government.
The Bill 104 has led to much concern among Canadian immigrants from Sri Lanka who find that their children may be bullied in the school yards and corridors, by other children of militant Tamil parents who accuse them of “having killed Tamils’ ‘! Fortunately, Covid-19 has created a lull to such issues, but the political process launched by the pro-Eelamist groups in Ontario seems to be marching forward, as all the major provincial political parties, viz., the conservatives, the liberals, and the new democrats, are all thinking more about the Tamil block vote than about facts. The leader of the New Democrats, a Sikh-Canadian, has simply stated that “he understands the Tamil issues as he knows how Sikhs have been targeted by India”, without any further investigation of the facts.
The facts are not complicated. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has already rejected the allegation of a Tamil genocide, when Mr. Al Z Hussein was asked about it on Sept, 19th 2015. Mr. Sumanthiran, the TNA spokesman, also rejected the Genocide claim (see Tamil Net, 19th Sept. 2015). Lord Naseby, who led a comprehensive British House of Lord’s investigation into the Genocide claim concluded that the death toll during the last stages of the 2009 Eelam IV war could not have been more than 7000. Lord Naseby had accessed classified diplomatic dispatches of Colonel Gash who was at the British High Commission in 2009, to confirm his conclusions. Mr. V. Anandasangaree, the leader of the TULF, has stated at the 2008 December annual party convention that the LTTE massacred its own injured cadre in large numbers as the injured were viewed as a liability.
The UN genocide convention requires establishment of deliberate intent to exterminate an ethnic or cultural group, and the execution of such an intent. According to Mr. Sumanthiran, a President’s Counsel, “Genocide is an international crime. That must be proven in a judicial forum, not in a representatives’ one. (Political) representatives can have their views. We take that view very seriously. We said they have a right to make that view open. …The crime of genocide has certain ingredients that must be proved in an established Court.”
Commenting on Al Z Hussein’s rejection of the alleged Tamil genocide, Mr. Sumanthiran states that “the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights very specifically said, (even) with such a report (as the Darusman report) full of horrors” as he himself called it, he says it hasn’t satisfied the test of genocide.
Lynn Ockersz speaks of “social peace”. Indeed, the impact of Bill 104 has been to disrupt the uneasy social peace that existed between immigrants of Sri Lankan ethnic communities in Ontario. The Bill, even before it is passed, has already imported into Canada some aspects of the ethnic strife that affected Sri Lanka for decades. It seems that some children of politically militant Eelamist parents have found it opportune to bully other children of parents of Sri Lankan origin, using the genocide allegation. They have gone to the extent of demanding that the “Sinhala children” also state that their parents immigrated to Canada from Eelam, and not from Sri Lanka! That then seems to be part of the “education” that they are seeking via Bill 104!
The Northern Provincial Council was elected post-haste, before the Commonwealth Meeting in 2013, because the Rajapaksa government naively thought that the leaders from Britain, Canada and Australia would praise its efforts to restore normalcy, carry out demining, build infrastructure and install democracy in the North, in even allowing a Tamil Nationalist party that had collaborated with the LTTE to come to power in the North. It ignored how General de Gaulle dealt with the political supporters of the Vichy regime.
Instead of praise, David Cameron of the UK took it upon itself to be particularly undiplomatic and critical of the government, expressing views that parroted the sentiments of pro-LTTE groups in Britain. This was a time when Cameron himself had suppressed the Chilcot report on war crimes of the UK government in Iraq. The Canadian Leader boycotted the meeting alleging human rights violations by the government, although his government was facing the “Silent No More” movement of the Native Peoples, and charges of engaging in forced rendering of “suspects” to Syria for torture, in collusion with the CIA.
These governments were very happy with the government of JR Jayewardene, even though an attack on innocent civilian Tamils took place on 23rd July 1983, with evidence of the government deliberately “failing to maintain law and order”. Several eyewitness reports stated that the armed forces and police looked on while arson and looting took place, and in some instances even took part in the riots.
The parallels of Sri Lanka’s “Black July ” riots of 1983, are in fact enacted periodically in the United States, against Black citizens who are routinely targeted. The so-called “Jim Crow” laws exist de facto, though not de Jure, even today, in some US communities. In more recent times, these have become more widely known due to the use of mobile-phone cameras and social media. Thus the information on the killing of George Floyd went viral all over the world. The vast majority of inmates in US prisons are Black People. Nevertheless, the US continues to pose as the champion of human rights.
In Canada, the native peoples have a long way to go, before they even get access to clean drinking water, basic health care, education and other amenities that are taken for granted by white Canadian communities. Even in recent times, aboriginal people in some Manitoba towns have been “arrested for loitering” by the police in the dead of winter, and dropped off dozens of miles out of town to perish in the cold, with the slogan “a good injun is a dead injun”.
And yet, a Canadian provincial legislature is being willingly lobbied into taking action against an alleged genocide in Sri Lanka, while Canada’s many “beams in the eye” are being ignored, even though its own missionaries have chanted “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”.
Interested readers may find more background on the Bill 104 at the website: https://www,dh-web.org/place.names/posts/Background104.html and at .https://tinyurl.com/ybtbzh7j
COMMENTS from Michael Roberts:
I question two passing comments in this article.
A = Several key personel in senior UN roles seem to have been in the pocket of the State Department of USA and my recollection is that Prince Zaid was quite biased in some of his commentary ….. and this bias was in line with USA policiy.
B = I would like to see evidence of White attacks on the Black Americans that was on the same scale as the pogrom of July 1983 in Sri Lanka –when several segments of the populace participated in attacks on Tamils living n the southern, western and central regions of the island … so that the violent initiatives taken by several state agencies (including the Navy, Army and Police as wel las Cyril Mathew’s unions) were bosltered by these horrid efforts.
Those caveats noted, the broad thrust of Chandre Dharmawardene’s essay will be supplemented and fortified by a summary essay I am coining.
2 responses to “Canadian Tamil Agitation against Sri Lanka and Canadian Sinhalese”
Michael Roberts wants “more evidence of white attacks on Blacks” in the US which are on the scale of 1983 pogrom. In US and in English text books these are hardly mentioned or they are dismissed in one or two lines.
According to Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, both Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s American History and Pearson’s American Journey (two U.S. textbooks) devote only a single paragraph to the riots, “what you do find downplays both racism and Black resistance, while distorting facts in a dangerous both sides framing, according to Wolfe-Rocca.
We are of course familiar with the “both-sides” framing in discussions of the LTTE and the Govt. of Sri Lanka (GOSL) violence, while many LTTE cadre are now sheltered and protected by the West, just as the GOSL cadre are protected by the GOSL (another both sides framing?).
In these US text books “Black people always “do” something that justifies the violence that follows; white violence and volition is always incidental, never causal.
Where do we begin? Let us start from a century ago, because prior to that it was just hellish and blacks were lynched or shot for the slightest thing, with the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) claiming that ” Stay in your place. If you don’t, we’ll put you there”. This was somewhat similar but far more brutal than the upper caste violence against the lower castes still found in orthodox Hindu society.
So we can begin from the famous “Red summer of 1919” which was literally a war unleashed partly by Black veterans who fought in WWI, saw the world, understood how they were being exploited, came back and claimed that the enemy is not in Europe, but right in the USA. That event was an order of magnitude more horrible than the 1983 pogrom, lasted weeks, with hundreds of blacks dying and five times more getting injured due to burnt down towns and villages. Of course the victims (blacks) were blamed and there was no “accountability”.
But today’s official accounts might say that only 30 died and about a 100 were injured!
The Red Summer of 1919 was followed by the Bogolussa Labour Massacre, the Ocoee massacre of 1920 when officially only 50 Blacks were killed, Tulsa massacres of 1921, Rosewood massacre of a whole black town in 1923, Arkansas burning of another black town in Dec 1923, and so on, through to the Ponce Massacre of 1937, Memorial day massacre of 1937 etc.
and so on, you can follow these events recurring every couple of years.
Note that unlike the 1983 Massacre of Tamils in Colombo that was triggered by the killing of 13 soldiers by the LTTE in Jaffna, subsequent attacks by the LTTE (against Pilgrims in Anuradhapura, or against the Temple of the Tooth) were not followed by retributive attacks, where as in the US, these massacres continued unabated as a form of chronic violence tolerated and furtively approved by white authorities, while the Federal government intervened only in the most serious cases that saw the light of day.
Even in recent times, we have the Klu Klux KLan massacres in 1979, and then the police taking over what the KKK did, while the KKK had to take a less visible role. This trend continues right up to George Floyd in 2020. I leave it to a historian (I am not one) to follow these up, and document them properly, with the correct numbers of deaths and injured counted – mind you, that is as controversial for each such massacre (and there are dozens), as the numbers game of the last days of the Eelam war.
Blacks had a much much bigger cause than land-owning Tamil Nationalist leaders who lived upper-class lives in Col-7 and manipulated the people who lived in the North and East to fight a war. About 6% of the people (Population available for recruitment by the LTTE) were deployed against a 75% majority by these Colombo leaders of the TULF in 1976, with an immense upper-caste hubris. The outcome would have been clear but for the successful internationalization of the conflict.
So the Blacks in 1919 rose saying:
“America is known the world over as the land of the lyncher and the mobocrat. For years she has been sowing the wind and now she is reaping the whirlwind. The Black worm has turned. A Race that has furnished hundreds of thousands of the best soldiers that the world has ever seen is no longer content to turn the left cheek when smitten upon the right” (News Report in Chicago Defender 1919) quoted from Wolfe-Rocca.
Although the written history of the US as found in standard textbooks is silent, the documentation is available, especially if one goes through the newspapers, and perhaps in more recent books written by Black American historians as a part of the “Black Lives Matter movement” and the “2020 rebellion”. But I am surprised by the lack of scholarly attention to this problem in the US.
Michael Roberts says “Several key personel in senior UN roles seem to have been in the pocktet of the State Department of USA and my recollection is that Prince Zaid was quite baised in some of his commentary in line with USA policy”.
In https://dh-web.org/Canada/Background104.html I have quoted classified cables sent by Robert Blake that got out through Wikileaks (and appeared in the Guardian etc). They show what that the US Dept. knew, although what they said differed.
As for Prince Al Z.- Hussein, UNHC for HR, he has been very critical of the Sri Lankan government, and of course he voices the dicta of the UNHCR resolution. This includes an “external judges” mechanism for investigating SL. I am not going to say Hussein is “biased”. We are all biased, and Hussein may say he knows more of the matter than many of us.
So, even with his “bias” as perceived by Roberts , Hussein has rejected the charge of Genocide, and this is stated by Hon. Mr. Sumanthiran, MP, and reported in the “Tamil Net”. Mr. Sumanthiran has also rejected the charge of Genocide while certainly not being well disposed to the war-winning regime.
So even those who are biased against the GOSL are not willing to go to the extent of claiming that the GOSL is guilty of Genocide.
In my writings I have emphasized the published writings and views of Tamil community representatives (Sumanthiran, Sangaree, DBS Jeyraj, Rajan Hoole via UTHR-Jaffna, Sebastian Rasalingam, Tamil Net), or US, UN spokesman since my own opinion can be dismissed as “biased”. I have also included the Marga Institute study, writings of Prof. Gerald Peiris, Sri Lankan Govt. Dept. of Census and Statistics, and Lord Naseby’s conclusions in the detailed account given in https://dh-web.org/Canada/Background 104.html.
However, some one may still claim that my selection of people to quote is not representative. Tant pis!