A Lament: The Geneva ‘Games’ and Lanka’s Failures

Sarath Gamani De Silva, in The Sunday Island, 26 February 2021, where the title runs  “Problems in Geneva: Facts that brought us here””

The annual patriotic taunts and the laments of the majority are heard as the day of reckoning approaches in Geneva. We are shouting ourselves hoarse, complaining that the whole world is ganging up against the brave Sri Lankans, to punish them for eliminating the most brutal terrorist outfit the world has ever seen. It is true that what was achieved in 2009 is something that no other country could do in eliminating terrorism. But does that guarantee peace when the basic grievances that led to civil unrest over the years have not been addressed?

This article is not an attempt to justify violence, untruth or deplorable and unprincipled activities of other countries. Nor is it to devalue the achievements up to 2009. The intention is to open the eyes of my own countrymen to the reality of the hopeless situation facing the nation.

As mentioned in earlier articles, the seeds for racial disharmony were laid during the British colonial period. With their divide-and-rule method, they pitted the majority community against the minorities. This was done by establishing proportionately more schools in the North to ensure a better education, and thereby giving them superior positions in government service. Thus, with the country gaining Independence in 1948, and the Sinhalese gaining the upper hand, the minorities, mainly Northern Tamils, felt disadvantaged. They tried negotiations with the Southern politicians. Naturally, their demands like Ponnambalam’s 50-50 were unjust, but we could have negotiated that. With the watershed political upheaval in 1956, the situation became very volatile. With the Sinhala chauvinists becoming very influential and vociferous, taking politicians virtual hostage to achieve their aims, the minorities were getting increasingly marginalised. The Bandaranaike- Chelvanayakam Pact and later the Dudley-Chelvanayakam Pact were not honoured, without working on them to solve the ongoing disputes. There were several episodes of violence against unarmed members of the minorities during that period.

With the overwhelming electoral victory of the UNP in 1977 (followed immediately by another bout of violence), the majority assumed that whatever grievances of the minorities could be stepped over. Eventually, the Tamils were expelled from Parliament blaming their non-allegiance to the Constitution, leaving them with no forum to air their grievances. The terrorist outfits were taking shape in the North, claiming to be the sole representatives of the oppressed. The Southern leaders ignored the political sensitivities of India, which strengthened the terrorists calling them “Freedom Fighters”.

The pogrom of 1983 is the darkest patch in the recent history of our paradise. The unarmed Tamils in Colombo were killed, even burnt alive and their property looted. With the government not making any efforts to curtail the violence for several days, there was a worrying suspicion of state patronage. Many Tamils, who worried about their lives, escaped to Western countries. Naturally, they were warmly welcomed as refugees in those countries as their embassies here were witnesses to what happened in Colombo and elsewhere. From then on, the Eelam war escalated, and it is not necessary to detail here the damage done in both human and material terms over thirty years. Many subsequent peace overtures of the government were rejected by the terrorists, who were determined to establish their own Eelam.

After eliminating terrorism in 2009, what actions have we taken to restore lasting peace? Have we had at least belatedly, an ongoing dialogue sans political rhetoric with the Tamil leaders to see what their grievances are and taken steps to address them? Instead, our politicians kept on boasting of their “victory”, further arousing separatist tendencies with communal rhetoric, purely to ensure that their success in winning the battles will keep them in power for generations. They were fighting with each other claiming credit for what was achieved.

The Tamil refugees who settled down in Western countries were establishing themselves. Well educated and employed, they are working according to a plan. With their natural energy, determination and ambition, characteristics we used to admire in our Northern countrymen for ages, they are flourishing making the best use of the opportunities provided there. The diaspora is making use of their increasing numbers to influence the local politicians, who are interested in winning their votes, to speak up for them at influential fora. They themselves have taken to politics and entered legislatures.

One can imagine the grudge they must be harbouring against us. They will tell the generations to come about barbaric violence they suffered. That generation, about everyone under 40 years of age at present, will not be informed of terrorism, suicide bombers, child soldiers, killing of innocent villagers, massacre of Samanera monks or bombing of Buddhist holy sites. They will be taught only about the 1983 pogrom and unsubstantiated allegations of civilian killings and the elimination of their “freedom fighters” in 2009. In fact, there is a campaign in Toronto schools to have a week declared every year to commemorate the so called “Tamil Genocide”. This and subsequent generations in the diaspora will be increasingly hostile to us. Though the LTTE remains proscribed in many countries, they have managed to operate freely with political patronage.

There is no use in shouting ourselves hoarse about the unforgivable crimes committed by the rebels during the war years if future security and peace is the concern of Sri Lankans. We will be facing this formidable force of the diaspora at every international forum in the future. Our diplomats, who are mostly the kinsmen or other acolytes of those in power and grossly unqualified to represent the country, have failed miserably to give the correct picture to those that matter. The whole world is well aware of the atrocities committed by the Tigers. Yet, successive governments have failed to exploit that knowledge to turn the world opinion favourable to us.

Despite all this, many educated members of the diaspora still love this country. Many of my colleagues there are still dreaming of the day they might be able to return after retirement. They keep visiting us regularly, having bought property here. Some have put up hospitals, churches and indulge in other public service ventures to help especially those in the North. So many doctors having achieved high positions in the health services overseas, help the country train our postgraduate doctors.

Sri Lankan politicians are still fighting among themselves without any concrete plans to counteract the allegations being made. Enough ammunition is being provided to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, UNHCR, to work against the country. After agreeing to various conditions imposed over the years, but dishonouring them immediately afterwards, the country has become one of the most untrustworthy to deal with. Those in power keep blaming the previous governments for the international agreements reached, without working for a common stance to face the imminent threat. Guarantees are being given repeatedly to the international community about an impartial judiciary to deal with various allegations emanating from the ethnic war. At the same time, new legislation is enacted to ensure that the opponents of the government are punished by a judiciary handpicked by the rulers. While saying that minority rights are being respected, the Muslims are denied their fundamental right to bury their dead.

It is meaningless to claim that other countries should not interfere with the internal affairs of Sri Lanka, which is a sovereign state. Having signed many international conventions and agreements, we cannot seek self-isolation when the situation suits us. We have allowed our internal matters to be discussed at international fora by failing miserably to solve them ourselves, often due to political expediency. This has forced our own citizens to seek relief from international organisations. If not for the influence and intervention of external sources, by now many countries in the world would have become ruthless dictatorships torturing their own citizens.

If the gravity of the issue was realised, a permanent secretariat should have been established in the foreign ministry long ago, with experienced diplomats purely to conduct an international campaign against the misinformation, and give the correct picture to foreign countries and various organisations that matter.

Our politicians know that they can fool most Sri Lankan voters all the time. But if they believe they can continue to fool the international community in the same way, they are sadly mistaken. Unfortunately, the whole nation will suffer paying for their folly.

EDITORIAL COMMENT from Thuppahi, 29 February 2021
Sarath is a good friend writing from a warm heart and deep concerns. There are several aspects of his abbreviated history that call for comment and amendments of various sorts. These questionings, however, demand tedious hsiotrical ‘ventures.’
But let me focus on a burgeoning issue TODAY. From an inexpert observer’s position in Australia, I note that Sarath’s belief that an Expert Committee of Sri Lankans could have combated the international campaign mounted from late 2008 is naive, albeit well-meant. The Western powers and UN agencies in this game are far far too powerful to be dented by lttle Sarath or little Roberts. or some eews item in a local newspaper.. They control the media engines and the latter are fed by HR agencies abroad who tap local SL elements (including journalists) selectively to suit their agenda. They also feed the latter.
What is quite stupendous in these power-plays is (A) the manner in which these media wars bypass well researched articles that challenge their battery of arguments and their slanted data; and (B) the ivory tower blindness revealed by personnel with impressive educational qualifications. A classic instance of this lapse is provided by the manner in which they are not alive to an overarching FACT assocated with modern wars: that the number of wounded soldiers (WIA) always outnumber those killed in action (KIA) — sometimes by even ten-to-one, though 4:1 can be taken as a rough general measure.[1]  There is ana rticle by a medical duo named Meddings and Coupland (?) in 199 9 which is an authoritative work in this field, But is it known or cited? No.
One has only to check the sources used by a host of Western scholars and jorurnalists to realise that they did not (and do not) have the faintest clue about this aspect of war. Hardly any have consulted a classic article by Mango on ths topic or that by Citizen Silva. A recent exception is Mathias Keitle of Germany whose wide-ranging review does bring in this dimension amongst a number of other critical arguments.
In this regard any decent review of the circumatances embracing the last tsages of Eelam War IV in the period June 2008-May 2009 must necessarily incorporate the fact that many Tiger soldiers were fighting in civilian clothing and that quite a few civilians had been hastily recutied to aid the LTTE fighting machine as  labourers, cooks etc etc — in effect as members of the logistical arms of the LTTE Army.
Again of the 270-290,000 or so personnel who surivived the last battles and were quarantined in IDP camps at Menik Farm  and in the Jaffna Peneinsula a small segment were fully-fledged Tigers who managed to hide their identity. Some of them slipped out of the camps and went abroad — indeed a Sunday Times investigative team discovered a thriving business in this field.

FOOTNOTES

[1]  See 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   ….. and Citizen Silva 2013.
    Both these gentlemen are Sinhalese wholly educated in UK and/or Germany. Their professional jobs demand care in revealing their identity. I have met them in UK durng visits and can vouch for their capacity and honesty. Citizen Silva’s ability to keep track of the war as it was wagedand to work out how many Tamils were shpped outby the ICRC by ship was (and remaisn) astounding. I could not extract any figures when I visited the ICRC office about four years later — though the front person was a seemingly competent sounding Sinhals lady.

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY — LIMITED 

Abeysekera, Lakshi 2012 [2010] “The last lot of IDPs from the Nandikadal area, The Omanthai feeding operation,” August 2010, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/the-last-lot-of-idps-from-nandhikadal-area-may-2009-the-omanthai-feeding-operation/

Banu, Dilshy 2012 Operation Manik Farm, Colombo, Stamford Lake.

Chandradasa, Dr Lalith 2009Heavy deaths in camps not correct’, says a Sarvodaya leader working in IDP CAMPS,”  20 July 2009, http://asiantribune.com/node/22069

Citizen Silva see IDAG

Coupland, R.M. & D. R. Meddings 1999  Mortality associated with use of weapons in armed conflicts, wartime atrocities, and civilian mass shootings: literature review,” 14 August 1999   …………………………………………………  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10445920/

Hull, C. Bryson 2009 “Sri Lanka opens eye in the sky on war zone,” 20 April 2009, http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSCOL450259

Hull, C. Bryson & Ranga Sirilal 2009a “Sri Lankan War in Endgame, 100,000 escape rebel zone,” 23 April 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-srilanka-war-idUSTRE53J0IZ20090422

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, DBS 2009 “Wretched of the Wanni Earth break Free of Bondage,” Daily Mirror, 25 April 2009.

Keitle, Mathias 2021   Ä German scholar’s Incisive review 0f the Western Powers’ Treatment of Sri Lanka, 2009-21,”  25 February 2021, https://thuppahis.com/2021/02/25/a-german-scholars-incisive-review-of-the-western-powers-treatment-of-sri-lanka-2009-21/#mo

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/

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/

Peiris, Gerald H. 2014 “Pitfalls in Counting the Dead during the Final Phase of Eelam War IV,” 12 February 2014, http://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/pitfalls-in-counting-the-dead-during-the-final-phase-of-eelam-war-iv/.

Reddy, Muralidhar 2009b “Multiple Displacements, Total Loss of Identity.” The Hindu, 27 May 2009,  http://www.hindu.com/2009/05/27/stories/2009052755811500.htm

Padraig Colman & Michael Roberts 2013 “The Fog of War envelopes the Last Phase of Eelam war IV,” 27 December 2013,  https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/the-fog-of-war-envelopes-the-last-phase-of-eelam-war-iv/

Roberts, Michael 2013 “Introducing “Numbers Game” – A Detailed Study of the Last Stages of Eelam War IV,” 30 April 2013, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/introducing-numbers-game-a-detailed-study-of-the-last-stages-of-eelam-war-iv/

Roberts, Michael 2014 Tamil Person and State. Essays, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.

Roberts, Michael 2014 Tamil Person and State. Pictorial, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications.

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 “Ball-by-Ball through Wikileaks: US Embassy Despatches from Colombo, 2009: ONE,” 27 August 2014, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/ball-by-ball-through-wikileaks-us-embassy-despatches-from-colombo-2009-one/#more-13481

Roberts, Michael 2014 “The Landscape of the LTTE’s Last Redoubt, May 2009,” in Roberts, Tamil Person and StateEssays, Colombo: Vijitha Yapa Publications, pp. 204-15.

Roberts, Michael 2015 “Targeting Sri Lanka by playing ball with Tamil Extremism,” 24 July 2015, http://groundviews.org/2015/07/23/targeting-lanka-playing-ball-with-tamil-extremism-2008-14/

Roberts, Michael 2015  “Lilliputs in a World of Giants: Marga and CHA bat for Lanka in the Propaganda War, 2009-14,” 18 November 2015, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/11/18/lilliputs-in-a-world-of-giants-marga-and-cha-bat-for-lanka-in-the-propaganda-war-2009-14/#more-18467

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/#more-20190

Roberts, Michael 2016 “Saving Talaivar Pirapāharan,” 6 April 2016, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2016/04/06/saving-talaivar-pirapaharan/

Roberts, Michael 2017 Reporters struggling with Eelam War IV: Some Recollections and Reports,” 21 October 2017, https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2017/10/21/reporters-struggling-with-eelam-war-iv-some-recollections-and-reports/

 Shanmugarajah, Dr. Veerakanthipillai 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/dr-veerakanthipillai-shanmugarajahs-affidavit-description-of-conditions-in-the-vanni-pocket-in-refutation-of-channel-four/ …. Also reprinted in Engage Sri Lanka Corrupted Journalism, London, 2014, pp. 204 -14

Thiagarajah, Jeevan 2015 Confronting the OCHR Investigation in Geneva, September 2014: Memorandum from Jeevan Thiagarajah,” 19 November 2015,https://thuppahi.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/confronting-the-ochr-investigation-in-geneva- september-2014-memorandum-from-jeevan-thiagarajah/#more-18481

 

 

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One response to “A Lament: The Geneva ‘Games’ and Lanka’s Failures

  1. Palahela W Dayananda

    Main problem is that the politicians never initiated a dvelopment plan for the country after indepenedence. They only wanted it to be self sufficient if at all they tried to develop the country.
    This is a country with only agricultural and fisheries ressources. We need a manufacturing sector badly and overseas investments to create this sector and possibly a service sector along with tourisim .
    The prosperity of the country is a basic requirement to avoid racial conflicts; we never had conflicts when the British were in power.

    If Singapore, which is a small country and in a similar geographical situation, could devlop theirs it is time for Sri Lanka.

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